Domestic Violence: Know Your Resources

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Resources

purple ribbons

-by Kathi


I am pausing our Sunday Gatherings for the rest of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I would like to take this time to talk about how the church can effectively respond to domestic violence.

This month I have asked the church to become educated about domestic violence, to re-evaluate beliefs that keep victims in abusive relationships, and to move into action to help victims of domestic abuse. Today, I want to focus on resources that the church should be aware of when helping victims of domestic violence.

Local & State

When a victim of domestic abuse comes the church asking for help, the church should have local resources readily available that can provide professional assistance. Here are some ideas to help you put your resource list together:

  • Police Chaplain – Talk to the Chaplain of your local police department to find out how the police are trained to respond to domestic violence calls. The Chaplain may know your local resource centers and shelters for victims.
  • State, County, and City resources – A simple Google search will help you identify resource centers, shelters, and victim compensation laws. Domestic violence resource centers are extremely helpful to victims who are pursuing restraining orders, are looking for counseling, or need other legal assistance.
  • State laws – For a better understanding of how officers cite offenders of domestic violence, read the laws. Petition your representatives when laws that affect victims of domestic violence are in process.
  • City roundtables – Check with your city office to see if they offer a roundtable that focuses on domestic violence. This is a great way to connect and network with local providers and advocates.
  • Shelters – Know the domestic violence shelters in your area. Unfortunately there are not enough shelters available for victims who need to leave their homes. Ask your shelters if your church can help support victims in any way.
  • Talk to Professionals: Identify people within your own congregation who might work with victims of domestic violence and talk to them about what is available in the community.

National

Knowing local resources is key to helping a victim of domestic violence obtain help. There are national resources that are helpful as well.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – This is a 24/7 staffed hotline that helps provide counseling to victims of domestic abuse, referrals to local resources, and information to people who are wanting to understand abuse. They also offer printable flyers and palm cards that you can stock in women’s restrooms or at front desks.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – VAWA was drafted and signed by Congress in 1994. This act helps fund state victim’s compensation funds, domestic violence training, and local and tribal domestic violence resources. Immigrants may also apply for special visas if they have experienced domestic violence.

Educational

Here are more ideas about how you can educate yourself and your church members about domestic violence:

  • Domestic violence resource centers may have resource booklets that you can stock at your church. Many offer training to community members. Be open to hosting a training at your church.
  • The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence offers trainings and webinars across the country.
  • Do you have a YWCA in your city? Check to see if they offer training on domestic violence or shelters to victims.
  • Do you have a church library? Stock it with books about domestic violence and encourage members to read about the issue.

If you need help finding domestic violence resources in your area, please let us know by either leaving a comment or sending us an email at SpiritualSB@gmail.com. We are more than happy to help you start a list of resources that you can keep at your church when victims seek help.

The church can play a powerful role by offering healing and hope to victims of domestic violence. Make sure abusers are aware that the church will not tolerate abuse of any kind. Affirm victims that they are believed, cared for, and loved. Teach teens that abuse of any kind in relationships is not okay. Let the community know that you will defend and support victims of abuse. It is time for the church to stand up against abuse!

 

Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church – Reevaluate Your Beliefs

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Beliefs

purple ribbons

-by Kathi


I am pausing our Sunday Gatherings for the rest of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I would like to take this time to talk about how the church can effectively respond to domestic violence.

 

The church can be incredibly helpful to victims of domestic violence, or, it can be incredibly damaging to victims. The way in which a church responds to a victim depends upon the beliefs that the church has about domestic violence. This is an open challenge to the church to re-evaluate a few beliefs which may keep victims within abusive relationships.

Suffering

The Bible never promises that life will be easy. Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Suffering can make a person stronger, or cause physical and emotional reactions that may take years for a victim to recover. The church can offer a victim of domestic abuse empathy and compassion. Faith can play an important part of healing for a victim when those within the spiritual community offer support and encouragement.

However, some churches teach that suffering is ordained by God, is a part of God’s will, and insist that Christians need to respond to suffering with joy. One only needs to go to The Gospel Coalition or Desiring God to see titles such as: 4 Reasons God Ordains Suffering for His People,  Don’t Waste Your Suffering, Seven Reasons You Owe Everything to Suffering, or Suffering Exposes Our Sin.

