Spiritual Abuse: When People Ask You, “Are You Working Toward Reconciliation?”

Spiritual Abuse, What Not to Say, Jonathan Hollingsworth, Reconciliation

 

This is the second blog post referring to an article by Jonathan Hollingsworth, What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Hurt by the Church. The article resonated with a lot of people, so I thought it might be a good idea to discuss these unhelpful statements one by one here, and give people the opportunity to share their experiences.

I will be working through all six of Hollingsworth’s statements/questions of what not to say to someone who has been hurt by spiritual abuse. Last post, we covered when people say, “No Church is Perfect.”

Here is the second question of what not to say to someone harmed by spiritual abuse, followed by Jonathan Hollingsworth explaining why it is not helpful:

“Are You Working Toward Reconciliation?”

The last thing a victim of spiritual abuse needs to do is go right back into the environment that hurt them in the first place.

If someone has been attacked by a dog, would you tell them to go back and risk getting bitten again? Christians who insist on reconciliation in the face of spiritual abuse are forgetting one important thing: Abusive people can’t always be reasoned with.

Not only is it dangerous to ask a victim to make amends with their abusers, it also puts an undue burden of responsibility on the victim to come up with a solution. It’s like saying, “They’re the ones who hurt you, but now it’s your job to make it right.”

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Oh boy! I, too, had this said to me. In general, it was said by people who had never experienced spiritual abuse and who were uncomfortable with the topic or what I was feeling. They were uncomfortable knowing that I was not free from the heavy weight of spiritual abuse. They may have meant well by wanting me to be free, but in reality, there may never be reconciliation. Would God want me to restore my relationship with an abuser? I think not – unless the abuser did a 180-degree change and fully repented.

I don’t know what the deal is, but some Christians believe that you aren’t acting like a Christian if you respond with emotions that people label as negative. (For the record, I don’t think of emotions as negative or positive – they just are.) It’s like you are expected to maintain a smile on your face at all times, so expressing strong emotions like anger, sadness, grieving, etc, is not a welcomed sight. I think they believe that if you reconcile, then you can get the smile back on your face again – and everything will be hunky dory (do people still say that?) Anyway, it really isn’t that simple.

They don’t understand that spiritual abuse is a process. There are periods of sadness and anger. There is a grieving process, and it takes time, sometimes years. Some people will deal with it for the rest of their lives in one way or another, but it won’t be as paralyzing as it was in the beginning of the process.

Asking a spiritual abuse survivor if they are working toward reconciliation is not helpful. It puts the onus on the survivor. It tells the survivor to hurry along and get fixed so others can feel comfortable.

 

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Negative Google Reviews are Still Keeping People Away from My Spiritually Abusive Church 6 Years after Lawsuit

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Spiritual Abuse, Negative Google Reviews, Defamation Lawsuit


 

The other day, I got a call from my good friend, Michelle, who used to attend the cult/church we attended. Her husband used to be on staff at the church (Beaverton Grace Bible Church) and was fired. That led to a big shakeup where we got to see our ex-pastor’s true colors, and we eventually left.

Fast forward a few years, I was still reeling about the spiritual devastation that many of us experienced after leaving the place. I was especially concerned about the percentage of young adults who turned their backs on Christ and were headed down dangerous paths sexually after sitting under his oppressive and legalistic teachings. It was because of this harm done to many of our families that I decided to leave a negative Google review on the church’s Google page. I did not want any more families to go through what our families had faced.

Somehow, my ex-pastor was able to talk Google into removing my negative Google reviews, so I started a blog, and within a week, I was served a subpoena. He sued me and 4 others for $500,000 in a defamation lawsuit.

After the defamation lawsuit he filed against me went viral, literally hundreds of people left negative Google reviews (some challenging him to sue them!). It was amazing to get so much support considering our church had about 100 members at the most!

Over the years since winning the lawsuit, Google has removed some of those old reviews, but others still remain.

I was thrilled when Michelle texted me this:

 

Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Chuck O'Neal, lawsuit, spiritual abuse, cult


So . . . . leaving negative Google reviews do work!  But you might get sued if you leave one. If you get sued, it will probably get dismissed in court. But I cannot guarantee that.

 

 

“Someone Offends Me Chart” is Too Black and White; Can Be Used to Control

 

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Have you seen this? It’s been spreading around on Facebook. The first time I saw it, someone shared that their pastor had sent it to her. She was livid. He was trying to control her in a personal situation. She felt she was being squelched by this. Do you see how she could feel that way?

The next few times I saw it, it was spread by people from my church.

