Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Book on Spiritual Abuse

Interview with Dr. Margaret Jones, author of Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct available through Amazon

Not of My Making is a new, self-published book on Jones’ effort to grapple with several abusive situations, including church abuse. Jones endured childhood abuse and neglect, along with spiritual abuse in two churches, but despite such devastating situations, she obtained her Ph D, became a therapist and runs a family business, Pluck Press.

Here is a recent interview with Dr. Jones:

1. On the Pluck Press site, there is a little motto that says, “From survivor to thriver.” Are you thriving now?

Yes. I have become more of the person I was always meant to be. I am the piece of iron thrust into the fire. I am now stronger, more confident and more accepting of who I am. I make no apologies for freely expressing my emotions. I like that I am a passionate, intelligent and well educated person with strong opinions.

2. What made you decide to write a book about your experiences? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to bury all the bad feelings and go on?

I tried to bury my pain and forget what happened. In my book you will notice that I stopped therapy a couple of times because talking appeared to increase my agony. The pain of silence, however, was greater. My anxiety and self-harming behaviors increased. If I allowed my adversaries to silence me, I would have paid for it with my life. Writing and marketing Not of My Making has aided my recovery and helped me move on.

3. Your journal seems to have played a big part in your life and in your recovery. Would you recommend journaling to others in an abusive situation?

I encourage my therapy and coaching clients to write about their experiences. Some refuse because they fear others in their household will read it and use it as a weapon against them. Others don’t like to write. For them writing is more like an English grammar assignment. But whenever I have a client who likes to write, I suggest they journal about their experiences.

4. It sounds like you started your journal at quite a young age. At what age are your earliest entries?

I started keeping a journal when I was sixteen years old after watching a movie about Anne Frank. I was lonely and the journal became my only friend. I usually wrote when something was upsetting me. So you will find very few of the good times in my life recorded in my journal. While raising my children my journal writing morphed into letters to my husband and the therapist I had at the time. I started keeping a journal again when I started therapy again. Unable to talk about what had happened at church; I would write in my journal and share it with my therapist each week. I used that material to write Not of My Making.

5. You have three subheaders for your book – bullying, scapegoating and misconduct. What is the difference between those behaviors? Why did you choose those three to describe what happened to you?

The subheads are designed to make it easier for people who are interested in abuse to find my book. In Not of My Making I recount how my classmates ridiculed me and excluded me from all events including my junior and senior proms. As an adult this pattern repeated itself at the churches I attended. During church conflicts I became a convenient scapegoat. By blaming me, people were able to divert attention from the issues I raised and push through their own agendas with little or no scrutiny. Clergy in their efforts to “help” and/or silence me broke some basic principles of professional ethics such as confidentiality.

6. How common do you think spiritual abuse is in churches today?

As common as bullying is in schools. It is part of human nature to seek power and dominance. Unless there are structures in place to prevent it, wherever people congregate you will get bullying including churches. The problem is made worst when church leaders attempt to hide conflict. People are then able to mistreat others without fear of being reprimanded.

7. Did your husband or family play any role in your recovery from spiritual abuse?

My husband was supportive during the conflict with the Unitarian Universalist churches. When the conflict occurred at the Lutheran church he just wanted me to stop going to church. “They are all corrupt,” he would tell me. He doesn’t understand why I attend church. It is easy to forget he has also been hurt by the spiritual abuse. As a result he won’t have anything to do with religion. My eldest sister and her daughter on the other hand understood why I wanted to remain churched. Their phone calls and letters were helped me get through it.

8. You have been a victim of many kinds of abuse. Is it possible to state which was the worst and why?

Abuse is abuse. Regardless of what form it takes, the injury from it is pretty much the same. Of the three dechurchings Immanuel was the worst. They not only attacked me but my entire life, my family, my home, everything I valued and was proud of. I was also in a more vulnerable place. I was still recovering from my previous dechurchings and I was grieving the loss of my foster son. My adversaries did not see my grief as legitimate.

9. Were there intimations of church abuse before you actually began to realize what was happening? What were the first clues something was not quite right in either of your church experiences?

At the Unitarian churches I was completely taken by surprise. I truly believed UUs were tolerant and would sit down to rationally discuss things. I didn’t realize I was being bullied until I saw Stossel’s show on school bullying. I began to get worried at Immanuel when they put me on a pedestal for taking in a Sudanese Lost Boy. My therapist thought I was over reacting. He was wrong. Now I pay more attention to my own perceptions. I worry less about being nice or rational. I trust my gut.

10. Do people even today try to turn the tables and blame you for your own abuse? If so, what is your response when that happens?

