Children Abused by Religion.

“Lambert defines spiritual abuse as “a type of psychological predomination that could be rightly termed—religious enslavement.”[47] He further identifies “religious enslavement” as being a product of what is termed in the Bible “witchcraft,” or “sorcery.”[48]

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Religious abuse will surely hijack the soul of a child. I left home on my 17th birthday in 1963. But sadly and tragically didn’t have my soul in my backpack. I was also mad as hell at Jesus! A relationship with Jesus Christ was a scary proposition for me then and still is. I was programmed to fear God. The thought of this evil stuff is horrific to live with and damages a young soul forever. This is what happened to me and my family growing up in the 50s. And I didn’t acknowledge it until now…

Religious cult behavior, especially in a profoundly dysfunctional family dynamic, literally kills young souls, like me. This is a family in a perpetual cycle of emotional pain and persistent mental illness, including religous and alcohol abuse. No kidding, this is very serious stuff to have conversations about so that we can help each other.

The baggage follows young adults who suffered at the hands of abusive parents who were sick themselves. Probably, in my life time the most insanely agredious religious cult tragedy was the ‘Jim Jones’ mass suicide long ago. I remember living and working in the Bay Area when it was front page news. It is still sickening, disgusting and disturbing all at once. This is how common folks get a divorce from Jesus and never recover. This kind of trauma is a moral injury, at the evil end of the spectrum.

This side bar research is helping me fill in the blanks and close the door on a traumatic childhood, including adding religious abuse to the tool kit. Kids who leave home without a soul, a moral compass so to speak, make bad choices and too often die too early. We must get smarter on the ‘religous abuse’ implications of our most vulnerable citizens especially kids. The initial interaction with a person suffering from religious abuse, like me, is to feel shivers up the spine, and look for the nearest fire exit when someone in the crowd cries out, “Jesus loves you!” The fear of Jesus Christ is outrageous and causes too much emotional damage to kids of all ages and adults alike. We have to start talking about this…

In my view, the awareness created with Mental Health 1st Aid USA training is a great start. But I see an opportunity add a section dealing with the symptoms of religious abuse.

I have been in denial about religious abuse for most of my life until now, age 73. I can’t say why it took so long to revisit this very important life changing factor in my religious upbringing. I feel the freedom of the challenges of my spirit life now. It is never too late to find renewed faith. It’s hard work, especially when there is so much trash to empty…

My own extensive research, including first book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story (2011) and in a professional capacity, serves as evidence of my personal journey. In addition, open and honest conversations with family members revealed a consistent pattern of religious abuse making us feel extreme shame over many years. It is akin to brain washing, so you have to go through an extended ‘brain-failure-recovery (BFR1.0)’ process to feel love, trust and faith again. I didn’t know love until much later in life. Religious abuse in my mind is as close to evil I can imagine, if not evil itself.

No child should ever be subjected to this kind of horrific injury to the core of one’s soul. It might take a life time of ‘soul search and rescue’ to find peace of mind, if we are so lucky. As a “Recovering Catholic” I try to look back at my roots to understand that this behavior is not part of the church, it is part of the “tool kit of abuse and maltreatment” in a profoundly dysfunctional home…click here for more…on how the Catholic Church explains…

Thank you for coming with me on my personal healing and spiritual journey…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page.

Healing Heart and Soul for 2017…Finding a Healthy Balance as an Aging Boomer…

Steve & Judy Sparks, La Jolla, Ca. early December 2016

Steve, Mary’s Peak, July 6, 2016 on 70th birthday…

Sarah’s Christmas Party at Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove, Ca. for our family…

Christmas Lunch at Dukes, Huntington Beach, Ca. for our family…

Aging Gracefully click here for more…

“But depression is a real threat among the old; some drift into isolation, bitterness, and a sense of meaninglessness. Still others put up their dukes, determined to go down swinging. Face-lifts and tummy tucks? Bring it on!”

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I love the article reference and quote from the link, The Art of Aging Gracefully, especially following a year like 2016, that started out in a very dark place for this senior citizen, and ended in a very sunny and happy place.

