Emotional Chaos after Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse can leave damaging scars, some resulting in real difficulties, including anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks, etc.

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Longtime SSB reader, Refugee, left a comment with questions regarding the difficulty she is facing after having experienced spiritual abuse. Because she responded to an older article and I really want her to get answers (and likely others reading will benefit from this discussion), I’ve decided to make a post out of it.
Here is the quote to which Refugee was responding:

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“We can not know everyone’s trigger, but we can be consistent in the areas we are called to. I am also sensitive about the “Where do you go to church?” question that many Southerners ask newcomers. I think this makes a huge assumption about the choices and values the newcomer makes. For all they know, the person may be the abused child of a charismatic pastor. For that newcomer, church could represent the most unsafe place in the world. Not everyone understands that. And that is OK, as we are not mind readers and we all come from different experiences. So I guess we try to stay true to the things God puts on our hearts, try to be empathic to others, and understand that we will make mistakes at times and be open to offer repentance when we screw up!”

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And here is Refugee’s comment:

 

Is it a sign of PTSD, to wake up sick every Sunday? I think that stress and anticipation can cause our bodies to respond with real, physical illness (not just churning stomach or splitting headache, but actual fever). Or is PTSD too strong a term?

And can someone who wants to go to church, especially a new church, very different from the old, abusive one but still “corporate worship” as in joining with a group of people to pray, praise, read scripture, hear a message — can they ever get over the anxiety attacks, or is it better just to give up on “church”?

We are seeking help from a therapist, it’s on the schedule, but not yet begun. Have never done this sort of thing before. It’s unmarked territory on my mental map — you know, that blank space beyond known lands.

 

While Refugee is in the process of seeking help from a therapist, can we encourage her? How have you dealt with these kinds of issues? Do you have anything you can share to Refugee that might give her some hope? Whenever I do posts like these, I know that Refugee represents many others who are going through similar circumstances and are also looking for answers.

 

 

 

photo credit: Velvet Elevator (Pandy Farmer) via photopin cc

Dr. Albert Mohler and Response to Sex Abuse in Churches

Albert Mohler and Church Leaders’ Response to Sex Abuse in Christian Churches

 

I ran across a blog post that made me shout, “YES!”  Blog author, Laura Lowe at Connections and Conundrums, has graciously has allowed me to cross post it here.  Thank you, Laura, for speaking out on such an important topic!  ~Julie Anne

 


 

 

Dr. Mohler, Churches DID Know

 

Sometimes things simmer just under my surface for a while until they erupt and I can’t ignore them anymore. I grew up in the Baptist church (SBC) even though I left that church about two decades ago. My parents are still Baptist, as are many of my friends.  I still care about issues within the Baptist church, so when I hear a highly-respected leader within the SBC make a statement that is absolutely false and hurts victims who are still healing from past abuse within churches, my heart breaks, and then I realize that I’m very, very angry.

Dr. Albert Mohler is president of the flagship Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Recently, Dr. Mohler participated in a panel discussion at the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. He has been criticized for supporting the embattled former head of Sovereign Grace Ministries, C.J. Mahaney, under whose leadership at least one pastor admittedly failed to report sexual abuse committed by a fellow pastor. In the panel discussion, Dr. Mohler told pastors to call 911 at the first knowledge of any sexual abuse. Good advice, but he should have stopped while he was ahead.

You can watch Mohler’s comments on a video at this link. The comments on sexual abuse start at 55.50. Even though I find it inconceivable that anyone needs to instruct clergy to call 911 upon learning about child abuse of any kind, I was happy to hear Dr. Mohler make the point so strongly. But then, he kept talking, and I began to wonder what his real motivation was for making that strong statement:

“This [the requirement to call 911] is something that churches have had to learn,” Mohler continued. “You go back 30 years, 20 years, churches didn’t know what to do in this kind of situation. We’re in a different situation now. There’s no excuse right now for not knowing what you’re going to do before you have to do it. It is a gospel ministry stewardship imperative. Be ready to dial 911, and do so before you leave the room.” (Bold and italics are mine.)

Let’s put that in perspective. Dr. Mohler says that as recently as 1994, pastors didn’t know what to do if someone reported an instance of child sexual abuse to them.

