47 Christian Betrayal

There is a verse from the Psalms which used to haunt me as a child.  It is about the terrible experience of being betrayed by someone close to you.  The Psalmist is in a situation of conflict and he says that he could bear it if it was an enemy responsible for putting him through pain and insult.  ‘But’ he goes on to say, ‘it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship…’  Ps. 55.13-14.  The whole psalm is a gloomy one, full of indignation at the terrible behaviour of the Psalmist’s ‘enemies’.  It is also a prayer that God will protect the Psalmist from these attacks and allow him to escape to a far away place.

The connection that I want to make between this psalm verse and something we might experience now is not to compare it with a falling out with a friend, however much this may happen.  I wish rather to compare it with an experience known to many Christians who, for whatever reason, want to leave the Christian fellowship of which they have been faithful members.   Certain conservative Christian groups will close ranks totally in this situation, shun the individual leaver and make them feel as though they had never existed.  As long as the member remained in the ‘fold’, they were lavished with affection, attention and Christian love.  But then a situation arises which might involve a sense of growing unease with the integrity of the leaders.  The individual member realises that they have to question what they have been taught and make plans to withdraw from the community.  The so-called friends, the former sharers of fellowship and love, are then nowhere to be seen.  No recognition of the pain and sense of isolation is afforded to the leaver nor any kind of understanding.  All that remains is an emptiness and cold rejection.

When I was researching my book, Ungodly Fear, I met a couple who described the raw pain of rejection when they left their church.  They told me that people would cross over to the other side of the road when they saw them coming.  It took quite a long time for this couple to accept that Christian fellowship was not in fact about earning love.  There are Christians out there, I wanted to explain,  who were prepared to love them without making conditions.  Families, at any rate good ones, are bound together with bonds of affection that are unconditional.  Love and fellowship are not things that are turned on and off according to our behaviour.  While there are actions that can crack relationships, every Christian is, or should be, committed to the idea that the bonds of peace should be fought for.  The idea that we can turn from love to hate in the flash of an eye because someone does not conform totally to the will of the leader or group, is appalling.

Why do some Christians behave in this way?  From a psychological point of view I think the answer is not hard to find.  The Christianity that they have embraced is the black/white variety.  They have allowed themselves to believe that they have the unadulterated truth, the correct interpretation of the Bible and the perfect version of Church life and fellowship.  Overseeing this ‘perfect’ environment is a leader who has their complete loyalty.  In this universe there is no room for discussion or debate.  The answers are all there in the Scriptures and the leader can always be trusted to provide the answer as to ‘what we think’.  The black/white mentality does not allow for compromise or questioning and so everyone who has doubts has to be rejected forthwith.  Doubts undermine the perfect oasis of truth that they have had created for themselves.  Any doubts expressed by others are taken as a personal attack and have to be fought off.  A single doubt about the perfection of Scripture also has to be fiercely driven away and the best way to drive away doubt is to utterly scorn and reject the individual.  Thus the love that binds this kind of paranoid Church is one which is conditional.  Unless you believe in the way we tell you and follow the dictates of our group, we will reject you and cast you out.

Christian betrayal, in simple terms, is the discovery that the fellowship and love that one had enjoyed up till that point had always been conditional.  It was what we can call cultic love.  Cultic love, wherever it is found, is the sort of love that will be instantly withdrawn the moment one questions or in any way rocks the boat in the group.  This instant change of attitude leads to pain and a sense of  total bewilderment.  How can people who had shown real love and understanding one moment then turn around and push one away?  Many people never recover their ability to enter Christian fellowship again.  They have been too severely hurt.

Out in society there are numberless people who have been through this experience of Christian betrayal.  We don’t know how many because they seldom come to the attention of church members.  But at least let us be aware of them and when we meet them be able to show some understanding of their sense of having been let down.  This blog has all such people very much in its sights.  The material in the posts and in our discussions are designed to help such people.  While few are reading it at this point, one hopes that the material will eventually be read by some of them and that they may come to know that Christian love is not conditional but unconditional as it pours out from God and from those who worship him.

