Friday, May 31, 2013

An ugly example of a spiritually abusive system

I'm not usually one to speak out on things pertaining to church systems.
Certainly, I am not an authority on ecclesiastical matters.
But I do attend church.
I have attended several different church denominations in my lifetime.
From Evangelical Mennonite and Christian and Missionary Alliance in my childhood in Ohio to Independent Baptist and Bible churches in my early adult life.
Currently, my husband and I attend a wonderful Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in Texas.
Recently, in the last two or three years, we have been following a disturbing "sub-branch" of this denomination that I feel I cannot stay mute on any longer.

When you hear of something that you cannot believe, it's always best to research it and really get the facts before you feed the flame of rumors that can hurt many, many people.
I am not one to want to start a controversy either.
But I do feel strongly that when you become aware of something terribly stay silent is to be complicit.
And on this I cannot be.
Not any longer.

I want to speak out on the dangers of "man-worship" vs. God worship.
How this can create a culture, an environment, that fosters sexual, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse.
I'm not speaking of having a deep respect and admiration for your pastor or church leader, but I'm referring to when a man becomes so revered that he has no accountability, and such tight control on people that they are intentionally manipulated to feed his selfish ego, and becomes a celebrity that can do no wrong.
No preacher, no shepherd, no pastor should ever allow himself to become that to his people.

I've been taught to believe that one red flag of a cult is when a man (or an entire organization)  is put in the position of God......
when that man (or organization) is allowed to be the ultimate authority in people's lives and makes the rules that people feel compelled to live by.

A pastor may be a cult leader if:
.....the church members feel they must ask his permission to go on vacation especially if it means they will be missing church services.
.....his family members are stopped in public places by other people and asked to sign their Bibles. members hear similar sermons over and over on the "fundamentalist trinity of hair, music and women in pants."
......sexual abuse allegations in the church or rumors of inappropriate behavior by the pastor result in "church discipline" where the alleged victim is often communicated as being "consenting" in the relationship or somehow brought it on by her "immodest dress or behavior."  The alleged perpetrator's "crime" is swept under the rug while the alleged victim is swept out of the church.  All to protect the image of this cult leader and his church.
.....he has an anger problem.
.....there is a statue of the pastor in front of the church.

Don't get me wrong here.
This can and does happen in all denominations across the board.
This is sin.
It's completely deviant from what the Lord laid out in scripture regarding church leadership.
But this is near and dear to my heart because there are churches in my own denomination who are full of well-meaning, God-fearing, kind people who have gotten entangled and starry-eyed, and ultimately brainwashed into this cultish sub-branch that takes on a culture of its own!

For many years I've been acquainted with the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
For years, there have been disconcerting and disturbing reports of immoral and even criminal behavior that has gone on unconfronted.
It all started when their pastor, Jack Hyles, got bit by the venomous snake of power and he began to abuse his authority, take advantage of those under his leadership, and manipulate everyone around him for his own benefit.
All in the name of the Lord.
With scripture verses to back up his every move.
And as his reign was drawing to a close, he began grooming his successor.
He hand-picked him.
The next Jack.
Even married him into the Hyles family.
Jack Schaap married Cindy Hyles.
And this Jack took up the crown with such charisma and talent that it was hard to deny his calling.

His rise to power was so flamboyant though that those around him barely noticed some very troubling things about this man.
The people of this church had become so accustomed to the culture set up by the previous Jack that these things didn't even seem off.

I mean......really.....NOBODY stood up and shouted from the rooftops "Foul" when this man preached a sermon to an enormous group of youth entitled "A Polished Shaft."
I personally have not watched it.
I don't need to.
If you do, google it.
But how can something like that NOT raise eyebrows?
Or his heretical, blasphemous book entitled, "Marriage: The Divine Intimacy."
You don't need a master's degree in theology to see how off this man's interpretation of scripture is!!
And somebody PUBLISHED this stuff?
How does this happen?

Here's how:
Plain and simple.
All the brainwashing, the manipulation, the deception, the power hungry egos, the lure of fame and prestige and ultimately the sexual abuse....can be traced back to the Garden of Eden and the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
But on a more practical level, it can be traced back to putting a man in a place that only our Holy God should be.
It can also be traced back to fear and silence.
When a church's system is fear-based as opposed to grace-based, you foster an atmosphere for man-worship on a cultish level.
It is spiritual abuse.