I’m sorry, Dr. Mohler… exactly why are we in a different situation now? We knew right from wrong back in 1994 and 1984. The Bible had been in print for, oh, 528 years. Mandated reporting of child abuse by school teachers, health care providers, daycare workers, etc. was the law in all 50 states, and in most states, it was the law for clergy as well.  I was a 22-year-old school teacher in 1987. Every teacher in the country was familiar with mandated reporting. Members of the clergy don’t live in some sort of bubble that protects them from the knowledge everyone else in their community possesses. I mean, good grief, how many of their wives are school teachers, nurses, and daycare providers?! No matter what a church’s or religious school’s internal policy might have been, those pastors knew that failure to report abuse was both illegal and immoral. I will allow them no excuse on the basis of some mythical ignorance, nor on the basis of an arrogant belief that their counsel would be more effective than seeing the perpetrator brought to rightful justice. It’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Anyone with a conscience knew. Put yourself in the shoes of a child who, 20 or 30 years ago, found him or herself in an abusive situation not knowing how to handle it. To suggest that the church leaders were in some kind of difficult situation that they didn’t know how to handle is more than merely insensitive; it perpetuates the abuse.

Dr. Mohler has certainly made strong statements about the reporting of sexual abuse, particularly after the conviction of Sandusky at Penn State. “The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian – and especially every Christian leader and minister – must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement.” Those are Mohler’s words. So, why did he make this caveat during the panel discussion about the ignorance of church leaders 20 or 30 years ago? Well, unlike his carefully-penned article about reporting abuse after the Sandusky situation, these comments were extemporaneous and as such, a very transparent window into his real state of mind. Fueled by a bit of applause, he seized the opportunity to spin the moment to his advantage.

And why would Dr. Mohler want to spin this issue? There are two reasons.

The first is Mohler’s unfortunate letter of support for C.J. Mahaney. From Wikipedia: “In late 2012, a lawsuit was brought against Sovereign Grace Ministries for allegedly not reporting sex abuse that allegedly occurred 20 to 30 years ago.”  I see what you did there, Dr. Mohler. We can all see.

The second reason is during the first 18 years of Mohler’s tenure as president of Southern Seminary, the school’s policy was that sexual abuse be handled in-house – reported to a supervisor, not the police. Mohler made a big deal of changing it right after the Sandusky trial, saying, “Since we update our policies regularly in light of best practices, I had been fairly certain that our Seminary policy, published in our handbook and documents was adequate.” (Really?) “Upon review, we found that it was not.” (Huh! Who’d have thought?)  “The very day we discovered this, we changed the policy.”  So, we’re supposed to believe that he himself was ignorant of his legal and moral responsibility to report abuse prior to November of 2011, much less 20-30 years ago. Who knows when someone may come up and make a sexual abuse claim and Mohler finds himself involved in a cover-up scandal? I’ll bet he’s really sweating that possibility. No, best to claim that we were all just ignorant about such things until we recently saw the light, conveniently after Sandusky was convicted.

Here’s another extemporaneous quote from that panel session that I believe shines a light on Mohler’s biggest concern:  “If you’re not doing that (calling 911), you’re not only putting those children at risk, you’re putting your entire ministry at risk.”  Well, then. If the MINISTRY is at risk, we MUST call 911. I’m sorry, Dr. Mohler, but the right advice is that pastors call 911 completely for the sake of rescuing the child, no matter the cost to their ministry. Where are the heroes? 

Some people will say that I’m not being fair to Dr. Mohler, but I’m not willing to cut him any slack for these extemporaneous words. He is in the business of communicating – communicating God’s truth, ministering with God’s love, and training students to do the same. He is responsible for every off-the-cuff word and the effect it has. If his words made me furious, and I wasn’t even a direct victim, imagine the effect on a child abused 30 years ago in a Baptist church.

