Weapons of Destruction
Priests are held in very high esteem by Catholics. Sexually offending priests have often been given a break due to the fact that they are priests. I saw John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" interviewed on the Larry King Show about abusive priests. Walsh, who is a Catholic, said that priests should be held to a higher standard—not be given a break because they are priests. Roman Catholic parents have been very trusting with their priests, much to their dismay, when they later found out that he was "counseling" their daughter or son about sex education with real-life experience. Some priests have gotten children to comply for sex by telling them that it will show them how much God or Jesus loves them. These spiritual killers have induced children to submit by telling them that this is what all good Catholic kids do for their priests. Such abusive priests have kept their victims quiet by saying that if they tell anyone no one will believe them or that if they tell, they, the priests, will not forgive the victims of their sins. This is horrific abuse of power and is also spiritual terrorism! When the doctrine of priestly power, to forgive sins, is combined with the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell fire, this is, indeed, the ultimate weapon of spiritual terror in the hands of Catholic spiritual killers!
Lack of Responsibility
Priests tend to rationalize their behavior and to blame victims for the abuse. Sipe says that the Church tends to exonerate its own and blame the victim even if the victim is only in elementary school! Some priests and bishops have said that the victims knew right from wrong, so if they had not wanted to do it, they should not have done so. This not only defies logic, it ignores the fact that, legally, minors cannot consent to having sex. It also reveals the immaturity of those making such excuses. Sexual abuse is child abuse; likewise, spiritual abuse is child abuse!
Sipe contends that the problem of the priesthood is the failure of cardinals, bishops, religious superiors, and priests to practice the celibacy they profess. When they have dealt with charges of abuse of children, they have treated it as a sin rather than as the crime which it is. Priests have been moved from parish to parish without any warning to the churches to which they are assigned. They have even been moved out of the country to get abusers out of the reach of law enforcement officials. The conclusion is that the Church is powerful and control is strong. Justice for victims is avoided whenever possible, as long as possible, and then as little as possible. "Secrecy is sacred" and is the "gold standard" for dealing with charges of abuse by Church officials. They have used every legal maneuver to avoid giving police investigators Church records and have only done so in some instances when prosecutors have threatened to sue the Church, for aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice, under the statutes as a corrupt criminal enterprise. All of this is spiritual terrorism!
An example of adult heterosexual failure is the "Thorn Birds," a movie series set in Australia, about a priest fathering a child but being unable to marry his child's mother, the woman he loved, due to his vow of celibacy to the Catholic Church. Many priests, some bishops, and, even Popes—some before and some after holy orders—have fathered children and not married the mother of their children. Some have fathered several children by different women. For more information, Google "Popes or priests who have fathered children." This is a Church which teaches family values. I am sure that this is not the example of fatherhood the Church wants priests to role model for Catholic laymen and boys. Fathering children without being a father to them is not just a moral failure, it is child abuse. For priests or other clergy, it is also spiritual abuse!
In the summer of 2007 Warren Jeffs, the religious leader of a 10,000 member splinter-group of Mormons was convicted in Utah for forcing girls as young as 14 into marriage with older men. Sometimes they were just one of several wives in a polygamous "marriage." The young girls accepted this fate because they were told that it was God's will and that they would go to hell if they did not do God's will. Many have entered such a marriage and stayed in it for the same reason. Can anyone logically deny that this is child abuse caused by spiritual terrorism?
Many women have stayed and are staying in physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive marriages for this reason. Many such abused women attend churches which teach that these forms of abuse are not grounds for divorce—the only ground for divorce and remarriage is adultery. If they, thus, get divorced and remarried on grounds other than adultery, they believe that they will go to hell. All of these reasons are how spiritual abuse is used in combination with other forms of abuse to make them possible, to be as bad as they are, and to last as long as they do for adults and children. Men may stay in abusive relationships for the same reasons and may not try to get help or escape.
Refusal of Medical Treatment
Some parents, on religious grounds, refuse to have their children immunized against serious or even deadly diseases. Yes, some parents may object based on the fear of potential medical problems as a result of the vaccine. But, based solely on religious grounds, it is needless tragedy when children get gravely ill, are handicapped for life, or even die due to not having been immunized against common diseases! To prevent such senseless tragedies, states have had to pass laws to prohibit parents, on religious grounds, from denying their children immunizations, blood transfusions, and other standard medical treatments. This problem of refusal of medical care, based on religious beliefs, is addressed in the thick Handbook of Religion and Health. Even though it is a more subtle form of spiritual abuse, it is still spiritual abuse. It is also child abuse.
