Spiritual Abuse: A Case Study

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Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

I was reading through the replies on the Homeschoolers Anonymous article – wow – there are so many responses, nearly 400 now.  It turns out that I had skipped this one by Gary and it articulated what has been going on in my mind as well:

So, I am wondering how all our Baptist preacher’s unpleasantness can be turned to profit. Are we to take him as something of a warning as to what kinds of so-called pastors to stay away from? Can his behavior somehow be held up as an example of how abusive “pastors” abuse?  I mean, he won’t participate in conversation with Ed, and he won’t condescend to respond to my challenge to provide specific examples to substantiate a critical, dismissive, general statement he had made. Is this part and parcel with the tendency of abusive pastors to ostracize and marginalize? He insults, mocks, criticizes, and shifts blame. He seems particularly unwilling to listen to or even try to understand another person’s point of view. He is above criticism and reproach. Are these all characteristics of abusive so-called pastors? Seems to me we may have something of a case study on our hands.  ~from Gary W.

A lot of people spent their precious time reading and responding and some might say it was a waste of time because nothing got resolved.  Perhaps R.D. and I did not resolve our disagreements, but there was a lot of fruitful discussion.  I think Gary W. is right – we can learn from it – not only using R.D. as an example of  looking at how he communicated with us, but we can also look at ourselves and how we reacted emotionally privately and how we responded publicly.  There is valuable insight here and I don’t want to miss these learning opportunities.

 

So, let’s do that.  I want to share some of my observations and I’d love to read yours.  Yesterday morning, I re-read many of Ed’s comments and discovered that Gary W. was correct.  R.D. mostly ignored Ed’s questions directed to him. Ed asked pointed questions about R.D.’s theological beliefs with respect to how those beliefs played into his replies to me.  When R.D. did answer Ed, it was often only a snide remark, without addressing the questions.  Now, after rereading the replies, I’m wondering if that was intentional. By the way, R.D. very well may be reading this and I’d like to extend him an invitation to continue in the discussion.

Another point that Gary W. made is that it seems R.D. presented us with a case study for abusive pastors. I will not say that R.D. is an abusive pastor based on our interaction here.  I do have some concerns, though, in observing how he communicated with me and others.  The  interchange which extended over several days presented us with an opportunity to carefully observe reactions and replies.  It is also important to note the non-responses. Those of us who have been reading abuse stories know that silence is indeed a response, don’t we?

Let’s take a look at the initial statement that raised our concerns.  R.D.’s first reply on the blog invoked an emotional reaction in me.   Without the common courtesy of introducing himself as a first-time commenter and explaining where he was coming from, he posted this:

H. A. is offering up a critique of home-schooling based on unbelief, but the critque itself has been made by home-school leaders themselves already, though they let the Word of God be their corrective.

http://www.joshharris.com/2011/09/homeschool_blindspots.php

I immediately sensed his dissatisfaction that I was connecting with the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog.   But since I wasn’t sure where this new reader was coming from or where he was going with that comment, I followed with another question for clarification.  Feel free to look back at the conversation.

On R.D.’s 3rd comment on the blog, we see his first snarky comment directed to me:

So what if this person is not healed? Really? So what? “Heal” was your word. Yes, ma’am, it sounds very flippant indeed.

Some may remember Fred Butler who visited on my blog last summer.  I couldn’t help but reminded of Fred when I read R.D.’s replies.  Fred’s presence on the blog and ensuing bantering got so heated that a few people sent e-mails requesting that I not give him a platform on my blog.   This was a bit of déja vu for me and my e-mails indicated that others were reminded as well.

RD’s 4th remark directed to me begins with condescending sentence:

Julie Ann, at one point you seemed to claim some level of allegiance to Jesus Christ.

As I read that, emotions were building in me.  It felt like he was playing the “you-are-not-behaving-like-a-Christian card.”  In my next reply, I publicly disclosed that JA – the redhead –  is a woman with real emotions which were heating up, and added my first snarky snap back at the end of my comment:

Julie Ann-with-an-E (and I only say that on my blog when I’m irritated)

It wasn’t long before in R.D. pulled the “authority” card, claiming that he’s been doing this longer than I’ve been alive (and I’m 48 years old).   That’s a long time, long enough to have appropriate etiquette and reasonable communication skills, one would think.   Before long,  he was asked by another reader if he was a pastor?  Two days after his initial comment and much discussion, he finally disclosed to us that he was a retired, but active pastor.  That’s where things really changed for me.  He was not my peer anymore, but this was a man in a respected position of authority.  Remember, he had already implied that I ought not be “partnering” with the H.A. blog.   Red flags were also going up all over the place for me and reading responses of others confirmed it for me.

My emotions are always on alert when reading heated dialogue.  The #1 goal is that this place remain a safe for those who have been hurt by abuse.  It’s one thing to discuss spiritual abuse amongst ourselves, but a whole other thing to discuss spiritual abuse topics with someone we may perceive as a threat.     The beauty of the blog is that it gives us the opportunity to test things in a safe environment.  Together on this blog, we create a community, just like church is a community.  But this blog is different in that you always have a voice (the name Spiritual Sounding Board was aptly chosen).

