Classical Conversations #7: Business or a Non-Profit; Cult or a Christian Homeschool Group?

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Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults


I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

Doug Wilson Series: Introduction, Christ Church Celebrates 40 years and Background

Doug Wilson, Christ Church, CREC, Greyfriars Hall, Association of Classical & Christian Schools, Canon Press, New Saint Andrews, Steven Sitler, Jamin Wight

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A Note to Doug Wilson and Friends and Foes of Doug Wilson


I have two things to share, first the following invitation. Some may have seen this on Twitter or Facebook, but I want to make it more public here so more eyes can see and have an opportunity to meet:

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Mark Dever’s New Book and Pastors Who Use Language to Control Their Members to Not Connect with Others Outside of Church-Approved Groups

Mark Dever, 9Marks, and other pastors using language to control and coerce members to not engage in outside activities without church endorsement

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Pastors Who Behave Like They Are Your Boss


By David Hayward of

So many of us who have gone through spiritual abuse came from a church where a pastor or church leader acted like a bully in our spiritual or personal lives.  Pastor Wade Burleson recently posted an article and it is so contrary to what I have experienced in churches.  Here is a portion of the article, but please be sure to read the whole article, Who’s the Boss at Your Church?.  It is so good!

It is completely contrary to Scripture to believe that some men have been given more moral and spiritual authority than other believers within the church. In the ekklesia of Jesus Christ, any person, male or female, recognized as being in Christ carries as much moral and spiritual authority as any other person–no more, no less–the same. The state may recognize trustees with greater legal authority, or pastors with greater state authority (the officiant in marriages, etc…) or signatures bearing corporate authority (deeds, title, etc…), but God established in his ekklesia a group of people with equal spiritual authority. Pay attention to those who are older and wiser in the ekklesia of Christ. Minister to those around you with a servant’s heart and attitude. But if you ever begin to feel that somebody is beginning to exert spiritual authority and power over you and other individuals in an attempt to govern Christ’s church, then it is time to confront the abuser of the ekklesia and call him out, and maybe even put him out.  My friend wrote a bestselling book called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, but maybe another one needs to be written entitled The Subtle Problem of Not Confronting Spiritual Abuse. A healthy ekklesia won’t allow an abuse of power. It’s not easy confronting abusers, but for the good of the ekklesia it must be done.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9).

Have you ever been a part of a church that treated each others as having the same moral and spiritual authority?  Is this radical or what?  And what about the role of women?  Can you imagine the ministry work that could be accomplished in an environment like this where all are respected for their gifts to the Body, regardless of age or sex?  I think I need some more time to stew about this.

I know there are many who read here who haven’t been able to stomach church since their spiritually abusive church experience.  If you found a church like this, would you go?


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Music and Madness

‘Tis the season and my kids and I have been playing a lot of this:
and singing in Christmas programs.  There are two final music events this week.  Music is so wonderfully healing and was certainly a nice distraction from some heavier subjects.
But hey, did you happen to read about Westboro Baptist Church’s website getting hacked last week?  

The Anonymous collective has once again turned its attention to the Westboro Baptist Church.
On Sunday, the hacktivist group uploaded to Pastebin the names, phone numbers, and social security numbers of numerous people it said are members of Westboro Baptist Church, which is based in Topeka, Kan. The data dump also includes the names of multiple members’ children and grandchildren.

The Anonymous outreach was fueled by Westboro members promising to picket the funerals of people killed last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 

Can you imagine the audacity of this so-called Christian church picketing in a community that is grieving so badly?  It is truly sickening.   I imagine there are many who secretly (and vocally) applauded the efforts of Anonymous.  I don’t agree with their approach at all, but the message they sent was very good. 
Check out this video Anonymous made for Westboro folks.  This is a very well-written message.  The computer voice is ever-so-creepy, too!   

Here is part of the message from Anonymous to Westboro Baptist Church:

“Since your one-dimensional thought protocol will conform not to any modern logic, we will not debate, argue, or attempt to reason with you. Instead, we have unanimously deemed your organization to be harmful and have therefore decided to execute an agenda of action which will progressively dismantle your institution of deceitful pretext and extreme bias, and cease when your zealotry runs dry.” From Anonymous – Message To The Westboro Baptist Church

I would not like to be the enemy of Anonymous.  Just sayin’….

