Religious Bullies

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
This thread is an offshoot from For Those Who Deeply Love Jesus. That thread is somewhat intended to be a place for lovers to limp forward away from the worries and cares of this world. This thread is a place to reveal our own personal experiences at the hands of religious bullies of any sort.

I'll start. I used to be a Latter-day Saint (Mormon), and I experienced bullying of one sort of another from rank-and-file members all the way up to one of the General Authorities. The experience that shook me the most was my time as a choir director. I suppose I should take some of the blame, I was vain and sought to toot my own horn. But on another level, I wanted the whole choir to have a cool and memorable experience (me included).

That didn't happen. One of the choir members absolutely hated my ideas, the songs I picked and my efforts to push the choir to a unique greatness. He made efforts to undermine my efforts, and what added fuel to the fire was that he had a wife and four daughters who were in the choir and liked what I was doing. So more conflict there. And one of his daughters was taking piano lessons from me and was helping to accompany the choir. So, if her dad put his foot down and ordered her not to attend a performance, that was a huge blow to her and to the choir.

On top of that, this guy had friends in the bishopric (a Mormon bishop is the equivalent of a pastor), one counselor in particular who had much evil to say about my decisions, and an inclination to cancel a song we were about to perform. He did this the day before we were supposed to perform one particular song. So, all that effort down the drain and we (I) had to come up with some two-bit substitute at the last second.

As for the church as a whole, they were introducing a new policy of choirs singing nothing but hymns from the (1985) hymnal. So I didn't have any friends going up the chain of command either. At one point, long after I'd been released as choir director, I had the stake president chastize me for not getting on board with that new policy. I'm just recounting the short version of the story, but the whole thing I think was what really broke the back of my belief, and several years later led to my total departure from the church.

Sigh. I wish I could say it was cathartic, but alas, talking about all that only makes me sad and depressed and disgusted. I guess that means I haven't healed from it yet. And maybe that shouldn't surprise me; there was never any closure in the aftermath of those events. I can't say I didn't have any friends at the time, I very much did. I wonder, though, did I let them down? I guess I'll never know. This all happened over 15 years ago.

So yes, I had an experience I could call "religious bullying." I have some others too, but that was the main one. How about you? Did you ever have someone bully you in a church/religious setting? Would you want to share that here? I offer my ear and sympathy if you do.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

loveboston

New member
Wow, Kevin. I knew you've had painful experiences but I didn't realize how significant they were.

The story that comes to mind is Jesus telling about a man who was forgiven a million dollar debt and then turned around and beat a man to recover a 1 dollar debt he was owed.

The end of the tyranny came for me when my daughter became their scorn because of her decisions about her personal love life. It was easy for me to internalize the abuse when it was aimed at me but when it was directed towards my daughter that was the end and I've never looked back.

I think each of us are appalled and working hard in our own way to bring an end to the use of the bible, the constitution or any other belief system that abuses us.

It is especially hurtful when the abuse comes from a place where we are asked to expose our spirits as little children only to be crushed.
 
One of the reasons I finally started looking at whether or not I actually believed in the Mormon church was the bullying that our second to last bishop did to my family. Some of it was bullying and some neglect. All of it showed he didn't care about us as a family or individuals. An example of the bullying was when he'd make the food help we were getting from the church dependant on so many hours of service at the Bishop's storehouse because then my husband would at least be working towards supporting his family (never mind that he went back to school with a displaced worker's grant to get his associate's degree after looking for another programming job for three months and not getting a single interview. And our income was cut by at least half, since I wasn't working and unemployment tops out far below what my husband was making, and we only needed help with food. Seems pretty impressive to me.) The neglect was shown in ways like not knowing my son's name when we went in for my son's interview before his baptism. And asking where my baby was when I explained to my son in that interview that he was getting baptized a month and a half after his birthday so my brother in California only had to come to Utah once that spring instead of twice, once for my son's baptism and once for my nephew's blessing (though I called the nephew by his name). The bishop looked around and said "Oh yeah, where is your baby, did you leave him with a babysitter?" He had no clue that I hadn't just spent the last nine months pregnant.

