How do you warn someone about a dangerous spiritual group? What if that person is your spouse?

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How do you warn someone about a dangerous or spiritually abusive leader or group?  What if that someone is your spouse?

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Commenter, TIA, responded to my comment with a couple of key questions that were left unanswered.  I think would be helpful to discuss these important questions, especially in light of the second part of the question:

2014/01/30 at 8:42 AM

Julie Anne wrote:
“Some are still wanting to defend his ways/practices and say “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” with regard to the sex abuse. Others are looking beyond the sex abuse and realizing that the sex abuse was only one symptom of a very bad system of abuse. To get to that point takes time, because they have to dismantle years of ideologies they’ve learned. That’s quite a process.”

I know a lot of people who only see DP’s “affair” (they don’t even recognize it as abuse), and don’t see any problems beyond that. My eyes have been opened to much more than that, but like you say it takes time to sort through everything.

We have friends that are involved with ATI. I checked out the application form–scary! They ask for more personal information than required for a passport! What’s a good way to warn people? What if one spouse is really “gung ho” for it and the other one is just kind of going along with it or actually has reservations/doubts/fears?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

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spiritual abuse, marriage, ATI, Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Reconstructionism

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What’s a good way to warn people?

What if one spouse is really “gung ho” for it and the other one is just kind of going along with it or actually has reservations/doubts/fears?

I had to deal with this situation with my husband who wanted to stay at a church and I did not. He was not seeing things the way I was. My former pastor had him under his spell and was speaking the exact topics that he knew would draw my husband in (love bombing).

I, on the other hand, was seeing what was absent:  little-to-no grace, little mention of Jesus, etc.  I  was also observing disturbing outward character from the pastor:  pride, lying, dominating conversations, needing to be in control of everything, including the color of the silk flowers in front of the church, controlling parents and how they dealt with their own children, etc.

Now, looking back, I have uncovered far more that was going on that I hadn’t identified then.  The end of the story is we ended up leaving after our friend who was on staff was fired, so at least we did eventually come to a mutual agreement.

But what if we hadn’t?

How do you warn people about these dangerous groups/leaders?  What about a husband/wife situation?  How does one work this out?  How does one deal with this if there is an impasse?

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47 comments on “How do you warn someone about a dangerous spiritual group? What if that person is your spouse?

  1. I’ve spent time this morning re-reading sections of Eleanor Payson’s excellent book on narcissism, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.” I’m intrigued by her analysis of what narcissism in the workplace and society (church) looks like. She spends a bit of time comparing Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden–their childhoods and how it was that they convinced masses of people to go along with acting on their own narcissistic need to feel better about themselves. She states that “The ideology of extreme Muslim fundamentalism, like the extreme ideologies of any other fanatical group, simply becomes the convenient framework for the malignant narcissist to express his boundless hatred and desire for revenge.” Sound familiar to anyone?

    She then goes on to identify “dynamics [that] are universally shared by groups of people developing severe narcissistic tendencies. These tendencies in turn foster an attitude of righteous justification for the destructive and domineering behaviors towards other groups or nations.”

    Look at these characteristics!
    Child rearing practices that emphasize rigid conformity and unquestioning obedience to the beliefs of the parents.

    Over–emphasis on conformity and an intolerance of diversity in society at large.

    Grandiose ideology–self-righteousness of one’s beliefs as superior over others.

    Tendencies towards paranoia (i.e. censorship of opposing opinions).

    An inability to engage in rational dialogue that acknowledges the rights of others.

    Over simplistic thinking: all or nothing, black or white thinking.

    And finally, “A cultural mindset that leads to child-rearing practices that ignore the thoughts and feelings of the child and emphasize blind obedience are the very conditions that make a group of people vulnerable to fascist movements.”

    The signs are clear but a person has to be willing and able to see them. I’m not sure what a spouse is to do if their partner refuses to see the danger inherent in groups like Payson describes. I believe the partner’s first and foremost responsibility is safety for any children involved and then personal safety.

    But leaving a toxic group is not enough. The Israelites physically left Egypt but it took decades for them to get the Egyptian slave mentality out of their inner being. Getting that mentality eradicated requires time, professional help and support from others. I’m so glad that SSB is here to shine a beacon of light on these abusive practices but also be a support and truth-teller for victims and those caught within these insidious groups.

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  2. THANK YOU for asking the question, TIA, and for posting it for discussion, JA. This is my heart’s cry after leaving our abusive situation. We’ve watched one other close friend be hurt and then leave as well, and know of several others. Although these friends knew every detail of what had happened to us, it took the same thing happenening directly to them for them to leave. OH how I wish and pray I could PREVENT the pain for so many! But it seems like there is nothing I can do.
    Looking forward to hearing responses from others.

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  3. The signs are clear but a person has to be willing and able to see them. I’m not sure what a spouse is to do if their partner refuses to see the danger inherent in groups like Payson describes.

    As an aside, someone who “refuses to see the danger inherent in groups” like that is usually personally benefiting in some way from association with the group — emotionally (as in being love-bombed), socially (as in prestige and rank within the group), financially (often a byproduct of the previous), promise of future rewards (“Come the Rewolution”), etc.

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  4. sfninerfan7 – I think that is one of the saddest parts of this – – – being on the outside looking in after gaining understanding. It’s very hard to watch a situation that you know will eventually be a train wreck. How can you stop the train?