One benefit of social media is that many heard about Westboro’s plan to protest at funerals in Connecticut today.  Check out what happened:


Westboro Baptist Church Newton Funeral Protest Thwarted by Good Samaritans

Members of the quasi-religious group, Westboro Baptist Church, planned to gather in Connecticut to protest the funeral of Newtown, Conn., shooting victim Principal Dawn Hochsprung. However, Good Samaritans were already there to thwart any possible protest with a human wall.

The Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket Hochsprung’s funeral on Wednesday in Woodbury, Conn., and “sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” The group has blamed the mass shooting on Connecticut’s same-sex marriage legislation. On Dec. 14, 26 people were shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of those victims included children ages 6 and 7.

Motorcylists lined up on Wednesday to protest the possible protesters. “All these guys see us and think we’re bad. We’re not. It’s solidarity, is what it is,” New York native Jim Hannigan told Newtown Patch. “I just felt I had to be here.” 

Bravo to those who joined strangers to become a human wall to protest the disgusting efforts of Westboro Baptist!   I am so impressed by the power of those who stand shoulder to shoulder against a powerful force.  I kind of feel that some of you have been a human wall against spiritual abuse – especially those who have stood by me over the past 9+ months.  Thank you!  Your voices, prayers, support have been powerful!

Changing subjects, I followed blog hits and it looks like the recent developments regarding the Impostor Site are getting more publicity, perhaps not the kind of publicity in which was intended: has done an article on my former pastor’s recent blog endeavors:  Pastor starts website to attack church’s attackers

Additionally, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries has published his second article on O’Neal:  TODD RHODES ON PASTOR CHUCK O’NEAL’S WEBSITE ATTACKING “CHURCH ATTACKERS”  Ironically, I remember learning about Ken Silva’s discernment ministry site while attending BGBC.  (Wayback Machine Link

and a couple more sites which link back to the article here:  Christian Research Network and

photo credit: PhilBailey Photography via photopin cc

Creepy Pastors and Churches Using Creepy Stalking Control Tactics

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There have been a few stories of spiritual abuse in the news lately.  A kind reader sent me this article from The Christian Post:


Spiritual Abuse: Shepherds – or Fleecers – of God’s Flock?


This article starts by discussing the abuse of gaining members’ funds through unlawful methods in “Financial Empowerment Seminars.” The rest of the article discusses spiritual abuse, including a list of questions that might help one to determine if they are in a spiritually abusive church. This might be a good article to send to someone who wants to learn the basics of spiritual abuse.

Here is the list of questions from the article:

If you are trying to determine whether or not a particular group may be spiritually abusive, consider the following questions:

___ Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
___ Do they demand your absolute allegiance?
___ Do they discourage your questions?
___ Do they shame people publicly?
___ Do they insist on making major decisions in your life?
___ Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, diet or activities?
___ Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
___ Do they consider themselves the “only true church”?
___ Do they consider those who leave their group “apostates,” “backsliders” or        “doomed”?
___ Do they teach that godly people should give more financially so that they will receive more?

Over the weekend, I met with some people who had been a part of a cult for over a decade and we shared stories.  As soon as they left their cult, they were free and clear to start their new lives.  The difference with our story is that when we left, we were not free and clear.

I’ve mentioned how the pastor and elders came to our house unannounced a few weeks after we left with an undisclosed recording device demanding information = creepy.

Pastors who are doing God’s work, tending the sheep, preaching the Word do not have a paranoid personality.  They know there will be disgruntled people, but that is par for the course.  They continue the race set before them, walking in obedience, trying to do God’s work.  They are not preoccupied with their reputation, their image.  Their focus is not on themselves, but on others, helping them along their paths.

