Wednesday, October 19, 2011

For Moses Model Churches

For those wondering about Moses Model churches, in particular Calvary Chapel churches, this site, Calvary Chapel Abuse, takes a look at the problem of the Moses Model structure and the fallout from it. It also questions the practices of leadership in the Calvary Chapel movement, and focuses on one church and pastor in particular, the blog author's stepfather, in one particular California church. Of special interest to Provender is the comments section, in which members from many Moses Model churches weigh in on similar patterns of abuse.

One astute commenter says this: It seemed to us the CC organization would want to know about one of their own that was causing harm to many people. I eventually found that not to be the case when it came to my attention on PP blog that my story was not unusual within CC. I read account after account of much the same thing that had happened to others … sounded like it was the same pastor … yet we were all over the country … or even other countries … in small & large CCs. So often it seemed like people were talking about the same pastor yet that was not the case. Each with stories of the harm unchecked power can cause. 

It "sounded like it was the same pastor." This is telling. When you study spiritual abuse, you see that the same authoritarian and manipulative behaviors occur over and over. The same author. The same signature. To actually read the accounts can help you if you are going through a spiritually abusive situation. Sometimes you can even predict the next step because it's happened all before with someone else. Very eye-opening.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Religious Cults Info

This blog focuses on aledged spiritually abusive practices of Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina, but includes links to other spiritually abusive situations as well. Author John Huddle includes helpful tips, news sites and decent links to spiritual abuse resources -- as well as personal observations and stories of abuse from the WOFF.

One post that clearly demonstrates the interference in personal lives exercised by this group is called AM I WRONG? PLEASE LET ME KNOW later linked and called The Toilet Paper Revelation. It describes a situation in which his pastor announces that God has shown her the correct way to handle toilet paper.
Really.
It describes the way members tried to comply with correct toilet paper usage. An excerpt from the post:
The fallout from this service was amazing. True to form, children began to scrutinize the paper habits of those in their household! There were self-appointed “TP Police”. Some were more vocal than others. Do you know the thoughts that one would have when you finished and had to make to the choice, fold or not fold? Or if it was your turn to change the roll, over or under? The pressure to be on the right side of this revelation was VERY GREAT! Because many households had more than one family, bathroom habits were visible by more than your immediate family members. 

If you are trying to demonstrate to someone the controlling nature of spiritually abusive groups, this site is a must.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The agony of seeing spiritual abuse for what it is

On a forum post, a Harold Camping follower rides the spiritual roller coaster so many spiritual abuse victims find themselves on: defending their abusive leader and then condemning him, back and forth, trying to make sense of what's happened to him. By looking at his post as he tries to come to grips with the spiritual disillusionment so often left behind in such abusive situations, you can see how the mind works when a victim confronts the unwanted information that a leader is flawed, dangerous and hurtful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Covering your Pastor's Nakedness

In Predators in the Pulpit, Chris Efinda, on the Bereans blog, talks about the doctrine of covering your father's nakedness. In spiritually abusive groups, sins of the father are routinely covered up by the "sons," the enablers of abuse.
Efinda says that it becomes a spiritual test, "When a spiritual son happens to witness his dad in a sinful act, he needs to treat the incident as a divine test of his own loyalty and must promptly cover dad’s nakedness."
This justifies the perpetuation of abuse in churches and groups and gives a scriptural veneer to the most atrocious acts of the clergy.
 Those who help abusive pastors, then, think they are doing something noble, when in reality they cement in place abusive church leaders.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matthew 18

Provender's links to a cogent treatise on Matthew 18 and spiritual abuse http://communiosanctorum.com/?p=96called Principles, not Procedures have been broken for some time, as the Prophezei site we had linked to disappeared, but I found Kevin D. Johnson's article on a different site and have now restored the link. Johnson raises some interesting issues about the context of Matthew 18 and says this:

