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:"
"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."
"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."