Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Model of Spiritually Abusive Language

If you could watch in slow motion and analyze how abusers manipulate, it would be enlightening. But when you are smack dab in a spiritually manipulative situation, sometimes the abuse happens so quickly that you don’t know what hit you. Every once in a while you catch a frozen glimpse of spiritual abuse in action. When it's in writing, it's easier to analyze. When it's in writing, it is inscribed in cement. You can take your time and actually see how the abuser is abusing.

The blog comments below (in bolded type) - from a few web sites I’ve been following - serve as freeze-frame examples of typical spiritually abusive techniques, so I thought I’d use them as an analytical tool. (My observations are in green type.)

The following comments were posted on a blog that tries to shed light on questionable practices in a large, influential church in Florida. Below the first set of comments are comments from a blog giving the story of a member hurt by a church/Bible college fiefdom in Canada.

In the first case, a blogger pointed out suspect practices and was kicked out of church. I am not so much concerned with the case itself as with the language used in these blog comments.

The writers of the comments may have no clue that the arguments they use are right out of the spiritual abuse playbook. They may think they are doing service to God. In any case, the arguments are a handy tool for those interested in examining the topic of spiritual abuse because they reflect so many spiritually abusive tactics, all in one place:

Well, there you go again, attacking an honest God-fearing, God-anointed, and God-appointed minister of the Gospel.

Notice the characterizing of what is said in opposition to a church leader as an “attack.” This is common with spiritual abusers and their helpers. The leader elicits sympathy by characterizing criticism as an attack. By drawing followers into a circle-the-wagons mentality, the persecution complex these leaders often exhibit can spread to the whole congregation.. Soon, it’s not just the leader, but the whole group that feels "under attack." (See Rick Ross, 10 signs regarding people in a relationship with a potentially unsafe group leader)
Also, the writer assumes without question that ministers are automatically “God-appointed.” We are to believe this without hesitation because title alone is what gives a church leader authority.
The commenter implies that ministers should never be contradicted, and this is an indication of authoritarianism, where position alone equals authority and authority is not to be questioned.
Click here for a discussion on authoritarianism in the church. Also check out cult expert Rick Ross’s list of what makes an unsafe group leader. Look at the first two items especially.

Yes, I now know your argument quite well and have read enough of your other posts to have the clear picture of you as somebody that just wants to spread fear and doubt

When abusive leaders or their followers are confronted with legitimate questions about their actions, they quickly turn to ad hominem. They will start listing your faults so that you will be too busy defending yourself to remember what you were saying about their actions.
Abusive pastors and their henchmen also like to pretend they can know your heart and motives. By pretending this, they wrap themselves in a robe of power and mystery.

and not accept the fact that God is in control and has the ultimate authority over all church matters. If God is giving Dr. ___________ such a message to seminary students there must be a reason for it, such as the real existence of antagonism and dissent based on an uncooperative spirit

Simply delivering a sermon does not mean God is behind it. Abusers want you to believe that the leader is a spokesman for God at all times.
Uncooperative spirit, critical spirit, unteachable spirit: these are all names that spiritual abusers call those who stand up to abuse. We have seen this many times in various cases of

that determines to undermine God's will and disrupt His work by focusing on trivial things.

Undermining the pastor’s will is equated to undermining God’s will in abusive churches.

In a world of many unsaved people that need the Gospel, where there are diseases, famines, natural disasters, abortions, and unspeakable crimes, do you think that God is concerned about the size of the office suite that our Pastor has?

God has the number of hairs on our head counted. He cares about every bird that falls. He cares about everything. He especially cares about those who are prey to the powerful. Supporters of abusive pastors like to divert attention AWAY from abusive behavior.
Uncovering and Facing Spiritual Abuse by Barnabas Ministry lists several ways supporters do this. Look especially at the section called Diverting Attention. In this case, the commenter took one portion of the blogger’s concerns and magnified it out of proportion, then tried to knock down that “straw man” argument, among other tactics.

Do you truly believe that God would consider it wrong for a pastor to warn future pastors about the high probability of enduring persecution?

