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Soul Rape

He took the poor man's lamb.
2 Samuel 12 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.  But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
This depiction of tenderness and sweetness marred so cruelly by death grabs my breath and won't let go. Even King David rose up in rage. "So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”(v. 5-6)

When innocent, vulnerable souls trust those in charge for protection, nourishment, and sustenance, only to be used, manipulated, and betrayed, it is not unlike the story of the poor man and his little ewe lamb.

Both were oppressed. Both knew injustice. Both were sinned against. Both were helpless in the hands of one bigger, stronger, and more powerful than they.

Physical rape is one of the ultimate damaging, horrific crimes against another living being. It assaults the most intimate, private element of the body, deeply affecting the heart, mind and spirit. With force, it seizes and plunders—it is the abuse of power over the powerless. It violates the sacred, with brutal desecration.

Spiritual rape violates the soul.

God as a weapon

Religious abuse, especially from those closest to us, plunders the most intimate aspects of our existence. When we are told what to think, when those in authority assume the position of Holy Spirit, when God is re-shaped by human hands, when those in leadership control thoughts, behavior, and being in the very name of God, He has been used as an instrument of violence.

A parent who manipulates thought and behavior using the name of God, "the Bible says," fear of hell, death, disappointment, worldliness, the world, the falling away, the mark of the beast, and a hundred other threats, seizes, plunders, and exerts force . . . and mis-represents the true God to trusting, innocent beings created in His image.

Within Christian families, a child who accepts Jesus becomes a brother or sister in Christ. And Jesus said, "as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

This does not diminish the importance for instruction in righteousness, or the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But using religion as coercive means demonstrates utter lack of faith and trust, putting authoritarian parents in a very dangerous position.
Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. John 6
As a son starts to walk by the Spirit, an earthly father should encourage his son’s decision-making and guidance to come from a personal relationship with the heavenly Father, not himself. To the degree that the father makes the decisions and dictates the lifestyle of his believing son, to that degree he hinders his son’s spiritual life. A father’s role should decrease just as John the Baptist’s role decreased when Jesus appeared (John 3:30).
This applies to daughters, too.

Will the Real God please stand up?

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12

To those taken advantage of, spiritually, particularly in the realm of a religious family,
to those used and manipulated to advance human interpretations, ideals, and intentions,
to those who feel helpless, exhausted, and afraid,
to those who want to discover truth and know who the true God is, really . . .
. . . there is hope.

Because He wants to be known by you.

True shepherds balance truth with humility, mercy, and grace.
True shepherds do not take the little ewe lambs. They do not kill, eat, and consume them. Rather, they feed and nourish.

Recovery from Spiritual Rape

Much like incest—which is sexual abuse within the family—familial spiritual abuse is especially repugnant. Out of every place on earth, family should be the safest haven, opening inviting arms as shelter for ravaging, brutal storms.

When dysfunction occurs, when humans are humans, when they say, "I will be like the Most High," wounding happens.

And the little ewe lambs are taken.

1) Acknowledge truth

King David wrote Psalm 51 following his exposure by the prophet Nathan. Verse six has been a lifeline for me throughout spiritual abuse recovery.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

We tend to gloss things over, especially when it comes to those we love most. We defend and make excuses; we elevate our own flaws as though this justifies abuse. But advocating denial keeps us in darkness, unhealed. When we invite the light of His truth to expose the violation, the rape, the abuse we sustained, He has space to work. It is frightening to venture towards the darkness. It can be messy. But He makes everything beautiful in its time, and who the Son makes free, is free indeed.

2) Renew the mind
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12
In addition to overcoming denial, we must be willing to let God sort through the wheat and chaff within our minds. For me, this required that I let go of everything I had always believed except for Jesus and the cross, and beseech God to replace lies with truth.

Within a spiritually abusive environment, mind control runs amok in the hands of authoritarians, who use good things for selfish purpose. It is vital we allow God to correct errors in thought, belief, doctrine. We must be a living sacrifice, serving Him and not the theology of man, and this necessitates renewal of the mind so misshapen and injured by abusive principles.

To be conformed to this world is to be pressured from the outside. This fleshly mind Paul decries in Colossians 2:
why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
The antidote for worldly thinking is transformation: change from within.

3) Learn to express truth
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Spiritually abusive methods which implement mind control rely upon re-interpreting or eliminating individual thinking and acknowledgment of feelings. Whereas feelings are not always a barometer of truth, they can reflect crucial internal conditions. As you journey towards recovery, you will feel many different feelings, such as anger, grief, loss. The old way, the way which conformed to our religious world, instructed us to deny these feelings, to die to ourselves. Yet how does convincing ourselves to believe a lie—I shouldn't feel anger, this is just my flesh, I cannot allow this sadness, for I should have the joy of the Lord—have any sort of merit in a quest for healing?

How often did denying these feelings lead to deep, lasting wholeness?
For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. Ecc. 2
We tend to over-spiritualize, but Paul cautions against the mind corruption which distorts the simplicity of Christ. My exhortation for those struggling with overcoming pain from spiritual abuse is to try a new way. To be truthful with yourself, with God. To be transformed—changed from within, through the work of the Holy Spirit. If you feel, then feel. If you need rest, then rest. A foundational element of spiritual abuse is the drive to do . . . to pray more, fast more, read the Bible more, witness more. Perhaps as you re-discover the true God, the one who bids come, rest, you will find that the journey to healing requires you to stop.

