Friday, February 28, 2014

Coming out of the cult closet, Part 2

The last year has been full of shifts, most of them tumultuous, but most of them ending up being quite positive. In the actual moment, each change didn't feel positive. It felt like I was wearing skin that didn't fit me anymore, and I was trying to wrestle out of it. Much like a critter shedding it's old skin. Painful, itchy, uncomfortable, exhausting. But then each time I shed an old layer, it felt great afterwards to relax and sit in the sun, so to speak with spanking new skin that felt all new and glowing.

Ever since I woke up a year ago, it has been impossible for me to sit very long with anything that doesn't resonate with my inner nature, which is a place of pure love. Fear is the opposite of love, so anything that was tinted with fear felt 'off.' Old habits and old beliefs that didn't match me anymore started falling off of me, layer by layer.

I quickly began to see that the religious cult that I used to be associated with did not match me anymore. My husband Karl was still an active member in the cult and in Christianity when I woke up.
Interestingly enough, it was me who introduced him to the religion in the first place. Aghhhh. I wrote about my motivation in doing so back in Part 1, where I explain much of the back story in the last six months.

I only introduced Karl to religion as a formality, so that God wouldn't judge the living daylights out of me and make my life hell on earth for sinning (dating a nonbeliever). I also wanted Karl to 'punch his ticket' and enter the religion just so that my family would let him in their front door. I didn't want Karl to get all religious on me. I just wanted him to do the passing requirements.

But Karl doesn't do anything in halves. He either does something 100% or he doesn't do it at all. So he fell into the vat of religion, submerged himself, swam around for two years, then finally came up for air. He was completely brainwashed. He didn't understand then why I was bothered by the religion. To be honest, I never felt comfortable with he religion, I only went along with it on the surface level. Being married to Karl and actually having to live out the religion in practical day to day life was an affront to my spirit. Seeing what religion did to Karl was my last straw in wanting no more to do with it, and my being his religious punching bag was an additional last straw, if there can be more than one "last straw."

We butted heads and had many disagreements over the last two year about our beliefs. At first, I just took it, and was rebellious inside of myself. Then finally I started voicing my opinion.

I have always been quiet, easy going, soft spoken, mild mannered, and peaceful. It is difficult for me to work up aggression, and it is very uncomfortable for me to disagree with people. In the past, I have always gone the extra mile, in and out of jungle gyms full of obstacles just to avoid conflict. I would rather hurt myself than have to verbally disagree with someone. Especially someone who is loud, likes to fight, and is a patriarchal bully in the name of God. Anger really bothers me. To other people it may be a normal part of life, but for me, it feels like actual knives in my skin, and it physically hurts.

Being such a peace loving person, it was easy for me to fall into the role of quiet submission that is demanded of females in the cult. A female was forced out of fear from childhood on upwards to respect the "chain of command" and blindly obey the male authority figures in the cult. She wasn't allowed to ask 'why.' and she wasn't allowed to speak up. To do so would result in various forms of punishment dealt by a male in the name of God. A female was not allowed to have healthy boundaries, and was taught to "give up her rights." She was not entitled an opinion, and she was not allowed to fight Godly' discipline,' whatever form that discipline took. It was easy for me to fall in line with these expectations. I didn't know any better back then, as we weren't allowed to socialize with people outside the cult. All the women kept their heads down, their bodies covered, and their mouths shut. We had broken spirits. The men broke us. We didn't have fight left in us.

So it was easier for me to fall into line in the cult because I loved peace so much.

However, being a peaceful natured person also made it twice as difficult to go against my nature and fight my way out of the cult by standing up to the patriarchs.

Needless to say, I have had my work cut out for me over the last year. I have had my patience tried sorely, and I have been verbally attacked more than I ever have in my whole life, just because I was standing up to the cult in my own home.

The most difficult part of this past year was standing up for what I believed in front of Karl. The cult turned him into a religious monster. All I did was fend off attack after attack from him.

I lived in fear of him for over a year, but I kept fighting it and never once did I revert back to being the fearful submissive female I used to be, the one the cult demanded me to be.

If I had just simply given in to him and went submissive and quiet, our home would have been peaceful. But I just couldn't live with all that fear, hatred, judgment, hypocrisy.

I couldn't live in a lie.

I couldn't agree with the cult any more.

I didn't write about the drama when it was going on, because it didn't have a resolution. But I can write about it now because..... drum roll.... Karl exhausted himself with me, I didn't give up, and the light started breaking over his head as well.

He doesn't believe in the cult anymore, and he isn't a Christian anymore. He is still shaking out the kinks, but I think I am safe around him now, and I don't think I have to worry about him attacking me and trying to bully me back into the cult.

So the biggest achievement of this past year has been that I have stood up for myself repeatedly in front of Karl for two years, and I have survived the skirmishes. The icing on the cake is that he has started doubting the cult. He is starting to see for the first time how awful it is, and looking back, he says he can't believe what he allowed it to do to him.

