Here is an exceedingly wise word from Samantha Field, in an interview she gave at the her.meneutics blog called, “Finding Faith after Spiritual Indoctrination.”
I recommend the entire article. However, this part is essential reading, and I pull it out for our consideration and discussion today.
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Spiritual abuse is so much more common than many people think. It exists in so many forms, and it is incredibly easy to miss. And it happens where people are honestly trying to do the right thing, to follow Christ, to pursue godliness.
It also happens when people stop asking why. Being handed a list of “this is what you should believe” is so very easy, especially when that list is handed to you by someone you respect. But when we stop asking questions, when we even begin to accept that asking questions is in itself a problem, that’s when we can surrender our faith into the hands of someone who could misuse it.
Many times when I explain my religious environment, the focus is the legalism, when legalism isn’t really the problem. It’s the power and control that legalism places in the hands of a select few. Fundamentalism, in my experience, frequently results in the congregation surrendering control over almost every area of their lives to their pastor. In a strange twist, while fundamentalists preach in the complete “sufficiency of Scripture,” in reality they practice whatever their pastor hands down from the pulpit.
I also find it troubling that in discussions about faith, we seem to confuse “having faith” with “being certain.” I’m no longer comfortable with feeling certain about anything; certainty, I’ve found, is dangerous territory. It also bothers me when we frequently resort to statements like “the Bible is very clear on this issue,” or that a specific interpretation of a passage is “plain” or “obvious.” This type of language seems almost designed to shut down conversation, or to dismiss the speaker’s opposition.
I think it’s important for us to stay receptive to new and challenging ideas. To honestly engage with a concept we don’t agree with, and see where it takes us. Instead of digging in even deeper when our faith system gets confronted, if we took a second to empathetically understand their perspective, we could have a change of heart and a change of mind. Being able to do this, I’m realizing, is much easier said than done. Most of the time when I’m challenged, I instantaneously start mounting a defense. It takes me a while to realize that instinctually defending your own idea almost automatically means you’re not really listening to– or trying to understand– another.