Spiritual abuse?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by qwerty, Nov 21, 2001.

  1. qwerty

    qwerty
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    Have you ever seen it? Have you ever experienced it?

    One person has given this as an example:

    Abusive churches, past and present, are first and foremost characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes. Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of member's lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who don't follow rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly. Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult.
     
  2. qwerty

    qwerty
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  3. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    I was rasied in what I call spiritual abuse type of churches(when I went as a kid 4 or 5 times a year). If it feel good do it, there isn't any real right or wrong, Christ was rasied in spirit not in body, and even a few said God was dead. I was 27 years old before Christ found me. With that back ground it took me about 5 years after I got saved to get over all the other, I'm slow.
    At the other end I was in Ar. for a short time in the 80's and went to a church that the pastor wanted to be Jack Hyles. Alot of good but also a lot of bad.
    The only other church that I knew of at first that I might like was pastors by the now governor of Ar.
    Then we had Tim Lee come for 2 services and I saw in him what I wanted in a pastor he preached the Word true, firm and loving.
    I then found another church in town that was what I was wanting, like the one back home.
     
  4. Danette

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    BEEN THERE, DONE THAT - big time! Your description sounds pretty accurate. It's hard for a description to really reflect the pain of reality though. How do you put into words the effect of being publicly humiliated from the pulpit for imagined infractions -- not just once but often over the course of YEARS? How do you describe the head games the leadership plays by telling you in one breath that you are the special and elite for being there but in the next breath making sure you know that you are absolute scum and if it weren't for the leader keeping you on the straight and narrow you'd be walking the path to hell by tomorrow (not literally, since by some dumb luck, we're eternally secure)? How do you describe the effects of being in a very rigidly controlled spiritually abusive college situation where your every minute is managed, your finances are completely taken out of your control and you are given a small weekly allowance for essentials and one weekly, very rigidly controlled one-hour outing to Wal-Mart to get those essentials. Other than that the campus is absolutely closed -- no outings, no dating, no nothing. The diet is so excrutiatingly bad that just about every student is ill, occasionally or constantly. All the girls have female problems from the combination of stress and poor diet. If you look at a member of the opposite sex you are publicly accused of immorality -- if you don't you are accused of homosexuality. You are told that you can't possible know what God wants for your life and therefore you MUST absolutely obey the leadership regarding every single area of your life right down to what you wear, and who you will marry, whether and when.

    The leadership has favorites -- and the favorites conflict. One leader favors one and spurns another, while another leader favors the one spurned by the other and spurns the one favored by the other. If you are unjustly accused, even if there is concrete evidence that the accusation is untrue, you are punished. If you try to defend yourself, your punishment is worse. Everything is political. If you're not on the right side, you couldn't sneeze without being in sin.

    How about the physical stress of migraine headaches, digestive problems, nightmares, and much more due to the constant stress (took me 18 months to recover physically once I got out of there - and there are some permanent effects). How about suicidal thoughts because you can NEVER, EVER be good enough to breathe the same air as even the lowest creature on the earth.

    And how about the fact that VERY OFTEN in this type of situation, there is immorality and/or financial illegalities going on behind the scenes. Maybe, if you're really unlucky, you might be the target of one of the leader's lecherous eyes. Or you might be unlucky enough to stumble onto the truth of a leader's gross, constant, multiple-partner immorality then be told by the other leadership that you have a dirty mind and are wicked to even think such a thing (and you know that that leader knows about what's really going on). How about knowing about the leadership's illegitimate, unacknowledged children -- meanwhile, of course, you're being accused of non-existent immorality every other minute.

    How about knowing, and sometimes even hearing, that you are being talked about viciously behind your back by the powers that be. How about knowing, and hearing, a couple of those leaders having a lewd conversation, with YOU as the subject -- and they know you're in earshot -- right before they get up to preach to all the youth about holiness?

    There are not words to describe this. And then we wonder why people leave this environment and abandon God completely. If that's the truth about God, who wants it? How do you feel when you see some kids go off into immorality or homosexuality and you know it's because they were molested by the leaders? Worse yet, how do you feel when you look back over 20+ years at kids coming out of that environment and you see that those who remain morally pure and remain in the church (ANY church) are BY FAR the exception rather than the rule.

    That's a little glimpse at what spiritual abuse looks like.

    -- Danette
     
  5. Danette

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    Two books that I read and enjoyed are titled Churches that Abuse and Recovering from Churches that Abuse. I can't remember the author's name. I read them shortly after departing from that environment -- it would have been in the later 1980s. I don't know if they are still in print or where to find them.

    -- Danette
     
  6. Danette

    Danette
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    And one wee thing more. Don't think that this happens in some little backwater hole. If I named names every single person reading this would recognize them.