Another bully was a woman I worked with in the Relief Society in our married student ward. I was in charge of a monthly Relief Society newsletter. Every month this woman would get her information to me a day before the newsletter came out. When I confronted her about it, since it caused a lot of stress for me to have to do it at the last moment she said something along the lines of "I'm so busy with school and work that I just don't have time to do it any earlier. I figured since you don't work, you have a lot of time so it wouldn't be an issue to get it to you at the last minute." Never mind that I had a baby, was carrying a full load of classes, and my husband worked nights so he could watch the baby during my classes so we wouldn't have to pay for a babysitter. Because of that, except for when I was in school, everything either had to be done with my baby in tow or while he was asleep. I classify this as bullying because she treated me as less important than her and used the fact that I was "just a mom" to justify her rude actions. The fact I remember it so clearly 20 years later means to me that it felt like bullying, even though it was something relatively minor.

That's not even addressing the fact that for some people, myself included, the teachings of the church are a form of bullying themselves. Last year I was working with my therapist on forgiving myself for the suicide attempt I did in my twenties. I hadn't even realized that I hadn't until confronted with a suicide that happened at an event I was at and was a friend of my friends and watching them struggle through the aftermath. My therapist recommended 2 books on forgiveness of others, with the idea that the person I was then is the other I needed to forgive. Until I started doing this work, I hadn't realized how much the church's teachings affected my view of myself. Because I never measured up to what I learned in the church that I should be, I felt like I would never make it to the Celestial Kingdom (the Mormon heaven) so it wouldn't matter if I killed myself, since I already felt evil. This institution that was supposedly all about love helped me to hate myself. I think a certain type of personality takes the church's teachings and focus as being more negative than others do or internalize it more. I know once I stopped going all I felt was relief from a lot of guilt. I knew people who remained angry at the church. I never was angry until I realized last summer how much the church helped me reach the low point. Even that anger didn't last long and I'm still just mostly relieved I don't have to live with that type of guilt anymore.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
The pastor in my childhood Lutheran church was a bully. I was a little kid. I would be forced to sit through sermons where he'd rant and rave and literally bang his fist on the pulpit, telling us what sinners we all were and how close to going to hell we all were.

Then there'd be liturgical songs, moaning, "Lo-or-ord have merrrrcy...!"

It was some scary, not to mention confusing, shit for a little girl whose mother praised her good actions quite often.

I was also subjected to Bible stories in Sunday School, complete with coloring pages. I was not inspired by the OT story of Joseph's brothers throwing him into a pit, and then selling him into slavery. Good grief! I was 5 years old
 

MightyMax

Banned
I've been bullied by the Christians for not being Christian enough.

I've been bullied by the Muslims for being too Christian.

I've been bullied by the Jews for not considering Judaism whilst they reminded me that I could never be a real Jew anyway.

I've been bullied by the Atheists for my leniency towards Theists.

I've been fed by the Hindus. Delicious but I was hospitalized with "Delhi Belly" soon after. I've drank with the Sikhs. Got alcohol poisoning.

I've been bullied by all of the above for being female bodied, queer, gender fluid, poly.. Me
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
@ loveboston ... I found that parable you were speaking of:
"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
-- Matthew 18:23-35

Re:
"The end of the tyranny came for me when my daughter became their scorn because of her decisions about her personal love life. It was easy for me to internalize the abuse when it was aimed at me but when it was directed towards my daughter that was the end and I've never looked back."

That's very understandable.

Re:
"It is especially hurtful when the abuse comes from a place where we are asked to expose our spirits as little children only to be crushed."

It felt that way to me.

Re (from Hannahfluke):
"That's not even addressing the fact that for some people, myself included, the teachings of the church are a form of bullying themselves."

Good point.

Re:
"This institution that was supposedly all about love helped me to hate myself."

Yeah, the church is very good a delivering guilt trips.

@ Magdlyn ... I didn't realize you had experiences as a child that were frightening and disturbing. Sorry to hear it.

@ MightyMax ... I didn't realize you, too, had many religious bullying experiences. Sorry to hear that.

I'm surprised how many responses this thread has so far, I thought maybe it wouldn't get any. All of the stories you guys have shared have made me sad. You were indeed bullied for no good reason.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.