Parental Awareness and Vigilance
It was only in the course of writing this book that my daughter and I sat down and had a long talk and she opened up and shared completely with me (almost 20 years after the fact) the extent of her painful experience in the previous denomination. Even though children do not tell at the time, it does not mean that they were not spiritually abused. Unfortunately, neither her mother nor I had had any idea that she had had many sleepless nights worrying about all of the people of the world who had never heard about Christ and would, therefore, be forever damned by God to hell fire. Through tears of heart-felt sorrow, I sincerely apologized to her for all the emotional pain she had experienced. She lovingly told me that I did not need to apologize because she knew that I had done the best I knew at the time. While that was definitely true, my best had not been good enough to spare her from being spiritually abused!
The experience I had with my daughter being spiritually terrorized, in spite of my best efforts to rear her in total love and grace of God, tells me that it is of the utmost importance to not just get it almost right in regard to the false doctrine of eternal punishment in hell fire but to get the doctrine of hell completely right. The doctrine of eternal damnation in literal hell fire is false and is intrinsically evil and is, therefore, spiritually terroristic! IT IS, THEREFORE, ALSO CHILD ABUSE! Christian Universalism is the truth which exposes the doctrine of eternal punishment as the lie for which it is.
I urge and challenge you who are parents to critically think, question, study, and grow in faith, and be diligent to find out what your children are learning in church, Sunday school, and youth meetings. Do not make the mistake of assuming that if they do not tell you that they are being spiritually abused that they are not thus being abused. They may not know what to call it and even assume that it is the way things are supposed to be in their religious faith. Your may spare your children much emotional and spiritual pain and suffering. Conversely, you may immeasurably enrich their faith in God, love of God, and service for God by understanding and sharing with them Christian Universalism!
J.B Phillips, who wrote the excellent book, Your God is too Small, stated that a fearful view of God is taught to children and sensitive adults by those who are relatively insensitive and such teachers cannot even imagine the harm they are doing.
In an Evangelical commentary series, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, the general editor and the author of the commentary on Matthew, Tasker, recognized the qualitative aspect of the Greek word "aeonian." He stated that it was wrongly rendered everlasting (punishment) by translators (Mt. 25:46 KJV). He also stated, "It would be difficult to exaggerate the harmful effect of this unfortunate mistranslation, particularly when fire is understood in a literal rather than a metaphorical sense." It is, consequently, spiritual terrorism! In regard to children, it is also child abuse!
Speaking of not being able to exaggerate the harmful effect of teaching the false doctrine of eternal punishment in literal hell fire, the ultimate example is the almost unbelievably horrific case of Andrea Yates, due to spiritual terrorism, murdering her children in order to send them on to heaven. Andrea and her husband, Rusty, were under the influence of a Protestant evangelist who preached eternal damnation in literal hell fire for all who have reached the age of accountability. For most fundamental and evangelical Protestants this is the age of twelve which is the age Jesus went to the temple and said that he had to be about his Father God's business. To infer from this that every child in the whole world is equally responsible for her or his sins the same as adults is itself spiritually terroristic!
Children who have reached the "age of accountability", as well as adults, must accept Christ and live "right." Dying suddenly, without having confessed every sin, means being consigned by God to the fire of hell, on Judgment Day, where there will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 13:40-42). At least Catholics believe in purgatory where they will go to suffer for venial sins (mortal sins are forever) and then go on to heaven. But with Protestants, who do not believe in purgatory, it is all or nothing—heaven or eternal hell! This crazy theology appears to be what pushed Andrea Yates over the edge to killing her five children on June 20, 2001, in Houston, Texas.
By almost any definition of insanity, Andrea Yates was insane. She had been diagnosed as having post-partum depression and psychosis and was treated with strong antipsychotic medications in psychiatric facilities until her medical insurance coverage was exhausted. She was then discharged. The Texas legal definition of insanity was so narrow that she did not qualify as being legally insane. Millions of women, who give birth, suffer from post-partum depression and, some, psychosis. Some also have various mental illnesses but they do not kill their children. As a therapist, my mind naturally asks, "What was it about Yates' situation which caused her to murder her five children?" Even if she were not legally insane, Yates was certainly spiritually insane, due to the insane religious teaching she had been receiving for years under the "ministry" of a Christian evangelist. I do not want to give him wider exposure by giving his name but Googling her name will reveal his. This evangelist grew up in Roman Catholicism and became a Protestant and then developed his brand of literalistic, hell-fire Christianity. Nothing I am saying is to deny individual responsibility; it is only to explain the inexplicable and put it in context.
Not long before Yates killed her children, she received a newsletter, "Perilous Times," from the evangelist, that included a poem which is indicative of the "spiritual" teachings she had been receiving and even supporting financially. In essence, this poem deals with the rebellion of children who are ruined by mothers who spared the rod and spoiled their children (Prov. 13:24), thereby, causing their children as well as themselves to be doomed to hell forever. It is about bad mothers who failed to spank and train children to fear God. The title is "Modern Mother Worldly." This poem compares such bad mothers to Jezebel, a terrible sinner who murdered the prophets and was eaten by dogs as the sentence for her sins (I Ki. 21:23). She is held up by literalists as the great example of evil women. In some Fundamentalist Churches I have heard women called "Jezebels" sometimes for nothing more than wearing makeup since Jezebel was a "painted" woman. Some Fundamentalists of a bygone era have lightened up a lot. Fifty years ago the late Tammy Faye Bakker, with all her makeup, of the former TV program PTL (Praise the Lord), would have been called a "Jezebel" but she was popular at least with the younger generation.