In our case, the two defendants (who were eventually dismissed) were accused of posting anonymous comments on the  Suspicious Berean website.  The date of the post is May 3, 2010.  This was approximately 1-1/2 yrs after the defendants had left the church.  These first two anonymous posts were part of the original defamation lawsuit:

Anonymous17 May, 2010 2:16 PM

You should be suspicious of him because Chuck O’Neal is a wolf. He rails again things such as Psychology yet if you look at his education you’ll find that he himself has a degree in Psychology?! Plus he runs “his” church like a cult controlling the flock with legalistic rules. He also heavily plagiarizes the messages of others or books in his “sermons” yet never gives credit where it is due. He controls his flock with an iron fist and if someone leaves the congregation for any reason he tells the flock not to speak to or associate with those who leave the congregation. He is a wolf and misleading the people of this congregation and please be warned! There’s more to be said but again, please be warned that Chuck is a wolf and if you look a little more thoroughly into his practices as a self proclaimed “pastor” you’ll see he’s a wolf.

Anonymous19 May, 2010 2:50 PM

Yes, He’s definitely a wolf.

(Side note:  I just noticed something.  The part about “plagiarism” was never listed in the lawsuit.  I wonder why not?)

Why our former pastor decided to sue those particular people, I will never know – the former defendants do not remember posting the comments and say the wording doesn’t sound like them.   But anyway, how would the pastor have found those comments on a random blog unless he or someone was doing internet searches?  And why would any pastor even be searching for himself on the internet?   For what purpose?

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Rom. 12:3

Notice the next two comments, people come to the pastor’s defense telling the previous commenters to “repent” and are threatened with God’s wrath.

Anonymous13 July, 2010 12:47 PM

Jeremiah urged Israel to submit to the coming invaders and was thrown into a well and called all kinds of names. Jeremiah was a faithful prophet. Pastor Chuck faithfully teaches God’s holy Word and is a Godly man. Shame on those who attack the Lord’s servants. Please repent and be of one mind, striving together for the Gospel of peace!

Anonymous6 February, 2012 12:02 PM

Book of Romans Ch. 13 is a good guideline for what to do with government – obey or rail against. It’s good to listen to God. Pastor Chuck ONeal is a Godly man and fine teacher. Please repent before God’s wrath is kindled against you (Psalm 2:12) when slandering God’s people (Proverbs 6:16-19

It makes me wonder how the above commenters found the blog to begin with.  Did they hear about the comments from the pastor, or were they, too, searching the pastor’s name.  Are they part of the “inside circle”?  Keep reading.  More creepy behavior here.  I just don’t get this business about doing internet searches on pastors unless there is a problem . . . whoa  . . . that’s it . . . . unless there’s a problem.   They are trying to hide a problem.  What problem?  Hmm, perhaps the ones that I have been exposing?

In spiritually abusive churches, there is a preoccupation with the image of the leader and the church.  The leader will go to great lengths to protect his image and also those close in his inner circle will be on guard to protect that image, too.  It is likely that one of the inner circle found the Suspicious Berean link and then forwarded it to the pastor.  The people in the inner circle feed the pastor’s ego and will go to great lengths to defend and protect him.  They have a strong bond and most likely get preferential treatment or some kind of emotional reward for feeding the ego.  The pattern is they will report any kind of suspicious activity to the leader, any dissension in the group, anyone who may not be fully on board.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Note that it doesn’t say, I’m the good shepherd and I consume my time with my reputation, my name on the world wide web, and stalking former church members.  

I’ll mention a personal example of the workings of the inner circle.  I played the piano and sang with the praise and worship team.  We had a meeting with the elders earlier in the week and left on a positive note.  On Thursday night at practice, someone mentioned that they had heard we might be leaving.  Discussion ensued and I acknowledged we were having difficulties at the church, had been meeting with pastors/elders, but we hadn’t officially made up our minds.  There was heated discussion.  Someone urged me to have another meeting and I said I would be willing to do that (even though we had already met over 11 hours with pastor/elders).  That is how the Praise and Worship meeting ended.  However, two days later, on Saturday night, we got the call from an elder that we were not welcome to come to church there anymore.  Someone from the Praise and Worship team was most likely in that inner circle and reported our conversation to the pastor and perhaps felt that the Smith family’s presence was a threat to the pastor’s reputation and not worth the risk.  Better to have us gone than remain.

We were fine with that decision, ultimately.  I especially was thrilled as I had wanted to leave much earlier.  My husband hadn’t seen the things that I had seen, but now the answer was made for us.  I thought we were free.  We were not free, however.