The other big achievement over the last year has been my standing up to another patriarch, my brother in law Clark. Clark is married to my sister Louisa. He has abused her for over a decade, still does so, and is in Christian ministry.

Clark also mentored my husband last summer, until I caught him abusing his friendship with Karl and sent him a letter telling him in no uncertain terms that I was appalled and that the mentorship was over.

It was a big deal, standing up to Clark. I have known him and interacted with him for over a decade and never had issues with him in the past. But then again, I was so asleep and blind back then.

Now I am awake, and ever since Clark stepped into my life as Karl's mentor and started poisoning the waters behind my back, I rose to the occasion. True, it took a few months to actually rise to action and I moved in slow motion, but I eventually did confront him. I wrote in detail what happened here, where I shared  how I mustered the courage to confront him and what happened after I sent the letter.

I realize that it would be no big deal for most women to grab the bull by the horns and lamblast a man like Clark instantly, and think nothing of it. I admire women like that and always have.

I'm still learning to set healthy boundaries, and this blog is where I record my transformation. By most women's standards, I'm probably still in kindergarten as far as my experience with and proficiency in "standing up for yourself."

But I tell myself that it is OK. My early formative years were complicated and twisted, and the learning simply didn't happen as a child like it does for most. I was brainwashed and threatened, and through fear I let down all my healthy boundaries and was patted on the back for being Godly.

Thank goodness I see the light now. Things occasionally still feel unnatural and bumpy even now, and it still takes me longer than most people to make a comeback and express myself. But I am making progress. That's truly what counts.

But back to the letter. Several months after I sent the letter to my brother-in-law Clark, I still felt very repressed because I had promised Clark that I wouldn't tell his wife what happened, and I wouldn't tell my other sisters what he was saying in the name of God behind their backs.

I fought with myself  every day that summer for months on end, torn between keeping  a toxic secret and standing up for myself and my sisters.

I have these beautiful friends online who often post inspirational messages about honoring the self, loving yourself, being brave, standing up for yourself and respecting your boundaries. I don't even think these friends know how much these little reminders have buoyed me up and helped me believe in myself. Having their support kept my subconscious self in a strong, loving vibration.

By the summer's end, I got to the point that I realized that my heart was telling me to stand up for what is healthy and right for me, even if my husband and brother in law would get mad at me. I was done bottling up other people's toxic secrets.

So I worked up my gumption and called my mom and told her. I was shaking and crying because I was afraid of what Karl would do once he found out, and afraid because I was not being a good submissive wife. Karl had flipped out and threatened me not tell anyone. Under cult rules, he has the right to intimidate me.

After I told my mom, she was outraged at what Clark said and did, and she told me she was so glad I told her. I went limp with relief. She also told me I should tell Louisa... right away.

Gosh, I didn't know my mom was such a rebel. But then, she could afford to be in this instance because it was no skin off her back that I told. She wasn't the one spilling secrets, she was just a passive bystander who happened to hear. But as for me, at this point in time I still had one foot locked in the old fearful, submissive way of life, where it is dangerous to go against male authority.

A few days later, I texted Louisa and told her I needed to tell her something. She called me back, and I told her what her husband was saying and doing in the name of God behind her back. She was appalled. She eventually told him, and apparently he cried and said he didn't know how to control his tongue, and was so ashamed.

Louisa actually told me that I shouldn't have waited so long to tell her what her husband said behind her back. "Next time," she told me, "You tell me right away."

Again, I was shocked that both Louisa and my mom backed me up in being the unsubmissive leaker of information. I thought they would chide me for not playing my submissive Christian role and for going against the wishes of two patriarchs, both Karl and Clark.

However, neither of them were doing anything taboo. Neither of them were threatened by a patriarch. It was me who was going against a patriarch's wishes, and it was me who was earning for myself another verbal attack at home.

I actually never told Karl that I let the cat out of the bag. Until the other day. He acted worried, but then because he isn't in the cult as much now as before, he let it go. I was wise to not tell him back then.

And even more than that, I was proud of myself for listening to my heart and standing up for myself and my sisters.

The rest of the summer went by quickly after that.

Since then, I haven't been to the family's homestead or to any of my siblings' homes. Also since then, my husband and I bought a new home that is almost two hours away from my family's town. We used to live only five minutes from most of my family members.

Also since than Karl and I have skipped both Thanksgiving and Christmas at my family's homestead, and I haven't called my mom.

My mom is such a gentle and good soul, but I have needed this break from family drama. I did talk on the phone with my mom twice in the last few weeks for the first time since the summer. She actually called me both times, which is extremely rare.

Both times on the phone, my mom said that my dad wanted to see a copy of the email from Clark, so that he could apparently chastise Clark.

I was shocked. As a patriarch, each Christian man in the cult has unlimited power, and simply isn't chided by another patriarch. It has been this way for over 40 years in my family, since long before I was born. Each patriarch is given unlimited control, and they don't cross each other or discipline each other, especially when one is abusing his power. Abusing someone in the name of God is a patriarch's unquestioned right. It just simply happens, and the patriarch gets away with it.

