A most relevant and prevalent influence in our lives is an unseen denominator, social legitimacy. For the most part there is an unspoken force, a standard status quo released and agreed upon as society ebbs and flows within its mean of equilibrium. Should a person adjust their lifestyle and speech they are welcomed in and given acceptance for conforming to the status quo. However, should they develop their individual design and freely pursue their expression, they are very often marked as either strange or rebels and become targets of shunning by the socially accepted group. This is sadly no different amongst God’s people. Yet the Bible records the history of many men and women who identified their gifts, calling and individuality and their example has been celebrated for centuries. However, in their lifetimes many of them were considered extremist and were labeled and feared by their social peers. Today, more than ever, there is not only pressure to conform to spiritual institutional religious standards but there is a blatant push to abandon any part of you that remains unique. Being different is not cool but if you ‘fit in’ you will be accepted and socially legitimate.
Modern Christendom is highly influenced by social media and one does not need to look far to see the celebrity speakers, ministry cruise ships, rock star concerts and mega-star athletes made available and marketed to draw in those with gaping legitimacy needs. The typical church structure (local and institutional) is simply not able to grow Jesus followers up into a healthy reproducing body simply because it is built upon a heretical government structure. Both spiritual and social governing are intertwined with worldly values and standards. The masses have conformed to those who have diluted God’s ethics and morals until all but a handful of higher essence governors/preachers have set forth their own agenda. Conforming to the religious pressure is the trade off for belongingness to a group. When the vulnerable individual socially pledges allegiance through public association to that group, their consent gives authority for that group to decide what the acceptable standards will be. This is the regular pattern of what is required for social acceptance. Dysfunctional families also flow in this from generation to generation with precision, trolling for the weak and vulnerable ones. The demand to abandon and cut off all familiar people who advocate for individuality or who refuse to pay homage to that group is powerful. These systems operate in an unspoken format and it is a social taboo to discuss, all conforming members must cut off anyone who refuses to be silent about it. At Back to Eden Group we refer to this as ‘the family cult’. Both the dysfunctional family and the modern day church function in this religious, dictatorial fashion. Nevertheless, they continue to thrive because people choose their fantasy, denying their conscience. Denial is their addiction.
Living and teaching contrary to Jesus lifestyle, the Christian leaders of today are no less guilty than their predecessors as they present this false value system as if it were God’s perfect blueprint. Most of us know all too well the demands expected from their ‘followers’ and they model that in order to find favor with them you must sell your soul in total allegiance to their script. Those who ‘rebel’ against the hailed holy rulers of the church or family leaders and do not comply are shunned. However, those that conform increase in favour. Similarly, in a family the previous generation will often yield their approval to one person in the next generation. We might say they crown them with family authority. In both scenarios, once the yielding is set in motion all members must give homage or be shunned. There is however those valiant few amongst these regimes who rise out of the sludge. They are those who follow Jesus’ example of severing the human concept of social acceptance from legitimacy with God.
A fellow Jesus follower passed on the following testimony to me. This person lived decades of her life deeply entrenched and serving with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It concerns the treatment that is given to those within the JW community who resist conforming to the group’s belief system and are considered apostate. She shares it because it is the most accurate description that she has come across so far to describe the depth of pain felt on an almost daily basis. Almost every night she dreams about her family when her subconscious kicks in. This relational shunning that has been pinned on the JW’s for years could be printed in any basic Protestant/Catholic church manual of social, ethical and relational rules of protocol. Though the average Christian will never see such a manual, it is also the same dynamic that flourishes in many blood families, unspoken but as real as the air we breathe. There is a mutually agreed upon set of values and standards and each member is given their function, role and value by the group. Should you refuse this alien birthright/persona you are punished, betrayed and shunned until you comply. And make no mistake; there is ALWAYS an agreed hierarchy in every group dynamic.
Anyone who is currently being shunned by their family/community (no matter how long ago they were first shunned) is a current victim of ongoing abuse and psychological torture.
I have been thinking about the effects that being shunned by family/community has had on my life and recently had to answer a question on a form about suffering the effects of long-term abuse. I have come to believe that shunning is not a one-time thing that happens once and you just move on. I did at one time think that this was the case and expected to be able to move on with my life. However, after 15 years of disconnection and missing out on every conceivable form of familial association, love, support, good times and bad times and all that those teach us about how to grow as a human being, I now feel differently.
Shunning is a silent and insidious form of psychological torture. It is nearly impossible to describe unless you have felt it yourself. It eats away at your insides in a way that can be invisible even to ones self. And it is an ongoing thing. It happens every day. Every day I get up and I don’t have my family, it is a day that I am being subjected to abuse. Even if my day rolls on the same as yesterday, even if nobody is yelling at me or breaking my bones, or whatever. Every day my family chooses to maintain their silence and their distance and that means every day they choose to hurt me.
I think it is supremely important to acknowledge that the suffering each day is real. It has a source. It is not some internal personality flaw one has. It is a very real strategy with aims and rules. It is a strategy designed specifically to hurt you in the most deep and abiding way. It is a strategy to make you believe that you are completely unlovable and always will be.
It strangles you from within your own mind. If you don’t stop to acknowledge that you are an ongoing victim of a campaign of psychological torture you end up believing that you are the broken one, the unlovable one, instead of the innocent victim of a vicious group bent on controlling its members through fear of experiencing what we are going through, on coercing through pain those who have “strayed” and on punishing those who stray away.
Please, all of us, try to remember this every day…You are NOT crazy, you are NOT unlovable, you are NOT broken … you are being DELIBERATELY tortured.
The above testimony is quite common to many of us whom dare to live out our God given design of intensity and passion to God’s beautiful diversity. God has created every single human being in His likeness and yet very person who ever walked or will grace our planet is extremely individual. How wonderful!!! Further, He gave many gifts to people and instilled within our design the ability to grow and discover our incredible potential. Why then do God’s people align and willfully participate with social pressure to empower cloning through emotional manipulation?
To comply with shunning means to obey silently with no questions asked, toe the line and drink the Kool-Aid of the biggest lie that has permeated Christendom. That is if one wants to belong to ‘God’s people’ and be accepted and find social legitimacy in life one must yield their soul to the religious social standards of the present day institutional church. This falsehood that is being practiced amongst hierarchical assemblies is the same blueprint of domination used in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials and racial discrimination, to name a few. Those that do not comply with this falsehood are shunned and socially murdered as though they were a foreign invading virus.
If we claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth, we must study and then discern the foundation of our faith and act upon the teachings that He modeled for us. To fully know Him, we must travel beyond His role as Messiah and understand his function and purpose within 2nd Temple Judaism. Jesus fulfilled the law of which we are no longer held into bondage. He completed ALL requirements and traditions of the temple including the need of any further high priest for He ALONE is our high priest who made us socially accepted forever. We can see that even the apostles struggled with letting go of their hopes and dreams as they longed for a ‘Christian’ version of the temple to be raised up again and return to their concept of social legitimacy. The Holy Spirit had to literally shake them up to action by releasing persecution upon them as they sat mourning in Jerusalem, waiting for their preconceived idolatrous structure to be restored. Simply put, they were being provoked by Paul, who was obeying Jesus’ command and was already moving in a completely different paradigm with the socially unacceptable Gentiles. Like them, we all face the choice to get up, speak up and live up to Jesus’ standard of conduct, passion and purpose by accepting His mission. Consequently, once we embrace His mission of social legitimacy, we are then compelled to live it out in every environment we find ourselves in.
(We will develop this conclusion further in part 2 of this post).
Katherine and John Matthews