Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part II (No Choice in Totalist Institutions)

 

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Cindy Kunsman explains how Doug Phillips relegated Vision Forum acolytes to bounded choice – a dynamic only intensified for Lourdes Torres-Manteufel by alleged sex abuse.

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Note from Julie Anne:  This is Part 2 of Cindy Kunsman’s series on Bounded Choice.  In this series she is helping us to understand the process people go through when they have lived in a high-controlling religious system as was Lourdes Torres-Manteufel’s experience.  Lourdes’ and Cindy’s story can help shed light in our own experience or the experience of someone we know and love.  Having this understanding is pivotal in the recovery process.

Again, thank you, Cindy for sharing your experience and expertise with us at SSB!

 

 

Lourdes Persephone

PART I in this series may be read here.

By Cindy Kunsman, UnderMuchGrace.com

Defining Bounded Choice

What would a court document describing my sexual abuse as a child look like? 

If I could have imagined any alternative other than the one I saw as a damaged nine-year old, what would my court petition look like? 

I’d never thought about such things before – not in forty years. As much thinking as I’ve done about the matter, the only court I ever imagined concerning any of my own experience was that of my father being sentenced to death for killing my abuser. That’s what my dad thought would happen, should anyone ever do anything like that to me. Why could I comprehend nothing else?

Closed Systems: Discernment Stolen, Decision-Making Stopped

Because high-demand religion and spiritually abusive systems close people off from themselves and from the perspective of the broader world, that’s why. In a way, they become a personal example, a microcosm, of the system of the closed mind of the “closed group” — expendable drones in a high-demand religious hive.

Ironically, the followers of such a system become walled off from their own inner thoughts of doubt, a function of discernment and critical thinking. Leaders think for the followers, so those functions must also be handed over to one’s overseer – both to the group doctrine as well as to the all-knowing leaders who have a better connection or a direct pipeline to God and things divine. They are the essential and only pure mouthpiece of God.

Scientia potentia est. Knowledge is power. The closed group by nature limits power to a choice few. Knowledge and thought become proprietary, and the enlightened leader proprietors mediate truth for followers. This maintains the closed system wherein the follower must find their place of grace – the existence dispensed to them by the “truth.” Followers are who the system says they are, and they must adapt their thoughts, behavior, and emotions to find their personhood and identity within that system. 

The true believer, out of love and duty, internalizes the desires of the leader in a spirit of true devotion and desires to gain the approval of their leader, parent, pastor, guru, abusive partner, etc. Through subtle social cues, reward for good behavior, punishment for bad behavior, and their attentiveness to the will of their leader(s), they train themselves to anticipate what is desired of them and then strive to attain favor. It’s all done in the name of sincerity and humility, but really, it is sadism and subjugation.

Some of these constraints are literal, and a good number of them are imagined as the follower morphs and conforms self to accommodate the leaders and the system. The follower anticipates the shifting needs and requirements to hold on to that favor and their own personhood – the reality that membership demands of them. 

Life and Death in the DocksLourdes Yellow Sands

Any choices they supposedly make have already been dictated by the group. They are bounded choices to ensure their survival, sometimes a literal choice between life or death. Failure to follow results in not only loss of one’s salvation and favor with God, but under systems like Gothard’s, Lindvall’s, and Phillips’, God will make it His business to punish the dissident for disobedience. In a terrible twist of faith, “grace” with Him must be earned, on top of earning the favor of parents (necessary for physical sustenance) and church (necessary to maintain their whole family’s standing with the group). To be excised from underneath the protective umbrella of either is to be outside the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and then, surely also outside the reach of Heaven as you suffer the hailstorms of hell.

The legal world uses a different term for this pressure for survival: undue influence. The devotee still technically possesses free will, but their reality becomes so confined and scripted that they have no opportunity to exercise it. Their choices are bound by their confines, and considering alternatives becomes punishable sin to be avoided at all cost. Thoughts and needs must be subordinated to those of the group, the leader, or perhaps those of middle management. Free will and autonomy become an illusion in order to maintain one’s standing with the group and with God Himself. 

There is, therefore, only one choice, dictated by surviving within the group. Exiting that group becomes tantamount to annihilation. This pressure intensifies for those who have no ability to support themselves apart from their group or their family, particularly if they are financially employed by the group. Undue influence, indeed …

Lourdes GlacierWhat real choices did Lourdes Torres have? She had to serve her parents who commanded her to serve her enlightened visionary. Her reputation depended upon her family’s esteem for her. To bring honor to her parents, she was commanded to obey all that the Phillips’ family required of her. She wasn’t just obeying her parents in the sense that most of those outside the system think of it. She was obeying God Himself – at every level. Her authorities were placed above her as God’s divine mediating instruments through whom He would shape her character. 

Remember that the group also taught that slavery and servitude were Biblical, and Scripture demands that one submit patiently to both good and evil masters as part of God’s ideal plan.

Remember how grace is billed as something that one merits through submission, excessive humility (obsequiousness), and self-sacrifice within these systems. God opposes the proud and autonomous, and autonomy is a very dirty word in Calvinism. But God gives grace to the humble (and the humiliated) – and the authoritarian leaders who impose such systems and inevitable benefit from them.

But there is yet another layer of the bounded choice to which Ms. Torres was subjected. There is more to be said about bounded choice and more layers to the complicated conundrum that Lourdes braved as best she could in her own quest for survival of Phillips’ system.

Part III to follow concerns the difficulties faced by young people who were raised within the confines of a totalist institution.

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Primary work cited and excellent reference RE: surviving totalist groups and manipulative relationships:

Take Back Your Life by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias.

149 comments on “Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part II (No Choice in Totalist Institutions)

  1. @Cindy I too am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse which was complicated by interference from the church so I know how mishandled these situations can be when the church is involved. Due to my past I took great interst in the Doug Phillips scandal the moment the news broke last fall and have followed it very closely. I personally don’t believe it was quite like you are describing above. Is Doug Phillips guilty of clergy sexual abuse? Absolutely! Did Doug use his position of power to take advantage of a young woman? No doubt about it. Is Doug Phillips a pig? You bet he is! Is he strictly guilty of using Lourdes as only a sex toy? I don’t believe so. I think her lawyer went down the wrong road with the lawsuit and I have grave concerns with it. Why? Because Doug loved Lourdes. If you read Julie Anne’s timeline you will see that Doug was caught early on. Beall knew as well as Lourdes parents and they did not approve in any way. So much so that Lourdes was no longer welcome in the Phillips home. Many people were suspicious and many people knew. Doug was hoping to marry Lourdes. I do not believe he treated her as his sex toy. He admitted to Lourdes parents as well as his wife that he had feelings for Lourdes many years ago. I am very concerned that the wording of the lawsuit will only work in Doug’s favour. The lawsuit describes a very dark and disturbing case of repeated sexual assault and abuse, the kind of abuse that would breed total hate and distain not romance. Please note I am not implying that Lourdes is lying, I am saying that I think her lawyer made a serious mistake with the wording in the lawsuit.

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  2. Cindy,
    This is almost creepy for me to read, because you have perfectly described the environment at Homestead Heritage. Even loaded language like this phrase;
    “God opposes the proud and autonomous, and autonomy is a very dirty word in Calvinism. But God gives grace to the humble (and the humiliated) – and the authoritarian leaders who impose such systems and inevitable benefit from them.”
    It’s used very heavily to keep people in submission to church authority.

    I know people who were forced to move off of the church community property if they wouldn’t submit to leaders’ authority. It was part of the “discipline” meted out for not obeying. And, yes, since people’s jobs and livelihood were often tied in with a church member’s business, that was often used as leverage to gain compliance.

    I know it may sound crazy or unlikely to some that real, live folks could still fall for this today, but it does happen.

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  3. I think her lawyer went down the wrong road with the lawsuit and I have grave concerns with it. Why? Because Doug loved Lourdes. If you read Julie Anne’s timeline you will see that Doug was caught early on.

    wantingthetruth,

    If he truly loved Lourdes, then how could he so quickly switch back to Beall and now claim that their marriage is better than ever? Ejaculating on someone when they say to stop is not loving. He may have convinced himself that he loved Lourdes. Frankly, I don’t think he is capable of truly loving with the behaviors he has shown. A pastor and employer doesn’t love someone by using them emotionally, sexually, or any other fashion. His “Christianity” and love are both fraudulent based on his behavior. True love thinks the best of someone and would never put them in harm’s way.

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  4. Wantingthetruth –

    Because of Doug’s actions over his lifetime, I’m not convinced he knows how to love anyone. Everything he does appears to be for a self-serving reason.

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  5. “Ejaculating on someone when they say to stop is not loving.”

    Perfect, Succinct, Accurate.

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  6. Wanting the Truth,

    Is he strictly guilty of using Lourdes as only a sex toy? I don’t believe so.

    I didn’t realize that I’d made such a statement anywhere. I’ve said so little about Phillips himself in regard to these allegations that I don’t know how I could be interpreted in this way. Because I know so little about the matter but was affected just by reading the specifics of the allegations in the court documents, I used my own experience as a fulcrum for pressures that all people face in a high demand group.

    My purpose here in this series of posts concerns the dynamics that restrict choices for those who are under the influence of high demand religion which revolves around the needs and whims and ego of a charismatic leader. These pressures are intensified for those who are close to or are invited into the “inner circle” of such a group. Youth and naiveté also magnify bounded choice for a group member.

    I’ve not made any statement of whether I believe allegations are true or not. I have only the limited information that everyone else in the public has been told — information that is insufficient towards discerning what actually happened. What I find significant is the value of perspective and how all of these pressures and limitations affect that perspective.

    In a very real sense, I intended to emphasize that we can’t conjecture about these issues with clarity, particularly if we’ve failed to consider bounded choice (and the limitations of growing up in a group — the subject of the next post in the series). What we can do is extend compassion (or empathy) to Lourdes in regard to the pressures she faced which affected her choices or lack of truly viable ones.

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  7. Julie Anne wrote: True love thinks the best of someone and would never put them in harm’s way.

    They also show repent when confronted, show contrition through action that seeks to restore those who have been hurt, and they don’t issue legal intimidation through legal mediation to manipulate to suppress criticism and to save their public image.

    Years ago, I thought that perhaps I was the only person in the life of my abuser who really did pay attention to him and really did love him — better and more than the other people in his life. That seemed to rationalize and soften for me the bitter truth that this horrible person who I loved and trusted had actually groomed me. In fact, this really melted away, in desensitizing to these memories and reprocessing them, when I felt safe enough to experience them. When I no longer needed to protect myself through rationalization, I had the liberty and power to declare what I’d thought of as love as evil exploitation.

    Part of healing involves finding the power to call abuse what it really is — an exploitation of virtue. But until we get there, we often sugar it over to help us cope, even though it is maladaptive.

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  8. BTDT,

    You wrote: “Ejaculating on someone when they say to stop is not loving.”

    Perfect, Succinct, Accurate.

    At the risk of playing devil’s advocate and to address Wanting the Truth’s criticism, lets assume that this may not be accurate information — if only because there is no objective, concrete evidence (unless there’s a blue dress from the Gap somewhere).

    What of Phillips’ behavior that we do know objectively (“clarifications,” concealing matters for months, etc.) and that which is more subjective (testimony of others like Lourdes and Peter Bradrick, etc) speaks of or demonstrates love? Or of love and concern for whom?

    Again, that is no commentary on whether the claims are robust or true. I think that we have plenty of additional information that gives cause for doubt that even Michael Farris was willing to state.

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  9. @ Julie Anne Just to be clear I do not consider Doug Phillips to be a Christian,. Also I understand that it may have been a selfish love Doug had for Lourdes but I do believe he had feelings for her, he publically admitted that to his wife and Lourdes parents., and that is one of the many reasons why I am saying I don’t like the sex toy angle.

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  10. BTDT,

    What continues to fascinate me about all of this is the remarkable predictability of how the works of the flesh manifest when used to control a group.

    Jesus told parables and called out the specific errors of the Pharisees, and they also illustrated the pitfalls of human nature apart from Him. Manipulation and control are manipulation and control, and no matter how you slice them to understand them, the same elements come shining through. One of the women who wrote the book I reference here that served as the primary source of this post was in a political group. The other was in a psychology group who grew up in an agnostic Jewish home. Though the traditions of men can vary, in remarkable ways, they are just the same old dynamics and stuff, just with different names and details.

    Some people like Gothard actually teach some of these ways of manipulation as doctrine. Some seem to just get out of balance, letting the end justify the means, and they fall into the predictable patterns ignorantly. Human beings have characteristic weaknesses that Cialdini called “Weapons of Influence,” and manipulators exploit them to use against us to meet their own needs and the needs of the group at our expense.

    http://www.lucifereffect.com/guide_cialdini-intro.htm

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  11. “What of Phillips’ behavior that we do know objectively (“clarifications,” concealing matters for months, etc.) and that which is more subjective (testimony of others like Lourdes and Peter Bradrick, etc) speaks of or demonstrates love? Or of love and concern for whom?”

    Hmmmm . . . Well, Phillips isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) pastor/minister/elder to be unfaithful to his wife. If he really did love Lourdes I submit he might have left Beall years ago to marry her, or, at the very least, have done so when news of the scandal came to light. Instead, it took Lourdes speaking up enough so that the “powers that be” finally stepped in to close down VFM. Now, all of those associated with him can’t distance themselves fast enough.

    If Phillips has (allegedly) hired a PI to contact BCA/VF members on the sly, he’s certainly trying to protect something. Not exactly a show of love for Lourdes. Phillips little fiefdom is obviously far more important to him than Lourdes.

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  12. To give credit where credit is due, during editing, Brad/futurist guy added this stellar sentence that he crafted all on his own. I feel a tad guilty for taking credit for it:

    To be excised from underneath the protective umbrella of either is to be outside the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and then, surely also outside the reach of Heaven as you suffer the hailstorms of hell.

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  13. In terms of the lawsuit and the legal issues raised there, I think it’s important to keep in mind the big picture. It’s about far more than sexual interactions. There are nine counts listed in Section VI, on “Causes of Action.”

    Count 1 – Battery (Against Douglas Phillips)

    Count 2 – Assault (Against Douglas Phillips)

    Count 3 – Sexual Assault (Against Douglas Phillips)

    Count 4 – Fraud (Against Douglas Phillips)

    Count 5 – Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Against Douglas Phillips)

    Count 6 – Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Against All Defendants)

    Count 7 – Sexual Exploitation (Against All Defendants)

    Count 8 – Negligent Supervision (Against Vision Forum Ministries and Vision Forum, Inc.)

    Count 9 – Negligent Retention (Against Vision Forum Ministries and Vision Forum, Inc.)

    While it may affect a jury’s decisions on some of the counts to discern whether or not Doug Phillips truly seemed to love Lourdes Torres or not — assuming that is even a legally relevant issue in Texas state law for a lawsuit like this — it seems to me the overall angle of “total institution” taken makes sense. The organizations involved seem quite in wrong, regardless of the sincerity status of Mr. Phillips’ love.

    The Petition describes patriarchy’s interlocking directory of key leaders and organizations, and its legalistic-perfectionistic gridlock of ideas and behaviors that were required of subjugants to show submission to their authoritarian hierarchies in order to prove faithful obedience to God. In this case, it was through submitting to Mr. Phillips/Vision Forum Inc. and Ministries, and the governing paradigm thereof.

