Each section of the Religious Power and Control Wheel describes a tactic used by abusers to maintain power and control over their victims. According to Laura Anderson, when the tactics are combined, a system is “designed and intended to exert power and control over others by their rules, requirements, punishments and consequences for not adhering to the specific requirements of the group.”
Many who read here will be able to identify with some or all of these tactics. Earlier topics in this series: Isolation, Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse, and Threats, Accusations, and Intimidation.
On the wheel, economic control is described as:
*Requiring a portion of paycheck to go to church
*Unpaid volunteer hours at the expense of other commitments
*Devaluization of education (especially women)
*Must trust God to provide vs. charity or personal action
*Guilt tripping over needing to give more time or money to the church
*”God should meet all of your needs”
Show of hands – who has heard “God honors a cheerful giver?” And, that gift must be 10% of your income. Gross, not net, of course. All of you? Most of you? I heard this for years in the church, and we gave faithfully every other week (plus more for special offerings). Even on the weeks we grumbled about it, we were faithful. Never mind that we were living paycheck to paycheck to the point that if we didn’t have enough money for a car repair or water heater, then we went into debt.
Financial control can be as subtle as the message of “God honors a happy giver” to overt threats or intimidation by a high-controlling leader. From TV evangelists who promise healing with your gift of $500 or more to small churches who demand your money or assets to prove your dedication, financial control by abusive leaders can lead to devastating consequences in the lives of the members. Church leadership who refuse to disclose financial audits or balances is a huge red flag. If people are willingly giving their money to the church, they should have access to see how much comes in and where the money goes.
What I found interesting on this list was “unpaid hours at the expense of other commitments.” Many churches want their members serving anytime the church door is open. It’s a free way to get a lot of work out people. Volunteering is not bad, but if you are guilt tripped into taking on a volunteer position that is sucking up way too much of your time, then that is controlling behavior used against you. I recall being in a church where leadership disapproved of families having their kids participate in sports on Sundays. The message was that time taken away from church commitments was not God honoring.
Christian books for wives have inferred that pursuing education is not worth the time or money due to a woman’s God-given roles as wife and mother. Women are also encouraged not to pursue work outside the home and to trust that God will supply for their financial needs. This teaching can leave women in financial crisis later in life if something were to happen to their husband.
What other forms of financial control have you experienced?