The agony of seeing spiritual abuse for what it is

On a forum dedicated to exploring the teaching of Harold Camping, I found this post from a true believer now disenchanted and disillusioned. For those of us who have been in this same position, the agony is familiar. You still want to believe that you were in the special group, the chosen priesthood, and that you were among the few select believers who cared enough to discover -- or to whom God revealed -- his truth.
You were singled out by God for great things.
But you began to see the flaws in your leader or his teachings. You began to hear stories of people burned as they followed, or failed prophesies, or families broken. You even began to see that your support of such a leader was doing harm.
As the lace scaffold holding up the group began to deteriorate, it was painful. To see your leader for what he was was also to see yourself as less important than you thought. You were not among the exalted after all. You were just an ordinary believer on an ordinary mission.

Some of us began to question everything. First the leader, then the doctrine, then our core beliefs. Some beliefs we had to give up, but some we held onto. Knowing which to toss and which to keep was not easy, and for some of us it has taken many years come to a place of peace.

Here is the Camping Follower's cry:

To my friends here,

I was wrong. My heart is conflicted, almost broken, my mind is confused and the thoughts of the implications are tormenting me. I can't fathom it. The proofs!

Right now I have two major concerns going on in my head and my heart, and its killing me!

1. It isn't Mr. Camping I believed... It was the BIBLE!! That is what makes this so hard, it’s killing me, and I am scared.

Abusive leaders so completely conflate their own views with that of the Bible, that even when a follower knows he's been duped, he can't quite separate the two.

2. I condemned the churches, and called those in them of Satan. What does that mean? I am scared.

I have lost all respect for Camping, for two things.

1. As the day wore on, absolutely nothing about May 21 was mentioned. I could have used some comfort or encouragement.

2. Where the HELL is the guy!! Say something damn-it

You people have no idea what a true believer went through and experienced. Maybe a tiny part of you felt that it could happen because all things are possible through Christ so for a moment in time you to became a believer, but as the hours ticked by it became easier for you to resume clowning going full steam ahead.

For me, it was the end of TIME it was the last moment of precious mortal life and most certainly to be obliviated because I had absolutely no assurance and so I was incredibly saddened and scared to die in mere hours, then minutes, then seconds. Then... *click* /refresh/...screen loads hella slow... NO FREAKING RED BOXES. Not that I enjoy the idea of millions of people dying, but I knew I was soon to follow in less than a day.

But then...

"Of course" why would judgment start at some random island? It’s got to be Israel.
The spiritually abused continue to make excuses for their leader, even when they begin to suspect that all is not right.

So that starts the whole thing over again, and my anxiety is great, my dread is approaching, I can feel my heart pound in my ears as I cried unto God and begged those I loved and myself for mercy. Then 12:00 then 3:00 then 6:00 then 11:59 then 12:01


But then...

"Of course" why would judgment start at Israel at a certain time... The parable of Saul being unfaithful when performing the sacrifice without Samuel. Saul should have been PATIENT, because Samuel had TARRIED, a picture of God.

The spiritually abused are on a roller coaster, teetering on the highest highs and then plunging to the depths below. They excuse their leader, try to see things the way it was before they began to be enlightened, then see things as they are and are scared of it, then try to see things the old way: back and forth, up and down, until we get sea sick from the climbing and diving.
So that starts the whole thing over again, and by now I have lost all blood and feeling, and lost my girl, and lost all interest in the world, and seriously started to question the Bible, and Gods word, and thus God, because of THE PROOFS!!! SO MANY HARMONIOUS PROOFS!! It’s just impossible for The LORD NOT to return. Impossible. Unfathomable. What does this mean?! The implications! My brain and heart battling.

This isn't Camping’s Interpretation, It’s the Bible's and I see it. It is not confusing, it is perfect, flawless, impossible but for God's will and perfect plan, revealing these things at the perfect time. His will. But then, it wasn't happening, time wore on. I’m in San Francisco at my cousins UC SF graduation party, and I am lost in an enigma, conflicted and unfocused. My life has been a waste in waiting. Three years I let everything go, EVERYTHING, I am so far behind of where I wanted to be at this point. And you see, I had the perfect excuse to never worry about that ever again and just enjoy what I had and be content. Meanwhile, life passes you by.

But at the same time, I HAD TO BELIEVE, I HAD NO ASSURANCE. If I doubted, even one tiny bit, then that would mean I was under the wrath of God and would be prepared for Judgment.
Spiritually abusive groups make the stakes high. To leave means to leave everything, life, eternity, heaven.
A Guarantee. I knew I was going to die anyway, I knew it, and that a@@hole taught doom and gloom and his art of persuasion sucked me in... ME!! Are you serious? I do NOT get taken advantage of. I am the most discerning, sensitive, quietly patient guy I can be and have always been that way, I am skeptical of everything. Conspiracies are for Nut jobs, Scams are for Idiots, Cults are for Zombies. Spiritual abuse can happen to anyone, not matter how intelligent, educated, skeptical, or Bible-oriented. In fact, it seems the more you love the Bible, the more easily you can be taken in by charlatans and crazies because you feel you are part of the "elite" who care about scripture while everyone else is lukewarm, and the first step of spiritual abuse -- elitism -- is easily kindled in many who hold the Bible dear.

