New Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


***

As I was reading through Ken Garrett’s dissertation, I had to stop and soak up what I had just read. It took time to process and I felt like if I continued reading, I might miss something. It made me want to reflect on how his words matched my spiritually abusive experience.  Mind you, Ken and I have spent hours talking/texting about spiritual abuse, how it has affected us and others. So, his words were nothing new to me, but they made me stop and think. We both have a heart to take what we have learned to help others. It dawned on me that Ken’s dissertation might be great for a series here, so I asked him if this was something we could do here at SSB, and he graciously agreed. (I knew he would because that’s the Ken that I know.)

Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett – Somewhere in Italy on vacation recently after submitting his dissertation: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery, and earning his DMin.

So, my goal is to do a post once a week, using portions of Ken’s dissertation as the jumping off point. It was in reading blogs about spiritual abuse that I realized I was in a spiritually abusive church. Reading personal stories that mirrored my own story made me feel like I was not going crazy, that what I was experiencing was real, and it was harmful. Ken’s dissertation is perfect for this venue. He’s a spiritual abuse survivor, he’s studied spiritual abuse in an academic setting, and he’s also a pastor downtown Portland, Oregon.

If you know of someone who has been harmed in the church, please pass this post along. If you know of church leaders who could benefit from learning about spiritual abuse from someone who has done academic research and is a pastor, this might be good for them as well.

Spiritual abuse like other forms of abuse doesn’t just go away. It becomes part of who we are. Does it mean that we have to abandon our faith? No! But it might look different than it was. And we will discover that that is okay.

The goal of this series is to interact, to learn from each other, to support each other. We’re going to start off with the Prologue from the dissertation. If you want to read ahead, feel free to do so. You can find Ken’s dissertation here.

~Julie Anne


PROLOGUE: A HOUSE OF MIRRORS

With the demise of old-fashioned amusement parks, we are seeing the disappearance of Houses of Mirrors. These houses were comprised of maze-like passageways where the customer walked, becoming increasingly disoriented and set off-balance by the mirrors that surrounded them, as the mirrors functioned as the actual obstacles in the maze. Distorted images made it nearly impossible to be sure that what was seen was . . . real, and not a mere image.

The mirrors were of all shapes and sizes. However, what they all had in common was that they all lacked a flat surface, as found in any normal household mirror. Instead, they were convex, concave, bloated out, and punched in, so that they did not yield a true reflection of their subject. Instead, the image they produced was distorted.

Walking through a House of Mirrors, people saw distorted images of themselves. The reflections ranged from comical to grotesque. One mirror might portray its beholder, instead of his true, 6 ft. height, as being only 4 feet tall—and three feet wide! Another one might present the body’s frame as resembling an upside-down bowling-pin. Another might take a 210 lb. man and slim him down to what appeared to be a solid, lithe 175 lbs.

To add to the experience, a person often saw his companions’ images in the distortion of the misshapen mirrors. Nothing, and no one, was actually, what they appeared to be in the House of Mirrors.

Once a person finally completed the journey through the House of Mirrors, stepping into the daylight of the real world seemed a bit disorienting. Were buildings truly flat and solid? Was the ground moving? It often took a couple of minutes to gain one’s bearings and return to the world of trustworthy, solid images.

Many experiences in life leave us feeling that we have spent time in a House of Mirrors. The military, college, a cross-cultural experience where close relationships are formed in the forge of challenge, or perhaps danger— experiences like these can be dizzying, and even difficult to describe years later, when we have moved on with our lives.

As a former paramedic I am intimately familiar with the experience of sharing the challenges and danger of a complex call with my partner and fellow rescuers. The world tends to flee from view during such intense, seemingly unreal minutes, leaving only the immediate threats to address and tasks to accomplish. It was often difficult to re-adjust to normal life after those calls.

People stumble out into the brightness of daylight out of other, darker, mirrored mazes. Abusive marriages and relationships, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual degradation, and other intense, often dangerous conditions of life, leave us disoriented, dazed, and vulnerable—even when we leave them.