It has been noted by more than one that quite likely this passage about going to a brother privately and then taking two or more and then to the church is a process which is primarily concerned with dealing with sin in and among a circle of leadership that you are a part of since our Lord was talking to the would be leaders of the church as he outlined these things. These are the men who are to treat little children with the dignity they deserve granted to them by our Father in heaven, the ones who ought to be going after the one instead of the ninety-nine, and the ones who have received forgiveness at the hands of our Lord and should not forget that same graciousness when dealing with those under their charge who also owe them as well. That is the context of Matthew 18 and we find our Lord’s words about offenses in and among this context.
There is nothing in the passage that says that this is how a layman must approach a pastor or session in confronting sin. Wisdom should tell you that the deck is already stacked against you and to think this is the way to proceed in every case is to go well beyond what the basic outline of Matthew 18 proposes. Nor is there anything here in this 18th chapter as to how a person must confront their leadership at all with sin. It may very well be that the wisest thing to do in that type of situation is to leave as quietly as possible and not utter a word to the leadership or others that you have issues with what they have done. 
There is much more to the article, and it deserves a thorough reading by anyone debating the proper context or usage of that passage. 

New book on Spiritual Abuse

Dr. Barbara Orlowski has written a book on spiritual abuse, and especially healing after the fact. Check out the reviews on Amazon. It looks like a decent resource for those interested in how church government figures into disaffection with churches. Orlowski has looked at many online sources concerning spiritual abuse.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes they see

Jana and Barry Bishop confess to enabling an abusive church leadership and offer an apology to spiritual abuse victims. Barry's post is here. Jana runs the Secret Life of a Bishop's Wife: What you may not see on Sunday blog, an excellent resource for those trying to figure out what goes through the head of those enabling spiritual abuse in churches.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When pastors interfere with a marriage

This article, A Word to the Wives, explores the dangers that happen when a pastor intrudes into the sacred bond of a man and wife. It's found on the Wicked Shepherds site. Originally written with Reformed Baptists in mind, the article would help anyone finding themselves trying to be submissive to church leaders but worried about intrusion into the most personal areas of life.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rick Ross Forums

   Called Cult Education Forums, these boards are for people who are involved, or were previously involved, in abusive churches and cults to discuss their experiences with each other. Forums listed include the following:
Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements;
Abusive and Controllling Relationships;
Coercive Persuasion and Undue Influence;
Destructive Churchs

   Some who are entangled in manipulative groups have found the strength to get out through interactions on forums like these.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kira Love Counseling

Kira Love Counseling Services Kira, a former spiritual abuse victim and now a counselor, will provide counseling sessions, in some cases by telephone.

Kira has a Masters of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Seattle Pacific University, with a focus on individual and couples’ work. She also earned a B.S. in Organizational Behavior at Seattle Pacific University. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), and she is accountable to the ethical codes of both the AACC and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). This information was taken from her site. She also says this:

I counsel individuals, couples and families from a systemic, holistic lens, treating many disorders, issues, and life struggles, with a focus on: ~ complex and/or post traumatic stress disorders ~ childhood neglect and abandonment ~ insecure attachment styles and reparation ~ trauma and abuse (including spiritual/clergy and professional abuse) ~ grief and loss ~ depression and anxiety ~ relationship betrayal and crisis ~ pre-marital ~ drug, alcohol and food addictions ~ life transition and personal growth. You can find more information on her site linked above.

Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel

If you ever wondered why people stay in cults, Shari Howerton’s Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel gives a clear, readable explanation. Her story details a life molded and constricted by the sometimes arbitrary rules of a church that exercised control beyond what most Christians have ever experienced.

Howerton’s story is detailed and gripping. Because she was born into this cultish church, you will not learn much about the way such groups lure people in the first place, but you will see the mechanisms in place for keeping them captive once they belong. The intertwined relationships of family members, elitist doctrines and inculcated fears are clearly depicted.

In reading Breaking the Chains, you see one woman’s struggle to stay obedient, to follow the dictates of leaders, to conform to the expectations of the group while also fighting to maintain her personal identity. You follow the development of her mind and her search for truth and see her finally reach a point where she can break free from the bonds that held her life for decades.

It is sometimes hard to keep different individuals straight, especially toward the end, but it really makes no difference. The image of the church is a monolith and members work together as one to preserve the image at all costs.

Church leaders covered up pedophilia and sexual abuse, exerted pressure on members and their families, controlled through manipulative techniques very personal parts of members' lives and caused much pain and anguish. Members could not see that there was anything wrong with the controlling nature of the church and ostracized those who raised questions.