P.S. In a few hours I have to leave for a weeklong trip to Utah. So, I won't be logging in and you won't hear from me for over a week after that. Just didn't want anyone to think I was ignoring them.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
P.P.S. Mags, I have a copy of the NIV version of the Bible, and will quote from it in the future.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member

AlwaysGrowing

Well-known member
I was 10 when my grandpa died. He was a Baptist preacher and had chosen an assistant when his health was just starting to go downhill for what he determined was the last time (he had chronic conditions, but was correct when he decided this time was THE time). By the time he died, the "assistant" had kicked out about 1/4 of the members for not following the church's constitution that he had amended without informing anyone or getting it approved by the church body. He had harassed my father for not going to church often enough, when my father worked 6-9 days straight and would sometimes not even be home for 5 days at a time due to the job. He gave my mom a hard time for the way she was raising "those heathens" (my sister and me) and told her what a shame it was my grandfather had to see such blasphemy in his own family. He looked me straight in the eye one day in Sunday School commenting that "only harlots" would dress in xyz fashion, as I was sitting there wearing one of the items he listed (and it was in NO way revealing and I was 9, for fuck's sake). The final straw was when he brought his entire brood of 8 children to my grandfather's death bed, when it was requested that only family come. The last memory of seeing my grandfather actually breathing is tarnished by one of his little brat daughters being snide about the fact that I was crying. Did you know you shouldn't be sad at all when someone dies because they're actually going to be better off in Heaven? Rude.

I loved church. Church was family. This man completely ruined that image for me. I did eventually return, as a teen, to a church consisting mostly of my actual, blood family. It was enjoyable and made me a lot less hateful in general. Now I just really don't understand how the bullying is justified. Pretty sure Christ didn't go around treating people like shit, and doesn't Christian just mean Christ-like? Whatever, people. I do still have a deep, abiding hatred for that family, though. But, hey, I've never claimed to be perfect. ha
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
Staff member
That's horrific, AG, I'm really sorry you experienced that.

Evie
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member

JaneQSmythe

Well-known member
I don't think that I am really susceptible to bullying in general, so I may have missed a lot of the subtext of bullying. We went to church and Sunday school every Sunday, I attended Bible School at our church (and others) during the summer, I went to church camp and youth retreats. I went to church with friends and family (of different denominations), I participated in a "Living Stations of the Cross" with friends at a local catholic church.

And when I graduated from high school...I stopped. It simply had never explained anything I had questions about or provided me with anything that I didn't already have in the rest of my life. Frankly, religion never "spoke" to me.

Actually, the closest I came to feeling bullied came from a door-to-door evangelical - they were parading "poor inner city kids" door-to-door selling a "Christian Cookbook" so the "poor kid" could go to camp in the country.

First they asked for "the wife of the house", I answered that I was the female head-of-household (MrS and I weren't married). Then there was a spiel about how I must always be looking for good recipes - "I don't cook". Then about how there were good "Christian" inspirational messages in addition..."I'm not Christian." Oh, perhaps I had never been exposed to the Word - "Actually, I attended for 18 years." Well, apparently it was a shame that I had the misfortune to be exposed to a negative congregation "Unfortunately, some congregations are like that." Well, no actually, our congregation, for the most part consisted of sweet little old ladies who never had a bad word to say about anyone and actually lived their beliefs, they were rather excellent examples of the "Widow's Mite" type. Soup kitchens were our specialty.

************

Which reminds me of the SCARIEST religious experience I ever had - we were visiting family, who happened to belong to Jerry Falwell's church in Lynchburg, VA back in the day. We attended church with them the Sunday we were there - I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade. After Sunday School, the kids were all herded into the "little church" while the adults went to the "big church" - the Sunday school teachers stood around the edges of the auditorium like prison guards while some junior lay ministers led us in singing.

At some break in the adult ceremony Jerry himself came over to the little church for a children's sermon. He got everyone all riled up and then asked if there was anyone in the congregation that was not "Saved". A junior relative of mine asked if I was "Saved", I said that I had no idea what she was talking about, she told me that if I didn't know then I wasn't and physically raised my hand.

So the adults on the edges dive in and round up all the hand-raisers (voluntary or no) and march us up in line to be personally blessed by Jerry himself. So I wind up getting some creepy guy holding my forehead and can't wait to get to my seat. (My recollection is that his hand was clammy and unctuous - how many other kids had he touched before me, hope they didn't have impetigo!) Relative asks me if I don't feel so much better now. Seriously?!? It was practically the only time in my life I felt tempted to whimper "I want my Mommy!"