Likewise, people who belong to abusive religious systems are living in houses of mirrors. Reality is distorted, twisted into a confusing, off-balancing existence that, sadly, becomes normal for members. In this spiritual maze of mirrors, leaders appear to possess more power and authority than the rest of the world would ever accord them. They become giants, towering over those they control. In every direction one turns in the spiritual House of Mirrors, pastors and leaders are ever looming, ever providing their own, personal explanations of truth, and demands of loyalty and behavior. They appear in every mirror, whichever way one turns—large, intimidating, and ever watchful. There seems to be no escape.

In contrast, in every mirror the member sees herself as small, distorted, frail, weak, and needy—every mirror, without exception, for the leaders are themselves the architects of these spiritual houses of mirrors. Moreover, just as a house of mirrors is designed and constructed to make escape mildly difficult, these spiritual houses of mirrors are not constructed for the member to find it easy or comfortable to leave. Rather, a person must stumble out of them, sometimes knocking over a few mirrors on the way out, simply resolving that you will . . . keep . . . following . . . that sliver of brightness that has invaded the soul’s darkness. All of one’s hopes are pinned on the belief that there is a true Light beckoning. But the artificial light of the House of Mirrors must be abandoned to live in that Light.

Abused members are not as bold as their leaders’ think they are, when it comes to leaving the spiritual House of Mirrors. They often feel as dead as stones. They wonder if there is truly another world that even exists out there, and if that world will allow, welcome, or embrace them back into its light. They are, finally, people with nothing left to lose, and many are eventually willing to take risks to escape the House of Mirrors.

As one who has survived an abusive church, I have found that when people do finally leave they often remain in a state of disorientation and confusion regarding their faith, the church, the Bible, Jesus, God, prayer, marriage, children, careers, food, and traditions. The list is long and it grows as more people who escape abusive religious groups share their stories. Like the guests of a house of mirrors who have stumbled out its back door, blinking in the sunlight and unsteady on their feet—those who leave the dark churches often remain in a state of spiritual funk, and dizziness, and uncertainty for a long time. They wonder if they have just wasted months, if not years of their lives. By the grace of God, they haven’t.

They wonder if they can ever trust any church, or leader, again. By the grace of God, they can. They wonder if their marriages and families can ever, possibly, recover from the assault and trauma endured. By the grace of God, they can heal. They wonder if their lives will ever seem put together again, functional and healthy. By the grace of God, life will come back together. They wonder if up will every truly seem like up, and down truly seem like down, and if they can ever trust their ability to judge truth again. Parents wonder if they will ever be able to effectively lead and protect their families again. Children wonder if they can trust their parents and if they will forever bear the stigma of belonging to a troubled church, not of their own choosing, but of their parents’ choice! Again, by the grace of God, by the grace of God, by the grace of God. . .

If you are in an abusive church or religious system today, ask God to rescue you, and look for a small crack of Light from the back of the room, where an unseen Friend has left the door ajar for those who will to leave. I still squint at the magnificent, healing Son in my own eyes.

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori’s All About Submission and Ken’s All About Control

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


bridal-636018_1280

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4

****

Chapter 5 – What Submission Looks Like

This chapter is a lot more straight forward than the last chapter, meaning there’s no jumping around, yet the contradictions remain. Let’s start with this one:

You see, the best thing you can do for your children is to love their father deeply and care for his needs. Too many wives neglect their husbands once they have children. We think they are grown men and can take care of themselves, but they still need a help meet.

Hold on now! What happened to men don’t need a mother because they are grown ups and can do what they please? Can’t these independent men take care of themselves? Why do they desperately need a help meet to take care of them? Men, how did you manage to stay alive so long?

I’m sure you’re all wondering what submission means to Lori. This is very important to know because according to Lori:

We preach the gospel to a lost world when we submit happily to our husbands as Christ did to the father.

No, Lori. Complementarianism is not the gospel. The gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This is husband idolatry.