The role of the Internet in helping Howerton affirm her choice to break free from the group is made clear. Postings on message boards allowed former members to find each other and compare notes, resulting in a sense of wholeness and release. More on the main Provender site.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paranoia and vision-driven churches

From Pajama Pages, this observation about modern "visionary" leaders. A key line: When followers must completely sell out to the leader’s vision, they dare not question it publicly.
Though Pajama Pages is looking specifically at one church, the vocabulary is something cropping up elsewhere and suggests that members of such "visionary" churches be on guard for leadership paranoia and the spiritual abuse that often accompanies it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

When leadership apathy encourages spiritual abuse

I found this link on FBCJAXwatchdog's blog. Pajama pages blog chronicles a horrific series of acts church members did to a Christian college professor critical of church practices. The abuse included sending a fake letter of resignation to his college-employer, interfering with an adoption and posting fake, obscene twitters to smear the member-critic. The leadership did almost nothing to stop the harassment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Newspaper in California covers spiritual abuse

A major newspaper in California covered the issue of spiritual abuse focusing on several families from different churches in the Sacramento area. Though the article did not name the churches, the treatment was decent and the issue was brought out in the open. Light in a dark place.
The paper examined the issue of spiritual abuse in a story titled Some Sacramento-area faithful turn backs on pastors, 'spiritual abuse' published in December 2009. At least 20 pages of comments followed the story, some revealing other incidents of abuse.


Spiritual abuse is a topic that churches neglect and that secular sources often don't care about or understand.

It is a hopeful development for a major media source like the Bee to take notice and investigate this issue. Spiritual abuse devastates families, destroys faith, hurts other churches that are tainted by neighboring church mistreatment and scandal, and leaves a lot of people disillusioned and lost.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Manipulation in Churches

When Geocities folded in October, a very important site on spiritual abuse from Rest Ministries was no longer accessible. Before it disappeared, however, I copied some of the information on the site and saved it. I now have it linked to the Provender site. It's valuable because it describes in vivid detail the way abusive leaders manipulate followers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wicked Shepherds

Wicked Shepherds site deals with spiritual abuse mostly among Reformed Baptist churches. It includes a pretty decent checklist of spiritually abusive traits, though because some of the abuse in this particular church involves pitting spouses against each other, it does include some traits not mentioned in too many other lists. There are good articles on the site, too, such as When should a Christian leave a church? and Calling a spade a spade, an analysis on name-calling and Matthew 23, along with a list of names Jesus called the abusive religious leaders of his time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Loveliness of God Amidst Pain

A Malaysian blog on spiritual abuse, Messy Christian, points out how hard it is on abusees when "friends" who've never experienced spiritual abuse make unhelpful and damaging comments. Also, good insights on how even though a person might be soured on church after experiencing spiritual abuse, they can find a more intimate walk with God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ex-members of church say pastor abused his power

Radiant Life Church
The Sacramento Bee highlights a story about spiritual abuse in California. Members bought houses close together on the same cul-de-sac and lived subservient lives, so that some observers called it a "cult-de-sac. " This guy allegedly raked in thousands and lived quite comfortably while his devotees scrambled to survive. The sad part is how this so burned members that the ones mentioned in the story no longer want anything to do with churches. One member claims he was defrauded of more than two hundred thousand dollars. They talk of the pastor going on Maui vacations and staying in 5-star hotels. Envelopes of cash were handed to the pastor after services. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Silly Women

Here is a video (audio, really) on the subject of "silly women," refering to 2 Tim 3:6, about abusers creeping into houses and bringing into captivity silly women. Most of the audio is a discussion of what constitutes spiritual abuse.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dimly Lit

A post emphasizing the abuses that occur when love is forgotten.