In the late ’80s, the married pastor of my Baptist church was discovered making inappropriate propositions to young male adults in our community, young men in their early 20s. While this was not the same as child molestation, it was still inappropriate sexual conduct and an abuse of his position as a pastor, and at the very least, he was victimizing these young men by expecting them to guard his secret. Twenty-one may be the age of consent, but it’s still just a number. An insecure young man could easily have been unfairly influenced by an older, pastoral figure that he trusted. At least one of those young men blew his cover, but we will likely never know how many others he may have approached who didn’t then and never will speak up. I still consider this abuse, and the pain it can cause is huge. The pastor was already contracted to a new church and would have been moving soon. In our church, there was no cover-up. Our deacons did the right thing – they made the situation known to our congregation once it was discovered. We reported his actions to the church he was moving to. Had our church covered it up, and had he gone on to victimize someone at the next church, our failure to disclose that information would have been inexcusable, no matter the year.

God can raise up ministers from the very rocks. He doesn’t need Southern seminary, or SGM, or any individual church, but those victims need a hero. A ministry has no worth when it values its existence more than rescuing the “least of these.”

Dr. Mohler, when you say that 20 or 30 years ago, churches didn’t know what to do, you insult the intelligence of your fellow SBC members and indeed, your fellow Christians. You insult the victims of abuse within any church if their abuse happened during the “dark ages” 20 or more years ago when you deem people to have been too ignorant to know how to respond. How can you suggest that there was ever a learning curve about this? For clergy?!

Please, Dr. Mohler, use your considerable influence to tell the world that covering up abuse is not just inexcusable now; it was inexcusable 30 years ago or 100 years ago. No caveats. Please restore the faith so many are losing in organized religion. Be one of the heroes.

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SSB Sunday Gathering – July 20, 2014

Spiritual Sounding Board  - This is our place to gather and share in an open format.  Feel free to join in the discussion.

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This is your place to share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

 

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Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Photo Credit:  Hannah  Smith

Invitations and Altar Calls: Is it Manipulation or Evangelism?

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What is going on when a pastor gives an altar call or invitation? Is this appropriate? Is it manipulation?

 

When I was a kid, at church there was a weekly altar call with the hymn, “Just As I Am” playing and we knew that if God was working on someone’s heart, they’d get out of their seat and walk down the aisle to the altar, sometimes in tears. As a kid, I didn’t know what the big deal was.

Here’s a Willie Nelson rendition of “Just As I Am.” It might take you back. Do churches still sing this song at altar calls? I’ll bet there are some that do.

 

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Later, at a different church, I remember the pastor giving invitations to come forward if someone wanted prayer.  Sometimes it would start out with the pastor asking for people to raise their hands and get eye contact with him as “everyone’s head is bowed and all eyes closed.”  By the way, I was the kid who peeked – - yea – probably 99% of the time – lol.  I did wonder if God would punish me for peeking.  Was that a sin?

As I got older and matured in the faith, I was more concerned about my walk with the Lord and hearing His voice. When the pastor urged people to come forward, was He speaking to me?  Did He want me to come forward? What if I was supposed to go forward to the front, but didn’t.  Did God care?  Would that mean I was disobeying God?  I got very confused about these things – especially when my friends would go forward and I remained in my seat.  There was a lot of internal pressure I felt, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I usually stayed in my seat.

Earlier this week I read a blog article by Don Johnson, “on invitations,” and appreciated his words as it related to some of my church experiences:

But that is just it – so many invitations are vague, unclear, manipulative, dependent on the crowd management of the evangelist, psychologically damaging and entirely unscriptural. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Not long ago, I sat in a service where the speaker was passionate about something. I am not sure exactly what it was, it certainly wasn’t found in his text. But he did make it clear that times were bad and we need people to do something. At the end of the service, the invitation went along these lines: “If you know that you need to be more committed to the Lord and stand for him, raise your hand.” Apparently a lot of hands were raised. Next the preacher said (after a bit more exhorting), “All of you who raised your hands, would you stand up and show you are committed to doing something for the Lord.” Well, a lot of those folks stood up. I don’t know if they all did, but many did. Next (you knew it was coming, didn’t you?) he said, “Now I want all of you standing to come forward and tell the Lord you mean business.”

Be sure to check out Don’s article. I have a hunch that some of you may have some stories to share about altar calls or invitations.

What do you think about them?

Are they Biblical?

Do you find them manipulative?

Are they necessary?

Let’s talk.