    A lot of the outcomes may depend on Texas state law that we don’t yet have much understanding of. But in terms of “total institution” and “bounded choice,” Cindy’s series of posts and the comment threads have been doing a tremendous job of showing how such an insidious system conditions people to get them in and then implanting hopes, self-doubts, and fears to keep them in. So, FWIW, I think this lawsuit is already proving to be very instructive for our communities on the power dynamics of poisonous systems. Thanks Cindy and commenters for the input and various perspectives, and to Julie Anne for hosting the posting!

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  14. Cindy,
    Another thing I just thought of: Many times in my own “total institution” members, and ministers would declare how much they “loved” me. Yet, when my husband and I became a possible liability to them (and we refused to take their advice) we found ourselves shunned overnight. People who I once cried with would run in the other direction if they spotted me in the grocery store. The first year, my husband’s parents didn’t call, text, send a card, or acknowledge his birthday in any way. My husband would see friends he’d grown up with in a place of business, and they’d act as if they didn’t even see him.

    “Love” is a funny concept in a total institution. It may seem to be freely given as long as you obey the group’s dictates. If you don’t, it’s turned off like a faucet. Someone told us at the beginning of our crisis that we were going to find out who our real friends were. Sadly, it included none of those who once claimed to “love” us.

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  15. BTDT:

    Oh my goodness! I hated the grocery store and the mall!

    If someone in leadership or the inner circle saw me in public after I left, and there were witnesses around that knew them and me, they’d act like nothing had happened. I went to the mall with someone who didn’t go to the church on a Friday night, about three weeks or so after my exit. An older woman around my mother’s age, a good friend of the pastor’s wife, actually came up to me and hugged me and said, “Praise the Lord, Cindy.” But there were church people there that I did not know very well but recognized. I stood there, stunned and frozen with my arms hanging at my sides — dumfounded. I walked away in a daze — feeling violated.

    The next person I ran into about a week later was at the grocery store, and she read me the riot act. It was bad, bad, bad. Until we moved away about a year later, I was glad that that favorite grocery store of mine was open all night, because I would only shop there after 1AM just to be safe.

    When I was getting ready to sell our house to move, I needed a new bedspread, so I went to the mall where I’d seen this woman. I shopped at JC Penney’s first, but when I went to see what they had at Macy’s One Day Sale and at Sears, I suddenly realized that if I walked out into the mall, I might see someone from church. I actually drove from one store to another and back to Penneys, but before I went in again, I put on my husband’s baseball cap and wore my glasses (which I didn’t need all the time and didn’t wear often), in the hope that if I saw someone, they wouldn’t readily recognize me.

    The inconsistency in what someone’s response might be to me was also a kind of torture, as much as getting reamed out/cursed and the antithesis of the fake put on that everything was wonderful. How telling? So the grocery store fear is an often neglected pressure that most people wouldn’t think about until it happened to them.

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  16. BTDT, you also wrote:

    Yet, when my husband and I became a possible liability to them (and we refused to take their advice) we found ourselves shunned overnight. People who I once cried with would run in the other direction if they spotted me in the grocery store. The first year, my husband’s parents didn’t call, text, send a card, or acknowledge his birthday in any way. My husband would see friends he’d grown up with in a place of business, and they’d act as if they didn’t even see him.

    Lifton called this kind of loss of personhoood — the punishment of dissent — the “dispensing of existence.” You count when you do what you’re told. You’re supposed to take the subtle hint to “shape up” when you feel ostracized, even when you don’t behave right when you’re still in a group. It’s part of the social proof and pressure that manipulates people into compliance, part of how the group maintains what Lifton termed “Milieu Control.” In a way, the pretending that you don’t exist, or ignoring you, or passing you over when others are being rewarded is almost worse than acting out and confrontation. When you’re ignored, it seems that you’re not even worth that much effort. People usually compulsively do what the group wants when they start to suffer this kind of social and personal pain in response without even realizing it.

    After a member is hooked and no longer needs the “love bomb” (another technique of milieu control), “love” becomes duty, compliance, and compulsiveness which eventually becomes a feeling of deadness in the follower. “Love” that is shown to the member by the leadership/leader/peers becomes little more than behavioristic reward and punishment like a BF Skinner or a Stanley Milgram experiment. You do what you’re told, you keep your mouth shut, and then you’ll get your “reward.”

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  17. “This is almost creepy for me to read, because you have perfectly described the environment at Homestead Heritage. Even loaded language like this phrase;
    “God opposes the proud and autonomous, and autonomy is a very dirty word in Calvinism. But God gives grace to the humble (and the humiliated) – and the authoritarian leaders who impose such systems and inevitable benefit from them.”
    It’s used very heavily to keep people in submission to church authority. ”

    And it can creep into groups very subtly, too. Today my daughter showed me the website of a SBC camp for youth that I used to go to all the time and she visited a few years back. She asked me to read their “what we believe” section. Their main points were: Love God. Love others. Be humble. (Not be a servant, even)

    What? The humble part was not even there 5 years ago. And it was worded in a way they have plausible deniability but the message was there. YOU be humble. They did not get into specifics but we al know the drill if you dare dissent. You are not being humble. I actually believe this is the influence of Calvinism in the SBC. So they are creeping in concepts that were really not a main focus before. Downplaying or leaving out concepts that used to be the focus such as soul competency and the Priesthood of believer. Big time SBC concepts for 100 years.

    Also, if one loves God and loves others, does that not produce fruitful humbleness? . And one can disagree and be humble. It is a way of loading the language to make it mean what they want. It sounds so good and pious to teach that. I fear what they are attemptig to do is make good little Nazi’s so I am always vigilant to discuss what such things might mean to others and what it means in real life.

    It was weird to see “Be Humble” headlined on a what we believe page. Sigh

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  18. “People usually compulsively do what the group wants when they start to suffer this kind of social and personal pain in response without even realizing it.”

    It had that effect on me for 23 years. It often seems so subtle. Only a few times did I ever experience an out and out confrontation from my minister. They tended to minimize those events afterward. Mostly it was very subtle. The stakes probably weren’t high enough for me to risk having that “reward” taken from me. Until two years ago. What they advised us to do seemed unethical. Many prominent, local, businessmen advised against it. Our minister was very upset that my husband had even sought counsel “outside the church.” So they canned us.

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  19. “Ihe truly loved Lourdes, then how could he so quickly switch back to Beall and now claim that their marriage is better than ever? Ejaculating on someone when they say to stop is not loving.”

    yeah, no way. Doug has exhibited signs of serious narcissism for a long time. Narcissist are not capable of loving anyone but themselves. It might “look” like love for a short season to get what they want because they know how to do that by mirroring what they see others do. But it is never the real thing. In fact, I doubt many people will buy that because men who really love another women, leave their wives and children for them. So Doug is going to plead to the court he was just waiting for his wife to die? I think not.

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  20. “Oh my goodness! I hated the grocery store and the mall!”

    Me too. (I hate the mall anyway)

    For me it was always about running into other staffers. The pew sitters have no clue what goes on in mega churches. They are like lemmings giving praise to the Fuhrer each week and ticking off the “I went to church and gave money” box on their weekly to do list..

    So, the question was always….do I do the fake pretend niceness to get away? that is so fake and I always hated the pretend nice stuff anyway. I do not consider it Christian behavior at all. So you find yourself in a conundrum. You cannot discuss anything in public even if they ask. And most Christians thrive on sound bite convos anyway which I can no longer stand. So I avoided people. Or pretended like I did not see them.

    These things really put you in a bind. At that point, you know what they are anyway…either willful ignorance or deceitful. So how does one deal with that?

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  21. Wantingthetruth,

    Narcissists believe their own lies. All narcissists say and do things publicly to convince people what they want them to believe. They are CONniving and CONvincing, but is it based on truth or an idea or facade they are trying to present? Who does it benefit when we are led to believe he loved her? Doug Phillips. That’s just like a narcissist to make us want to understand HIS feelings and have little regard for Lourdes. Again, where’s the repentance, remorse, sorrow, restitution towards Lourdes? It is nowhere to be found. Again, if he truly loved her, he’d settle this lawsuit now instead of defending himself, posting statements on VF Facebook page. The only thing I see is him defending SELF. Again, just like a narcissist.

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  22. Patrice,

    This is Thought Reform 101. Some prefer to call it “Spiritual Abuse,” because it sounds more “Biblical.” It doesn’t matter much to me what you call it. It all looks the same. It’s a fully orbed process that subtly and surreptitiously manipulates a person’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts over time to control and enslave them. It’s effective and powerful.

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  23. “That’s just like a narcissist to make us want to understand HIS feelings and have little regard for Lourdes. Again, where’s the repentance, remorse, sorrow, restitution towards Lourdes? It is nowhere to be found. Again, if he truly loved her, he’d settle this lawsuit now instead of defending himself, posting statements on VF Facebook page. The only thing I see is him defending SELF. Again, just like a narcissist.”

    They are extremely believable to people who don’t know what to look for or have had no real experience with them. I was around narcissistic ministry guys a lot. They sound so sincere. Some can even manufacture tears. But when you start tracking you see it is all about them. When Driscoll apologizes or “repents” (again) it is always about HIM. He never mentions the people he has hurt except for a “I am sorry you were hurt” type of thing. They simply do not think about the victims. They are not on their radar except to marginalize if they have info that will hurt them.

    What I fear is that there are so many narcissistic celebrity or wanna be celeb ministers out there—an entire generation will know anything different and think it normal.

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  24. ” So I avoided people. Or pretended like I did not see them….These things really put you in a bind.”

    It’s about survival at that point, ISTM. Just doing what is required to avoid a bunch o’ predators. Blech!

    There was some value in being so dissociated, I see. Just didn’t matter since I “wasn’t there”. But I also hate malls.

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  25. Patrice,
    Your experience was different, but so much of what you share has helped me process all of this. (Along with others on these blogs) I suspect by the time I finally know exactly what PTSD is I’m going to realize I’ve been experiencing it. 🙂

    I relate to you sharing about not being fully available for your daughter. Some days it’s difficult for me to be fully “there” for my kids as well. (My “baby” wasn’t potty trained until welllll after her 3rd birthday. I just couldn’t deal with it.) I’m trying to count the progress that I have made. We’re ending the school year, and we actually are completing a whole year of school. For two of my kids, it’s a first. They have done so well. My house . . . I’ll tackle it over the summer. (If I’m up to it. :-p )

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  26. Cindy wrote: “Manipulation and control are manipulation and control, and no matter how you slice them to understand them, the same elements come shining through.”

    And also wrote: “It’s a fully orbed process that subtly and surreptitiously manipulates a person’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts over time to control and enslave them.”

    Frickin’ nasty!

    But ISTM one thing that can help a little, as Lifton’s material makes clear — evil isn’t inventive. There’s a pattern to human evil, and it’s very similar everywhere a person given to evil is thriving.

    Brad’s particularly good at seeing those patterns in systems.

    I suspect evil (as a behavioral construct) contains no creativity because it has no life of it’s own, merely feeding off the life of others. Since its actions are always destructive, it can only work within those limitations, if that makes any sense.

    I find that rather comforting.

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  27. @CindyK:

    Patrice,

    This is Thought Reform 101. Some prefer to call it “Spiritual Abuse,” because it sounds more “Biblical.” It doesn’t matter much to me what you call it. It all looks the same. It’s a fully orbed process that subtly and surreptitiously manipulates a person’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts over time to control and enslave them. It’s effective and powerful.

    Isn’t “Thought Reform 101” commonly called “Brainwashing”?

    A word that appeared in English during the Korean War, when the Norks tried it big-time on POWs and the news got out when that war ended.

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  28. @Patrice:

    I suspect evil (as a behavioral construct) contains no creativity because it has no life of its own, merely feeding off the life of others. Since its actions are always destructive, it can only work within those limitations, if that makes any sense.

    “The Dark Power cannot create, it can only twist and mock.”
    — Somewhere in Lord of the Rings (Frodo? Sam? Gandalf?)

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  29. Oh, BTDT, I remember how hard “staying there” was. My sympathies, truly!

    The best decision I made was to spend a great deal of time on the couch with my daughter, lying together watching/discussing Buffy the Vampire and The Office, taking apart the tv commercials, watching/rewatching Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Totoro, etc. We talked about things as they happened. We also read Harry Potter, TLOTR, the Ender books, and Dostoevsky (don’t remember where she picked him up, but we read most of them), taking turns with the books and then blabbing about them. We ended that tradition with The Wire, and by then we’d discussed most everything that needed discussing between us, and Sara knew she was seen/known. These many tales gave us a non-chaotic and outward-focused bridge on which we could meet.

    My daughter said this saved her because she realized I loved her even though my psyche was in such chaos and she truly thought that was the way the world was. Of course she would! Even though I never let it flame out, it was my underlying stance and kids are smart. Ach!

    We did this at the expense of housework, even at the expense of teaching her dishwashing and laundry. But it gave her the courage to live in the same town for these last 3 years and to hash out her childhood with me—utterly painful but the Best. Thing. Ever.

    And she has learned to do her own laundry just fine, although I must say she remains very sloppy.

    So I don’t know how it is with you and your little ones, but you are totally correct that house cleanliness/tidiness is minor compared to letting your dear ones know that you love them enough to spend open time with them, to show that you see how lovely and particular each one is, and that you admire them. The rest is gravy.

    My best to you.

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  30. “Brad’s particularly good at seeing those patterns in systems. ”

    I had a hard time with this one. Cindy helped a lot by turning me on to the Lucifer Effect. I thought the system just had evil people in it or at the top. It never occurred to me the apple barrel was designed to actually train people to be like the evil ones there. But as I did some real digging and going back to what I witnessed, I found a pattern. People would come into the system gung ho. And you saw what happened over time. They either drank the koolaid and fit right in OR they willfully blinded themselves to what was going on around them. They looked the other way and pretended it was not happening. The last group were different…..they did not fit. Could not fit, were appalled and eventually left when they could make other arrangements to pay their mortgage, They had usually been ostracized before they got out. And they were branded as “not team players” but no one talked about them or why they left. Unwritten rules are big in such systems.

    The apple barrel is rotten because the barrel itself trains the apples in it. The system creates the rotten apples. So the apples that stay become rotten fruit over time.

    “I suspect evil (as a behavioral construct) contains no creativity because it has no life of it’s own, merely feeding off the life of others. Since its actions are always destructive, it can only work within those limitations, if that makes any sense. ”

    Reminds me of Screwtape Letters!

    Evil usually comes to us with deception. There is nothing creative or life giving in deception. And that is the worst sort part of evil in my book. It is the sort of evil you cannot prove. There is nothing to point to and say, see, this is wrong. It is hidden and has a smiley face slapped on it. And it can continue for a very long time.

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  31. “We did this at the expense of housework, even at the expense of teaching her dishwashing and laundry. But it gave her the courage to live in the same town for these last 3 years and to hash out her childhood with me—utterly painful but the Best. Thing. Ever.”

    Thank you. I needed to hear that. After what we have been though we just need that time talking about nothing and connecting. I tend to be the “get the task done Nazi”. What you have said has convicted me. I needed to hear it.

    My mom had a magnet on our fridge growing up that said: Dull women have immaculate houses.

    If we wanted to get out of chores, all we had to say was: Mom, will you play something for us so we can sing? (piano)

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  32. “Isn’t “Thought Reform 101″ commonly called “Brainwashing”?

    A word that appeared in English during the Korean War, when the Norks tried it big-time on POWs and the news got out when that war ended.”

    Yes, it is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_Reform_and_the_Psychology_of_Totalism
    “Lifton’s research for the book began in 1953 with a series of interviews with American servicemen who had been held captive during the Korean War.”

