by Rembert Truluck
Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse: http://www.truluck.com
Abusive religion cannot produce healthy spirituality. Where Paul used the
term sound doctrine or sound words or teachings, the word sound meant
healthy and Paul was talking about healthy teachings that build healthy
spirituality. (See Bible references below.) Extremism, fanaticism,
prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy and a lot of other unclean spirits produce
decay, sickness and death in ones spiritual life.
Leprosy in the time of Jesus was a term for a great variety of diseases
that caused blemishes and disfigurement. Hypocrisy and abusive religion
also cause spiritual blemishes and disfigurement. Jesus healed both
leprosy and hypocrisy. Jesus gave the gift of health and wholeness by
liberating people from abusive sick religion. We are called to do the same
Sick religion is like many other forms of human sickness in that the
sufferers of sick religion often do not recognize or admit that they are
sick. They see nothing wrong with the abusive destructive religion that
infects their lives at every level. After all, God is the source of
religion, and how could that be bad? Sick religion teaches people to deny
and to justify the judgmental attitudes and destructive legalistic
religious beliefs and behaviors that afflict most sufferers of sick
One definition of health is the absence of sickness. Yet many forms of
sick thinking and behavior go under the name of religion. Loss of
emotional control, especially anger, is often denied and masked by being
projected onto other people. When we are sad, we can say, I am sad. When
we are happy, we can say, I am happy. But when we are angry, we say, You
Dr. Wayne E. Oates in When Religion Gets Sick said, When I use the word
sick I am referring to a specific functional breakdown. When religion is
sick, it massively hinders the basic functions of life. Malfunction, then,
is the criterion of sickness. He added, In other words, the word sick is
not used in some global vague, or moralistic sense here. It refers to
specific situations in which particular people suffer major failures of
functioning in the conduct of their lives because of religious
preoccupations and stumbling blocks. (See pages 20-21).
HEALTH AND WHOLENESS
When Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to get well (John 5:6),
the literal meaning of the Greek is: Do you wish to be made whole?
Frequently the healings by Jesus are said to make people whole. Health and
wholeness go together in the teachings and ministry of Jesus. Jesus
ministered to and healed the whole person in all
dimensions of life: the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and
relational. Healthy spirituality brings all of life into harmony and
wholeness. As Colossians 1:17 said, In Jesus Christ all things hold
When the human mind or body is at war within, unhealthy living emerges and
dominates the life of the individual. Internal conflict can be the attack
of cancerous cells against the healthy cells or can be the schizophrenic
attacks of the mind against itself. James 1:8: A doubled minded person is
unstable in all her/his ways. Soren Kierkegaard wrote an entire devotional
book based on this verse: Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.
Kierkegaard saw the solution to double mindedness to be found in willing
only the will of God. He concluded that the only way one can will one
thing is to will the will of God, for if you will anything else besides
the will of God, you are willing many things, not one.
THE HEALING SPIRIT OF JESUS
The Spirit of Jesus heals and makes us whole. Sick abusive religion is the
opposite of the Spirit of Jesus. Love is the most powerful healing force
in the world. Love heals and nourishes and never gives up. Love can even
heal abusive sick religion. The love of Jesus did exactly that during his
Religion is probably never sicker than when it is based on prejudice and
misinformation and is used by people with low self-esteem to demean and
belittle others in order to make themselves feel superior and more
powerful. The use of religion to put people down and to judge and condemn
those who are already beaten down and rejected by society is the greatest
crime of present day religion in America.
Healthy spirituality based on love and self-acceptance is contagious; just
as sick spirituality based on fear and self-hate is contagious. Whatever
you have is contagious!
Spiritual healing takes place within individuals one at the time.
Spiritual health and healing are not a mass movement with great crowds and
entertaining television performances. Jesus healed people one by one. Each
individual was important to Jesus and each person was heard and treated in
whatever way best fit him or her. Jesus methods of healing varied from
person to person. There was no special formula that fits all!
Read the stories in the Gospel according to John in chapters 3 and 4 about
Nichodemus the Pharisee who came to Jesus in the middle of the night for
fear that someone might see him and the Woman at the Well who met Jesus
alone at the well in the middle of the day, when nobody else would be
there. Notice how some of the most familiar teachings of Jesus, like John
3:16-17 and John 4:24 are given in the context of one-on-one conversation
with no audience present.