Red Flags

RED FLAGS is a Provender post that explores how some churches devolve into dangerous places. It combines ideas from several spiritual abuse sources listed on Provender to reveal a number of red flags to watch for if your healthy church begins to drift.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Antidotes to Spiritual Abuse

This site offers a nice, clear list of common spiritually abusive statements -- and responses from scripture -- in an easy-to-read format.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spiritually Abusive Vocabulary

Two articles on the language of spiritual abuse. I just discovered this one on the Battered Sheep site called What Language Does your Church Speak? This one includes a whole vocabulary list that really captures the voice of spiritual abusers in churches. Some examples: angry, backslider, bitter spirit, disfellowshiping, a family matter, critical spirit, love gifts, open and transparent, oversight, rebellious heart or spirit, teachable, troublemaker, slander and many others.

The other is a Provender post, A Model of Spiritually Abusive Language, using a letter from a blog as a model. The letter uses many spiritually abusive techniques to shame its recipient, and it's enlightening to look at each method the writer uses to bring down his victim.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Con Artist Pastors

Con Artist Pastors? The Persecutors is a series on the African Bereans blog . It looks at many different aspects of abusive leaders and their helpers. In Part 12 of the series, blogger and minister Chris Efinda explores the covetous abusive leader. Here are some excerpts:

Con artists share these traits:

  • tend to be excellent conversationalists
  • exploit our human weaknesses like greed, dishonesty, vanity, compassion or just a na├»ve expectation of good faith
  • are psychopaths with antisocial personality disorder, or ASP, that begins in early childhood or adolescence.
  • are often witty and articulate. When they get to the pulpits, they can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming, but in relationships they are very controlling, self-serving, and irresponsible.
  • look good on the outside, but an ulterior motive lurks on the inside.
  • see themselves as victims rather than those they hurt.
  • claim a special anointing. They believe they are special and entitled to special behavior; rules that apply to others do not apply to them.
  • display their own brand of logic and an excuse for everything.
  • appear to be very giving, but there is always a price to pay for their attention.
  • can apologize easily, but there is no sign of true repentance.
  • don't feel love or guilt; tend to minimize the pain of those they have hurt.
  • discredit their accusers when they are confronted.
  • cope by making themselves the hero in the worst situations.
  • are clever, and often able to keep from being caught.
  • have extreme shifts in personality, may be kind and sarcastic in the same instant.
  • are very needy, and blame others for not being able to meet their needs.

The purpose of this article is to learn the modus operandi of the con artists in our churches, then to resort to stay very far away from them, avoid them at all costs.

Here are some disturbing patterns that believers will also do good to watch for:

  • Con artists, in the clergy, play with our inner beliefs or ignorance.
  • Con artist pastors focus on mind control. They want to create “dumb sheep”. They specialize in teaching people what to think. They condemn, ridicule, or get rid of those who have an “independent spirit”. They label or use character assassination on those who refuse to go along.
  • Con artists pastors don’t operate alone, they hide behind “shills” or “co-conspirators”. They usually find someone that the members know and respect for his/her integrity to give their message a high level of credibility. By so doing, the credibility of the speaker will dispel any hidden agenda.
  • Con artists pastors ask for trust just because “I am the pastor”. They just adore their titles of “pastors”. Jesus said about them: “They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have people call them Rabbi (Mat 23:7). Most church goers will not question the credibility of a “mfundisi” or pastor.
  • Con artists pastors tend to ignore the evidence by simply discarding the truth as “a devil scheme”.
  • Con artists pastors create a problem, and then pursue (refuse?) to offer a solution. By so doing, chaos, confusion, grief, misery and all the related negative emotions, conditions and circumstances are at play to manipulate people to make choices that under other circumstances they would never consider.
  • Con artists pastors use guilt projection and condemnation to induce “spiritual conversion”.
  • Con artists pastors set up a secret language. They use “hinting” to manipulate people into giving them their resources; they give ambiguous orders so that if anything backfires they could safely deny it, then reject the responsibility and the blame on some one else.
  • Con artists pastors are easily offended. When they are caught in an unethical action, they often feign offence, or become dramatic. This tactic will often put the accuser on the defensive and derail the confrontation.
  • Con artists pastors are capable of the unthinkable to muzzle the truth.“But evil people and phony preachers will go from bad to worse as they mislead people and are themselves misled.” [2Ti 3:13]

When a believer finally discovers that he/she has been victim of a con artist pastor, guilt and shame ensue. But anyone can be a victim, even a person who is considered too intelligent or too spiritual can be conned.