    Homestead even found ways to head that one off. I remember one meeting where our elder told us someone suggested we were brainwashed. He then broke into a big ol’ belly laugh. “Isn’t that just ridiculous? Hahahaha!” With the groupthink present (all of us were laughing along at this point) the idea was firmly planted that we certainly weren’t brainwashed.

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  33. “The Dark Power cannot create, it can only twist and mock.”
    – Somewhere in Lord of the Rings (Frodo? Sam? Gandalf?)

    Perhaps Melkor in Silmarillion?

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  34. Lydia wrote: “There is nothing to point to and say, see, this is wrong. It is hidden and has a smiley face slapped on it. And it can continue for a very long time.”

    Yeah, that’s very true. Ugh. I suppose that’s why we tend to give evil a personality, even though doing so “otherizes” it, which ends up increasing it’s dangerousness.

    Love is also non-concrete, but our hearts long for it and we see health, growth, and wholeness as a result of it. Probably it is through love’s door that we can force evil to reveal its face most clearly, since it does the opposite.

    The truth, another non-concrete, can also help, although it can also wack itself against the impervious wall. But sometimes it is one little lie among whoppers, inserted slightly off, that will suddenly wake someone up and immediately, the whole structure begins shrieking with dissonance. Funny how that can go

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  35. “Total Institution” and “Bounded Choice” sound like good names for a rick band.

    Bounded choice (the idea that a person’s choices are limited by the ideology, social structure, and commitments in a controlling group) also sounds a bit like the doctrine of total depravity (the idea that humans are free to choose only according to the dictates of their nature). Yes, I know they aren’t the same thing. Just saying that both phrases include the idea that there can be factors that constrain one’s ability to choose.

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  36. Make that a “good names for rock band.” Wouldn’t want anyone to think they were being rick-rolled.

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  37. “Homestead even found ways to head that one off. I remember one meeting where our elder told us someone suggested we were brainwashed. He then broke into a big ol’ belly laugh. “Isn’t that just ridiculous? Hahahaha!” With the groupthink present (all of us were laughing along at this point) the idea was firmly planted that we certainly weren’t brainwashed.”

    I have heard of this before. I know someone who came out of the “Amway follow the guru cult”. They said that most speakers made fun of people who said they were “brainwashed”. it was a constant theme to make fun of those outside who said they were brainwashed. He said that the truth was they WERE brainwashed and it took him a while to see it But it worked because he wanted to believe what they were being told about making the money when the truth was the money was really made with the literature/materials/conferences if you were ever high enough to get a piece of that action. And even then the leaders of the group controlled who was in and who was out.

    So the joking about it was a way to fend off most people’s doubts and keep the gravy train going. It is cleverly diabolical.

    I told him to write a book. He said he was too embarrassed. :o)

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  38. I guess the point I am trying to make is that even tho it was an abusive situation this wasn’t a total institution. There was freedom to choose, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t Clergy Sexual Abuse, but people were aware, and people tried to intervene but to no avail. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor I have done a lot of research on victims as well as predators and this situation with Doug Phillips is not as cut an dry as just plain old sexual abuse. I intensely dislike Doug Phillips but I’m not going to wrongly accuse him of things he is not guilty of.

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  39. “As a childhood sexual abuse survivor I have done a lot of research on victims as well as predators and this situation with Doug Phillips is not as cut an dry as just plain old sexual abuse. I intensely dislike Doug Phillips but I’m not going to wrongly accuse him of things he is not guilty of.”

    Are you taking his position of authority into consideration when it comes to the situation?

    Monica was a willing participant and of age. But Bill Clinton is still guilty of using his position of power and authority in that situation. He should have been the adult even if she flaunted herself at him. His position demanded it.

    Lots of HUGE sexual harassment claims have been paid on just that principle. Which is why most companies have lots of SH training and make people sign off on them.

    Christians are held to a lower standard?

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  40. Ok, so I am seeing the Doug loved Lourdes, right?

    He said that he didn’t know her in a biblical sense, right?

    Jesus said that if you look upon a woman with lust in your heart that you did indeed know her in the biblical sense. You commit adultery, whether you performed the act or not, so long as looking upon her with lust was in his heart.

    In regards to the act, he may not have known her in the biblical act, as he states, but it is alleged that he did indeed know her in the biblical act THIS way; Onanism, isn’t it? Spilled his seed.

    Just like a Calvin devotee…talks out of both sides of his mouth, i.e., I did it, but I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault. The woman made me do it. She wanted it more than I did. She seduced me, and I am just a sinner, so it’s ok if I was weak in the flesh.

    Yep. That religion’s justifications for evil is weird.

    Ed

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  41. People who I once cried with would run in the other direction if they spotted me in the grocery store. The first year, my husband’s parents didn’t call, text, send a card, or acknowledge his birthday in any way. My husband would see friends he’d grown up with in a place of business, and they’d act as if they didn’t even see him.

    The pain of this is horrific, as you know, BTDT. It is such a lonely feeling. That isolation is what sometimes compels people to go back to the insanity of their former “church.” They create a system where people become so reliant on the community, that when they finally decide to leave the community (or are booted out), there is sometimes no one they know who they can call on for support. Not only that, they could have sabotaged relationships on the “outside” which complicate matters.

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  42. “I guess the point I am trying to make is that even tho it was an abusive situation this wasn’t a total institution. There was freedom to choose,”

    Could you expound a little on what choices were available to Lourdes? I really am curious. My understanding is that she was a stay-at-home-daughter serving her father and community.
    http://visiondistorting.blogspot.com/2011/01/return-of-daughters.html
    “Lourdes says that even though her father doesn’t have a business, she can still be serve his vision of her as a servant. In order to accomplish this, Lourdes spends a lot of time helping others in her church and community.”
    That is an example of bounded choice. Her parameters are defined very narrowly.

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  43. Wantingthetruth, when abusing, some people are contemptuous or sadistic, other people do it only when drunk/stoned, and others will be smoother or more inclined to self-delusion. Some do it to younger children, others do it to older children, and others do it to young adults. But it’s all flat-out destructive because abuse is all about the person with power wielding it over another who has none.

    Doug saying he was in love has no value. He has said a lot of things, some of which he meant and others of which he didn’t, and others over which he changed his mind. We have no way of knowing which is which but we do know that he broke all kinds of relationships left and right, and that he abused a young woman because he more-or-less admitted it before he more-or-less retracted it. His actions make clear that he doesn’t understand love.

    In a somewhat similar way you voice dislike of the idea of total institution because some people protested over the relationship and because you vaguely insist that “there was freedom to choose”. These are not reasons that have weight.

    Do you have something particular at stake in this situation?

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  44. Wanting the Truth,

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree. Having been so close to ground zero of Vision Forum in ’98 and ’99, and going to church with these folks, I’ve been arguing since then that Vision Forum was then and is now a very classic total institution.

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  45. I intensely dislike Doug Phillips but I’m not going to wrongly accuse him of things he is not guilty of.

    I’m on record and have published that Phillips taught a false gospel and ran a system that was absolutely consistent with a thought reform program. I once thought of him and told a board member of American Vision that he was one of the most dangerous religious leaders alive at the time, though I believe that I gave him way to much credit. I started out believing that he was just legalistic, but after a thorough study of his soteriology in late 2008, I no longer believed that he was actually following the Gospel of Jesus as recorded in the Canon. He’s not teaching Covenant Theology, and in many cases, he’s not teaching ideas that fit Theonomy. (I can demonstrate how and why I believe this to be true down to the jot and tittle of chapter and verse and have done so in academic environments under peer review.) His is an amalgam of different elements of different beliefs and is legalistic. But I don’t believe that he’s preaching Reformed theology or even an Arminian doctrine. It’s not salvation by grace through faith.

    My personal encounters with him while we attended the same church in San Antonio before he established BCA were unpleasant, and he was miserable to my husband when they both attended a small Constitution Party meeting (circa 2002). I’ve discussed those instances in online forums.

    Now, while I have sometimes uttered in exasperation at some of his actions and fruit, stating that it is sometimes hard to believe that he is a Christian, I’ve never claimed to be able to know nor have I asserted that he’s not a Christian. I haven’t even called him a heretic. (Maybe that’s the same as NOT preaching salvation by works, but I don’t believe that it is.) What he teaches amounts, IMO, to a really awful and more restrictive version of what seems more akin to a Roman Catholic-like belief system, though to say so insults Catholics. I assert that what anyone really believes is known to only God — and perhaps not even the person themselves. Man looks to the outward things, but God looks to the intent of the heart. I’ve also questioned the nature of his behavior with young men as well, because it has seemed highly inappropriate to me at times. You haven’t seen anything until you see him with his boy-staff.

    Anyone who asserts otherwise about what I’ve said of Doug Phillips, what I believe about him, and the state of his soul is sorely mistaken and is misrepresenting me. I have only ever wanted to see him show himself accountable to those within his claimed belief system (primarily those affiliated with Chalcedon and Theonomy), hoping for his repentance that he might recant the harmful views that he’s taught. Many have also confessed their accounts of his cruelty to people who will not come forward publicly, and I wish to see him repent to them and make restitution to those he used and hurt.

    Here is an excerpt from a formally published essay that I wrote about patriarchy that expresses my heart of hearts.

    The Apostle Paul addressed both legalism and God’s purposes in darkening the understanding of the Jews in order that salvation might come to the Gentiles. Although grace and salvation first came through the Jewish people to the Gentiles, these Gentiles were called to minister grace and the Gospel to the Jews so that both believing Jew and Gentile would find mercy and salvation. These gifts and callings of God unto salvation are irrevocable (Rom. 11). Just as Paul describes the tension between Jewish legalism and New Covenant liberty which resulted in ministry to both Jew and Gentile, I fervently pray that the disparities between those who reject the aberrant patriarchy described here and those who embrace it will miraculously work salvation and ministry within the whole Body of Christ in the fullness of time.

    By commitment to the rightful dividing and applying of the word of truth with all diligence to matters concerning gender, the tension created by the differences in the interpretation of Scripture can teach us balance within the Body of Christ which will mature and benefit the whole Body (Prov. 27:17).

    May the diverse gifts that the Spirit bestows uniquely upon all of God’s beloved women serve to edify the whole Body of Christ, exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think. When the curtains of this temporal life close, may both patriarchalist and non-patriarchalist alike be found within the embrace of God’s mercy and saving grace, bringing us together into unity of the Faith (Eph. 4:13).

    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2011/11/problematic-patriarchal-paradigm-for.html

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  46. I guess the point I am trying to make is that even tho it was an abusive situation this wasn’t a total institution.

    I think I know what wantingthetruth is talking about after talking with people from BCA. My understanding from the personal accounts I have heard (talking directly with current/former members) is there was a certain amount of freedom there. It wasn’t like Phillips ran a tight ship like we hear in many legalistic churches. The Homeschool Movement culture that I am familiar with can be very rigid. The BCA church was a mixed bag of families, some super conservative and modest, others not so much. Each individual family head made the guidelines for their own family. However, there was also a sort of chaos perpetuated by Phillips. As Brad/futuristguy discussed in an earlier post, people can be controlled by chaos, too. I think it is because of these “freedoms” that wantingthetruth has heard about that he/she comes to those conclusions that it wasn’t a total institution. I think this is another way that Phillips has been masterful. He could easily say, “I’m not legalistic or controlling,” yet controlling by chaos is just a backhanded method of control, just more difficult to identify. I hope this makes sense.

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  47. Wanting the Truth,

    Upon reading what I’ve posted here, I would like to clarify why I made this statement. I wrote this post describing bounded choice, and your initial comment was specifically addressed to me. You seemed to draw conclusions about my motive for writing, assuming that I have any ability to know what happened in private between and among people I don’t know.

    Many have said, Doug Wilson first and foremost, have said that there are those who snark and vent their spleen over what has happened. What I have said has been in reference to supporting the spiritually abused or to the dynamics of high demand/totalist groups. I have snarked at teachings and some of the flagrant behaviors of Phillips, and as my husband says, I’m much nicer about it than he is. But I have not expressed anything but disappointment and grief over the situation with Lourdes and the closing of Vision Forum. And I wish to see justice, then mercy, for all that are involved.

    I’m focused on helping others understand the dynamics that roped them into such groups, be they Vision Forum or another. Though I can identify with individuals involved in the drama, that should not be interpreted as a judgement on what happened. I do know with certainty, backed by objective research of group members, current and former, that members are subject to bounded choice. I can cite fine, well-researched and evaluated statistically significant data from scientific studies. It’s not conjecture or opinion but the best measure that we who study and seek to understand high demand groups have through the use of tools that help us determine and evaluate objective truth. The end of that moral purpose serves to help people learn how to avoid such groups, how we can help people get out of them, and how we can help them heal after they exit.

    Given Phillips behavior in the past concerning how he has treated others, I approach what I have said very soberly. It is very important to me that my stance, my intent, and my interest in these things since the closing of Vision Forum remain very clear. I don’t want to be at any risk beyond my opinion and information that I might share, particularly when seeking only to help those who are recovering.

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  48. Wanting the Truth,
    You seem struck by the notion that Doug said he loved her and therefore the situation was not as portrayed in the lawsuit. Cindy K does a wonderful job of explaining exactly why Lourdes did not have freedom of choice such as I would have had walking in that house as an outsider. It’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever read on it. But you should also consider why the word “love” is so powerful for you. Stalkers often say they “love” their victims. And then they kill them. Abusive husbands “love” their wives and just want a good marriage. Do they really “love”? No. It’s a word they use by the way they define it – a stalker by being obsessed and making sure no one else gets her, an abuser by using her as a focus for his anger. Doug Phillips thinks lust is love. People call all kinds of behavior “love” and believe that gives them license to do what they want. It doesn’t. And it’s a dangerous way to think for yourself.

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  49. “…Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Totoro, etc.”

    Patrice, I love Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, too. “My Neighbor Totoro” is my all-time favourite. Miyazaki’s storytelling is amazing, and includes so much real human drama and emotion. I love to hear that his movies have helped you and your daughter have to find some healing.

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  50. Julie Anne, by control by chaos, do you mean that instead of clear rules and boundaries, there was deliberate ambiguity so that people would not be able to predict exactly what would get them into trouble? This can lead to even more self censorship and self restriction than with external controls.

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  51. “This can lead to even more self censorship and self restriction than with external controls.”

    Marsha,
    Would this also allow for plausible deniability? If the controlled chaos lead people to self censor, then leaders can claim they were not responsible for people’s choices.

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  52. BTDT wrote: “I suspect by the time I finally know exactly what PTSD is I’m going to realize I’ve been experiencing it. :-)”

    If you don’t have PTSD from the group you were in, and the exiting process, I’d be surprised.

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  53. Marsha –

    That is so true. When you don’t know where the boundaries are, and you have a desire to please or you fear known and/or unknown consequences, you are then even more restrictive (binding) with yourself. Pleasing God alone is much easier!

    The other biggie with the ambiguity on the leaders part is that they can come back later and claim that they never said that, didn’t mean that, you misunderstood, you didn’t hear what I was really saying. (We’ve all heard these phrases before.)

    I’ve just left a church I was in for 15 years. The main reason is the chaos and the inability for anything to get done in the past nine years under a leader, plus the fact that every elder that has worked with this man during this time has left the church. But there are people in that church (newer congregants) that don’t understand why half the church has left. These people feel that the pastor is being persecuted and blamed unfairly. It’s bizarre. This pastor has now taken a paid medical leave in the middle of the chaos that was created by him. He says his doctor said he had to. The entire situation is heart breaking for many people. Chaos for sure.

