Apologetics Index

Updated: Abusive Churches / Spiritual Abuse

We have updated our collection of links to research resources on Abusive Churches & Spiritual Abuse

That topic ranks among the most visited at Apologetics Index, and is has been like that since the page first went online in October, 1996.

It also consistently results in lots of feedback — both from people who have experienced spiritual abuse, and from those who are worried about the spiritual climate in their churches.

One recent correspondent wondered why she, as a long-time Christian with a vast knowledge of the Bible, nevertheless stayed in a church that — in hindsight — became increasingly abusive.

We responded with a quote from the book, Healing Spiritual Abuse. In one chapter Ken Blue makes some basic observations about why otherwise sensible and intelligent people submit to spiritual abuse.

In every known human society it appears that most people wish to be led. They follow the line of least resistance, letting those in positions of power make decisions for them. The Bible seems to recognize this, referring to us most often as “sheep.” This means that we have the tendency to let authority figures make the rules and then apply them to us. When the administer the rules in an abusive manner, we will (at first) tend to submit.

Combined with out tendency to want a leader is our incurable religious nature. Our longing for God is essential to us. It is the most significant aspect of our being. Those who sit themselves down in Moses’ seat and pose as mediators for God can therefore play on our desire for a leader and our yearning for God. Is is no surprise then that those who most earnestly desire to please God are most apt to be victimized by spiritual authorities setting themselves up as mediators for God. The spiritually keen are most at risk.

Over the years I have seen many Christian wives wrongly submit to violently abusive husbands because of their intense (although misguided) desire to submit to God’s authority. Others have conscientiously stayed in abusive churches for the same wrong reasons.

It should be comforting to realize that the hurt you may have suffered from church leaders in the past could be due not to something wrong about you but something right: your longing to get close to God.

Nevertheless, Christ calls us to spiritual maturity. And that sometimes means resisting spiritual authorities just as he did. I agree with Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton, who say, “We must have the courage to follow Christ’s example and overturn the system, be it a marriage or an organization, if that system is wrong. Silent submission in the face of violence, dishonesty and abuse will only enable that abuse to be passed on to generations.”
– Source: Ken Blue, Healing Spiritual Abuse: How To Break Free From Bad Church Experiences

It pays to be aware of these issues. We often hear from people who did not realize they were in an abusive church until they read, for instance, the online book, Churches That Abuse, or an article in our Religion News Blog. Reading about something that happened to others can bring a spark of recognition, encouraging someone to do further research.

If you are involved in an abusive church, or you need help dealing with past spiritual abuse, we first recommend the resources listed.

If you feel you need personal help we refer you to the counseling resources listed at our sister-site CultFaq.org.

Pay attention to the guidelines for selecting a counselor or cult expert, as the counseling field does attract its share of opportunists. We do list some recommended individuals, ministries and organizations.

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Category: Apologetics Index Blog
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First published (or major update) on Thursday, January 7, 2010.
Last updated on July 07, 2024.

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