If my dad were really going to check up on my Clark, that would throw the whole system out of whack. I couldn't believe this good news.

Then I could believe it.
I have a set of affirmation cards that I flip through and read to myself often, that I eventually will do EFT with. The one card I've been reading several times a day is "I stand up for myself, and life supports me in unexpected, loving ways."

So I've been expecting and thanking life several times a day for being such a lovely, supportive scaffold for me, and for surprising me in unexpected, loving ways.

And because of this, I wasn't so surprised that my dad suddenly might want to put a check on the abuse of another patriarch's power for the first and only time I've had cognition of.

So I stewed for a month or so, debating if I wanted enlighten my dad on what Clark was doing. I resisted it, because what Clark was doing was no more outrageous than anything my dad has done. Why would my dad want to chastise his son-in-law for things he was just as equally guilty of? Why tattletale on the pot, when the kettle is just as black?

But eventually I decided to send the letter outing Clark. In the letter to my parents, I also explained that I didn't feel comfortable visiting their home while Clark was there, sine he was gunning for me (a non-Christian), and I didn't prefer another skirmish with him.

My dad wrote back to me quite a nice letter. But he didn't say anything about confronting Clark. And he also gave me some life advice straight from the cult handbook. Which was kind of him to want to give me advice. But since he gave me advice, I decided I would have to write back and say that I didn't belief in the cult anymore, and didn't feel comfortable taking that advice.

The letter I wrote to Clark was like tiddlywinks and child's play compared to the one I sent to my dad. The one I sent my dad laid it all out there.

I expressed things I have been too scared to tell my dad my whole life.

Writing it was cathartic, and I felt like I was coming out of the cult closet for the first time in my life.

After I sent it, my whole body was burning hot, and it lasted for an hour. I felt so clear headed and empowered after I sent it.

I poured decades of anger, repression, tears, confusion, fear, and pain into that letter.

Then I pressed 'send.'

That night I slept soundly.

Here's the letter I wrote to my dad:

No worries, I don’t hold grudges, you are forgiven. As is Clark.

But forgiving doesn’t mean I agree with everything he does or the advice you gave, even though I know it came from a well-meaning, good place.

I do not agree with the Bill Gothard doctrine. I find it to be a doctrine of fear, and one that easily allows a misuse of power by men. It is doctrines like this that keep innocent women like Louisa stuck in abusive marriages, out of fear of demonic attack.

I do not agree that an umbrella with holes is better than no umbrella at all. To say that is to say that it is better to have an abusive husband than no husband at all.

What is also implied is that it is better to have an abusive husband than an attack from demonic influences.

First, I don’t fear demons at all. The rain falls on the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ alike. Good comes to people whether they are ‘good’ or following ‘the rules’ or not. If you are afraid of demons, then they are there and they will attack you. If you believe in them, they are there because you create that reality as truth simply by your belief. But if you do not live in a place of fear, and you only see love, there are no demons and you are safe.

As such, with no demons to fear, a female doesn’t have to worry about demonic attack, and shouldn’t be forced out of fear to stay with a man who is abusive.

Also, the Bill Gothard doctrine gives men too much unchecked power, and takes away vital rights from women. It should be a woman’s right to stand up and question something that her heart tells her isn’t emotionally healthy, but under this doctrine, women don’t have that right. You often yelled at us and made us cower and said, “Don’t EVER ask me WHY!?!” in an angry tone, and we as females never had a right to even gently ask questions. That is bully like behavior, in the name of God. We were afraid to question, and any time a person is not allowed to question something, that is a red flag.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in large part because I was extremely afraid of you growing up, and still am. To get angry when a female child tries to express something and to tell her that in the name of God she doesn’t have that right to speak up…. is unhealthy. I have never been able to speak up and as a female, this has allowed me to be a victim in numerous life situations as an adult. I put myself there because I thought it was good and Godly not to speak up, but in fact this belief served to fail me and I paid the price for it.

I am living proof that the Bill Gothard doctrine is dangerous and unhealthy for women. It is an ego boost for men though. Men get nothing but added privileges so as a man, it is understandable that you probably see nothing wrong with the doctrine. Unless you can live in the shoes of a woman and pray meekly for/live with a man like Clark, then you can never experience how deadly this doctrine is, and how it can cut to a woman’s soul.

I don’t agree with the belief that a woman’s prayers alone can patch a man’s umbrella. That is like saying that a man has no responsibility for his own harmful actions towards women and children. That if he is being abusive and irresponsible, that it is not his fault, but it is the fault of the woman who didn’t pray enough.

Is this Clark’s only problem then? That Louisa hasn’t been praying hard enough for the last decade plus?

Is his holey umbrella that way only because Louisa didn’t pray enough?

Obviously, prayer is not the only answer in patching an umbrella.