Fortunately, God is still on the throne and He intervened in a most powerful way at the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
Finally, Jack Schaap got caught.
It seems that some of those closest to him were indeed concerned about some of his behavior.
They saw a frightening pattern of deception that was spiraling out-of-control.
And providentially, by God, an image popped up on his cell-phone on the pulpit of his church and an associate of his found it.
And turned him in to the authorities.
And recently he was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his crime.
I, personally, do not believe that this was his only victim either.
Typically, this type of criminal behavior is only the tip of the iceberg and the only one that was "caught."
He was so good at his manipulation and deception and planning that he clearly was a master that had perfected his craft over years of practice.

The most profound and moving public statement on this whole fiasco was penned by Linda Murphrey.
She is another daughter of Jack Hyles, sister to Cindy Schaap.
Listen to her tell her story here.
Then read her letter to the people of the church she clearly cared about:

My point in all of this is that I do not want to be among those who are silent about this type of leadership.
I cannot "join hands" or be "in fellowship" with brand of Christianity.
There is a big doctrine that Independent Fundamental Baptist churches stand on and that is the doctrine of separation.
Separation from those things of our society and world systems and philosophies that would confuse or possibly tarnish the image of Jesus Christ.
Separation from those things clearly spoken of as sin in scripture.
Separation from those things that would mar our presentation as the Bride of Christ when He returns for us.
Sexual abuse of any kind, lying, deception, manipulation, self-gratifying motivations.
I feel that I must be separate from that kind of behavior.
I don't want to be associated with it.
I don't want people confused in thinking that I might possibly condone that or be among those that cover it up!
I cannot stay silent any longer and by my silence, condone it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Abusing Christians and using Bible verses to back it up!?!

"For Thou, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
 and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee."
Psalm 86:5

"Hold fast the faithful word.....for there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families,
teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain."
Titus 1: 9-11

"This passage opens to us the additional problem of placing heavy performance weights upon struggling people by means of misusing or abusing Scripture.
Instead of using the Word as a sword to pierce through to he thoughts and motives of their own hearts, many spiritual leaders have used it as a stick to drive others, for a variety of reasons:
  • to keep others from holding them accountable
  • to protect their image
  • to uphold a doctrine they have based a whole ministry upon
  • to keep funds coming in
  • to build religious kingdoms in order to bolster their own spiritual self-esteem
In other words, it's possible that some leaders teach the Word for personal gain, not to heal and to free."

According to David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, there are 3 factors that set the stage for using scripture to abuse with scripture.

1.  Mindset
"In a spiritually abusive system, the mindset of the people is that they have little or no capacity to discern God's Word themselves.  Their view of Scripture is that of a book of rules, designed to cause behaviors that are pleasing to God, or designed to elicit a desired respond from God.  In other words, for them, the Bible is not a book that guides us into character transformation so we can be transformed into the likeness of Christ;  it is a book about techniques for performing right so that we can get corresponding blessing out of God.  Spirituality is replaced by manipulation.
As a result, these people view their leaders as those who have the last word on the meaning and purpose of God's Word because the leaders have (or say they have) success at doing and receiving.  The mindset of the leaders - about themselves, Scripture, and their followers - is that they have 'broken through' to some higher level of spiritual achievement, so they have 'earned' the right to lead."

2.  Motive
"In a spiritually abusive system, leaders "power posture" through the use of Scripture.  The motive is to cause religious performance on the part of the people in order to meet the needs of the leaders, to "prove" that they and their theology are right.  Again, the motive is not to "feed" the souls of the flock, nor to assist God in achieving whatever He wants in a person's life.
In addition to burning people out, pressuring people to "live up to" Scripture leads to a distorted perception of God.  He becomes one who is created in the image of the leaders.  This is not about helping people gain a deeper understanding of God through the Word, in all its multi-faceted beauty.  In fact, a deeper understanding of Scripture on the part of the people would probably expose the whole abusive situation."