    -- Danette
     
  7. rlvaughn

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    1. Dictatorial spiritual leaders with accountability to none but themselves ARE A SCOURGE ON THE CHURCH!

    2. How or why do adults in a free church in a free country stay and tolerate such abuse?

    [ November 21, 2001: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  8. WhipperSnapper

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by rlvaughn:
    1. Dictatorial spiritual leaders with accountability to none but themselves ARE A SCOURGE ON THE CHURCH!

    2. How or why do adults in a free church in a free country stay and tolerate such abuse?

    [ November 21, 2001: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    AMEN!
     
  9. Danette

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    One thing I have observed is that people who have been abused and those who are abusers are drawn to this environment. My first glimmer about this was when I realized that every girl in my college about whom I knew enough to know their background had either been sexually molested, physically abused or had a parent who had been. Now that was probably not the case in 100% of situations, but it was in the ones where I knew the person's background.

    As I studied more and experienced more of my own healing I realized that an abusive environment feels "right" to someone who has be abused for two reasons. 1) they are drawn to a place where they are offered the illusion that if they just measure up to the list of "right and wrong" for personal holiness then they will be able to feel alright about themselves. 2) they already "know", at a deep and subconscious level, that they are inherently "bad" so it feels normal to be treated that way. This environment is a draw to abusers for obvious reasons. Particularly men (and ever noticed how many SHORT men?) who want to build a kingdom have a wonderful opportunity just waiting to be exploited.

    Enter the realization that the leader has an immorality or illegality problem. Well, which of the other leaders or church members is likely to point a finger -- after all, how can they judge someone else for what they have themselves experienced (given that this poor soul must have been hurt themselves in the past to act that way; maybe they just can't help themselves)? ESPECIALLY, when the leader sheds gallons of crocodile tears if he ever gets caught and vows he has truly repented and changed? Or if there is no concrete proof, how can someone who has a profoundly poor self-image (or God image) dare to think such a horrible thing about the leader? And someone who has this profoundly poor self image is never going to believe their child over the leader if their child makes an accusation of molestation!! Besides, the system will rise up to protect itself and anyone who tries to buck it will be publicly destroyed.

    It's a really ugly thing. Another reason that people don't pull the plug is that some of these men are men of national repute. Who would believe it?

    -- Danette
     
  10. free2know

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    THANK YOU sooooo much for being here and writing this thread, I started my own in "Is this a "real"Baptist Church, trying to define spiritual abuse, and all I got were a few earnest questions and a couple of borderline flames!!!!!!! Thank God for you people who are willing to share your experiences in a spiritually abusive church. Help me to help people realize this is real. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  11. qwerty

    qwerty
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    JUDE 1:12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. [13] They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

    JUDE 1:14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones [15] to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." [16] These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

    JUDE 1:17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. [18] They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." [19] These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
     
  12. Danette

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    One quick ID for a spiritually abusive leader before you get close enough to get burned -- Who is the source of "truth"? If you see a church where everyone looks to the pastor as the one with the answers you'd better raise a question mark. If the pastor has absolute authority (and a squadron of "yes" men does not change his absolute authority) that's another good clue.

    Any leader worth the time of day will point his people to GOD for answers and encourage them to go to Him themselves for answers. The Biblical model of leadership is SERVANTHOOD, not authoritarianism. An authoritarian leader has placed himself in the position of being GOD of his church and those who follow him are guilty of IDOLATRY -- literally, period. And don't be led astray by statements of false modesty. Look around carefully -- do the members idolize the leader?

    Don't be fooled by the "courtship" either. Every abusive church will court new members and treat them like absolute gold, until they sign on the dotted line (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), plug them into the system and start sucking the life out of them.

    -- Danette

    [ November 21, 2001: Message edited by: Danette ]
     
  13. Joy

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    Wow!!! I have been there too. If you are an IFB in particular, you just don't talk about these things. Here are a few more tell-tale signs.

    The pastor is often a liar. :( It is a sin to criticize him though. Lots of sermons on Miriam and Aaron getting leaprosy after criticizing Moses.

    The test of your spirituality is measured by how much you do for the church or how "loyal" you are to the church and or the pastor. Sometimes, even your salvation is questioned if you don't measure up. For this reason, invitations are long and blackmailing. If you don't go forward, you must be rebelious. It could never be because you are right with God. :rolleyes:

    Money help is given as a reward or taken as a punishment for loyalty. For instance, My tuition was paid for, for ten years, because my father was a deacon (a yes man). When he no longer wanted to be a "yes man" and stood up for truth by exposing sin, they immediately billed us for all remaining tuition, including the past ten years. :mad:

    What's more, my mother attempted suicide after being burned so badly by that pastor. She suffers severe depression and stuggles with bitterness, she hates him! :( It has been over 12 years since we left that church, and she is still trying to get over it. Some people never do. While I realize that with the Holy Sprit's help, we can overcome anything, even anger and bitterness, that pastor will stand before God someday and give an answer for how he treated his flock. We weren't the only family. It was a large church, and we counted way over 100 families that no longer attend there and are either not attending anywhere because of it, or struggle with depression and anger.

