What Are Your Thoughts On This?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Matt22:37-39, Apr 27, 2013.

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  1. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

    By David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen

    Marks of a Spiritually Unhealthy Environment
    For example, the authors identify the marks of a spiritually unhealthy system. I'd like to include these here as a sample of how the authors address these issues. (The following consists of verbatim citations of copyrighted material from Chapter 5,6 of "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.")

    1. Power-Posturing

    Power-posturing simply means leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it, as well.

    They spend a lot of energy posturing about how much authority they have and how much everyone else is supposed to submit to it. The fact that they are eager to place people under them-- under their word, under their "authority"-- is one easy-to-spot clue that they are operating in their own authority.

    2. Performance Preoccupation

    In abusive spiritual systems, power is postured and authority is legislated. Therefore, these systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members. Obedience and submission are two important words often used.

    The way to tell if someone is doing the right thing for the wrong reason is if they are keeping track of it. Let's say that another way. If obedience and service is flowing out of you as a result of your own dependence on God alone, you won't keep track of it with an eye toward reward, you'll just do it. But if you're preoccupied with whether you've done enough to please God, then you're not looking at Him, you're looking at your own works. And you're also concerned about who else might be looking at you, evaluating you. What would anyone keep track of their godly behavior unless they were trying to earn spiritual points because of it?

    For many reasons, followers sometimes obey or follow orders to avoid being shamed, to gain someone's approval, or to keep their spiritual status or position intact. This is not true obedience or submission, it is compliant self-seeking. When behavior is simply legislated from the outside, instead of coming from a heart that loves God, it cannot be called obedience. It is merely weak compliance to some form of external pressure.

    3. Unspoken Rules

    In abusive spiritual systems, people's lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches or families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don't find out that they're there until you break them.

    The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive system is what we have already termed the "can't talk" rule. The "can't talk" [rule] has this thinking behind it: "The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem, you are the problem.

    4. Lack of Balance

    The fourth characteristic of a spiritual abusive system is an unbalanced approach to living out the truth of the Christian life. This shows itself in two extremes:

    Extreme Objectivism

    The first extreme is an empirical approach to life, which elevates objective truth to the exclusion of valid subjective experience.

    This approach to spirituality creates a system in which authority is based upon the level of education and intellectual capacity alone, rather than on intimacy with God, obedience and sensitivity to His Spirit.

    Extreme Subjectivism

    The other manifestation of lack of balance is seen in an extremely subjective approach to the Christian life. What is true is decided on the basis of feelings and experiences, giving more weight to them than what the Bible declares. In this system, people can't know or understand truths (even if they really do understand or know them) until the leaders "receive them by spiritual revelation from the Lord" and "impart" them to the people.

    In such systems, it is more important to act according to the word of a leader who has "a word" for you than to act according to what you know to be true from Scripture, or simply from your spiritual growth-history.

    As with the extreme objective approach, Christians who are highly
    subjective also have a view of education-- most often, that education is bad or unnecessary. There is almost a pride in not being educated, and a disdain for those who are. Everything that is needed is taught through the Holy Spirit. ("After all, Peter and Timothy didn't go to college or seminary...")
     
  2. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    5. Paranoia

    In the church that is spiritually abusive, there is a sense, spoken or unspoken, that "others will not understand what we're all about, so let's not let them know-- that way they won't be able to ridicule or persecute us." There is an assumption that (1) what we say, know, or do is a result of our being more enlightened that others; (2) others will not understand unless they become one of us; and (3) others will respond negatively.

    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 then be outsiders too. While it is true that there is a world of evil outside of the system, there is also good out there. But people are misled into thinking that the only safety is in the system.

    Ironically, Jesus and Paul both warned that one of the worst dangers to the flock was from wolves in the house (Matthew 10:16, Acts 20:29-30).

    6. Misplaced Loyalty

    The next characteristic of spiritually abusive systems is that a misplaced sense of loyalty is fostered and even demanded. We're not talking about loyalty to Christ, but about loyalty to a given organization, church, or leader.

    Once again, because authority is assumed or legislated (and therefore not real), following must be legislated as well. A common way this is accomplished is by setting up a system where disloyalty to or disagreement with the leadership is construed as the same thing as disobeying God. Questioning leaders is equal to questioning God.

    "We Alone Are Right"

    There are three factors that come into place here, adding up to a misplaced loyalty. First, leadership projects a "we alone are right" mentality, which permeates the system. Members must remain in the system if they want to be "safe," or to stay "on good terms" with God, or not be viewed as wrong or "backslidden."

    Scare Tactics

    The second factor that brings about misplaced loyalty is the use of "scare tactics." We're already seen this in some of the paranoia described in the last section. Scare tactics are more serious. This is more than just the risk of being polluted by the world.

    We have counseled many Christians who, after deciding to leave their church, were told horrifying things. "God is going to withdraw His Spirit from you and your family." "God will destroy your business." "Without our protection, Satan will get your children." "You and your family will come under a curse." This is spiritual blackmail and it's abuse. And it does cause people to stay in abusive places.

    Humiliation

    The third method of calling forth misplaced loyalty is the threat of humiliation. This is done by publicly shaming, exposing, or threatening to remove people from the group.