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  5. One of the dirty secrets of patriarchy and even comp doctrines is how bad they are for marriage. I remember seeing stats a while back and blown away that professing atheists have less divorce than evangelicals! Evangelicals are good at keeping such marriage problems very quiet. And it works well with their brand of submission because anything else is sin!

    What to do when a spouse is not on board? They can do what exalted Reformed author and preacher, JI Packer and his wife do: Attend separate churches. (She is egalitarian)

    GASP! I know what many are thinking. Spouses have to attend the same church. It says so right in the bible! Do not be unequally yoked as understood by the pat/comp crowd. (That worked well for Sapphira didn’t it?)

    Another one: It is not practical with kids, and so on. But staying there is better? How do you explain to your kids WHY you stay if you disagree with behavior or teaching? Are you then teaching them it is ok to overlook such things? To go along? To make it that sort of thing their normal?At the very least it gets them “thinking” depending on the age. Or they can see that it is perfectly ok for mom and dad to disagree. Adults disagree all the time. it is what they do with the disagreement that is important.

    I have a new rule. If I am to go along with behavior/beliefs that are not mine, I had better be paid to do it. Because that happens in the world of work all the time. But one gets paid. One has a “contract” of sorts in that environment.

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  6. TIA and JA, Thank you for this topic! I am anxious to hear other’s opinions. I had that problem with my husband about 10 years ago. As the pastor became more erratic and controlling, I became angrier and angrier. HUG is correct about the payoff. My husband was in the music ministry and loved the performing and comradarie. The musicians were in their own little world, oblivious to all of the damage this toxic pastor was causing. It wasn’t until the music minister left that my husband finally opened his eyes. That was because he no longer was benefiting from the situation. Thank God we left (after 17 years). It was a loss, but we have grown together in our faith over the last 6 or 7 years. If the music minister had not left, I don’t know how long my husband would have remained. (I stopped attending about 6 months before). Ann

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  7. Brenda’s comment, bringing in Osama bin Laden, reminds me of another point. People in cults frequently have no trouble seeing what’s wrong with other cults, while being wholly blind to their own. Indeed, their blindness concerning their own makes them expert in seeing problems elsewhere and even in exaggerating them. Jesus nailed this: the log-in-eye problem.

    12 years later, I still run into people all the time who make such a big deal of the 9/11/2001 attacks as though nothing else so evil has ever been done. But they are wholly indifferent to what the United States did in Chile on 9/11/1973, in which many more thousands were murdered, thousands more tortured and disappeared, and an entire nation terrorized for years. So they can’t see why Latin Americans were notably unsympathetic in September 2001.

    Then, too, bin Laden plainly stated how this consequence was earned – notably the casual murder by sanctions of over 500,000 little kids in Iraq on Bill Clinton’s watch, acknowledged as such and justified by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes in 1996. And there is far more, which Americans – especially so-called Christians – are indignant about when done to our group, but which are just dandy when done to others, along with much worse. George Orwell described this phenomenon, and the cultish mindset in general, in a little essay he wrote in 1945 which anyone wanting to be cured of bondage to cultish thinking, log-in-eye disease, and conformity to this world could learn from:

    http://orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat

    The characteristics that Brenda lists in every way characterize the American mindset, especially toward the rest of the world, and it has come home, as such wickedness can be counted on to do. This brings me to another useful essay, by Vacslav Havel in 1978, describing the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and what was needed to get free of it. Its mode of bondage, what he calls the “post-totalitarian system,” perfectly describes how cults actually work, as well as the present US regime. He even explains why they are in every way so utterly suffused with lying. Consider just this perfect description of the American regime and of the cultish “churches” we’re talking about:

    “The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.”

    Havel has some hard news for us, in agreement with Jesus: the only remedy is to live in the truth, because you’re not necessarily dealing with a classical dictatorship but an ideology which enslaves everyone and in which everyone participates. Thus you could get rid of General Secretary Gustav Husak, and the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic would continue unchanged; Doug Phillips can disappear, and that regime will continue on the same path; George W. Bush can be replaced by Barak Obama, and the consequences for its victims, everyone abroad and the 99% here, are largely unchanged. In all these cases, the real ruler is the Lie. Considerable repentance, in which we all have to divorce our dearly beloved illusions, is unavoidable. Hasn’t Jesus put us on notice of that?

    http://vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=clanky&val=72_aj_clanky.html&typ=HTML

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  8. Think about it, if you speak up you run the risk of losing a friendship (if it is a friend) or creating tension (if it is your spouse). If you don’t, your friend is going down a road on which he or she will be so affected by this teaching that you have essentially lost that friendship.

    If you are married to someone attracted to the patriarchy movement, I would actively seek out insight as to what is attracting a man to teaching that objectifies and infantises you. If you start buying into it, your authentic self will be lost.

    Any scenario is tragic.

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  9. I am with Lydia. Find a church with the right theology, without legalism, and where joy abounds and go there on your own. Explain your reasons and let it go. People need to see things for themselves and if your spouse isn’t being put in a position where he/she feels the need to defend the pastor and the church, it may be easier to develop the necessary discernment. Your spouse will see how much happier you are without the anxiety and hopefully he/she will want that too. And if the pastor or members of the congregation are foolish enough to make unkind comments about you, the absent spouse, it may expedite the process.

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  10. How do you warn someone about cultish groups? If the person in question is in the cult, it can be very difficult, especially if they have social or emotional incentives to ignore red flags.