Andrea apparently, reasoned thusly: Why would any loving parents stand by and let their children almost certainly go to hell, to be tortured forever, when they could send them on to heaven?
After Yates killed her children, a psychiatrist came to see her in jail and asked her about what she understood her religious teachings to mean about her as a mother. She gave this response: "The way I was raising them they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell." Before Yates is simply written off, as many religious people appear to have done, as a horrible person whom the state should execute and God should send to hell, what she believed about eternal hell fire is not much, if any, different than what many Christian Churches teach about children and eternal damnation. No, I am not saying that Christian Churches teach parents that they should kill their children; they certainly do not.
What they do teach about eternal punishment in hell fire is frightening to many normal people and is enough to give the final push to drive some already unstable persons over the edge to insanity. They also teach that God is going to do far worse to children who do not accept Christ and please God than Yates did to her children. She killed her children in order to send them to heaven but God will judge, condemn, and torture children who do not please Him in hell fire forever! As pointed out in Chapter 1, if the churches which teach it are right, some children, even infants, will suffer punishment or banishment eternally through no fault of their own—God did not "elect" them for salvation or their parents failed to have them baptized! All such teaching is theological nonsense and is spiritual abuse/terrorism!
Remember the quote in Chapter 1 from John Gerstner's book, Repent or Perish? Please remember also that his book was endorsed by the then President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) which represents 30 million conservative Christians. Gerstner stated that those who oppose frightening children with fear of eternal damnation wrongly believe that they are innocent and, therefore, not in danger of hell fire. He dismissed the theology that children, including infants, are saved through infant baptism. He concluded, "Infants are not innocent, but born in guilt and sin. So until children are born again, they are in imminent peril of eternal damnation and should be made aware of it as soon as possible."
In Gerstner's warped theology, Yates children are burning in hell, now and forever, because they were not old enough to know that they needed to be born again and, therefore, could not make the decision to accept Christ. Yates, however, apparently believed what most Fundamentalists and Evangelicals believe that children who die before reaching "the age of accountability" (usually age 12) will go to heaven. This age is apparently what the Catholic Church calls "the age of reason" which is six years of age.
No, I have never heard even one preacher preach that parents should kill their children, before the age of accountability, in order to be sure that they go to heaven. But what they do preach, about eternal damnation in literal hell fire after the age of accountability, may cause some unstable persons such as Andrea, to do that in order to save their children. Kill them to save them? Of course, it is crazy thinking; that is why it is spiritual terrorism and why this chapter is about living on spiritual death row!
In spite of churches preaching the doctrine of eternal damnation in hell, virtually all Christian parents are very devoted to protecting, not harming their children. I have counseled with loving mothers who were extremely fearful that their children might grow up and not accept Christ and be damned to hell fire forever. They have said that believing in Christian Universalism would make it so much easier to trust their children to God. Few, if any, parents have ever been put under the tremendous stress Yates experienced. I am not just talkingabout "some pressure."
Andrea Yates appears to have been caught in the midst of the perfect emotional storm: suffering from post-partum depression and psychosis, not receiving adequate psychiatric care, rearing and home schooling five young children, caring for her elderly father until he died (worried that he went to hell because he was Catholic), and being brainwashed with crazy theology that she was a bad mother who was going to hell and would cause her children to be damned to hell fire forever!
If Andrea Yates had been sentenced to death, there would be countless religious officials clamoring for her not to be executed as they were for Karla Faye Tucker who was executed by Texas in 1998, the first woman to be executed in the United States since the Civil War. Pope John Paul II intervened on her behalf as well as other national and international leaders—secular and religious. Even conservatives, politician Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of The U. S. House of Representatives, and Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, went to bat for her because Tucker was born again in prison and had even married, by proxy, the prison chaplain. [Andrea's conviction was overturned on appeal but it appears that she will be in a mental institution for the rest of her life] But where are the outcries of protest and interventions in regard to the spiritual terrorism, among other causes, which precipitated the killing of the Yates children by their spiritually, if not legally,insane mother? How about protests and interventions, not just for Andrea, but for the billions of victims of spiritual terrorism living on spiritual death row? This is spiritual insanity due to the insanity in fear-based Christianity!
Boyd C. Purcell, Ph.D.
Author, Spiritual Terrorism
Spiritual Abuse from the Womb to the Tomb
In Chapter 5, "Living on Death Row"
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