Here is what submission looks like in Lori land:

  1. Forgive easily and immediately. Only think nice thoughts about your husband and you will treat him nicely.
  2. Value your husband’s ideas and don’t mock them.
  3. Don’t expect your husband to live up to all of your expectations. Does this work the other way around?
  4. Don’t try to control your husband. At all.
  5. Love, serve, respect, submit, please, and obey your husband.
  6. Finally, obeying your husband in all things.

What does it mean to obey your husband in all things? Lori wants you to ask your husband questions to find out: what food he likes and prepare them, how he likes you to dress, how you should respond to him, how tidy he wants you to keep the house, and all of the little things that makes him happy. Women, if you don’t know things such as what your husband likes to eat before you marry him, I would advise you to reconsider this relationship.

I thought I would ask my husband of 25 years (next week!) these things thinking that perhaps I’m lacking in the area of being submissive. So, I cornered him in the bathroom while he was in the tub (hey, I had a captive audience) and asked him about the above. Our conversation went like this:

Me: So, I’m trying to learn how to be a more submissive wife. Will you answer these questions so I can become a better wifey?

He: I guess. You know I’m in a vulnerable position here.

Me: What are your favorite foods you would like me to prepare for you?

He: Hamburgers. Well, duh. I knew that when we were dating just by the amount of times we would go to In-n-Out to eat.

Me: What would you like me to wear?

He: Nothing. Well, duh again.

Me: How would you like to respond to you?

He: Are you serious? (Big sighs. Lots of sighs.) I guess, honestly.

Me: How tidy would you like me to keep the house?

He: What a stupid question. Tidy as much as possible.

Me: What are the little things you would like me to do for you?

He: Again with the stupid questions. The little things only bring pleasure for a moment. It’s the big things that count. Are you honest? How do you treat people? How do you respond situations? Can I finish my bath along now?

This Q & A didn’t take long because he really thought it was silly. Do complementarian men really want a wife that is only there to please and satisfy him? Wouldn’t that get boring after a while? Does a complementarian wife really not see any value in having ideas and thoughts of her own? How about if a husband wants a wife to vote a certain way yet she is not comfortable doing so due to her own convictions? I can tell you that’s not gonna happen in my house!

I know this is getting long and I could go on and on. But, I have to end with this blog post that Lori features at the end of the chapter. This makes me dislike Ken more. His lack of empathy for Lori’s physical pain shows that he thrives on power and control over his wife. Is Ken’s ego so fragile that he must show how his wife is under his control? I would love to hear your thoughts about this quote from the post.

Ken loves to stand up during worship at church while we’re singing. I prefer to sit down since my lower back and feet hurt if I stand too long. On Sunday, he stood and I stood up beside him and asked him if he prefers I stand with him. He smiled and said, “Yes.” I then whispered why I don’t like to stand long. Later, we talked about it  and he told me that I was welcome to sit down after a minute or two if I start to hurt at all, but he does like me standing beside him. So I decided I will stand now whenever he stands. My desire is to be a submissive wife and even if I’m not perfect yet, I am a lot better than I use to be!

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

SSB Gathering – May 14, 2017

Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

20170512_074145

-by Kathi

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12: 9-15)

Today’s Gathering is going to be different than the usual Sunday. Mother’s Day can have different meaning and significance to everyone. If you have a mother in which you have a healthy relationship with, love dearly, and who loves you back, we rejoice with you. If you are a mother and have healthy relationships with your children, whom you love dearly and they love you back, we rejoice with you. If you are a mother figure to incredible people in your life, we rejoice with you.

However, there may be some here in which Mother’s Day brings conflict and turmoil. Perhaps you have struggled to become a mother and it has shaken your faith and relationships with other Christians; we mourn with you. If you are an adult child who lost a mother and the grief is overwhelming today, we mourn with you. You may have an unhealthy relationship with your mother in which there was abuse or mental instability; we mourn with you. Maybe you had a good relationship with your mother, but your religious views and faith have changed which has changed your relationship; we mourn with you.

