Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is Spiritual Abuse?

This was submitted as a comment under our posting "Touch Not My Annointed"

What is Spiritual Abuse?
Spiritual abuse occurs when a person, who has been given authority within a spiritual or religious context, misuses that authority and abuses those who gave him or her such authority. Similar terms include authoritarianism, manipulation, intimidation, legalism and elitism.

The following comments are excerpted from “Healing Spiritual Abuse” by Ken Blue.
Abuse of any type occurs when someone has power over another and uses that power to hurt. Spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds.

People who “survive” spiritual abuse often wander in a kind of limbo; they are confused, hurt and angry … They had been intensely dedicated to Christ at one time … The most committed believers are often the most vulnerable to abusive religion.

The authoritarian, narcissistic ecclesiastical abusers of our day are the modern equivalent of the Pharisees whom Jesus scolded. Jesus not only exposed and denounced the Pharisees as false shepherds but also offered himself as advocate for their victims … [Spiritual abuse was] the one social problem Jesus himself seemed to care about most.

How Can We Recognize Spiritual Abuse? The following comments are excerpted from “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar.
If you have experienced any of these conditions in your church, it may indicate a misuse of Scripture and/or may represent the presence of abuse and excessive control:

•Church members are rebuked for actions that aren’t really sinful but which merely differ from the leaders’ opinions
•The leader uses verses such as “Touch not my anointed” to imply we can’t criticize leaders without being critical of God
•There exist a group of Church members who emphasizes trusting leaders, having faith in leaders, imitating leaders, and/or being loyal to them and not to question the leaders.
•The same group of Church members teaches people to obey even when it doesn’t feel right
•The leader teaches that the Bible says to stay away from those who have “fallen away”
•The leader teaches that “following Christ” means giving up all personal wishes, desires and goals
•The leaders [supposedly] can hear God and know God’s Will better than you can
•The gray and open areas of your life become narrowed, and absolute rights and wrongs are made very clear
•The group of Church members become extremely irritated when someone criticizes the leaders
•Those who disagree with, or openly challenge, leaders are "causing divisions"
•The group of Church members chose not to be associate with people who question the leadership.
•Your leader talks about being “unequally yoked” when discussing potential mates not in your group
•You are told examples of bad things that happened to people who left your group
•You feel guilty when you make your own decisions that go against the approval of your leader (in dealing with non-moral issues)
•The leaders publicly rebuke or discipline members for matters that are not necessary to expose to the whole church
•The leaders repeatedly and emphatically request money (and stress that a lack of financial giving is an indication of an unhealthy spiritual life)

People who suffer from spiritual abuse, as well as their abusers, are both victims of a faulty paradigm. Their warped understanding of God, the Scriptures, and the Church not only justifies the abuse, but also imprisons them. The only way to break free from this cycle of suffering is to adopt (or create) a new paradigm.

However, this process is extremely painful and costly, because it requires the person to endure a complete mental breakdown as he moves from one paradigm to another. The greatest power we can enlist against the evil forces of spiritual abuse is SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE & EDUCATION for it is through the open-minded consideration of other alternatives that the light of knowledge can eliminate the darkness of ignorance.

This calls for spiritual maturity and discernment. God's people perish because of lack of spiritual knowledge.

"Boundaries" by Cloud & Townsend
"Churches That Abuse" by Ron Enroth
"Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences" by Ken Blue
"Recovering from Churches that Abuse" by Ron Enroth
"Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves" by Steven Hassan
"The Shack" by William P. Young
"The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by Johnson & Van Vonderen
"Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing From Painful Spiritual Abuse" by Arterburn & Felton
"Twisted Scriptures" by Mary Alice Chrnalogar
"When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel Smith

For further information, contact David Clute or Nate Clute at: and Nate were born into and gave 25+ years of their lives to a church in Omaha, Nebraska, that started out preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the best of its understanding. The church ended up pursuing an entirely different agenda that wounded many individuals and families, including David and Nate's family. The two brothers left the church in 2005 and have since found much healing, hope and happiness, which they love to share with other victims of abuse.

Submitted by Vijay


I have shared this information for the purpose of educating and liberating Christians from spiritual abuse. If you are already a Christian who has gone through Spiritual Abuse and liberated by the power of the Holy Spirit, I would encourage you to make yourself available to other victims."

Dr. Paramsothy Vijayan


Wounded and Betrayed said...

Thank you for this article.

Now I know for sure that I have been a victim of spiritual abuse.

A TTG member said...

My Dear Wounded and Betrayed,

We, the TTG members do pray that God will keep you safe in His arms. Know that God loves you very much - including us too.

We, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1: 6)