The term “gaslighting” is one that people are not too familiar with, but many practice in their everyday lives. When gaslighting an individual, manipulation is used by another in order to undermine their sense of reality. This can be seen in phrases such as, “You are too sensitive!” or even, “Stop taking everything so seriously.” These phrases, along with many more, can be categorized as gaslighting because they are invalidating the individual’s feelings and creating an environment where they do not feel safe sharing their experiences with others.
A subtype of gaslighting that is often used by evangelical Christians is known as spiritual gaslighting. Spiritual gaslighting is when someone invalidates a person’s personal experience by taking scripture, usually out of context, and applying it to their hardship. An example of this could be a person confessing feelings or symptoms of depression to a fellow Christian and their response being, “Well, have you read Jeremiah 29:11?”
While this scripture is helpful and encouraging, many individuals within the Christian community will leave the conversation with no further support, no further discussion and no further help. This type of bypassing has left many feeling as though the Christian community is not a place in which they belong — a community of Christains that is seen as lacking a sense of real love, empathy and the basic understanding that all people are unconditionally God’s people.
After the murder of George Floyd, the Black community and allies across the nation took to the streets in protest of the injustice that occurred on May 25, 2020. These forms of protests were met with retaliation from all types of religious communities and political parties. Many individuals from these communities logged onto Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to silence members of the Black community, providing scripture to invalidate their feelings and experiences with racism.
Spiritual gaslighting continues in the form of phrases such as “All Lives Matter,” a belief that all things must be shared in passive love and mindsets rooted in the idea that this world is not our home so there is nothing we can or should do about the evil going on inside of it.
This year has been about growth. It has been filled with moments where we were forced to sit face-to-face with our personal struggles. It has given us opportunities to amplify the voices of the oppressed and has allowed space for those very voices to rest from persecution and stand up for what is right. This has been a year that should have provided grace and mercy for the Black community, and yet they were met with the opposite from many of those who claim Jesus as their king. I encourage those who have made it this far in my article to be like Christ and stand up against those who persecute your neighbors. Be like Christ and stop the bullying, stop the oppression and stop the gaslighting.