Saturday, May 16, 2009
The comments of the previous post discussed the scripture about 'turning the other cheek'.This is a scripture that abusive pastors often manipulated to keep parishioners under their toxic control.The Word of God, meant to set you more free from pain, fear, and doubt is twisted to enslave you to serve their selfish purposes.
"Touch not my anointed" was the scripture that my ex-pastor used over and over to solidify her hold on the hearts and minds of her enslaved congregation. She often used Ananias and Sapphira as a warning of the consequence of hiding information from her. This was an effective tool- who wanted to drop dead? Were scriptures used to enslave you in a toxic church?Share your comments this Sunday with Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D, author of Not of My Making by posting a comment below or e-mailing your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 15, 2009
On completing the book I had several questions for Margaret. Read our Q&A below:
"Rev. Karen was in the middle, controlling and directing communication. We were never going to resolve things this way."
There is little you can do unless the person who has gone to the pastor is willing to speak to you directly. I tried to get people to meet with me but my efforts were thwarted probably by Rev. Karen. In my family of origin almost all communication between my older siblings and I went through my parents. We are not encouraged to communicate directly with each other. When my eldest sister and I realized this we decided we would begin calling each other directly. This decreased my parent’s power and improved my relationship with my sister. The key here, however, it was a mutual decision between my sister and me. As adults we also had sufficient power and freedom to take action. In the more closed, controlled environment of Immanuel there was nothing more I could do. I regret not walking away sooner.
In my experience and the accounts I have read of others' spiritual abuse, a sure sign of a toxic/abusive church environment is when 'bad behaviors' (i.e. gossiping, back-stabbing, demeaning words and actions) are encouraged by the church leaders. The 'bad behavior' subjected you to emotional and mental torture and eventually bullied you out of that church. If a parishioner finds himself the target of such behaviors, what advice would you offer?
Without the support of the church leadership there is very little you can do. It is analogous to bullying in schools. While there are things the victim can say and do to defend themselves more effectively than I did, without leadership support it is like trying to climb Mt. Everest without a base camp. The painful reality is that you most likely should leave and find a church that not only preaches the gospel but also strives to walk the talk.
If you choose to stay and try to resolve things, don’t go to church alone. Make sure you have an ally with you. Bullies are less likely to attack if they think you have a supporter. If people say things to you directly, that gives you a chance to defend yourself. Learn what to say. Own your beliefs, use humor if possible, ask questions of your attacker. On Bullies2Buddies.com there is a manual for kids that are being bullied. It is useful for adults too. Also on a CD he sells there is a track called Izzy’s Game. It is worth listening to. You can also try to speak directly to the person gossiping about you. Finally, read your church’s constitution and figure out what your rights are.
Many 'churched' people are uncomfortable when someone shares their tale of spiritual abuse. Do you think it might be that they feel it gives God "bad press"?
No, I think they are worried it gives their church and themselves bad press. It is also a case of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. They have certain beliefs about being churched and here comes this person talking about how poorly they were treated. It doesn’t fit their beliefs about church so they reject the messenger. That way they don’t have to modify their behavior or beliefs. There is a good discussion of this in Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. In the chapter on spiritual healing, Bishop Robinson writes:
'Within a church community … The abuser will invariably be a person of power and will have a far stronger position in the community than the victim. This means that the abuser will be far more important to the meaning-making of the members of the community than the victim is. Making meaning of life is a long and arduous process and people do not like to see it upset. All too frequently their non-verbal, and even verbal, message to the victim will be, ‘We were content before you spoke out. You are a threat to our very system of meaning-making. Go away, leave this community and lest us go back to our former certainties.’
This really isn’t any different than what the victim goes through. The victim must reassess beliefs about the world, friendship, God etc. The difference is that the victim cannot resolve the dissonance by saying he or she lied because they know the truth of what happened to them. Bystanders can dismiss the victim as a liar or as someone who mentally deranged and unstable. A luxury the victim does not have.
Reading Not of My Making by Margaret W. Jones has been a liberating and affirming experience for me. As I devoured the book on my lunch hour, I would highlight the phrases and experiences that resonated most with my own struggle.
"I was merely a pawn in the drama"
Margaret was overwhelmed often with the thought that it was her fault the abusive situation existed- she must be broken and unwanted because the church relationships she was participating in were breaking and turning toxic.