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  54. “If you don’t have PTSD from the group you were in, and the exiting process, I’d be surprised.”

    The only words I know to explain the feeling is “intense anxiety” that is crippling, and leaves me barely able to take care of daily tasks. It was fairly constant at the beginning, two years ago. It has slowly faded to an occasional episode that is “triggered” by something. Sometimes issues on the blogs can be triggering (such as Doug Wilson’s victim-blaming of Lourdes). But, theses blogs have also been my main source of education and camaraderie.

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  55. “But there are people in that church (newer congregants) that don’t understand why half the church has left. These people feel that the pastor is being persecuted and blamed unfairly. It’s bizarre.”

    I suspect this is a fairly common phenomenon. New members at Homestead couldn’t fathom what ex-members were talking about. I’ll bet the same happens at Mars Hill, SGM churches, Calvary Chapel churches, etc.

    15 years is a long time. I know it has to be painful to break ties, and feel like so many people still there just don’t understand. I’m sorry, Bridget. I know it hurts.

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  56. “Julie Anne, by control by chaos, do you mean that instead of clear rules and boundaries, there was deliberate ambiguity so that people would not be able to predict exactly what would get them into trouble? This can lead to even more self censorship and self restriction than with external controls.”

    You bet it does. Because the “rules” are “unwritten”. Most megas I have had dealings with are “control by chaos” organizations. They do not “look” authoritarian and legalistic when you are around them but they are and in diabolical ways.

    You add that in with the “Christian” organization part of the equation and they have even better chance of total control. They can decide what is “gossip” and what is the wrong thing to ask, do, etc. So not only are their unwritten protocol rules but you have leaders defining what is “Christian” or not about your behavior, etc. People have been fired and never know exactly what it is they did to deserve it. They are told things like, you are not a team player or your heart is obviously not in this, etc. Really? How would they know?

    And because they organizations are churches there are no labor laws so people are simply out with no health insurance, unemployment, etc. And believe me the other people see this and try even harder to fit into the chaos. It is paralyzing. If people knew how much money was wasted in mega churches just from the paralyzation of employees afraid to act, they would stop giving. In fact, most mega’s have twice the size staff they really need. Control by chaos causes so many extended problems.

    Whenever you tie any financial or personal security to a belief system or organization it can become very dangerous indeed. And I think that is where the young Torres was coming of age in a system like that. The well being of her family was tied to it. Even if it was mostly in her mind and of DP’s making. And she owed them, too, because she got to do things she would not have had the opportunity to do outside that system.

    Bridget asks:

    “Would this also allow for plausible deniability”

    That is the foundational reason “controlled chaos” exists in organizations. It exists to protect the leaders. And they don’t go into this with an idea they are going to implement controlled chaos leadership style. They don’t even realize that part. But they are guarding their image and protecting themselves from responsiblity so controlled chaos grows from that. It is part of the whole systemic problem.

    There is a reason many mega church pastors never write an email.

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  57. My experiences in a “control by chaos” church were that it masqueraded as “freedom” and “creativity,” but from what I understand of true creativity, it only occurs within constraints that force us to synthesize in unexpected ways with perhaps unusual resources that are available. And freedom is not the same as anything-goes.

    Some of the specific techniques I saw used:

    * Minimized reasonable organizational processes and procedures as “legalistic.”

    * No written job descriptions. No regularly scheduled staff reviews.

    * No minutes kept at leadership meetings, and therefore no records of decisions (so anything and everything could be revisited next meeting and decided in a completely different direction) and no to-do lists and no follow-through.

    * No real vetting of volunteers, so you had volunteers acting as if they were staff members.

    * Going back on “promises” either using a “that’s not I meant” excuse or “no, this is part of our church and you can’t do that.” All conversation stoppers.

    * A too-fluid mission statement, and no consistency in messaging, such that there were as many as half a dozen different versions about, and even a staff member who’d been there at least 2-3 years by then didn’t know what the actual one-sentence mission statement was.

    * Withholding of details that, if they were revealed, would have led people to the exact opposite conclusion from the one that validated the pastor doing what he’d decided to do regardless.

    * Wasting immense amounts of time and money and good will by chasing after The Next Big Idea. For instance, spending thousands of dollars to send a fleet of people to a conference, buy them books, and then six weeks later, drop the planned follow-up discussions.

    So, there is a lot of plausible deniability going on there, especially through silence and inaction, but also a lot of statements that in effect were lies and actions that stole/wasted people’s time and energy. Some people surf chaos well, but that’s when they don’t see or don’t care about the consequences to others. For those who don’t navigate this (and actually, no one should think this dysfunctional of a control system is healthy), it is an utter drain mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. When there are no boundaries or reasoned and reasonable expectations, all resources leak out (or burst forth!) and dissipate. It’s insidious — as are all forms of control, whether by legalism/compliance, license/chaos, or celebrityship/charisma.

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  58. What makes each group unique has everything to do with the personal needs and whims — the psychology of the group leader. Just as individuals are different, so are the leaders and therefore the characteristics of the group — for members serve to meet the needs of that charismatic leader. An upcoming installment explores the general characteristics.

    That said, I didn’t just wake up one day — and based on my personal issues and a gut feeling — just decide that Phillips was running a program of ideological totalism. I compared Vision Forum to the characteristics that must be present in a group per Lifton’s classification, and could clearly identify every element in Phillips’ behavior and in my personal experience directly with his followers. That said, in the workshop that I did on patriarchy years ago which focused on Vision Forum, I noted that the group manifested specific characteristics of thought reform most notably. Loading the Language is very big for Phillips which makes sense because he’s an attorney. I don’t know if he still references this as often as he once did, but he is known for the saying, “He who defines, wins.” Yet all of the other elements or criteria of a thought reform program are also present, even though he “excels” at one characteristic more than another — and then those qualities are reflected in the distinction of the group.

    You can also use David Henke’s Spiritual Abuse model to find a different way of organizing the same elements that Lifton did. In the sidebar of my blog, I also display the Chart of Coercion that Biderman developed, but there is also Margaret Singer’s criteria which is very similar to Lifton’s.

    Whether Vision Forum is “different” than ATI/Gothard is not an indicator that VF is not a totalist institution (or for that matter, the IFB, the Great Commission from which the Botkins sprang, Michael Pearl’s group, Rivendell/Lancaster, John Thompson’s following, RC Jr’s community in Bristol, those who follow Lindvall, Mary Pride, Nancy Campbell, etc, ad nauseum). VF still manifests all of these other characteristics of ideological totalism.

    I can imagine that if you’ve exited a group like ATI and then became involved with VF, believing that it was achieving the same primary goals but offered more benefits — this is very disturbing. You thought you made a wise decision to switch, based on your principles and thoughtful consideration. But this is the plight of all of us who get caught up in these types of things. Most people cycle through a similar group after leaving another because we prefer that familiarity of the system, or we still hold to the same ideals. What we failed to realize the first time around was that the system was a totalist program. Group one was problematic, not because of a fly in the ointment (specific problem, issues with the leader), but because the ointment itself was the problem. You just end up changing brands of ointment when you move to a different group. I often say that they just changed “drugs of choice.” (People use substances to escape pain/reality, and patriarchy seeks to manage/avoid the problems and pain of unavoidable elements of reality through a shortcut around the hard elements, work, and inherent risks involved in living.)

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  59. I was thinking back to conversations with current/former BCA members. Another form of controlled chaos would be having established rules and not following them. Or instilling the rules for some and not for others. Being strict with one person, letting another person slide. This may give the illusion of favoritism for some, but I think it all comes back to the ultimate goal of keeping the narcissist happy and fed. In a narcissist’s world, people are used for his benefit. He can masterfully convince people that he appreciates them and their gifts, but ultimately, he uses them only for his own benefit, for his status, his credibility, his persona he wants to portray to the world.

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  60. @Lydia:

    People have been fired and never know exactly what it is they did to deserve it. They are told things like, you are not a team player or your heart is obviously not in this, etc. Really? How would they know?

    And because they organizations are churches there are no labor laws so people are simply out with no health insurance, unemployment, etc. And believe me the other people see this and try even harder to fit into the chaos.

    Make an Example of one and a hundred will fall into line. Each of the hundred ready to denounce the others as Examples so they won’t be the next Example. Until you have…

    “A chain of snakes biting each other’s tails. Everyone look at at the picture of Glorious Leader on the wall. Everyone Bite Harder.”
    — James Lileks describing Saddam

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  61. Concerning chaos, every group will have some degree of it, because the group exists to meet the needs of its charismatic leader (which will actually be explored in installment four in this series). For me, this discussion falls under the category of the leader as a psychopath of some variety (some mental health disorder). Keep in mind, however, whenever one makes generalizations about a trend, it is never meant to be the same thing as the description of the individual who happens to fall into that trend. (This is why we need physicians to diagnose and don’t just buy a book and treat ourselves when we’re ill.) Every example is unique, even though it fits a predictable pattern.

    Here are a few excerpts about the group leaders from “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds,” a book now out of print though “Take Back Your Life” contains much of the same material:

    A cult cannot be truly explored or understood without understanding its leader. A cult’s formation, proselytizing methods, and means of control “are determined by certain salient personality characteristics of [the] cult leader….Such individuals are authoritarian personalities who attempt to compensate for their deep, intense feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and hostility by forming cultic groups primarily to attract those whom they can psychologically coerce into and keep in a passive-submissive state, and secondarily to use them to increase their income.”
    […]
    The purpose of a cult (whether group or one-on-one) is to serve the emotional, financial, sexual, and power needs of the leader. The single most important word here is power. The dynamic around which cults are formed is similar to that of other power relationships and is essentially ultra- authoritarian, based on a power imbalance. The cult leader by definition must have an authoritarian personality in order to fulfill his half of the power dynamic.

    Traditional elements of authoritarian personalities include the following:

    * the tendency to hierarchy
    * the drive for power (and wealth)
    * hostility, hatred, prejudice
    * superficial judgments of people and events
    * a one-sided scale of values favoring the one in power
    * interpreting kindness as weakness
    * the tendency to use people and see others as inferior
    * a sadistic-masochistic tendency
    * incapability of being ultimately satisfied
    * paranoia

    >>>>

    Now, take particular note of the element, “INCAPACITY OF BEING ULTIMATELY SATISFIED.” This is the source of the chaos, and it is present in every group.

    The leader that Geoff Botkin followed was much worse than Doug Phillips. He (Jim McCotter) would very quickly lose interest in very large projects by which he wanted to save the world for Jesus, but he would let them fall apart when he felt bored with them. He’s on college campuses recruiting, then he’s buying up newspapers which he runs but then lets fail. Then he runs off to NZ to start a TV station.

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  62. @BTDT:

    “But there are people in that church (newer congregants) that don’t understand why half the church has left. These people feel that the pastor is being persecuted and blamed unfairly. It’s bizarre.”

    Look at Soviet-era Pravda and TASS. Look at official Chinese media during the Chairman’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Look at what comes out of North Korea or Syria today.

    Glorious Leader is NEVER at fault. Glorious Leader Can Do No Wrong. It’s all Traitors’ and Dissidents’ and Thought-Criminals’ Fault. It’s a Vast Conspiracy Against Glorious Leader and His Loyal Officers of The One True Way that Must Be Stamped Out.

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  63. BTDT, yes I think plausible deniability is part of it. Outside critics and prospective members can be told, no we don’t have any rules about how to raise your children, how to dress, or the amount of time to be spent in church activities or whatever without revealing that people are put into church discipline over these very issues.

    Another advantage to ambiguous rules is that when the leader feels threatened by someone, they can be punished for some amorphous ‘sin’ like having a haughty spirit or bitterness or opposing the vision God gave the leader, etc. with the shunned member left asking what in the world he or she did. That seems to be what is going on at Mars Hill.

    Re PTSD, my experience sounds like yours (albeit different causes). I had two years of intense anxiety following the end of my first marriage, lessening after that but with triggers that continue to this day. I don’t know if this is unique to me but that marriage lasted 34 years, more than half my life, but as soon as I was out of it it was almost like it had never happened.

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  64. @CindyK:

    Now, take particular note of the element, “INCAPACITY OF BEING ULTIMATELY SATISFIED.” This is the source of the chaos, and it is present in every group.

    Because in the words of The Party, “The only goal of Power is MORE POWER.” And there is always MORE POWER to seize. Nobody has EVER found a top-out point. EVER. Not even when proclaimed a god come in the flesh. Not Chin Shih Huang Di, not Antiochus Epiphanes, not Caligula, not Nero, not Domitian, not Commodus, not Euglabius, not all those Ottoman Sultans, not Hitler, not Himmler, not Stalin, not Saddam, not Pol Pot, not Assad, not Castro, not Kim Il-Sung, not Kim Jong-Il, not Kim Jong-Un…

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  65. @Lydia:

    “Homestead even found ways to head that one off. I remember one meeting where our elder told us someone suggested we were brainwashed. He then broke into a big ol’ belly laugh. “Isn’t that just ridiculous? Hahahaha!” With the groupthink present (all of us were laughing along at this point) the idea was firmly planted that we certainly weren’t brainwashed.”

    Like the scene from A Man for All Seasons where King Henry VIII is disembarking from his royal barge and falls knee-deep into the mud of the Thames riverbanks. All his courtiers aboard the barge watch in silence until King Henry gives out a big belly laugh, then points at them. They all immediately start laughing, as loud as King Henry but careful to NOT laugh louder.

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  66. @ Lydia and Headless Unicorn Guy RE: never knowing what you did

    The demands of the group shift all the time, based upon the focus of a leader at the time. This is almost like the same inconsistency that creates reactive compulsions in behavioral studies. If you do A consistently and B happens, but then suddenly B stops and C happens, or the pattern switches, it’s painful and frustrating.

    Consider that the leader (and the group which serves to meet the needs of the leader) has a high need for stimulation. Part of this comes from basically messing with people through shifting what the group demands of them specifically. They’re not operating that group based on a set of principles, despite how many position statements they have. They are governed by whatever captures the leader’s attention at that particular time. Modesty may be a focus for awhile. Then it may be procreation. Then it’s some civil concern like an election.

    It reminds me of a baby who doesn’t have the capacity to hold an interest in two things at the same time. They hold a toy, but then you put a different one in front of them, they drop it and are engrossed in the new item. And that fascination with the new item lasts for no more than fifteen minutes.

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  67. @Patrice:

    “The Dark Power cannot create, it can only twist and mock.”
    – Somewhere in Lord of the Rings (Frodo? Sam? Gandalf?)

    Perhaps Melkor in Silmarillion?

    No, I’m pretty sure the line is in LOTR.
    It IS about Melkor/Morgoth, though.

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  68. @CindyK:

    It reminds me of a baby who doesn’t have the capacity to hold an interest in two things at the same time. They hold a toy, but then you put a different one in front of them, they drop it and are engrossed in the new item. And that fascination with the new item lasts for no more than fifteen minutes.

    And that toddler with a fifteen-minute attention span as Absolute Power over you.

    Like that Twilight Zone episode with the kid who could alter reality at a whim:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Good_Life_%28The_Twilight_Zone%29
    “This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.”

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  69. “No minutes kept at leadership meetings, and therefore no records of decisions (so anything and everything could be revisited next meeting and decided in a completely different direction) and no to-do lists and no follow-through.”

    Sheesh Brad. I could give you example after example of every single item you listed in that comment. It always reminded me of the unkept garden illustration from my old strategic planning days. What happens? The weeds take over. There ARE individuals who thrive in these systems. In so many mega churches there are unusually clever people most often a layer below the leaders. They make that system work for them personally.

