Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spiritual Abuse and Bible Abuse toward Gays

For a long time, I considered the term "spiritual abuse" as a Christian equivalent of the terms "mind control," "thought reform," and "coercive persuasion." However, spiritual abuse includes some issues which are usually not viewed as mind control. There is a special type of spiritual abuse which is called "Bible abuse."

Bible abuse is the kind of spiritual abuse when some Bible verses are used against minorities. Thus, Bible abuse is the misuse of the Bible in order to justify discrimination. Unfortunately, many conservative Christian churches make this error. What is important to notice is that these churches are often not viewed as abusive.

In 19th century, conservative American Protestants approved slavery of Black people because they believed that this is what the Bible teaches. Some verses that they used were: Genesis 9:24-27; Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:44; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; Titus 2:9; Philemon. Also, they used the Bible in order to fight against civil rights of women, including the right to vote. Some of the biblical verses they used were: 1 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 7-12; 14:34-35; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

Most modern Christians will agree that such usage of these verses was wrong. However, does it mean that Bible abuse is over? No. Many modern Christians believe that the Bible condemns gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people (GLBT).

Probably, an extreme example of anti-gay hatred is Fred Phelps, the founder and pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. In addition to his anti-gay rhetorics such as that "God hates fags," he also states that "God hates the world," "God hates America," and that Obama is Antichrist. It seems that Phelps is just full of hatred and is unable to love anyone which makes me to question whether he is a Christian at all.

I believe that most anti-gay Christians are not so extreme. However, they believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality. I also believed so until I studied this matter deeper. There are not so many biblical verses that are used against homosexuality. They are: Genesis 1-2; 19; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7.

Although some Christians say that "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, nor Ada and Eve," Genesis 1-2 says nothing about homosexuality as well as about various human races, nations, and all the other diversities among human beings.

The story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is actually not about homosexuality, but about raping. Whether raping is heterosexual or homosexual, in both cases it is a crime. Unlike common beliefs, the Bible never says that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality. The only verses that explain what were the sins of Sodom inhabitants are Ezekiel 16:49-50. They say nothing about homosexuality. In Jude 7, "strange flesh" is not "homosexual flesh," but "angelic flesh" (verse 6). Sodom inhabitants tried to rape angels as it is said in Genesis 19 and thus tried to do what Genesis 6:1-4 speak about.

Although some English versions use the word "sodomites" in Deuteronomy 23:17 and some other verses in the Old Testament, this translation is not correct. The correct translation is "male cult prostitutes" or "male temple prostitutes." In ancient times, pagan rituals included temple prostitution and there were both male and female temple prostitution. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are also about male temple prostitution which was used in Canaanites' worship to god Molech (Leviticus 18:21; 20:1-5). Romans 1:26-27 speak about temple prostitution in Roman and Greek pagan religions (notice that verse 23 clearly speaks about idol worship).

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 contain two Greek words which are often translated as "homosexuals," "sodomites," or "effeminates." These words are "malokoi" and "arsenokoitai." Neither of them were usual Greek words for homosexuals. The word "malokos" (singular) is originally an adjective with the meaning "soft." Outside of the Bible, this word had a number of meanings, including some character negative traits, for example, laziness. However, it did not mean "homosexual" or "effeminate." The word "arsenokoite" (singular) was practically not used outside of the Bible. When it was, in most cases, it was a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:9. There is only one known case when this word was used independently and it was about homosexual raping. There is also a hypothesis that Paul invented this word, using the two words from Leviticus 18:22. Thus, this word may refer either to male temple prostitution or homosexual raping. The exact meaning of "malokoi" and "arsenokoitai" is unknown, but there is no ground to say that they mean homosexuals.