Many abusive pastors will contact the new pastor of an expelled victim to slander him or give a negative report. Here, the supporter excuses this behavior at the same time charging persecution. Here is the very favorite P word, “persecution.” Spiritual abusers and their Yes-men resort to this charge constantly when facing scrutiny. Anything that might call them to account is automatically labeled “persecution.” Check out Persecution Complex in the article Abusive Churches by Pat Zukeran

In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul wrote, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." I believe this verse proves that Dr. __________ is on the right track and in God's will,

Using this verse in a such a twisted way upholds a common fallacy: Cats are soft. My slipper is soft. My slipper must be a cat. That is the logic used here. The Bible says godly people suffer persecution. The abusive pastor suffers “persecution.” Therefore, the abusive pastor is godly. Invalid syllogysm.

for he is obviously facing persecution. It's very dismaying to know that it's coming from within the church and that it has no substantial basis on which to defend itself. Oh, go ahead, call me naive and gullible again for thinking that way. If believing in the Bible and trusting in God's sovereignty is naive and gullible, I'll be happy to be those things.

Two manipulative tactics here. One, becoming the "suffering servant," defenders of abusive groups portray themselves as suffering, or hardworking or unloved. Supporters view their abusive pastors in that way and present them that way. It is an attempt to elicit sympathy and support for their leader. Another common attribute of spiritually abusive churches is scripture twisting. Torturing the scriptures to support your view, and especially to negate someone else’s view, can seem noble and holy, but it is a dreadful thing to do with scripture. Check out the article, Twisting Scriptures a sample chapter from Mary Alice Chrnalogar’s book Twisted Scriptures from the site Stop Spiritual Abuse.

Don't you think that questioning the man of God and hence, God's wisdom and providence, fall into the category of dangerous ground?

This question alone reeks of spiritually abusive practice. First, the writer assumes the abusive pastor is a man of God and the blogger isn’t. Second, the writer deifies the pastor by equating questioning him to questioning God. Third, the writer includes a veiled threat: You’re on dangerous ground questioning the pastor.

It reminds me of the phrase, "play with fire and get burned." Who are we to question our Almighty God who, as I said before, could and would bring about change if He deemed it necessary?

Everything that happens, even spiritual abuse, must be God’s will because if it wasn’t, He would change it. Misuse of logic. Under this principle, God must wish for elderly women to get mugged and African babies to starve, simply because it happens and God is in charge of everything.

Your complaints and those of your band of anonymous supporters are based on things that wouldn't be seen by looking at the big picture.

Another spiritual abuse tactic is to let victims know that they don’t have the big picture like the abuser does. They must trust in their abusive leader to have the correct view of things. (See p. 113 of Ken Blue’s Healing Spiritual Abuse)

They especially wouldn't be seen if we had our focus on the up-look and not on what's around us. As Hebrews 12:2 suggests, we need to keep our focus on Jesus! That's the main point!

While no one would dispute that the focus should be on Jesus, many would disagree on where the distraction is coming from. “Move along, don’t look too closely. The problem is YOU.” That is a common ploy of spiritually abusive leaders. It’s called “turning the tables”) See Rest Ministries’ article on Characteristics of Spiritual Abuse: Manipulation and read the “Turning the Tables” section.

If and when we wander away from that, we will certainly stumble and yield to the devil.

Confronting abuse in the church is now equated to “yielding to the devil.” One hallmark of spiritually abusive groups is a preoccupation with Satan and his work, according to Ron Enroth in this article on Apologetics Index.

Getting stressed out about the size of our Pastor's house and how he acquired land is not the result of staying focused on Jesus.

If you’re focused on Jesus you won’t care about corruption in the church, I guess. You can only do one: Focus on Jesus or question corrupt practices. You can’t do both. This is called “false dichotomy” and is another logical fallacy.

Neither is complaining about what he says about his church when preaching to other groups. Pastors have been known to use examples in their sermons. That is all he is doing. Perhaps, sad as it may in fact be, there is truth in what he says. Maybe our church has gotten more legalistic and needs to amend its ways. On his mission trips, the Apostle Paul certainly talked to one church about the issues and ways of other churches. It's obviously not wrong for a pastor to refer to his church when preaching elsewhere.

Deliberately mischaracterizing the statements of another is dishonest. The blogger was not complaining that the pastor addressed another church or used examples. Here, the dishonest characterization is used to shame the blogger. Using shame to silence critics is a hallmark of abusive churches and cults. (See the Watchman Expositor’s Elements of Spiritual Abuse.)