    Unquestionably, there is a place for appropriate church discipline. In the abusive system, it is the fear of being exposed, humiliated or removed that insures your proper allegiance, and insulates those in authority. You can be "exposed" for asking too many questions, for disobeying the unspoken rules, or for disagreeing with authority. People are made public examples in order to send a message to those who remain. Others have phone campaigns launched against them, to warn their friends and others in the group about how "dangerous" they are.

    7. Secretive

    When you see people in a religious system being secretive-- watch out. People don't hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate.

    One reason spiritual abusive families and churches are secretive is because they are so image conscious. People in these systems can't even live up to their own performance standards, so they have to hide what is real. Some believe they must do this to protect God's good name. So how things look and what others think becomes more important than what's real. They become God's "public relations agents." The truth is, He's not hiring anyone for this position.

    Another reason for secrecy in a church is that the leadership has a condescending, negative view of the laity. This results in conspiracies on the leadership level. They tell themselves, "People are not mature enough to handle truth." This is patronizing at best. Conspiracies also develop among the lay people. Since it is not all right [sic] to notice or talk about problems, people form conspiracies behind closed doors and over the telephone as they try to solve things informally. But since they have no authority, they solve, and solve, and solve-- but nothing really gets solved. And all the while, building God's true kingdom is put on hold.

    Conclusion

    I hope that what I have cited gets your attention and motivates you to read this book. The subtle patterns of unhealthy characteristics are discussed in a way that actually helps people identify them, resist them, and recover from them.
     
  3. Wherever You Go

    Wherever You Go
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    Thank you, Matt. I have seen some of these problems first-hand. Looks like a good book.
     
  4. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    Yes, I bought it like 12 years ago after going through some of it. these types of people don't realize that others see it as well...they really are not fooling anyone...only those who prefer bondage themselves...for some sick reason bondage is their SECURITY and not God!
     
  5. plain_n_simple

    plain_n_simple
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    Knowing that psychology has no root in the bible, it is limited in it's ability to heal.
     
  6. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    This situation requires pastoral help which Icon already gave as advice.
     
    #6 saturneptune, Apr 27, 2013
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  7. Aaron

    Aaron
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    blah, blah, blah.

    The truth will make you free—Jesus. If you know the truth, none of the behaviors listed will matter to you.
     
  8. Wherever You Go

    Wherever You Go
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    More correctly, I would say, "If you know the truth, and act on it accordingly through God's grace, you can avoid all these behaviors in your own life, and recognize and properly deal with it in the lives of others." Part of knowing the truth is knowing what is wrong.
     
  9. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    I think you got this one right. Day to day life, and even posts back and forth on this board, sometimes involve jabs at each other. I do not think of them as abuse when we disagree about a theological issue or political idea.

    Abuse using the listed behaviors listed are done when it is towards a person for the intention of demeaning or harming that person, usually a person who is close to you like a spouse, parent or other family member. If that is the case, my question would be, why is the one putting up with it continuing to hang around and put up with it?

    All expressions of anger, mistrust, and the like are not abuse. When my children were growing up, and I corrected them as me and my wife saw fit, (hopefully in accordance with the will of the Lord), that was not abuse.

    This whole set of threads started from either failed marriages or the inability to solve day to day problems in a marriage, as they all have. Working to make a marriage better is not abuse. We are all flawed human beings, and if we have gotten to a point where we feel every word coming out of a person we are around constantly is abuse, it is time to move on to someone else.
     
  10. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    Welcome to Baptist Board.
     
  11. plain_n_simple

    plain_n_simple
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    Sometimes books can be helpful.
     
    #11 plain_n_simple, Apr 28, 2013
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  12. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    Truth hurts huh?
     
  13. Oldtimer

    Oldtimer
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    What is your point in posting the same content within existing threads and creating new ones? Why the need to have multiple discussions going on at the same time for the same content? This thread isn't the only example.

    The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
    By David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen
    http://www.baptistboard.com/showpost.php?p=1977152&postcount=98 and again in this thread.
     
  14. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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  15. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
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    While there are abuses from leadership in churches they are few and far between. But what is more common is that church members who do not get their way, and the church does not put up with their bullying tactics to get their way, then walk off grumbling claiming (falsely) spiritual abuse. They do things like create web sites gossiping about the leadership. Create personal blogs gossiping about religious organizations etc. And make phone calls gossiping trying to stir up dissension and division.

    Often when church members do not get heir way they try to make it personal about one or two individuals. That way they do not have to deal with the fact that whatever issue the leadership is leading on, that they do not like, has the support of the rest of the church for the most part. And so the rest of the church is painted as ignorant victims who have succumb to spiritual abuse and need to be rescued. These people are ungodly and often tares among the wheat.
     
    #15 Revmitchell, Apr 28, 2013
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  16. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
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  17. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    what a lie from Satan what you just said.

    You just can't handle the truth....:laugh:
     
  18. Matt22:37-39

    Matt22:37-39
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    Why are bullies always OVERWEIGHT?....That does seem to be a common denominator. Maybe they try and eat their emotions away and it becomes a viscous cycle so they take out their anger on others?
     
  19. Oldtimer

    Oldtimer
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    Online Forum Etiquette: How to Deal with a Forum Bully
    Uhmmm, since I asked a question about multiple postings of yours (not mine) I'm now a bully. You've called me evil in another thread read this morning. And, you have used the same and similar terms for a number of long standing members of this board.

    Call me what you like. Evidence speaks for itself.
     
  20. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
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    MY point has been proven.
     
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