It is important to remember that abuse is about power and control. A victim of abuse experiences suffering involuntarily. Victims do not ask to be beaten, stalked, verbally assaulted, or sexually assaulted. The belief that a victim experiences suffering because it is God’s will makes God out to be cruel. Furthermore, a victim may choose to stay in an abusive relationship because they think that there is no other option or way out.

Marriage

The church places high value on the marriage relationship – almost to the point of making an idol out of marriage. For some, marriage idolatry is dangerous because divorce will never be never an option for a victim of domestic abuse. The marriage must be saved at all costs. (Lori Alexander is a fine example of this belief.)

When scripture from Ephesians, Corinthians, and Colossians is taught from the pulpit, a pastor may focus more on a wife’s role in the marriage than the husband’s. If a pastor misinterprets scripture and teaches that a wife must submit in all things, he is sending a message that abuse must be endured. This teaching also validates the abuser, and arms him with verses that support his authority in the marriage.

Scripture never provides husbands with power and control over the marriage relationship. God does not condone abuse.

Confession and Forgiveness

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

When an abuser confesses his sin of abuse to a pastor, the pastor may think that he is humble and contrite, and will offer forgiveness. The pastor may then ask the victim to forgive her abuser, and then the matter is taken care of. The pastor with a mindset of forgive and forget does a disservice to the victim. Abuse will never be forgotten. It stays with a person forever.

The problem with “simple forgiveness” is that abusers are highly manipulative. An abuser will say what a pastor wants to hear, but the confession may not be true repentance. After the confession, there may be a pause in the abuse, but it will start up again at some point. However, repentance involves a change in behavior. An abuser must show that he is willing to seek assistance to change his thoughts, actions, and attitudes about power and control. Pastors can play an important role in making sure that abusers stay true to their word that they are willing to seek change.

A pastor must also be open to a victim expressing forgiveness at her own timing. Forgiveness must neither be assumed to aid in healing, nor be forced. A victim’s ability to forgive should not be based upon a pastor’s expectation, but upon her own timing which must be respected.

Role of Secular Resources

The church must recognize when it is not capable of helping a victim and should use community resources when available.

A church that thinks that leadership must investigate all cases of domestic abuse may place additional trauma or harm by the perpetrator on the victim. Pastors must understand that domestic abuse is a crime which must be investigated by proper authorities. If cases of domestic abuse are solely handled within the church, the abuse may never cease.

Unfortunately, there are many churches that refuse to refer victims of abuse to trauma-informed counseling. Churches which focus on a Biblical approach to counseling may add trauma by focusing on the sin of the victim. There is no sin that a victim can commit that justifies abuse. The sin is on the abuser, not the victim. Churches may also refer victims to marriage counseling. It is widely known that marriage counseling is not an appropriate form of counseling for abusive relationships because of the focus on mutual  contribution to the problem.

Churches must be aware of professionally trained resources within the community in which to refer a victim. These may include abuse advocacy, treatment, and intervention resources. Churches need not be afraid of community resources which aid victims, but should find value in partnering with resources for a victim’s best interest.

Church leaders, please take time to reevaluate your beliefs about marriage, gender roles within marriage, suffering, confession and forgiveness, and the use of outside resources. The way you respond to a victim of domestic abuse may mean life or death.

 

 

Spiritual Abuse, PTSD, and the Aftermath

Spiritual Abuse, PTSD, Recovery, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Chuck O’Neal

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12799416_211264669235735_6070303658308327161_nWhen someone deals with spiritual abuse, it can have lasting consequences. One popular response is making the decision to no longer go an institutional church. I get that.

I’m pretty sure I relayed the story either in a post, or in comments, that one Sunday, my current pastor read from Romans 12, the chapter that my abusive pastor went over and over for nearly two years. Yes, one chapter for 2 years! “Pastor” Chuck O’Neal’s favorite Bible translation was New King James Version (of course, specifically, the John MacArthur Study Bible in NKJV). As soon as my current pastor announced the passage, I could feel myself get tense. I later told him that if he had used the NKJV, I might have high-tailed it out of there, jumping over pews if I had to (I have long legs). Okay, slight exaggeration there, but the reality is, I felt very uncomfortable hearing those words, and I might have left if those feelings continued.