If there had been computers and blogs in Old Testament times, I think people would have complained about Joshua and his command to march around the walls of Jericho for seven days!

That some people in the past might have complained about righteous biblical leaders says nothing about whether a current leader is right or wrong, abusive or healthy. The attempt to condemn those who bring concerns about present abuse and compare them to murmurers in Old Testament times is a common abusive tactic. (See Scripture Twisting in Manipulation on Rest Ministries web site.) Whistleblowers are sometimes charged with "undermining the pastor," "Absalom syndrome," or "Jezebel syndrome."

There must have been some serious murmuring and doubt on display. Good thing it didn't stop Joshua. Moses encountered plenty of friction from his followers, yet he was still blessed by God and able to do great things!

Equating the authority of Moses to pastors is another common manipulative technique used by spiritual abusers. Moses was called to lead the Israelites, and God gave miracles through him to stamp His approval on him. Abusive leaders today often want to dress themselves in the authority of Moses without any sign of God’s approval. (See the Authoritarianism section in the article The Bible and Spiritual Abuse.)

Let's keep our focus on Jesus

No one on the blog was saying to stop looking on Jesus. I can certainly see the Pharisees telling Jesus to stop overturning tables and “Focus on God.” Again, this is simply a call for the blogger to stop looking at troubles and voicing concerns. Move on. Look the other way. It’s not godly to pay attention. (See Stephen Martin’s The Heresy of Mind Control, p. 92 in a section called Creating Guilt to Suppress Thought. To access the book you must click on the link at the bottom of Martin's page where it says: To read more about this subject ….)

and not allow circumstantial things to bother us and slow us down in our quest to bring honor to Him and be more like Him! Let's pray for our pastor

Another false dichotomy. The commenter suggests you can’t bring up concerns with the church and pray for the pastor at the same time. Who says the blogger isn’t already praying for the pastor?

and offer encouragement,
If corruption is involved, encouragement is not what the blogger should be doing,

help, and a positive attitude that promotes unity

another common manipulative technique seen in spiritually abusive situations is to equate unity with going along with the abuser’s agenda. Oppose the abuser and you are causing “disunity.” See the Group Leveraging section of Manipulation on Rest Ministries.

and preparation to achieve things for God and His Kingdom!

Purifying the church from abusive or corrupting influences and authoritarianism might very well be achieving things for God. Abusive pastors believe that the only godly achievements are those done for the glory of pastor or group. See Narcissism in the Pulpit.

Another blog I’ve been following more recently deals with spiritually abusive behavior at a church and Bible college in Canada. Comments defending abuse and abusers are very telling and many fit right into the same patterns mentioned in the first part of this post. Others reveal techniques not mentioned above. Again, the comments from the blog are in bolded type; my comments are in green.

You can't leave people alone can you? The Bible has allot to say about people like you.(gossips busybodies, etc.)

Here, you see the technique of “turning the tables,” pointing to the sins or crimes of the victim rather than dealing with the abuse as a topic. Notice the “gossip” charge, such a common charge used in abusive churches against those raising questions and issues.

The (church) must be doing something Great for the LORD. Because that the only reason Satan would be attacking the Church and it's leadership. this hard.

It's just Sad to see all these so called "Christians" leading the attack. I think Laura And all her Supporters will hang their heads in Shame at the judgment.

Another faulty syllogism. The commenter believes that the church is being attacked by Satan. (See "Common Threads", The second item is an increased emphasis on the role of demons in Ron Enroth's "Voices from the Fringe") 

The commenter states it as fact that Satan is attacking this particular church. He does not allow any other possibility to explain the discomfort of the leadership.  Then, he posits that because Satan is attacking the church it is proof that the church is doing great things for God.  
   Although all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, it doesn’t follow that all who suffer persecution are living godly in Christ Jesus. Further, there is a threat at the end: If you support the victim, you will be shamed at the Judgment.

It was never about her telling her "story"
it was about her getting back at her father.
she's not reaching out, she's lashing out.
It all makes sense now.

