Join us for a Special Visit from the Author of “Not of My Making”
Dr. Margaret Jones, Ph.D. will be Live at this site on May 18, 2009 to answer questions about her experiences of “Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Mainline Churches“.
This will be a great opportunity for you to ask questions from someone one who has been through what many of you have also been through. Her book will make a fantastic addition to your library.
BaptistDeception. com has been asked to be a host on a virtual book tour for Dr. Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D.
Dr. Jones has recently published a book called Not of My Making which tells the story of how she was emotionally abused at several churches. You can read more about the book at www.notofmymaking.com
We are hosting her on the site on May 18th. There are two ways you can ask questions. The first way is to send your original questions to me by using the contact us link at the top of this site. I will forward those to her for her to answer as a post to the site. Another way is for you to visit the site on the day of May 18th and post a comment/question. She will be available to answer those questions live on that day.
We hope that this will be valuable to you as you seek healing.
1. Would you mind just giving us a brief overview of your story and bad church experiences?
Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches is a personal documentary about how the abuse and neglect I suffered during my childhood left me vulnerable to the bullies in school and at church. I never learned to defend and protect myself from others. Church had always been a safe place until I was an adult. Happily married with a successful professional career, I believed I had left bullying behind when I graduated from high school. I was wrong. When my children were young I started attending church and became involved in church activities and served on some committees. My book tells how I was shunned, scapegoated and gossiped about after I expressed an opinion that was unpopular with the church leadership. They then blacklisted me making it difficult for me to find a place in another church in my community. I share this deeply personal experience with the reader in order to expose the common problem of spiritual abuse and to give comfort and inspiration to those who have been similarly abused as I have.
2. As a Counselor, how do you compare the effects of emotional abuse from churches or spiritual sources to emotional abuse from other sources, what in your experience is the difference?
The effects of abuse are the same regardless of what form it takes except victims of sexual abuse are more likely to self-harm than victims of physical abuse. The severity of the symptoms depends on how close the relationship was between the victim and the perpetrator and the community’s response to it. For me what was significant was that the church had been the one safe place in my life. The betrayals and emotional abuse I experienced there destroyed the last safe place other than my home. I withdrew and became agoraphobic for a while.
3. What has been your biggest source of support in your healing journey?
God, my family and my therapist.
4. How have you coped with the spiritual abuse you experienced?
Seeing a therapist, writing in my journal, reading books about bullying and praying. One summer I read through the Psalms. I took up inline skating which took the edge off my anxiety.
5. Looking back, what are some of the red flags that you will look out for in the future?
I am no longer naïve about friendship. More often than not people are outwardly civil but have no real interest in being loyal friends. I try not to worry about that. I concern myself more with making sure I am loving and kind. I am more aware if I am the only one initiating contact. If I am then the person really isn’t a friend and I can’t expect true support from them. I also notice how the pastor runs the church. I avoid clergy that fail to delegate responsibility and who tightly control everything that goes on in a congregation. Does church leadership make good use of people’s talents or are they a closed clique? I also notice if people gossip about others and what the leadership does about it.
6. Have you given up on Church/Religion/God?
No, oddly enough I haven’t. My faith has grown. God at one point was all that I had left and I clung on tight. That is why I kept going to church until I finally found a church where I feel reasonably safe.
7. What is your relationship with God like as a result of your experience?
I pray more. I listen to Christian music. I strive to live an authentic Christian life. If my therapy clients are receptive, I encourage them to develop their spirituality. I am learning how to be true to my beliefs and not to be afraid of speaking the truth as I understand it.
8. Have you been able to forgive those who have abused you?
I don’t know if I have or haven’t. I am not concerned about it. There are many different definitions of forgiveness and I don’t know who is right. I never sought to harm those who harmed me. I just wanted them to sit down with me and work things out. When my adversaries told others I should forgive them while they denied having harmed me, they were placing all the responsibility for resolving our differences on me. I don’t believe most of the things said or written about forgiveness. Healing began for me when while walking a labyrinth I realized that God did not expect me to excuse my unrepentant adversaries.
9. What do you tell others who have given up on church and God as a result of their bad church experience?
In my letter to the spiritual abuse survivors I wrote,
“I urge all survivors to return. Help those sitting in the pews see the harm they are doing to the body of Christ by expelling some of its members. Bring your understanding and compassion to church. Unite with fellow survivors and build better, healthier churches that help everyone grow closer to God. You belong there. Didn’t your ancestors help build the churches and contribute to the financial support of its clergy? Why shouldn’t you go? Church is your spiritual home. Come home and make it a better place for everyone.”
The complete letter can be found at http://www.truthinministry.org/Letter_To_Spiritual_Abuse_Survivors
10. Can you take a look at the “Common Characteristics of Spiritual Abuse Among the Independent Fundamental Baptist Denomination” on this page http://www.baptistdeception.com/?p=37 and share any similarities that you experienced in the churches you were in?
The abuse I experienced was more subtle than what you describe in “Common Characteristics of Spiritual Abuse.” However, three of the ministers I encountered breach confidentiality in order to maintain control and keep up appearances without regard of the impact on me. There were also unspoken rules about the expression of anger. In the Unitarian Universalist churches there was hidden dogma concerning gay rights as well as an anti-Christian bias. At the Lutheran church scripture was used to chastise me and to justify my expulsion. I was told I shouldn’t take communion until I had reconciled with others who, by the way, were refusing to meet with me. I was also told I should forgive them even though they denied having sinned against me. Matthew 18: 15-17 was used to forced me out of the church.
11. Can you share your thoughts on how unchurched parents can address the issue of spiritual abuse with their children who attend church? It seems like it would be difficult for parents who don’t go to church to protect their children who do go to church given the messages that churches tell about people who don’t go to church.
I don’t know how to answer this since I attend church and am in the opposite position. I encourage my adult children to find a church that preaches real or classic Christianity and to avoid churches with pastors or church leadership that abuse their power. If I had minor children, I would attend church with them. I would never let them go alone.
12. Did you experience a prejudice against women and minors in the churches that abused you?
I suspect some of the problem was that I didn’t fit the stereotype of a good woman. I am a well educated woman with a career outside my home. I am not and never was a girly girl. I prefer serious conversations about politics, religion, the economy etc than attending a craft group. In addition to breaking the stereotype of a good woman, I married a black man. So I think race had something to do with it too. Nothing was ever said outright except for one woman who told me I was never home for my foster son. She failed to notice that I was the one who took him shopping for his clothes and took him to the doctor and dentist. I was the one who made sure he got up in the morning and got off to school on time and met with his teachers. I tutored him on the weekends. When I wasn’t with him another family member was with him. He was included in all family activities and events.