When a church leader passes this around, you can get the message that there is really only one response: take your offenses to Jesus. It’s obvious that the other response is wrong. I’m surprised that the word gossip wasn’t included. This information being passed around by a church leader can be used to control conversation. That is an abuse of authority. It’s good to be careful when a church leader attempts to squelch conversation.

But what else is missing?

The Bible does talk about overlooking offenses:

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

But I believe this chart is too black and white. I can see overlooking small, trivial offenses. But what about chronic offenses? What about when those offenses also harm others? In those cases, I believe it is better to go directly to the offender:

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  Matthew 18:15

When Christians are able to go directly to an offender with their sins, and the offender is receptive, this is better than simply overlooking a sin. The offender now has the opportunity to change their pattern of behavior, which may have been unknown. The relationship can be strengthened when the offender realizes he/she was told this offense in love. It takes humility and transparency to get to this level of relationship. Everyone wins here.

**Update 10/10/18 2:40 pm:  A friend of mine found the original post (2 years old!) on Facebook. Apparently the author, Amy Duncan Hale, also was asked why Matthew 18 was not included as an option in the chart above. Here is her response:

Several readers have pointed out and asked why Matthew 18:15-17 was not included in my chart. The reason is that this chart was only written to remind me that my FIRST response to offense is crucial–talking to God about my hurt before talking to anyone else so HE can direct me in how to BEST respond.

 

 

Tom Chantry: Update on His Molestation, Child Abuse, and Assault Charges; and Looking Back

Tom Chantry, Molestation, Child Abuse, and Assault Charges, ARBCA


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Back in his heyday, Pastor Tom Chantry was a highly respected commenter at Pyromaniacs blog hosted by various Calvinist dude-bros such as Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, Frank Turk, et al. We know he has been on trial for child abuse, molestation, and assault charges.

Today, I looked to see if I could find some old comments of Tom Chantry’s on the Pyromaniacs blog. On Google’s first page after searching: Tom Chantry and Pyromaniacs, I came across one of Pyro’s blog posts entitled, Pornographic Divination. Sure enough, Tom responded in the second comment.

Let me tell you a bit about the brief Pyromaniacs post.  Continue reading

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

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NOTE: This is part of a series that began with these earlier posts:

 


Note from Julie Anne:  Here is another personal account that came in as a comment, but I felt it needed to be a post by itself. In this account, there is discussion about Classical Conversations functions in cult-like ways. Classical Conversations is so big that there are probably many groups that do not function as a cult, but it’s important to note the characteristics of controlling behavior which is the bedrock in cults.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the typical behaviors we see in high-controlling or cult-like groups:

  • The group is the best and only acceptable group. All others are inferior.
  • No other group measures up (educationally, Christian, etc).
  • Members lose a sense of identity as they give more and more of their time to the group.
  • No negative talk about the group is allowed. 
  • There are repercussions on anyone who challenges, criticizes, or talks negatively about the group.
  • Those who leave the group are shunned.
  • Those who leave are labeled as sinners, evil, anything negative.
  • Image is very important to the group. Defend the image at all costs.
  • Lack of clear rules and boundaries. 
  • Group leaders change rules frequently, which leads to confusion.

 


 

"Classical Conversations" "spiritual sounding board"

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by Adele Jane

I have been a CC parent for many years. It initially blessed us because as a parent, I could say “no” to things that weren’t working for us. I was aware of the constant edicts and rule changes from Corporate because the tutors were always having to jump through ridiculous hoops. The company is notoriously anti-technology, as evidenced by their own disorganized and unreliable web site. Also, many moms felt like money was a primary motivator. They charged money for everything: expensive tuition and fees, made all their own texts mandatory and expensive, and then charged a monthly fee to look at resources created and donated by other moms!

But our local community was pleasant and close knit, so we tolerated it, like proverbial frogs in the pot, we were growing dependent on the materials. They constantly said we were the teachers, but went out of their way to make us believe we needed CC to do it, to “trust the system,” to follow the plan the way they said. We had no local say, not even what ages our kids could stop and start various levels! They made the rules.

Everything began to change for us as I stepped up to tutor and later Direct, mainly to offset the cost. The corporate overreach was insane. They literally took over my life and every aspect of my classroom. They dominated my free time with mandatory trainings and other requirements.

All questioning was labelled as sinful or rebellious, and I was made to feel that theirs is the only way. Students who cant keep up are inadequate, all the while spouting this “knowing God and making Him known” motto that does NOT play out on the corporate level. They are all about Jesus when its convenient.

Anyone who asks about these things on their forum or social media is deleted or blocked. Sometimes they use it as grounds for termination. No free speech, even on your own time.