Thus, the Bible condemns homosexuals not more than it supports Black slavery or bans women's civil rights. There are many writings about that available in Internet. To name just few of them:
Christianity and Homosexuality Reconciled by Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson
PowerPoint presentation that accompanies this book
What the Bible Says - And Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality by Rev. Mel White
Homosexuality and the Bible by Rev. Dr. Walter Wink
Challenging Conventional Wisdom by Steve Schuh
Would Jesus Discriminate? (based on The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley)

Comparing spiritual abuse experienced by members of abusive churches and Bible abuse experienced by gay Christians, I found some parallels. There are some writings about recovery from Bible abuse for gay Christians:
Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse by Dr. Rembert S. Truluck
Confronting Bible Abuse by Micah Royal (part 1)
Confronting Bible Abuse by Micah Royal (part 2)
Confronting Bible Abuse by Micah Royal (part 3)
Confronting Bible Abuse by Micah Royal (part 4)

Both gay Christians and ex-members of abusive churches were harmed by abusive religion and have similar emotional issues. Both need spiritual and psychological recovery. It is quite possible that the damage of Bible abuse toward gay Christians is even worse than the damage of spiritual abuse toward non-gay members of abusive churches.

There is a common confusion of homosexual orientation and homosexual activity. Homosexual people may stay celibate or be in heterosexual marriages. However, they are still homosexual. On the other hand, heterosexual people may be involved in some homosexual activity (for example, homosexual raping in prisons), but still be heterosexual. According to American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is not a choice and it cannot be changed. Attempts to change it do not work, but instead cause distress:
Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality
Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality
Insufficient Evidence that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Work
Insufficient Evidence to Support Sexual Orientation Change Efforts
Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts

Although there are a number of so-called ex-gay ministries, even some of the former leaders of them admit that they damage people and do not change their sexual orientation:
Former Ex-Gay Leaders Apologize
They admit that both psychological and spiritual methods used in such ministries for changing people's sexual orientation cause distress, depressions, self-loathing, self-mutilations, and suicides. So, I think that the damage experienced by these people may be more serious than the damage experienced by most people in abusive churches.

I believe that most Christians who accuse homosexuals of living in sin are just ignorant. By the way, contrary to common belief, many of them live in long-time committed relationships with one partner or pursue such relationships. This means that homosexuals are not more promiscuous than heterosexuals. I do not believe that such long-time committed relationships should be considered sinful.

In a similar way, most Christians are ignorant about spiritually abusive churches. They not only do not understand the experience of ex-members of such churches, but even sometimes accuse them of being disobedient to spiritual authorities and thus accuse them of sinning. Does the Bible not teach that Christians should submit to their pastors (for example, 1 Peter 5:5; Romans 13:1-5)? Well, the Bible also says that pastors should not abuse their authority (for example, 1 Peter 5:1-4) and that they should meet some qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). Abusive pastors do not meet these qualifications and thus are not qualified to have authority. However, they distort the Bible in order to vindicate themselves and make members of their churches submissive to them.

Considering the writings on recovery from Bible abuse that I have mentioned above, I think that there are many points that can be useful for heterosexual ex-members of abusive churches as well. Both may be harmed by abusive religion and have similar emotional issues. Both may need spiritual and psychological recovery. Both may need to re-discover the Bible as the book of freedom and not the book of the law. Both may have a distort image of God as demanding, hateful, and condemning God and may need to discover His love. Both may need to begin again with God.

Dr. Rembert Truluck listed twelve steps for recovery from Bible abuse for gay Christians. They are:
1. Admit You Have Been Hurt By Religion
2. Turn to God As Your Guide to Recovery
3. Examine Your Faith
4. Face and Deal With Your Anger
5. Avoid Negative People And Churches
6. Face The Scripture Used Against You
7. Find Positive Supportive Scripture
8. Read And Study The Gospels
9. Come Out And Accept Yourself
10. Develop Your Personal Support System
11. Learn To Share Your Faith With Others
12. Become A Freedom Missionary

I think some of them also can be useful for ex-members of abusive churches. For example, point 1: ex-members of abusive churches also were hurt by abusive religion. Realization that the problem is not in them, but that they were spiritually abused is important in their recovery. Point 6: ex-members of abusive churches were indoctrinated by teachings that made them feel guilty. These teachings such as teachings on spiritual authority and submission, leaving the world, consecration, and so on are often based on distortion of biblical verses. Re-examination of these verses in order to find their true meaning may be helpful in recovery. Point 7: reading and studying of biblical verses on God's love and freedom in Christ may be very encouraging for ex-members of abusive churches. Point 10: contacts with other ex-members for mutual support also may be helpful for recovery.

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