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Yesterday, brad/futuristguy left a comment which was so good. If you haven’t read it, please do. Brad is so insightful in his understanding of spiritual abuse. I’ve learned much from him. His comment prompted excellent questions by reader, Interested Party.
I’ll quote part of Brad’s post which prompted Interested Party’s comment:
In my case, I got involved in what turned out to be a terrible and toxic church with “leaders” who instilled awful doctrines and practices in me. But all disciples have some kind of past to deal with. If not this, then the reality is, “Same root, different fruit.” We’re all susceptible to something, whether it’s abusive leaders/systems, or other kinds of blind spots, deficits, misbeliefs, doctrinal extremes … And so, we choose: get stuck and do nothing, or orbit around the past such that our activity makes it look like we’re going somewhere (but really, it’s just around in circles), or reconcile as best we can with people we victimized — and keep moving forward.
Anyway, I commend you for choosing to go back into the fog, Julie Anne. It’s never easy, letting the Holy Spirit take us into and through a deeper level of seeing the truth, find more healing, reconcile more of the damages done to others while in our state of enthrallment to evil … Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us and letting us learn from the insights you’re gleaning.
Here is Interested Party’s response to Brad’s comment:
@Brad – I’m struck by line from Star Trek – The Next Generation (paraphrasing): “Isn’t that the problem with believing in a Deity? Trying to figure out what He wants you to do?”
I’m curious – and I haven’t asked this question before: What precisely is so compelling about what these Churches and these Preachers – what is it that they offer that you can get sucked in so easily? It can’t be as easy as desiring salvation – I see nothing in Jesus’ own words or deeds that he desired anyone to be degraded. Sacrificing wealth, violent behavior and self-promotion – yes. Submitting to the will of other MEN – no.
I suspect that there must be something in your respective backgrounds that make shame, fear, subjecting women to degradation or witnessing that degradation, very familiar and “comfortable” for lack of a better description. Am I close? My Mother tried to keep me and make me live in that state. Given my temperament, I fought back hard and rather became a champion of those who were easily bullied.
What do you do to go forward? The first step is to do precisely what this blog does – call these churches out. But how do you get the message out to avoid getting sucked in in the first place? What type of thinking does one need to utterly reject from the get-go in order to recognize what these churches represent?
The questions that Interested Party asks are excellent because they get to the root of how we got into these messes. As I was thinking through Interested Party’s comment, more came to light on our church experience.
We had left a church which had brought Emergent teachings into the youth program. It wasn’t handled well and we weren’t convinced that there was a solid understanding of Emergent philosophies or that enough was being done to keep these philosophies out of the church.
Just as we arrived at the new church, the new pastor started a series on Emergent teachers. This greatly appealed to us: our former church did not appear to have a strong stance on this subject and here was a pastor who not only had a strong stance, but he was knowledgable on the topic, was preaching on the topic, and was calling out the false teachers by name, sharing how they distorted the gospel. This was preaching that sucked us in because he was speaking our language. We connected with his enthusiasm, his drive for pure Gospel message, his boldness. This was very appealing.
Years ago, I had made the realization that our pastor drew us in because of the Emergent teachings and another idea just dawned on me yesterday after reading Interested Party’s comment (even nearly 5 years later, like peeling the layers of an onion – I am still putting the pieces together), our former pastor drew us into the church in another way: evangelism. He knew we were having difficulties with evangelism at our other church – that we didn’t care for their methods and focus. This new pastor and his church actively evangelized each week. Our other church didn’t. He had a brand new teaching program on evangelism and didn’t endorse “friendship evangelism” as our other church had. He was on the same page with us. He had the right methods, he was proactive. This is what we wanted – a leader who we aligned with, who we could join and evangelize the “right” way. He lured us in, set the hook, and it set.
Evangelism and Emergent teachings were probably the two key issues we had with our other church – – and he knew that – – and he took advantage of that knowledge when starting the Evangelism classes and the series on Emergent churches. He connected with the passions of our heart, got us excited about his vision (which was our vision). He was smart. I think our group consisted of six families. We increased the small church population by at least 30 and brought it up to about 100 people.
Now, I know this tactic to be love bombing. I believe that the new series on Emergent philosophies and the brand new evangelism teachings that began when we arrived were all a part of love bombing. How coincidental is it that these two series started up the same weeks we arrived, which happened to be our key interests, and the key issues of why we left our other church? Let’s also not forget that 30 extra people = extra tithe money. Hmmmm
Love bombing is a very popular technique used by pastors/church leaders who spiritually abuse. Cindy Kunsman of Under Much Grace blog has studied this topic extensively with regard to abusive church systems and how they lure people into their groups:
“Love Bombing” refers to the show of (genuine or feigned) love and affection that a motivated individual or group bestows upon their “mark” in order to endear themselves. The “mark,” (the person that a manipulator “marks” or targets as an object to be exploited) in a very subjective response to the overwhelming, pleasant experience of the great show of affection, becomes highly unlikely to recognize or even consider any negative information about the manipulator. The “mark” does not realize the subtle and very powerful influence that the manipulator has initiated because their experience has been so pleasant. The “mark” does not realize that their reasoning shifts from an objective perspective into a very subjective, emotional and experiential one. The situation exploits deeply personal, very human needs, wants and desires so that the “mark” will likely not notice any hint of manipulation until they are deeply invested, entrenched or dependent upon the manipulator in some way so as to make leaving the relationship very difficult.Were you love bombed? How did you get sucked in? (Source)
Were you love bombed? I’d love to read your stories.