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Religious abuse is thriving: our collective voices are the scissors to cut the puppeteer's strings

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Did I pledge my allegiance

For the purpose of progress

To a priest or a prophet

Playing god in the process?

Was I chasing convenience

In a wave of disaster

Where the captain's a captor

And I'm a puppet to pastor?

If you've been following along with the Rise & Fall of Mars Hill podcast by Christianity Today, then you might have caught these lyrics in the opening.

They stood out so strongly to me that I had to go look them up and listen to the song in totality. Though “Sticks & Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope has been out for several years, I hadn’t heard it before, or at least I hadn’t really tuned in before with my complete attention. That sentence has a sense of irony to it, in light of what the song is communicating...

These lyrics are powerful. They grasp the truth of what many of us have and are living in such a simple yet poetic way that they're hard to get out of my head...Or my heart, because this is exactly what I see happening all around me:

Captains, or leaders, who are chosen for their ability to perform and achieve, despite their complete lack of Christlike character.

They show up as the heroes who can triumph over culture, either by flipping it off or by beating it at its own game. These captains think they’re bigger and better, and the way they’re glorified by those around them exacerbates their already narcissist leanings. We give them their platform, which they later crush us under, leaving shreds of wood and cement painfully under our skin for decades to come.

And how about those who support them?

Do they act like these captains are gods, whose decisions could not be wrong? The captain claimed to hear from God, the house is full, and the offering overflowing, so he must be acting in alignment with the Father’s will...right?


Did we even think long enough to wonder?

Or did the casualties seem worth "it"–the money, the prestige, the success, the power, the notoriety, the creativity, the newness, the numbers? Did anyone care that people were trampled, some to the point of walking away from the church, or even the faith entirely? Or was everyone too tied up with strings attached to the pastor’s whims?

Was it more convenient not to think? Not to ask questions? Not to assert concern?

If I’m right, it certainly was more convenient, but it was also less terrifying, because that captain or leader or pastor (all of the preceding) would have lost his mind if the inconvenient road was taken. He would have thrown the “heretic” out without a moment of consideration for truth, character development, grace, forgiveness, wise counsel, scripture seeking...none of it. Just. Get. Out. The questioner would have lost everything.

But what if this: what if everyone spoke up? What would happen then?

What if, collectively, we spoke when something needed to be said? Just as a general rule of thumb that we adhered to and abided by?

And when she said something, I also said something, if I, too, had something to say?

And when we said something, they all said something, and we found ourselves standing united in our community, a true representation of the Church, unwilling to flex on the beauty of the gospel?

Because the gospel does not allow room for captor captains, nor the pledging of allegiance to anyone other than Christ.

And ultimately, the gospel doesn’t allow room for puppets either.

I've been a puppet before and I pray I never forget the horror of it all–the during and the continued aftermath.

I pray I never forget what I really give up when I give up my voice, for when I give up my voice, I give up my personhood. And in sight of someone who is suffering, I also give up their personhood. I silently say, “Your pain and suffering, the injustice you’re drowning in, is not worth my own clothes getting blood on them. This mission is more important than your mangled body, mind, heart, and soul, so stay in that pit you’re in until your weeping can no longer be heard...and band, turn up the bass.”

But that dying woman...wasn’t loving and caring for her, the mission?

Show me a man, an honest mission

I'm willing to hope beyond suspicion

Show me the race, I'll run the distance

Longing to give and taste forgiveness

Dying to live a pure religion

Settle the rush to chase submission

Open my eyes and soul to listen

As does Kings Kaleidoscope, I end this post with hope: there is another way out there. I’ve seen it and I’ve been a part of it. My soul has danced to the song that comes from a submission to God versus an unquenchable drive to achieve and be known by millions. The race is real, and it can be hard, but I’m surrounded by other runners and supporters offering encouragement and refreshment. Every aspect of every moment isn’t Christ, and probably won’t be on this side of eternity, but I’ve seen enough glimpses to know the difference in a heartbeat, and I cannot go back to allowing horror to reign.

Where do you stand today? Will you speak up for yourself and for others who are being abused in the name of religion?

This may look like asserting a boundary for yourself and your time, or it may look like something more broad, or more scary, but this step doesn’t have to look huge to be huge. Please remember that. A new boundary is huge, and if you take that step, know that I’m here cheering you on. Reach out. I would love to celebrate with you, because you're doing the harder thing:

you're glorifying God,

instead of yourself.


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