We may never know what motivated the individual shooter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando this week, but we can be reasonably certain that spiritual abuse had a role in the lives of the victims and the shooter because spiritual abuse always leads to exclusion. Spiritual abuse separates humanity into us and them. Once “they” are defined, it becomes possible to dehumanize and justify the oppression and murder of “them.”
The sad truth is the sacred text can be twisted into an interpretation that is used to abuse others. Individuals and leaders choose which texts to emphasize. Passages that promote love, gentleness, and mercy are overlooked in favor of passages that rage and condemn. Individual reward can become the focus above everything else. Love and cooperation could be used to solve many problems on our planet, but religious leaders often teach people to focus on earning a divine reward or waiting for a divine rescue. Too bad for those who are outside the group.
When people commit to the message that others are evil, they can be motivated to cut them out of community both literally and figuratively. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have received the brunt of disdain from abusive religious people for too long. Why? It’s because LGBT people break the rules that abusive religions rely on to maintain control.
Abusive religions rely on compliance to a strict hierarchy and set of rules developed around a nuclear family. Rules dictate dress, behavior, thinking, relationships, and sexual expression. LGBT people break the rules and create families of their own choosing. They live lives that ignore the hierarchy and its set of rules.
If you have experienced spiritual abuse, you have been told a specific set of interpretations of scripture about LGBT people. Those interpretations will linger unchecked, unless you challenge yourself to think differently. Have you considered other passages of sacred texts (such as those that speak of love and justice) that might hold more weight in your life? Have you dug deep and looked into why some members of your faith are open and accepting of LGBT people? Have you ever asked yourself what you can learn from them? Have you ever considered that sacred texts reflect the views of nomadic people from thousands of years ago, and do not reflect the knowledge and culture of our time?
These questions are important for people who could become allies of the LGBT community. They are equally important to people who are LGBT.
Coming back to the shooting in Orlando, we have to ask what role religiously-fueled rhetoric played in the life of the shooter. It is possible that he wanted to attain glory by taking out the “enemy.” It’s possible that he was gay and unable to come out of the closet. Maybe it’s both. We cannot change his circumstances, but we can use our voice now.
We can shed beliefs that exclude others. We can choose which passages, if any, that we will apply in our lives. We can become healers who confront teaching that excludes. We can welcome all “outcasts” and raise our children to work for love and justice. We can replace us and them thinking with we and us. May the tragedy in Orlando lead us to help create a more loving world. The shooter meant this for evil, let it motivate us to spread love.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1(800) 273-8255