The following was written by my dear friend, Tracey. Tracey struggled with infertility and relating with women and families in the church. I think we can all agree that the church has placed motherhood on a high pedestal. Sometimes that pedestal is unreachable to women and that may cause added pain and grief to the reality of not being able to bear children. At the time that I met Tracey I was a church goer and can honestly say that I never once thought about how women who struggle with infertility felt in the church. She opened my eyes with her raw honesty and I am forever thankful for that gift.

Tracey has given me permission to share her words with you today. I hope that you find them helpful. No matter how you feel today, please know that we rejoice and mourn with you. Continue reading

John Piper Responds to Dad’s Question Regarding His Child’s Extreme Anxiety about Hell

John Piper, Christian Parenting, Glorious, Hell, Anxiety


john piper, fear, hell, children, spiritual abuse

Photo from Twitter

At John Piper’s Desiring God website, they feature Ask John series in which listeners send their questions to John Piper for response. The following question came from a dad named Michael who asked John Piper the following:

A question from Michael:

“Pastor John, how can I talk to my 6-year-old son about hell? When any loved one has died who has also been a Christian, I have told him they have gone to heaven. But if somebody dies who is not a Christian I do not want to lie and say they have gone to heaven, but I do not know how to teach him about hell. He has extreme anxiety about death and I am afraid talking about hell may make him more anxious. He also gets very upset when he makes any kind of mistake or when I have to correct him. I do not want him to worry that if he disobeys that he will be sent to hell. How in the world can I teach him this?” Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori Has a Habit of Contradicting Herself

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3

****

image001

“Trey’s” review of The Power of a Transformed Wife on Amazon

****

Chapter 4 – Allow Him to Lead

I have been warned about the poor editing job of this book. It is starting to show in this chapter. Lori jumps around from topic to topic which starts to make this book seem more like a mismatch of ideas. The reality is, there are no new ideas from Lori in this book. You can read either of her blogs, or Debi Pearl’s book, and find the same ideas. That being said, I’ll try to keep to the main points and not drag you through the rabbit trail. Continue reading

How Lori Alexander’s Teaching May Keep Women in Abusive Relationships

Lori Alexander, Emotional Abuse, Headship, Submission

fitness-826940_1280

-by Kathi

I’ve been reading Lori Alexander’s blogs for quite a while now. Just when I think her writing is the same old boring rhetoric she always blathers on about, she ups her game. Her recent post, “How Not to Get Married” is one that actually should be titled, “Five Easy Steps to Ensure You Stay In an Abusive Relationship.” Continue reading

Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

 

Spiritual Abuse, Recovery, Pastor Ken Garrett


ken delete

Pastor Ken Garrett and his beautiful wife, Sharon

 

Now this is a great story! Some long-time readers will probably remember how I met Pastor Ken Garrett, a good friend of mine and of SSB. After I got sued by my pastor in 2012, I received an email from another pastor in Portland. This guy was Pastor Ken Garrett. My suing church was Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Ken’s church: Portland Grace Bible Church. So similar!!!

My story was broadcast in the Portland news, nationwide, and internationally. Some people mistakenly thought Ken was my suing pastor. His blog site had an increase in hits and he received nasty phone calls condemning this man who sued mothers and their adult children. Poor Ken!

Ken sent me an e-mail to let me what had happened (after a good laugh), and then shared about his experience with spiritual abuse. We became fast friends and have met in Portland from time to time discussing the topic that has greatly impacted our lives, spiritual abuse.

When I first got to know Ken, he mentioned that he was going back to school for his doctorate. I’m thrilled to share that Ken has completed his doctorate. His dissertation is entitled: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

This is a topic that has not received much press, but one which has affected many lives. I hope Ken’s work will benefit many, especially pastors, church leaders, therapists, and frankly anyone who wants to understand and support those in this kind of pain.

There is a link to Ken’s dissertation here. I hope Ken’s work gets distributed far and wide and is a great help to the church and the spiritual survivor community:  Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

Bravo, Ken!

John Piper on Complementarianism: A Hill to Die On

John Piper, Desiring God, Complementarianism, Egalitarianism, Gender Roles

alliances-1619392_1280

-by Kathi

Desiring God recently posted an episode of Ask Pastor John titled, “Is Male Headship a Lost Cause?

