"Seattle--Chinese Southern Baptist Cross" by Joe Mabel / CC BY-SA 3.0

Giving victims of religious trauma a voice

Jan 31, 2020

By Chrissy Stroop

On Jan. 8, Cindy Wang Brandt, a podcaster and author of “Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness,” tweeted: “Do not evangelize a child. Do not colonize a child’s spirituality. Do not threaten a child with religious control. Your religion does not have a right to stake claim to a child’s allegiance.”

Predictably, her tweet sparked outrage from (mostly right-wing and mostly white) Christians, while many people who, like me, grew up in what scholars call “high-demand” or “high-control” forms of Christianity, cheered Brandt for courageously defending moral autonomy.

Along the way they told their own stories of the cost of being evangelized as kids. Twitter user @Nick0j0m replied to Brandt, “Yeah my fear of hell and the devil directly influenced a lot of the mental health problems I battle today. It might not be the same for everyone, but I truly would have rather grown up in an atheist family.”

Another user, @JennHolton, replied, “As a kid, Church wanted me to evangelize and did that whole ‘if you don’t do it, they’re going to Hell’ thing. It was worse with my social anxiety — I felt like every time that I didn’t witness, it was directly my fault that they would go to Hell. So there was extra anxiety.”

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