    I had this experience myself. Years ago, my romantic partner converted to Christianity and became increasingly fundamentalist. When my beloved got involved in a New Apostolic Reformation church and REALLY went down the rabbit hole, I pointed out its flaws and red flags until I was blue in the face. My partner had too many incentives to embrace fundamentalism (camaraderie, ecstasy, a sense of purpose, etc.), so my observations fell on deaf ears. It eventually tore the relationship apart.

    My point is that someone involved in a cult-like group must be willing to hear what you’re saying. They must be ready to probe and question their religious community and belief system. If they themselves aren’t ready, you may have a very difficult time reasoning with them. You can lead a horse to water …

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  11. The common denominator in so many of these responses – which I already know to be true because of having been in a cult and trying to reason with people – is that people will not change unless they want to change. They also will choose to believe what they want to believe. Until something hits very personal and close to home, sometimes someone will never change.

    Thankfully in Ann’s situation, her husband was able to see the truth:

    It wasn’t until the music minister left that my husband finally opened his eyes. That was because he no longer was benefiting from the situation.

    In the Patriarchal home, however, a whole new set of problems can occur. Women are not given rights. Wives may not be able to say they aren’t going to go to destructive church. They may be forced to attend where husband attends. Wives likely have no support network if they were to make the decision that they will no longer attend the dangerous church. Likely, the only “support” network she has is one that says, you must submit to your husband as head of the home, she has to suck it up and completely disregard her beliefs/her heart.

    But what about the children? Even if a wife goes to another church, that does not mean that children will not be harmed by destructive teachings if patriarchal dad takes them to dangerous church or exposes them to dangerous teachings.

    This situation is difficult no matter how you look at it.

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  12. Peter, I love Havel.

    Actually, being a “dissident” is risky, lonely and very hard. This might mean being a dissident in your marriage or not. Depends on the relationship. I am a big believer in giving folks time once you have made your case unless there is abuse.. One can be loving and be a dissident. It is almost likened to a peaceful resistance. The words in 1 Peter give me hope where he talks about winning them over.

    Another way to look at it is what is the end result if you go along with the group? Living a lie so one can say, peace peace where there is no peace?

    These are just words in a comment. But I became a dissident (finally to my shame!) and therefore had to give up most of my extended family who live a lie every single day and expected me to live it with them. it was worth it for my children. I don’t want them to become good little Nazi’s who overlook lies and evil for the sake of the group.

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  13. Explain your reasons and let it go. People need to see things for themselves and if your spouse isn’t being put in a position where he/she feels the need to defend the pastor and the church, it may be easier to develop the necessary discernment. Your spouse will see how much happier you are without the anxiety and hopefully he/she will want that too.

    I like your response, Marsha. It’s not fighting or demanding. It is taking care of yourself so that you can be fed and grow. And I think the evidence of new-found freedom and grace would show.

    The only concerning part is the kids. What about the kids?

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  14. This issue applies in a whole lot of situations. Julie Anne knows my story and the details of it. But I wrestled with this issue personally. Usually people in cults or controversial religions get something in return. They are things like:

    1. Community
    2. Instant friendship
    3. Close tight knit environment
    4. “Sound” doctrine
    5. Social activities
    6. Sense of purpose a feeling of belonging

    Anyone here can be sucked into these groups. I learned this the hard way as a 19 year old kid in college when I was drawn into Mormonism. This post applies to JW, Boston Church of Christ, LDS, Church Universal Triumphant, Scientology, Sovereign Grace, John MacArthur’s movement, etc…. But what do you do if you have family, friends, etc… who are sucked into such an organization?

    The one advice I have is to be on your guard. Everyone is vulnerable or will be vulnerable at certain times in your life. Things that can cause people to join these kinds of churches or movements are the following:

    1. College kids away from home who are lonely
    2. People who had a major tragedy in their life who are vulnerable. That could be..loss of spouse, child, loss of job, divorce, etc…
    3. People who live in transient areas with a large turnover. I.e. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. Chicago, New York, etc… I’ve lived in DC for 8 years and I can’t tell you how lonely I feel here. In one year alone most of my close friends moved away and I aim the process of finding new community.
    4. People in the military – USMC, USN, USA, USAF, USCG, people who serve who have to move every 3 years (PCS). Some of these individuals are incredibly lonely and get sucked in by the “warm” and “loving” community that presents itself. After I walked away from Mormonism I heard stories of people in the military who would get sucked into LDS theology because of Mormon basketball leagues, church socials, etc…

    But this post hits home for me…one of these days I’ll be able to tell my story and this is a part of it.

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  15. Those are good warnings, Eagle. It’s seems to be common knowledge that college is an opportune time for cultists to convene on college campus and make their move. I had never thought of the loneliness that might occur in heavy-populated, but transient areas. That’s a great point.

    And the military – – yes – so many stay in the military because of the incredible support network already established.

    Thank you for mentioning these areas where people can have weaknesses and get sucked into a bad group.

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  16. Eagle, I am a sociologist and your post was spot on!

    Julie Anne, thank you. It is very hard when there are children. Of course I would hope that the clued-in spouse would be allowed to take the children to the new church. If not, I think that there are two major issues to consider. The first is that it is very damaging for children to be in the middle of a rug of war between their parents. The second is safety.

    I would want to avoid the first and I might be inclined to let the status quo go for awhile for that purpose if we were simply dealing with say an intrusive pastor, some incorrect theology, legalisms, etc. However if I could not trust that they would be safe, I would take a stand. A church that would physically ‘discipline’ my child or one that harbors child molesters ( or is known to believe that this is an internal matter) would be a deal breaker.

