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.


Johnny D. said...

Dang, Provender, you've got some good posts here. How come you don't get any comments? Anyhow, I know the post you're referring to here in this blog. It is interesting to consider how one knows their minister is "god appointed." Is it just because the guy is the pastor? Is the thinking something like, "He's our pastor, so he must be God appointed, because God so loves this church, he would not forsake us with a wolf in sheep's clothing"? It sure seems like it could be that sort of thinking, and let's face it, that sort of thinking is rather self-centered and border-line narcissistic. Anyhow, good stuff - makes one think.

Freedom said...

AWESOME job, Provender!!! :) You make it so clear, "The emperor has no clothes..." and those who, like this silly bystander who tries to defend his/her pastor and church, keep proclaiming how lovely the emperor's royal garments are, you reveal the insanity and/or hypocracy of their illogic.



Anonymous said...

I find this site informative and enlightening.
I was referred to this site by a deacon who was forced out of my church and I was also told,"I am not welcome for my spiritual protection", although they permit my wife and children to attend there. The demanded I leave my home and not come back until I had their permission. Additionally, they even came into my home. I am going to follow Matthew 18:15-17.

Provender said...

Anonymous, this divisive abuse is among the worst kind. Though you can try Matthew 18 with abusive leaders, you don't usually get very far. Please read Kevin Johnson's article
while you consider what to do next. The context of Matt. 18 is important and it can be used like a 2x4 atop the head of those who would call to account abusive leaders. Prayers for you, Anonymous. Let us know what happens to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Not every situation fits Matt 18. In fact, it is USED by many to protect themselves. For example...if you are dealing with the evil of church leaders or FALSE teaching then how is the instruction in Matt 18 to finally "take the person before the church" going to work?

It isn't. In effect, following Matt 18 with abusive leaders is giving them the power to be even more evil. Matt 18 is NOT for wolves.

Anonymous said...

This blog is excellent. I am going to pass out the word. I love the way you analyze their words. People do not stop and think about what they are really saying...unfortuantly, so many years of being taught to follow man instead of Christ....makes the spiritual abuse possible.

Provender said...

I agree with you, Anonymous. Johnson's article (linked above) mentions this. I will excerpt it here: It has been noted by more than one that quite likely this passage about going to a brother privately and then taking two or more and then to the church is a process which is primarily concerned with dealing with sin in and among a circle of leadership that you are a part of, since our Lord was talking to the would-be leaders of the church as he outlined these things. ...That is the context of Matthew 18 and we find our Lord’s words about offenses in and among this context.

There is nothing in the passage that says that this is how a layman must approach a pastor or session in confronting sin. Wisdom should tell you that the deck is already stacked against you and to think this is the way to proceed in every case is to go well beyond what the basic outline of Matthew 18 proposes. Nor is there anything here in this 18th chapter as to how a person must confront their leadership at all with sin. It may very well be that the wisest thing to do in that type of situation is to leave as quietly as possible and not utter a word to the leadership or others that you have issues with what they have done.

If you don't confront an abusive pastor, you might open yourself to the charge that you didn't follow Matt. 18. But if you do confront one, you will rarely get to the point of bringing things to the whole congregation before you will be kicked out or worse. You will definitely be charged with divisive behavior, gossip, evil speaking or other such accusations. In the case of my church, the pastor LITERALLY ran out of the building rather than be alone with the elders. He refused to meet with elders. One eventually left the church and the other was kicked out. Before he was kicked out, the one remaining elder did manage to pin down the pastor. He promised to change some of his behavior. After this discussion, the pastor called back by phone and retracted all his promises an hour later.

Friends of ours in a different church tried, too, to follow Matt. 18. They were kicked out for "causing division," despite a very gentle, patient approach.

When abusive manipulators are in charge, those who would question leadership simply cannot make headway. Accountability by the leadership will not be allowed.
The law is good, if a man use it lawfully. said...

This is play by play and nearly word for word the techniques used in the Church of Bible Understanding. I would comment further, but you've pretty much said it all and nothing more needs to be added.

I see posts on this blog till about 2009 or so. Are you still updating this blog?

Provender said...

We don't update it as much as we should. Also, we try to keep the one main post at the top, so that those looking for resources will find them. Usually, when we have new material to add, we will post the new material and then a day or two later repost the main resource list with updates, so that it's up at the top. The one problem with this is that any comments on the main page are lost in the process. This should really be a web site rather than a blog, but Blogger is free and easy, so we use Blogger blog format. We do appreciate the comments, however.

terriergal said...

In a sense what you are describing is simple fallacious reasoning. Fallacy = falsehood= lies

Lies are the tool of Satan. Satan comes to steal kill and destroy. The strongholds of Satan are based on deception. They manipulate you into a position of submission this way, since they cannot physically force you.

Until you are freed, you really cannot see it happening. One more formalized technique is the Hegelian dialectic method Two extremes (thesis and antithesis) are put forth and shown to be wrong, which means the truth MUST be somewhere in the middle (synthesis).

