Apologetics Index

Month: September 2008

Chapter 7: Abusive Churches Foster Rigidity

While mainstream evangelical churches have always encouraged a life of holiness before the Lord and urged moderation in dress and other aspects of life-style, authoritarian churches demonstrate an excessive focus on such concerns. The restricted life-style and limits on personal freedom that follow are just other examples of the need to control that all abusive churches exemplify.

If life-style rigidity is a characteristic of most abusive churches, the role of subjective experience is equally crucial in understanding how such groups drift toward religious marginality.

Chapter 6: Abusive Churches See Themselves As Special

The spiritual elitism of abusive churches can be seen in some of the terminology they use to refer to themselves:

"God's Green Berets," "God's End-Time Army," the "faithful remnant," the special "move of God." As one ex-member put it, "We believed we were on the cutting edge of what God was doing in the world. I looked down on people who left our movement; they didn't have what it took. They were not faithful to their commitment. When everyone else got with God's program, they would be involved in shepherding just like we were."

A former member of a group known as The Assembly (headquartered in Fullerton, California, and discussed later in this book) said, "Although we didn't come right out and 'say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt that there was no place in the world like our assembly. We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch."

Chapter 5: Abusive Churches Use Fear, Guilt, and Threats

Traditional evangelical churches value and respect individual differences. For the most part, they encourage people to become unique persons in their own right, not mere photocopies of someone else.

Authoritarian, manipulative fringe groups, on the other hand, encourage clones and promote cookie-cutter life-styles.

Flavil Yeakley, in his book The Discipling Dilemma, suggests that such groups value conformity, not diversity. "They tend to make people over after the image of a group leader, the group norm, or what the group regards as the ideal personality …. They are made to feel guilty for being what they are and inferior for not being what the group wants them to be."