The main responsibility to patch an umbrella is the man holding it. If a man is being awful towards other people, it is HIS responsibility to patch himself, not just his wife. 

Yet the wife is held accountable, and the holey umbrella above her is seen as a reflection of her own lack of prayer and submission. And she suffers in silence. She has no power, and she can’t tell anyone. If she does, she is shamed and told to pray more. She is trapped, but feels this is Godly. The blame is put on her, not the man.

And nobody comes to help her. Nobody. Nobody chastises the man. No, it’s the woman’s fault for not praying or being submissive.

Apparently, it is my fault that Karl was treating me badly. There is no help for me except prayer and my being more quiet, supportive and submissive.

I do not agree with that advice. Every cell in my body cries out that is not right. That is cruel advice.

I also do not agree with the Gothard doctrine because it puts unchecked power in the hands of a man. There is no system of accountability above the man except God. I think this is dangerous because it allows the man to just continue on with no interference. Nobody said anything to Clark all those years back, no one is saying anything to him now. Karl starts following in his footsteps, and they both go along merrily, safe because they are Christian males, while your daughters take the brunt of it.

The men continue to get away with it, and your daughters are told to stay with them, be submissive and pray.

How did prayer work out for Louisa? Everyone knew that she wasn’t happy for over a decade, and nobody stepped in to check on her, or ask her if she was ok. Clark was answering to God alone for over a decade, and even so the abuse was going on all this time.  Men answering to God alone is not enough. Prayer and submission alone is not enough. It didn’t get Louisa anywhere, and it still isn’t getting her anywhere.

Action and intervention is what is needed. Louisa and I need to stop being told to meekly take the abuse.

Why do you think that all of your daughters have been in bad relationships, and have been with abusive men, except for maybe (my younger sister) Christy? Even Matt and Joel (my brothers) have been like overly submissive females in that they picked domineering women. Why? Because we have learned from you that this is what meekness is. We have learned that we can’t set healthy boundaries, and this attitude has attracted out of control, angry men who prey on Godly women who are afraid to stand up for themselves.

Perhaps only a female who lives under this doctrine can understand this. Only a wife or female child can understand this. It is the females who suffer, and it is the females who can’t talk about it because they will be shamed or bullied more.

I realize that it is probably difficult for you to imagine what it’s like to be in a female’s shoes under the umbrella. But hopefully you can try to imagine how terrifying and awful and psychologically tormenting it is when there is abuse going on and you think God expects you as a female to take it. Gothard advice isn’t helpful for a female… it actually does the opposite of helping, in that it empowers a man so that the abusive situation continues.

The Gothard doctrine 'might' be less dangerous in the hands of a basically decent man who doesn't have a lot of anger and violence. But it is like giving a free hall pass with no policing and no check-ins if it falls into the hands of a man who is hard headed and already on a violent path.

It is also a woman’s responsibility to be wise enough to know when her man's umbrella is permanently irreparable and abusive.

Because it is a sad fact that some umbrellas will never regenerate.

Some umbrellas will never be patched.

It’s the woman’s fault if she chooses to waste her life trying to patch what will never be patched. I’m done with watching women waste their lives in this effort in futility, with the man beating her down emotionally and physically in the process as a reward for her giving all her life’s effort to him.

Women who stay under a holey and abusive umbrella do themselves and their children far more psychological, physical and emotional harm than if they were to get out from under the umbrella to make it on their own.

Yet under the Gothard doctrine, women are trained out of fear to never question the man, and they aren't allowed to think for themselves or question, even when they are abused. They have no defenses. They basically are blind, and many can't get away because they can't even let themselves realize the horror around them.

I think the Gothard doctrine is a perfect set up for abuse. Take a man who is out of control, angry, can’t change himself for decades on end, is violent and aggressive, and walks around hurting people without even knowing it. Then give that man unchecked power, and tell his wife and female children that they will be attacked by demons if they try to escape his abuse and his umbrella full of holes.

I think that is sickening.

I have watched with my own eyes and experienced being under your umbrella and Karl’s, and I've watched mom and Louisa. I just see sadness and disaster. And I personally have followed the rules to the “T,” so I know that I have given it more than 100%, many times over. I’m not about to waste the rest of my life continuing to be a Gothard guinea pig when I’ve seen time and again it is very harmful for a female, and it only works for a male.

I want No More of It.

It’s unhealthy and has dragged my life down enough.

I realize that you do only mean well. But the beliefs and rigid rules in this doctrine aren’t healthy. It’s better to just listen in to your heart, like Mom does. She was a good person when she was a child before she met you and religion, and she listened to her heart. That’s all a person needs, just to listen to their intuition and heart like she does. You don’t need doctrines or rules or books or sermons to be ‘good’. Just listen to your heart.




Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cults, christianity, toxic beliefs and health

~ A view of my back yard ~
I recently separated from a religious cult that I grew up in. During the time I was questioning the beliefs of this cult, I realized that many of these beliefs unfortunately are also foundational beliefs in modern day evangelical Christianity as well. So I ended up leaving not only the cult, but Christianity also.

Growing up in immersed in these beliefs has actually negatively affected my health and emotional well being. I'm receiving beautiful healing in this area even now. And as part of my healing, I've decided to dissect the reasons why and how religion turned out to be harmful for me.

  • Can't love yourself. Although most churches outwardly preach that it is good to love yourself, some fundamental churches warn that practicing self love is a dangerous road to go down. It is dangerous because it can lead to thinking too highly of yourself. For this reason, it is better to not focus too much on self love.
Some pastors preach that the Bible actually warns against self-love, quoting 2 Timothy 3: 1-2: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy..."

Pastors teach that the proper way to view self love is to simply love yourself as Christ loves you. Christ tells us that we are nothing without him and his redemption.  Without him and his salvation plan, we are as filthy rags. If we loved ourselves for who we are outside of Christ, then we are nothing, quite un-loveable.

So the key here, dear readers, is to actively draw closer to God and experience him and his love more, so we don't have to worry about loving ourselves apart from him.

Christian "self love" is not really you loving yourself.

Christian "self love" is really code for "you reflecting back God's love for you, and not your love for yourself."

You are allowed to have "self love" only as long as it is a reflection of God's love for you, not your love for yourself.

This might sound like a beautiful concept. Except for one thing.

What happens when you go through the dark valleys in your Christian walk, as all Christians do? Those times when you don't feel God's love?

Well, you won't be able to feel "self love" either.

This could cause some problems in your life, especially if you want to be able to enjoy feeling good about yourself on a regular basis.

It's too bad that God and his love isn't intrinsic and innate inside of us, always available and on  tap. Instead of being outside of us, elusive, and sporadic.

It is frustrating, being temporarily unable to connect to this source outside of you. You never know how long the dry stretch will last, where you feel out of communion. You have to actively commit to Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, worship, study, sin prevention and repentance. But even then, this doesn't always guarantee that you will feel close to God again. Sometime he "hides his face" for "mysterious reasons" and you don't know when you will be in communion again.

So, because a Christian won't always be able to feel God's love, he also won't be able to always feel "self love."
So there we have it. God's love and "self love" is a sporadic feature of the Christian walk. It is usually attainable to the degree that you fight to stay in communion with God. But even then, you still might feel out of touch, so your perception of his love will be irregular and unpredictable.

And on those days when you aren't able feel God's love for you (Christian "self love")... are you allowed to rely instead temporarily on your backup generator, a love of self that is "worldly" and arises only from yourself? Nope, that is taboo.
So, not only is the Christian walk slightly bare in the self love department, there is also another issue.

There is this dichotomy, where you are told to love yourself as God loves you, but you also know that

                -You are a sinner at heart and will continue to sin, and
                -God hates sin vehemently.

So the polarity here doesn't make sense. God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.

But if I'm supposed to hate sin like God does, then at particular times along my Christian walk, I will be loathing my innate, sinful nature with fierce intensity. And yes, pastors tell you all the time you should loathe sin as much as God does. This is how pastors jolt people out of their sinful ways, by reminding them of how much God hates sin.

I don't know. It is too far of a stretch for me. If I am to hate my innately sinful nature, but love myself as God loves me at the same time, I can't do that.

Love doesn't mean hating what is innate to you.

I can not love myself if there is an innate part of me that I hate.

I can not love myself if there is an innate part of me that God tells me to hate.

I don't think anyone can love themselves as long as God is telling them they have to hate an innate part of themselves.
If you can't love the innate parts of yourself, you can't really love yourself. Am I the only one drunk in this room? Or am I the only one speaking a bit of sense here? Am I upsetting the Christian apple cart here?
I have felt this dichotomy for a long time, and that is why as a Christian I didn't feel free to fully love myself. Being a Christian felt rather forlorn and love-less for me. I don't know about other's experiences, but at the barest of levels, this is how it was for me personally.

