Journey Story

Damages: The Effects Of Spiritual Abuse

by Melissa Grimes

Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide and self-harm

There is so much blood on the hands of Christians. From the Crusades to the modern anti-gay laws of Uganda, we are drenched in a legacy of blood. Perhaps it is fitting.

After all, Christianity was born out of blood spilled on the cross.

I had heard all the sermons. I had tried earnestly to pray away the gay. I can’t count the nights I laid awake praying I would wake up straight. I thought couldn’t be this way. I thought it was wrong.

For years, I fought the truth with every bit of strength I could muster. I struggled with depression. I even spent hours planning my own death, because I believed it would be better to die a good Christian girl than to live as a gay person.

From the outside, it appeared I had it all together. I was active in my church youth group. I helped run sound for every service. I played whatever instrument they wanted, and I pretty much helped wherever I was needed.

No one had a clue I was struggling, and I didn’t have anyone I could confide in.

I had tested the waters a bit by dropping hints to someone I trusted, only to be shut down when I was told how disgusting and sinful “those people” were. So with a God I thought hated me and friends who would find me disgusting, I felt I had nowhere to turn.

I was 16 the first time I began to harm myself. Soon, self-injury became my unhealthy coping mechanism—a painful way to survive for the next three years.

I had swallowed the “being gay is an abomination” ideology without a second thought. It wasn’t until several years later when I began to do my own research on the subject that I realized how far off the mark that idea was. But it certainly had an effect on me.

I can’t help but wonder how much damage that type of ideology has done to people all over the world.

In some cases, the results are clear. In others, it’s not so easy to discern.

In 2013, Ugandan lawmakers passed an anti-gay bill that sets a penalty of life in prison for anyone who is convicted of homosexuality. It was officially signed into law this February. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, yet this particular law imposes harsher penalties. Previously, lawmakers tried to pass what was dubbed the “kill the gays” bill that would impose the death penalty for those convicted of homosexuality.

This anti-gay culture in Uganda has been fueled by American evangelical preachers who have traveled there to preach their brand of hatred. The same has been done in Russia, where they have fueled hatred in an effort to solve what they saw as the degradation of good morals and values.

As a result, anti-gay legislation was drafted and passed, with protesters are now being beaten and murdered in the streets.

These evangelical preachers took a culture where being gay was not accepted, and turned it into a culture where being gay was grounds for being put to death, whether through the legal system or simply murdered in the streets.

In the U.S. and most of the world, the results of this type of hatred are more subtle. We see the results in many gay kids who attempt suicide. We see it in the eyes of the survivors of reparative therapy, who often struggle with the damage that was done to them for years.

Then there are those we don’t see, like the adults who are too afraid and hurt to ever return to the church. It’s in the teenagers who struggle through depression and self-hatred, induced by a warped ideology. It’s in the scars that remain hidden from the world out of shame.

It’s in the very scars I hide.

We may never know the extent of the damage we, as Christians, have done in the name of God. We sit back and judge others, claiming what a mess the devil is making of the world. When the truth is, it is our mess. We make it each time we drive a wedge between us and any group that doesn’t meet our standards. We drive wedges between God and those who don’t fit into the box that we’ve created. What a mess we make when we start thinking that we speak for God.

I cringe every time I hear a pastor, or any Christian, comparing gays to rapists and pedophiles. I cringe when they take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah out of context. I cringe ever time I hear the words abomination spoken in a sermon. I cringe, not because they disagree with my beliefs—they have their right to do so. I cringe because I can’t help but wonder how much damage is being done with each word they speak.

How many kids sitting in that congregation are internalizing that homophobia, just like I did?

Telling my story is not only uncomfortable—it’s downright terrifying. I never wanted to be someone in the spotlight. I like to stay in my comfortable little box, safe and secure. But I cannot sit by and watch as hatred is taught in the name of God.

The God I know is a God of love, not hatred. So I wonder if He cringes too.