Yes, just simply hearing those words “Romans 12,” created a fight or flight response in me. I knew that my current pastor was not my abusive pastor. It’s been nearly 9 years since we left that “church,” but hearing or seeing something that reminds me of that experience sometimes takes me back to that place. I remember sitting in the pew thinking to myself: this is not Beaverton Grace Bible Church. This is not Chuck O’Neal reading Romans 12; this is my current pastor who has not harmed me, and thankfully, he wasn’t using the NKJV translation.

 

Bessel van der Kolk M.D. wrote a fantastic book called, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. He is considered an expert on trauma and how it affects the brain and body. I haven’t read the whole book, but have taken notes of excerpts that I’ve found very helpful in understanding the power of trauma and its effects on our bodies.

Here is one quote from the book. The bottom paragraph identifies a bit of what I experienced sitting in the pew (at a reduced level):

The left and right sides of the brain also process the imprints of the past in dramatically different ways.

2 The left brain remembers facts, statistics, and the vocabulary of events. We call on it to explain our experiences and put them in order. The right brain stores memories of sound, touch, smell, and the emotions they evoke. It reacts automatically to voices, facial features, and gestures and places experienced in the past. What it recalls feels like intuitive truth—the way things are. Even as we enumerate a loved one’s virtues to a friend, our feelings may be more deeply stirred by how her face recalls the aunt we loved at age four.

3 Under ordinary circumstances the two sides of the brain work together more or less smoothly, even in people who might be said to favor one side over the other. However, having one side or the other shut down, even temporarily, or having one side cut off entirely (as sometimes happened in early brain surgery) is disabling. Deactivation of the left hemisphere has a direct impact on the capacity to organize experience into logical sequences and to translate our shifting feelings and perceptions into words. (Broca’s area, which blacks out during flashbacks, is on the left side.) Without sequencing we can’t identify cause and effect, grasp the long-term effects of our actions, or create coherent plans for the future. People who are very upset sometimes say they are “losing their minds.” In technical terms they are experiencing the loss of executive functioning.

When something reminds traumatized people of the past, their right brain reacts as if the traumatic event were happening in the present. But because their left brain is not working very well, they may not be aware that they are reexperiencing and reenacting the past—they are just furious, terrified, enraged, ashamed, or frozen.

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I did end up staying, and listened to the sermon. After a few moments, I was able to shake off the negativity associated with that particular passage and refocus. But it did take an intentional effort.

What’s interesting, I recovered from PTSD related to a major earthquake I experienced after 2 years of therapy. I can hear or read of earthquakes in the news, see the destruction, but I don’t go back “there” in my mind. It simply does not affect me anymore. But the spiritual abuse still does. Sometimes I do have to talk myself through it, even after 9 years.

 

Domestic Violence: Education is the Key to Better Church Response

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Education

purple ribbons

-by Kathi


I am pausing our Sunday Gatherings for the rest of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I would like to take this time to talk about how the church can effectively respond to domestic violence.

The first time I was educated about domestic violence was in college as a ministry student 30 years ago. Sadly, I did not learn about the problem in any of my ministry classes. Church growth was the main focus at the time, not pastoral care. I pieced together my own ministry program that wasn’t offered, and included a class titled Violent Encounters in the Family. My eyes and heart were opened from that point on to advocate against abuse in any way possible.

I wrote my master’s thesis on Minister’s Knowledge, Views, and Attitudes Regarding Child Abuse. In 1996, my advisor thought this was unusual as she had never seen anything written about abuse from that perspective. Having been a ministry student, I knew that many pastors were not educated about abuse. My research, though very limited, confirmed that.

Education, I believe, is the first key for churches to effectively respond to domestic violence. The numbers from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are staggering:

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men in the United States is raped during her/his lifetime.

66.2% of female stalking victims reported stalking by a current or former intimate partner.

On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 20,800 calls.

1 in 3 female murder victims and 1 in 20 male murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.

With numbers like this, it should be easy for church leaders to recognize that they have victims of domestic violence within their congregation. LifeWay Research recently conducted a survey of 1,000 Protestant churches asking how they handle domestic violence situations. Some of the findings include:

37% of Protestant pastors are aware of an adult in their church who experienced domestic or sexual violence in the last 3 years.

Half of Protestant churches (52%) have a specific plan or procedures in place for how to respond if someone shares that they are experiencing domestic violence.

