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Experience of ‘abusive Evangelicalism’

14 June 2013


From Mr Chris Pitts

Sir, - I call myself a survivor of an abusive Evangelicalism. Although I am still far from returning to any form of formal faith, I do live in hope. As I read my Bible, I am attracted by the Jesus I read of; yet I am afraid of succumbing again to the sort of almost fascistic, abusing power system that I have managed to throw off.

A heady mixture of powerful rhetoric, emotionally charged gatherings of the faithful, and extreme use of peer pressure held me for about 25 years, from the late 1960s, in this system. One book about abusive Christianity, Ungodly Fear by Stephen Parsons (Lion, 2000), helped me to understand what had happened to me. It also allowed me to have a new critical perspective on the teachings that I had absorbed while still a member of the Church.

This year, I found myself unexpectedly at Spring Harvest with my wife, who is still a practising Christian. To say that it was a shock to the system would be an understatement. The first thing I noticed was the thundering music that seemed to dominate every session of worship. An entire industry has grown up adapting the pop music of previous decades and adding Christian lyrics. I would describe this music as possessing an addictive quality. I wondered whether worship would even take place, if the electricity failed and the guitars were silenced. I found no understanding of stillness, silence, and a chance to encounter any kind of peace. Is this kind of music really the only way to engage the young of today?

The second thing that I noticed was the constant emphasis, in what was being taught, on joy, triumph, and victory. From my perspective as a survivor of abusive Christianity, there was very little to engage me. A constant failure even to speak of the poverty, pain, and suffering in which many people live is a massive turn-off.

All that people who live, day by day, in deprived situations can take away from such triumphalist events is an extra burden of guilt and failure. They have not had their situation heard, let alone addressed, and so they leave with an increased awareness of their exclusion. Such Christian events can be extremely damaging to people like me.

I thought that I would use the time at Spring Harvest to ask people about my concerns. Imagine my surprise when I could not find anyone who was even vaguely familiar with such questions. It seems that many involved with this type of activity still refuse to respond to logical argument.

I would welcome comment from anyone who is concerned about these issues. They are welcome to contact me at chris-mary@skylash.freeserve.co.uk.

102 Turner Road
Colchester CO4 5JT

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