There is a simple way to prevent self from being a victim: “Ask questions, ask the “pastor” to show you his claims in the scripture, then get another opinion and/or search for yourself.”

Any good pastor will welcome reasonable questions or bona fide fact finding, and will not urge anyone to take a quick decision.

Con artist pastors just hate confrontation; they will get rid of you as soon as you become too inquisitive. If you have fallen prey to a con artist pastor, don’t let the guilt and the shame overpower you. Rather run to the cross, plead the blood of Christ, repent and receive His grace, forgive the persecutor to kill any root of bitterness, revoke and cancel any allegiance you pledge with the persecutor and then cast out the devil and his hosts in the name of Jesus Christ.

It might also be useful to seek counseling and deliverance from a reputable ministry or therapist.

The con artists in the clergy are usually "too smart by half." Eventually, their lies catch up with them. They are forced to cover lies with more lies. When it gets to be too much to believe, others begin to feel betrayed, or used.“Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you'll harvest.” [Gal 6:7]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If you don't like it, why don't you just leave?

Why don't you just leave? This question comes to anyone confronting spiritual abuse in their group. In this case, the question is handled by a group of former Sovereign Grace Ministry members on SGM Survivors blog. The answers, though tailored to that one group, are useful for others as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are you enabling an abusive church leader?

Is one of your main roles in the church acting as a dealer for a narcissistic church leader's ego-feeding needs? Are you inadvertently aiding spiritual abuse in your church when you cover for your pastor or elder? The post, Are You Covering for a Spiritually Abusive Pastor elicits the most visits on Provender, so I thought I'd include a link on the search page.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Video Resources on Spiritual Abuse

These links are to video presentations by Jeff VanVonderen, co-author of the groundbreaking work The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Titles include these: The Abusive Religious System and How We Get Hooked. These videos are hosted on the National Association for Christian Recovery site.

Provender

The regular Provender site includes links to resources on spiritual abuse and cult-like behaviors in churches and groups. It also includes a few original posts on topics that seem noteworthy as well as links to Provender guest posts on other blogs. Provender is always seeking new resources on spiritual abuse and solicits links to good sites.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Abusive, Manipulative Relationships

Covert-aggressive personality is a disorder that could be behind abusive behaviors in some church leaders. Off a link at Under Much Grace blog is this article from a book called In Sheep's Clothing by George Simon, Jr. on tactics of manipulation. The excerpt is on Abusive, Manipulative Relationships and includes tactics such as these: evasion, covert intimidation, projecting blame, minimalization, vilifying the victim, playing the servant role, brandishing anger and more. Well worth investigating if it sounds like your pastor.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Bereans

A blog with tremendously astute insights into spiritual abuse called The Bereans discusses many aspects of church leaders gone wrong. A post called The Enablers or the Persecutor's Last Line of Defense looks at those middle men or yes-men, the defenders of abusive pastors and their role in the church. Very eye-opening. I believe this blog may be from South Africa. The blogger takes a rational, calm approach and looks at all sides and motivations.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

God works even in dangerous places

If people are saved at my church, how can it be spiritually abusive? This article from truthguard.com points out that God can work in the darkest places, and that just because God works somewhere doesn't mean it has His stamp of approval.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Restoring the Heart blog

Restoring the Heart blog summarizes aftereffects of spiritual abuse mentioned in VanVonderan and Johnson's The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. It is a good resource because it is a blog from someone newly out of an abusive situation, sharing the unique insights of someone from a freshly-wounded perspective.

Ten Characteristics of Abused and Wounded Christians

Ten Characteristics of Abused and Wounded Christians, from Restoring the Heart blog, summarizes aftereffects of spiritual abuse mentioned in VanVonderan and Johnson's The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

Cults and Aberrant Groups

The web resource Cults and Aberrant Groups provides links to several articles on cults and cult-like churches or groups. Titles of articles include these: Nothing need go to waste; Aberrant Christianity (Both by Pat Knapp); Characteristics of a Cult; Anti-intellectualism, Legalism and the Cults; Evangelism and the Cults, Recovery from Spiritual Abuse by Sharon Hildebrant, M.A.; Starting an Ex-Cult Support Group and more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sociopathic leaders?