3.  Method
"In a spiritually abusive system, Scripture is employed to prove or bolster the agenda of the person using it.  This is called 'proof-texting.'  Proof-texting occurs when someone has a point he wants to prove.  So he finds a verse to do so, even if it means stretching or ignoring the original issue about which he verse was written or the context in which the verse is found.
Because this is the method the leaders use, it is the method the followers learn to use.  Consequently, there is little if any opportunity to become capable of 'rightly dividing the word of truth.' "

"God did not give the Law so that people could become right with Him based upon their lawful behaviors.  Neither are lawful behaviors the way to remain right with God.
Right relationship with God is a settled gift because of what God did through Christ.  
You can't earn it.
You can only have it for free."

"For by grace are you saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God.
Not of works,
lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2: 8,9

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The last birthday of the season

The first 5 months of the year are "birthday season" at our house.
We celebrate at least one birthday every month in those 5 months, except for April in which we celebrate 3 birthdays within 10 days of each other.

Ever since we turned the calendar to begin 2013, our youngest son has been counting down the days until HIS birthday.
His is the very last birthday of "the season," and he counted it down by how many more birthdays were in front of his.
His turn finally came around this last week!!

Taco Bell and presents for lunch!!

Special dinner with himself!!

Happy 7th Birthday, Garrett!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What do spiritually abused Christians struggle with? Part 2

"In Him you have been made complete..."
Colossians 2:10
(We don't need to improve on what He's done!)

Last time, we looked at 5 areas that Christians in abusive spiritual systems (family, church, etc.) may struggle.
Here are 5 other areas as outlined in the profound work of David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen entitled
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

6.  You may have a problem in the area of personal boundaries, an unclear understanding about 'death to self' teachings and 'rights.'

"People who have misused their spiritual power have disrespected or beaten down your boundaries.  They have shamed you out of your 'no,' clouded your will and intruded into your life with religious agendas.  They have violated your spirituality by playing 'Holy Spirit.'
Having an opinion has come to equal lack of submissiveness.
Having a right to not be abused is selfish."

Ever felt like you just couldn't say no to some responsibility even though it would put tremendous strain on your marriage relationship, time with your family, finances, etc simply because you felt you just couldn't disappoint those in church leadership?
Me too.
One tends to lose the joy of ministry when it becomes obligation.

7.  You may have difficulty with personal responsibility.

Do you feel like "everyone's issues are yours to solve?"
"Their heavy feelings are yours to fix.  You have an impossible time saying no to people's needs or requests.  After all, if you don't do it, who will?

(May I just insert something here?  This is especially difficult for laypeople or paid church staff, fresh out-of-college {BIBLE college..mind you}, who are young, eager, and have the training.  Just sayin'.)

"You have a greater sense of God needing you than of you needing God.
In fact, not only are you responsible for how everybody else's day goes, you are even responsible for God's day too.
It is your job to live just right, so that God can feel pleased at the end of the day."

8.  You may suffer from a lack of living skills.

"Abusive systems develop a 'bunker mentality.'
This is characterized by being closed and paranoid toward the outside, and secretive about what goes on inside.  The mentality is not only separatist, but highly judgmental.  With this mentality, many Christians may think only one or two colleges are 'separated enough' from the world for students to be able to safely attend. Or college education is looked down upon altogether.

The result is that a student is equipped emotionally, spiritually, and mentally to work only somewhere in the original system or in one like it.
Even though many of these graduates are financially on the brink of disaster, they often hesitate to leave because they aren't able to function in another system.  When they finally do leave - because their family is lacking or because they're tired of being mistreated - they are forced to take low-paying jobs in the regular work force.  In the eyes of their own, they are considered to have 'missed God's call.'  Spiritually abusive systems like this can produce a lot of college-educated common laborers."
But let's clarify here:  "There is no disgrace in being a laborer......The disgrace is in promising people the benefits of a college degree, then giving them a second-rate education and charging them as if it were first-rate."
"The danger is in educating people in religious settings as a result of a 'bunker mentality.'  People who think this way act as if contact with the evil things present in 'the world' are the reason people have problems.
For people whose lives and relationships aren't working, it's important that they come to understand their problem isn't the evil that surrounds them on the outside.  Their need is to develop maturity, strength and the ability to make wise decisions, to grow in dependence upon God as their source on the inside."

