By Dr. Boyd C. Purcell
Millions of Christian parents lovingly guard their children against pornographic Internet sites, violence on TV, scary movies, etc., but they, with the best of intentions, take their children to churches which expose them to spiritually abusive preaching and teaching about God tormenting “unsaved” children, as well as adults, in hell fire forever! Teaching children that hell is literal and eternal fire is CHILD ABUSE! As I stated in my book, Christianity Without Insanity, it is SPIRITUAL PORNOGRAPHY! It is also spiritual insanity. I am not saying all spiritual abuse is child abuse, since adolescents, teens, and adults may also be thus abused. All spiritual abuse of children is child abuse.
The tragedy of spiritual abuse of children is vividly illustrated with the real-life story of a man I will call Jerry. This Christian man, a professor at an Evangelical College, has daily lived in fear for 55 years that he will be tormented in literal fire in hell forever! After reading my book, CWI, he emailed me, and then we talked several times by phone. In essence, I have given him free psychiatric counseling long distance, since he lives in another state. He shared with me that he was frightened, through fear of eternal damnation in hell, into accepting Christ as his Savior at a child, but he has still lived in fear that God will condemn him to hell forever, since his church teaches, as the vast majority of churches do, that Christians can lose their salvation for sins of what they do and/or don’t do. Jerry related that for most of 55 years he has had Panic Disorder, so much so he has been on anti-anxiety medication in order to function emotionally and physically.
In my book, Spiritual Terrorism, in chapter six, “The Ultimate Dilemma,” I listed all 13 symptoms of Panic Disorder in “The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental disorders-IV.” Some of the most debilitating ones are: racing heart, sense of choking, smothering sensations, shaking, fear of going crazy, fear of dying, etc. Without medication to control symptoms, a person may well have to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. In CWI, in chapter two, “Holistic Health,” I rewrote Psalm 23, “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” from the perspective of victims of panic attacks. I titled it, “Panic Is My Shepherd.” As a Mental-Health Counselor, in private practice, patients have told me how very realistic and helpful this paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm has been for them. Jerry is a good example of how bad Panic Disorder can be, but, after several phone sessions, he is now doing much better. He is having panic attacks less frequently and they are much less severe. As Jerry has greater tranquility of mind, due to no longer living in fear of eternal torment in hell, the prognosis is his symptoms will continue to diminish, then disappear.
How Spiritual Abuse of Children can be Prevented
My son and daughter-in-law are devoted-loving parents. She and my son discipline their children appropriately, judiciously, and proportionally. They connect the discipline with the misbehavior by calling it a “consequence.” At times, I have heard my grandchildren say to each other, “If you don’t stop doing that, you’re going to have a consequence!” This means apologizing, making amends, having a time out, etc.
Recently, their four-year-old son asked his mother a profound question, “Will everyone be in heaven?” Readers, if you believe in the doctrine of eternal torment in hell fire, how would you answer this question? If you would not answer it, not wanting to traumatize a child, that would send the message that this is not a safe topic—don’t ask such questions. If you would say, “I don’t know,” that would introduce doubt about God’s unconditional everlasting love and infinite mercy. If you would say, “No, not everyone is going to be in heaven,” I am quite sure the next question would be, “Who isn’t going to be in heaven?” Doubtlessly, such an intelligent child would have follow-up questions, such as: “Why won’t they be in heaven?” “Where will they be?” “In hell?” “What’s hell?” “Fire!” “Forever!”
Thus, children, asking good questions, can easily and unintentionally be spiritually abused, at a very young age [as Jerry was and as I was starting at age eight], the toxic effects of which may last for the rest of their lives. Reactions to toxic religion varies from compliant children who try to diligently “toe the religious line,” to those who withdraw into a shell living [or existing] in fear of God and hell, and strong-willed ones who say, “to heck with religion” and go have a “good time” sowing “wild oats.”
My daughter-in-law is very diligent to protect her children against all forms of potential abuse whether it would be: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse. Her wise answer, from her heart as a loving mother and from reading CWI, though their church does not teach this, was “Yes, everyone will be in heaven, but people who have hurt others will first have a consequence.” Wow! This question was answered in such a simple but profound way that even a four-year child could understand it!
This loving and Biblically correct answer, and follow-up positive-spiritual nurture, will enable my grandchildren to grow up having reverence for and a sense of awe [the meaning of Biblical fear] about God with zero morbid fear of God. Such a spiritually healthy conception of God will also motivate them to love, worship, and serve God altruistically, not out of fear of God and hell, nor expectation of reward—just doing the right thing for the right reason.
Readers, what were you taught about hell, and what are you teaching your children? Love-based, not fear-based, Christianity is the Biblical message the Christian Universalist Association is sharing with the world. May the abundance of spiritually healthy, Biblically correct, Christ-honoring literature on this site be a blessing to you and a rich source of helpful information in teaching your children about the love of God. Thus, as they grow physically, they will also grow spiritually in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the Savior of, not just a small part of the world but the whole world! Let’s make the world much safer for all children today, and all those yet to be born, by ending all forms of child abuse, including spiritual abuse.
Boyd C. Purcell, Ph.D., Author of these books:
Spiritual Terrorism: Spiritual Abuse from the Womb to the Tomb and
Christianity Without Insanity: For Optimal Mental/Emotional/Physical Health
Websites: HealingSpiritualTerrorism.com and ChristianityWithoutInsanity.com
March 7, 2014