They place multiple layers of “management” between local and corporate, puppets who have lied to us, made us sign contracts that are filled with overreach (thankfully my lawyer was clear about all the items that were so outside labor standards, that they were not only unenforceable, but likely voided the contract), and were cruel to us when we stood our ground.

They have terminated numerous directors in my area for bogus reasons not in the contract. They dictate exactly what you can say, when and how you can say it, but continue to call us independent contractors, and they run their profit-making enterprise from churches who assume they are a non-profit homeschool co-op.

I admit it wasn’t until they pressed me to do “fund raising” for a local training that I even realized they weren’t non-profit. Of course the businesses we approached laughed in our face. “Donate” money to another business just because they present themselves as homeschoolers and Christians? It was laughable I guess.

I feel this organization uses Christian families for gain, and hides behind Christ while they line their pockets. I also feel they run in a cult-like manner, slowly brainwashing families into seeing what isn’t there. My local group is great, but not really worth giving up my freedom that we homeschoolers are so blessed to have.

Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek “System,” and Why the Women Needed to Speak Publicly

Bill Hybels, Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Willow Creek Church


Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, Clergy Sexual Misconduct

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Classical Conversations #1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Classical Conversations, Homeschool, Classical Education, #ClassicalConvMadeKnown

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BREAKING NEWS: Dr. Paige Patterson Terminated, Effective Immediately: No Title, No Housing, No Ongoing Compensation

Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, SBC, #Churchtoo, #ChurchToo, #MeToo

 

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A new statement was just released at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: Continue reading

What Does Responding Biblically Really Mean?

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This will be short and sweet. I’m in the final crunch of school with only 2-1/2 weeks until graduation (woohoo!!).

Responding Biblically seems to be thrown around a lot. I just tweeted this because I was thinking about a recent debate on Twitter (which I will write about when I get more time).

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I think this phrase can be used in bad ways. I’d like to open this up for discussion.  Who gets to decide what is Biblical or not? Can you see how this phrase can be used to exert power over another?  Do you have any examples of this you would like to share? Does a pastor saying something is more biblical carry more weight? 

Sovereign Grace Church Leaders Remove Wife from Women’s Small Group Leader Position after Couple Asks Questions

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Both Jeff Owens and his wife Sarah recently sent out a thread of tweets regarding a recent experience they had at their former (unidentified)  Sovereign Grace church. I think these tweets deserve a wider audience.

What you will read is not healthy at all, and people need to understand the dismissive and bullying behavior employed by Sovereign Grace church leaders when they are encouraged or questioned about having an independent investigation of the decades-old sexual abuse allegations involving many children, many churches, and the mishandling of these cases by church leaders.

Sovereign Grace leaders are still using the same tactics that we’ve heard from personal accounts for years: no one gets to question authority or criticize authority without repercussion. Folks, this is spiritual abuse. Let’s call it what it is.

I have copied the tweets below for easier reading, but if you would like to see the original tweet threads, click on the hyperlink in Jeff Owens’ tweet below, or Sarah’s link within his tweet.

In the tweet thread, there is a reference to Rachael Denhollander. If you are unfamiliar with Rachael Denhollander and her experience in exposing Sovereign Grace ministries mishandling of sex abuse cases, here’s a good article to start:  My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.

Before we get to the tweets by Jeff and Sarah Owens, I wanted to share a section of the Sovereign Grace Local Church Polity with you. I have bolded parts pertinent to the communication by congregants to elders and leaders: Continue reading

Survivor Emily Jaeger Responds to Bill Gothard’s Reactions to Her Revealing She is “Jane Doe III”

Bill Gothard, sex abuse, cults, lawsuit, Emily Jaeger, freedom, IBLP


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A note of introduction from Julie Anne:

Emily Jaeger is one of the sexual abuse survivors and plaintiffs in the Bill Gothard/IBLP sex abuse lawsuit. Her official statement about the lawsuit was posted on Spiritual Sounding Board a few days ago.

Then someone close to Bill Gothard contacted me. He runs the Discovering Grace website, which is devoted to supporting and defending Bill Gothard and his teachings. We communicated at length, during which he asked me if I wanted to post Bill Gothard’s response to Emily Jaeger’s statement (per Bill’s suggestion). After I declined, it was then published at Discovering Grace website.

I initially said no, because I do not want my blog to be used as a platform for an abuser. However, then I saw Emily Jaeger’s new reply to Bill Gothard’s response statement, and it made sense to me to post both.