No one blames me for my childhood sexual abuse and neglect by my parents. However, there are some people who believe you can’t trust survivors around children. It is like you have the mark of Cain on you. As for my dechurchings, some people don’t understand why I didn’t leave the abusive situations sooner. These people usually don’t see the value in attending church or they have a need to believe it can’t happen to them because they think they are smarter and more capable than me. I believe it can happen to you no matter who you are.

11. Do you think your understanding of God was damaged because of what happened to you? Have you deliberately tried to keep numb so that you won’t be hurt again? Or have you managed to arrive at a healthy understanding of God and his place in your life?

My understanding of God was damaged by the sexual abuse, parental neglect and bullying in school. God, it appeared to me, wasn’t doing a good job of protecting me. I left the Catholic Church and became an atheist. I began making my way back to church once I overcame depression. I started attending the Unitarian Universalist Church because I thought they were more tolerant than other denominations. Although I would eventually learn how narrow and intolerant they really were, I do not regret the time I was a member. Unitarian Universalism allowed me to explore other faith traditions and nurtured my spiritual seeking. When I wasn’t politically liberal enough and began reading Marcus Borg’s books on Jesus they no longer had a place for me. UUs were going in the opposite direction. While they were embracing neopaganism I was rediscovering Christianity.
My experience at Immanuel Lutheran strengthened my faith rather than destroyed it. I finally realized that so much of what I was searching for – love, acceptance, and safety – were to be found in God. The concept of sin actually freed me from years of guilt I felt over having been raped. I finally understood it was my rapist’s sin, not mine.

12. What would you recommend for someone who begins to suspect their church could be abusive, but they aren’t sure?

Trust their perceptions and pay attention. Are there procedures in place for reporting problems? What happens when there is a conflict? Does someone get blamed for it and pushed out of the church? Are people gossiped about? Does the minister participate in that gossip? Does the minister or leadership share authority and invite everyone’s participation in church life or are some people excluded? Are the teachings consistent with classic Christianity? Are people trying to walk the talk or are they mainly interested in coffee hour?


wendy said...

hello--was looking for your email or something--wanted to let you know i deleted my blog--if you want to email me that is fine and i will explain why--thanks so much for your kind words, and support


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What is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse. It can happen in big churches and small. It can happen in churches that at first seem sound, biblical or healthy. Certain signatures define spiritual abuse: authoritarian leadership, claims that the group or leaders have a special calling or gifts, inability of leaders to handle criticism, harsh treatment of those who question or try to leave. These are just a few. Though the manifestation of abuse differs in externals, underneath are similar traits, repeated in abusive groups. Become familiar with spiritual abuse in a variety of churches and you will soon see how these leaders manipulate and control.

Are you covering for a spiritually abusive pastor?

What's happening to my church?

A message to culty group defenders

Cult Next Door posted this excellent response to those culty-group defenders -- who lambaste victims on blogs exposing spiritual abuse. These folks see nothing wrong with the abusive leader, defend the hurtful practices and blame the one exposing the tactics. They needle victims, and pile on blame. They excuse the harm of abusers, and belittle the pain of victims. Provender wishes every blog on spiritual abuse would have a little message like this for these folks.

Sometimes, they apologize

Every once in a while, church leaders in these situations apologize. A Florida blogger, FBCWatchdog, was kicked out of church and given trespass warning documents after being outed as a church blogger critic, and later was branded a "sociopath" by the pastor of his large, Florida church, in the local paper. The blogger eventually brought suit. After the ruling (and likely as part of the settlement), the pastor publicly apologized. There is much more to the story, but these are the highlights.

Using words to manipulate

It can be subtle, or it can hit you head on. When spiritual abusers are cornered, certain techniques crop up again and again. Here are some samples.

What does elitism have to do with spiritual abuse?

Does your church think it's special? What does it think of other churches? Elitism is a big sign your church or group could be spiritually dangerous. CLICK HERE for more

Misusing Scripture to Abuse

Check out The Cult Next Door's interview with Provender on twisting scriptures.

Stories of abuse and survival

Links to stories of spiritual abuse:

She had to choose between church or daughter

When he wanted to move out of state, the pastor of this Kansas UPC church said he'd be going "down, down, down."

This cult church made a virtual slave of one blogger -- 15 years of misery

What is it like to lose your son to a spiritually abusive church? One mother's story.

Her husband gave up law practice to give his all to church, and the whole family ended up shunned by order of the leadership.

Cruel stepfather is also pastor of a California "Bible-based" church (a Calvary Chapel). His children suffered beatings meted out by this pastor/stepdad. Church leaders would not disassociate themselves, only minimize and cover up the pastor/dad's violence.