This dialogue continued over several days and the level of emotions ebbed and flowed, sometimes feeling like we were making progress, other times, not so much.  There can be many reactions to conflict and we had the full range of them here.  Some chimed in that the conversation was lacking love on both sides of the argument.  There was discussion about the direction the conversation was headed.  One person said she felt scared by R.D.   In both Fred and R.D.’s cases, readers sent me e-mails discussing the tension.     Some people clearly stated their opinions as to what they saw as the primary problems.  And we can never discount our silent readers who are certainly observing and making conclusions in their minds.

Blog reader “Scared ” acknowledged that she was scared of R.D.  I loved that – not that she was scared, but she was bold enough to admit it.  As she posted, her scared voice was just as powerful as R.D.’s!  She was on an even playing field with him as she spoke here.  She didn’t dismiss her feelings, she accepted and stated them, which consequently opened herself and her feelings up for discussion.  That was a risk she took and I loved the supportive feedback she received.

Another point that Scared made was that she felt “safe” to voice her words.  She knew that we would have her back.  She’s absolutely right.   We do have her back.  At SSB, we will always defend victims and especially victims who for whatever reason have no voice.

There was one person who clearly did not care for the direction or tone of the discussion, who felt it was going nowhere and disintegrating.  I mentioned that everything was fine, that we were “wrestling” and then said I didn’t want to debate her on the subject of whether we should keep debating or not.  She said she would leave rather than debate.   That’s perfectly fine.  She’ll be back when the coast is clear.  Everybody has their comfort level as far as how long a debate should go on and when it’s time to intervene.  I respect that.

Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel to File Defamation Lawsuit Against Son and Blogger?

Some may wonder why I allowed R.D. a platform to continue.  For those coming out of an abusive environment, they probably wouldn’t have seen this kind of dialogue at their church.  It’s helpful to see how people ask questions, challenge and respond to someone coming from an authority position.   Some have been in churches where the pastor is up so high on a pedestal, you were taught that you simply did not ask questions, so this exchange with a pastor might have seemed very foreign and perhaps shocking.  Do you see why this is important?    R.D. will not likely be any of our pastors, but we can see how he treated people as a case study as Gary W. suggested.  Sorry, (no offense, R.D.), but this place is first and foremost a place to learn about spiritual abuse.  I did not set the trap.  When R.D. came here, he came on his own initiative wanting to set me straight, which should have been the first warning flag right there, huh?

So anyway, this was great.  This is what should be happening at any church:  careful observation.   It is important to give the benefit of the doubt and we are called to love, first and foremost, but if we are seeing clear warning signs and red flags, then we must not dismiss them, but carefully evaluate whether this is a healthy church environment or not.

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Finally, “Scared” sent me a poem she wrote after participating in the discussion.  Sometimes the things people read here are taken to heart.  I was so happy to read this poem – you guys don’t even know.  Here is part of her e-mail to me:

Hi Julie Anne:

My pen had its revenge this afternoon… Now, at this point I can not say revenge out loud, but the Lord is so good at killing us with His kindness, that I got it out of me by writing about the hero’s on the front lines fighting for hurting people!  You are one of the voices that is helping me to find mine again.

You were patient with him. You are the gate-keeper for your sheep at your blog, and he might or not have been a wolf in a sheep disguise, only Jesus knows for sure, but it was cool for me to watch you defend the sheep. Prayers!  ~Scared

I’m really excited to share this because what Scared experienced is a group of people who stood up for her and had her back.  It was delightful to read the replies to Scared when she admitted she was scared.  It may seem like the poem is directed to me, but it’s really not, it’s about you and me together –  a group effort here of mutual respect, validation, and support.  Thank you, Scared, for sharing this heart-felt poem!

The Porous Ones

By Scared

 

Here’s to the compassionate, the ones who give grace to those that have suffered spiritually, physically or emotionally.  I want to name them the Porous Ones.

Their pores are open to the suffering of others, they could be no other way… Life, abuse, or suffering, something in their story has broken them open.

They dare name the realities of the contradictions in their own souls rather than its ambivalence or doubt. They cannot pull a happy face in the midst of the peppy church crowd.

They are the ones who are flooded with sorrow and sometimes righteous anger as they ache for the church and the world to be a kinder place. They fight for the oppressed. They know they are aren’t perfect and they admit when they have blown it.

They are my heroes. They don’t say: “Peace, Peace, when there is no peace,” or in other words, “You can cure your wounds by pretending they are not there.” 

You won’t hear any of that fake-it-til-you-make-it, name-it-and-claim-it kind of nonsense out of them.