Just before the end of 2015, illness hit me like the sound of a powerful avalanche.  All of us experience this kind of reality check more than once or twice in a life time.   But this time it felt more profound and serious than at any other time in my life…my age caught up with me…  I recall feeling completely at the end of a hard fought journey but without a grasp for what was happening at the moment…  I felt like a loser approaching the end of my life.  It felt like my body was going down fast… My mind was overwhelmed with negative self talk…  I thought only of the heart aches of the past and an uncertain future. No longer was my mind living in the present.  I was angry for the first time in a long time…  I was also very depressed, a most hated and scary mental health condition from my own life experience.

I was overcome with both physical illness and mental stress…over the top community commitments with no end in sight, and little or no feeling of real accomplishment.   At the same time, my mother passed away on January 1, 2016…taking me back to a lifetime of triggers.  All of this came down at once, forcing me to step back, get well again, reassess, and regain my balance as a senior citizen. There is clearly a 3rd act in the making…

Whether right, wrong, or indifferent, I felt abused, misused, and disrespected as a dedicated and passionate community service volunteer.  I was hell bent to make a difference and solve all the problems single handedly.  Sound familiar?  I also felt like I let my family down, especially my wife and best friend, by being irresponsible with our personal goals and health.  I could have risked everything by losing sight of maintaining a healthy life style and balance, or better said, aging gracefully.

After a few good slaps in the face and following the advice of my primary care physician, including paying attention and listening to my wife and family members, the road back to a healthy balance was well in hand by the spring of 2016.  But it was my choice to believe in myself and get back to my great passion in public service while staying grounded.

Life seemed to begin again like a breath of fresh air for my 70th birthday on July 6, 2016.  After a great sleep that night, I woke up early as usual to catch the early sunrise and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean.  In that instant, I said to myself, “I’m still here!”  It was with the momentum of that moment of positive and hopeful self talk that we marched off for a hike to the top of Mary’s Peak near Corvallis, Oregon…see photo above.  We decided weeks earlier that the relatively easy but spectacular view of the 4000′ Mary’s Peak is where we were going for a birthday picnic.  It was a very good day, indeed, with my loving wife, Judy.  We talked of and celebrated our life together and plans for the future.  We thanked God for our blessings, especially good health as members of the aging boomer generation.

The summer of 2016 was full of joy and adventure doing our favorite coastal hikes, walks, a little golf, and day trips up and down the Oregon coast doing what we love the most together.  I had the good fortune and opportunity to be engaged in a new and very exciting professional assignment with Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners as a project consultant for the Stepping Up Initiative. I was also certified as a Mental Health First Aid USA Adult Trainer in September.  We capped off the summer with a cruise to Alaska at the end of August…an exceedingly spiritual adventure.  When we arrived at Glacier Bay, we were completely captivated by God’s creation of such abundant, protected and stunning beauty…

Early in October we had the opportunity to attend the USS West Virginia (BB48) Reunion in Seattle to honor Pearl Harbor & WWII veterans and family members and friends of the US Navy. I was also asked to speak about my father, Vernon H. Sparks‘, experience on that fateful day, December 7, 1941.  This was a profoundly emotional and spiritual experience for me connecting to my Dad, his shipmates, family members. (Click highlighted text to learn more.)

Late in the fall we headed out of town on a road trip to southern California to spend a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends.  It was during this time that we felt a much closer connection with our family.  For the first time in many years we were able to visit with our entire family around the holidays…the entire large extended family.  A very special time indeed! We will treasure the memories, photos above…

So we remember 2016 fondly as a year of great change and growth…some painful experiences in the beginning, but with much hope for the future as the year progressed.  On this first day of 2017 we give thanks to God for our blessings.  We look forward to a year of making a difference on behalf of the community we serve, and in our travels to explore new beginnings, adventure, and romance.

We wish our family, friends, and followers good health and happiness in 2017. We hope that by sharing our experiences that you see a hopeful and bright future in your own lives.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for my author page…