I may have more to say later — in fact, I am thinking of doing an SSB “learn to discern” post to analyze these statements in depth. But for now, I’ll say I think his statement is a perfect opportunity to see a spiritual abuser in action, violating boundaries, and hers shows what it looks like when someone leaves the influence of a high-control environment, thinks independently, and makes their own decisions. See what you think … Continue reading

Pastor Kevin Swanson’s Blame Game When it Comes to the Dr. Larry Nassar Child Sex Abuse Cases

Kevin Swanson; Larry Nassar; Child Sex Abuse; Rachael Denhollander

Screenshot 2018-02-09 at 10.08.13 PM

Kevin Swanson from Generations.org

-by Kathi with editorial comments by Julie Anne

Kevin Swanson’s February 9, 2018 broadcast on Generations covered the recent gymnastics and sexual abuse case by now-convicted sexual predator, Dr. Larry Nassar. Right Wing Watch picked up his broadcast and noted that he blames immodesty in the sport of gymnastics for Dr. Larry Nassar’s behavior.

Julie Anne texted me at work and asked if I would be willing to write a snarky post about Swanson [JA here = is it possible to do a Kevin Swanson post sans snark? Serious question.] As much I can’t stand to listen to him speak, I decided to listen to the whole broadcast. Kathi is a glutton for punishment. I only asked if she would be willing to write about the modesty part that Right Wing Watch reported on. In fact, here is where she tells me on Messenger:

My (unfortunate) experience with listening to Swanson over the years has brought me to the understanding that he is never sympathetic to victims of sexual abuse, so I wanted to see if this broadcast would be any different. My snarky side turned to my angry side as I realized that he hasn’t changed one bit. Continue reading

BREAKING: Leaders at Doug Wilson’s Christ Church Put Woman in Abusive Marriage Under Church Discipline

Mike Lawyer, Counseling, Abuse in Marriage, Abuse of Authority

I have been in contact with a woman named Gen, who has agreed to let me post this letter she received from Mike Lawyer, “on behalf of Christ Church Session.” Christ Church is Doug Wilson’s church in Moscow, Idaho. If you would like to learn more about Doug Wilson and his extra-biblical and spiritually abusive ways, see his name in “Categories” in the side bar.

Gen told me she was in an abusive marriage. She was not physically abused, but was emotionally, verbally, spiritually, and financially abused. She and her husband sought counseling, and were in counseling both together and separately.

Gen also told me that she didn’t respond appropriately to the abuse – that she reacted by yelling and crying. I don’t think that’s an inappropriate response to abuse, do you? That seems very normal. I’m not sure where she learned that she was responsible for her response, but that concerns me because it takes the focus off the perpetrator and places it on the survivor – as if they are both equal sinners.

This following letter was sent to Gen on January 18, 2018. Mike Lawyer has decided he knows her spiritual condition and has determined that she is not living up to being a proper wife, etc. Because of her “unwillingness” to deal with her sins, she is being put in church discipline.

It’s important to understand that Doug Wilson believes that husbands are the heads of the home. He believes in Patriarchy. If husbands are the priests of the home, who do you think they would believe first, the husband or the wife? Continue reading

Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence

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First #MeToo, Now #ChurchToo: Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Mishandling in the Church

#MeToo, #ChurchToo, Sexual Abuse, Harassment, Church

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The hashtag #MeToo has been trending for quite some time on Twitter. Women who have been sexually harassed or abused have been identifying themselves as survivors of sexual harm, indicating it with the hashtag, #MeToo. But now, there is a new trending hashtag, #ChurchToo. The stories that you can read in one little tweet are heartbreaking.

I wanted to share some here, and also invite those who have been on Twitter to feel free to share more here if they like.

If you are new to Spiritual Sounding Board, this is a blog that deals with abuse in church or church groups. We have dealt with all kinds of sexual abuse: sex abuse of children, sexual abuse in marriage, sexual abuse by clergy, wives of pedophiles, church leaders who have failed to report sexual crimes, church leaders who have blamed victims for sexual crimes, and also spiritual abuse which often occurs when a church leaders are involved in any capacity (perpetrator, counselor, spiritual advisor).

If you have been harmed sexually, this is a safe place. If you would like to share your story in more detail, you can in the comments, or to me privately: spiritualsb@gmail.com. Please feel free to comment using a pseudonym. This is your place to use your voice where it will be heard.

~Julie Anne Continue reading

Guest Post: If “Jane” from TMU were to seek “Biblical counseling” #DoYouSeeUs

Biblical Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, “Jane” #DoYouSeeUs, John MacArthur, The Master’s University

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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

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

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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 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.

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