    But the bottomline is that when people believe it is “for Jesus” it is amazing what they will ignore and go along with. I often think of that experiment Cindy linked to from her blog where people obeyed because the guy was wearing a white coat. Slap a cross on it and the title pastor and you often get the same result.

    As to your example above I saw this one all the time. High level meeting. No minutes. No followup. I would suggest getting recommendations out to staff. I would be told, wait on that there are some (obviously secret) things that could not e addressed in the meeting we have to firm up first. (A big part of the game is all the secrecy and how people cannot know certain things, “there are bigger issues at work” they will say…etc) I was also thought to be a trouble maker because I would suggest communicating with staff! (I had no idea at the time, though)

    Many megas go through restructuring quite often. It is a result of the chaos system. ONe mega decided it was time to get the senior pastor out of all admin duties so they hired a very well known local VP of a multinational corporation to run the place. He was there 1 year. In one meeting he had faciliated consensus on some changes very deftly and professionally, had a meeting break and when we came back, one staff minister had gone to talk to the senior pastor and everything was put on hold.

    Your comments brought back lots of memories. The pew sitters don’t have a clue. They come for the show.

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  70. Here’s another consideration concerning the abusiveness element of catering to the needs of a psychopathic leader (broad category someone with a general mental health issue). They are abusive, and interpersonal abuse generally cycles.

    The Baltimore/DC group that I was in definitely cycled between high control and a more laissez-faire style over time in response to drama and crises within the group. It absolutely fit the pattern of the cycle of abuse.

    What I’d like you to consider is that Vision Forum, like a dynamic organism that responds to its environment, changes their approach from time to time. If you join when things are more lax, you may think that this is the consistent nature of the group. But under times of stress, the group will demand different things of the follower.

    Edit: I keep trying to get an image to embed and cant. The above image is featured here:
    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2008/08/cycle-of-abuse.html

    Here’s a hypothetical situation (though this is a regular type of pattern in Bacham’s group):

    Your group may have had a painful or dramatic incident such as the running off of an elder who gave the leader lots of challenges, so the leader gets rid of them. For a time, there is a lot of open conflict that is played out within the group. The leader has to create controversy so that the followers agree that the elder needs to go. Drama and trauma ensues in the group.

    After the elder leaves, because of the drop in conflict, it seems as though the group has reconciled with the true core group — those who were always really the enlightened ones. The problems seems to have been resolved. Everyone sits back and enjoys the bliss of unity.

    People are tired, and the leader is as well, and there is a period of calm.

    This then frees the leader up to focus on a new ministry endeavor. “Now, I can finally get around to do accomplishing this new idea.”

    But life being problematic and messy, tension begins to accumulate, and the cycle repeats itself.

    But life is full of problems, conflicts, warts, and bumps. These start to build over time.

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  71. BTDT: That crippling anxiety is def PTSD, stress being its middle name. And yep, those are triggers, which is actually somewhat cool because it shows that you feel much safer than you did, and your body has gotten off the constant adrenalin mode.

    Triggers cause flashbacks: a biochemical/memory reaction that drags you back to a traumatic place/time. Quite often with spiritual/psychological abuse, the flashbacks are emotional (without sensory attachments like smell/image/sound), just a flood of overwhelming feelings that have no relationship to the present circumstance, except the initial triggering reminder. You feel like you’re going crazy, but you aren’t.

    When that happens, set aside all unnecessary activities and be extra kind to yourself. Flashbacks vary from 15 minutes to several hrs (don’t know why), and after it’s over, you feel like you’re at the end of a flu: washed out, shaky, maybe slightly nauseous/headachy, fragile. This flu-ishness is fall-out from the biochemical-cascade, which is hard on the body. So be gentle/kind afterwards too. I take B-vitamins during/after flashbacks and they help diminish the flu-reaction.

    You can see why, when people are suffering from deep psychological/spiritual wounds, ‘biblical’ nouthetic counseling is counter-productive. Our wounds are similar to those from a serious car accident and the last thing a person bleeding out from internal damage needs is a series of convos in ambulance/ hospital about one’s own possible contributions to the car accident, and also how the weeping/moaning and even the pain itself makes God angry, for all of which we must repent so our wounds can heal. That’s so ridiculous!!

    In some ways trauma causes us to retreat to child-status, and thus the kindness we give is like that given a wounded kid. Your kids show you what that is, comfort being a biggy. Becoming just another kid with them for a brief time isn’t all that terrible. We grow back into our adult selves most quickly when we do what is needed to recover.

    I don’t know if that helps. I don’t mind answering questions. It can make such a difference to simply recognize that there’s some logic to what feels like chaos.

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  72. Here’s another dynamic and consideration that many people might miss.

    It also very true that if you are just a member who shows up at a spiritually abusive church on a Sunday only, you will see much less of the power dynamic and the direct abuse than the person who is close to or within the inner circle. The “pets” or favorites of a group leader also have a different experience, too. Some of this becomes more apparent depending on your perspective.

    In my own experience, I worked as the fill-in secretary, worked at the college supported by the church, was involved in special projects, served as a small group leader…. If I had not been involved, I would have known little to nothing about the true nature of the leader and the problems of the group.

    Lourdes spent a time living in her group leader’s house. She will have an entirely different impression of the system than a busy mom who attends BCA.

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  73. “And that toddler with a fifteen-minute attention span as Absolute Power over you.”

    Don’t get me started! The YRR here are exactly like that. Your very well being is at stake entering one of their churches or putting your kid in their youth group. First the love bombing, then the total ownership of your very being. Avoid like plague.

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  74. “It also very true that if you are just a member who shows up at a spiritually abusive church on a Sunday only, you will see much less of the power dynamic and the direct abuse than the person who is close to or within the inner circle. The “pets” or favorites of a group leader also have a different experience, too. Some of this becomes more apparent depending on your perspective.”

    This is so true. I know from experience. And it is enough to make you want to bash your head against brick walls. And it is the reason why these systems work. The pew sitter will always say, oh I don’t believe that about him. And they say that based upon the stage persona and the 5 second convos they have had with the great one. Is it the white coat syndrome with a plastic fish slapped on? I don’t know.

    When I was growing up, we were in and out of our pastors houses all the time and visa versa. There was not much that could really be hidden. But church was very different back then for us. They weren’t celebrities or authorities. They were just part of the priesthood with a certain function.

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  75. @Brad and Lydia RE: no meeting minutes

    Twice, I got into really sticky situations with the church where I took on projects, had tremendous responsibility, no authority, but then unreliable people were supposed to be doing the stuff, but the failures rolled back on me. To remove myself from these two formal positions at the time, I set up meetings with the pastor and relevant leaders, and I wrote memos stating my position and all of the issues that I had. I had no idea that I was committing the unpardonable sin.

    It didn’t dawn on me until after I left this group that I also committed another sin — I was a woman who showed assertiveness and self determination, and I took the initiative to get out of two impossible situations pretty quickly.

    I remember getting in the car and commenting that I’d learned something new about the fragility of the male ego, and I’d never seen that before. What really happened? It was my first big tangle with a complementarian. The one man, the president of the seminary, physically looked like I’d given him a wicked, barreling punch to the gut. He wasn’t even standing up straight when we stood and talked, right before I left the building after the meeting. It was bizarre.

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  76. Lydia: You bet it does. Because the “rules” are “unwritten”. Most megas I have had dealings with are “control by chaos” organizations. They do not “look” authoritarian and legalistic when you are around them but they are and in diabolical ways.

    Ah, the hidden curriculum. I’ve written much on this subject. It’s another distinction that creates a ton of of cognitive dissonance.

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  77. BTDT, Patrice, and Marsha,

    You may find this post that I wrote helpful. It talks in more depth about the neurophysiologic part — the physical element– of trauma. And it specifically notes how and why nouthetic and Biblical counseling can really be harmful for PTSD if the physical element is not respected. Most Biblical counseling models deny that the significance of that physical element if they do not in fact completely deny it.

    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2012/01/post-traumatic-stress-as-physical.html

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  78. Lydia,

    Can I get this on a T-shirt?

    Is it the white coat syndrome with a plastic fish slapped on?

    I just wrote a blog post that points out this element, part of why predators find jobs in the clergy to be so appealing.

    And then, all you need to do is stamp “Biblical” or “covenant” or “godly” or some other superlative or modifier on something, and people just turn their brains off and accept whatever. That gets into Cialdini’s “weapons of influence” and the shortcuts we use to help us deal with too much information. These guys slip a lot of bunk in under our critical thinking radar by using those labels. As Barbara Roberts noted in the previous post on this matter, they are “thought stopping.”

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  79. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    And that toddler with a fifteen-minute attention span as Absolute Power over you.

    Like that Twilight Zone episode with the kid who could alter reality at a whim:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Good_Life_%28The_Twilight_Zone%29
    “This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.”

    What’s interesting about this is that Rod Serling suffered horrible PTSD after serving in the Pacific Corridor during WWII. He slept with a gun in his bed and had a horrible, long term struggle with PTSD symptoms long after the war.

    If you think of it this way, the Twilight Zone describes the feeling of PTSD. Suddenly, everything becomes unreal, and the regular rules do not apply. It describes dissociation and the stress that one feels when you feel unsafe and confused because the things around you don’t make any sense.

    There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. (Season 1)

    You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. (Season 4-5)

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  80. “To remove myself from these two formal positions at the time, I set up meetings with the pastor and relevant leaders, and I wrote memos stating my position and all of the issues that I had. I had no idea that I was committing the unpardonable sin.”

    Cindy, A big wake up call is to realize that being efficient, competent, communicative, professional and results oriented —is the biggest threat in the world to these systems. They cannot abide by that type of person.

    I remember one massive public project that was falling by the wayside which was going to be a PR disaster. I found all the files on it and went to work. I was stunned. The project manager for this project had been extremely competent and efficient. Anyone with a brain could take her files and pick up where she left off. So what happened to her? No one would say. If I mentioned her (no name was given!) everyone would shut down and divert eyes and change the subject. No one would say a word. I thought maybe she had sex in the foyer during Sunday worship or something heinous like that. It had to be some horrible sin, right?

    But I got her name out of the files on some invoices and when I left I tracked her down. Her crime? She mentioned in a staff meeting it might not be wise to have a staff retreat in a sports bar. That was her crime. And it was a crime because it embarassed her boss whio she thought she was trying to protect.

    For that comment, her boss went to HR and she was dismissed that day for not being a team player. NO health insurance, no unemployment, no severance pay. No labor laws applied to her. She was not even allowed to clean out her office. Security did that and locked down her computer. She no longer existed there. And no one said a word about her missing. No one from staff called her to enquire about what happened. That, my friend, is how the USSR operated.

    Now, like many of us, she is mentally unbalanced and emotionally disabled. Just like the USSR used to do to dissidents. Collectivism in any form is cruel to the individual.

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  81. It’s been my experience that every spiritual abusive leader – whether the overt compliance or the chaotic kind – eventually does something irrevocable and irrefutable. It happens sooner or later.

    In the case of the not taking minutes, or similar ways to establish plausible deniability or “keep things from getting legalistic,” that can reeeeally backfire. If anything goes wrong and they have NO documentation to prove they took the RIGHT steps, they’re also not able to prove … what should we call it? Plausible reliability? … perhaps beyond reasonable doubt.

    For instance, what if your church happens to have a policy on file of requiring background checks on any person who works with minors. But you have no paperwork showing you actually did what your policy says, and then someone sues over sexual abuse in the children’s ministry, perpetrated by a friend of the leader. If I remember right, having an undone policy might be circumstances where damage awards are automatically doubled, because you had the policy but didn’t follow it.

    Or, if you have an IRS investigation, and haven’t taken care of your Form 990s or other legal/financial paperwork, what could happen with all that?

    In one particular case of church-by-chaos, it was difficult to keep conscientious volunteer leaders for more than a couple years. They burnt out and dropped out. In many cases, a contributing factor seemed to be the de-energizing effect of this so-called system of “freedom” with its neverending where all the attempts to apply wise counsel and do things decently and in order ultimate made little sustainable impact.

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  82. Brad (3.8:48am), thanks for that! I’d like to draw some comparisons to the art field and it’s struggles with creativity and chaos. It’s something I know about.

    In art, a person cannot know how to be creative until they’ve learned the essentials/fundamentals. I gave many such impromptu lectures to fresh/soph art students, who came in with all kinds of ideas that had to laid aside for a while.

    Just like in any other field, taking art seriously means understanding and practicing the materials, techniques, and skills of both the physical and conceptual issues that belong to the endeavor. With such a foundation, creativity emerges strong and communicable, offering truly radical meaning, if it happens. This is also true re innovation in the sciences.

    Creativity is imaginative play rather than chaos. Whereas play can mean letting go the rules to discover new things, chaos floats on ignorance.

    But chaos can never stay chaotic but inevitably becomes organized around the roughest and loudest ideas, even while it maintains a surface of “anything goes”. This is important to understand. In the human psyche, chaos inevitably reverts to some sort of organization.

    One can see this in much art that hangs in elite art galleries. Many of them (not all) are deliberately untutored and chaotic and because of that, anger, shock, cruelty and despair are the only “sounds” loud enough to reach through. They in turn become the organizing principles for not only the specific works but for a large segment of the elite art experience. These art works and their milieu can serve as visual symbols of what Phillips made of his group.

    His group rules by chaos, as delineated by Brad and Cindy. Chaos is ignorant and noisy and shuts out any capacity for nuance and complexity. It also inevitably resorts to order and Phillips made sure his loudest coarsest voice was that organizing principle.

    (continued)

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  83. (continued)

    A further interesting comparison.

    In elite art, the artist’s statement becomes paramount for understanding what is going on in the works. But the artist’s statement is seldom adequate and viewers will be forced to also be “in the know” regarding the artist’s life/concerns in order to comprehend what is going on in the work. You can see how this sets up an anxiety about being culturally stupid, and a reluctance to speak out about it. I’m sure most of us have felt that way when looking at chaotic non-communicating expensive artworks presented to us as the apex of artistic expression.

    Phillips also had to preach and write and explain his doctrines, his version of the artist’s statement. But because it was also inadequate for explaining his apparently chaotic milieu, people also needed know/understand his personality, actions, experiences, family, etc. Thus a cult of personality is set up.

    In the end, with art, we either become devotees or revert to “well, I know what I like”, or “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, or “my child could do that” (to which the most common response was “Yeah, but he didn’t!” lol). Thus large areas of the art world have been made coarse and ineffective. Phillips has done the same to his area of Christianity.

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  84. Brad, In my experiences with mega churches, they make sure the legal/financial stuff is in order. Everything is about appearances to the pew sitters and outside world. Their elder boards are often made up of the “millionaire before 40 types” who gain stature/business cred in the community by being on the elder board. They have lawyers on retainer usually from the most prestigious firm in the region so no one else can use them– against them. My sil is one of them. At any one time, they might be juggling 5 lawsuits for all sorts of things often from those in the community who cannot stand them and they think is persecution. None of them get very far.

    And the laws concerning these things are in their favor. The financial laws regulating churches and what they have to report are much looser than for regular non profits.

    Which is why most of them don’t want the pew sitter to see any detailed budgets. After all, “That is what elders are for”. So just come and give.

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  85. @ lydiasellerofpurple. That surely makes sense about mega church having the wherewithal to take care of the whatchyumagottado stuff.

    The main experience I had was with a wanna-be mega in a really-is mini church.

    [Huh. Wonder how many “big” personality “leaders” ended up big fish in a small barrel …]

    They had sharp, successful people trying to keep things on track but hey, if The Big Cheese says “no,” whatchyuh gonna do?