Cease striving.

Comfort for the weary

Jesus prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. This is a beautiful, gut-wrenching prayer—literally, as He hung upon the cross. He knew of their ignorance, He knew that His torturers did what was right in their eyes, and the eyes of religious law. But that did not stop the spear which pierced His side. Did not stop His agony as He cried out, My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?

It did not stop His death.

We who bear the rape of the soul have wounds so deep, pain so great, because it affects the core of our being which is created in the very image of He who is used against us.

He is abused when we are abused.

We can take comfort, joining Him in the fellowship of His sufferings.
that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
There is hope even for those who have inflicted this destruction. The Jesus who took our place on the cross for our sins, with whom we have fellowship of sufferings, who became sin for us, endured at once the pain of the abuser and the abused.

And His mercies are new every morning.

Similar posts:
The Stolen Years
Sparrows, Falling


  1. Extremely good post! I have had a difficult time explaining why it is so oppressive to be close to someone (married or otherwise)who believes even a so-called mild form of patriarchalism or male dominance-especially when it isn't evident though it is the held belief. I can only say that to be married to or close to one who believes in any degree of male dominance (called soft complementarianism sometimes) though practicing as an egalitarian is like being in the presence of someone whom you know would love to dominate you if you only let your guard down. How relaxing, safe, enjoyable, mutually nurturing, etc., can that ever be?

    When the domineering-wannabe (so-called 'servant-leader' at its most deceptive level) is present, it IS oppressive still-even if overt subordinating actions are not present.

    Spiritual rape (or attempted rape or desired rape) is how I felt it should be described yet knew that sounded harsh. It is a harsh reality, though, so why try to mellow its name or description? Thank you for being willing to call a spade a spade!

  2. Its tough to come to terms with...but that is just exactly what spiritual abuse does to you! I think its neat how God is calling you to shed light on legalism and spiritual abuse towards woman, and he is using my personal story to shed light on the abuse that occurs behind the closed doors of these homes, in the name of "homeschooling." We're trail-blazers together, sista!

  3. This is SUCH a good post. My patriarchal marriage was very much spiritual rape, my husband regularly "hearing words from God" about what I should and should not do/think/be... It was much like coming out of a cult, and reading about spiritual abuse still is painful to me... There is something so horrible about having your genuine love for God used to destroy your spirit.

  4. So true. It can be so hard to understand why this kind of abuse hurts so much. Calling it what it is helps. Thank you for reminding us that leaving denial behind does bring healing! And that God wants us to just rest and be sometimes.

  5. Molly and Sharon--thank you! God bless you.

  6. Anon--Thank you! Unfortunately, spiritual rape truly is a harsh reality. I often picture Jesus, as He wept over Jerusalem longing to gather His children close, and know that the same Jesus weeps over those trapped within spiritually abusive environments . . . whether through marriage or parental relationship. This violation is reprehensible.

    Chandra--best of luck with your story! I am so grateful for all of the wonderful homeschooling mothers who remind us that not all experiences are as wrenching as yours--just as I am heartbroken over the dear, aching daughters who despair of life itself. Go in peace, sister!

  7. Our daughter has been married for two years and got involved in a church that teaches the Quiverfull philosophy. My husband and I are newbies to this and have witnessed our once vibrant, goal oriented, loving daughter turn her back against her entire family, devote all her energies to serving her husband and now has a child that she will not allow us to know or see as her husband has decided that he doesn't want us to have a relationship with their family. Her husband is one of 8 kids and was home schooled in the Bill Gothard teachings. We are at a complete loss as she has cut all ties with us and I am devestated.

  8. Anonymous ~ I am so sorry to hear this. I know that you ache. If you like, I will share this story with my prayer-friends. How can we best pray for you? HUGS.

  9. Anonymous,

    I remember being in an isolationist, "we're better than everyone else" church and how it alienated us from our family members for a time. This church pitted my mother, sister and me against my father, leaving him on the outside and I can't comprehend the pain he must have felt. Eventually it collapsed under the weight of its own dysfunction. It saddens me that we didn't recognize it for the house of cards that it was much sooner than we did and how we were conditioned to think that everyone outside the group was "the problem". What a waste. For what it's worth, one day your daughter is likely to wake up and realize what she's missing. All I can suggest is just to let the health and stability of your own Christian walk be your protest and to be there to help her pick up the pieces if she crashes. The road out of these situations is hard because so often we burn a lot of bridges on the way in. If you have not seen it, I'd like to recommend Don Veinot's book "A Matter of Basic Principles". It is one of the few thorough, scholarly and biblical critiques of Gothard and is well worth the time to read. Praying for you and your family. Blessings to you,

    Jim K.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this work you are doing. I was raised in ATI and have spent the last 15 years trying to get my soul back. I've recently come upon your website and Recovering Grace and others, and putting a name (spiritual abuse) to what I experienced is incredibly helpful, although it hurts like crazy to be walking through it. But my freedom and wholeness is WORTH IT.

  11. Cheryl, YES. Your freedom and wholeness is worth it! It is for freedom you have been set free...no hidden agenda! Thank you for your comment; I'm so grateful that the Lord led you here and other places where you're finding encouragement. Many blessings to you!

  12. I really love this blog post, Hillary, and had to share it on fb. God bless you.


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