Unfortunately, not always open to public view Characteristics of a Sociopath, quoted in a now private, brave blog of survivors from a cult-like fellowship in Australia, Tales from the Crypt. By viewing a list of traits associated with sociopaths, you can get a feel for things to watch out for if your group leader or pastor seems to be leading in an abusive direction. Gives a very detailed description of how abusive people manipulate followers.

Turning Pastors to gods

When has Authority Gone Too Far? This article, from Battered Sheep, highlights the unhealthy way we've turned pastors to gods. It includes a list of 11 marks of perverted authority:
  • The claim of direct authority from God, rather than testing things by the Word
  • The command is to "submit to me," rather than "I will serve you"
  • The method of leadership is to "order" people around, rather than to appeal for them to do the right things
  • There is a dominating, "pushy" drive instead of a dependence on God to direct
  • There is a sense of control, rather than a sense of support
  • A gift is exploited so that others are made to feel dependent on it
  • There is an inflexibility--"don't question me"--"don't touch the Lord's anointed"
  • There is unapproachability and intimidation--the "aura" around the leader keeps the followers in "awe"
  • There emerges an organization built around a man and his peculiar emphases instead of around Christ and His Word
  • There will be cyclical challenges to the authority figure (which are immediately and forcefully purged)
  • There is more concern for maintaining the authoritarian structure than there is for caring about the people in it.
  • Mind Control

    Another site that shows the techniques abusers use, and compares them to mind control techniques used on prisoners of war, is this from Margaret Singer's 6 Conditions for Thought Reform listed on the web site Refocus.

    Common Characteristics of How Cults Operate

    Common Characteristics of How Cults Operate: Thoughtful list that pinpoints techniques that cults, and controlling churches, use to capture and keep followers. Here are a few: Intimidation and accusation .... For example, any questioning of authority is treated as rebellion, and not trusting. They suppress questions and conform to the group’s behavior. They Discourage Critical or Rational Thought and Questions. They will reply with comments like, "Satan is the cause of all doubt; he is keeping you from the Truth," or it will take time to understand the deep things of God. Critical thinking is discouraged being called prideful or sinful or rebellious. No independent thinking is encouraged.

    churchabuse.com

    churchabuse.com includes decent articles, especially on recovery from spiritual abuse -- as well as other resources. Article titles include Walking Away from Spiritual Abuse, Fear and Guilt: Recovering from Performance-based Relationships, Spiritual Identity Crisis? and others.

    When the pastor says, "I know your heart"

    This site sees Spiritual Abuse as a form of divination, when leaders pretend to know your mind, heart or motives. A unique angle. Never really thought of the occult angle.

    I Know Your Heart

    Does your pastor pretend he "knows your heart"? Divination, Is It Real or Fake? by churchabuse.com, shows that the little mind tricks your pastor plays on you are not much different from occultic practices. I never would have thought of these tactics as "divination" but when you look closely at what these pastors are doing, that's exactly what it is. Training you to use them as an eight-ball, more or less. A quote from the article: After being convinced that they had these powers over us, many of us gave these people control over our minds and our lives out of fear. This is one of the biggest hurdles to cross after escaping a spiritually abusive group.

    The Insidious Harm of Spiritual Abuse

    This brief and clearly organized article from Australia in pdf format called The Insidious Harm of Spiritual Abuse cuts to the heart of the matter and discusses the four "rules" of spiritual abuse: Don't trust, Don't think, Don't talk and Don't question. Graham Barker, the author, also provides several short case studies.

    Spiritual Abuse as Idolatry

    What god are you worshiping in a spiritually abusive church? That is the question Dale Ryan seeks to answer in his article: If your god is not God, fire him. Highlights:
    Let me be clear about this. The god who is quick to anger and slow to forgive is not a “distorted image of God.” It is the opposite of God. It’s the wrong god. It’s not God at all. It’s not that I was looking in the right direction but just couldn’t see clearly. I was looking in the wrong direction entirely. It was the wrong god. There is, of course, a whole pantheon of not-Gods. Take your pick:

    The angry, abusive god

    The abandoning god

    The inattentive god

    The impotent god

    The shaming god

    Use of Flattery in Spiritual Abuse

    Many abusive pastors use flattery to manipulate. This article from Wittenberg Gate explores the danger of flattery.