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  86. Marsha wrote: “I don’t know if this is unique to me but that marriage lasted 34 years, more than half my life, but as soon as I was out of it it was almost like it had never happened.”

    I know that feeling! I think it’s from the dissociation. Throughout the traumatic experience, we simply weren’t all the way there. I think it’s what outsiders are addressing when they suddenly declare in frustration, “Wake up, people!”

    Dissociation is on a continuum, but it is about ways to endure situations that are too difficult to handle by shutting down parts of one’s self. It can flare out into discrete episodes of unreality of self and world, and at rare worst situations, creates divisions in one’s core personality, such as seen in Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality)

    But at its most elemental, it is a way to cut experience from going into long-term memory. Looking back at my 18 yr marriage is like looking at another’s story through the wrong end of a telescope. I occasionally see my ex around (he lives in the area) and I surreptitiously stare at him, “Who is this man that I spent all my time with? Really?”

    It’s disconcerting.

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  87. Cindy K wrote: “… Rod Serling suffered horrible PTSD after serving in the Pacific Corridor during WWII. He slept with a gun in his bed and had a horrible, long term struggle with PTSD symptoms long after the war.
    If you think of it this way, the Twilight Zone describes the feeling of PTSD. Suddenly, everything becomes unreal, and the regular rules do not apply. It describes dissociation and the stress that one feels when you feel unsafe and confused because the things around you don’t make any sense.”

    Ah, that’s why I could not watch that show. I’d try reruns (had no tv when it first ran) and end up shaking and with nightmares. My ex loved it and I had to leave the room.

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  88. This is a little bit OT but talking about how people needed to continually impress the leader in these groups, unsure of where they stood because of the control by chaos….
    This video of Kelly and Peter Bradrick wishing DP happy birthday in 2012 from the NICU when their fifth baby was born. It’s as if they had to remind him who they were and why they were important to him. And that from one of his right hand guys. So sad the lengths followers had to go to, to remain in the inner circle. Not a happy life… http://ingridgraceandaudrey.blogspot.com/2012/06/portrait-of-lady.html (The video is in the bottom of the post).

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  89. Janja Lalich says that her cult leader had a saying that is very telling which Janja used as a great metaphor for those in recovery:

    “Give ’em a little carrot and a lot of stick.” (or a variation on that)

    You follow the benefit and the hope of whatever they promised to you like the horse in front of whom a carrot on a stick is suspended to get the horse to keep moving forward. And you never really get to catch up and enjoy that carrot. So you keep on walking, thinking that it is “faith” that keeps you moving.

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  90. Brad: They had sharp, successful people trying to keep things on track but hey, if The Big Cheese says “no,” whatchyuh gonna do?

    You have this choice:

    “To be excised from underneath the protective umbrella of either is to be outside the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and then, surely also outside the reach of Heaven as you suffer the hailstorms of hell.”

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  91. “His group rules by chaos, as delineated by Brad and Cindy. Chaos is ignorant and noisy and shuts out any capacity for nuance and complexity. It also inevitably resorts to order ….”

    Patrice I loved your whole comment and want to digest it some more. Since I am art illiterate the parallels are fascinating to me because something tangible emerges from it. You can see the chaos, result so to speak.

    That was such a problem for me….nothing tangible to point to and say, see here it is….this is what is really behind the facade that looks so good to outward appearances. Because it was so byzantine, confused and no one on the same page to even get enough information. And of course they never mean what they say and never write anything down that would implicate them in any way.

    But as to your comment above most leaders in Christendom today have some sort of “set apartness” going for them. They are insulated and like it that way. You see them talking about the importance of this on many pastor blogs. They cannot be “friends” with members. It is too dangerous to their careers so they seek ways to be “together” (4 Gospel?)

    Because of this “set apartness” when they “speak” out of the chaos they carry even more weight. People hang on it as if some answer is coming that will make it call clear and because we agreeed to check our brains at the door whatever he says sounds brilliant.

    But once you see this, there is no turning back. You either have to live with it or get out. And that is where the rubber meets the road if you are financially dependent on them. ,

    So anyone looking for a church make an appointment with the pastor and ask to see a budget. See IF you get an appointment and then see how they respond to you asking to see a budget.

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  92. Patriarchy doesn’t lend itself well to we US right brained types, does it? Some of these leaders have affects as flat as Shreveport.

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  93. Lydia wrote: “But as to your comment above most leaders in Christendom today have some sort of “set apartness” going for them. They are insulated and like it that way. You see them talking about the importance of this on many pastor blogs. They cannot be “friends” with members. It is too dangerous to their careers so they seek ways to be “together” (4 Gospel?)”

    Yes, they think they are something special and separate, and it is particularly disgusting because their faith is firmly opposite. As Brad lays out, the central problems lie in the flawed systems of church leadership and as Cindy lays out, the rest belongs to those who are greedy for those forms of leadership.

    This is also how it goes in the art world. There’s a cult of personality and many see themselves as special leaders of broader culture: prophets, avant-gardists, critics of the fundamentals, visionaries. They call everyone else “rubes” as Christian leaders call everyone else “sheep”. This is not so for everyone in the art field, as also it’s not so for everyone in Christianity, but the prevailing sense in both places is that this sensibility is tops/best. And it’s reinforced by the fact that the money stays with them in both places.

    Which goes back to what Brad examines on his site: similarities of destructive patterns in systems. Those inside the church are similar to those outside. You found them in corporate structures, I found them in the art field and also in higher education (See for eg: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/04/the-adjunct-professor-crisis/361336/ Run through the comments, it’s just as church volunteers/secretaries/etc are treated).

    And I see similar patterns as I’ve been reading about our economic and gov’t problems and examine the confusion in the EU. It’s gotten so that when I read anything on economy/politics, I rely on the veracity of the story most when the writer exhibits some understanding of these underlying patterns.

    It’s eerie. There’s a dark zeitgeist running across the globe, one that’s been a long time in the making. It has become harder to be ethical than to be unethical. The church community thinks it has been immune to such “worldly” sin but it is just as culpable as the rest.

    The art world has been at this longer than the evangelical world. It has successfully separated and “elited” itself into meaninglessness and impotence. The church should consider itself warned.

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  94. Cindy, trying to make sense of it all is dizzying. But I think we have nailed the fact that you cannot make sense of it but it all comes out of the same root assumptions of lording it over others in a myriad of ways.

    So we know it includes controlled chaos, no creativity, no beauty, no real justice and no sense of real personal thought or critical thinking.

    I keep coming back to what Hannah Arendt said: Evil is banal.

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  95. “It has become harder to be ethical than to be unethical”

    This is exactly what I have been telling the teens I am around. You come off as a dupe and are open to their steamrollers when they get a whiff. Ethical people make great fall guys because they do not do deception.

    But what is the alternative? What does it profit us to sell our souls to gain the world? What I do now is for the future kingdom. The evil will not be going. I’d rather take the hits here and work for justice where I can.

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  96. There’re options. We are engaging options here.

    There are so many people out there who long for a return of ethics, compassion and accuracy. The desire/need crosses all political and national boundaries. It blazes out in the hearts of those who are suffering from Phillips’ failures.

    This is what Christianity is all about, really. It is an ethics based on love and truth, which flowers in the person/action of Christ and then moves across humanity and their endeavors with health and growth. We have a chance to truly become lights in the world.

    The value of deeply examining the situation of Vision Forum is that once we understand how it works in our corner of the world, those principles can be transferred up and out. We are never again naïve and we understand what’s at stake. This is useful! The young adults will need to decide for themselves how they can proceed—-some will likely stay to work within and others will become genuinely alternative.

    And as NT Wright so beautifully put it, all the real good, even the little bits that remain unrecognized in the corners, God will gather together to form the New Earth, the fully realized Kingdom of God. Nothing will be lost.

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  97. Lydia,

    It’s like the perfect storm that brings out the worst in people.

    LEADER
    You have a central charismatic leader who feels entitled, is self-centered, and lacks empathy. More oft’ than not, they manifest a Cluster B personality disorder:
    * Antisocial Personality Disorder (Pervasive disregard for others’ rights and the law itself)
    * Borderline Personality Disorder (Intense fear of abandonment with a paradoxical fear of intimacy manifested in rigid thinking, self-image problems, self-destructive behavior, and interpersonal drama)
    * Histrionic Personality Disorder (Attention-seeking, seductive behavior, and shallow but emotional extremes)
    * Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Intense need for admiration, pervasive grandiosity, and lack of empathy)

    FOLLOWERS
    People fail to recognize this and assume that they’re decent, honest people. It is not across the board with all members, but a common trait of people in high demand groups is a discomfort with ambiguity. (Others might call this a “control issue.”) They are generally looking to solve a problem or fill a void which causes them to find the group more desirable.

    People they let their defenses down, and manipulators take advantage of the natural pitfalls of being human. We take shortcuts through trust and by making assumptions to help us process info. (If we had to rethink everything over and over, we’d never get anything done.) But manipulators take advantage of this. I like Cialdini’s list:
    * Reciprocity
    * Commitment and Consistency
    * Social Proof
    * Liking
    * Authority
    * Scarcity

    SYSTEM STRUCTURE
    * They are hierarchical and elitist.
    * The group exists to help the leader “manage his/her own affect” (control his own emotional state). This requires an inequitable balance of power which favors the leader.

    SYSTEM DYNAMICS
    * The environment is managed tightly for members, through information management and behavioral management. Black and white thinking facilitates this, as does fear.
    * The group requires a total life program which demands an inner conversion. It isn’t the authoritarianism but is rather the totalism that creates the problem. The military is authoritarian and indoctrinates, but when a soldier is off duty, they have autonomy and can think whatever they want. Totalist groups define some degree of reasonable autonomy of thought and action to be sinful. If you want that “buzz” that the group gives you, you have to surrender that inner part of yourself.
    * Because of the entitlement of the leader in concert with their lack of empathy, the member bears the burden and takes the blame for all that goes wrong in the name of hierarchy to benefit the leader.

    *******

    Now, you put all that together, you have a cultic totalist group But one way or another, it always goes back to the needs of the charismatic leader.

    Human nature is reasonably predictable and the works of the flesh are as well. So the dynamics that you lay out, whether you use Lifton or Henke or another model, are going to be fairly predictable.

    Learning about and how to identify the natural weaknesses of people, the characteristics of a predator, and the criteria/dynamics of a high demand group give you a lot of choice and personal power.

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  98. afewthingstoday:

    That video is ridiculous. The devotion to Phillips is sickening. As if they are telling him: “Look, Oh Anointed One, we are doing it just like you taught us, we are popping out babies for Christ just like you said – #5 baby in 10 years (because it’s important for you to see that there was no rest/break between babies).” And from Kelly, “Thank you for instilling/ brainwashing me that unless I am a mother popping out babies, I am worth nothing.”

    Oh, and not only does Peter identify them, he says their first AND last names??!!! Who does that?

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  99. @Lydia … “Evil is banal.”

    Intriguing … I just put Hannah Arendt’s *Eichmann in Jerusalem* on my reading list a few days ago. I kept running across summaries and extracts that talked about her analysis of how Eichmann used cliches and propaganda phrases so much that when confronted with questions in court that such empty terms could not answer, it was, in part, his undoing.

    http://www.amazon.com/Eichmann-Jerusalem-Banality-Penguin-Classics/dp/0143039881/

    It’s just toooo similar to the language and logic found in purveyors of the “psychology of totalism” who create systems of complete control in an organization or society. And that is much of what we’re talking about here with the interlocking directory of ideas from Vision Forum Inc./Ministries, and those so deeply associated with it … and forming a sort of “total institution” network.

    I suspect that, if many theologians of these patriarchy-purity-perfectionism movements were put on the witness stand, their argumentation and logic would likewise dissolve — not because everyone else is evil or an enemy of the Kingdom, but because their systems themselves simply don’t cohere. Much is based on closed-system logic that starts with certain assumptions and then takes them to their inherent conclusions, but the entire thing is filled with holes.

    It’s what I illustrate by calling it “spiritual osteoporosis.” It may feel solid to the untrained examination, but actually could collapse upon itself at any time.

    And back to the concepts of control by chaos versus compliance versus charisma, the thing I see as the core is that each has its appeal because each offers a different kind of “consumable” that can lure people in. Do you long to obey God and understand truth perfectly? Probably your best fit is a control-by-compliance church. They’ll give you the information you want. Do you long to be creative and live in freedom? Find someone who leads through chaos and be surprised by the unexpected (under the guise of providential perhaps?). Do you feel insignificant? Get in a church under a charismatic leader and absorb some celebrity identity-by-association, by osmosis!

    Something for everyone … But, there’s always a stinger in that hook. As my college friend Linda O. said, “Manipulators and martyrs go together in matched pairs.”

    And I say that not to put the blame on victims, but just to suggest that there are reasons why we get taken in by certain kinds of abusive perps, yet aren’t necessarily drawn in by others. The ones who ensnare us typically have something we desire, or, I should say, a close-enough counterfeit to what would satisfy a genuinely biblical desire from being made in God’s image and/or being a disciple of Jesus Christ — like personal growth, justice, wisdom, “success” in ministry, love, natural family affection, etc.

    So, there’s that, FWIW.

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  100. Lydia:
    But I think we have nailed the fact that you cannot make sense of it but it all comes out of the same root assumptions of lording it over others in a myriad of ways.

    I think that you can make sense out of it. I love Lifton for that.

    As Lalich and Tobias say in that quote, it’s all about the power dynamic. It’s not wrong to be powerful, but the problem arises when to seize that power, a person must let the end justify the means.

    What is original sin? You shall be like God. Isn’t the classic example of letting the end justify the means what the crafty, subtle serpent said? Surely it isn’t so. Look what you stand to gain. It will make you wise and will be a benefit to you.

    And how does this manifest?
    Lust of the flesh (sex/gender)
    Lust of the eyes (money)
    Pride of life (power)
    Doesn’t this dovetail nicely with that which Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness?

    Another Tom wrote earlier that it all reminded him of something consistent with total depravity. That is definitely the case if you consider that these are traditions of men that are accomplished by the works of the flesh.

    Jesus used the Pharisees to depict these patterns and truths, but it all traces back to that entitled, self-centered leader who wants to be like God.

    None of this is new, and it is just evil manifesting, taking advantage of who we are — both by our strengths and our weaknesses. It exploits our virtue and our aspirations to be virtuous. And it’s SUBTLE.

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  101. Brad,

    Arendt’s book on Totalitarianism is fascinating, too. I learned a great deal reading that.

    And then, you have to throw some Baudrillard in there, too. Closed systems create their own hyper real environment. That’s what much of the dressing up was all about.

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  102. Brad wrote: “Do you long to be creative and live in freedom? Find someone who leads through chaos and be surprised by the unexpected (under the guise of providential perhaps?)….”

    Thus Phillips was involved in film and of course, film awards.

    A nice small example from Furtick’s Elevation Church, where a hipster “creative pastor” gets slick and ohsocute! on enforcing proper attitude:

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  103. Julie Anne,
    I hope this isn’t too far off target for the topic on this thread, but I just love the photo of the grand piano innards as a backdrop for your blog. Grand pianos truly are marvels of high engineering and elegant craftsmanship. I can almost hear the opening bars of Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata.

