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The Fundamentalist Christian Mindfuck - Part III

July 9, 2023

I stumbled upon another documentary on spiritual abuse, “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin” on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s sad that at this point, there’s nothing that can be said that is surprising. In fact, Gwen Shamblin is almost a saint amongst the other “Christian” leaders of megachurches guilty of serious spiritual abuse. Am I becoming desensitized? Maybe. And maybe that’s a good thing. I’m educated, now. I know how this whole cult of Evangelical Christianity works. I don’t have to be shocked any longer. I don’t have to think it only happened to me, or that my pain is the only pain, or the worst pain. The kind of abuse I’ve experienced has happened to millions of others. Millions. I was duped, but I am in very very very good company. I should have known better, but I didn’t. And that’s not on me. Millions of others have fallen for the same sham, the same promises, the same lies. I can take comfort in that. And I do. Actually. I do. I’m not any less intelligent, nor any less susceptible; I’m just as human as anyone else. And I take great comfort in that. No more self-condemnation, no more self-blame. It wasn’t my fault. And I’ve learned. Am I immune? I don’t know. But at least now, I know the signs. I know what to look for and I know how to trust my gut. That’s a win for me. I feel very good about that.

I listened to the story of Gwen Shamblin’s son, who has shed the Shamblin name and now goes by Michael S. Black, and I am grieved beyond words. I went to his Facebook page, and learned his father, David Shamblin, passed from pancreatic cancer on May 19th, just three days before my mother’s 85th birthday celebration. I was thinking of what I was thinking then, and it always strikes me how I can be experiencing one thing while another person is experiencing something so polar opposite, and I am in awe at how the universe operates. It is mind-boggling how joy in one’s life can co-occur with incredible suffering and excruciating pain in another’s. My heart goes out to this man I know nothing of, save some brief references in a documentary about his mother. Still. I grieve his pain. I know how it feels to experience abuse at the hands of a parent, and it is the most damaging experience. It can steal one’s very life. Thankfully I am still alive, still fighting, and it appears so is Michael. I am so very thankful for that. We are united in the fight to overcome. There is great satisfaction in continuing to choose life – there is much hope in that. But hope is not a guarantee. There are no guarantees. We Persevere. As best we are able.

Perhaps I will soon be done with this compulsion to seek out stories of the experiences of others in the realm of spiritual abuse in order to affirm my own experiences. I certainly hope so. I know now, beyond a doubt, what happened to me was pre-meditated, intentional, and purposeful. I know I was groomed and preyed upon in the most horrendous way. Not only by the Baptist Church, but by my father, with the full support of his entire family. And, most horrendously, with my mother’s full complicity. I must live with that. I must make peace with that. Oh, what a struggle that is. I struggle day by day, minute by minute, to make sense of it. And yet I know I’m trying to make sense of something that makes no sense. Will I overcome it? Or will the pain of all of it overtake me? I don’t know. Yet. I pray not. But there are no guarantees.

So many of the people who perpetrated these abuses on me, and countless others, are now dead and gone. And that’s a great consolation. I’m not ashamed to admit that. It’s healing and cathartic to admit that. But how does the demise of my abusers offset the ongoing abuse innocents experience at the hands of evangelical organizations? And even more personally devastating, the abuse people experience in their own evangelical families? It doesn’t. Perhaps me putting my story out makes a difference. I know it makes a difference to me. An incredible difference. And maybe that’s all that matters. I haven’t the power to save anyone but me.

I Persevere. And life goes on.

*Please listen to Michael Black’s most recent song. I, too, changed my name to escape trauma. Not to escape, but to heal.



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