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  17. I would say, be as reasonable and articulate as you can. Organize your thoughts. Make sure you are not coming across as “bitter” or “hysterical.” Do not assume motives. Keep it as calm and factual as possible. Write it out. Set it aside. Come back to it later to see if it still says what you mean. Be complete but not repetitive.

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  18. I agree with the overall consensus, but especially with HUG. I have found that most folks are willing to turn a blind eye and sweep EVERYTHING under the rug if they are invested in a church. (I did it myself on occasion) It can be something as simple as liking the bible study classes, to singing in the choir, to being a deacon or having any other leadership position. The church and the activities within are their idol and they aren’t willing to hear anything bad, nor give any real consideration to what they already know to be true. If you are going to stay in that environment you will have to go along and exclaim peace, peace.

    The overall majority will not take your case seriously until something similar, if not worse happens to them. It is almost as if most think they will be the exception and its just you who has the problem. Once I realized I was just going through the motions, and my heart and mind where light years away, I knew I had to leave. If I were to marry someone and I had issues with the church he attended, we would definitely have to go to separate churches. There are few things worse that trying to worship on a Sunday morning in a church were all sorts of egregious stuff is going on. I can’t do it.

    I agree with lydiasellerofpurple in being a peaceful dissenter. You try to warn folks, but I have found that most tend to hold an elitist view when it comes to their church. There is no other church that is doing it as well as theirs, so they couldn’t POSSIBLY leave. Plus people are deathly afraid of being “put out of the synagogue” or losing their standing within that community.

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  19. Also, never stay at a church for family and friends. Your spiritual, emotional and sometimes physical health are sooo much more important than that. THEY will be o.k. while you will be completely shredded.

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  20. To my previous comment, I should add that I was ready to leave our last church nearly a year before we actually did. I started collecting information on what was wrong with where we were – mainly abuse of authority issues within the entire denomination as well as our own local congregation. I had to learn to articulate this in a way my husband could understand – not just feelings and hunches but facts. He was not “up” on the issues and just used to swallowing whatever came from the pulpit. He needed a bit of educating, shall we say. This was tough for him to swallow listening to me, as we were in a rather patriarchal church. I also started speaking my concerns to leaders. Some of them listened, some didn’t. At this point, I really didn’t care what anyone thought of me. My husband was not particularly supportive and was so concerned that someone might think I was out of line – a woman trying to take authority over a man! Then one of the pastors quit and shared his reasons, and other people (hundreds) started to leave. That made it easier to bring up again. “Oh, so that’s what you meant!” Uh huh. I also started church hunting way ahead of time. I asked friends for recommendations. I scoured the Internet. I had a decent “short list” of potential churches by the time we left. The clincher came the day when I just couldn’t bring myself to walk in the building. He finally got the hint. We left the church within a few weeks. I love the little church where we have been members for a while now. They understand the abuse situation. They have been so kind to me, over and over. 🙂

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  21. Third comment – by the time we left I had been seeing an experienced Christian therapist for months. He had a lot of personal experience with authoritarian legalistic organizations and knew *exactly* what I was talking about. He also helped me deal with serious abuse of authority in our family. I have seen other counselors who not only didn’t “get” it – they made it worse. I just couldn’t measure up. Fortunately, my current Christian therapist has been really good in helping me sort things out and make some tough decisions. If you can’t afford therapy, ask around for one who will go through the hoops to help you apply for assistance to pay for it – perhaps a county program?

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  22. “However if I could not trust that they would be safe, I would take a stand. A church that would physically ‘discipline’ my child or one that harbors child molesters ( or is known to believe that this is an internal matter) would be a deal breaker.”

    I totally agree. The problem is most of these type of groups are “closed systems” and one rarely knows about the sexual abuse until years later. Look at SGM. It took a blog where the victims actually found out about each other. If it is a closed system like that where any mention of molestation or any negative at all is considered gossip, I would assume the possibility of it is real in that closed patriarchal setting. I realize many will think that wrong of me. But why take the chance? There is a reason it is a closed system….to hide things.

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  23. And finally, “A cultural mindset that leads to child-rearing practices that ignore the thoughts and feelings of the child and emphasize blind obedience are the very conditions that make a group of people vulnerable to fascist movements.”

    This part of Brenda’s post reminds me of something I heard years ago.The film “Schindler’s List” was in theaters, & some of the people whose lives he had saved were interviewed. They were asked, “Why did Schindler do what others refused to, or were afraid to?”. One survivor said that he asked that of Schindler years after the war, & Mr Schindler answered that as a boy, he & his mother had been subjected to great cruelty by his father, & that the only person who sheltered them, who put his own body between them & a violent man was a Jewish rabbi.

    This told me, that one thing we must do is to be there for those who are suffering from the abusive system. Even when those around us are still in such a group, we need to show grace to those who are victimized. It may be a tipping point in their hearts & minds, if not now, then at some time in the future.

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  24. Thinking Christian and Mama Grace, your personal stories are so helpful. Thanks so much for sharing. I stumbled across SGMSurvivors.com site years ago – and it might have been while I was still at BGBC or right after we left. Reading those stories and connecting with them validated what I had experienced and gave me the strength I needed to stand up for myself. People can make life-changing things when they know they are not alone. The being -along thing amidst a Patriarchal system is very, very scary.