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  104. @CindyK:

    LEADER
    You have a central charismatic leader who feels entitled, is self-centered, and lacks empathy. More oft’ than not, they manifest a Cluster B personality disorder:
    * Antisocial Personality Disorder (Pervasive disregard for others’ rights and the law itself)

    “One named Hister shall become
    A captain of Greater Germany;
    No law does this man observe —
    Bloody his rise and fall shall be…”

    — Al Stewart, “Nostradamus”, 1973

    (Video’s not so hot, but this one has the clearest lyrics)

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  105. Patrice,

    Beautiful words. Yes, we have options. And one is to teach our children how to think not what to think and pray for the best

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  106. “I think that you can make sense out of it. I love Lifton for that. ”

    Cindy, Yes, you are right. In fact, your comment is a synopsis that needs to be printed out and reviewed often so we can better teach our children what to observe going on around them. That helps make it not so personal when they encounter it. Help them understand there is a dynamic going on rooted in the flesh. It plays out in childrens relationships at school, etc. It is all around us. I was always trying to articulate a larger picture because we can get swamped in the details of how it plays out on the ground. The key is how we respond to it.

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  107. Headless U Guy,

    Hitler is an extreme example, but there are far more small time operators who use the same techniques, but not to accomplish the same ends. Thank God. But it is worth considering that selling out just to accomplish some lofty ideal that becomes more important than the people in the process is the same whether you are Hitler, an Amway middle manager, or a minister. Given the right circumstances, and if the leader has the right solution to a problem that is perceived as dire, people will sell out to them, too.

    I love that line out of Dostoevsky:
    “We have corrected Thy work and have founded it upon miracle, mystery and authority. And men rejoiced that they were again led like sheep.”

    I wrote this in an article some time ago and this follows not far behind the quote. I go copy it from the article since it’s easy to retrieve. I noticed that I wrote this in the same piece and found it fitting to the general discussion concerning these lengths that we go to when we try to build systems to accomplish these lofty goals. It features a quote from page 20 of Gene Veith’s Postmodern Times:

    We must commit ourselves to orthodoxy and walk in faith, attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in concert with our gifts of logic (1 Jn 3:19-21; 4:1-3). A renewed approach should not mean “dead orthodoxy,” “the insistence on some kind of doctrinal purity at the expense of a warm, personal faith.” The goal should be “live orthodoxy,” a faith that is both nourished in experience and grounded in truth, with room for both the feelings and the intellect. At times in church history, doctrine has been overemphasized, but that will unlikely be a danger in a society who’s every tendency is to deny truth altogether.

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  108. Brad, there is a rule on many blogs you are not allowed to bring up the Nazi’s.
    They will automatically call out Godwins rule.

    It is period of history for which I am well versed. I am interested in it for one reason. WHY? How did it happen. I think if we ignore that we don’t learn our lessons and history repeats itself in some ways.

    There is an incrementalism that is imperative for us to understand. What we allow to become our normal because we think it good at the time without looking at the larger picture…. until we no longer have any choices or a voice.

    I have so much enjoyed Arendt and other writers who dug deeper than the historical facts and into some of the psychology involved.

    It showed that we are much more than the group/movement. Once removed from eh group with the cliches that worked so well, they no longer work outside that ghetto. And we stand alone with what we bought into and what it really meant. Nothing. It was building some one elses kingdom. Not the one that counts.

    I have noticed something similar going on with some blogs where YRR and non YRR were trying to have consensus conversations. It was not working. The YRR were bringing their cliches that work great in their ghetto but the non YRR were not buying them. As threads progressed the cliches went into ad hominem as the argumetation. That is a form of force and where all those seeking power eventually have to go to keep it.

    All those cliches (Don’t you believe God is Soveriegn? etc) that worked so well in seminary and in their group broke down and the house of cards were crumbling. So new tactics brought out with more power and force attached to them.

    It is important we have freedom to discuss these things. And our society now demands that people agree— for some reason. Which alienates us even more from thinking critically as we want to be accepted. A recipe for disaster.

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  109. Yes it’s very sad that the Bradricks suffered for being the chosen elite… but it wasn’t 10 years of marriage, it was 5 children in less than six years. (Aug. 2006 wedding-June 2012 fifth baby) With the third baby a c-section (not sure about how the other babies were delivered, or if they have more children by now). I feel very sorry for her, because i’ve recovered from a c-section myself. It takes so much out strength away from a mother, especially with other small children and the threat of another pregnancy looming.

    The comment above from Brad/futuristguy is so true: “I suspect that, if many theologians of these patriarchy-purity-perfectionism movements were put on the witness stand, their argumentation and logic would likewise dissolve — not because everyone else is evil or an enemy of the Kingdom, but because their systems themselves simply don’t cohere. Much is based on closed-system logic that starts with certain assumptions and then takes them to their inherent conclusions, but the entire thing is filled with holes. It’s what I illustrate by calling it “spiritual osteoporosis.” It may feel solid to the untrained examination, but actually could collapse upon itself at any time.”

    The Vision Forum idea that they honor women really falls apart when they think God’s going to stop a harmful pregnancy by another way other than giving the husband the smarts to back off.

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  110. afewthingstoday:

    I didn’t take your comment as snarky or sarcastic, but certainly wouldn’t object if it was. There needs to be snarky, sarcastic, righteous anger going on about this mess.

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  111. I am so glad that we are reading Lifton and Arendt. They are foundational on these issues.

    It is important to note that these people did not work from within the church milieu. It’s important because there is a lot of truth going on in the world, and where truth is, there is God. He spills it out wherever He wishes. When we do not go after the truth because it comes from a context we don’t approve of, we miss a great deal of what God wants us to know.

    If we trust God, we will understand that the truth was put in the right places, and for His own good reasons. We need not be afraid that “out there” sinfulness is greater than God, in the same way that we needn’t be afraid that “in here” sin is greater than God.

    Anyway, I wish you a lovely Sabbath. Thanks for the song, Cindy.

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  112. @ Lydia, May 3, 2014 @ 9:49 PM. “I have noticed something similar going on with some blogs where YRR and non YRR were trying to have consensus conversations. It was not working. The YRR were bringing their cliches that work great in their ghetto but the non YRR were not buying them. As threads progressed the cliches went into ad hominem as the argumetation. That is a form of force and where all those seeking power eventually have to go to keep it.

    “All those cliches (Don’t you believe God is Soveriegn? etc) that worked so well in seminary and in their group broke down and the house of cards were crumbling. So new tactics brought out with more power and force attached to them.

    “It is important we have freedom to discuss these things. And our society now demands that people agree— for some reason. Which alienates us even more from thinking critically as we want to be accepted. A recipe for disaster.”

    It’s easy to get lost in all the “What?” details and “So What?” meanings in discussions like this, and get delayed in working toward the “Now What?” of applications. So, I think you’re moving into a very important application with Young Restless and Reformed as a relevant current example of the principle that Robert Jay Lifton calls “Loading the Language” — creating code words and insider jargon that reduces complex problems to simplistic solutions, and condenses categories into judgmental labels. That was #6 in his list of 8 criteria for identifying groups, organizations, and societies that use “the psychology of totalism.” I read recently where Lifton did not call this the psychology of *totalitarianism* because it was not found only in countries and their political systems.

    For readers who might be interested in more about Loading the Language, I have a section on it in this post. As a trained linguist, I find this criterion of special interest.

    http://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/the-hunger-games-trilogy-5c/

    I also find it intriguing that Lifton — who is considered one of the pioneers in the psychology of traumatic stress — did extensive research work and interviews with Holocaust survivors. And from those interviews, he found there was one subject they were especially reluctant to speak about … so he followed up with research and interviews to document the medical experiments conducted on prisoners. So, basically, much of these kinds of studies are looking at the contours and content of “evil,” its perpetrators and perpetuators, and its impacts in attempting to dehumanize “the other.”

    I find it ironic, and redemptive, that those who try to treat people as if we were machines are countered by those who seek to maintain in all of us what most makes us human — life, intellect, imagination, communication, dignity despite differences, freedom of choice for self-determination instead of the bondages of conformity or chaos.

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  113. “It’s easy to get lost in all the “What?” details and “So What?” meanings in discussions like this, and get delayed in working toward the “Now What?” of applications. So, I think you’re moving into a very important application with Young Restless and Reformed as a relevant current example of the principle that Robert Jay Lifton calls “Loading the Language” — creating code words and insider jargon that reduces complex problems to simplistic solutions, and condenses categories into judgmental labels. ”

    It is interesting to look at the trajectory of this historically. We can learn a lot from it. This movement really got underway around the 70’s but was off the radar. It really had no name or brand. Then it was picked up by some fellow travelers later on like Piper, then Mohler (the well known ones) and it started really branding and coalescing around early to mid 2000’s. Around that time they were quite adept at using the internet to build the brand which appealled to young people. Driscoll came on the scene in a big way and it went from there. And none of this was really organized in a coherent sort of way. Again we have chaos.

    But something happened. The same medium they used to build the brand as it progressed into more and more social media became the same venue used to analyze their movement. The biggest challenge became the “loaded language”.

    It took a while to get there because most people saw the leaders as too big to question or fail. And while they held back the leaders became more and more in your face and dogmatic. ( I am already seeing subtle attempts to rebrand themselves but their followers won’t see it)

    Now we are at the point the YRR can barely have a conversation with non YRR online becasue the loaded language is always dealt with. They cannot get past that. So they are splintering even more. And now those who are not blindly in that movement are willing to ask questions and they can find lots of resources on line that question the assumption. It never was a doctrinal movement in the first place. It was about power. And that is becoming more and more obvious with the response of that movement to Driscoll and Mahaney.

    I find that a good thing and a lesson for us all.

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  114. @Brad/FuturistGuy:

    “All those cliches (Don’t you believe God is Soveriegn? etc) that worked so well in seminary and in their group broke down and the house of cards were crumbling. So new tactics brought out with more power and force attached to them.

    oldthinkers unbellyfeel INGSOC.

    “Principles of Newspeak” by G.Orwell (appendix to 1984) is all about deliberately redefining a Loaded Language to constrict thought to doubleplusgoodthink and doublepluscrimethink. If there are no words to describe a concept except INGSOC, goodthink, and crimethink, the concept ceases to exist. This theme is also a major arc in his novel-length political cartoon.

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  115. @Lydia:

    Now we are at the point the YRR can barely have a conversation with non YRR online becasue the loaded language is always dealt with. They cannot get past that.

    Continuing the above 1984 meme, the YRR newspeak has become incompatible with non-YRR oldspeak, so different words or concepts no longer map across. The YRR have pinched themselves off behind their newspeak event horizon. (The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs…)

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  116. @CindyK:

    Hitler is an extreme example, but there are far more small time operators who use the same techniques, but not to accomplish the same ends. Thank God. But it is worth considering that selling out just to accomplish some lofty ideal that becomes more important than the people in the process is the same whether you are Hitler, an Amway middle manager, or a minister. Given the right circumstances, and if the leader has the right solution to a problem that is perceived as dire, people will sell out to them, too.

    When I acquired a copy of the 1943 OSS psych profile of A.Hitler (with postwar annotations and corrections), I was struck by how ORDINARY A.H. was, especially in his younger days on the bum in Vienna before WW1. In various fandoms, I’ve seen so many slackers like that, “floating with no visible means of support” except for shady ways of getting survival money from others. I HAVE a similar sarcastic sense of humor. A.H. often used to regale his courtiers with his “militaria geek” knowledge (which combined with his “I AM ALWAYS RIGHT! You have to do it MY way!” ego ended up losing the war), something you see all the time in various geek cultures. A.H grew up in a highly-dysfunctional family, like most all first-generation fans. He was enmeshed with his mother who died of cancer when he was emotionally young, just like me. He was physically abused by a violent alcoholic father, just like one close friend of mine. He was heavily into Hypermasculinity, like many Christian Patriarchy types. So many of the elements are so familiar, you see them all over the place – just not all in the same guy at the same time.

    I came to the conclusion that there are probably MILLIONS of “A.Hitlers” walking around at any given time, just this one had a Perfect Storm situation boost him to absolute ruler of a major nation where his Will could Triumph over an entire continent instead of only his immediate surroundings. (Along with that gang of literal pulp villains he gathered around himself.)

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  117. @Patrice:

    The art world has been at this longer than the evangelical world. It has successfully separated and “elited” itself into meaninglessness and impotence. The church should consider itself warned.

    Can you elaborate on this, Patrice? I’m most familiar with the effect on lit-SF after the “New Wave SF” movement, where in an attempt to make SF “respectable”, they ended up adopting ALL the bad habits of mainstream “High Literature” (“POOT! SNIFF! Ahhhhhhhhhh…”)

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  118. “Continuing the above 1984 meme, the YRR newspeak has become incompatible with non-YRR oldspeak, so different words or concepts no longer map across. The YRR have pinched themselves off behind their newspeak event horizon. (The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs…)”

    It really is the case, HUG. If we do not accept their definition and USE of say, “Sovereignty” of God, where can we go together? We are speaking two different languages which in effect, totally change the attributes of God. And now it is really coming to the forefront. The rank and file are still doing what they do best but I have noticed some of the leaders are trying to ‘rebrand” in subtle ways. Me thinks the money is not flowing as easily as it was even a few years ago.

    It took the non YRR some time to really come to grips with the fact it is a different language.

    We can learn from this when it comes to other movements. Question how the language is used and ask for illustrations. It can save lots of time and heartache.

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  119. @Patrice:

    If you think of it this way, the Twilight Zone describes the feeling of PTSD. Suddenly, everything becomes unreal, and the regular rules do not apply. It describes dissociation and the stress that one feels when you feel unsafe and confused because the things around you don’t make any sense.”

    In which case, Serling’s most famous work was very effective:

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  120. @Patrice:

    One can see this in much art that hangs in elite art galleries. Many of them (not all) are deliberately untutored and chaotic and because of that, anger, shock, cruelty and despair are the only “sounds” loud enough to reach through. They in turn become the organizing principles for not only the specific works but for a large segment of the elite art experience. These art works and their milieu can serve as visual symbols of what Phillips made of his group.

    Oh, that sort of AHRT(TM).
    Trendoid squalling temper tantrums of The Great Artiste(TM) with his poopy diapers, eternally mad at Mommy & Daddy tellng him “No”. (“I’LL SHOW YOU! I’LL SHOW YOU! WAAAH! WAAAH! WAAAAAAAAAH!”)

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  121. HUG wrote: “I’m most familiar with the effect on lit-SF after the “New Wave SF” movement, where in an attempt to make SF “respectable”, they ended up adopting ALL the bad habits of mainstream “High Literature” (“POOT! SNIFF! Ahhhhhhhhhh…”)”

    Is that what happened? I’ve not been involved in the Sci-fi realm, although I love the stuff and have, over the years, picked up many books on people’s recommendations. But now I’m wary of recommendations because so much of it sets off traumatic re-experiencing in me. Cruel nihilistic atmospheres that protagonists are sunk in and never get out of.

    I can’t handle that kind of thing—never could—because it is how I felt much of my early life and it was unbearable. ISTM that people who’ve not had such experiences place themselves in those places and feel alive because of it: “Ooooh it’s amazing how bad life can be! W00twooot!” But they close the book, untouched, instead feeling a sort of satisfaction! Maybe it’s titillation or something, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s a release valve, the way old Greek tragedies functioned.

    And yes, that’s what’s happened to much of “high art”. It’s beyond me why on God’s green earth harshness and coarseness is equated to “high”. It is a genuine corruption and makes me sad/angry. It’s not just because they aren’t Christian; it’s a deep fall from health and relevancy.

    And that sort of pattern (although with different materials/people) is also inside large swaths of the church. Took at what happened to “high art”, now without meaning/purpose and gone completely impotent. Take warning.