They stand back and consider what God had to say: ‘They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.“Peace, peace,” they say,when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?  No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.’  Jer. 8:10-12

 
The porous ones are not afraid to admit to depression, anxiety, loneliness, hurt, or struggle. They have empathy for the ones who cry out as Job did:   What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Job3:24-26 

You will never hear them counsel a victim that it was their fear that brought this dread to their door.They might be called rebels, bitter or faithless by some celebrity preachers who make the claim that Jesus makes us instant saints, winners, exceptional Christians who always rise above petty tempers, broken-hearts, sins, dashed dreams, depression or fear. 

All those unacceptable dark words, oh, so raw and real, that some leaders call unbiblical.  (As if the prophets didn’t have it out with God now and then.)

Bless the porous ones who comprehend the bleak vocabulary that the victims use when they speak out of their broken humanity.  

They are the ones I want with me when I bleed with grief internally.  

I suspect they would never dream of telling me to pretend that it doesn’t hurt, or it is time to get over it, or that I’m not being a good witness and to always keep in mind, that I will ruin my testimony by striving with my maker, because that can never be undone.

As if God needed anything from me!  Wink.

Yes, He uses our hands and feet to serve His body: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:24-25

They know the human condition, all of it, the dark side of the heart, the poverty of self.  They can also see the other side of the spectrum.   They have embers of hope that one day beauty will rise out off ashes, because it is written: He will make all things beautiful in His time. READ: In His Time: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night”. Ps. 90:3-5 

The Porous Ones first struggle and then accept the mystery of His words:  “My ways are not your ways, my ways are higher” as they tremble to Trust in Him with all their hearts.   They try their best to not lean on their own understanding when in a dark night, but they know that is easier said than done because the mind wants to figure it out.

They can spot a boisterous ego when it clamors to be heard with demands or to be obeyed when giving a biblical sermon. The Porous Ones know that this is not grace.

Oh and yet the pain of being a Porous One, the agonies that they have tasted in their own story, yet there they are, offering unrelenting compassion because of where they have suffered, lived, and learned. 

They offer a shot in the arm to those who cannot darken a church door, who are paralyzed or crushed by spiritual betrayal, from their so-called Shepherd.  

They listen and let you be where you are at until God restores the years that the locust hath eaten.   They don’t make promises that complete healing will happen on this side of heaven.  They don’t time-stamp your repentance; they know this is the Holy Spirit’s work.

They are aware of their need for “New mercies every morning”  and sometimes they weep when they sing Amazing Grace…

I have a hunch that some of these victims know Jesus up front and personal, even though some of them don’t think they do.  Because of where they have traveled, sometimes in the repetitive circles of their failures, wounds and doubts abound as the confusion loops round and round.

And in that circle of “named” struggle, the Porous Ones will one day dance with passionate joy with the victims who just couldn’t understand on this side, that they were always forgiven, loved and celebrated by God who delights in mercy, and doesn’t despise weakness.  For it is when we enter our weakness that Christ promised to be our strength. 
 
They remind me of King David, a man after God’s own heart. Flawed, passionate, and like David, we too can tell God the truth and not be rejected by Him. 

God is after our hearts. Some hearts need to be restored and recaptured, then perhaps morals will shift, anger will subside, the hurt wont be as acute, but it is in His Time, and even then they will never forget what was done to them.

Until that day, “When we see Him as He is, (that is when) we will be like Him” meanwhile here on this side, I wait in anticipation for the fulfillment of the promise: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6

 

39 comments on “Spiritual Abuse: A Case Study

  1. Julie Anne wrote: “There was one person who clearly did not care for the direction or tone of the discussion, who felt it was going nowhere and disintegrating. I mentioned that everything was fine, that we were “wrestling” and then said I didn’t want to debate her on the subject of whether we should keep debating or not. She said she would leave rather than debate. That’s perfectly fine. She’ll be back when the coast is clear. Everybody has their comfort level as far as how long a debate should go on and when it’s time to intervene. I respect that.”

    Just a couple points on this. 1. You simply said you didn’t want to debate me. It was never mentioned on what topic(s) and that could have covered several things. 2. I didn’t quite say I would leave rather than debate. I said I don’t debate. It was clear to me you didn’t want me to continue sharing what I felt about the conversation, so I stopped. It had nothing to do with waiting for the coast to be clear and I was never coming near a comfort level to where I would have bowed out due to that. I recognized this is your board, that you would rather not have me continue sharing my thoughts on it, and so I walked away from participating. I saw some of what transpired differently, stated such, and that was it.

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  2. Hi Lois, I appreciate you clarifying your point of view. My misunderstanding, I’m sorry. I don’t want to misrepresent you. I was basing it on your final comment here:

    I don’t do debates, so no problems there, Julie Anne. No problem with me bowing out, either. Bye!

    and my response:

    No prob, Lois – I’ll catch you around again soon We always seem to meet up with these crazy abuse stories. Take care!

    Would you like me to amend or remove that paragraph?

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  3. The comment you quoted from me shows what I described above. Long ago I dropped doing debates. I took what you said as not wanting to debate me as a hint you’d rather I bow out of the discussion. I had no problem with doing so. I wasn’t upset about it.