The conversations of Jesus with Nichodemus and with the Woman at the Well
dealt with replacing unhealthy religion with healthy spirituality. Both
Nicodemus and the woman were afflicted with negative spiritual attitudes
and misinformation. Spiritual healing is delayed and often killed by the
negative spirits of legalism, prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy, and anger.
NEGATIVE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE
One of the basic steps to recovery from abusive religion is Step 5: Avoid
Negative People and Churches. Negative attitudes in religion and in your
personality can bring you down and can take everybody you know on a
negative downer just by your gloomy presence, your judgmental preaching
and your legalistic attitude.
I know what I am talking about, because for many years I was a preacher
and I frequently fall into the abysmal habit of preaching to somebody I
know very well and love very much only to find that I am vigorously
pushing that person away and dont even realize how preachy I have become!
I often suggest that you should get negative people out of your life. They
will bring you down and dampen your enthusiasm for everything that really
matters to you. Have you ever thought that you might be the negative
person that somebody needs to get out of his/her life? Its a sobering
thought, isnt it!
TECHNIQUES OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH
PRAY. There is no substitute for prayer. A friend in Mexico wrote me
recently to tell me how turning again to pray had radically changed his
whole life for good. Try prayer: youll like it! Jesus prayed and taught
his followers to pray. Prayer includes listening. Look at
Philippians 4:6-7 again and take it seriously.
THINK. Use the marvelous brain that God gave you. Think objectively and
logically about your situation and what your options are. Paul gives a
list of very positive things to think about in Philippians 4:8. You better
think, think, think about the consequences of your actions! as the great
Aretha Franklin sang in The Blues Brothers. Think for yourself, because if
you let others do your thinking for you, you arent really thinking for
yourself, are you? How much of your thinking is logical, objective,
realistic, and practical?
LOVE. I am constantly learning over and over what love really means and
what loves means for me and for my most intimate relationships and
friendships. One characteristic of real love that I have to relearn over
and over is that love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing
in another person. (1 Cor. 13:7). Effective satisfying love is a gift from
God. We still work hard to manufacture our own brand of manipulative,
controlling, possessive love and then wonder why it doesnt work at all!
Love is generous. Try giving yourself away and see what happens.
BELIEVE. Who do you really trust: God, yourself, special friends, and
perhaps experts in everything from science to religion and beyond? A lot
of us have gone through phases in our lives when we trusted nobody, not
even ourselves. What have you believed and trusted that most has
disappointed you? Why did you continue to trust the same doubtful things
over and over again? None of us knows all of the sources of our unhealthy
spirituality or the roots of our positive and negative impulses. If our
spirituality is unhealthy, most of us dont have a clue of why.
TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOURSELF. Socrates said: The unexamined life is not
worth living. The unexamined faith is not only not worth having, it is
also can be abusive, dangerous and destructive. Every individual has a
spiritual dimension to life. Spirituality can be negative or positive,
healthy or unhealthy, filled with prejudice and anger or filled with love
Why is it so hard for us to take a good honest objective look at our own
spirituality? Whatever the reason for your neglect of your own spiritual
health, you can take the positive step of getting on with your life and
taking the further positive step of getting negative people out of your
life. Take a good long look at the life and work of Jesus as the Spirit of
Jesus guides your mind and your heart into healthy
positive self-esteem and spiritual wholeness. (See link to Step 3 below.)
I pray that your spiritual life will be a great asset in your healthy
self-acceptance and sense of worth and value to yourself, to others and to
God. My purpose continues to be to help all of us to feel good about who
we are and to quit hurting each other and ourselves.
See also Wayne E. Oates: Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in
Religious Behavior. The Westminster Press: 1987.
See Step 3: Examine Your Faith: http://www.truluck.com/html/step_3.html
And Step 5: Avoid Negative People and Churches:
Sound or healthy regarding doctrines and teachings appears in 1 Timothy
1:0 (which contains a serious translation problem that I discuss in the
section on 1 Timothy 1:10 in my web site and book material about The Bible
and Homosexuality: Six Passages Used Against Homosexuals.) For sound see
also 1 Timothy 4:6; 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2.) The
word healthy or sound is Greek hugiaivousa from hugiaina which means,
sound, whole, healthy, in good health. This word was often used in the
Greek Hebrew Bible (The Septuagint: LXX) for shalom which means, peace or
All of Pauls references to sound or healthy are in the Pastoral Epistles,
which Luke, a physician, helped to write. (Luke alone is with me in 2
Timothy 4:11.) See this word for sound, healthy in Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27.