********

Now that I come to think of it - there were plenty of times that I was accused of "not being a good Christian" or "not Christian enough". My reply would be along the lines of "I never claimed to me." or "I didn't realize it was a contest." Now-a-days I would be likely to add - "Actually, I am more interested in ethics than Christianity."
 
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FullofLove1052

New member
I am going to preface this by saying: organised religion irks my soul. I make no secret that I walked away for years because it was stifling and killing me inside. I stopped believing. I do not consider myself a Christian, and I do not consider myself saved. I do not pray because it feels insincere. I also am not an atheist. I just do not know if there is a higher being, but certain things that have happened in my life lead me to believe it is possible. At the same rate, I do not feel any connection to God, and that very well might be because I was not at a church where inner growth was happening. No one has been able to answer my heavy hitting questions like, "How do I pray when I am not sure I believe in Him?" "How do I read the bible and study it when there is doubt in my heart?" I have no qualms about saying I wish I had not been Christened at such a young age. I was not prepared to take on the gravity that comes with being a Christian. Should I reach the point where I do feel like I can handle it, I am open to the idea of being dipped in the water.

I once attended a church that demanded that their members pay tithes. The minister kept tabs on who paid and who did not. One of the ushers came and sat by him with a total of what they brought in every Sunday. The minister said something about the "devourer" would get people, and they would be cursed. I do not read the bible, as I found it terribly boring and rambling, but I remember something about giving cheerfully. Telling me I am going to suffer is intimidation. What got me was saying the stewardship litany and reading that I should give cheerfully. It was the most hypocritical crap I have ever heard. And at this same church, his members were paying his salary, his wife's salary, their three car notes, insurance, and mortgage. Meanwhile, one of their 86 year old members was without lights/air for days because they had to meet and discuss it. He also told his members to live below their means and give their last, and two minutes later he was telling them about his $1500 suits and $300 shoes. As my current Father says, "Everyone that is in the church is not saved. Every man or woman in the pulpit is not of God."

I was a member of a church that only wanted certain people to do things. They would do community feedings, and if you were not in the "circle," you would not know anything about it until after. I could make a suggestion, and it would be overlooked. A few weeks later, one of the chosen could make the same suggestion, and it was welcomed with arms wide open. I went to choir rehearsal one night, and you would think a potential member would be embraced and welcomed. The one who was the lead on every song let it be known that she would continue doing that, and that I would be her background singer like all the others. I had never heard the song, and I was told to go listen to it on YouTube. Meanwhile, the pianist was giving one-on-one lessons to the other members in the choir.

Singled out? Yes. Made to feel unwelcome and unwanted by other fake arse Christians? Yes.
 
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KC43

New member
My first experience of religious bullying was toward my best friend. We were both 17. We attended a Baptist church (which I started going to on his recommendation), where he was the librarian.

And then he came out as gay. His parents kicked him out of the house...and the pastor of the church told him he was no longer welcome there because he was an abomination. A 17-year-old boy, who was now homeless, and a church that preached charity completely turned on him.

I told the pastor I wouldn't be attending that church anymore. And I told him exactly why, and that Jesus would probably find *him* the abomination for abandoning my friend.

I didn't stand up for myself much when I was younger...but mess with one of my friends or relatives, and you'd better watch the fuck out. Actually, that's still the case, though I am a little better at standing up for myself.

Another incident, though this wasn't so much religious bullying as bullying by people who claimed to be religious, if you get the distinction. When Alt and Country were very young (about 4 and 1, if I remember right), we started attending the generically Christian church their daycare provider attended. Their dad, to whom I was still married at the time, decided he wanted to go too.

Their dad was born 3 months prematurely, and as a result has some pretty obvious cognitive delays and learning difficulties. One of which is being unable to sit still for long periods of time; ADHD in theory if not in name. During the sermon, he would often get up and go to stand at the back of the sanctuary with one of the deacons, with whom he'd become friendly. He didn't talk or make noise; he didn't ignore the pastor; he simply got up from the pew, walked to the back of the sanctuary, and stood there to listen to the sermon.

A married couple--who had caused a few problems with me as part of the choir already (the choir director gave me voice lessons as a result, and told the couple they didn't get a vote about whether I was in the choir or not)--went to the pastor and told him that my then-husband getting up during the sermon was "disrespectful and disruptive", and that they "would not tolerate" it continuing. They told the pastor that if he didn't tell my then-husband to stop attending services if he couldn't sit still, they would leave the congregation.