    You may do whatever you feel is best with the paragraph. I just needed to comment on it. 🙂

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  4. Ok, I’ll just leave it there. R.D.’s comments speak for themselves. If I were to pull them out and list them I think it would be surprising for someone who claims to be a pastor. This is what I believe Ed and IP and so many others were trying to point out to him.

    One question for you, Lois. If you see someone behaving like a bully and you call them out on it, would you be considered a bully? I’m wondering if when you said you saw attacks on both sides if you were referring to those who were calling out his bad behavior? Because when I looked over the thread this morning, I saw some strong words, but they were people who were trying to show him what he was doing.

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  5. To answer your question, no, not if that was ALL that was being done. In fact, without going back to my few comments on the other discussion, I believe I said something on the line of calling them on it. I have absolutely no problem with that and have dealt with it a number of times.

    If you wish to continue on what I was attempting to share in the previous discussion, I have no problem doing so and further explaining why I wrote what I did. If not, that is fine, too.

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  6. Beautiful words, Scared.

    JA, I so appreciate this post, and the way you are encouraging us to learn from that heated thread rather than flee from the tension (which is my tendency). Like you said, this is what should be happening at any church. Spiritual abuse starts subtly, by shutting down any kind of debate and labeling it as “sin” or “gossip and slander” or “complaining.” It’s messy business- flawed humans trying to have a civil discussion, feeling passionately about our differing views, and many of us coming from a place of deep hurt as we dare to voice our points of view. It’s so easy to start respectfully and quickly switch to being defensive without necessarily realizing it, and it’s so much easier to see this tone in others’ comments rather than in ourselves. I think it’s great idea to go back and read the bazillion (ok, just 400) comments and see where our own biases of read in a tone that may or not have been there, and learn from this discussion rather than shy away from it.

    A couple of observations along those lines… in re-reading R.D.’s first post, it occurs to me that right away, this was bound to be a discussion seeing the same issue from two radically different perspectives. While later in the discussion, he distanced himself from the likes of SG, the very first quote esteems Joshua Harris’s humility as his suggested proper way of responding to the problems in the homeschool movement. I personally have a great deal of respect for Harris and think that he is handling the whole SG fiasco with a lot of grace. Yet, he is still a product of that culture and is still very much in the midst of the not-so-calm calm after the storm. His leadership and maturity is and will be helpful as his own congregation heals. I can see that RD hopes for all to respond to spiritual abuse in a similar way. But I think Harris has many layers yet to peel back in understanding the depth of pain that have resulted from extreme end of the home school culture, and that is where the HA blog is meeting that void to give a voice to that pain.

    Another observation about misreading tone and intention, in rereading Lois and JA’s comments, it seems you both are saying, “I don’t want to debate”, and yet are doing just that 😉 And as this post gets at, it seems that the debate/discussion is a healthy thing, albeit uncomfortable.

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  7. RP – Love your comment and observations. I really hope Josh can turn things around at CLC. I’m not sure if the whole system can change if the same leadership is in place, though.

    As far as the 400 comments, I literally went through all of my posts looking to see how much snark/bad attitude I had. I was strongly opinionated, but I don’t call that snark. I think my main snarkiness was with the spelling of my name and then I had to do one more dig while I was reading the comments while on the yellow school bus. I couldn’t believe my eyes – – that he left the “e” off again after he had made a big deal about it. I mean, really, did I have a choice? I had to call that one out – lol.

    As far as Lois and me, I didn’t really want to tackle a debate on the other thread about whether or not we “should” be debating. Since I was debating, then obviously I wanted to debate. That’s where I was coming from.

    Lois, I’m happy to discuss it with you if you are.

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  8. RP- good post.

    Perhaps I should clarify on what debate means to me. Because of all the junk I have seen online since the mid 90s, debate has a negative connotation to me. Two (or more) people take a stand on an issue. Often they are not really listening to what the other side is sharing, but are concerned with making their point and “proving” their case. Way more often than not, it jumps into name calling, character assassination and insults and more. I very much dislike that and nothing much is usually accomplished.

    That is why I say I do not debate and feel that is a waste of my time. To me, there is a world of a difference between that and having a conversation, asking and answering questions, etc., even if the people involved have different views.

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  9. Julie Anne, I’m unsure how the impression was made that you felt I saw saying whether or not you should be debating. If people want to debate, debate….I don’t care. My concern was what was being said, not that a debate was transpiring.

    As to further discussing, feel free to ask anything you’d like. Perhaps there were other things misunderstood, just as in some of what you wrote in the one paragraph.

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  10. I should have been more clear above, Lois – I should have said debating with personal attacks. I wasn’t seeing blatant personal attacks. I saw people identifying behaviors and calling them out. Was it heated? Yes.

