Friday, August 7, 2009

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

Many sources on spiritual abuse cite Jeff VanVonderen and David Johnson's book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. It is a groundbreaking work and is still popular today. Some say that these authors were the first to coin the term "spiritual abuse." This review provides a detached, analytical view of some kinds of spiritual abuse. The most helpful parts to me are those discussing the abusive pastor's emphasis on his own authority - called here "power posturing" - and on the Can't Talk rule. A more inclusive summary of the book, and very good checklist is here. Some highlights:

Spiritual abuse occurs when shame is “used in an attempt to get someone to support a belief, or…to fend off legitimate questions”. (p.22) “In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy ‘us’. This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave—because they will be outsiders, too.”

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