11 comments

  1. Chris Pitts

    Yes! Stephen is talking about all my yesterdays and the yesterdays of all those who travelled with me. I knew hundreds of those ‘leaders’ who articulated this conditional love. The damage is beyond measure. An unknown number is now out there wandering in the wilderness. They were betrayed. I remain bewildered in the wilderness, but at least the wilderness doesn’t make promises or lie to you!
    Chris

  2. James Blott

    I remain apalled at ‘Christian Betrayal’, despite knowing what Stephen says is true. I spend my life trying to encourage people to see my Church as loving, inclusive and compassionate. I fail to understand how anyone could interpret Jesus’ teaching any other way. And yet I keep bumping into high profile examples where the opposite applies. The Church spends a lot of time and energy ‘evangelising’ (sorry if even the idea of that makes you wince, Chris). What we ought to be spending our time doing instead, is to ensure that we are correctly sharing Jesus’s values. I still believe (or do I mean hope?) that there are many churches where good is being done and Jesus’s values genuinely reflected, but those who don’t have an effect totally out of proportion to their number. The effect of what they’re doing leaves scars that don’t always heal. It’s dreadful, but we have to look in the mirror. If we can’t see the beams in our own eyes, we don’t deserve to remain in existence. All of us in the Church owe you the deepest apology, Chris.

  3. Chris Pitts

    Thank you James, I still suffer from self hate in relation to the personality disorder that infected me post shepherding etc. However, I always knew something was wrong (Some inner witness?). So I am culpable, I betrayed the Jesus of history, no one to blame but me! The people who programed me were also products of abusive theaters. All I want, all I hope for, is for a genuine turn of heart in the established church’s and a real look at what it has allowed in and normalized?

    Chris

  4. English Athena

    You shouldn’t blame yourself, Chris. It’s the classic abuser’s trick, to try to make us seem to be responsible for the abuse. It’s the abuser who is to blame for abuse, not the victim.

  5. Maria

    Thank you Stephen I have had abhorent betrayal within the walls of the church today it happened to me again. I was being ministered to by my pastor wife and confiding in her what has been happening in my marraige to the point at in the thick of a battle with my husband I called on her with the hope of advice on how to handle being kicked out of home again and even stipulated that my husband would become enraged that I shared with her. She decided that I am a little bit silly and called him to find out. He, of course, denied anything happened and then I was called into the church for ‘discipline’ because I lied. I am completely guttered that this has again happened to me and that my asking for help has been because they sense ‘a demonic presence’ in me. How terrible is that! Where is the confidence and trust, the wrath Ive received from my hushand for sharing the state of our marriage has been more than I can bare. I reached out for help hoping that I could gain support and strength during difficult times but I was handed over to the wolves. Im devestated that I have now no trust in my church that the relationships I worked on for years were completely a waste of time. I literally fell apart in front of her today; and as broken as she knows I was she watched me drive away and i havent had any further contact to even see how I am. Or an apology for accusing me of lying.
    I will follow your blog in the hope to have some peace that others have also suffered as awful as that sounds at least im not alone in this. I will continue to be aiming to be like CHRIST and not the CHURCH as it stands today.

