Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Religious Abuse

Exodus International is a group that calls itself “Christian” and purports to help people choose NOT to be gay. They are having a big conference at a church center near the city where I live. A local counselor published an opinion piece in the local newspaper that was quite excellent. I commend it to you.

Here is a small excerpt.

In my work as a pastoral psychotherapist and spiritual director I often
work with people who are struggling to understand their sexuality in light of
their faith. Regardless of orientation, faithful human beings want to grow in
spiritual discernment. They also want to name the truth about who they are, and
to know that their love and their sexual expression of it is blessed by God, and
that they can live as whole beings in a committed, spiritually grounded
partnership. We all have much to learn about sexuality and spirituality but this
is a process that requires prayer and discernment, not ideology. For Exodus
International, ideology trumps discernment and “Exodus” becomes enslavement to
the views of those who presume to speak for God.

Of the many powerful narratives in Scripture, the Exodus story is perhaps
one of the richest in its imagery of the journey from enslavement to freedom. As
such it offers unlimited possibilities for spiritual practice. It is truly a
sacred narrative precisely because it comes alive again and again whenever
someone turns to God in prayer. It is therefore a sacrilege, literally a theft
of the sacred, to force this narrative into the service of an ideology. That
which is holy is desecrated, abused and distorted when we reduce God to the
measure of our fears. Inviting others to participate in such desecration,
offering “healing” in the name of ideology, and standing as gatekeeper to the
sacred, is to distort the spiritual journey and to use sacred narrative as bait
for entrapment. It is, frankly, abusive.

Like other forms of abuse, spiritual abuse is often delivered with warmth,
kindness and in the name of love. Exodus International will offer hugs,
celebration, Eucharist. There will be pastoral prayers, hymns and the joyful
embrace of community. Nor will any of this be offered with any evil intent.
Indeed, it will be offered in all innocence, with the best of intentions and
good will, with heartfelt conviction and genuine desire — all in the name of
ideology. However innocently offered, it is still spiritual abuse.

Daniel O. Snyder, PhD, is in clinical practice in Black Mountain, and is
an active member of Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting (Quaker). He lives in Black
published July 11, 2008 in the Asheville Citizen-Times


BadgerBear said...

I grew up Episcopal, baptised at Camp Henry in Black Mountain, and confirmed (against my conservative, charismatic Bishop's will!) in FL. And no longer attend church. I love my church, I love the music, tradition and language, and I cannot, cannot understand how and why it can't come to terms with gay people. We're everywhere, have been everywhere, and will be everywhere, not least employed by the church.

I love 'em, and just can't be with them right now.

Lemuel said...

The comment by that counselor is excellent!

How much these days the sacred is raped into sacrilege and that which is holy is taken captive and enslaved to serve the purposes of those who would want to play God with others' lives.

manxxman said...

What was it Christ was fond of saying, oh yes "love your brother as yourself"......and something about casting the first stone.

Makes interesting reading.

That troublesome Christ was always having dinner with tax collectors and the like.....the church would almost surely frowned on his activity......called him a radical.

publius100 said...


Ross said...

What a great commentary! Nice theology to counteract the "biblical" terms used by Exodus. I hope that people read and heed the editorial.

Anonymous said...

Now if only those who read this Op-Ed will heed his commentary.

Ur-spo said...

alas people believe what they want to believe, and little 'fact' or argument to support the contrary will win them over.

Raven~ said...

Yup, an my own experience is that those who (IMHO) might learn most from that op-ed are the least likely even to read it.

I'm really tired of enacting a "martyr" (i.e., in the classic Greek sense of "trial witness"), but I still firmly believe that sustained contact with a loved one, a respected friend, changes hearts.