The most common specific resource churches have in place to offer someone
experiencing domestic violence is a referral list with professional counselors trained in domestic violence.

60% would investigate whether domestic violence is really present.

Some of these numbers are encouraging; however, I find the fact that such a high percentage of pastors feel the need to “investigate” concerning. Investigation should be done by the police.

I recognize that there are church leaders who have taken the time to educate themselves and the church community about abuse. I have heard very encouraging stories from victims about how their church community is supporting them. However, we still have leaders, such as John Piper, saying that a woman needs to “endure verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.” The church can do better.

Paige Patterson, once the Southern Baptist Conference leader,  discussed the “proper way for women to receive beatings.” The arrogance and attitude toward women in this 4 minute clip is disgusting. The church can do better.

Women, such as Lori Alexander, say “seek help for physical abuse,” then turn around and say, “the word abuse is overused,” and finally, encourage women to win over their angry husband. Divorce is never an option for an abused wife. The church can do better.

“Pastors” such as Doug Wilson are promoted and quoted by organizations like The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Desiring God. TGC removed a post that quoted Wilson’s book, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One Woman Man. “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” The fact that TGC initially thought this sexually aggressive wording was fine to promote is appalling. The church can do better.

Then, we have Mark Driscoll rising from the ashes. While at Mars Hill, Driscoll wasted no words in disparaging anyone who was alive and breathing. His words about women, if taken seriously, were enough to make men think they must have power and control in relationships. Women were called “penis homes” and were told to provide oral sex to their husbands because it is “biblical.” Men were encouraged to have their wives watch them masturbate so that the act is not seen as a form of homosexuality. The church MUST do better!

This is what the church needs to know:

  • Domestic violence can occur in any relationship.
  • Domestic violence happens in “Godly, Christian” families.
  • Abuse is always about power and control. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse, as well as stalking.
  • Abuse crosses age, socio-economic, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and national boundaries.
  • Please take abuse seriously. Always listen to the victim.
  • Abuse can cause physical disabilities, emotional trauma, or death.
  • Abuse can cross generations and last a lifetime.

There are many excellent resources available to learn about domestic violence. Please, church, become educated and be willing to open yourself up to helping victims. Every abuse situation is different, so the more you know means you’ll be better prepared to help someone in need. The following is a sample of excellent resources available:

National Domestic Violence Hotline – This resource offers a 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic violence. There is also a lot of information about domestic violence on their website.

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence – “A comprehensive source of information for those wanting to educate themselves and help others on the many issues related to domestic violence.”

A Cry for Justice – Blog dedicated to addressing domestic violence and abuse within the Evangelical church.

No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence, by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark.

CBE International – Offers articles and book reviews about domestic violence.

Response to Pastor Eric Davis’ Article on “Do You See Me?” #DoYouSeeUs

Jane’s story, The Master’s University, rape, Eric Davis, John MacArthur, #DoYouSeeUs


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Eric Davis, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY, posted an article at Cripplegate.com, “Do You See Me?”: A Partial Response, in response to the account of “Jane,” an alleged rape victim whose sexual assault, kidnapping, and drugging was reportedly mishandled by The Master’s University leaders. You can read the horrific story Do You See Me?.

Before we break apart Pastor Davis’ article, I received this text from Jane, and she gave me permission to post it. I thought it was a good clarifying statement about why she posted her story.

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Continue reading

Dr. Dan Allender: Trauma, Our Personal Stories, and Recovery through Music

Dr. Dan Allender, Trauma, Music, Spiritual Abuse Recovery, Personal Stories


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Those who have been reading here for a while know how important I believe it is for survivors to tell their abuse stories. It took a while for us to believe the lies our church leader(s) told us about who we are and who God is. Eventually, through manipulation and deceit, we then told ourselves those lies. These “recordings” played over and over in our minds until they were perceived as normal. This is all part of thought reform, patterns of coercion, manipulation, and control, that cult leaders use to keep us emotionally and spiritually bound to them and their teachings.

When we are finally in a place where we can identify truth from lies, we still have to wrestle with the recordings that play in our minds that attempt to shift us back to the dangerous teachings we heard. I strongly believe that hearing ourselves speak the truth when we tell our stories will eventually override the old and damaging recordings in our mind.