I am none of that. I am critical, rational, intelligent, quite and discerning. I test it. I would never blindly follow ANYTHING. I have always believed in God, so I quietly listen to individuals who talk of other gods as if they are real, and I quietly nod and mmhmm, and oh ya? And "what? Buddhist’s sacrifice chicken's at funerals. Wow I never knew."

But being so logical and rational, as well as a fantastic imagination because I was so quiet and shy as a lil boy, I just read a lot and played with my toys, so I got this imagination that shows me, the road this world is going down, and it is disgusting, Not the earth, and not love, and laughter, and a good meal and those "juicy peaches" ha! And the beach and girls in bikinis and great movies and dramas and comedy and reading my favorite authors, and waiting 12 years for Duke Nukem Forever... I was sort of upset that it finally comes out a month after I die and there is so much horror in the world that all there is going on is death and destruction. And I was excited to hear that the Dark Tower was being made into a movie and TV series by Ron Howard, but of course upset that I would never get to see them. Ahh, the simple things.

There is a lot to love about this world which God made, and still not be of the world in such a way that it takes away from God. Indeed, God is the creator and I thank Him for all of this, and the opportunity to love Him and glorify Him in His name in the things in which He made possible. None of it is possible without Him. And life is a prizzzzeeeee

But I think, the LORD has indeed Tarried almost 2000 years, now look at the world, the amount of sin is very apparent and it is not getting better but worse, as restrictions or norms become looser and less moral and virtuous and Godly because we have all been desensitized. Geez doesn't that sound like the Roman Empire, I mean they were so desensitized they would hold contests with animals and gladiators and watch death in person and cheer and hurrah and laugh and eat popcorn as it spilled between their fingers as they stuffed it in their fat mouths and God was nowhere. I fear this world sells sex and good times over hard work and morals. God is not in the picture, we attack everybody BUT those ignorant extremist Muslims who are the cause of the crusades. And the spread of spiritual adultery from corner to corner. They for some reason get a pass!!

I was thinking there is no way God would let this world continue.

The amount of scoffing towards God after THE BIBLE GAURANTEES IT actually broke my heart!! It’s just not fair I said, "The proofs are perfect." 
For some of us, it isn't the proofs, but our spiritual leader who is perfect. His teaching was better than anyone's. How could someone so right on salvation or grace or the gospel be spiritually abusive? Impossible. People were saved listening to him. How could he be wrong? How could they be wrong, how? Confusion, conflict, doubts spreading. Horror, sorrow, torture.

But then...

"Of course” The first shall be last, and the last shall be first, of course the very tip of time before May 21 turns into May 22 is only because God is testing our faith, as he tarries a bit. As long as ANY PART of the world is still May 21, then it is still that day. God would not delay, surely He would come. For His word Guarantees it!! I saw it... the proofs!! The harmony!! So perfect only God could place this harmony in His word, and only God would convict the hearts of so many including me to see and understand this information. For I did the work. And there was no magic number I unlocked, as surely Camping must have, to make the calendar fit so perfectly and tie together. It was a matter of understanding begot and named him, and that remained consistent throughout the calendar, so either you believe or not, either you try it that way all the way through, or you stick with just adding all the ages after begot up. Its either 6000 or 13000 years. There was no magic number; it was just a different way of looking at something and trying it, and then seeing the harmony.

So that started the whole thing over again, and by this time I am just pissed off, and reading these boards all night and just wondering and waiting and unsure of anything.

But the world passed into another day without incident, and soon after the thoughts plagued me that I was in a cult, and brainwashed into trusting that these were my ideas and that was the only way to see things.
Yes, you were in a cult, and many of us who thought we were in the best, most scripturally sound churches around were also in cults or at least in very cult-like churches or groups. The sooner we face it, the sooner we can heal.

Do you people realize how short Friday was, and how long Saturday was!!


I offer my sincere apologize to all that I have wrongly accused of mocking and scoffing. However I tried my best to always remain charitable, and never judge, there were some heated words and ideas passed between some of us, and my brainwashing was so complete that I undoubtedly blasted you with scripture and said to repent and be as the Boreans. I always wanted to do the will of God, I truly believed that the Bible said these things, but I was so wrong. I know now that no man can know the day or the hour. This is in Gods control

But you know, this brought me closer to God.

I believed. You can't fault a man, for trusting in the LORD. And it is your choice to say I trusted Camping, but I did not, I trusted the Bible. I trusted God. I still see the perfect harmony,
It's hard for the spiritually abused to give up the group's peculiar beliefs all at once, and many will cling to them a long time, refusing to fellowship with other (lesser) Christians but still being out of the group and all I can say is, if God chooses to not come then He chooses not to come, but don't fault a man for trusting so incredibly deeply, that even after all of you have dealt slings and arrows, my belief was unwavering. That is complete trust, in the Bible. What seems like trust in the Bible is often trust in a very adept spiritual abuser's take on the Bible. Read the various stories of abuse linked on Provender and you will see this play out again and again in different ways.

