This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.
“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,
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
I’ve been out of commission a bit this week, having out-of-town visitors, and a quick trip to Portland for a wedding.
I had to drive down Walker Road a few minutes ago to pick up my son, and drove by my old church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church. As I drove by the church, I noticed something that seemed odd. I couldn’t find the sign that shows the name of the church. I also did not see any sign listing the time for church services. Continue reading
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Spiritual abusers are often self-absorbed, preaching humility, but exhibiting pride. Pastors who draw attention to themselves and their accomplishments and self-importance are not servant leaders.
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I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Please read the Facebook status slowly and let it sink in, would you?
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Today, Willamette Week, a Portland news outlet, published their third recent article on Pastor Chuck O’Neal, my former pastor who sued me and four others for $500,000. The first article dealt with his protesting at a local abortion clinic and how civic leaders were looking into whether any civil codes were being violated. This particular situation got additional coverage beyond Willamette Week’s reports: KATU.com and Oregonlive.com.
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Personal disclaimer: I was alerted to two local news articles this morning and struggled with whether or not I should share them with you because of the personal connections as you will soon see. After conferring with others and checking my heart, I am going to share them. If I did not know the individuals involved, I would have done a post on this topic anyway, as this is something that has been touching my heart lately with regard to what is going on in “churchianity” or religiosity vs Christianity.
Hey folks, we took a trip for a few days and have been chill-axin’ a bit after a 10-hour-drive in adverse road conditions yesterday, but this needs to be addressed. During my time away, I became aware that Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries wrote an article announcing that my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, had his minister’s license revoked. I’m not sure when this took place, but you can read about it in the link below. Most of the article is old news to most of my regular readers, the new info is at the bottom of the article.
Wayback Machine link of the article is here.
A few people have asked for a condensed version of “my story”. My story is not written out like that, but in bits and pieces as posts for the blog. So, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to have one post which includes links to the key posts to my story so readers do not have to wade through all of them. ~ja
You Won’t Find a Better Church – This article discusses more of the elitism we were taught. No church could ever measure up to our church. What are the implications of that kind of thinking?
This mom’s comment breaks my heart. I can relate with it so well. We as moms try to make sure our children are safe, are raised in a loving and nurturing environment. Having to acknowledge that we failed when we were doing our best is a tough pill to swallow.
How do we deal with the guilt? How do we deal with the issue that we made bad choices for our children? How can we help them when we have been affected deeply by the spiritual abuse? Some people may not even want to go to church again after this experience. I was certainly leery of pastors when we first started to find a new church.
When studying about abusive environments, you will find a common rule that is used: the no-talk rule. You can do a quick Google search for “no-talk rule” and see what I mean. Sometimes in an alcoholic family, people will be quick to “fix” the problems caused by the alcoholic: cleaning up vomit messes, making excuses for missed appointments, missed responsibilities. There is a cover-up and the whole family is a part of this, but the main issue of alcoholism is the big elephant in the middle of the room and many times never discussed. They are unconsciously following the no-talk rule.
In abusive churches, legitimate concerns can get labeled as gossip. Questioning a pastor may get turned around back to the person asking the question: “why are you not trusting the men God has placed in authority over you?” Essentially these responses create the unspoken “no-talk” rule. We don’t talk about the no-talk rule, it is an understood rule and in an abusive system, most people comply – it keeps that abusive system functioning well.
It’s time to break out of that well-functioning abusive system by breaking the unspoken no-talk rule. That is the first thing that needs to be broken. In this blog, we have the talk, talk, talk rule. If you have something to say, say it. If you want to remain anonymous, fine. If you want to ask a question, ask it. The no-talk rule needs to be broken in our homes, too. We need to discuss what we went through with our children and adult children. We need to make it very comfortable to talk – even about uncomfortable issues. People won’t want to talk initially because we’ve been conditioned that it’s gossip or wrong. By casually mentioning things and setting the example, you will be showing that it is a safe place in your home to talk about what we went through.
For those who have left and especially those who have recently left, creating an atmosphere where talking is permissible and encouraged is going to be the beginning of getting back on the right path. We need to share our stories, talk about how it affected us. Talking this openly may be uncomfortable at first. It is not gossip to talk about how church leaders treated you.