However, after the emotional rubble cleared, she came to this understanding:
...the extremity of the attack made me realize it wasn't I who was at fault. Rather, all religious communities, regardless of denomination, at some point in their history have engaged in abusive behavior. I was merely a pawn in the drama.
It wasn't me that was broken- my spiritual abuser's actions show that she has chosen a twisted and dangerous path- I suffered from those actions at one time, but no longer does her venom touch me.
Her actions no longer control me. I choose to speak out, because as Margaret said:
chess image by Jcampbell_012 in photobucket
The telling has given me some distance and clarity...By breaking the silence, I am triumphant.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Reading of Margaret's traumatic childhood ,painful experiences in religion, and her subsequent journey out of the toxic impact of others' behavior encouraged me in my own journey out of spiritual abuse.
Though we don't share similarities in the events of our spiritual abuse, I share many of Margaret's questions and reactions.
In the chapter, Descent Into White Space, Margaret describes her struggle to comprehend the fact that God, Omniscient and Omnipresent, was present when she was molested as a child. She says:
I didn't have any answer for where God was when children were being raped or abused. If evil was the work of the devil, why didn't God...stop him?
I have often turned this thought over and over in my mind. Why does God allow such incredible atrocities to happen? Especially when the perpetrators are "God's mouthpiece".
She goes on to ask:
How could God intervene without us losing our sense of self? Is evil the price we pay for free will?
God did honor us with the right to choose. He doesn't even shove salvation down our throats, unlike many evangelical Christians.
Max Lucado comments in his book He Chose The Nails that we cannot choose our families or our appearance- but God honored us with an incredible choice: where to choose eternity.
She comes to an astute understanding when she says:
Uncle Frank's sins left him more disconnected from God than I was.
I remembered that my spiritual abuser was to be pitied- how terrible it must be to be so separated from God by one's actions!
Leave your questions for Margret at email@example.com. and visit Saturday and Sunday to see her replies.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Pirates- this word evokes images of eighteenth and nineteenth century men (and sometimes women) festooned in gold and ragged pants hell bent on obtaining treasure.
Webster's Online dictionary defines skulduggery as:
1. Verbal misrepresentation intended to take advantage of you in some way
Dictionary.com says a pirate can be: 3.any plunderer, predator, etc.: confidence men, slumlords, and other pirates.
Erase the dreadlocked Johnny Depp image and see instead the toxic pastor, hell bent on maintaining his or her death grip on the spirituality of their flock.
On the blog What Really Matters, the author lists characteristics of a controlling leader:
The Controlling Leader
Here is a list of characteristics of a controlling leader:
*Preoccupied with his own needs being met, while the needs of his subordinates are ignored
*Preoccupied with looking good, labors to keep up appearances
*Seeks honorific titles and special privileges that elevates him above the group
*Promotes a class system with himself at the top
*Demands loyalty and honor
*Speaks often of his authority, constantly reminding everyone that he is in charge
*Stifles any criticism that puts him in a bad light
*Majors on minor issues and neglects the truly important ones
*Speech is vague and confusing when he is defending himself
*Feels the need to embellish the truth and make things appear more or less grand than they really are
*Speaks out boldly on wrong behavior, even when involved in that same behavior
*Believes people are extremely bad or wonderful, depending on the amount of support offered to him
*Motivated by greed
*Impressed with material goods and those who have them
*Fears sexual inadequacy
*Feels he is owed something
*Lives in a false world where he is convinced he is right
*Surrounds himself with people who are insecure and easily swayed
*Manipulates others using guilt, shame, and remorse
*Tries to come across confident in an attempt to cover up his insecurity
*Blames others for his own failures
*Is not involved in any accountable relationships and has no intimate relationships
*When in a bind he will ask for forgiveness and appear sincere in doing so
*Fears not measuring up or losing his image
*Needs professional help
Go to http://setfree0408.blogspot.com/2009/04/controlling-leader.html to read more
Charles Swindoll has this to say about these grace-killing, controlling pirate pastors:
They kill freedom, spontaneity, and creativity; they kill joy as well as productivity. They kill with their words and their pens and their looks...their bullying tactics continue unchecked...This day-this very moment-millions who should be free, productive individuals are living in shame, fear and intimidation. The tragedy is they think it is the way they should be. They never know the truth that could set them free. They are victimized, existing as if they are living on death row.
These poor cult members have been locked so long in the bilge of the leader's preoccupation with self-satisfaction that they have forgotten the pure air of true spiritual freedom, grace.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
prison image bywillymac123 in photobucket