Indoctrination

 Indoctrination is subtle, slick, and enticing. Nobody forced me to stay in unhealthy religious communities for so many years. I was a prisoner of my own insecure self, sheltered within a fabricated reality. The excitement and emotional highs produced within an environment of group zeal and never-ending religious experience manufactured euphoria not unlike an induced chemical high. Like a fish attracted to a juicy meal, I didn’t see the hook; nor did I want to see it.

 Perhaps this is why many unhealthy churches grow.Human beings are attracted to hype. Look at how the fashion industry, or the advertising industry in general, targets human fear and insecurity by promising a quick fix to our embarrassing imperfections.  

Religious indoctrination can also promise a quick fix by offering an unrealistic, “’Just give it to Jesus” follow-the-leader mentality, particularly to those, like myself, who carry emotional wounds and painful insecurities. A certain security comes with relinquishing autonomy.

I didn’t have to make decisions or think deeply because I trusted my leaders to do it for me. Seeking God for strength to acknowledge my emotional wounds and to help me work on becoming healthy took a great deal more effort, courage, and faith than simply expecting God to take the problems away.

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Seeking Acceptance in Church and Other Places

Most of us church folks have been hurt at one point or another in church.  It is sad, but it is human.  Most people do not want to be hurtful, but as it happens in a biological or adopted family, it happens in spiritual families.  People are sensitive creatures.  We all strive for love and acceptance. Sometimes we try so hard, we hurt the ones we love.

Using my life as a backdrop, this book explores how the innate need for love and acceptance can make a person vulnerable to relational abuse.  In my case, that abuse was religious abuse. I confused my relationship with church as my relationship with God. In the process, church became so central to my life that I could not recognize when my faith became toxic.

Toxic faith is a slippery foe because it partners with pious perfection, submission to authority, conditional love, unrealistic expectations, and out-of-context Biblical truths. Toxic faith is a facade, a symptom of deeper problem.

But Jesus set me free!