I have had reports that this blog is being stalked (::::waving hi to creepy stalkers::::).   Obviously, the Google reviews were stalked as my reviews were being removed time and again.  It would be very likely that my Google reviews were discussed either on Wednesday night meetings or between Sunday school and the church service.  I remember him discussing people who challenged him on his blog. This would be normal behavior for him.

The blog is obviously stalked or else Meaghan wouldn’t be on the lawsuit.  We have many more reports of stalking behavior of which I am unable to disclose here, but let’s just say it’s all CREEPY behavior.  BTW, “Creepy” was one of the words I was being sued for – it was plastered all over the media (and it made me laugh).  It was dismissed from the lawsuit, so now I have the freedom to say it:  creepy, creepy, CREEPY.  Yes, this behavior is completely creepy.

As a musician, I feel we must break for a creepy music segue.  This music really gives me the creeps, not in in the scary sense, but the creepy sense.  See what I mean:

People say if you notice problems in a church or feel the pastor is abusive, just leave.  In our case, leaving does not make the problems go away – sometimes it makes them worse.

In our case, I believe he uses fear to threaten.  That is why we don’t see many people using their real names on my blog.  I was threatened legal action before my blog went online = control tactic.  After the blog was online, when Meaghan commented here and used her real name, she was sued = control tactic.  The threat is:  if you post any negative message on Julie Anne’s blog, you, too, will be sued = control tactic.  That’s creepy and scary and a control tactic.  Who wants to have to fork over big $$, secure a lawyer, give up hours of time, energy, defending yourself?  It’s a bit taxing on sleep, emotions as well, I might add.

There is much more creepiness going on behind the scenes, I can assure you, but this kind of stalking behavior is one aspect of spiritually abusive churches that cause a lot of pain and even fear for former members.

Great verses to meditate on when dealing with creepers:  Psalm 118

Oh let those who fear the LORD say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

From my distress I called upon the LORD;
The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.

The LORD is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?

The LORD is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes.

All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the LORD helped me.

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.

The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.

I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the LORD.

"Justice" Responds

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FrederickaMay 17, 2012 11:07 AM

I must confess myself mystified as to the nature of ‘Justice’s’ complaint, which seems to be lacking in a certain, shall we say, precision. What exactly is it that he or she is alleging was done to him or her?

  • @Fredericka
    I am Justice. There are details to my story. Unfortunately, part of the oppression and fear that comes from being in a spiritually abusive relationship (in this case at BGBC), is exactly that fear. Fear of being pursued and hunted down as I have watched pastor chuck do to so many people I know.
     I don’t have any fear that he would call what I have to share defamation, I fear him trying to come back into my life to shame me, ridicule me, lie about me, and try to reinsinuate himself into the lives of my family and friends. I still have friends at BGBC. Oh, not those who are permitted to speak to me or of me, but friends that I hope that someday God will bring back into my life if not before we meet in heaven, then there.
    I know dozens of people who have left and I have watched chuck try to manipulate them even though they were gone from his church. And as more people leave, it’s actually heartbreaking to watch some of them try to repair relationships – even among families – that chuck has destroyed with his LIES from his pulpit. And his victims are left questioning not only who they are to our Heavenly Father, but to sort through everything said about the other “defectors” in order to learn what was true and what was fictionalized.
    I agree that Julie Anne’s purpose wasn’t to create a shocking forum to hear description after description of specifics on abuse by chuck. It was to create a safe haven to reach out to those in pain, and to shed light on a topic that I think even most christians are loathe to admit exists.
    We believe in a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He is not willing that any should perish. He lays it on our hearts, even commands in His Word that we are to reach out to others, speak His truth in LOVE, in order to draw more of His people into a relationship with Him.
    It’s hard to accept, and then to admit, that your pastor/church is preaching a gospel of works and hatred or intolerance, when in your heart you know that God is NOT that, and He is so much more.
    Our heartfelt desire is not that any of this should cause another to stumble in his walk or that some would use this as vindication to turn their backs on God. This was started to reach out to those who are hurting, minister to their brokenness, start the healing by surrounding them with God’s love and let them know they aren’t alone.
    I will share more as time goes on, if this is allowed to continue to be that forum. But not to heap more coals on chucks head.
    It is because my fervent prayer for years has been this: if by my story, just one person can find healing, comfort, courage, and draw close to the Great Physician, then I will know He has graciously allowed me to do work for Him, and again fulfilled His promise to His people, that He is in control even over the affairs of men as Joseph said in Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive”.