    Whew, even after so many years that I haven't dwelt on it, seeing this thread stirs up very sad and angry memories. God help us to be forgiving! [​IMG]
     
  14. Danette

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    YES - amen to that last line, Joy! Not only that, but it is a passion of mine to spread the word, however and whenever possible, that that isn't what God looks like! I've been there -- I know what it is. But I walked away knowing one thing. GOD HAS ANSWERS. God didn't fail me; the church did. And the church isn't God.

    So I threw away my books, tapes, notes, etc. and asked God to teach me the truth about Him from His Word alone. I've spent years now being taught by the Master. What has grown out of that I wouldn't trade for ANYTHING. I've learned that just about every single thing I was ever taught in that place was at least slightly skewed. And I've learned that God is FAITHFUL and He WILL teach us from His Word if we'll ask, and He will heal our hurts and make something beautiful from the ashes of disaster.

    The things that Satan brought into my life to destroy me are the very things God has molded to give me the life message that I now have -- I have a desire to help women who have experienced abuse - sexual, physical, spiritual and marital. I can speak to that because I've walked there and found that God has answers -- and His answers are literal, powerful and wonderful!!

    I wish I could personally get that message through to every person who has been hurt by this. The confusion and pain that I see in the lives of those I love as a result of that horrible place still hurts every day. When I think about the years of marital pain my family has experienced and the resulting scars in the lives of my children -- which are a DIRECT result of that environment, I get angry. My children have never been in an IFB church. Yet the wickedness of those leaders has reached out to hurt my children and they will wear the scars forever. Why do my children have to suffer due to the consequences of the false doctrine that these men are preaching? That's probably the hardest thing of all to bear.

    The only answer I have for that is sorrow that these men will face their creator one day and be shocked to realize how VERY displeased He is with them. They may even discover that they have said, "Lord, Lord," for an entire career and won't even spend eternity in heaven. That's not mine to judge. But I don't have to be angry at the person(s) because God will deal with them eventually. What I will do, with all the rest of my life and God gives me opportunity, is spread the word that GOD DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THAT.

    -- Danette
     
  15. Danette

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    OOPS! It was just brought to my attention that previously on the board mention was made that I knew Dr. Bob Griffin back in my college days, which are in this thread referred to in an extremely negative light. Just to clarify, yes it was the same college but NO Dr. Griffin was not a part of the garbage. In fact, if asked I believe he will verify my assessment of the place. His wife was once a great encouragement to me when I was trying to deal with severe, demonic, daily, nightmares I was having because of the environment. Dr. Griffin was there near the end of my stay and didn't stay all that long. I left before him so I don't know exactly what his reason for leaving was, but I do know he is VERY MUCH not a fan of that system.

    -- Danette
     
  16. free2know

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    Again, since it happens to be Thanksgiving [​IMG] I am most thankful to Danette and Joy and all the others who offer me support. I was begining to wonder what type of board I had stumbled into. For some odd reason, I feel compeled to try to warn people of spiritual abuse, REGARDLESS OF DENOMINATION. I am curious about those who attacked my new church without knowing anything about it, as I was careful not to lump all IBF's together. As I understand it from my Pastor's wife,there are quite a few independant differences from church to church within my new denomination as well. I just know God sent my family there to heal and hear the love of Christ. Exactly what an abused family needs to hear. May God bless you richly.
     
  17. Don

    Don
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    EXACTLY. Not all independent fundamental Baptist churches or preachers are all the same.

    As some of y'all may remember, I left such a church last year because of the spiritual abuse of the pastor. My wife was the first to see the problems, and got to a point where she refused to go to church. Me, I'm a "a house divided cannot stand" kinda guy; so I told the pastor that I needed to take a week or two to figure out what was going on in my household. Instead of giving me that time, he sent congregation members over to my house each and every day, and encouraged the people of the church to call (so naturally, I never had time to sit down and discuss things with my wife because we always had visitors), and ultimately, he flat-out stated I needed to come to church without my wife.

    (Note: This is only one example of what was wrong with this guy, and definitely NOT the main or only reason I left that church.)

