Spiritual manipulation

Faith & Inspiration

We often hear about being "burned" by our pastors. They misled us. They asked for too much money. They slept with the secretary. And we are disappointed and disillusioned and some of us leave, if not the faith, then the weekly communion of saints on Sunday mornings. We get to a point where we just can't stomach it anymore. And preacher's kids are some of the first to bolt.

One of my fears as a parent is that I am going to pass down to my children this very sort of spiritual hypocrisy that so sickens me when I see it on TV or in the newspaper. And I ask myself, how do we as parents convey a true and honest picture of a loving Savior when we feel scarred by our own pasts, our own spiritual journeys begun long before our first cognitive memory of God? How do we reconcile the faiths shown in our childhood homes with "true religion?" And when that memory is less than perfect, how do we separate one mental picture from what real Christianity is supposed to look like, especially when we were raised in the church?

With no intent of sounding callous or trite, I sometimes envy my friends who had alcoholic or otherwise abusive parents. I envy them because to heal they were able to turn to God, falling into His arms for love and refuge and understanding. But for those of us whose scars come from "the church" or an upbringing filled with spiritual hypocrisy, where do we turn for healing? What safe place is there if that most sacred of places has been cruel to us? How do we wash the bitterness out of our mouths and replace it with something sweet? How do we properly demonstrate a life of faith to our children when every image of faith in our mind's eye is one where women pray in high squeaky and warbling voices and tear up every time they say the word "Jesus?"

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I think a lot of people abandon the faith because it seems easier than trying to find answers to these types of questions. I myself am tempted at times to fall into this trap, if just for temporary relief from the effort of trying to replace one image with another. My upbringing (in somewhat of a double-edged sword sort of way) instilled just enough faith into me that I know it is true and I can't in good conscience abandon it, yet neither can I receive comfort from it. When Scripture is used to bludgeon, that happens.

A raw, messy, question-filled faith that certainly wouldn't hold up in a Christian woman's quilting circle is all I have to offer. Meanwhile, what meager prayers I can manage are for God to wipe one picture out of my mind and replace it with one that is good, beautiful, and true.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.


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