Spiritual abusers and their henchmen often impute motives onto victims to explain away honest questions regarding abusive leadership. “Revenge” is one motive of many. Bitterness is another common motive. Anger another. Rather than a true evaluation of the behavior of leadership, something that a healthy church would initiate after hearing of dissatisfaction among the faithful, abusers turn outward and invent motives to justify the continued abuse.

If everything you said against (the church) were true, you are still GRAVELY WRONG in your attitude and wisdom in handling it. You have every rite to take all your DEFINATE PROOF to be heard by the deacons                   

Sometimes spiritual abusers detour around the issue itself and attack the means of bringing matters up for consideration. The abuser will claim that victims didn’t go in an orderly fashion along all the steps of Matthew 18, or that they didn’t do A, B or C. Often, victims do try to confront a leader personally but get nowhere. When victims are told to “see the elders,” frequently the elders are spiritual snipers, bouncers, or personal body guards of the pastor and not functioning in a true elder role in a church. Their job is to make sure that no unpleasantness comes before the big cheese.
    When a sincere member comes with his list of questions, he quickly is made into a villain or sent on a longer detour or told to pray about the matter. He won’t be allowed to advance along the Matthew 18 route or any other route.    Later, when he tries to “tell it to the church” because he has been deflected a number of times from the proper paths, he is accused of going about things the wrong way.
    Sometimes, the pastor will meet with the victim but only in a room bulging with yes-men supporters who will come down like a hammer on the head of anyone bringing to the light of day questionable, unbiblical or unethical behaviors of the leadership.
    Frequently, victims who have watched as others are deflected or crushed, know that it is fruitless to even attempt a personal encounter with the pastor because the system is set up to prevent accountability. These victims learn vicariously that they cannot engage the non-engageable and they thus slink out or try other equally fruitless methods.
    After being ejected, deflected or rejected by church leadership, victims are further insulted by being blamed for going about things the wrong way!
Sounds like you have an issue with submission

    Of all the techniques spiritual abusers use, blaming the victim for being “unsubmissive” is one of the most ironic. Christians are to submit one to another, and to submit to secular authorities rather than cause trouble in the empire. But spiritual abusers turn these passages into a peons-will-submit-to-the-high-pastor command. Rarely is the pastor in submission to anyone other than himself.
    Sometimes, he will surround himself with sychophants whose positions and income depend on his pleasure and who cannot hold him accountable without endangering their livelihood.
    Occasionally, he will purposely use men too afraid to oppose him when he is unbiblical or unethical, though they do not depend on him financially. They know the power he holds and have seen him destroy others. They are not about to speak up and bring his wrath on their own heads. 

       So these abusive pastors are largely lone rangers, accountable to no one, yet they accuse their victims of being unsubmissive. They can get away with it because most of their victims ARE the submissive, humble kind who don’t speak up until they absolutely must. Often, they have served and served and served, sacrificially and at great cost, with very little thank or reward except for occasional scraps of flattery. So a charge of being unsubmissive hurts them deeply, and the pastor knows it.

bitter people anonymously gathering in large masses on the web, hiding behind their own presumptuous little hurt feelings trying to salve their stinky consciences.

The bitterness charge is so common that there are few abusive church leaders who don’t use this word in describing their victims. No one wants to be called bitter, so it’s an effective label. It is like the bully who kicks the kid with glasses, and when he cries in pain calls him a “crybaby.” It is a thin membrane between church-inflicted pain and bitterness, and pain can indeed become bitterness under the right conditions. You will find many anti-Christian web sites started by those damaged in abusive churches. So those using broad brushes can inflict more pain by deliberately confusing the two concepts.

One thing abusive church leaders hate is anonymity of those who expose their practices. Abusers sometimes go to great lengths to expose anonymous critics. The Internet helps churches call to account malevolent leaders who, in an earlier day, would have been able to maim and destroy families without any check at all on their abuses. You can see how this new element of constraint irritates would-be dictators by comments such as those above. Characterizing members who have been trampled as presumptuous and trivializing their victims’ reaction to spiritual tyranny as “hurt feelings” shows a pitiable lack of empathy so characteristic of abusive church leaders, especially those suffering from NPD.