    I told him that if my wife were unsaved, I'd be attending church with no problem; but because she was, all it would be doing was leading us to a divorce. I discussed (again) the other problems that I was having with him, and he again tried to turn the problem around to my wife instead of acknowledging that I was having a problem with him. He used every manipulative trick in the book; and I called him on it. He mentioned a missionary who had visited us once, and stated that that missionary had voiced concerns over "who wore the pants in my family." I told him I'd be contacting that missionary to find out what he meant, and the pastor told me I didn't need to do that. I laughed at him (I later contacted the missionary, and he stated unequivocably that he had never made that statement. When I brought this to the pastor later, he said he couldn't figure out why that guy would lie. I told him it was now between the two of them). Ultimately, I told him that if I had to choose between a church and my wife, I'd have to choose my wife.

    At the time, I couldn't bring this to the church. No one else saw the myriad other problems that I was seeing with this man. So it would only have been my word, and I'd already brought it to him several times with no results. When accusing an elder, the Bible clearly says take 1 or 2 with you to do so. So I told the people of the church that asked why we were leaving that they'd have to ask the pastor. He told them he didn't know.

    A year later, at least seven other families have left that church, finally seeing the same things I did. I've had at least one of those families call me up and apologize to me because they thought I had been the problem.

    Abusive churches? Yeah, they're out there. But you know what? I'm THANKFUL I attended that church. When I was leaving Colorado, I told the church I attended there that God was sending me to this new place to teach me something. What He did with that abusive church was send me to school. I learned a LOT, and I thank Him for that experience.
     
  18. Brian Collins

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    To the victims of this spiritual abuse, I would like to say a few words.

    I do not mean to sound critical, but that probably cannot be helped.

    First, I understand how one can wind up in such situations, but how is it you stayed for so long, unless leaving was out of your control (parents, husband, domineering-wife-who-runs-over-you, etc.)?

    Second, perhaps it's just me, but I don't think we have to respond to intimidation by submitting to it. I've had confrontations with very controlling preachers, and my thought was to respect them, but be resilient and let them end up being the ones worrying. I'm not talking about rebelling against a good man of God who is right, but about dealing with men who have the "I will win regardless" attitude. I've seen the intimidation fall back on them. Look how David handled Saul. I've had them dodge my questions, twist my answers, and embarrass me. But the Spirit inside me said to keep moving forward and not panic.

    I know, it's a bit too late for some of this now, since you've already been hurt. I also understand that a couple of you who went through this are women, and as such are more emotionally fragile (I'm now ducking). I don't mean that to be rude, just a fact. And I confess that I don't know how stuff like abusive manners makes you feel.

    --B C
     
  19. free2know

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    Brian,

    Some spiritually abusive churches use subtle mind control tactics to keep you from questioning, you have to think of it along the lines of cult-like behavior. For example, the people in the Heaven's Gate cult were very intelligent people who were manipulated in the extreme. There are alot of dynamics involved in spiritual abuse.

    As one nay-sayer so aptly put it, alot of people use the term to define many different behaviors.

    The ultimate result of spiritual abuse CAN BE the total rejection of all religion. This is why I am concerned. My neighbor who was raised Fundamental Independent has declared himself an atheist because of his experiences and that of his family. His wife is now nondenominational, his brother attends a more liberal baptist church, his sister trapped in the abusive church we attended, along with her parents....and legalistic husband.

    This phenomona is real and damaging. I laud you for your ability to confront those who you feel need it. Don't ever check your mind at the door, friend.
     
  20. Joy

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    It is important to remember that the abuse usually stems from one or possibly just a few people (usually the pastor and some of his staff) within the church. Oftentimes if the pastor leaves or is asked to leave, people can begin to heal. It is not the church that abuses in these cases, but a man.

    Leaving these situations has been compared to going through a messy divorce. That is a pretty poignant word picture! :eek:

    I have seen church discipline used on people who weren't loyal to the church. When a few brave souls dared to stand up to this kind of tyrany, they were escorted from the building by the "deacons."

    Giving records and attendance records were kept. Those who didn't adhere were not allowed to send their children to the Christian School. Missing a youth activity meant you were rebelious, even if it was the only night Daddy was home and your parents wanted to go to Grandma's house. You were disloyal if you dated a guy from another church or Christian school.

    The biggest concern, was that all this outward conformity was the test of your salvation.( My own youth pastor actually told me that I didn't know God, because of the college I had chosen to go to- it wasn't the one that everyone else usually went to by force.) It sent a very strong message that one is saved by works. We now call that the Gospel of Standards. Not all, but many IFB churches come dangerously close to preaching this gospel. :(

    I agree on the dangers of this. Many of these types of abusers are not what they claim to be. I believe they are wolves in sheep's clothing. III John alludes to one of these in verses 9-11. Diotrophes was domineering, malicious, a gossip, and he used church discipline to be abusive. John calls him an unsaved man in v.11. All the books that John wrote teach us to beware of apostate teachers that pretend to be godly men.
     

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