I leave you with this hilarious video.  See how many expressions you are familiar with:

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SSB Readers Discuss D. Scott Meadows’ “A Christian Wife’s Catechism” and Addendums

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I’m opening this thread for discussion on the recent article by D. Scott Meadows, Addenda, Part 2: Clarification of “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism” posted at Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog.

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Confusing Tweets by Owen Strachan about the War Against Satan

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A reader sent me the following tweets by Owen Strachan, president of Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

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A Pastor is Challenged after Releasing a Disturbing and Potentially Dangerous Article Directed to Wives of “Difficult” Husbands

Article by Pastor D. Scott Meadows’ article, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism, creates a stir among the survivor community.

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Fallen Patriarchy Leader Doug Phillips Leaves Former Church and Becomes Member of New Church without “Letter of Transfer”

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Vision Forum’s fallen patriarchal leader, Doug Phillips, has become a member of another church without obtaining the required “letter of transfer” from the church he established and formerly led, Boerne Christian Assembly

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Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Adds Two New Board Members for a Total of 0% Female Board Members

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The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a parachurch organization aimed to promote complementary differences between men and women, yet only men run their board under President Owen Strachan.

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Open Letter to Editors of Christianity Today from Ex-Wife of Pedophile: “Predators in Our Midst”

Ex-wife of convicted pedophile writes open letter to Editors of Christianity Today after they published and then removed an article written by a former youth pastor and convicted pedophile.

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Can High-Controlling Pastors Lead Their Members into Depression and Even Suicide?

 

Commenters share about high-controlling pastors who leave a path of mental health destruction, even suicide, because they cannot get appropriate help.

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SSB Sunday Gathering – June 28, 2014

Spiritual Sounding Board  - This is our place to gather and share in an open format.  Feel free to join in the discussion.

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Post-Spiritual Abuse Change of Perspective: Buffer Zones and Abortion Clinics

 Post-Spiritual Abuse Change of Perspective:  Buffer Zones and Abortion Clinics

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Pat Robertson: Getting a Tattoo is Heathen Practice, Even If Your Tattoo Depicts Jesus Christ

Pat Robertson has flapped his tongue with nonsense again, this time about tattoos. A false teacher gives extra-biblical teachings. Do not dismiss these as simply foolish words, they are wrong and can be harmful to blind followers.

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Learn to Discern: Let’s Explore “A Time of Transition,” the Newly Released Statement from IBLP Regarding Bill Gothard

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The Board at Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) has released a statement following an “investigation” of allegations against Bill Gothard.

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Desiring God and Daddies Dating…Their Daughters’ Boyfriends? Is John Piper Promoting Patriarchy?

Are Desiring God & John Piper shifting to “Biblical Patriarchy” over complementarianism, following Gregg Harris’, Bill Gothard’s, Scott Brown’s, Doug Phillips’ and Doug Wilson’s courtship model?

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Sexual Abuse Advocates Are Making a Real Difference and Giving Victims a Voice through Social Media

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Taking a closer look at two recent cases: The Christian Post and Leadership Journal (published by Christianity Today) made bad judgment calls in their articles, but later retracted and made amends because of powerful voices defending victims.

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The Family-Integrated Church Movement is Getting Some Much-Needed Heat from Critics

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The Family-Integrated Church movement is getting some heat by critic, Pastor Shawn Mathis. Pastor Kevin Swanson is forced to make a choice: OPC or National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC)

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Standing Together for Victims of Abuse in the SBC and SGM

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Standing together for victims of abuse in the SBC and SGM

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To Train up a Child: Who Decides if it is Biblical or Not? When is it Abuse?

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Johann and Kimery Jorg Abuse Case: HSLDA has given us homeschool liberties, but at what cost? A closer look at homeschool freedoms and parenting and safety of children

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Sovereign Grace Ministries Sex Abuse Lawsuit and Tullian Tchividjian

Update on the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse court case and Tullian Tchividjian’s clarification of his related statements concerning his “breakup” with The Gospel Coalition.

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Elephants and SGA’s Everywhere! Coming to Terms with Homeschooling’s Pitfalls

The need of parents to both deal with the pitfalls and understand their Second Generation Adults of homeschooling (those who suffered in a high demand Christian homeschooling culture).

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