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  11. Lois, as I said in the other post, I have no problem calling a spade a spade. R.D. was not about a simple ask questions seeking a simple answer. He was in the authoritative mode. Just calling him out wasn’t gonna settle it, IMO. I have even gone so far as to publicly tell good ole Chuckles O whatever his name is, to sit down and shut up. If that is a personal attack, so be it. Are we to cower to bullies and take it? NO. We are mad as hell and we aren’t gonna take it anymore. I tell them that they are vipers, as Jesus did? That is being Christ like, right? The Apostle Paul wasn’t really such a nice guy, either, if you properly read his stuff. He called Peter out, making it a personal attack. He had such disputing with Mark, I believe it was, without looking, that it split them up. It’s in the later part of Acts. Ya, it got personal even with godly people.

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  12. Scared, those words you wrote were indeed beautiful, and spoke to my heart very much. Though my experience with abuse is pretty much limited to schoolyard bullying, I have enough pain and failure in my life to identify with the “Porous Ones”.

    The freedom to be honest about our heartache, without being denounced or belittled — the same freedom we have before God — is part of what gives us the freedom to heal, and grow. It’s the kind of freedom I need to have with brothers and sisters in Christ, since it can be hard to find anywhere else (especially in the country where I live).

    Thank you for putting all that into words, Scared. And thank you, Julie Anne, for sharing them with us.

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  13. I agree, Ed. And look at it this way. I’m here on this blog with my full name out there leaving my cyber footprint and words on the WWW and this dude is publicly condescending to me, telling where I should not be posting. In the meantime, while saying he’s a pastor and has ~50 years of experience, he gets to hide behind initials while he spouts off. Will the real man please stand?

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  14. @Julie Anne – 11:50 PM is Probably the best commentary on the whole of R.D.’s posts. And while I dislike accusing “anonymous” posters of not being who they say they are, because sometimes retaining anonymity is important to them for a variety of reasons, I’m a bit hard-pressed to believe that he would take his ball and go home that quickly. Seems that a Pastor as “hard-core” in his beliefs as he was wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to continue the debate. Or “win souls”.

    By the way, if anyone’s curious why I post at such odd times by the US clock, my wife and I live in Germany. My name’s Mike and you are all free to call me that if you wish.

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  15. @Serving said:

    “The freedom to be honest about our heartache, without being denounced or belittled — the same freedom we have before God — is part of what gives us the freedom to heal, and grow. It’s the kind of freedom I need to have with brothers and sisters in Christ, since it can be hard to find anywhere else (especially in the country where I live).”

    Very well said. That freedom is crucial to these folks.

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  16. If I might add to Ed’s examples of what I would characterize as not so diplomatic seeming rebukes:

    Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, SHEPHERDS FEEDING THEMSELVES; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:11-13 ESV, emphasis added)

    Any application to “pastors” who claim to walk in authority of a sort nowhere sanctioned by Scripture? Maybe especially those who use their claimed authority to abuse? For the record, I would not apply this Scripture to the majority of the pastors I have known, even if I have come to the conclusion that the role of pastor as it is practiced is not Scriptural.

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  17. Mike – was wondering about those odd hours 🙂 I’m glad you brought up the subject of anonymous comments. I don’t want to leave anybody with the wrong impression. It is absolutely fine to use pseudonyms here. In fact, because of the sensitive nature of some of the subjects, it is probably safer for some to do so. I know of pastors who stalk people online all too well!

    I just think that if he’s going to come across as such an authority, he should feel comfortable in his shoes and have no qualms about disclosing who he is. If he does post on SharperIron.com (I suspect that is how he found me), most likely he uses his real name. I’ve never seen anybody post comments with only initials there.

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  18. I love this, Serving in Japan: “The freedom to be honest about our heartache, without being denounced or belittled — the same freedom we have before God — is part of what gives us the freedom to heal, and grow. It’s the kind of freedom I need to have with brothers and sisters in Christ, since it can be hard to find anywhere else (especially in the country where I live).”
    Being denounced & belittled has resulted in being afraid to speak to tell the story that God is writing in my/our lives. Thank-You for your gracious words.

    Julie Anne- I am on full time grand-child duty today, just got her to sleep so I have some time to respond. My heart is humbled over all that your shared today, thank-you for allowing me to use my voice on your blog. The majority of those who comment have given me such hope, the wisdom that is shared here has been a feast for my hungry soul. I left my church ten years ago, was pewless for six years, the last four I have been hiding like a mouse in the corner at a Catholic church. I cannot take the Eucharist, and that is OK, I just need a place where I can sit & be still, take in the readings of scripture, art, beauty, the choir & musicians. For now, it has been a balm. The priest are gentle, I do not remember once when they have been hash, controlling, or angry. I feel no pressure to convert, no one is taking my spiritual temperature, or pressing me if I am saved. My ex pastor rebuked me for reading “Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning because it was written by a Catholic. A lot of Catholic bashing went on, so I will ask people to be gentle with me on my need to have a place to worship. My brother a 5 pointer is on my case. I am aware of much of the church’s doctrine, but right now I don’t care, Jesus meets there & everywhere… I probably just sealed my fate in R.D.’s eyes, but that doesn’t matter, God is my judge, and I am doctrined out.

