Spiritual Abuse

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Spiritual Abuse

Post by Gillie » Sun May 28, 2017 9:29 pm

One aspect of spiritual abuse that sometimes gets overlooked is the trauma of it. Most folks associate trauma with a catastrophic event. Let’s be crystal clear: Not all trauma is the result of a sudden catastrophic incident such as rape, kidnapping, or combat.

Spiritual Abuse
This type of trauma may take months or years to produce, and it involves eight ingredients which produce a recipe for trauma:

1. Authoritarian leader(s)
2. Enforced powerlessness
3. Denial of personhood
4. Imposition of an ascetic lifestyle / conforming behaviour
5. Forced isolation
6. Psychological bullying
7. Suppression of emotions
8. Metaphysical “stoning” of a person’s soul

This type of trauma is similar to that described by POWs from World War II and Vietnam. It is trauma that results from being powerless and abused day after day, year after year, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

While spiritual abuse victims may or may not suffer physical abuse, their souls are torn and bleeding. It is the proverbial “death by a thousand cuts.”

Built into all spiritual abuse is the low-grade trauma and ongoing damage done to the psyche of the followers involved. There is attrition of spiritual health that results in emaciated souls every bit as sick as POWs. And there are the verbal and spiritual beatings that Dale Wolery from the Clergy Recovery Network calls “metaphysical stoning.”

It is trauma caused by the Word of God used like the thrust of a spear, the constant threat of God’s displeasure and eternal damnation, and the death of dreams and relationships. This is real trauma: the trauma of the soul.

Having read this summary of spiritual abuse, please consider those people who come to Streetcar and are recovering from Complex PTSD:
For people with Complex PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension.

I would like to suggest that we have a specific topic on Streetcar for spiritual discussions or questions of theology etc, so that those who are recovering from spiritual abuse can choose to read or not read that topic.

We should be very aware of how we can trigger others by what we say. Many people here on this forum have been abused by leaders who used scriptures against them. We need to be constantly aware that we can so easily trigger them, by our use of scriptures and religious cliches.

Posts: 26
Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 7:09 pm

Re: Spiritual Abuse

Post by Gillie » Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:13 pm


1) POWER-POSTURING simply means that the leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it, as well. This is necessary because their spiritual authority isn’t real-based on genuine Godly character - it is postured.

2) PERFORMANCE PREOCCUPATION. These systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members, and their authority is legislated. Obedience and Submission are two important words often used.

3) UNSPOKEN RULES. In abusive spiritual systems, people’s lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Because these rules are not said out loud, you don’t find out that they are there until you break them. The most powerful of all unspoken rules is the “can’t talk “rule, which means if you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem. This rule blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence.

4) LACK OF BALANCE IN LIVING OUT THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. This characteristic describes either extreme objectivism or extreme subjectivism in their approaches to life. They see spiritual authority based exclusively on level of education and intellectual capacity or totally contingent on the leaders’ receiving the members’ truth through the Lord’s spiritual revelations.

5) PARANOIA. In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. This mentality builds a strong wall around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave, because they will then be outsiders too.

6) MISPLACED LOYALTY is fostered and even demanded. Here following authority is legislated by a system where disloyalty to or disagreement with the leadership is construed as the same thing as disobeying God.

7) SECRETIVE. When you see people in a religious system being secretive--watch out. People don’t hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate. When these characteristics exist in a church or Christian family system, the result will be spiritual abuse. It will be a closed system, with rigid boundaries that prevent people from leaving. There will be the perception of a lot of evil on the outside, to keep people in, and there will be a lot of power postured on the inside to compel you to perform. There will also be tired, wounded people who feel that they are either unspiritual or crazy. And they will have major problems relating to God from the heart.

Johnson, D. & VanVonderen J. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. (1991) Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers

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Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 7:09 pm

Re: Spiritual Abuse

Post by Gillie » Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:50 pm

These two websites may be helpful for those needing help with spiritual abuse:
The National Association for Christian Recovery

Three lectures on the topic of spiritual abuse by Jeff VanVonderen:
1. Healthy and Abusive Spiritual Dynamics
2. The Abusive Religious System
3. How We Get Hooked

Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources

“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” 1 Cor. 7:23



Posts: 26
Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 7:09 pm

Re: Spiritual Abuse

Post by Gillie » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:19 pm

Beware of "Spiritual Abuse"
Craig von Buseck

Spiritual abuse can be difficult to detect at first if you have never encountered it. In a manipulative church, the pastor or senior leaders have subtly positioned themselves to take the place of the Holy Spirit in people's lives. They may try to put undue influence on the choices that people in their congregation are making. They might try to sway someone’s decision in a matter to keep them under their control, or to keep them from leaving the church.

People in a controlling church are often told they cannot leave the church with God's blessing unless the pastor approves the decision. They are warned that if they don’t follow the pastor’s guidance, not only will God not bless them, but they will also bring a curse upon themselves or their family. Leaving the “covering” of the church and the controlling pastor will result in some sort of calamity.

When a pastor tells his congregation that those who leave his church or disobey his authority are in danger of God’s wrath, you can be sure this man is operating in a spirit of control. He is attempting to sow fear as a carnal means of keeping people in his church.

“If you leave this church,” he may warn, “the blessing of God will be lifted from your life, and you will miss God’s will. You will be in rebellion, and you will open yourself up to all kinds of calamity. The devil will have freedom to attack you because you have walked away from God’s protection,” that “protection” being the one true church that he happens to pastor.

• Fear is the motivation behind such comments — not love.

• You can be sure that this type of reasoning is not from God.

• Jesus never motivated people out of fear.

• Fear is a form of manipulation, which is sin.

• Instead of motivating people through love and a call to serve the body of Christ and reach the lost, a spiritually abusive minister will try to motivate through manipulation.

To read more of this article, please be note it is on the CBN / The Christian Broadcasting Network website:

http://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/beware-o ... %26quot%3B

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