The Bully Pulpit

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“Pulpit”, from the eyes of my 9-yr old son

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According to, a bully pulpit is:  “An older term within the U.S. Government, a bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity.”

The correct definition of bully pulpit does not refer to a pastor abusing authority from the pulpit; however, using the literal meanings of “bully” and “pulpit” seemed appropriate to me when we were there.   Interestingly, I have been in contact with others who also used the bully pulpit expression in the same sense.

The Bully Pulpit

You commit a sin.  You either get caught, or realize the error of your sin. You initiate a meeting with your pastor to discuss said sin, or perhaps if you are caught, you are called into a meeting with the pastor to discuss the situation.

Let’s say everything is worked out in the meeting:  confession, contrition, repentance, and forgiveness between all parties, and with God.

You think everything is fine.  You’re forgiven. The slate is clean and it’s time to move on.  God’s grace is sufficient. Or perhaps it is not? This thought is so important: is God’s grace sufficient or is it not? Tuck that thought away. It is an important theme in this article.

Your heart is now clean and you look forward to attending the Wednesday night teaching. You get to start fresh and want to walk in the light. This is good.  Yea!

With your Bible in your lap, your hand ready to take notes, you ready yourself to hear the teaching. The pastor starts preaching. After the first few sentences a dark cloud descends on you. The teaching is regarding the same sin issue that brought you to the pastor’s office. Your heart starts racing.

He’s talking about you, and you know it. He doesn’t name your name, but you recognize certain details. You feel hurt, ashamed, and betrayed. This was supposed to be a fresh start. You have difficulty looking up at the pastor as he is teaching. You do not want your eyes to connect and give the perception to others that this was your sin issue.

You wonder if anyone else knows of your sin. You keep your head forward because you don’t want to see the eyes of others looking at you. You feel guilty all over again. You want to leave and weigh the options of leaving versus staying. You decide to stay, but quickly leave when people are dismissed so as not to mingle with anyone who might know your story. You especially don’t want to run into the pastor. This Wednesday service is not what you had hoped it to be. What purpose did that earlier meeting have?

A week goes by. You convince yourself to go back – that the pastor is going to move on to a different topic. You need to move on. The following Wednesday, you find that the message this week is Part 2, a continuation of last week’s teaching.  The wound has been scraped once again.  It bleeds. The same emotions from last week are overwhelming.

What should be healing, has not healed. It is like a scab that has been scraped off or picked.   It may get infected. Where there should have been a layer of new skin is now an open wound. God’s grace doesn’t feel sufficient. Does He really offer any grace at all?  It doesn’t feel like it.

What thoughts and emotions are going through my mind now?  How does it feel knowing the possibility that my sin has been exposed to others?  Will they still accept me, love me?  Will this open up old wounds in relationships?

On the flip side, if you are a congregant and hear a sermon like this, it makes you wonder who the pastor is talking about. You know how this works. You may have experienced it, too. You might look around and try to guess who was caught in this sin. What does this do to the unity of the congregation?  How does this make you feel toward the “sinner?” Does it draw you closer, or further away?  How does this make you feel about meeting with the pastor, knowing your sins very likely will be addressed publicly from the pulpit?  In a church this size, no names need to be mentioned and the sinner will usually be exposed in the form of holy gossip: we need to pray for sinner “Joe” as he’s really struggling.

This environment is hurtful for both the sinner and the congregants who see this played out before them. There is confusion. Sometimes this creates an environment where congregants begin to be on the lookout for the sins of others.

These informants feed the pastor news about members in sin.  These informants unknowingly create an unhealthy alliance with the pastor. They perpetuate this destructive cycle of “sin sniffing:”  sinner is confronted, meetings with the pastor occur, The Bully Pulpit lesson is taught regarding the sin. Informants are given pseudo grace by the pastor and their own sins may be overlooked because they have won his favor by sharing sin secrets with him.