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  19. @Scared – I’m so sorry that you’ve experienced “Catholic bashing”. Catholic bashers are largely ignorant (not stupid – ignorant) which means they are uninformed. They trade what they believe is valid information “about those Catholics” amongst one another and its unbelievable how much of it they get wrong or how much of what they hear is misinterpreted. They will tell you that the Roman Catholic Church is a “cult” – a buzzword that is meant to denigrate without any real foundation. There are certainly cults – we discuss some of them on these blogs. The purpose of a cult is to totally draw you in, cut you off from family and friends that aren’t “members” and control what you think, how you behave, make you accountable to their leadership and take your money, laughing all the way to the bank.

    I liken Catholic bashing to Antisemitism in some, but not all, respects. Its nothing more than a form of prejudice and religious bigotry, practiced by those who’s own faith is so shaky that they have to point fingers at someone else’s beliefs and faith to feel better about their own. Its one thing to have an informed opinion about Catholicism and decide, “its not for me, based on these reasons”. But think about this for a moment:

    From the Wiki: With more than 77.7 million registered members, it is the largest single religious denomination in the United States, comprising 25 percent of the population.[1] The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines. It is also the largest Catholic minority population, and the largest English-speaking Catholic population.

    Now imagine being so obtuse as to condemn 80 million people “to hell” without knowing them as individuals. Or telling them as a group that, “if you don’t join *my* church, believe what *I* believe, you can’t go to heaven” – in other words, you’re on the express elevator to Hell. Good luck to those people with that approach.

    Truth be told, you will learn that American Catholics believe pretty much what other mainstream Christians believe. Many don’t focus much on the “Saints” and the veneration of the Vigin Mary. And by the way – they worship God through “his son”. They accept Jesus as their “personal savior”. Despite what you’ve heard, you’ll no doubt learn very quickly that Catholics DO NOT “Worship” the following: Mary, the Pope, any of the saints, the “dead”, the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Colonel Sanders or Frank Sinatra.

    What’s most important here, Scared – is that you’re finding PEACE and learning to reconnect with the God that you worship and I’m incredibly happy for you. Don’t let anyone push you from your path. Think of all the people of diverse denominations and doctrines that all claim that “God has led them” to whatever church they find themselves at, and deny those who they feel go to the “wrong” church the right to say precisely the same thing. Except, we all do, don’t we? I believe God led me to Judaism. But there are all kinds of people out there who have whispered in my ear, (queue Dana Carvey as the Church Lady) “Now isn’t that special. But oh we don’t think it was God, do we? Well, then who could it be then, hmmm? Could it be, S A T A N???”

    Be at PEACE, Scared. You never have to look back, you never have to endur what you once endured. Let the haters, the spoilers and the spell-binders say what they like. I thought I’d pass one more thing along to you. Judaism has a long list of Christian Denominations whose followers are considered among the blessed and who will participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. And curiously, if you ask a Rabbi what is the greatest prayer ever authored by a Human Being, he or she will likely tell you, The “Serenity” Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr – a Christian.

    Do you know what the difference is between the abuse you’ve suffered by your former Church associations, and “Catholic Bashing” or Antisemitism? NOTHING. 🙂

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  20. Thanks, Gary, I really appreciate that. I certainly have my issues with the RC church and other large religious institutions but they are not faith based. They are based rather on the failings of individual people to curb or eradicate behaviors that should be curbed or eradicated. It is the bane of the RC Church as well as the “Mega-Church”. All such institutions that don’t otherwise practice the kind of Spiritual Abuses we talk about here, suffer from those same failings in one way or another. Judaism is no different.

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  21. Scared – I don’t have a problem with you spending time as you said like a mouse in a corner at a Catholic church. You are in a transitionary period, still figuring things out. God has not abandoned you. If you seek God, He will meet you right where you are.

    Just a little background: my childhood background was crazy – back and forth Catholic and Baptist. When I was 15, I went to a Catholic HS and God became very real to me as I started devouring His word. At the same time I was going to a Catholic church, I was attending a Protestant youth group where I got on fire for Jesus. Sophomore year, I was bringing my Bible to all my classes at my high school – which some of my friends thought was weird. When I was done with my class work, I’d read the Bible. Through reading scripture, I found that some of the Catholic traditions did not line up with what I was reading. I knew I could not remain Catholic, but did so until I got married.

    So, that being said. I still believe Catholicism has practices that are contrary to scripture (infallible pope is one, priest as mediator is another and I can go on). I could not be a Catholic. But because I was in my parents’ home and did not feel the liberty to go to another church, God met me where I was. When I said the the traditional prayers at Mass, I didn’t say the parts that conflicted with scripture. I did say the Glory Be: “glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit – – as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen. I said that loudly. During that time, I was the leader of the “folk group” (praise and worship team). I selected songs that did not compromise what I found in the Bible. And when I played and sang, it was from my heart: Holy, holy, holy – heaven and earth are full of Your glory, Hosanna in the Highest, Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the Lord’s name. Oh yea, I sang it loudly.