9.  You may have a hard time admitting the abuse.

Three reasons for this might be:
  1. "In an abusive system, you are told that you are 'the problem' for noticing that there is a problem.  That makes it hard to expose the abuse, even after you've left the system.
  2. Admitting the abuse out loud - or even thinking that what you experienced was abuse - often feels like you're being disloyal to family, to church, even to God.
  3. Those who have experience spiritual abuse as 'normal' have lost track of what normal really is.  Therefore, to call it spiritual abuse feels crazy or overreactive."

10.  You may have a hard time with trust.

"Those who have been spiritually abused will have a hard time trusting a spiritual system again.  This is extremely significant, because the essence of living as a Christian is a trust relationship with God, within God's family."

"Therefore, is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation."
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, May 24, 2013

What do spiritually abused Christians struggle with?

The subject of spiritual abuse can be a heavy one.
But so can the results of such abuses.
I've struggled myself with some of these things.
So I'm writing about them for my children.
So they might understand what this is, and know what to look for when they are looking for a place of worship for their own families.
So they might know where their own personal struggles stem from, and where to find resolutions.

I also feel it's extraordinarily important to shed light on this subject.
Light exposes sin.
Light gives a way out of darkness.
Light cleanses.
Light refreshes and causes growth.

I appreciated the list of things that are outlined in the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
The authors have compiled a list of ten profound areas that abused Christians struggle with.
The first five, in order, are:

1.  You develop a distorted image of God.
For instance, your understanding of God is one of "a God who is never satisfied, who keeps setting higher and higher goals and is eager to let you find out how much you've missed the mark. "
Or, you see Him as "a mean, vindictive God, who is waiting for us to make a mistake.  Then He is able to do what He would rather do anyway, which is to point out all our failures, or to punish and humiliate."
Maybe you think of Him as "an apathetic God who watches when people are hurt and abuse but does nothing to help because it would mean having to challenge an authority figure or structure.
Or how about "a God who is a kind of fickle baby [who's] mood can be manipulated by our slightest mistake."
Then there is the view where He is "the utterly Holy God.  He is like a spiritual burglar alarm, ready to go off anytime you think about sin.  One man told of a bible teacher who drilled into him the idea that the Holy Spirit 'flees to the farthest corner of the universe whenever you commit the slightest sin, because you've broken His heart.' "

"How many churches teach that your place in heaven will be determined by how many good works you've done here on earth?  How many teach that while your salvation is not dependent upon works, your position close to or far from Him is dependent upon works?  How many teach that Jesus' promise of rewards (Matthew 25:31-46) was more than just entry into heaven or dismissal into hell, but a better place in some eternal hierarchy?  God is the one who gives good gifts simply because He loves us (Luke 11:13), not because of our performance."

2.  You may be preoccupied with spiritual performance.
"At a recent Christian conference, it was evident that what was being taught was not growth in relationship, but adherence to a "formula."  This conference put every possible area of life into neat little Christian packages:  'If you do sch and such (read your Bible, memorize Scripture, pray a certain way or for a set amount of time, etc.) God will always be pleased, and the result will always be a nice, packaged orderly Christian life.  People left the seminar resolving to try hard to do the formulas.  Those who were successful--which tended to be the already naturally disciplined, strong-willed people--were fortunate to be allowed to attend an advanced seminar.
What about the unsuccessful?  They were destined to return to the basic seminar over, and over, and over again.  Some people were seven-time repeaters.  The speaker told the audience, 'If you follow these principles and they don't work, call me and tell me about it.  You need to know, though, that you'll be the first one for whom they didn't.'  No doubt this statement got a lot of people trying very hard to do the formulas.  It probably kept even more people from calling."

"Preoccupation with spiritual performance often results in a tendency toward extremes of self-righteousness or shame.  Self-righteousness (a sense of spiritual superiority based upon your own behavior) and judgmentalism (a sense of spiritual superiority based upon someone else's behavior) indicate a performance-based lifestyle.  
Another indicator is perfectionism, or a need for situations and relationships to be "just so."  This is often accompanied by a high level of anxiety based upon external circumstances and an urge to control what people do and how things turn out."