The question posed to John Piper comes from a seminary student in the United Kingdom who is discouraged to see more churches in his country move toward egalitarianism. Add in the legalization of gay marriage, and this distraught seminarian wonders if male headship will endure.

John Piper starts his answer in only the way John Piper can:

Complementarianism will endure. It is not a lost cause. The reason I think it will endure and is not a lost cause may not be exactly what you think. Let me give you three reasons it will endure that are not the reason I’m going to give.

Is anyone confused from the start? Please speak clearly John Piper.

He moves on to list three reasons why complementarianism will endure. I’m assuming that these are the three reasons we expect to hear. Continue reading

Recovering from Spiritual Abuse and Discussion about The Shack

Spiritual Abuse, The Shack, Paul Young, Brenda Campbell, Spiritual Recovery

I’m happy to share a post from my friend, Brenda Campbell. Brenda is also a long-time friend here at SSB, and she has a tremendous heart for those who have been harmed and also those who are stuck spiritually. She has gone on her own journey, and like many of us, has explored ways of making Jesus alive again after being let down by leaders in the church. In Brenda’s post below, she shares how Paul Young’s The Shack helped her spiritually. In full disclosure, although I own the book, I have never read it entirely, only skimmed it with the intention of reading it.

You can be sure I have read and heard lots of criticisms about the book – that it is not doctrinally sound, that Paul Young is New Age, etc. There are a lot of spiritual bandwagons in Christendom. I don’t like to get drawn up into hype – either pro or con. But what I like to do (when I have the time) is to take a closer look. I like to read the original source, and then opinions from both sides, and see how it lines up scripturally. I then decide which complaints or criticisms have merit. In other words, I try not to be quick to come to conclusions, but evaluate based on my foundational beliefs, what I see in Scripture, etc. I take what passes my test, and throw out the rest.

This post is not a promotion of The Shack per se. I cannot promote it if I haven’t read it. But I can invite you to read Brenda’s words. She found the book helpful for her in her spiritual journey and thought it might benefit others who have been harmed by people in the church.  So, as with everything, read Brenda’s words, read the book, and see what you think. Is it really heretical as some claim, or is there something worthwhile, or even life-changing for you as you learn to look at God through different lenses? Let me know what you think!  ~Julie Anne Continue reading

Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath

Bill Gothard, IBLP, Child Abuse, Discipline


***

For some, the ramifications of following the teachings of an influential spiritual leader (or cult leader) can be lifelong. As difficult as this next personal story is to read, it is the reality for some, and that is why I will continue to post stories like this.

Part of being an advocate for those who have been abused is never forgetting the reality that they face. It is believing them and standing with them, even when it is ugly and uncomfortable. We may not be able to walk in their shoes, but we can come alongside them and let them know that we are here for them.

We’ve heard from Dash (pseudonym) before and how the teachings of Bill Gothard influenced his parents and the way they “disciplined.”  The other day, Dash sent me a note sharing his thoughts and struggles, and it made me angry and sad. Dash is still suffering physically and emotionally from the abuse and trauma he faced as a child.

While Gothard may not have specifically taught parents to “discipline” their children as Dash’s parents did, his teachings laid the groundwork for “sparing the rod.” For Dash’s parents, the sparing-the-rod teachings gave them a license to beat and abuse, all for the sake of children demonstrating godliness and good character. Basically, it was whipping children into submission so that they cheerfully and robotically complied with every command. Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – It’s All About Who’s in Control

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2

****

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 8.46.01 PM

Debi Pearl thinks Lori’s book gives “hope.” However, it seems that even she could not read through all of it.

*** Continue reading

Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults




Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

Saeed Abedini’s Strange Online Behavior

Saeed Abedini, Franklin Graham, Online Behavior


***

Saaed Abedini, former prisoner held captive in Iran, has published some strange posts on his Facebook page. In the following posts, he rants against Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, his ex-wife, the Idaho court system, a pastor who raised money for him, Dr. Wood, etc. Continue reading