Our former pastor called out many “wolves” from the pulpit and it is recorded on sermons, posted on his blog and easily available on the internet. It is not a sin for me to say I believe our former pastor as one who abused his authority. Our children need to know the truth. It is not gossip to talk about how people in the church treated you and inappropriately shunned you. It is not gossip to talk about how you have felt and discuss how going to an abusive church has affected you. Once the no-talk rule is put to rest, you will be well on your way to recovery and healing.
On our very first Sunday at the church, I recall being in the nursery with my baby. A sweet teenager was helping with childcare and she told me in a matter-of-fact way that she was going to be having a meeting with the pastor. She was going to be baptized soon. I remember smiling and thinking how sweet that was until she volunteered that all kids have meetings with the pastor at one time or another. I asked her why all kids usually have meetings with the pastor and she told me that kids who get into trouble are brought in to the pastor’s office. She mentioned that this was her 4th meeting with the pastor, but at least this time it was for a good reason and she seemed excited about that.
The meeting regarding baptism seemed perfectly normal to me, but as I looked at this sweet young lady, I couldn’t help but wonder why she had met with the pastor three times before. She did not seem at all like someone who was difficult to deal with. She was thoughtful and respectful to me and had a bubbly personality. It didn’t make sense. And it also puzzled me that she volunteered this little bit of information on our first Sunday.
I had to ponder this thought: would my kids ever do something to that level to necessitate a meeting with the pastor? Probably not. Our kids weren’t perfect, but had never caused any sort of trouble that would need to be dealt with by a pastor. To be honest, it made me wonder if this church was a good environment in which to raise our children if so many teens were having discipline issues requiring meetings with a pastor.
That little meeting on our first Sunday faded into my memory for quite some time until I heard about other incidents in which teens were brought in to meet with the pastor.
Unfortunately, it turned out our family was not exempt from these meetings. I recall my nearly 21-yr old daughter having a meeting with the pastor after she had been associating with an “unsavory” male whom she met at college. We had told him about their relationship. The meeting lasted for hours. Scripture was read over and over showing how she had sinned. There were tears, there was anger, it was not a pleasant experience. I left the meeting emotionally beaten down and can only imagine how my daughter felt. But because the pastor was involved and we trusted him, we convinced ourselves that we were doing the right thing.
There was also the other meeting that I previously blogged about (a technical problem erased the blog post, but you can read my daughter’s Google review here). This same adult daughter was forced into a meeting with the pastor, church leader, close friend, and parents. She didn’t want to be there. We all sat in a circle and I imagine she felt physically trapped. We were advised to remove her cell phone, have her quit college, quit work, not allow internet use, so that she could use the “free” time to turn her life around. This was not grace. This was a berating. Scriptures were read repeatedly to show how she was in sin. And once again, it was a long meeting.
In talking with others, the meetings our daughter endured were normal. Typically a parent was present and meetings lasted for literally hours. Scriptures were always used. Strong emotion was present, sometimes with the pastor pounding his hands on the table for emphasis. Voices were loud and intimidating.
Just as the young lady warned me about this on our first Sunday, I’ve been told that other congregants actually warned new attenders about this practice. It was an accepted practice and parents went along with it because it seemed the right thing to do. If a pastor, man of God, is encouraging this, how can it be wrong?
Looking back, it is my opinion that allowing the pastor to speak with our children in those meetings with that kind of emotional and spiritual intensity for that length of time was not the best thing to do. In fact, in our family’s situation, I believe it was the wrong thing to do. I feel guilty that two of my adult children endured those meetings.
God has given parents the responsibility to raise our children, not pastors. Pastors are to be shepherds, not authoritarians. It is completely appropriate for pastors to give guidance and suggestions to parents on how to deal with discipline issues, but not to berate, spend literally hours, raising voices, pound hands on table, read scripture after scripture showing our kids they are in sin. That feels abusive. It does not take hours to tell someone that their behavior was wrong.
I found it very helpful to discuss this situation with my daughter even years later. I apologized to her and she was so gracious to say that she understood that we were only doing what we thought was best.
Our children are a blessing from the Lord. We don’t need this kind of thing from the past to pull us apart and unfortunately, because we felt sucked into this environment, we may have made wrong parenting choices. Some of us may have unfinished business (and I may not be done yet). Let’s deal with that. Let’s love on our adult kids – even ones who may not be going down a path that we would have chosen for them. Some may have chosen the paths they are taking because of the unhealthy church environment. I can’t think of a better time to extend love and grace to them, certainly not shun them or exclude them from our lives.