    • South Louisiana

      Maria; I have one statement to make concerning
      confiding in anyone in leadership in a church…..
      DON’T DO IT!! I have found that they are the FIRST
      ones that will quickly divulge your private information
      to anyone else on staff for the “sake of praying”
      for you. Even if you ask them NOT to tell anyone because
      you simply need advice and counseling and you
      don’t want it getting around the church. They will tell
      you it’s between you and them and then they’ll tell
      their wife (or husband), the church secretary, or
      anyone else around so they too can “pray for
      the situation”. I was a counselor in a Christian-
      based crisis pregnancy
      center and the most important thing we needed was
      the ability to keep a clients confidence. It bothers me
      that people betray that so readily, even in, or maybe
      especially in, the churches of today. I’m not talking
      about a need to tell when someone is in a life or
      death situation. I’m not talking about reporting abuse
      or molestation of children, or things like that, to the
      proper authorities. I’m talking about someone bearing
      their hearts to us and we promise them we won’t tell
      and then we tell the first person we see. It’s shameful!
      Unless we have someone’s express permission to
      share information with someone else we must SHUT
      UP!! I’ve even had someone in leadership not only
      NOT keep my confidence but even add to it and make
      it out to be something much worse than it was. I think
      he did it to cover up the fact that he knew he was wrong in
      sharing our private conversation, and somehow to
      justify what he had done.I’m also aware of a case in my
      former church where my friend went to them and told them
      her husband was being mentally and verbally abusive to
      her, and her husband, who was there every time the church
      doors opened, was able to convince them that she was
      the problem. I saw proof of the abuse in some very valuable
      things that he had destroyed that were given to her by
      her deceased mother….the only things in the world she had
      from her mother. He did it because he “thought” she MIGHT
      have flirted with another man, all because she left to go
      to the store without telling him first. They’ve since divorced
      but that man is still in that church and enjoying the favor
      of the leadership like nothing has ever happened!
      They will more than likely defend the abuser over the abused.
      The abuser is more adept at covering up his actions and
      more talented at lying than the victim in most cases.

  6. Chris Pitts

    Maria, You are not alone. There are hundreds of people just like us!
    The hardest thing to do is to see beyond the theatrical make up of these religious theatres, that dare to call themselves ‘church’s’. I don’t know where God is anymore, all I can say is he ant in those places! Hope this helps. Peace & Love. Chris Pitts

  7. Stephen Parsons

    Maria. Thank you for sharing part of your story. I detect that behind the appalling unprofessional account othe pastor’s wife behaviour is a belief in the inferiority of women, based on a reading of certain verses from St Paul. Twenty first century ideas of the mutuality of the sexes have no part in this mediaeval world view which is claimed to be biblical. There is a blog post on mysoginy which you may find helpful. Please be very careful who you trust with personal information. The wolves, as Chris calls them, may quickly turn around and try to destroy all in the name of biblical truth. To summarise a lot of what I am saying through this blog, Jesus never used texts or authority to turn round and desire to destroy people in the name of God. Too many of his so-called followers seem to think it is OK to do this. It is evil, unethical and completely turning the message of Jesus upside down. Also I have written about the issue of demons. Be very, very wary when fervent Christians start to detect devils and Satan. Most of the time they are playing a power game and using the weapon of fear to further their perverse ends. I know it is dfifficult to distinguish between good and evil among Christians when they play these games. Just don’t assume that anyone who calls themselves a Christian is such, until they have proved it. By their fruits shall you know them. Bible text quoting does not constitute showing Christian fruit.

  8. Chris Pitts

    Thanks Stephen, Yes, seeing God where He is not. Elijah found out that God was not in the ‘Mighty Wind’. (1 Kings19 :11). Authoritarian religious theatres claim the mighty wind of power but, the absence of Love is just noise (1 Corinthians : 13: 1 ). I sincerely hope Maria can find some comfort in these words.
    Chris

  9. EnglishAthena

    Maria, sometimes it is right to just leave. I know it isn’t easy. Jobs and so on. But think about it. The other possibility might be to ask another church to help you. The Episcopalian church maybe? Anglicans do these things, too. Believe me I know. But they may be less extreme than the church you need to get away from. I’ll pray for you.

  10. WOW

    Maria and one and all.
    Permission, go for it. Maria take public to J. Lee Grady of Charisma Magazine, Rick Ross Institute, Dr. James Dobson and H.B. London Jr., of Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, please report your grievance to spiritualsoundingboard.com/org, please report your pastor’s wife and whom ever to be named in blog please. Wonder how many other people this evil “void and without God” definition of evil they have done this to. 2004 Told over 350 plus, Church Leadership Heads; if they did anything like this to people names were going to get named and going public. Had women leaving churches and killing themselves because of wrong advice and no help and situations like you expressed. How much is the 10 Lies The Church Tells Women and 10 Lies Men Believe based on your Church and it’s leadership?

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>