Some time ago I wrote a post that became very popular, Why I Wouldn't Attend Pastor Steepek's Church
. But it became popular for the wrong reasons.
I was alarmed at the response. Actually, saddened. The overwhelming reaction was that it is not only legitimate but necessary and even divine to use shame to motivate church members. I used to think that spiritual abuse was happening enough to be a concern. Now I think it is prevalent.
My conclusion: the church normalizes abuse and cultivates a culture of shame. And many people starve for this sensation.
Here is the cyclical pattern that a church and its members can absolutely thrive on:
guilt: realizing that you failed to live up to an expectation
shame: this failure means you are a bad person
inspiration: you get inspired (by yourself, a preacher, books, etc.) to try again
failure: you fail to measure up to what you were inspired to do
recycle: start all over again with #1
Some believe this indicates the failure of church members. But I claim that this is the perfect recipe for leaders to keep people enslaved. They milk it for all its worth because they have insight into the human condition-- many people want to be milked this way. Many people believe that the only way to relieve the pressure of shame is to enroll in this cyclical program of carefully orchestrated control.
We've normalized abuse as a way of life not because we're bad people but because some leaders need us to believe we are.
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