I believe this is why many survivors have a need to tell our stories over and over again. It doesn’t mean we are living in the past. No. I believe it means we are validating our experience and further pushing that false and destructive narrative out of our minds.

Telling stories is empowering. It gives us strength to stand on our own two feet and use our critical thinking skills. We own our stories, even though they are negative. But now, as we tell our stories safe from our abuser, we are in control, not our abusive spiritual leaders. We speak not as one who remains stuck as a victim, but as a survivor who can incorporate the negative experience into the fabric of our bigger life story in a positive way. It shapes us, it softens and humbles us. It still hurts at times, but we can become more resilient and intentional with this trauma behind us.

May we never tire of listening to the stories of survivors. When we do listen, we validate them and help them to become whole. Also, if we are survivors, may we never tire of telling our stories without apologies. It may be just what a listener needs to hear.

Lately, I’ve been reading about our body’s response to trauma, and this 2-minute video is fascinating. In it, Dr. Dan Allender helps us to understand the power of music used as a healing agent in relation to trauma. Continue reading

Opportunity to Participate in Research Study on Clergy Misconduct

 

I was just in contact with Julie Anne, and she asked me to post this notice on Spiritual Sounding Board. ~ Brad

I occasionally hear through the survivor community grapevine about academic-level research being done on issues related to survivors of spiritual abuse. When I do, I encourage people to participate. The resulting research data and descriptions have proven valuable to our communities. Here is an opportunity to respond to a doctoral research project on clergy misconduct.

This research focuses on clergy misconduct of a nonsexual nature. Case study participants are needed for a detailed online survey about what they experienced. It’s an anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey, and participants from any country worldwide are welcomed!

The requirements for participants:

  1. At least 20 years old.
  2. The person had something happen that reflects wrongdoing by a specific pastor (misuse of authority, breaking confidentiality, crossing boundaries, something financial, etc.).
  3. The wrongdoing was not sexual.
  4. It happened more than one year ago.
  5. The church where this happened was Protestant (Lutheran, Baptist, Alliance, United, Pentecostal, etc.).
  6. The person was a member of the church or a regular attender.
  7. The person was an adult when this happened.

The SurveyMonkey link for the study is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N5D8N2W.

The opening pages explain more about the survey, its purposes, and its length.

The study is being done by Marlis Krueger through California Southern University. Results will be accessible on the university website in approximately six months.

Thanks for considering participation in this important study!

~ brad/futuristguy

[UPDATE August 2, 2017: We’ve been in touch with Marlis and will be notified when the results are available, so we can link to them then. Thanks again for considering participating in the survey!]

Kari Benton Shares: Spiritual Recovery after a Lawsuit and Spiritual Abuse

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Lori Alexander Dishes Out Heartless Advice to Wife Who Was Sexually Abused

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Pastor Chuck O’Neal Continues to Pull the Wool over His Evangelist Friends’ Eyes

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Jeff Rose, Dr. Edward Delcour, Mike Gendron, Mike Stockwell, and Robert Gray, Evangelism Reformation Conference, Reformation Fire Conference

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Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 3

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


Okay, we’re back to our ongoing series on spiritual abuse using excerpts from Ken Garrett’s dissertation on spiritual abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery. We will use excerpts from Ken’s dissertation as a springboard for discussion.

Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

In the Introduction, Ken offers helpful definitions. Here is Ken’s definition for cult:

Cult – While most of the terms and ideas that I introduce are simple and easy to grasp, it is apparent in the project that I struggle greatly with the term cult in describing a Christian church. I will better explain and seek resolution to the struggle in subsequent chapters. But for a basic, consistent definition of the word, cult denotes a small, religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous.

While ideology and doctrine always have a role in the health or dysfunction of any religious group, increasingly a group’s status as a cult is derived solely from its actual treatment of its members, and not from its creeds, beliefs, and theology.

I agree with Ken’s definition and note that the treatment of members is key. When I looked at my church, the stories I read about Sovereign Grace Ministries, Doug Phillip’s church (Boerne Christian Assembly), Doug Wilson’s Christ Church, this is the pattern that has been explained to me. The people adopt a culture created by the cult leader, aka pastor. Not only do they adopt this culture, but they cultivate it, endorse it, enforce it, even to the extent that sometimes the pastor/cult leader doesn’t have to do all of the talking. He has raised his faithful devotees to model his expectations. Since all members are “on board” with this culture, any new person who comes to the group and questions it will be the odd man out.

spiritual abuse, Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pic by Ken Garrett, taken on recent trip in Europe.

