Exit and Support Network

I'm Wasn't Sure God Loved Me

Does God love me? I never sang that song when I was a little girl--you know, the one called "Jesus Loves Me." I wasn't sure, in fact, whether the God that I knew actually loved me. To me, God was someone and something to fear. God was a force who would only accept me one way, in one form, by way of the mold that my father had created. God meant sacrifice and anguish and loss and confusion. God was a man, a powerful man that I would spend the rest of my life trying to please. But I would never please him, I would inevitably fail. In fact, I would fail so terribly that I would be left to wallow in a pool of guilt for all eternity. In order to pursue the things in life that I so desired, I would burn in a lake of fire. I would be punished more so than others, because I had been given special knowledge about God's "ways." I would be more sinful than the others in the "world" who just were not aware. God didn't love me, but instead, looked down on me in shame. God hated me when I ate pepperoni pizza. God hated me when I played a Christmas song with my violin. God hated me when I did not love the Sabbath. God would never listen to my prayers, because I was cursed.

Spiritual abuse is an invisible evil that breeds anger, resentment, guilt, shame, and confusion in its victims. Like all forms of abuse, spiritual abuse also is a misuse of power over another, only God is the weapon. When a child is spiritually abused, their opportunity to view God in a loving manner is stolen. They are manipulated and controlled with misinterpreted Scriptures, and taught to fear God in the worst way. Those who have the need to have power over others find ways to exert such control. One way to accomplish such control is to use God as the primary avenue. This way, the child grows to blame and hate God, rather than blaming the caretaker or parent. The parent says things like, "You can't go to your Prom on the Sabbath because God says that you can't..." (followed by a biblical quote). Such an explanation depersonalizes the parent's decision to believe in, regularly observe, and enforce the Sabbath. As a result, the child resents the Sabbath, and God, for having such strict regulations, when all the while, the parent made the decision about the ways in which such beliefs would be observed.

In my family, my dad took on a god-like persona. He was "god," and god was he. There was no separation. And from that, I was to be an extension. Not a mind of my own, but an extension of my father's thoughts. And it was not promoted in the name of guidance and direction, the way a parent might hope that their children vote similarly to them in political elections. It was an ultimatum, an unspoken threat, and the only way to exist in this life, on this earth. And it was this intense, when I was very young. Ironically, as I was instructed and expected to conform to such beliefs, I rarely understood the sermons that my father preached. Further, I rarely understood any of the sermons preached by any of the "elders." They were beyond the comprehension of most, let alone children.

The theme of religion, as I understood, was that it was a huge commitment, a contradiction, a drastic inconvenience, an overpowering force, a struggle, something to be figured out and altered, and something to cause heartache and pain. As an adult, I had a spirituality course in graduate school. I heard numerous testimonies of individuals who had found peace, love, and strength in their religious beliefs and their belief in God. It was then that I realized that spirituality does not have to be a dirty word. My dad's religious beliefs have not ever done for me what they do for him. I was too afraid. I still am, and I'm 27 years old.

By Beth - Child survivor of WCG
May 23, 2004

P.S. I am currently a therapist for children, specializing in abuse and trauma issues. I seek to validate those who have suffered any form of abuse, including commonly overlooked spiritual abuse. This site has validated me. Since our congregation was so small, I was not aware of the many children elsewhere who had similar experiences.

Related Material:

Because God Loves Me

Healing From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse

Back to Stories and Testimonies From Child Survivors