The emphasis of the church seems to be heavily on sin and repentance, but not grace.


This is a travesty to the meaning of grace, the meaning of church, the meaning of a shepherd.

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Comparing the Two, Part 3

This is the final post of a 3-part series comparing the characteristics of dictators with people who spiritually abuse.  The other two parts can be found here:

Comparing the Two, Part 1

Comparing the Two, Part 2

“Anonymous” posted this comment on Part 1:

The last sentence really made my head spin.  I had been thinking of the parallels of physically and spiritually starving people.  But “Anonymous” is correct in that there is a kind of death in both environments.  This thought should not be minimized.   How can someone be growing spiritually and emotionally in that kind of environment?  Isn’t the ultimate goal of a pastor and shepherd to help his sheep grow spiritually?  Who is benefiting by spiritually dead members?
And this part was profound:  “What I wonder is what the leaders hope to gain . . . .”   Having this type of authoritarian rule over people only benefits who?  The leader.  This is a self-absorbed leader which is completely contrary to the heart of a true shepherd that we read about in scripture.
After reading the CNN article, I did a quick Google search on the word “dictator”.  I don’t know what school teaches this stuff, but spiritual abusers, dictators, cult leaders seem to have learned the same tactics to control and manipulate the people “beneath” them.

Most dictators have several characteristics in common. They usually rule autocracies, governments with a single self-appointed leader and no governing body to check his power.  Often, dictators have totalitarian regimes, keeping their power through control of the mass media. Totalitarian dictators also use secret police and spy on the citizens of their state as well as restrict or completely remove their personal freedoms. 

Many of these dictators foster cults of personality, a form of hero worship in which the masses are fed propaganda declaring their leader to be flawless (and in some cases, divine or divinely appointed). The North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung (father of Kim Jong-il) was essentially the sole subject of all forms of art created in the country. Schoolchildren were taught to give thanks to Kim Il-sung, the source of all of their blessings, as part of their training. Critics spoke of him as being megalomaniacal and extremely narcissistic.

Do you notice similar patterns?
We are not in N. Korea being ruled by a dictator.  The mom in the CNN story spent 10 years in China and has been living free in the US ever since.  She and her daughters now help others who are going through the same experience.   Many of us “defected” the church and are still being sought out by the “dictator” months if not years after leaving.  Where is our freedom?  We are in America where we should be free to worship where we want to worship without having a former pastor interfering in our lives.

Lastly, take a look at this video.   It’s amazing to see the devotion, honor, and respect these mourners are demonstrating.  Their deceased dictator is the same man who literally starved so many of his citizens, some to the point of death.   He was held to a god-like status by his people.  In light of the parallels between the devotion of the people to their dictator and the devotion of church congregants to their pastor, I found this video disturbing.  

Comparing the Two, Part 2

This post is continued from Comparing the Two, Part 1.

Some might ask how one can begin to compare the atrocities of physical starvation and beatings at the hands of a dictator to the emotional/spiritual abuse by pastor/elders of a church.   They seem worlds different.  I understand that question.    The physical abuse mentioned in the article depicts the effects of abuse which can be easily seen and identified by anyone, sometimes with just a quick glance.  We read about the physical condition of the children, distended bellies, weakened and tiny bodies, physical scars from beatings, children who starved to death, family members who disappeared.  The way people in this country are treated is horrific.  The signs of physical abuse are evident and leave little doubt as to what happened.   The signs cannot be hidden. 

Emotional and spiritual abuse are not as obvious.  You may not be able to tell by looking at someone that they are emotionally or spiritually abused.  They sometimes suffer silently.   They may not understand what happened.    There can be confusion, disturbed sleep, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in relationships, fears, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.  On a spiritual level, it can result in lack of trust in God (how could a loving God lead them to an abusive church),  mistrust of any spiritual leader, difficulty to pray, read God’s word, difficulty to maintain relationships among Christians because of distrust, difficulty to trying a new church and some may never venture into a church again because of that fear or pain.   Because the signs are not as obvious as physical signs and can go undetected, it can lead to a mental or spiritual collapse.  I remember someone from church who had a mental breakdown leading to in-patient hospitalization.  Was this due the spiritually abusive environment?  Some have wondered.  This person never came back to the church, found a new church family and seems to be doing very well now. 