This is also called the Delphi method. It basically ends up using group-think/consensus to determine truth. While the process can be useful for making practical decisions, it is absolutely useless for discerning truth.

Thanks for this post - very true. You see it over and over again, most recently in the Elephant Room and Code Orange Revivals, and James Macdonald, Steven Furtick, and Perry Noble's responses to their critics. (they are not the only ones)

Provender said...

Terriergal, thanks for the terrific insights. I haven't heard of the Delphi method or considered the Hegelian dialectic being part of spiritually abusive tactics. Do you have a link to something so I can read up on this? Fascinating. I will now Google search Delphi method. Thanks!

terriergal said...

Some resources on Delphi technique being used in schools to buffalo people into certain decisions

Delphi in the school system (IL)

The Hegelian dialectic is part of this process. I think they're mostly the same thing, different names. Another name is "diaprax" coined by Dean Gotcher and he discusses it here
Dean Gotcher - Authority Research - Diaprax

If you notice, the Church Transitioning type organizations that try to surreptitiously promote organizational change (such as turning a church Purpose Driven) do a lot of things like "vision casting" to build consensus around a 'vision' that the pastor has supposedly been given by God. Well then, you can't question it because it came from God.

Most of the churches which subscribe to Church Growth methodology are participating in this sort of behavior and justifying it by twisting Scripture. Pastors who have had propensities to control (I'm sure it is a temptation for a great many of them!) are given encouragement by books like The Purpose Driven Church (and a million spin-offs on growing your church) to behave this way all in the name of 'saving' people. Except that 'saving people' becomes synonymous with gathering a large crowd.

BTW a lot of these exact things happened at our Evangelical Covenant church when I voiced objections to what the pastor was doing and how he was treating people. Especially the meeting where they surrounded the pastor with people who jumped all over us. They also jumped all over someone else who tried to halfheartedly stick up for us in a meeting we were not present at, and then took a vote of support for the pastor right after it. It was unanimous of course.

In the meeting where we were ganged up on we BARELY were allowed to have another witness present. He was appalled.

They use social isolation, ostracization, cold shoulders, going around the agreed upon process for decision making to undermine decisions of the duly elected committees, etc...

Also, another technique is divide and conquer - They at first tried to meet with my husband and I separately but we wouldn't allow it. Can you imagine how they would have tried to divide us and play us against one another?

If you have time, check out Dan Southerland's "TRansitioning: Leading your Congregation Through Change" seminar and book.

Some of the seminar is used in this podcast to highlight the abusive manipulative techniques:
The Cult Like Hostile Takeover Tactics of the Purpose Drive CHurch Transitioning Seminar

The video seminars may still work here (scroll down):
Church Transitions Seminar

They aren't exactly the same one used in the podcast but nearly so. I do have copies of the entire seminar audio used in the podcast.

The book by Southerland we checked out of the Library. It has a glowing foreword by Rick Warren and the man's organization is widely touted as a leading church transitioning authority.

terriergal said...


A guy named Chuck Mcalister (who also has a hunting show called "Adventure Bound Outdoors") once wrote a 6 part article on on how to take over and change an established church. He referred to Dan Southerland's book almost exclusively.

The articles no longer seem to be online. A lot of people had linked to it, maybe he was getting negative feedback. But this guy did a summary of the articles here

Signs of a Purpose Driven Transition part 1

Signs of a Purpose Driven Transition part 2

Signs of a Purpose Driven Transition part 3

Signs of a Purpose Driven Transition part 4

Signs of a Purpose Driven Transition part 5

terriergal said...

Here's one more from just the last 24 hours. Amazing.
Reformed Crowd Asked to Repent for Attacking TD Jakes

pulling the race card, insinuating that the people are not living in light of the gospel (because they disagree) - saying they weren't fair because they didn't come to the event, (as if that matters, registration was about $100 and didn't include travel or lodging or meals).

One in particular did try to pay and attend in order to blog (Chris Rosebrough) and they denied him entry and threatened him with arrest if he didn't leave the premises immediately, along with a paid&registered female blogger who they deemed unsuitable for entry. They were sitting in a car in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do now that they'd traveled there and could not get in, when they were threatened by a beefy security guard and told they'd already called the police.

See if it was me I'd have sat there and waited to talk to the police and I'd have had the video rolling probably before I got to the door. Chris was refused entry last year as well, so I hear.

Anyway you'll find a lot of the same (and maybe some new) techniques for abusing those with valid critiques in that story.

Provender said...

Thanks, terrigal! Lots to look at here. I had been wanting to find some of this very information for the CheezeWhizChurch site. I haven't posted there for a while. I had seen the Purposedrivel site on the Feedjit reader, loved the name and was just starting to read the story of your subcommittee when I noticed there were comments to moderate here. Thanks for all the tips. You might enjoy It tries to poke fun at the ponzi scheme that is the Church Growth Movement: Grow church, hold regional seminar on how to grow churches, write book, plug book in church, sell book, hold larger seminar, write bigger book, do simulcast, teach others how to do what you did... Anyway, thanks again. I will be doing much reading the next few days, it looks like. Keep fighting!


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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

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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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