It does not feel good to swim against the tide, so there is pressure to join the group in their way of doing things. Next thing you know, that new person has become one of them and will also spread this culture and group think to additional new members, forgetting that at one time, they, too, had once questioned aspects of it. Continue reading

The Dangerous Teachings of Lori Alexander of The Transformed Wife

Lori Alexander, Depression, Suicide

-by Julie Anne and Kathi

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Lori Alexander (Facebook photo)

Lori Alexander runs a blog and Facebook page called The Transformed Wife. Her Facebook page has over 21,000 followers! She models her ministry using the Titus 2 idea of older women teaching younger women. After 23 years of a difficult marriage, she claims her marriage improved after she applied God’s principles to her life; so she feels qualified to share with her followers how she learned to submit to her husband, and thus, have a happy marriage.

Lori appeals to women who want to be godly and obedient wives, serving their husbands. But as Kathi and I read her articles, we are alarmed by some of her teachings. Some of them put wives in harm’s way. Other teachings minimize serious mental health issues, or attempt to solve them by simply praying.

We are thankful to a reader on our Facebook page that brought to our attention Lori’s recent actions. Lori wrote a post this past week about depression and suicide among women and linked the post to her Facebook page.

We were sent this screenshot which shows a woman stating that she contemplated taking her own life. Lori’s response is to go to the Bible for strength. Thankfully, another reader responded with the advice to seek help immediately through the suicide hotline. Continue reading

Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 2

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


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Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

Ok, here we go, plowing through Pastor Ken Garret’s dissertation about spiritual abuse. I used the word plowing intentionally. For some of us, it will be work. It is not enjoyable to be reminded about difficult experiences. However, some push that pain under the rug and haven’t been able to process it in a safe environment. If you feel ready to do that, come along and join us. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can still read. And for those who have never experienced spiritual abuse, I’m grateful that you are reading, too. Having compassion and understanding is so important in helping someone who has gone through spiritual abuse.

Just an FYI, Ken has removed his dissertation from his blog because he plans to publish it into a book. Ken has graciously allowed us to continue using his original dissertation for this series. (Thanks, Ken!!!)

Well, let’s dig in. Here is the very meaty paragraph we will start with this week:

Abusive churches, past and present, are primarily characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes.

Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members’ lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who do not follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly.

Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult, with seemingly few who understand the phenomena of spiritual abuse.

Continue reading

Lori Alexander’s Damaging Advice Regarding Depression

Lori Alexander, Depression, Counseling

-by Kathi

Lori Alexander recently posted a YouTube video on her channel titled, “Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself.”

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I have to ask this first: Why are people still making videos of themselves in their cars? I guess Lori was driving somewhere, had an inspirational moment about self-pity, and just had to record her thoughts right away. Does she want us to know that she actually does get out of the house?

Lori tells us that she has had years of illness, brain surgery, and problems with her neck and back, and watched those around her enjoy life. But her illnesses didn’t stop her from feeling sorry for herself. She learned from Oswald Chambers that self-pity is Satanic, therefore she wants nothing to do with self-pity.

Lori offers the following teaching for how to deal with suffering:

  1. Repeat: “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  2. Listen to praise songs.
  3. Study I Peter and Philippians over and over. Renew your mind with God’s truth.
  4. Understand that you cannot be thankful and grateful if you are full of self-pity.
  5. Kick out self-pity quickly.

Lori acknowledges that depression and self-pity may be due to a bad childhood, abuse, or “whatever.” (Seriously, “whatever?” She is so empathetic.) Here’s the thing, folks….Lori Alexander is not a trained counselor and has no business telling people how to deal with depression!