If God so wills to tarry, then so be it. But May 21 is over, I was wrong about 100% though the bible seemed to point in that direction. I will never again speak of May 21 in my life, I just want to move on. I will probably start going to a church, though that is not unto salvation, but because as my Mom says, a guy just needs the fellowship and a little unselfish time in your life. Take time from yourself and go and find a good God fearing church and enjoy life. I still won't hold to any creed or mission statement, but that I trust the bible alone, but do see now that God's church is still alive, even if it is filled with Wheat and Tares. It is still apparently in view and legal. I just don't know. I just have to pick up the broken pieces of my life and move forward. Jumping back into school and going for that promotion.
It is hard to find purpose again after being on such a heady mission in abusive churches. Some will plunge into the world, others into another abusive group, but some will be able to slowly emerge into a stronger walk with God.

Because just like the rest of us who believed it was biblically sound, it ended up tearing our life apart.
Spiritual abuse tends to do this. How strange huh. We believed God, yet this whole thing caused so much drama. I just have no words to express how I feel, or what I think, or why God would not come back when His own very word pointed in that direction.

But my relationship with Him is great now, whereas before it may have been non-existent. And you know, I believed. I believed God. Not Camping, but the Bible. And I find it DISGUSTING, the way Christians are treating some of the people who believed. They are showing who they truly are by throwing slings and arrows, castigating, are you kidding me! Is that God glorifying, or is picking your brother up and welcoming him back into your arms God glorifying. The parable of the prodigal son, what did the father do when he finally returned; he opened his arms and kissed him and gave him a feast. The parable of the lost sheep, wasn't their much rejoicing over having found the 1 lost sheep over the other 99 who were safe. Didn't Christ come for sinners, for if you have no sin, what need is there for Christ, and what need of Him of you. I just don't understand the amount of ridicule going on. This is the most incredible moment in any of our lives. Some of us are conflicted with the idea that God may not exist. Or perhaps the creator created, then moved onto another universe of Time and Dimension and left us on auto
This is a common reaction to spiritual abuse, to throw God out with the bathwater. When the bathwater is so foul, it is understandable. But many do not go that far.

What are these people screaming about? God’s word WAS GLORIFIED. You don’t seem to understand, that ALL of this came from the bible. I still never find Camping guilty of ADDING TO the word of God. He was a fantastic discerning teacher.
The spiritually abused continue to uphold and defend their abusers even after they can see the damage. It is a kind of Stolkholm syndrome. I don't care what you say, excepting TIME information, every one of those doctrines hold true for me, I am still not sure why He did not come back May 21. None of these doctrines change AT ALL because they are BIBLICAL doctrines and not TIME related. They are Biblical related. I will hold them because they are true. Anything time related. CONCERNING THE END is just too much for man!!

However all of the money was spent fulfilling Gods great commission. Every penny was spent in spreading the word. And it all came from the bible. So it didn't happen, ok, I get that, and accept that. IT IS OVER. But to continue to castigate. What purpose is there? It causes conflict and strife, and besides, our hearts and lives are broken, some us beyond repair. Such as those who HAVE NO HOMES TO GO HOME TO RIGHT NOW. They are homeless. And penniless.


Do not blame Camping. He was SINCERE in May 21, and millions of us saw this information as coming from the bible, he did not intend to hurt or scam or ruin lives, yet I find it disgusting that he has yet to make a statement for those who need to hear from him,, something,, anything..

this is the great conflict in our hearts. How can God not come, to what purpose? It does not glorify Him to tarry does it? All of this came from His own Word, He promised. All of our time and all that money was spent on spreading HIS word to the four corners, fulfilling His great commision. His word was being fulfilled; people were hearing the word turning to God, some actually being drawn, no doubt.

But now, does God even exist? How can He let this happen?

Everything He said would happen has indeed happened. We discerned the bible, we spread the word in His name, never taking a penny for personal gain, and we GLORIFIED HIS NAME, WE BESEECHED PEOPLE TO TURN TO HIM, TO BEG HIM, TO LOVE HIM, and TO HAVE HOPE AND SALVATION IN HIM. The message was spread in His name, why ... why would he tarry.

Why delay past this. What’s the point?

This is THE time to come back. And He is not here. What does this mean?

I just wish to thank you all for challenging me over the last year and I learned so incredibly much. I also wish to apologize for anytime I hinted at you may be unsaved and doomed. How horrible a thing to say to someone, forgive me, and have mercy on me. Not that I am elevated by man, but I feel very terrible about all of this, though I trusted it completely, I am just at a loss for words, or emotions, or feelings right now.

I am so empty.

and I was so wrong.

I need to beg for forgiveness for accusing the church of Christ as being the synagogue of Satan. Forgive me for that LORD, and forgive me if I have caused anyone to seriously consider trusting May 21 with the work I did on my calendar.

I was wrong. 

The spiritually abused finds it hard to pull away from abuse. Like a battered wife, they pull away, then return, pull away, then return for more abuse. Spiritual abusers use mind tricks. They may not even knowingly be manipulative, but they do manipulate. See The Heresy of Mind Control for more. Click on link at bottom of page.


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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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