My name is Daniel Venie, and it was MY cult life, too.
I’ve been a christian for thirteen years here in Wasilla, AK. During those years I’ve done just about everything a good christian should do. I’ve done missionary work in China and went through two years of ministry school training, as well as becoming heavily involved in my local church. Through that ministry school I received a License to Preach with the Assemblies of God denomination, although I decided last year to let my credentials lapse so I am no longer affiliated with the A/G. I’ve also worked extensively at a church where I live. For about six years I served as the Assistant Youth Pastor at that church. From there my wife and I had a desire to be more involved in worship so I added that to my repertoire. After a few years of serving in both ministries my wife and I decided to pursue worship ministry as our sole focus and served as my church’s main worship leaders for the last two or three years we were there.
Currently I still live in Wasilla with my wife and two kids. We stopped attending church and have not been in well over a year now. I enjoy being a husband and father and most importantly, having a life. I also play video games instead of reading my bible. I have a deep love for people and enjoy seeing others set free to live life as God intended it.
So I’ve been reading and commenting on a few of the posts on this website for the last
several weeks. I, like many others, have found it to be very eye opening to the spiritual
abuse that takes place in these Master’s Commission programs which have become a
staple program for most healthy and “cutting edge” churches to have.
It’s opened my eyes up to the reality and severity of the problem as well as it’s depth.
It goes well beyond the borders of MC programs and takes place in churches across the nation. While I attended a
young adult ministry training program, which was modeled after an MC program but not
affiliated, I didn’t experience much spiritual abuse until after I had graduated and moved
into full time ministry at my church. I’ll save the telling of that personal story for another
article so for now, this will have to suffice. One of the things that surprised me when I
first found this blog was how easily I could relate to what Lisa had experienced, along
with many others who have commented and testified of their own experiences of being
spiritually abused. For me it has really blown the door wide open on all the shit that my
wife and I experienced and caused me to face a lot of hard and difficult truths. So I have
decided that I can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore or make excuses for those
who manipulate and abuse others for their own gain.
I left my church over a year ago now and haven’t been attending anywhere since then.
After leaving I’ve had many talks and meetings with people that I was close with. These
weren’t strangers or casual acquaintances but people that I have known for years and done
lots of ministry along side of. People I trusted my own children with and vice versa.
Usually these meetings would be about how much they miss us and how badly they want
us to come back; and they would say it in the most sincere and genuine way possible. I
then would explain to them why I could never come back and be apart of the church
again, the main reason being because of how much the pastors controlled peoples lives.
What is sad to me is how often these people agreed with what I shared in regards to the
spiritual abuse we experienced. As I’m talking they will nod their heads as if they really
understood and knew what I was talking about. They would even share stories of how
they too have been hurt and abused by the church.
Without fail they then will take an about face and begin to make excuses for those doing the abusing.
To go from agreeing with me to excusing the spiritual abuse doesn’t even compute in my mind!
The excuses I have heard range from: “Their intentions are not to hurt you Daniel or even
to control you,” or “They don’t realize how their actions are affecting people,” or “They
just don’t know any better.” I can’t think of a more offensive response to my pain. First of
all, by excusing the pastor’s behavior they are instantly disqualifying what I experienced,
things they supposedly understood and even agreed with. Second of all, if these people
were really my friends, why are they not standing up for me? And most importantly they
are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what their own heart is telling them
about their current situation!
I’ve often asked myself if I was justified in how upset and angry I am at what my wife
and I experienced at our church.
What if they really didn’t know any better?
What if it all was some big mistake or misunderstanding on their part?
Shouldn’t I give them the benefit of doubt?
Shouldn’t I too excuse their behavior?
The answer that I have come to is no. For years while I was involved in ministry I made excuses.
I ignored my own heart and feelings and hoped for the best. I’d tell myself over and over that they just don’t know
any better or that this is how it is and I have to accept it. The truth is that it isn’t how it’s
supposed to be, it isn’t okay, and most importantly it is not something you can excuse away.
Whether someones intentions are to NOT hurt and control people is besides the point. If a
person accidentally kills another person they are still held responsible. It’s called
involuntary manslaughter and doesn’t change the fact that someones life was destroyed.
The truth is that there are thousands of people every day that are being torn to pieces by
spiritual abuse. It is a HUGE problem in churches and Masters Commission programs
around the nation. I can no longer pretend that nothing bad happened to me. It’s got to
stop and for me, it stops right here. I will never excuse away spiritual abuse, or cover it
up, or be silenced for fear of speaking against the supposed men of God. My own heart
compels me to speak up, and that I can no longer ignore.
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