There is no 'sin' in me.     
I love myself completely!     
  • Can't love others. When you don't love yourself, you can't love others. No matter how hard you try. This makes friendships and relationships tough.
I am free to love others!     
  • Out of touch with yourself and cut off from yourself.  You aren't allowed to trust your heart, emotions, or intuition. These are grey areas that the devil resides in. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jeremiah 17:9)  As such, this cuts you off from yourself. This is draining and depressing, and actually alienates you from your Creator more than it puts you in harmony with him/her/the universe.
I trust myself now.    
I am in tune with my intuition.    
  • Feminine qualities deemed evil or lesser than. Not trusting your heart and intuition doesn't bode well for the female Christian population, as females are well springs of emotion and natural experts in the heart and intuitive matters. This can lead to male suppression of these female tendencies, cutting females out of matters of decision making and leadership, and unequal rights for women. On the far end of the spectrum, it can sometimes lead to Biblical male superiority, patriarchy, and religious abuse.
I am female.     
Hear me roar!     
  • OK to judge and hate in God's name. You believe in a right and wrong, and believe that it is OK to judge what God says is wrong. God gives you a right and wrong, and allows you to destroy, fight against, and judge what is evil. This attitude creates division, not peace. This creates boundaries instead of unity. This divides people by race, by religion, by moral standing. This attitude is what allowed the Crusades and Holy Wars to occur; Christians killed others in the name of God. This is what the white man did in the name of God to the Native Americans. This is the same attitude that encourages Christians to hate on Muslims, to hate on gays, to hate on prostitutes, to bomb abortion clinics.
To harm another is to harm yourself.    
We are all one.    
  • Depression and self hatred. You believe that at the core, you are just a sinner, saved by Grace. This promotes a "whoa is me" attitude, a false humility, a lowered sense of self,  a depressed nature, and a looser mentality. This might also lead to self hatred, even if it is only on a subconscious level. With an attitude like this, you attract and  often unknowingly create for yourself negative life situations that match the vibration of your attitude. I have sat in many church sermons where poverty and lack are extolled. I have lived over 30 years of my life in a depressed state, and didn't know why. It's when I let go of my Christian beliefs that the shroud lifted and I rose to my natural level of innate joy.
I deserve and attract good in my life.     
I love myself!     
  • Stuck in fight or flight mode. As a Christian, the need to continually examine yourself for any trace of sin could put a conscientious person in fight or flight. And what would this mean for a person who tended towards perfectionism? Well, as a highly conscientious person and a perfectionist, I went into fight or flight and lived in a state of fear for many decades in large part because I was very careful and hyper-vigilant in monitoring my checklist of sins committed, my list of  sins I had asked forgiveness for, the list of sins I was about to commit again, and my ever changing strategies to achieve and maintain remaining in sin prevention mode. Trust me, if I do sin prevention, awareness and repentance, I do it right. I was bound and determined to keep my heart and conscience clear, no matter what it took. Needless to say, with all this fear and worry, I went into fight or flight mode when I was 5, and my adrenals have not been happy campers for oh, quite some time. Until recently when I realized there is no judgment, no "sin" in me, and there never was.
I am safe now.    
I can relax.    
  • Separate from others, alone. As Christians, it is dangerous to associate with non-Believers as they may lead you into temptation, especially if you don't feel strong in the faith, or strong on that particular day. Christians are led to a life of separation, and are encouraged to mingle with those in the same faith, except for the purpose of evangelising. When this belief becomes legalistic, which if often does out of fear and a need to protect oneself from sin at all costs, the Believer sees himself or herself as separate from others. Sometimes out of zealousness, a Christian will even start to restrict himself even from other non-Believers who aren't strong in the faith. This belief in separation also sometimes leads to a tendency to not want to even help non-Christians when they are in need, as well as hating that non-Believer in the name of God when that person needs help.
We are all one.    
When I help you, I help myself.    
  • Argumentative. Christians feel that it is Godly to be obnoxious and argumentative for Christ, and that if an evangelising attempt doesn't stir up someone's dander, then the witnessing isn't up to par. Christians use verses like Matthew 10:34-36. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's enemies will be the members of his household."
I love you as you are.    
You are free to believe as you want.    
  • Frustration and anger, feeling trapped. The knowledge that you are incapable of not sinning for the rest of your life, no matter how hard you try can be a recipe for frustration and anger. It was for me. Sinning wouldn't be so awful if there wasn't a threat of punishment after the sin, but as that threat was there and it would be for the rest of my life, no matter what, this honestly made me depressed. I also did hate myself deeply on a daily basis, and even considered it quite the Godly thing to do, in loathing my mortal body and it's continual moral failings. Yes, I was very depressed, but didn't even know it. How can you admit you are depressed as a Christian when there is no alternative to Christianity out there, no alternative that includes a sin-less state. You can't question the only 'right' religion there is out there, unless of course you were brave enough to face God's wrath.

My natural self is sinless.     
I am free to love myself and my life!     
  • Guilt and shame. These just come along with the Christian life, although they are more inherent in fundamental circles. The basic belief is that you are a sinner at your core, which God hates. So you have to work yourself up into a guilty lather, to loathe the sin so much that you are shamed into not doing it anymore. Sometimes pastors use love to motivate you to stop sinning, but more often than not, they use guilt and shame. And this guilt and shame is considered Godly and healthy. A necessary aspect of the Christian walk.

I don't have to change myself.     
I love myself as I am!     
  • Fearful. When you believe that you are a sinner, you also believe that you truly don't deserve good. You only get grace, which is undeserved merit.  You know that on some level, you deserve judgment for the sins you still will commit. Some Christians feel that blessings in their life are rewards due to perseverance in the faith, as well as keeping a lead foot on the brakes in the sin department. This belief makes life a chore, as you are afraid constantly of sinning because you fear punishment and a withholding of blessings. I was always on the lookout when something bad happened in my life, like a flat tire, a hairline fracture in my car windshield, or a headache. I always backtracked to see what sin I had forgotten to ask forgiveness for or was currently still committing. I would continually ask forgiveness so that I would have a clean slate free punishment and judgment. This constant need to look over the shoulder for sins on the horizon promotes fear. Fear is the underlying cause of most illness and disease.