The pastor, who truly did embody what I think being a Christian should be, said, "We welcome and tolerate all who want to attend our services, whether they sit or stand. Thanks for being part of our church. Good luck with your new one."
 

FullofLove1052

New member
I only had certain issues after revealing my "alternative way of living." I did not put the pieces together immediately, but looking at a timeline and the shift in attitudes towards me, it is obvious why I was excluded. It dawned on me one night while at bible study, and the evening's speaker was looking at me when he made remarks about homosexuality and "infidelity" being against God's will. He was also hammering home about being faithful and honouring the covenant of marriage as God intended: one man and one woman. Not a woman and two men or a woman, a man, and another woman. You cannot live "foul" and claim to be of God. Why would they have wanted me being affiliated with anything representing that church? Despite it being wrong, people still gossip, and I am sure it would have caused issues.

I went to a church while visiting the States, and the pastor (preacher/reverend?) made a special point of stopping the sermon to point out that there were people walking and being "disrespectful." I felt that it was unnecessary because He was stopping someone from hearing the Word and calling someone out like a little child. In doing that, all eyes shifted to the individuals in question and surely they were embarrassed.
 

nycindie

Active member
I grew up very poor, and we attended the local Lutheran church. Each year, the church sent us a box of collection envelopes with my mother's name and our address on them. So, you put your donation in the envelope and sealed it, then put it in the collection plate when it was passed around at church. I don't recall if there was a suggested donation printed on the envelopes, but I think there was. I remember feeling very ashamed that we were poor and that my mother sometimes could only put a quarter or fifty cents in the envelope, and often we couldn't afford even a dime, so I felt self-conscious when I had to pass the collection plate to the next person without putting anything in it. People would look at us with pity, but the whole ritual sort of felt like being bullied to me.

I left the church by walking out of confirmation class when I was in Junior High, because the pastor scolded me for being 5 or 10 minutes late, but I guess he was particularly harsh about it. I remember being so upset that he yelled at me in front of the whole class that I just got out of my chair and left, and never went back.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I grew up very poor, and we attended the local Lutheran church. Each year, the church sent us a box of collection envelopes with my mother's name and our address on them. So, you put your donation in the envelope and sealed it, then put it in the collection plate when it was passed around at church. I don't recall if there was a suggested donation printed on the envelopes, but I think there was. I remember feeling very ashamed that we were poor and that my mother sometimes could only put a quarter or fifty cents in the envelope, and often we couldn't afford even a dime, so I felt self-conscious when I had to pass the collection plate to the next person without putting anything in it. People would look at us with pity, but the whole ritual sort of felt like being bullied to me.

I am sorry you went through that, NYCindie. After all, Jesus was poor himself, and ministered to other poor people, free of charge.
I left the church by walking out of confirmation class when I was in Junior High, because the pastor scolded me for being 5 or 10 minutes late, but I guess he was particularly harsh about it. I remember being so upset that he yelled at me in front of the whole class that I just got out of my chair and left, and never went back.

I was bullied in my second year of Lutheran confirmation also, which was taught by the fire and brimstone pastor I mentioned above. I used to question the contradictions in the Bible, between the Old Testament and the New. I also never could get how a literal virgin could get pregnant without sex, and give literal birth, all without breaking her hymen! What the heck? Did they think I was stupid? Did they not understand basic reproduction?

Pastor yelled at me for questioning him. One day he really lit into me and I felt on the verge of tears, and left class, with him yelling at me that if I left, he wouldn't confirm me.

I left anyway. A few months later, he confirmed me. I spoke the doxology with my fingers crossed, with the fear of hellfire in my heart.

My gf miss pixi had a different experience of Christianity. She had birth defects that necessitated a dozen surgeries when she was in elementary school, and unbelievable amounts of pain. Before each surgery, her mom would send her for counseling to their pastor.

This woman, a simple lover of God and his people, wore a long plain brown robe tied with a rope around her waist, every day, all day. She spoke of a Jesus Christ of love, and my poor gf, who was in danger of losing her life during each surgery, found comfort in this God of Love who would greet her after death.

Quite the opposite of my experience.
 
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