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When To Counsel, When To Refer
Using Religion InappropriatelyPeople whose religious history shows little or no previous connection with a faith group or a relationship to God suddenly may turn to a pastor for help. They may believe that religion is their last chance to find a way to control a situation that is building to a crisis level. They may have found no other coping mechanism. They turn to a pastor to help them make a deal with God to solve all their problems.
They want the pastor and God solving their problems quickly with as little effort on their own part as possible. People who display this behavior are using religion as a manipulative tool. They will take a passive role and expect the pastor and God to take the active role. They will attempt to have the pastor, and through the pastor, God, assume responsibility for eradicating any problems. It may become quite clear that some of these problems can be dealt with by resources in the community, such as a support group, social service agency or a mental health professional. However, people in this situation will refuse to accept a referral to these resources because the person only wants to work with someone who is a pastor who will intercede on his/her behalf with God. They may attempt to bargain with the pastor. They may agree to keep appointments with a therapist or attend a program if the pastor will take responsibility to ameliorate differences with family and friends. In exchange for the pastor's help the person may promise to be in church every Sunday, or become more active in the congregation, or tithe on a regular basis, etc. Usually the interest in religion evaporates quickly if the pastor does not respond in ways that vindicate or rescue the person or if the real issues are dealt with and clarified through professional counseling (Weisinger, 1991, 31-32).
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