No one's out to get me.    
I can relax.    
  • Powerless. You can't do anything to get out of the cycle of sinning. You also can't trust your inner self, which makes you feel less in control. You have to consult a source outside of yourself, the Bible, a pastor, a Christian friend, a Christian friend, a Christian book, and sermon. You don't have the authority or power to consult yourself, since your heart and emotions are not accurate compasses. The heart is deceitfully wicked, above all things.

Everything I need has always      
been inside of me.     
  • Depressed. Once you invite God into your life, he is only there to the degree that you work hard enough to keep him there. Once God came in your life, if you didn't try every day, every minute, he would leave like air escaping out of a balloon. Your life is a constant God leak, with the rate of air escaping to the degree you allowed yourself to sin, and to the degree you kept up with repentance. And since sinning was your normal, innate way of being, you could look forward to a lifetime of sinning, and a lifetime of hard, diligent work replenishing that God air that was always escaping. Talk about an exercise in futility.  
Source, God, Love and the Universe is innate to you     
and always is you.    
  • Exhausted. You can't just coast along in the Christian life. It's a fight, a constant battle against evil. You have to be active and alert, for the evil one prowls about, seeking whom he might devour. You have to actively read your Bible, pray, attend church, fellowship, keep sin out of your life, and ask repentance regularly for the sins you did commit. It's like your faith is a balloon with a constant leak due to your sinful nature, but you have to keep on filling this leaking balloon with the air of your own actions to stay Godly. I don't know about you, but constantly blowing up a leaky balloon for the rest of your life is exhausting.

I am perfect just as I am.    
I can relax.    

I do want to point out that there are so many lovely, beautiful people out there who are Christians, who don't hate on others, and who don't judge. I do hope that these wonderful people are not internally worn out and exhausted by their beliefs. I also want to point out that not all Christians have an analytical, perfectionist type personality, and as a result many of them probably don't pay attention to or follow most of the subtle beliefs in their religion. Many of them also attend churches that don't preach sin and condemnation as much as fundamental churches do. It is the more fundamental churches where these more toxic beliefs are prolific.

And it is the small religious pockets like cults where these beliefs can become not only toxic, but also secret and subtle.
According to the teachings of the cult I grew up in, the biggest transgression a female can commit is getting out from under the chain of command by leaving your father’s house without getting married to an approved man in the cult who would be in authority over you. I committed this major transgression by leaving my parent’s house as a single female and living on my own, unprotected and out from under authority in the world for a full decade, from age 24 to age 34. Yup.

The punishment for this major sin is God sending his demons to destroy your life, attacking my health, finances, career, relationships, and sanity. I am not kidding about this. It is called "getting out from under the umbrella of protection and authority" and it is pretty much what you do as a female only if you have a death wish. Or only if you clearly don't believe in the cult anymore.
My problem was that although I physically escaped the cult by leaving home, I actually still believed the teachings in my head. Once I was out in the world, I was looking over my shoulder and worrying about my health and well-being constantly. I was alone with no family to have my back, and knew my health was everything.

I knew I would never force myself to go back under cult authority, and because I made this choice, I knew I would have to take punishment from God for the rest of my life. For years on end, I braced myself for punishment.

And when that punishment didn’t come, I repeatedly put myself into harmful situations and relationships again and again that affected my health, stressed me out, and wore me down.  I figured I may as well beat God to the punch and get the punishment going before he sent it, just to get it over with and out of the way.

The stress of living on edge like that affected my health. I was stuck in a fight or flight stage  and living in fear for decades on end. This meant that my body was constantly releasing massive amounts of cortisol, which deregulated my mineral levels, adrenal glands and endocrine system. Over time this led to me getting Myalgic Encephalitis, Fibromyalgia, Adrenal Burnout and Chronic Fatigue. Even though I'm genetically prone to these illnesses, they were unlocked by decades of stress.
Stress in general can lead to and exacerbate many health conditions. Stress is a killer, and it unlocks illnesses that would otherwise lie dormant and  not see the light of day if not activated.

Fear of God is not healthy,     
it is toxic and stressful!     

I don’t believe the cult teachings anymore, I don’t believe in sin anymore, I don’t believe there is any punishment anymore, and I don’t believe  I need to be guilty.

I didn't do anything to deserve getting sick!     
I deserve and accept complete health.     

The Christian belief that you can love God but you can't love yourself is toxic as well, especially if you feel like there is more sin in your life than God in your life. This can lead to Godly self hatred and a feeling of powerlessness to change. Self hatred and powerlessness are like a death toll for those already sick. If you feel like its not Godly to love yourself and you feel depressed, you probably don't have much emotional energy to invest in looking for cures and treatments. I know that I didn't when I first became ill and was still in the Christian fold.