    BTW, now I mostly just read young adult sci-fi/fantasy because they seem to maintain some standards for health/hope. Do you know any contemporary SF writers that don’t indulge the nihistic thing? I’d love to read them. I miss complexity!

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  122. I don’t know what New Wave SF is, exactly. but here’s a book about dystopian fiction that I find very intriguing is *Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial* by Erika Gottlieb. One of her basic points is that, to fiction writers in the West, their dystopia is the worst they can imagine. To writers from the East (i.e., Eastern Bloc of Central Europe and the regions of the former Soviet Union), “dystopian fiction” is a riff on their reality. To quote from the back cover, “[A]uthors who write about and under totalitarian dictatorship find the worst of possible worlds not in a hypothetical future, but in the present or recent past.”

    Perhaps the difference there provides a parallel to consider in terms of differences between what those who have not personally experienced severe spiritual abuse think it is about, or how they misperceive as exaggerating those who describe their actual experiences in deep, dystopian detail. Those who think we exaggerate may have a blind spot to the existential truth of which we speak and therefore cannot perceive Scripture in the same light we do. Again, back to that language and perception issue …

    And while on the topic of East and West, consider the applicability to Second Generation Adults of *Beyond Invisible Walls: The Psychological Legacy of Soviet Trauma, East Europen Therapists and their Patients,* edited by Jacob Lindy and Robert Jay Lifton. It’s about both the survivors of those growing up under Communism, and the effects on counselors of totalism trauma experienced by their clients and themselves.

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  123. Interesting, Brad, thanks. I’ll track down that book.

    I would love to hear from HUG about what he thinks of Eastern Bloc dystopian fiction. Maybe I’d like it, because it’s not the situations themselves that send me away but how it is described and what the protagonists do within it.

    Having someone describe worlds that are bleak can be affirming to someone who’s suffered a version of it, IF some things that happen inside it are life-affirming, loving, etc, and IF there’s an underlying understanding that humans can’t endure without an eventual return to some measure of compassion/meaning.

    I also get disgusted when terrible things happen to a human, but the damage is minimized, or ignored. That is something I appreciated in Hunger Games—Katniss becomes increasingly dissociated and some of her later actions are heavily influenced by it.

    You wrote: “Those who think we exaggerate may have a blind spot to the existential truth of which we speak and therefore cannot perceive Scripture in the same light we do.”

    Yah, when someone minimizes abuse, I know it is because they’ve never experienced it. I’m sure it also frightens them. Some, I think, do not want to face damaging experiences of their own, and can become especially aggressive against the reality of abuse. I minimized my own experience for a long time, too. It’s understandable. Evil is a wretched thing.

    Also, yeah, it is soo interesting how not understanding the nature of evil modifies scripture-reading.

    I suspect that the doctrine of total depravity is often spun so that we can admit the extent of evil without actually facing it. It can be a kind of slide-by, if you know what I mean. It ends up fabricating horror in the wrong place and then, when confronted by the actual horror of evil, it can be leveled and minimized. Because, you know, we’re all just awful creatures anyway, so whatchatalkinabout?

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  124. Patrice … yes, the abstract doctrine of total depravity is far easier to rattle on about than to hear the concrete details of the doings of total depravity, which can be far more rattling.

    People are sometimes surprised-disbelieving-mystified that I can remain relatively positive (or even remain a Christian) in the face of what I’ve experienced. But that’s the mystery of finding a redemptive edge, isn’t it? I think of what Corrie Ten Boom had to say: “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

    If we don’t believe spiritual transformation is possible through the power of God’s Word, and healing and leading of the Holy spirit, and being conformed to the character of Christ, then we’re on the wrong blog …

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  125. Patrice, to go along with what you are saying, I find it very interesting that it wasn’t until I got a real relationship with Jesus Christ I stopped minimizing my bad experiences. It was a coping mechanism, but it didn’t really work. I thought I was fine but it was clear to others that I was not fine. I am so thankful to God for bringing me a wonderful Christian counselor who would never take any pay from the church for her time even though they offered it to her. She never wanted to be controlled by their agenda. She validated the abuse as a very big deal even though she also worked with others way more scarred than me. What also really surprised me was that she had not had a bad past at all, yet she allowed God to give her His heart for the walking wounded.

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  126. Patrice wrote:
    I suspect that the doctrine of total depravity is often spun so that we can admit the extent of evil without actually facing it. It can be a kind of slide-by, if you know what I mean. It ends up fabricating horror in the wrong place and then, when confronted by the actual horror of evil, it can be leveled and minimized. Because, you know, we’re all just awful creatures anyway, so whatchatalkinabout?

    One of the most succinct rebuttals of a particularly large swath of Augustinian nonsense I’ve ever heard.

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  127. “Yah, when someone minimizes abuse, I know it is because they’ve never experienced it. I’m sure it also frightens them. Some, I think, do not want to face damaging experiences of their own, and can become especially aggressive against the reality of abuse. I minimized my own experience for a long time, too. It’s understandable. Evil is a wretched thing.”

    I don’t want to minimize anyone’s abuse but to point out that when it is done in the Name of Jesus or with a plastic fish slapped on it, the damage has an extra layer to work through that is inexplicable to so many. Many are Christians.

    “I suspect that the doctrine of total depravity is often spun so that we can admit the extent of evil without actually facing it. It can be a kind of slide-by, if you know what I mean. It ends up fabricating horror in the wrong place and then, when confronted by the actual horror of evil, it can be leveled and minimized. Because, you know, we’re all just awful creatures anyway, so whatchatalkinabout?”

    I gotta agree with Muff on this one. This nails it. I think of it as the get out of hell card people think they are playing. When I hear it From people…I think “evil Christians”? Can that be right? I often think, gee, best to lock up the children and hide the silver. The totally depraved Christians are here.

    Someone asked me a few months back what my “doctrinal position” was. I said, it is very simple. I believe the Cross gave defeated evil so that we are responsible for our actions and deeds. We are to be Christ representatives here and that does not look like what many think it does. We aren’t perfect but we are to be pure in heart. And blameless.

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  128. “Patrice, to go along with what you are saying, I find it very interesting that it wasn’t until I got a real relationship with Jesus Christ I stopped minimizing my bad experiences. It was a coping mechanism, but it didn’t really work.”

    Patti, I can totally relate.

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  129. On Friday, I had an exchange with a cult recovery oriented psychologist about whether he had any opinion on another guy who is a lesser-known expert on trauma. What seems to happen in the field is that people who are more therapy oriented find some good treatments, but we don’t have much of any idea how they actually work. (This is true of many medications, BTW, despite what many physicians will tell you.) I was listening to a lecture, decided that this other trauma guy might be an example of the made-up causation stuff, and I just turned it off. I then sought the respected opinion of this other person. He popped off a brilliant statement concerning this problem of creating causalities of conjecture and speculation without any empirical evidence and passing them off to the trusting therapists as definitive “proof” of scientific fact. I’d mentioned that I liked some of the creative analogies that these types of folks used to describe the overall experience of trauma, but they fall apart on the “why.”

    He said something that I found brilliant after mentioning how helpful metaphors can be in therapy:
    “The metaphor is not the map.”

    I guess the theme in my brain that is churning in regard to this discussion of these strange pseudo-Calvinists, as per that description that Veith used. These folks are trying to inject some life into their dead orthodoxy. Rather than getting back to the main, plain messages of Scripture, they try to be crafty and clever, so that they can brand and market something that is more palatable to both saint and sinner in a sin-drenched, postmodern culture that primarily understands everything in terms of existentialism which worships autonomy and freewill (that the ancient Greeks presupposed).

    They use the five points of Calvinism which is more like a metaphor that helps us understand God’s sovereignty, and they mistake it for the map of Scripture. They use the metaphor that explains an aspect of truth like a syringe full of novelty which they use to inject life back into their dead orthodoxy. Their orthodoxy is dead because man is at the center of it and not God. (They give all the right answers to the questions, but they interpret man as the central focus as something that serves man instead of allowing God to be the central focus, the Lord of all power, and the recipient of all glory and honor.) It’s a subtle shift, but the displacement is what takes what we hope was once a live faith and turns it into nothing more than dead orthodoxy.

    Mark Noll has called this use of these other crafted selling points that are distilled from the culture “theological innovations.” James Sire calls the end results of this “Theistic existentialism.” And in misinterpreting the metaphor as the map, they don’t even really see that they’ve become exactly what they claim to decry: they become humanists.

    So men that we hope were at one point became Believers use theological innovations to try to revive dead orthodoxy by borrowing from the culture elements of novelty that are not Scripture to dress it up. (I think that Jesus called this the traditions of men, and it makes the Word ineffective.) And what results from making the Gospel merely something that serves man? Theistic Existentalism.

    Bob Wright explains well in “No Place for Sovereignty” that the real problem is not the sinfulness of the world, for that has always been the case for us. It’s syncretism. He doesn’t use the term “New Calvinism” in his book, but from my exchanges with him, I know that this group exemplifies what he was writing about. Of these confused Calvinists he says:

    “And their gospel is no longer the theologically articulated gospel of forty years ago. Today it is a syncretic combination of secular methodologies and superficial biblical language aimed at “felt needs” rather than hellbound sinners. Can we really imagine the apostle Paul insisting that the gospel be made “user-friendly”? Paul taught that the power of the gospel is located in the preaching of God’s Word, not in its ability to absorb intellectual pop culture” (pg 14).

    Selah.

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  130. Regarding your comment about turning the issues over to attorneys to defend the failure to act.
    As a consultant and instructor regarding environmental management and compliance, I always worked to prevent problems to the fullest extent. Yet because life is like that, sometimes problems still occurred. Then we would work hard to remediate the problem, figure out what happened and make appropriate changes in equipment, materials, operation, training, etc. to prevent a recurrence. And we would advocate and often coordinate sitting down with victims, regulators, and the concerned public to first present an apology, detail what had happened and what the facility was doing to remediate the particular incident and avoid/prevent future incidents. Then we would negotiate, in good faith, reparations. As a long time mediator, that was where I played a critical role.

    As an attorney, I also take the same tack to the extent possible. Churches need to work to reduce the risk. One part of that is to admit that it is a large problem, that pedophiles like to target churches, that every church in all likelihood has had a pedophile in the congregation, and that steps must be taken NOW to reduce the risk to the children of the congregation. One of those steps is to evaluate whether the teaching of the church mitigates against children being able to stand up to a pedophile and report grooming or abusive behavior. As Jeanette has pointed out, the teaching in many churches supports the actions of pedophiles rather than the pool of potential victims. NO THEOLOGY IS CHRISTIAN (AS IN BASED IN THE LIFE AND TEACHING OF JESUS CHRIST) IF IT FACILITATES HARM TO CHILDREN, OR IF IT EXACERBATES THE HARM THEY HAVE ALREADY SUFFERED AND FROM WHICH THEY WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER!!

    The church must also make appropriate changes in facilities, policies, procedures, and perhaps personnel, such as those suggested above. But none of that will be 100% effective, unless the theology taught supports victims and not perpetrators or potential perpetrators.

    And any pastor worthy of a pulpit needs to be educated, knowledgeable, proactive, etc., etc. on this issue. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN homosexuality, adultery, new buildings, tithing, etc., etc. None of those involve innocent victims that Jesus taught us to protect and support as a specific group or class of people.

    And that is why the SBC ERLC sponsored event is a travesty. Because it focused on the issue du jour in SBC life and not on the issue that should, before now, have become front and center in the church world. Regardless of which pastor or church leader loses stature and status because of it; those losses are their on bleep fault for not doing the thing Jesus taught.

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  131. Oh, and John Robbins called them “Ersatz Calvninists.” I think some call them “Calvinistas.” I know another who, concerning their views on the Trinity to support their gender views so that they can take over the world calling it “dominionism”… well, he vented by calling them “Origenian monkeys.” Hee, hee.

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  132. Patti, how lovely that you were able to own your abuse in conjunction with Jesus, and that a good therapist helped you do that! Often people find that they have to go away from Christianity before they can come to terms with it. Then sometimes they can go back and see it for what it really is. I ran like a banshee from the church community and never have gone back except through blogs like this; but still, I’ve been glad of God for a very long time.

    I am glad that there are many ways to go. But yours sounds best.

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  133. “I don’t want to minimize anyone’s abuse but to point out that when it is done in the Name of Jesus or with a plastic fish slapped on it, the damage has an extra layer to work through that is inexplicable to so many. Many are Christians.”

    When the abuser drags the Creator of the Universe onto his/her side, then where can one turn?

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  134. Brad, the doctrine of total depravity is terrible for those who take it seriously personal and not just as an abstraction. I remember, when a kid in the parsonage, a few people coming to talk to my father because they just couldn’t get out of its pit. It was so sad!! I’m sure they had other problems that exacerbated it, but honestly, that doctrine has a terrible name and is much too cranky to take personally.

    I also remember our old infant baptism form had the phrase “…they are conceived and born in sin and therefore are children of wrath…” After a baptism service, while parents were still talking to church members, we sibs would run around the house yelling that phrase at top volume and then fall into a pile of hysterical giggles. Sheesh!

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  135. “But there are people in that church (newer congregants) that don’t understand why half the church has left. These people feel that the pastor is being persecuted and blamed unfairly. It’s bizarre.”

    “I suspect this is a fairly common phenomenon. New members at Homestead couldn’t fathom what ex-members were talking about. I’ll bet the same happens at Mars Hill, SGM churches, Calvary Chapel churches, etc.”

    – Are any of you familiar with ISKCON? That is the Hare Krishnas?

    Same thing! So many scandals happened years ago in their organization and new comers now have no idea nor any idea of why at least half of the “old timers” left. My sister and brother-in-law are amongst those old time Hare Krishnas who left the organization while still practicing the faith on their own. But they are seen by the new comers as simply having become weak and left the fold.

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  136. Amy & Rishi,

    Your comment got stuck in moderation for some reason. I just spied it.

    I’ve met all kinds of former ISKCON members, and we all have the same story, just with different details. I know that when I (with my husband) walked away from our first meeting with our exit counselor (in a state of horror on top of the trauma), I think that all I could say for about an hour, over and over, was, “Oh my God! I’m a Moonie. They turned us into Moonies!”

    The woman who I think was about seventy then showed us some videos, then after talking to us a bit longer, pulled out her weathered copy of Lifton’s book and read the eight characteristics of thought reform. She had to do no embellishing — and it was blatantly obvious that it was precisely what had happened to us and what we witnessed in our church. And it was eerie.

    A million things — like the odd departure of “old timers” that no one would speak of at the church like you were asking something inappropriately personal — all start to make sense. (Were they axe murderers?) Or in my case, I heard that people became drug users or satanists or that they “moved away” (though their new commute was twenty minutes and not 200 or 2000 miles).

    It was a double-edged sword for me. Like being ill with a terrible illness and being unable to find a doctor who can figure out what’s wrong, there’s an intense confusion about it. But when you see a physician who starts asking you questions about symptoms and you answer “yes” to nearly all of them as they seem pregnant with meaning and an explanation yet to come, your start to realize that you’ve probably found the right doctor. The diagnosis they give you is terrifying, but in the realization of what I describe as horror, there is power in the truth. You finally understand that you were wandering in the Twilight Zone, and there’s a way out. If that doctor can’t treat you, they will know just who to send you to see to get what you need.

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  137. will the recent scandals involving Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, i wouldn’t be surprised that Jim Bob Duggar screwing around behind Michelle’s back

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  138. Gerbil,

    I respectfully disagree. JimBob is not in the same kind of leadership position as Gothard and Phillips. You don’t see his teachings anywhere.

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