This pastor said God gave instructions on how to roll and fold toilet paper properly. Soon the TP police were on the job Also, edicts on not smashing pennies!

They told her terrible things would happen if she left, and no other church would help her.

The man behind the curtain

Church blogger critic experiences wrath of abusers (including fake letter-of-resignation sent to employer) and major harassment with few attempts by church leaders to stop the abuse.

Caught in a Bible-based cult for 13 years

Holey coverups

Abusive voices remained in her head after she left the cultish group

A good blog on spiritual abuse, and some great links in the sidebar also.

This sad story includes 15 signs of abuse

This woman left the frying pan of one cult for the fire of another

Parents of woman who cut off baby's arms blame pastor 's influence for taking her to the edge

College senior trapped in abusive group for years finally escapes

Many, many stories mostly from UPC members

An SGM pastoral intern finds leaving isn't all that easy

When husband beat her after worship service, this mom sought help from church only to be abused further

Hedged in at her Canadian Baptist college, this young women had few places to turn, but managed to survive.

When humility is not humility

After divorcing for verbal abuse, this woman was disfellowshiped from a Baptist church with a message on a large screen in front of the church that read: CONDUCT UNBECOMING A CHILD OF GOD

His family chose the elders and shunned him

"Untouchable, unaccountable, unknowable, and alone"

Abusive pastor destroys congregation he was "called" to serve

Check main site

Make sure to check out the main Provender site

Contact Provender

If you have found an especially helpful site on spiritual abuse, please email Provender and we'll see about adding it. If you need to tell your story, you can also email Provender. We'll always keep your story confidential unless you wish to post it in the case studies section.

Also, if you notice broken links on this site, please contact Provender: Click Here

Featured link: The Web of Narcissism

Provender's guest posts

A Sense of Futility on Quivering Daughters blog

Spiritual Abuse is Hidden Trauma on The Cult Next Door blog

Are you covering your pastor's nakedness?

In Predators in the Pulpit, Chris Efinda discusses the covering nakedness doctrine. Enablers of spiritual abuse justify cover-ups of abusive pastors using this pseudo-scriptural approach. Efinda says that the spiritual "sons" of abusive leaders feel that hiding the wrongdoing of abusive pastors becomes a divine test of their own faithfulness. If you are acting as a go-between, or "filtering" what comes from your pastor and to make it seem more acceptable to others, are you trying to cover your pastor's nakedness? It's very likely.

Also see, Are You Covering for a Spiritually Abusive Pastor

A word from Ezekiel

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."

Ezekiel 34:1-6

A message to abusive pastors from Jeremiah 23

Woe to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.

Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, says the LORD.

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.

And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, says the LORD. ...

For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, says the LORD.

... for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.

Thus says the LORD of hosts, Do not listen to the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

They say still to those who despise me, The LORD has said, You shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

...I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

...I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.

How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the LORD.

Is not my word like as a fire? says the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.

Jeremiah 23

Tell your story

The Cult Next Door blog invites those who have been spiritually abused to tell their stories. This can be a healthy exercise for victims of abuse, especially those living under a "can't talk" rule.

Follow the leader, but with care

An editorial on how easy it is to fall into the trap of following dangerous leaders.

Search Here

To search Provender (or to see the latest additions to Provender), CLICK HERE

Order of Posts

I like to keep the list of helpful sites on Spiritual Abuse at or near the top because providing links to the best resources on this topic is the main purpose of this blog. If a post seems to disappear, you can usually find it below the first post.

Psalms for the Oppressed

A glimpse into life under the thumb of controlling church

Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel by Shari Howerton details life under the thumb of an oppressive church.

Spiritually abused woman needs prayer, help

How they use words to manipulate and abuse

Spiritual Abuse Quote of the Month

Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to be questioning...Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts -- new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology. -- Step 5 of MargaretSinger's Six Conditions for Thought Reform, found on ICSA

Covering and Manipulation

Two sites I want to emphasize:
The site Covering and Authority ends up buried and hard to find because it was a late discovery, so I thought I'd make a handy sidebar link to this page on the concept of covering or theology of covering. This site includes many scriptural references refuting the idea of human responsibility for the sins and behavior of others.

Also, a Rest Ministries page on manipulation and spiritual abuse disappeared when Geocities closed its sites in October. Before it disappeared, I preserved part of it and now have it linked HERE. This site exposed, in vivid detail, techniques abusers use to get followers to do their bidding. Very insightful

Additional resources

Dr. Barb Orlowski has provided these additional resources she came across in the course of her research. Thanks, Dr. Orlowski.


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