Because I felt so sinful and guilty for the first several years I was sick, I wasn’t able to love myself. I didn’t think I was worth going to the doctor, and I didn’t think I worth the time and effort to try to get better. It is only when I dropped Christianity that my self-worth rose to its natural levels, and I started to want to seek treatment and health.

I am worth fighting for!    
I am worth the effort of looking for treatments!    

Also, many Christians feel that physical suffering through illness is Godly, and that it gives God glory. Therefore, to try to improve in health is against the will of God. Many of my close, Christian confidantes tried to tell me that the reason I got ill was so I could shine God's glory in the middle of pain, and therefore could be a sterling testimony to the unsaved, perhaps nudging them towards the faith and salvation.

I made less and less efforts to try to get better the first several years I was ill because I wanted to glorify God. I didn’t want to erase a perfectly good trial that I could shine in, in order to bring other people to Christ. It’s like I was afraid to get better because I didn’t want to shirk my duty of maintaining the illness that could bring a lot of positive attention to God.

God doesn't want people to get and stay sick    
in order to honor his name!    

Many of my Christian mentors in the last few years have also expressed a concern that the illness I was going through was a result of secret sin in my life. In other words, God was judging me. One of my friends regularly prayed that I would discover my hidden sin so I could repent of it and get healed. A pastor told me that for the complex and exhaustive list of symptoms and conditions I had, I must have sinned far more than one person could possibly sin in one lifetime.

There is no sin or judgment except what     
we make for ourselves.     

Still another well meaning Christian mentor told me that  I wasn't healed because I didn't know enough about the nature of God, but that I could attain this knowledge through  rigorous Bible study. I was being punished with illness because I didn't know enough about God. I tried her method of intensive Bible study for over a year, but it didn't work. Mostly, it made me feel insulted, so I stopped trying.

Sin and punishment is an illusion.    
It is we who punish ourselves.    
Yet another ministry told me I needed to have the demons and evil spirits exorcised out of me. So I went this route, and got 'them' exorcised. It was one of the lowest times in my life, and the illness reached it's lowest stage at this point in time. I felt powerless, dependent on the confidence and abilities of the exorcist, scared of the evil spirits, fearful that he had missed a spirit or two, afraid he hadn't gotten all of them out, afraid that I was too willful and evil on the inside to relinquish all the spirits, afraid that I hadn't been sincere enough during the exorcism events which lasted weeks into months. I was afraid that the spirits would come back since I wasn't able to live a sin-free life. I felt trapped and wretched. During the year or so I worked with this ministry, my health took  nose dive and was the lowest it ever was.

What you believe, you see and experience.    

Still yet another ministry told me that I wasn't being healed because I hadn't forgiven my father for abusing me as a child. I was instructed to pray, ask forgiveness, and send cards to my dad. Which I did. As my health didn't improve over time, the pastor shifted blame towards me for not trying hard enough. This pastor wasn't gifted with compassion, and he didn't mention that he felt bad for me. But I was told that I wasn't right, and that the nature of my problem was and always had been me. That a good Christian wouldn't have been affected by the abuse. That I was to blame for letting it get to me. That I was more at fault than my father.

When I shared that it made me literally sick to get in a car and visit my father, the pastor chided me that I was holding on to unforgiveness. He said that a victorious Christian could stand in the presence of their abuser with no problem, and that if I wasn't there yet, then I was still sinning and holding on to unforgiveness. So, for a year more I  tried to force myself to ignore the panic attacks, nausea and weakness that popped up every time I attempted a visit. Until eventually I got so sick that I wasn't able to even leave my house for a year and a half, and I laid on a couch or bed, too ill to move.

Forgiveness doesn't mean putting yourself in an abuser's     
 presence so he can abuse you more.     
Forgiveness means loving yourself and the abuser to the     
point that you won't give that person an     
opportunity to hurt you more.     

I spent the first several years of the illness contemplating religion and spirituality. Eventually, I let myself became honest enough to admit  that I was exhausted with the negativity I felt listening to these Christian pastors and friends. The hell that Christians are afraid of, the simple burning of the flesh began to sound tame to me after experiencing the various physical and psychological sides of the illness, as well as the cruelty, shunning, and mental torment from being turned down by churches, ministries, family and friends when I asked for for help. I was living hell on earth, and the Biblical hell suddenly dimmed in comparison. I lost my fear of that hell. Without fear of hell, I didn't fear punishment. Without punishment, sin has no meaning.

So I started questioning the Christian faith, and after a year or so of questioning, I decided that my old beliefs didn't serve me anymore. So I let them go.

And when I did, I was flooded with relief and joy at finally being awake and free. And most every day since then, I get random these random moments during the day when I remember how free I am, and again I am just flooded with joy.

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