3.  You have a distorted self-identity of yourself as a Christian.
"People who have been spiritually abused tend to have a negative picture of self, or a shame-based identity. This can be seen in several ways:

  •  Lack of understanding or even awareness of New Testament texts that elaborate on our identity as new creations in Christ.
  • Confusion between guilt and shame.  Guilt is a valuable signal indicating a wrong or bad behavior.  Shame is an indictment on you as a person.  You experience guilt when you do a wrong behavior; guilt is a good spiritual nerve ending causing you to right wrong behavior.  You feel shame even when you've done nothing wrong;  you feel defective as a human being, and like a third-rate Christian undeserving of God's blessings and acceptance.
  • Shame is the prime motivator;  i.e, the dilemma of your negative picture of self can only be solved by good behavior.
  • A high need to hang on to a negative picture of self in order to explain negative behaviors.  This is true of spiritual systems that teach or insinuate that even though you are saved, you're still 'worthless' before God, 'just a sinner saved by grace,' 'a worm' and not a person."

4.  You may have a problem relating to spiritual authority.
"Being spiritually abused can lead to "toxic faith."
Toxic faith is a destructive and dangerous relationship with a religious system, not with God, that allows this system to control a person's life in the name of God."
"Those who have experienced the misuse of power develop ways to defend themselves from being abused again.  They tend to the extremes of compliance or defiance when faced with someone else having authority....This is designed to prevent hurt but it won't."

5.  You may have a hard time with grace.
"This springs from the shame-based identity, which tells you that you don't deserve to be treated this way.  You find ways to push away the grace the grace extended by God and the gifts from other people, so that you end up going without.  Or you accept them with such an overwhelming sense of owing that you find ways to 'pay back' God and others for what they've done."

Wow.  Several of these areas, when I first read them, really sent chills up my spine.
I GOT it!  I understood exactly what that meant.
It was like the authors had been peeking into the depths of my heart and understood things that I could just never put my finger on!
And wait until you see the final 5 areas that abused Christians struggle with.
I bet you've seen it......just never put the pieces of the puzzle together!!

"To the praise of the glory of His grace,
which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace
which He lavished on us."
Ephesians 1: 6-7

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What does spiritual abuse even look like? Part 2

The other day, we looked at the first 4 symptoms of a spiritually abusive system.

Let's carefully consider the last 3 symptoms, as outlined in David Johnson and Jeff VonVanderen's book,
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

""The following characteristics are what make these spiritual abusive systems difficult to escape:"

5. Paranoia
"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.
Let's never forget that one of our (Christians) main functions in guiding God's flock is to find spiritual help for hurting people --even if it means submitting to someone who has expertise in an area where we have little or no wisdom."

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.
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.
After all, the leader is the authority, and authority is always right.
This causes people to misplace their loyalty in a leader, a church, or an organization.
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 to be viewed as wrong or "backslidden."
Scare tactics used if you try to leave:
"God is going to withdraw His Spirit from you and your family."
"God will destroy your business."
"Without protection, Satan will get your children."
"You and your family will come under a curse."

This is spiritual blackmail and it is abuse."

7. Secretive

"People don't hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate.
One reason spiritually 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 in order 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."
When these characteristics exist in a church or Christian family system, the result will be spiritual abuse. It will be a closed system, with rigid boundaries that prevent people from leaving. There will be the perception of a lot of evil on the outside, to keep people in, and there will be a lot of power postured on the inside to compel you to perform. There will also be tired, wounded people who feel that they are either unspiritual or crazy. And they will have major problems relating to God from the heart."

Monday, May 20, 2013

What does spiritual abuse even look like? Part 1

A couple of years ago I was introduced to an amazing book by David Johnson and Jeff VonVanderen entitled "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."

It is a must read for anybody who feels they might have been or are being spiritually abused.
I'm going to quote from this book because it is so powerful.

First let's define the term "spiritual abuse."

"Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person's spiritual empowerment.
Spiritual abuse can occur when a leader uses his or her spiritual position to control or dominate another person.  It often involves overriding the feelings and opinions of another, without regard to what will result in the other person's state of living, emotions, or spiritual well-being.
It can also occur when spirituality is used to make others live up to a "spiritual standard "  This promotes external "spiritual performance " also without regard to an individual's actual well-being or is used as a means of "proving" a person's spirituality."

