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When religion causes pain

Toxic faith or when religion becomes poisonous is causing havoc in the home, community and the church. Toxic faith or poisonous religion freezes people in a state of legalism, rigidity, and oftentimes aloofness. When religion should be bringing us closer with a spirit of kindness and compassion, far too many religious leaders are actually creating members who are judgmental, harsh, and self-righteous. The concepts of understanding, tolerance, and sensitivity have lost their importance in many religious houses.

There are many erroneous theological teachings that have mushroomed in our churches that are really a corruption of teachings we’ve held for centuries. For example, spiritual leaders are demanding that God answer a particular prayer. They make statements like “I declare in the name of Jesus that you are healed.” We have no power to declare anything. That concept is toxic and leads many committed believers into depression, severe doubt and feelings of rejection. Trusting God to do what is best for us has become hard for many believers. Instead, they are demanding from God. They are being taught that if there is any questioning about doubting, then there is no faith in God.

Some churches have developed rituals that have no scriptural base and really make no sense. For example, they lock doors when praying or preaching. The leaders make the congregants feel that this is what God said, or the only way to demonstrate true faith.

This kind of teaching is leading people to cease taking much-needed medication or medical treatments for diseases. They are being taught that taking medication or doing chemotherapy is a sign of lack of faith in Jesus. The truth is this a very poisonous teaching. It is doing more damage to the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of people than the effect of a glass of wine.

I have noticed that it seems easier to start a new church than to start a new business. We have many more churches, but not as much loving and caring. It is as though, as the number of churches increase, so does the crime along with partner and child abuse.

Two things about toxic from the book “Toxic Faith” that are worth sharing: They are, erroneous beliefs that can fuel toxic faith — and 10 rules of a toxic faith system. Feel free them to discuss in your church or home.

Toxic belief

The following are the erroneous beliefs that can fuel toxic faith: When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it. If you had real faith, God would heal you or the one you are praying for; material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength. The more money you give to God, the more money he will give to you. I can work my way to heaven. Problems in your life result from some particular sin. I must not stop meetings other’s needs. I must always submit to authority. God only uses spiritual giants. Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until he does. If it’s not in the Bible, it isn’t relevant (all truth is in the Bible). God will find me a perfect mate. Everything that happens to me is good. A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain. God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me. More than anything else, God wants me to be happy (free from pain).

Now you can argue these points in your groups. Some may say there is some truth to each one of these points. Is that really true?

The 10 rules of a toxic faith system: The leader must be in control of every aspect at all times. When problems arise, find a guilty party to blame immediately. Don’t make mistakes. Never point out the reality of a situation. Never express your feelings unless they are positive. Don’t ask questions, especially if they are tough ones. Don’t do anything outside your role. Don’t trust anyone. Nothing is more important than giving money to the organization. At all costs, keep up the image of the organization or the family.

There are really toxic beliefs and practices. Some pastors actually teach that it is more important to “plant a seed” with your money even when your lights are off and there is nothing good in the cupboard. This is toxic faith

Here are three beliefs that I believe are truly balanced and are a part of the faith that I belong to. These are from a document entitled “A Statements on Biblical Spirituality” by Andrews University Theological Seminary.

I do believe that healing power continues to be manifested through the name of Jesus Christ today, but also through proper lifestyle, physicians, ministers and mental health professionals as well as human families as they express God’s love to one another. I do not believe that all study of the Word of God, all prayer, and all behaviors of service and devotion are performed under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Sinful humanity has the ability outwardly to do some of these good things, but for the wrong motives or sometimes in a routine fashion devoid of meaning. It is easy for the un-renewed human mind to become blinded by human learning and service and not be actuated by the Spirit. I do not believe that spiritual practices earn us any increased standing with God. Our salvation is through the sacrifice of Christ alone, by his grace accepted through faith. — Eph 2:8-10.


  • Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit: or call 242-327-1980.


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