    Battered Sheep

    Battered Sheep Ministries: This site is a treasure trove of spiritual abuse resources. It provides links to various articles on spiritual abuse. Titles include these and many more: Abuse of Authority in the Church; The Bible and Spiritual Abuse; Is Your Church Free from Cultic Tendencies? and many other great resources.

    Clare's Blog

    This Australian site Clare's Blog: Clergy Abuse Australia, (also drawing on The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse) sums up spiritual abuse nicely for any spiritually abusive situation, in Australia or anywhere else.

    Narcissism in the Pulpit


    Narcissism in the Pulpit, includes a wealth of good information about what's behind a leader's need to control abusively. (The spooky, medieval background template behind this page is annoying as anything, but I found that cutting and pasting into a Word file is helpful, and the information is worth the trouble.) The site uses a World Health Organization definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a disorder in which a person has a grandiose self-importance, preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, a driven desire for attention and admiration, an intolerance of criticism, and disturbed self-centered interpersonal relations..."
    Authoritarian pastors may be driven by a personality disorder like this one. Knowing what to expect and how manipulation works can be quite helpful, especially for those still enmeshed in an abusive situation. Five of nine listed criteria must be met for someone to be categorized as a clinical narcissist. Among them: obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, interpersonally exploitive, sense of entitlement, firmly convinced of own uniqueness and specialness...

    Spiritual Abuse

    Spiritual Abuse by Scott Nicloy, a Salvation Army pastor. This article explores reasons behind spiritual abuse and the sometimes unintended nature of it. It also includes something on former alcoholics who become spiritually abusive pastors, an angle I had not seen before. Nicloy talks about black and white thinking, zealotry, power hunger, perfectionism, isolationism and other signs of an abusive church.

    Characteristics of a Spiritual Abuser

    Discovered at Under Much Grace blog is this perceptive collection of abuser traits - culled from several sources - entitled Characteristics of a Spiritual Abuser. It's all fascinating stuff, but among the most interesting to me are these headings: Demystifying the guru's power (why do we assign such power to these mere men and women?) and The Authoritarian Power Dynamic

    Fringe Churches

    Voices from the Fringe is a good place to see what kinds of extremes spiritual abuse can lead to. Ron Enroth, author of Churches that Abuse (see above) writes about different techniques abusive groups use and what the result is. Enroth lists the common threads he finds in these groups:

    • An emphasis on spiritual experiences
    • An increased focus on the role of demons
    • A large proportion of members with personal, emotional, and dependency needs
    • A teaching emphasis on attitudinal sins (such as rebelliousness, lack of submission, pride, and self-centeredness)
    • An unhealthy dependence on those in authority
    • Few checks and balances
    • Minimal leadership accountability
    • A defensiveness that results in intolerance of member-critics

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    Barnabas Ministry

    Barnabas Ministry offers a well-organized site that helps someone in a questionable church decide if their church is leaning toward the unhealthy or dangerous. It summarizes traits from different sources on the subject of spiritual abuse, then gives a list of things to watch for, and then asks some questions that should help anyone who is confused about the direction their church is going. The one problem with the site, however, is that for part of the site, you have to scroll sideways for a long time in order to read each line. Very annoying.
    Some of the evaluation questions:

    What did you spend your time on this week with regards to the group?
    Did you really want to do it, or did you do it only because you were told to do it?
    Did you "filter" anything from a higher-up to a subordinate?
    Do you see problems with the system?
    Do you have any way to bring these up and have them taken seriously?
    Do you find yourself making statements and positions of the leadership more palatable for others?
    Do you really want others to have what you have concerning your church?
    On another page of Barnabas Ministry , called Uncovering and Facing Spiritual Abuse, is an account of an abusive situation that may not at first be recognized as abusive.