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  25. This told me, that one thing we must do is to be there for those who are suffering from the abusive system. Even when those around us are still in such a group, we need to show grace to those who are victimized. It may be a tipping point in their hearts & minds, if not now, then at some time in the future.

    Amen! Beautiful comment, zooey11!

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  26. To me, it’s the same question as “How do I protect my friend/sibling/child from a romantic relationship that is unhealthy?”

    You tell the other person your observations as calmly and unemotionally as you can. That’s all you can do. If your spouse is in love with an abusive church, only he or she can disengage from that church. You can’t drag them; you can’t force them.

    Many couples belong to different churches. My husband and I are members of two different denominations altogether. Some Sundays we go to separate services. Other times, we will both attend a service at one church.

    If one of us belonged to a cultic church, I hope we’d trust our spouse’s outside view.

    If we had children, I would object to bring the kids to a damaging church. If the doctrines were causing physical, sexual or psychological damage to the children or myself, I’d leave the marriage. Better to live apart from your spouse and keep the children safe than allow abuse to happen.

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  27. Thanks for all the replies. This has been very helpful.

    As many commenters have pointed out, it is very difficult for people in “the system” to see that there’s anything wrong with it. I can think of some of my own experiences in that regard. Every fact or argument presented against it gets reinterpreted. However, I can remember things that I heard over a decade ago that I completely dismissed at the time, but now I can see helped me along the way.

    I agree with lydia and zooey. We need to say what we can, be there for those need help, and give others time and space to work things out for themselves. Trying to control others ourselves isn’t the solution–that’s the problem. There may be times where direct confrontations are needed, but I think generally a much more effective approach is to gently ask questions to get the other person thinking.

    Thanks again.

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  28. Mel – Welcome!

    If the doctrines were causing physical, sexual or psychological damage to the children or myself, I’d leave the marriage. Better to live apart from your spouse and keep the children safe than allow abuse to happen.

    Good point – – but you then run the risk for custody issues. In some states teens get to decide where to live and they might choose to live with spouse who is not healthy. No matter how you look at it, this is a very difficult situation.

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  29. Great topic! “How do you warn someone” about the abusive group they’re in? Assuming there are no issues of crime, abuse, etc, that are hurting you or others, and that the loved one/friend is remaining in the abusive group by free choice, there isn’t much to be done. They are likely regularly being warned by their abusive leader about people who will warn them about the group!

    But there are some very important decisions you (the healthy person) can make that might have a role in the person eventually leaving the abusive group.
    The relationship itself is critical. Abusive leaders move quickly to isolate their followers and to instill barriers and doubts into the follower’s most intimate, life-long relationships. They upset homes, ruin marriages, subvert healthy family relationships in those who follow them. So, a good way to set a tone and build a foundation that might save your loved one in the future is to quietly and strategically build a relationship with the person in the abusive group that is very strong, and remains committed on a deeper level than the group is to the person. (Again, I’m not including abusive relationships here.) For a person in an abusive group, simply having a healthy friend who is not in the group, and not freaked out about the group–is a very unique and powerful thing. Obviously, you should be very careful/wise when it comes to forming friendships that will have a bearing on your family and marriage. An overly-close friendship that progresses to a romantic relationship is certainly a danger, and will likely destroy the marriage and further maim your children.

    Another issue to consider is boundaries. I don’t mean lots of relational rules that you (the healthy person) impose on the person in the abusive group. I simply mean drawing lines of behavior and response that you simply will not cross. Do not go to their “church” with them, do not socialize with their associates in the abusive group with them–on their “turf.” Don’t give the abusive group money. Do not concede your children’s schedules and church attendance to the control of the group or abused person. Take your kids to a healthy church, when you can–they might argue about it, and even think less of you then, but should they escape in the future, they’ll fall on their knees and thank you for digging in your heels and not giving up faith. If you share finances with someone in the abusive group (who wants to financially support the group), let you convictions be known, try and separate your finances, and do not work/work overtime, or live frugally in order to give your abused friend/spouse more money to fork over to the group. Start a slush fund, to finance the first few, often traumatic, months after their departure from the group. (Thinking positively here!)

    Make healthy friends, who are not in the group, but who do not oppose, dislike, or feel threatened by your friend/spouse who’s in the group. Heck, if you have friends that actually like the person who’s in the group, and aren’t freaked out or intimidated by him/her, so much the better!

    Also, you need to seek health, yourself. If you wallow, carp, nag, hassle, argue, debate, etc., you’ll lose–even if you win the argument. The goal not as much the person’s departure from the group, but the person no longer being willing to belong to such a group. It’s better if they leave under their own changed, emotionally healthy steam than simply because they’ve finally been convinced that their group has it “wrong” in some area. Then, they’ll just go search for another group that confirms their “right-ness”, instead of seeking a healthy family and church where they can grow and continue to be converted into a healthy, loving, mature person.

    Finally, God opposes false teachers and abusive churches. Regardless of His seeming indifference to those–allowing them to continue, to abuse, etc., it is a foundational assumption of faith that God is good, and hates evil, and will one day judge it. Pray to God knowing that you have a sympathetic ear, even if it seems He’s taking His time in doing anything about the abusive group that has captured your loved one. He probably knows something about the timing of your loved one’s departure from the group that you do know!
    That’s my Monday morning two-cents!