Regardless of the kind of abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse, there can be lasting repercussions on the health and emotional/spiritual well-being of the person.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I quoted paragraphs from an article in (In North Korea, a brutal choice).  I noticed the parallels between dictator/spiritual abusers and the people of N. Korea/people in abusive churches.  The indented quotes are from the CNN article and then you will read my observations on how it parallels with a church with this type of leader. 

When a country is led by dictators, it’s the ordinary people who pay the price and are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions. 

I am keenly aware that there may be many people who go to church week after week, sit quietly, never ask questions and never have a problem.  They probably wonder what this blog is about, have never seen or experienced anything that has been mentioned and think I’m a crazy, divisive woman who has nothing better to do but cause trouble.   There are people in North Korea who adore their leader, believe everything their dictator says, never question or complain.  Even though they are starving, they keep supporting their leader and wonder why others distrust their leader and are trying to flee.  They think those who question their leader are wrong and turn them in to authorities if they see them doing something against their beloved government.In my first Google review which was removed, I said something to the effect that all will go well with you at the church unless you ask questions.  The same can be said in most countries where there is a dictator – you simply do not ask questions or complain to a dictator without consequences.  If you toe the line, you will be fine.   If you stay and submit to the leaders – all will go well with you – – unless you starve to death which is a real concern.We were fine in the church for 2 years . . . . until we asked questions and raised concerns.   It was never the same once this occurred.    We were publicly labeled as divisive and destructive slanderers by the pastor and signed by the elders (read Google reviews).   There are consequences to those who dare to leave, dare to question and we are dealing with those consequences nearly 3-1/2 yrs later.

Defectors’ stories are often the only way the world learns about what happens inside the reclusive country.  But many who escaped North Korea choose to remain silent, fearing repercussions for family members left back home.

Google reviews and this blog are a couple ways in which people can learn what has happened inside this reclusive church.  Many people who leave will choose to keep quiet about their story because they may have friends or family members who remain at the church and they fear there may be repercussions.

Many who do speak out, including Han and her daughters, use pseudonyms (as they do in this article) to avoid detection by the North Korean government.

Many people who have left and have spoken out on Google Review or on the blog use pseudonyms to avoid detection by the pastor and his group of “spies”.  There still seems to be an element of fear even though they have left.  They don’t want to be discovered and sought out again as many have experienced even months or years after they have left.

“I believed the party kept us alive,” Han said. “I was very thankful. I was constantly trained to believe that without the party, we wouldn’t exist.”

We were taught to believe that our church was the best – that no other church could measure up – that most churches weren’t even taught the true gospel.

She did not doubt the leaders, even as her family went hungry. It was the United States and South Korea’s fault, they were told, that they had to hunt frogs, rats and even snakes.

Even though there were some odd teachings or perhaps strange vibes that we felt, we overlooked them because we didn’t want to be in a church with false teaching, watered-down messages, seeker-sensitive churches which didn’t measure up to what we were being taught.  We were convinced that our church was the best and any other church would have been inferior or bad. 

The first time Han and her husband snuck into China and hid at a relatives’ home, she got her first glimpse of a rice cooker, full of steaming, hot white rice.

The rice in Han’s story represents spiritual life to me – an opportunity to live.  The first time people ventured into a new church, they got the first glimpse of normalcy, grace, life, joy.   The abundance of grace, life, joy is overwhelming to one who leaves this kind of environment.   I remember seeing former BGB friends weep during a worship service at another church – to be free was amazing.

The next day, officers came for her, too. In custody, she was forced to kneel in front of police, who kicked her, beat her with a wooden rod and smashed her skull. They lay her hands flat on the cement floor and stomped on them.