The methods in these comments are used to shame and humiliate, to divert attention from the leader and onto the questioner, to confuse and silence critics with convoluted logic. These methods are common. You will see them in most spiritually abusive churches and groups. At the very least, this exercise gets you more familiar with many great sources on spiritual abuse.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are you covering for a spiritually abusive pastor?

Signs you may be covering for a pastor who abuses the flock spiritually:

  1. You've noticed a pattern of people leaving the fellowship, but you hesitate to ask your pastor about it and don't like to delve into the reasons behind the exits.
  2. You've seen your pastor act in retribution for slights or criticism by removing people from ministries, publicly or privately shaming them or refusing to listen to them.
  3. You excuse your pastor's wrong behavior: He's young (or he's old), he doesn't understand the people who are unhappy, he has a little trouble relating to people, he'll grow out of it, I'm probably not seeing the whole picture, God will show him his weaknesses and he'll handle things better soon, no pastor is perfect in every way, he's such a good preacher that we can overlook the other parts of his calling.
  4. You find yourself blaming victims. You justify harsh behavior by your pastor by focusing on the sins or weaknesses of those who are shamed or shunned or criticized or punished.
  5. You feel that to protect the name of Christ in your community you need to keep secret the alarming behavior by your pastor or leaders in the church.
  6. You feel it's your duty to think the best of your pastor, no matter what charges are brought against him (but you don't extend the same courtesy to those who feel they've been abused or harmed).
  7. You feel it's okay for your pastor to build up your church by criticising other churches with "inferior" doctrines or practices, but it's not okay for anyone to question decisions by church leaders if it looks like criticism.
  8. You enjoy being flattered by your pastor and seek to please him often. You spend a lot of time in church flattering and seeking approval from your pastor.
  9. You are frequently in fear of being criticized by your pastor or having your ministry in the church taken away.
  10. You've seen your pastor flatter those he can use and then later turn on them or ignore them.
  11. You would feel uncomfortable asking to see financial records of the church, and you are willing to just assume that they are being used in a godly manner.
  12. You feel constant pressure to help more in church or to give more, or both.
  13. Going to church often seems like a burden, but you don't want anyone to know you feel that way.
  14. You have criticized other churches or individuals with your pastor.
  15. You like the feeling of being in the "inner circle," and you sometimes feel you have the pastor's confidence in a way no one else does.
  16. You often feel a little bit superior to Christians who don't witness as much as you, or who don't practice their faith as well as you, or who don't emphasize certain doctrines as much as you do.
  17. You feel that no one quite understands the scriptures, delivers sermons or reaches out to the weak and poor like your pastor does.
  18. You spend much time defending your pastor, either in your own mind or to others
  19. You don't like to admit it, but you often spend more time thinking about your pastor or leaders than you do about God (whether positively, negatively or both).
  20. You are exhausted.
If many of these items speak to you, it might be a good idea to evaluate what your role in your church really is. Are you providing a constant stream of "narcissistic supply" for your pastor? Is your main role to make him look good? Do you equate making him look good with powerful ministry in your community? You can serve many years believing you are doing good in your church by covering spiritual abuse for your leader, while really doing great harm. Check out the signs of spiritual abuse. If they look familiar, and you feel you may have had a hand in perpetuating it, all is not lost.
You can recognize the harm and turn from it, even if it's been a long time coming.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Milieu Control and the Georgia Baptist blog ban

From Under Much Grace blog, I found this tidbit from a post called Lifton's Mind Control 101:

Most simply stated, “Milieu Control” is the control of an environment by controlling the information and activities within the environment.

Pertaining to manipulative and closed groups, this involves control of communication and generation of acceptable information to be disseminated among the membership.

Ultimately, the group seeks to control the thought environment of individual members, and it is this internal milieu control that produces the isolation from society at large.

The cognitive dissonance [uncomfortable feeling] produced by the incongruent messages received from the outside creates the natural desire to withdraw or filter information that does not coincide with information within the group.

It’s too draining and stressful to constantly try to reckon conflicting worldviews, so isolationism seen in closed systems of thought is often a necessary adaptation. Healthy people do filter information, but in closed systems, the group dictates what sources of information are restricted in an effort to maintain compliance and limit dissent.

Now, having just read this about mind control, take a look at what the Georgia Southern Baptists have decided to try
For background on the blog ban, see Wartburg Watch


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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.

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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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