    Like

  30. “Good point – – but you then run the risk for custody issues. In some states teens get to decide where to live and they might choose to live with spouse who is not healthy. No matter how you look at it, this is a very difficult situation.”

    I think the whole patriarchal system as it is designed plays into this fear. Women are more pious when they don’t have careers or any financial independence. Then when it hits the fan, they do not seem the best custodial parent to the court. It is a catch 22 situation. The courts do not seem to be receptive to claims of spiritual abuse. They consider church attendance voluntary. So, it is a battle.

    If someone is considering this route, I advise them to read Phyllis Chesler’s writings as some of my friends have been stunned that the courts reward a narcissistic/patriarchal father over the mother. There is a total misunderstanding out there concerning custody issues. The irony is that around 70% of men who fight for custody win. The reality is very few men fight for custody so the court tends to believe those men who fight for custody are good fathers.

    http://www.phyllis-chesler.com/topics/4/motherhood-custody

    Like

  31. ““Good point – – but you then run the risk for custody issues. In some states teens get to decide where to live and they might choose to live with spouse who is not healthy. No matter how you look at it, this is a very difficult situation.”

    If you stay, there is a 100% chance the teen will be exposed to continual abuse. If you leave, the teen may chose to stay with the abusive parent. Or may not. Or may choose to stay at first and leave later. Regardless of the teen’s choice, your home away from the abusive spouse gives them a safe escape route.

    Another way to look at it – What kind of marriage do you want to model for the kids? Is being married more important than safety?

    Like

  32. On a different note than the original post, but related to some of the comments, do you think it would be wise for people in general to have prenuptial agreements before they get married? I know many Christians would be against the idea from the get go because it would acknowledge the possibility of divorce. However, the reality is that divorce is a possibility, and if no agreement is in place then issues of custody, property, etc. would fall to whatever happens to be the defaults of the appropriate jurisdiction of civil government.

    Another idea that crossed my mind is that of a “dower”. It is similar to a dowry, but given to the bride and held in trust to provide for her in the case of her husband’s death. Perhaps a similar idea could be used in cases of divorce. Many women are “stuck” in abusive situations because they know they cannot support themselves apart from their husband (of course they aren’t really stuck, but that’s how they feel).

    Mortgages are written with all kinds of provisions to protect the lender and borrower (mostly the lender, but that’s a whole other story) and spell out what will happen in every possible scenario (late payment, no payment, etc.). Why not marriages? There are a lot of laws on the books, but one-size-fits-all is not the best policy.

    Like

  33. @ lydiasellerofpurple.

    There was also this:
    Red states, blue states, and divorce: Understanding the impact of conservative protestantism on regional variation in divorce rates

    Basically, that study says that people in conservative Protestant areas (not just con. Prots. themselves, but even Non Christians that live among them), have higher divorce rates.

    I read about that study about a week or two before it was discussed on Janet Mefferd’s radio show. Mefferd had a Focus on the Family member on her show who, of course, tried to downplay the study’s findings – one thing he was perturbed about is that they said young age of marriage could be a factor.

    A lot of conservative Prot. Christians encourage people to marry very young.

    Mefferd even laughed when she heard that, and said she has never heard of such a thing, she has never heard of a preacher shoving the concept of young marriage down any kid’s throats.

    Not only do the patriarchy guys insist on young marriage, but in the past two to five years or so, even not- quite- as- wacky groups, that is, your normal evangelicals, Southern Baptists, etc, have also been hyping young marriage (a.k.a. “early marriage”).

    I pick up on these things because one reason (of many) I am still single at my age, despite wanting marriage, is all this junk I was taught growing up about marriage by Christians. I was told in an evangelical, Southern Baptist context, that if I trusted God, prayed, and blah blah, I’d get a spouse by my late 20s or so. This teaching is implied in their books and sermons on dating, marriage, etc.

    As I got to my late mid 30s, I started to notice that middle of the road Christians – I am not talking about wacky, nutty groups like Reconstructionists and patriarchy, just your average Southern Baptists and others – don’t do squat to help singles over the age of 30, especially the never- married ones. (They do have divorce recovery groups at most churches, but there is nothing for the never- married, childless woman.)

    I also noticed after reading blogs and books I am not alone. There are many other over 30 / 40 year old Christian women, never married, who desire marriage, but they are still single. And like me, they are still single, in spite of all the Christian junk they heard growing up (about trusting in God, waiting, praying, having faith).

    So I thought, surely Southern Baptists will notice this awful problem that is going on among Christian adult singles and take real steps to help middle aged ladies get married. But no. Most of them ignore this issue.

    The ones who do notice and talk about it publicly (like Southern Baptist Al Mohler), they don’t care a squat about people who are single and over 30, 40, 50. They only care about 20-something year old unmarried men and women.

    Southern Baptist and evangelicals started cramming the idea of young marriage down the throats of the Christian community a few years ago. Mohler even wrote some insulting things about adult singleness on his various blogs, and said bad things about singleness in lectures. Mohler thinks adult singleness is aberrant or non biblical. He thinks marriage and married people are ‘more Christian.’ He seems to think adult singleness is failure or ungodly or a sign that God doesn’t like you.

    Instead of putting measures into place to help all the singles over 30 get married, Mohler and crew ignore our needs and the dynamics that go along with it, and started saying in speeches/blogs a few years ago that kids today need to get married by the time they are 20 years of age. That’s their big answer to the delayed marriage / no marriage problem among Christians.