"Not all strong Christian leaders are abusive, nor are all spiritual systems abusive.
There is no such thing as a perfect family or church where people don't ever get hurt.
But the difference between an abusive and a non-abusive system is that while hurtful behaviors might happen in both, it is not permissible to talk about problems, hurts and abuses in the abusive system.  Hence, there is no healing and restoration after the wound has occurred, and the victim is made to feel at fault for questioning or pointing out the problem."

So what does a spiritually abusive system look like?

According to David Johnson and Jeff VonVanderen, something like this:

1. Power-Posturing
"Power posturing simply stated means that leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it as well. This is necessary because their spiritual authority isn't real - based on genuine godly character - it is postured.
....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."
"In this flock, I'm the Chief Shepherd."
"Because I'm the pastor, that's why!"
"How dare you doubt me!"
"Don't be a troublemaker."
"Keep the peace."
"Submit to your elder."

2. Performance Preoccupation

"In abusive spiritual systems, power is postured and and authority is legislated. Therefore, these systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members. Obedience and submission are two important words often used.
Yes, obedience to God is not negotiable. Yet, the way to tell if someone is doing the right thing for the wrong reason is if they are keeping track of it.
If obedience and service is flowing out of you as a result of your 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."
"For many reasons, followers sometimes obey or follow orders to avoid being shamed, to gain someone's approval, or to keep their spiritual statues or church 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 e called obedience. It is merely weak compliance with some form of external pressure."
"Do not be CONFORMED, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind."
Romans 12:2

3. Unspoken Rules
"Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy 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 out loud, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.
The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don't cause them, the simply expose them.
Too many churches communicate this kind of shaming message: 'The problem is not that your boundaries were crossed and violated, the problem is that you talked." 

4. Lack of Balance

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

1. Extreme Objectivism
This is seen in religious systems where even though the Holy Spirit's work might be acknowledged theologically, on a practical level it would be suspect or denied.
The objective spiritual system limits God to act only in those ways that we can explain, prove, or experience. It puts God in a box. We are left with a Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Bible - as if understanding and memorizing Scripture is the only way to hear From God. We are relegated to songs that commemorate how God used to do things. We no longer worship the great I AM, but the great "I Was."

2. Extreme Subjectivisim
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."

Part 2 will cover the last three characteristics of an abusive system as outlined in the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why I feel compelled to write about "Spiritual Abuse"

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm
and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

"You were bought with a price;
do not become slaves of men."
I Corinthians 7:23  (NASB)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing;
it is the gift of God, not a result of works,
so that no one may boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9  (ESV)

During the last several years, intertwined with my weight loss journey, the Lord began working in my heart about "my own practice of Christianity."  I had found some things online through a bizarre chain of events that alerted me to some really disturbing things being brought to light about the church denomination that our family belongs to (NOT our own church specifically.) 
Some of those things really frightened me.
I began searching.
Hearing and reading stories of abuse.
Horrible things that made me really mad, at first.
I didn't want to believe them.
I didn't want to believe that I had been conned for the greater part of my life.
I became very alert to the subject of Grace.
I wanted to make sure that I really, truly understood what that meant.....what that term looks like.
And what I found has transformed my understanding of our loving Heavenly Father!!
It has deepened my walk with Him!
I am in wonder and gratefulness for what God, in His providence, has spared my life from.
But it has also made me HUNGRY to know the truth.
The truth about love.
The truth about mercy.
The truth about grace.
What a cult really is.........and what it is not.

For some, I can understand how this topic might lose you at the title.
But I know others who are caught, trapped inside a spiritually abusive system.......
either not even realizing that they are in bondage to rules and regulations and a weight God never intended for them to carry......
or knowing full well that they are caught in an environment that fosters horrible abuse and they are desperate to get out.
I want to write about what I've seen can be the awful end result of this.
What happens to people caught up in it.
What it is and what it is not.

I want to write about FREEDOM.
Joyful freedom from the bondage of traditions and religious performances that have been created by men.
Freedom from having to look perfect all the time.
To admit we're in a mess, but that that's ok.
Because isn't that why Christ came?
Right into our mess?
"Emmanuel...God with us."
To free us!!

By His lavish, undeserved grace.
And He paid the price for our freedom....once....for all.

There is nothing more we can do.
It's already done.

Hebrews 10:4-14

English Standard Version (ESV)
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ[a] came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure insacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[b]had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.