    God knows your heart, what you have going through, and don’t worry about what other people think. Just as God met me and ministered to my soul while I was under my parent’s roof, He can meet you where you are.

    The Lord’s Supper by John Michael Talbot is one of the most wonderful and worshipful music I ever experienced. Many years ago, I happened to hear a choral group perform the songs and whomever composed the music was quite a genius. It’s actually two full combined choirs (sometimes 8 part for each choir, if I remember correctly) singing back and forth sometimes echoing each other and other times joining together in a massive collective glorious sound. This is not the best recording. I have the CD and when I play it, I play it loudly because I want to hear all of the parts.

    May you find peace and rest for your soul, Scared.

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  22. So that’s what they mean by quiet as a church house mouse…lol. Yes, it is the heart that God judges, not the deeds of the flesh. In our deeds, there is going to be so many “oops”. We fall down, but he picks us back up. We can never measure up if we try to be “obedient” in our deeds. Our faith is what carries us to the finish line. Where there is 10 or more, there is Jesus right there. Oh, I mean 2 or more. I was thinking that there needed to be a Pastor, and an associate Pastor, and four elders, and 2 ushers, and the plate passer, then you. Not.

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  23. @Scared – the only wrong decision you could ever make would be to go back to the life you once led – no one has to remind you of that (although I guess I just did). Otherwise, which ever faith, which ever church you choose – that, and that alone, is the “right” decision. Where ever you feel safe and loved, where ever you feel the presence of God – that’s where you belong.

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  24. How do I express my heart felt gratitude for the kindness that I.P. J.A. Cpmaned, SIJapan shared. It is a new experience for me not to be judged or corrected by Christians.(Well, not new here, but I imagine y’all know how critical & cruel some are)

    Thank-You for being vessels of grace, this is what my heart longs to receive from others, it is what I desire to offer to others too. Not that I do it perfectly, nah, my dear husband knows how I can love him in the morning & by evening he drives me a tad nutz, he is retired now in my hair all day lol (;

    I have more to unravel, it does take time, right? But, I have more hope today than I have in years.

    A.Amos Love, I have been reading what you sent me, it is beautiful. I am going to spend the next 30 days starting my morning with it, because I think if I can get it through my thick skull that I am totally accepted in our beloved, and love myself as I am and not as I think I should be, well, that would be letting the truth set me free.

    I have learned so much about God’s mercy from my failures, it has been a long thirty years since He invited me to the party, and I have (as the song goes) been prone to wander, and it blows me away that He has never forsaken me even when I thought my heart was dead to Him. I am sad that I threw in the towel (so to speak) for a few years, but He kept pursuing my heart. It is a wonder & mystery to come home to the Father’s love. Never give up on the wayward sheep! God keeps track of us. ( :

    Julie Anne, I love John Michael Talbot! Bless everyone, my cup runneth over!

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  25. Mike: I can’t make that kind of blanket statement for my blog (whatever faith/church thing). I know some blogs may be a free-for-all as far as do your own thing and whatever religion and all of that. Yes, ultimately everybody can do their own thing. But my greatest hope is that God would make Himself very real to people and draw them unto Himself – I’m talking Christian God here. Hey, I pray that for me, too!

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  26. Interested Party: “the only wrong decision you could ever make would be to go back to the life you once led – no one has to remind you of that (although I guess I just did). Otherwise, which ever faith, which ever church you choose – that, and that alone, is the “right” decision. Where ever you feel safe and loved, where ever you feel the presence of God – that’s where you belong.”

    No turning back… They, that church & its leaders, almost killed my faith- it is the most precious thing I have. I didn’t always know that, I thought God was like my dad, angry & a score keeper, kinda like when I would bring a report card home from school with a couple of C’s and his belt would bruise my tender flesh. I thought God probably hated me, cause I didn’t measure up & couldn’t keep all the rules. So, glad to be on the other side of that now. Never going back. Thank-You I.P.

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  27. @Scared – yeah, my wife went through much of that same kind of abuse from her Mom – she was raised Pentacostal. She escaped from it in her late teens. My wife was the first person in her own family to graduate HS, went on to college, got her Bachelor’s. She’s working on her SECOND Masters and when she completes – she’ll begin on her Doctorate. And she raised her own children *nothing* like her parents did, despite their “advice” – she never hit them and they’re doing very well, thank you very much. She did get some closure with her Mom at the end – when she was like, 93. And she was the FIRST military service female to Bat Mitzvah in Iraq. And she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I suppose you could say that God answered her Mother’s prayers – but He doesn’t always answer they way you want Him to. Take care and the best of luck to you – your best days are ahead of you, not behind you!