    I’m suprised that Janet Mefferd and her Focus on the Family Guest, Mr. Stanton, are oblivious to this development among evangelicals and Southern Baptists, because it is most definitely out there, and it’s been out there for a few years now. It’s VERY obvious to those of us who are, or were, Christian who are still single past our 30s.

    I think Mefferd is married, and I think she has children of her own. Married (Christian) people tend to be totally blind and clueless to the absolute horrible, stereotyped, comments and advice singles get from evangelical / Baptist culture.

    Adult singles are either brushed off and ignored by churches and Christians, or we get treated like second class citizens by evangelical / Baptist churches and culture. Christianity today is all geared to supporting married people and marriage, not adult singles.

    That Duck Dynasty guy, Robertson, who is beloved of evangelicals and other conservative Christians, was exposed in several magazines about a month ago seriously telling men – grown men – to marry girls who are 15, 16 years old! He was encouraging young marriage, at least for females.

    One reason Christians are telling kids to marry at 18 or 20 is that some of the older, married Christians finally saw census data and articles a few years ago about how people are delaying marriage, and so baby-making is on the decline, or people don’t have their first baby until they are 30 – 40, etc, which freaks them out, because they worship marriage and baby making, and they particularly idealize women having babies when they are in their twenties.

    What the young marriage advocates don’t seem to realize is that commanding people to marry and crank out babies at 21 years of age is not going to solve the problems as to why Christian singles are single into their 30s and older. I can reel off reasons why Christian singles are staying single, even among the ones who want marriage, but it would take awhile.

    I’ve read studies that say the marrying younger is actually a contributing factor to higher divorce, that people are more likely to have a lasting marriage the older they are when they marry. That fact has been disputed by Christian marriage idolaters, who have shows on Christian networks who talk about these things.

    The Christians who make too much out of marriage seem very perturbed at the idea of anyone getting married the first time past their 20s, I don’t know why (maybe it’s tied in with the baby-making thing). IMO, Christians should be supportive of marriage at any age, whether the first time a person gets married is at 35, 45, or 55.

    Like

  34. Daisy,

    Mohler allowed his college educated SINGLE daughter to go to DC and work for a Senator for several years before marrying. So he does not always practice what he preaches. he also talks of having many children when he only had 2. A lot of them are like that dispensing advice that does not apply to them or they can afford to live out because of their high income and many perks. Most of them are phonies.

    My prediction is we are going to see many more divorces from the fallout in the YRR wing over the next decade for a plethora of reasons I won’t go into here.

    I wish I had some advice for you but I will only say the LAST place I would go to meet anyone would be an evangelical church if were in your position. Your chances of meeting someone of sane character and integrity increase AWAY from that venue, sadly.

    There is hope. I have a friend who was single until 50 and ended up marrying her divorced high school sweetheart who had proposed when she was in college and she said no. He never got over her even after living far away for all those years. They are gloriously happy. Of course, there are many in the evangelical world who would consider both of them adulterers. But thankfully not so in their SBC church. You will find the SBC is not monolithic. Yet. Mohler is working on it.

    Like

  35. “On a different note than the original post, but related to some of the comments, do you think it would be wise for people in general to have prenuptial agreements before they get married? I know many Christians would be against the idea from the get go because it would acknowledge the possibility of divorce. However, the reality is that divorce is a possibility, and if no agreement is in place then issues of custody, property, etc. would fall to whatever happens to be the defaults of the appropriate jurisdiction of civil government.”

    TIA, I believe women should be educated and have experienced some independence before they marry. (I am generalizing so bear with me). I also believe many women are equipped with gifts that are not being used in marriage. A big one is finances. She should know every jot and tittle of their finances and if that is a problem for the husband, there is a BIGGER problem laying right under that one. (Not so far back as the 70’s when a woman’s husband died his bank account was frozen until probate. It was NOT considered hers UNLESS he specified it before he died. It was considered HIS money and he could do what he wanted with it upon death. Thank God the laws were changed.)

    Marriage is a one flesh union. A spiritual partnership and she is a full fledged partner. One of the worst things to happen to women is that her input into the home is not financially considered by the courts anymore. Very few divorced women receive maintenance if they were sahm. That is why many divorced former sahm live in poverty. Many prefer it to living with an abuser and rightly so.

    So while some laws were good there were unintended consequences so we must encourage women to be educated about it all. That wonderful man she is marrying might be a narcissistic sociopath and she won’t know it for several years. It happens more than folks think.

    When I was growing up there was never any question of “if” I were going to college. The question was “where”. In that respect I was treated no different than my brothers. But then my great grandmother went to college in the early 1900’s, both my grandmothers and my mother, too. I come from a line of ancestors believing in educated, independent women who are strong believers, too. It is a great legacy to pass on to both sons and daughters.

    Although today a college education does not carry the entry it used to. The idea of becoming educated and independent remains. It makes for a much more intellectually stimulating marriage for both. Strong men who know who they are appreciate such women.

    Like

  36. @ lydiasellerofpurple

    I wish I had some advice for you but I will only say the LAST place I would go to meet anyone would be an evangelical church if were in your position. Your chances of meeting someone of sane character and integrity increase AWAY from that venue, sadly.

    I really believed for the longest time that the Bible taught that Christians are to only marry other Christians, but the older you get and find yourself still waiting, it gets down to being pragmatic.

    I held out so long waiting to get married to a Christian, but one never came along, not after I broke things off with my ex fiance.