As a Christian, I will stand and be a voice for those who continue to suffer in silence. I will speak. Because in the words of my favorite poet Andrea Gibson, “…God knows the holy have done more damage to this world than the devil ever could.”

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386.

Photo via flickr user Jeremy Sorrells

Comments (11)


This hits so so very close to
This hits so so very close to home… I, too have been one of those souls damaged by the so called “love” of many Christians who fail to understand the word of God. I know whatever effect I have will be small but I will never stop trying to heal the broken hearts and educate the misguided minds of those who have been lied to in the name of my loving God

Karla Davis

It took a lot of courage for
It took a lot of courage for you to write this. It helps me to put it on my facebook to show people how much damage is being done to people when they slap people over the head with the Scriptures. It has only been a little over a year that I started to understand a little bit of what has been happening in my life. My first education was the movie, “Prayers for Bobby”. Thanks be to God that I was able to understand what people have gone through because of reading the scriptures with blinders on.

Ronald Hewitt

Somewhat my own story
Somewhat my own story

Heather Lee

You said it so well and told
You said it so well and told the story that so many of us have suffered. There’s really nothing I can add except “thank you so much for being a voice of sanity and love in a sea of disdain, judgment and hatred. Hugs <3 "

Howard V. Morales

The gay community needs to
The gay community needs to “unpreach” to the four corners of creation the false word of God that was falsely tranlated from its original Hebrew and Greek and, consequentely, falsely interpreted to give it a homophobic spin that does NOT exist in the original language texts.

Search for Rabbi Gershon Caudill web page on the Hebrew Bible and Homosexuality. He knows how to read, write and speak biblical Hebrew something the false prophets of such fake religions as the Westboro Baptist Church and others of the same litter do not know.

Ironic, that in Israel, where the Bible orginated, there are laws to protect the civil and human rights of the native gay community.

Brittany G.

So much of this is my story.
So much of this is my story. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Kathy Tortoreo

Thank you for your insights,
Thank you for your insights, your words, the time you took to care. Thank you for reaching out to those people who are terrified, and don’t even know there are people, like you, who have walked the walk.
God blesses you. I’m sure of it.

Frances Duvall

My cousin rejected my
My cousin rejected my Christmas card a couple of years ago because she knows that I disagree with her. I am straight, but I have gay friends, and the church I go to is welcoming to the LGBT community. She has been brainwashed by the kind of ministers that the article mentions. According to her, the devil has infiltrated the divinity schools, and that is why they are liberal. And course, we are going to be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. She has to be miserable considering the progress our country is making in accepting same sex marriages, etc. As we say in the South, “Bless her heart!


Great post. I’m experiencing
Great post. I’m experiencing some of these issues as well..

Lee Robida

What a well written subject
What a well written subject to speak about. I too can relate to the HATE SPEECH and all the NEGATIVE WORDS spoken by many a priest and folks that never once tried to open their minds and hearts to what we were all going through as a gay kid. I CRINGE at the names mentioned here, American Evangelical preachers in Uganda, Brainwashing the people to not only to HATE their fellow citizens that are LGBT but to MURDER them with the backing of the Courts and Government. The name of Putin, President of Russia who stands with old religious leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church to say its ok to lure a LGBT person to a meeting place and to later TOURTURE that person and abuse and cause serious mental & physical harm to them as a person, and the police in Russia turn a blind eye to this GAY BASHING, all in the name of Religion and Putin. The last line in this story is SO VERY TRUE. To so called Religious folks that have used the LGBT community and our youth to ONLY stand at a pulpit on Sunday, and PREACH YOUR HATE, just so you can get more money in your collection baskets, I say to you… There is a very special hell for you. I refuse to accept your hate and beliefs, and will stand up to you any day, any where, any time .


..and you’ve hit the nail on
..and you’ve hit the nail on the head why I despise religion….being raised evangelical made me rebel against all of this

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