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  28. O man, I might have to eat my words about saying I am doctrined out… I am. However, if I am going to be able to communicate with those who have been tore to pieces in their faith because of the doctrines they have been taught, then I will have to understand their language, right? I got a phone call this morning from a friend who picked up a book that a well intentioned church member gave her, my friend was troubled/ beat down by what she had read so far… I don’t if the man who wrote the book is sly or for real. So to Mark & some of the others here who have discussed how important it is to know what doctrine a church is espousing rang like bells through my head. So, a question for anyone here, is there a book that explains about different doctrines? I googled Doctrines for Dummies and didn’t have much luck. I am curious on how to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe a website that explains what the MacArthurs & gang & others have been taught & teach…

    (the one thing I did is share with her what I had received from A.Amos Love)

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  29. Scared,

    In regards to mainstream Christendom denominations, I think the best we can do is the ole “Google” search for that particular denomination, using key words “doctrine”, “statement of belief”, etc. Even the church websites will have those, too. In regards to what people would consider cults, claiming the name Christian, but really not, there is a really good book called “Kingdom of the Cults” by Walter Martin. It is extremely informative.

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  30. “Kingdom of the Cults” by Walter Martin is probably one of the best books on the cults out there. One common characteristic of a cult is that Jesus Christ is other than God and was created.

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  31. Probably I should have been quicker to agree with you that we do not have enough information to say that R.D. is an abusive pastor based on his interaction on the previous blog thread. We can only examine his specific ways of communicating, or refusing to communicate, as the case may be. We can then compare those specific behaviors with the M.O.s of pastors who do abuse. Certainly, I would avoid a “church” where the “pastor’s” usual approach had the look and feel of the ways R.D. either communicated or refused to communicate.

    Leaving aside R.D. as a specific example, and at the admitted risk of straying from the topic of your current post, I find it interesting that there doesn’t seem to be any one theory as to the root causes of pastoral abuse. I have thought the root causes would tend to be found in a pastor’s character, very probably formed by fear, guilt and shame based upbringing. I was mildly startled at the the suggestion that the root causes of pastoral abuse can be found in Calvinism itself. On reflection, I can see how Calvinism could indeed lend itself to abusive ways of exercising pastoral “authority” or claimed authority.

    One thing that is conspicuously missing from five point, TULIP, Calvinism is any mention of Love. If my recollection and understanding of John Piper’s teaching is accurate, God’s actions in election are driven by His concern for his Glory (sadly, finding support in C.S. Lewis to explain how this does not make God the ultimate, cosmic, narcissist). It is as if the Calvinists have judged their earthly fathers as being angry, controlling, authoritarian, and so on–and then have projected those judgments onto our Heavenly father. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God [as he truly is?]. (Matthew 5:8 ESV, bracketed matter added).

    Forgetting that God is Love, and thinking that they are emulating their heavenly father, Calvinist pastors, husbands, fathers, employers, &c. maybe would tend to act in controlling, authoritarian, manipulative ways. They is, they might be prone to exercise authority, or claimed authority, abusively.

    My thanks to champaned24 for triggering my further reflection on these matters, and my advance apology if I have misunderstood him in any way.

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  32. Gary W., This subject has not left my mind yet. In fact there have been several conversations going on behind the scenes. I was speaking with Alex Grenier of Calivary Chapel Abuse blog about this. We were discussing abuse and I was looking for a common thread and in many of the stories I cover, the common thread is hyper-Calvinism. Alex responded back to me: “I see the common thread as being domineering male jerks.”

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  33. Gary W.

    RD came across aggressively focus which is why I ask what his leanings were. I knew in his case before I needed to know more about his background, before I could go further into the discussion,

    At first he didn’t see the connection between Hyper-Theology and Abuse. When I explained how at times it could be connected.I started to ask him him what he meant when he describe himself as a “sort of Calvinist”. (he described himself a mild 4 Point Calvinist, which is still a High Point Calvinist)

    He didn’t want to answer my question on which part of Calvinism he refuted as I was attempting to ask leading questions.

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  34. Julie Anne,

    There were some “Female Jerks” treating my wife unkindly, one them of them being a High Point Calvinist. (the stealth preachers wife) the others being a couple of women who befriended the Pastor’s wife. (unaware that they were being indoctrinated)

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  35. There are, for example, men who abuse women, but who aren’t Christians, Calvinist or otherwise. Yet Julie Anne is identifying hyper-Calvinism as a common thread in spiritual abuse. Maybe men who would in any event be “domineering male jerks,” but who identify themselves as Christians, tend to be drawn to hyper-Calvinism for whatever reason. We Christians certainly have a tendency to sort ourselves into different denominations according to such things as temperament, socioeconomic status, level of education and, alas, race. Why not according to characterological predispositions for controlling, abusive behaviors?

    Or maybe other doctrinal ideologies and their associated practices have simply done a better job of taming, even transforming, their “domineering male (or female) jerks.” This could make sense if I am correct in observing that Calvinist doctrine gives short shrift to any consideration of love, including the fact that God is Love.

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