    I’ve also read of so many things in the news of married preachers who have been charged with, or admitted to a host of things, ranging from pornography addictions, to murdering people, child sexual abuse, having affairs, to using prostitutes.

    Even if someone could convince me that “being equally yoked” is about marriage, I don’t see that it matters, when a lot of Christian men behave no differently than Non Christian men.

    Some Non Christian may have better morals and treat me better than a self professing, church going, Christian guy.

    I tried out dating sites before, and some of the Christian men – they I.D. as Christian on their profiles – had vulgar or distasteful jokes on their profiles, or asked up front about sex. I would hope a Christian guy would behave like a gentleman on a dating site, but some of them act like vulgar pigs.

    I’m not ready to start dating again, but when I do, I have decided to give Non Christian guys a chance. If I use dating sites, I am not screening out Non Christians anymore.

    You said,

    There is hope. I have a friend who was single until 50 and ended up marrying her divorced high school sweetheart who had proposed when she was in college and she said no. He never got over her even after living far away for all those years. They are gloriously happy. Of course, there are many in the evangelical world who would consider both of them adulterers. But thankfully not so in their SBC church. You will find the SBC is not monolithic. Yet. Mohler is working on it.

    Thank you for the words of encouragement.

    About divorce being regarded as adultery by a lot of Baptists and evangelicals. I’ve never understood Christians being so harsh about divorce. I was in a long term, serious relationship, we were engaged, and it did not work out.

    I could only imagine that making a marriage work would be just as hard, if not harder. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

    I’ve never understood Christians treating divorced people like garbage (they sometimes do the same thing to never married adults). Some Christians act like divorce is an unpardonable sin.

    I’ve also read some work online by Christians who say that the Bible’s teachings on divorce are different from what a lot of preachers preach, that Jesus was not limiting divorce only to situations of adultery (they explain all this in depth), but his words have been misinterpreted to mean that by a lot of evangelicals, Baptists, etc.

    Like

  37. MissDaisyFlower,

    In regards to divorce, I’ve been reading, as well as heard of, that there is a difference between the words “Put Away” and “divorce”.

    In the law of Moses, divorce was allowed, therefore, it was not a sin, nor was it equated to causing the other spouse to commit adultery. According to 1 John 3:4, sin is defined as transgression of the law [of Moses]. So are we to say that Jesus is now CHANGING a law of Moses? Of course not.

    Therefore, putting away would be just another way of saying “separated”.

    But, there are many who believe that “put away” and “divorce” means the same thing. I used to think that way, myself, because that is what church’s teach. I’m not so sure about that teaching anymore.

    What we also must must must (did I say must?) conclude, is that Jesus is always about the spiritual, not the carnal.

    To reflect ourselves in the spiritual, we live in the carnal in a righteous way. Jesus is our groom, and as a bride, we are not to divorce him, nor leave him, and He certainly will not divorce nor leave us, for he says in Hebrews 13, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

    The only thing that I can really add, is to do a list of pros and cons in regards to getting married to a non-believer vs. a real believer. In Church yesterday, it was about our actions being louder than words, and 1 John 3 was our reference (By the way, there were many Seahawks analogies in this, too, being Superbowl Sunday).

    1 John 3:7-18 (Easy to Read Version from biblegateway.com)
    7 Dear children, don’t let anyone lead you into the wrong way. Christ always did what was right. So to be good like Christ, you must do what is right. 8 The devil has been sinning since the beginning. Anyone who continues to sin belongs to the devil. The Son of God came for this: to destroy the devil’s work.

    9 Those who are God’s children do not continue to sin, because the new life God gave them[a] stays in them. They cannot keep sinning, because they have become children of God. 10 So we can see who God’s children are and who the devil’s children are. These are the ones who are not God’s children: those who don’t do what is right and those who do not love their brothers and sisters in God’s family.
    We Must Love One Another

    11 This is the teaching you have heard from the beginning: We must love each other. 12 Don’t be like Cain. He belonged to the Evil One. Cain killed his brother. But why did he kill him? Because what Cain did was evil, and what his brother did was good.

    13 Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised when the people of this world hate you. 14 We know that we have left death and have come into life. We know this because we love each other as brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love is still in death. 15 Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer.[b] And you know that no murderer has eternal life.

    16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters. 17 Suppose a believer who is rich enough to have all the necessities of life sees a fellow believer who is poor and does not have even basic needs. What if the rich believer does not help the poor one? Then it is clear that God’s love is not in that person’s heart. 18 My children, our love should not be only words and talk. No, our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do.

    Ed

    Like

  38. Leviticus 21:7
    They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.

    Note the phrase “Put Away”, as well as “From her husband”.

    Ed

    Like

  39. In even doing more reading of Matthew 5 over and over again, it is even more clear to me that putting away is indeed “separation”. Divorce is NEEDED to avoid adultery. One can put away his spouse for the spouse committing fornication, which, in this case is adultery, but if you put away without a divorce, then you cause the spouse to commit adultery. Divorce is not the sin, putting away without a divorce is what Jesus is talking about. I think that I am interpreting this correctly. I am convinced in my own mind that I am.

    Ed

    Like

  40. Julie Anne,

    a person that goes by “my blog” posted: “Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!”

    I’ve read some of my spam before. This looks like spam.

    Ed

    ________________________________

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  41. Ed – Can you please right click on the timestamp of the comment and copy/post the link in a new comment? I’m going nuts looking for the comment you are talking about. Thanks much!

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