Lori’s advice is dangerous because victims of childhood trauma and adult victims of abuse don’t just “kick out self-pity quickly.” Our brain is a complex creature and no one deals with trauma the same way. Telling people to “get over it” is not helpful and is more damaging. It is spiritually abusive to tell people that if they can’t stop feeling sorry for themselves then they don’t trust in God. Don’t fall for this lie. Continue reading

Let’s Discuss: The Keepers, Netflix Documentary Series about the Murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Systemic Sexual Abuse

The Keepers, Netflix, Cathy Cesnik, Systemic Sexual Abuse, Catholic Church, Spiritual Abuse, Clergy Sexual Abuse



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The Keepers is a new documentary series airing on Netflix. I have watched 5 of the episodes and it is excellent. If you have seen Spotlight, it is similar, however, the investigative reporters in this case are two grandmas who have spent the last three years compiling details of the case and trying to get answers as to who killed their beloved former high school teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969.

Like the movie, Spotlight, the series uncovers systemic sexual abuse of female students at Archbishop Keough High School in Maryland by Father Maskell who was a counselor on campus. When I refer to the word “systemic,” I mean it is a whole system of cover-up and abuse. Father Joseph Maskell was not the only one who committed the crimes. His friends in high places also committed sexual crimes and helped to conceal the crimes: police officers, businessmen in the community, etc.

The first episode lays the groundwork for the story and introduces the main characters. Then, the second episode goes into repulsive, unimaginable sexual abuse descriptions. This episode is definitely difficult to watch and I would caution those who get triggered by topics of abuse to be very careful watching it. The second episode was the most difficult for me to watch, but this is important information to know how insidious these crimes were, not only sexually, but spiritually.

Because this documentary series is being discussed so much, I wanted to have a post specifically to address it, and especially to be a place where people can discuss how it may have affected them.

So, let’s use this post to discuss how the show may have affected us and try not to include spoilers for those who have not yet watched it.

Below, I have gathered a variety of links that may be of interest. I encourage you to check out the first link, especially. It is excellent.

Note:  While this sexual abuse scandal – also connected with the systemic abuse cover up with cases around the world uncovered by the Boston Globe Spotlight team occurred in the Catholic Church, Protestant churches are not exempt from these types of scandals. We know of the  Sovereign Grace Ministries sexual abuse scandal which is still ongoing. I am personally aware of several others that are “under the radar.” No one church group is exempt from systemic abuse.

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Related Links

A website was set up for the movie here:  The Keepers. I am very impressed with the information presented at the site, from information about the series, to helpful resources for survivors, therapies, systemic abuse, how to help, etc.

The following links are related and may be of interest:

How Lori Alexander’s Teaching May Keep Women in Abusive Relationships

Lori Alexander, Emotional Abuse, Headship, Submission

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-by Kathi

I’ve been reading Lori Alexander’s blogs for quite a while now. Just when I think her writing is the same old boring rhetoric she always blathers on about, she ups her game. Her recent post, “How Not to Get Married” is one that actually should be titled, “Five Easy Steps to Ensure You Stay In an Abusive Relationship.” Continue reading

Recovering from Spiritual Abuse and Discussion about The Shack

Spiritual Abuse, The Shack, Paul Young, Brenda Campbell, Spiritual Recovery

I’m happy to share a post from my friend, Brenda Campbell. Brenda is also a long-time friend here at SSB, and she has a tremendous heart for those who have been harmed and also those who are stuck spiritually. She has gone on her own journey, and like many of us, has explored ways of making Jesus alive again after being let down by leaders in the church. In Brenda’s post below, she shares how Paul Young’s The Shack helped her spiritually. In full disclosure, although I own the book, I have never read it entirely, only skimmed it with the intention of reading it.

You can be sure I have read and heard lots of criticisms about the book – that it is not doctrinally sound, that Paul Young is New Age, etc. There are a lot of spiritual bandwagons in Christendom. I don’t like to get drawn up into hype – either pro or con. But what I like to do (when I have the time) is to take a closer look. I like to read the original source, and then opinions from both sides, and see how it lines up scripturally. I then decide which complaints or criticisms have merit. In other words, I try not to be quick to come to conclusions, but evaluate based on my foundational beliefs, what I see in Scripture, etc. I take what passes my test, and throw out the rest.

This post is not a promotion of The Shack per se. I cannot promote it if I haven’t read it. But I can invite you to read Brenda’s words. She found the book helpful for her in her spiritual journey and thought it might benefit others who have been harmed by people in the church.  So, as with everything, read Brenda’s words, read the book, and see what you think. Is it really heretical as some claim, or is there something worthwhile, or even life-changing for you as you learn to look at God through different lenses? Let me know what you think!  ~Julie Anne Continue reading