Update—Jan. 28, 2023:
This video says everything I wanted to say and more.
Video: “Worshipping narcissists” by QualiaSoup and TheraminTrees.
/end of update
Here are some beliefs I used to have about God (as a child raised Christian) and my partner (as a woman in an abusive relationship).
1. He sets the terms.
You’re entitled to your opinion. He’s entitled to be the voice of reason and authority.
For example, if he says he loves you, he loves you. That’s what “love” means.
(If you say you love him but you also disobey his express wishes, you don’t really love him.)
2. Nothing bad is ever his fault.
If it seems like he did something bad, it must be a misunderstanding, or not that bad, or something you brought upon yourself, or secretly good for you.
Or it was bad and he’s sorry that it happened. (He still takes no responsibility. When it happens again, start the excuse cycle from “It was a misunderstanding.”)
3. Even though you both agree you’re free to leave, the thought of it fills you with dread.
Leaving him would be hard-to-impossible logistically, financially, and socially. And you don’t even want to live without him. (You’re afraid to be alone.) It’s easier not to think about it.
4. On some level, you feel that you belong to him.
Not with him—to him. He pursued, you accepted, and now you’re tied to him, permanently.
5. He tells you what to do with your life.
If you do what he says, you’re being a good partner and a responsible grown-up. If you do what you want (against his wishes), you’re “immature” or “confused.”
He knows what’s best for you; he’s the father-husband, you’re the child-wife. Totally normal and not creepy/controlling/a gross abuse of power at all.
6. He sometimes gets extremely angry—and then he gets scary.
Since it’s sometimes “your fault” that he gets angry, you’d better “try harder” to improve yourself.
7. He thinks it’s okay to spank children, and you sort of agree.
Not all Christians spank children, but many do. The concept of “you transgressed, therefore you deserve physical punishment” is built into the Christian worldview.
(God sends his children to Hell, or has one in particular—Jesus—crucified, as punishment for sins.)
As Michael Pearl, a Christian advocate of corporal punishment, said: “If corporal chastisement wisely applied is ungodly, then God himself is ungodly.”
8. He’s willing to let children and animals suffer just to teach you a lesson.
9. You trust him to tell you what to think about him.
Some people think he sounds morally repugnant, but they don’t know him the way you do. When he’s there for you, it feels wonderful, and you would do anything to keep that feeling.
10. He’s a martyr, endlessly sacrificing for you.
All he asks is a little gratitude (/eternal devotion).
11. The more you give, the more you’ll get—someday.
An imaginary future/afterlife is the only thing that could make this misery worth enduring. So the worse things get, the harder you cling to this delusion.
 Pearl gets at the heart of the matter when he says:
“It is not really spanking that is the issue with [people who oppose spanking]. Rather [they are against] a worldview based on absolutes, a Lawgiver, and a system of accountability. Their definition of Gentle Parenting and the God of the Holy Bible are not compatible.”
(From “Gentle Parenting: Part 1,” nogreaterjoy.org/articles/gentle-parenting-part-1/.)
Exactly. We’re opposed to the idea of a God/parent/partner who treats his family members as possessions, and his children as extensions of himself.
A non-abusive person knows “the only justification for violence is self-defense” and “self-defense means doing the minimum necessary to protect yourself” (from Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft).
If you’re a child in this situation, I recommend this post by Captain Awkward, Question #169: My dad hit me:
“Abusers don’t necessarily wake up in the morning and say ‘I want to destroy my family’s sense of safety and worth.’ They see themselves as beleaguered heroes. ‘Things would be fine if you would just do everything I tell you to do and completely anticipate my moods. You know how I get when you’re like that.’”
For parents, I recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, which is firmly against all punishment:
“Physical punishment by parents does not inhibit violence and most likely encourages it. [It] both frustrates the child and gives him a model to imitate and learn from.”
Read the book—it’s excellent—for alternatives to punishment.
And please know that children deserve as much protection from assault as everyone else.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal or physical punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. […] Far from teaching children to behave well, [corporal punishment] teaches them that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict. […] The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child regards the elimination of violent and humiliating punishment of children—through law reform and other necessary measures—as an immediate and unqualified obligation of States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
(Source: UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, or SRSGVAC; emphasis added.)
It is shameful that Canada, England, and the US—all of which are parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—still let parents spank children. Let’s hope we join the rest of the civilized world soon and end this barbaric practice.