The pastor and elders have come to our homes, unannounced, demanding information weeks and months after leaving the church.  This is not physical abuse as in the N. Korea incident above, but this type of coercion and control felt spiritually abusive to us.  Could he not have picked up the phone and asked for a meeting?  Why the show in force with the elders in tow?  Why was our conversation recorded without our consent?  We are not in N. Korea.  Having been treated like this, it sure makes one wonder:  does he think he owns us?
There are some who have left the church and have come back.  If you are brought back, whether voluntarily or by coercion, you may be forced to repent of your “sins” even if you do not believe you were sinning.  You may have to do this before the church body or on the internet publicly.  You might be beaten down emotionally.  If you humble yourself and give in, you may go back and settle back in, but there is a cost.  Or you may be tainted and never treated the same way again.  But if you leave once again, you know the price that will be paid:  most likely labeled as being in church discipline and shunned.  Either way, this feels like an emotional beating.

“We can talk about what happened,” she said. “All my family in North Korea has died. I realized God chose us. Other people cannot talk or their family will suffer.”

We have been out of the church for nearly 3-1/2 yrs.  I signed my name “Julie Anne” on the original Google review.   My review represented what happened to me and what I saw at our church based on my understanding of church policies and the Bible.  I believe a lot of people at our former church have “died” emotionally and spiritually in this spiritually abusive environment and I want the story to be told just as Song Ee Han is telling her story publicly.  Even after nearly 3-1/2 yrs, my former pastor seems to be trying to control what I say by suing me and 3 others for $500,000 for “defamation”.

The final post in this series can be found here:  Comparing the Two, Part 3

Comparing the Two, Part 1

I read a heart-wrenching story on yesterday (In North Korea, a brutal choice)
about North Korean defectors and what they have to go through to survive and get to freedom.  It was very difficult to read.  Some of the paragraphs grabbed my attention because of the similarities in leadership tactics between dictators and authoritarian pastors.  What the woman and her family in the story went through physically can be used to parallel what people in abusive churches deal with emotionally and spiritually.Here were some key paragraphs that caught my attention.  Later, I will show the parallel I see between a dictator and a pastor who uses his authority in a way that is spiritually abusive.


When a country is led by dictators, it’s the ordinary people who pay the price and are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions. 

Defectors’ stories are often the only way the world learns about what happens inside the reclusive country. But many who escaped North Korea choose to remain silent, fearing repercussions for family members left back home.

Many who do speak out, including Han and her daughters, use pseudonyms (as they do in this article) to avoid detection by the North Korean government.

“I believed the party kept us alive,” Han said. “I was very thankful. I was constantly trained to believe that without the party, we wouldn’t exist.”

She did not doubt the leaders, even as her family went hungry. It was the United States and South Korea’s fault, they were told, that they had to hunt frogs, rats and even snakes.

The first time Han and her husband snuck into China and hid at a relatives’ home, she got her first glimpse of a rice cooker, full of steaming, hot white rice.

The next day, officers came for her, too. In custody, she was forced to kneel in front of police, who kicked her, beat her with a wooden rod and smashed her skull. They lay her hands flat on the cement floor and stomped on them.

“We can talk about what happened,” she said. “All my family in North Korea has died. I realized God chose us. Other people cannot talk or their family will suffer.”

When reading the CNN article,  take note of the following:

    • How do the dictator and leaders use their authority to control people?
    • Even though Song Ee Han lost family members to starvation does she still honor her leader?
    • Why was it wrong for Song Ee Han to seek food for her family in China to prevent her family from starvation?
    • What message does it send to people of N. Korea when someone escapes to get food for their starving family?
    • What message does it send to the leaders of N. Korea when someone escapes to get food?
    • What do the common people of N. Korea think of other countries?
    • What is their opinion of their own country and leader?
    • How did her neighbors respond when they sought food in China?  Did they side with the government or with the starving family?
    • How was she treated by neighbors when she returned to the country?
    • How was she treated by leaders when she returned to the country?
    • Can you find parallels in this type of leadership compared to a spiritually abusive leader in a church?
    • Can you find parallels between the common people in N. Korea who don’t ask questions and the “common people” in church who don’t question their leaders?


    I know . . . . some of you are probably wondering how I can have the audacity to compare people who are abused to the point of starving to death with people spiritually abused.  I get it.  Hang tight.  I’ll get there. 

    . . . . . to be continued Comparing the Two, Part 2