This post is basically an extension of the last post on Cult Mentality, so if you have not read yesterday's post yet, please scroll down and read it first.
Here is a definition of Spritual Abuse from the Spiritual research network webiste:
"Spiritual Abuse occurs when a leader, church or a belief system, whether well intentioned or not, dominates, manipulates or castigates individuals through fear tactics, mind control, or some other psychological or emotional abuse"Here are some common charasteristics of spiritually abusive ministries from watchman.org here:
COMMON CHARACTERISTICSOne of the interesting doctrines that the Way International had was "weakness always brings down strength." They would say that to people (who they were subtily accusing of being weak and thus could bring down the whole ministry.) when the Word says God's strength is made perfect in weakness. Actually one of my leaders in the Way said to me one time, "You are frought with weakness." Wow. That REALLY bothered me. The day I left that cult, I said to her, "I am NOT frought with weakness! My mind is strong because I never let you people brainwash me!" But that was after 7 years of spiritual abuse.
The most distinctive characteristic of a spiritually abusive religious system, or leader, is the over-emphasis on authority. Because a group claims to have been established by God Himself the leaders in this system claim the right to command their followers.
This authority supposedly comes from the position they occupy. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus said the Scribes and Pharisees "sit in Moses' seat," a position of spiritual authority. Many names are used but in the abusive system this is a position of power, not moral authority. The assumption is that God operates among His people through a hierarchy, or "chain of command." In this abusive system unconditional submission is often called a "covering," or "umbrella of protection" which will provide some spiritual blessing to those who fully submit. Followers may be told that God will bless their submission even if the leadship is wrong. It is not their place to judge or correct the leadership - God will see to that.
#2) Image Conscious
The abusive religious system is scrupulous to maintain an image of righteousness. The organization's history is often misrepresented in the effort to demonstrate the organization's special relationship to God. The mistaken judgements and character flaws of its leaders are denied or covered up in order to validate their authority. Impossibly high legalistic standards of thought and behavior may be imposed on the members. Their failure to live up to these standards is a constant reminder of the follower's inferiority to his leaders, and the necessity of submission to them. Abusive religion is, at heart, legalism.
Abusive religion is also paranoid. Because the truth about the abusive religious system would be quickly rejected if recognized, outsiders are shown only a positive image of the group. This is rationalized by assuming that the religion would not be understood by "worldly" people; therefore they have no right to know. This attitude leads to members being secretive about some doctrines and the inner policies and proceedures of the group. Leaders, especially, will keep secrets from their members. This secrecy is rooted in a basic distrust of others because the belief system is false and can not stand scrutiny.
#3) Suppresses Criticism
Because the religious system is not based on the truth it cannot allow questions, dissent, or open discussions about issues. The person who dissents becomes the problem rather than the issue he raised. The truth about any issue is settled and handed down from the top of the hierarchy. Questioning anything is considered a challenge to authority. Thinking for oneself is suppressed by pointing out that it leads to doubts. This is portrayed as unbelief in God and His anointed leaders. Thus the follower controls his own thoughts by fear of doubting God.
A most natural assumption is that a person does not get something for nothing. Apart from the express declarations of salvation by grace through faith God has given in the scriptures, it would be natural to think that one must earn salvation, or at least work to keep it. Thus, in abusive religions all blessings come through performance of spiritual requirements. Failure is strongly condemned so there is only one alternative, perfection. So long as he thinks he is succeeding in his observation of the rules, the follower typically exhibits pride, elitism, and arrogance. However, when reality and failure eventually set in, the result is the person experiences spiritual burnout, or even shipwreck of his faith. Those who fail in their efforts are labeled as apostates, weak, or some other such term so that they can be discarded by the system.
Abusive religions must distinguish themselves from all other religions so they can claim to be distinctive and therefore special to God. This is usually done by majoring on minor issues such as prophecy, carrying biblical law to extremes, or using strange methods of biblical interpretation. The imbalanced spiritual hobby-horse thus produced represents unique knowledge or practices which seem to validate the group's claim to special status with God.
If you are being spiritually abused, or know someone who is in a cult or looking into joining a shady ministry, there is a way out. Jesus is the TRUE WAY and He is strong in our weakness and wants us to NEVER FEAR!! Jesus always said, Fear Not! If you are living in fear about the ministry you are involved in, or even if you are receiving revelation that instills you with fear - that is NOT from the true God. God is FIRST PURE, THEN PEACEABLE, easy to be entreated. The biggest lie is that some calamity will hit you if you don't believe like "we" do.
Seek the Lord my friends. FEAR NOT! The cults and ALOT of the churches are basically cults are trying to keep you in fear. Jesus came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. Free from Fear and intimidation. Zac Poonen said it right when he said, we have a mediator in Christ. We don't need a 2nd mediator in the form of a man (especially an overly religious false prophet of a man!)
If you google spiritual abuse recovery, there is alot of ministries out there with experience in healing and deliverance - but even then - be careful, trust the Lord and pray to find a good ministry that can help you.
Dear Heavenly Father - you are pure in Your love for us and for our lives and we need your help to discern wicked ministries and spiritual abusers that will try to hurt us and make us turn away from you. Thank you for your mercy in our lives. In Jesus name. Amen.
p.s. I am going away this weekend so will probably not be posting for the next couple days. I will be continuing this series when I get back. Take care my friends!