The Way Out To Freedom
The Way Out To Freedom
Chad Harris, Shiny Happy People Documentary
The purpose of this page is to allow those who have found freedom from abuse and have overcome incredible hardship to have a voice, share their stories and encourage others on the journey of freedom. Part of healing is being heard. Speaking out about our experiences and insights of being in a toxic church setting or other emotionally or physically abusive situation can bring validation and hope. Too often we feel invisible, unnoticed and dismissed. We stay silent out of fear and shame. This only empowers those who are oppressing us, and the cycle of abuse continues. We hope to shed light in dark places, empower and edify others to find the courage to take the next step to find hope, healing and freedom.
Where would the world be without Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rosa Parks, Woodward & Bernstein, Erin Brockovich, Karen Silkwood and on and on. The whistleblowers must not be silenced, censored, shouted down. We cannot be afraid. Do we have no appreciation for speaking truth to power? The freedoms we now enjoy in this country originated in men and women speaking and acting for a higher purpose.
Consider these stories, their pain, sacrifice, courage and where they are now....
*For the protection and privacy of the victims and because of the risk of retribution, these accounts are anonymous.
I left a cult-like church that claimed it was the “only” pure church. The truth is, it was full of hypocrisy. It required the regular members to be pure and “under authority” and under their control while the leadership was corrupt and full of sin: adultery, sexual immorality, drunkenness, greed, arrogance, mental and emotional abuse. While “pretending” to be pure from the stage/pulpit. It was a show and a sham just like the Wizard of Oz. This church was not from God. It was a religious social club seeking “fun” over seeking God. I am so grateful I had the strength and courage to leave. Now I only listen to God’s Spirit. I am free and no longer living in fear of man. My prayer is those still being manipulated will pray for discernment and see the truth and wake up and see the person behind the curtain before it’s too late.
During a public Q&A at my former church, I asked a sincere question to the lead pastor who was leading the session. I received a sarcastic; "How long have you been here?"
With no answer provided for my question, I did not dare ask again to clarify what I still did not know. I was publicly shamed and silenced.
Since leaving the place where I was programmed to not ask questions, I have since learned how God wants us to ask questions, be curious, and wrestle with things. This has been one of the greatest ways I have connected to God in a very personal way. Just like a curious child who loves to ask questions about everything, and we, as parents are so happy to answer, so is our Father God, who loves to answer his children's questions.
It was widely believed in my church that illness or bad circumstances were the result of sin or disobedience, so when I was diagnosed with a very painful autoimmune disease, I felt I had to do my best to keep it hidden. I was seeing a specialist (MD) and was on several medications that had been prescribed. One day the church leader who was aware of my circumstances asked me how I was feeling. I felt like I responded with a feeble smile and said I really wasn’t feeling all that well but doing the best that I could. The response I received was a roll of the eyes and a click of the tongue with the words, “You don’t have that disease. You just need to lose weight". It was devastating.
I prayed and sought God through His Word and was eventually led to try and heal from my illness naturally. At this point I was on 4 prescription medications that I was told I would be on (with increasing doses) for the rest of my life. The recommendations were diet and exercise, changes that did not line up with what was taught at church. I secretly began to follow the suggestions. This created a huge conflict within me. I believed what was taught at church and wanted to stay there but I was making progress and healing - it was also true. As people began to notice that I looked better and was feeling better, I could not be honest about why! Eventually, another church member turned me into leadership and I was questioned about what I was doing. It was implied that what I was doing was wrong and against the teaching of the church (basically eating vegetables!), and I was asked to “sit out” of classes/bible studies and services.
Making the decision to leave was absolutely terrifying. As I expected, I was completely cut off from family and friends. But it ultimately was a relief. I consider myself to be in remission; I am off all medications and am once again healthy and active. I still test positive for the disease markers and believe if I went back to my former eating habits (supported by the church). The symptoms would return. I believe God led me through every step, all healing, and out the door of this church. I am so thankful to share my journey since leaving this toxic environment has led to immense spiritual growth.
I was asked by my small group leaders (who are rarely on Facebook - so I must have been turned in) to delete/remove some of my Facebook posts regarding my opinions and beliefs on dangers of the vaccine and also the freedom convoy in Canada. Knowing my social media was being monitored made me very concerned.
Since leaving this church, I have found freedom in letting God lead me in what I post (not man). I don’t share the truth to be popular or to cause an uproar. I share it to help people. The truth needs to be told. I’m pretty hard to manipulate but looking back I can definitely see how I was being controlled and forced to comply or face being labelled as divisive.
I was a long-time member of a cult like church, when I decided to leave, I confided in my boss and friend who was also a member of the same church. Tearfully shared the pain I had experienced over many years and what I saw that did not line up with the word of God there and that I had prayerfully decided to leave. I was told over and over that "it's your story to tell, I won't say anything". I trusted this person. But within just a few HOURS some of my adult children were informed of my plans by church leadership. This brought division to my family and robbed me of telling my children about my very personal convictions and leading from God without them having a jaded view of me.
As difficult as it was to realize this betrayal happened, I've come to realize the incredible influence that the culture and leadership of the church had on me and currently has on those in the church. I have grown deeply in my experience with God and Jesus Christ. I have great empathy and forgiveness for my friend and former boss. I am on a journey of growth, love and healing I have never known before.
The toxic church I belong to always wanted us to "reach out" to leadership if we needed anything. I reached out many times and got no response. Feeling like I didn't matter I would go to God in prayer believing that my issue was just not important enough.
Then my marriage started to fall apart, and I was desperate for some Godly guidance because I wanted to make "God look good". So, I reached out to leadership with a letter my husband (who was not a member) had given me with a list of requirements. I was told to send the letter into leadership which I did immediately. A week later my husband was asking for a response. So, I again reach out to leadership for answers, telling them that my husband wanted a response. What I was told was that I was being disrespectful to the leaders by "demanding" a response from them. I apologized and said that I just really needed to know how to respond to him in the right way. Not only did I never get a response from leadership, but I was told that I could no longer reach out to that particular leader who felt disrespected by me.
Then, months later I reached out to a different leader and requested a meeting with them because I was struggling. I told them to tell me when and where and I would gladly meet with them. They gave me a time and place. I got there early, not wanting to have them wait for me. They never showed up. So, I reached out to yet a third leader via text to set up a time to talk. They never even responded to my text. At that point I just gave up. It left me with the feeling that I really didn't matter... maybe not even to God.
"As women and men in oppressive, abusive marriages, we were exalted in the church for all the suffering we silently endured with a smile on our face, because supposedly that pleased God, and made him happy and made Him look good."
IF you are allowed to have your own opinions, THEN why would church members social media sites be monitored. Why would you be called by someone in leadership and told to remove posts that don't align with the church's views? Or to remove former members from your social media accounts?
IF the focus of the church is on God and a person’s spiritual walk does not hinge on exclusively following the pastor or leader of the church, THEN why would a person be shamed for reading books by other authors or participating in self-help programs not affiliated with that particular church or pastor?
IF physical health is promoted within the church, THEN why would it be wrong to follow eating plans or health guidelines other than what is taught by the pastor, especially for specific medical issues?
IF a church says they do NOT believe they are the only True church, THEN why are people who leave treated as if they are dangerous to be around and spoken of as if they are sinful and God is not with them any longer?