    Voices from the Fringe

    Voices from the Fringe is a good place to see what kinds of extremes spiritual abuse can lead to. Ron Enroth, author of Churches that Abuse (see above) writes about different techniques abusive groups use and what the result is. Enroth lists the common threads he finds in these groups:

    • An emphasis on spiritual experiences
    • An increased focus on the role of demons
    • A large proportion of members with personal, emotional, and dependency needs
    • A teaching emphasis on attitudinal sins (such as rebelliousness, lack of submission, pride, and self-centeredness)
    • An unhealthy dependence on those in authority
    • Few checks and balances
    • Minimal leadership accountability
    • A defensiveness that results in intolerance of member-critics

    Quivering Daughters Blog

    When women are primary targets of a spiritually abusive system, it helps to have support from other women. From a distinctly female perspective, Quivering Daughters blog provides support for women abuse victims and links to many good resources on spiritual abuse and victimhood.

    VM Life Resources

    VM Life Resources. This blog emphasizes recovery and is directed at the hardcore cult experience. It includes resources for identifying spiritual abuse and articles on cults. The blogger also has written a book entitled I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult that chronicles her time with an organization that seemed healthy but wasn't. Not sure what the VM stands for, but the site provides lots of good information, both for escapees and the curious.

    What Really Matters blog

    From Set Free on What Really Matters blog is this perspective on the gains you can experience if you leave an abusive group: Here are some strengths I have noticed that develop in people when they leave controlling churches:

  • Greater compassion and empathy towards others
  • Analytical thinking (You think deeply about core concerns. From this point forward you will exercise keen judgment and discernment so you will never find yourself in the same situation again.)
  • Greater level of honesty and trustworthiness (You are so disgusted at the lies, fraud, dishonesty, and even criminality that went on, it makes you resolve yourself to live in a higher degree of honor and trustworthiness. You don’t want to be anything like your former leaders.)
  • Social/community activism (You are so tired of looking inward and catering to the needs of selfish leaders, you become extremely enthusiastic about reaching out and serving others.)
  • Fearlessness (You have given into a bully for so long, it’s time to stand up for yourself and take a new direction. You decide no one is going to control you or stand in your way! You also decide to step out and go after your dreams.)
  • Courage
  • Gratitude (You are so glad to be free from the control, manipulation, and harsh judgment you were under, you become more thankful even for the little things in life.)
  • Inquisitiveness and curiosity (You realize it’s okay to question anything!)
  • Sense of direction and purpose
  • Flexibility
  • Openness
  • Ability to show emotion
  • Ability to be yourself
  • Ability to find meaning in adversity
  • Ability to cope with difficulties (After all that you experienced and dealt with in a controlling church, handling the normal strains of everyday life seem like nothing. If you have survived a controlling, abusive situation, you can survive just about anything!)
  • Spiritually Authority Weirdness

    One of the best restatements of the thought of a person tempted to get involved in an authoritarian church is this from Spiritual Authority Weirdness on Thinking About It All blog: Hmm, God is really big on authority. I better really submit to Spiritual Leader X. There might be some times where I want more clarification... or even disagree, but I don’t want to even approach rebellion. I don’t want to rock the boat, I think I’ll just keep it to myself. It’s probably better that way because God will bless me if I submit to a leader, even if they are wrong or being abusive to me. I mean, look at Saul and David. Saul was trying to kill David and David submitted. I love God and I better submit, too.

    Under Much Grace

    Another blog with a panoply of resources

    Under Much Grace is frequently updated and lists many helpful observations about spiritual abuse. Some of the articles it links to include titles such as these: Why doctrinal statements tell you nothing of the unwritten rules of manipulative groups; Thought reform and Lifton 101; The elements of spiritual abuse; cult leaders and con artists; Why it's so hard to leave an abusive situation. The analysis in some of these articles is very enlightening and helpful. Also, it has lately been organized in an extremely useful way, with clear links to good sources.

    The Cult Next Door

    A well-designed and aesthetically creative blog on the topic is this one, called The Cult Next Door: Spiritual Abuse in Plain Sight. The blogger came from an extremely controlling church and her story will chill you to the bone.
    Another blog with a panoply of resources

    People of the Lie

    People of the Lie, by Scott Peck includes helpful insights on different aspects of "evil people" including those responsible for spiritual abuse.

    Not of my Making

    Not of My Making by Margaret Jones tells of a woman who endured a series of abusive situations including abuse from two churches. The author's interview with Provender is here.