Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Those Hurt By Cults, Toxic Churches And False Pastors

Spiritual abuse is a problem out there. Many people for evil use religion to control. We see ourselves this done on the wider world scale with the politicians and elites who use the religions for control but it is also done on the smaller scope within churches and families. Some of the worse damage can be done to people by the wicked who do it in "god's name". Having dealt with people from a nun who was abused by a severe traditional convent--she told me tales of being forced to sleep on the floor and once being forced to clean the floor with a toothbrush--not just a mythical punishment, to two girls I knew as a young girl, whose father never allowed them to leave the house, and totally controlled them under the name of religion--homeschooling done the most wrong way- not even allowing them to speak to other neighborhood children, to the many others who have ended up as shells of despair from the cruelty they faced, the outcomes of all this spiritual abuse has been made evident. One main aspect of spiritual abuse, is those in authority abusing the more weak and vulnerable whether it be children or those who place their faith in a leader who fails them.

Spiritual abuse is the maltreatment of a person in the name of God, faith, religion, or church, whether habitual or not, and includes any of the following:

Psychological and emotional abuse
Any act by deeds or words that demean, humiliate or shame the natural worth and dignity of a person as a human being
Submission to spiritual authority without any right to disagree; intimidation
Unreasonable control of a person's basic right to make a choice on spiritual matters
False accusation and repeated criticism by negatively labeling a person as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demonized, apostate, enemy of the church or God
Prevention from practicing faith
Isolation or separation from family and friends due to religious affiliation
Physical abuse that includes physical injury, deprivation of sustenance, and sexual abuse
Exclusivity; dismissal of an outsider's criticism and labeling an outsider as of the devil
Withholding information and giving of information only to a selected few
Conformity to a dangerous or unnatural religious view and practiceHostility that includes shunning, (relational aggression, parental alienation) and persecution

We know about the havoc cults create, destroying families, children, including the physical and sexual abuse that hits the news, there are toxic churches as well, where while they may not grab ahold of member's bank accounts, wives and children, will use 'religion' for abuse and control. The consistent mainstay of spiritual abuse, is false authority where leaders abuse power and control using "God" to gain misdirected obedience and loyalty. There are a lot of hurting people out there, who connect religion to "abuse" and control. In many cases they are correct about its main objectives.

The other day, I found myself witnessing to someone who had suffered serious abuse in a cultic Jehovah Witness organization that practiced full blown shunning of any members who left, including separation between family members and where spiritual abuse reigned. Anyone who left the church was never to be spoken to again. Imagine if you left a church, and your family was taught they could no longer talk to you again: this was this lady's experience. I experienced some mild shunning when I left the Catholic church, some non immediate relatives refused to come to my non-Catholic wedding, but it wasn't like being in a cult where one's entire family turns their back on you. Imagine what that must do to a young person.

In this case, I told her that the Jehovah Witness religion taught false things, denied Jesus Christ as God, and that she was correct when she stated that many religions including false "Christian" churches just desire power and control. I of course had preached the gospel to her first as well, and she told me at the end she would think about what I had told her. Of course being given a false religion like this, you see the scores of people turned away from what they *think" is Christianity, and I encounter them quite a bit when out there, witnessing to folks. I have had one person say to me, "Biblebeliever, you are nice, how can you be a Christian?"which tells me they have encountered some very not so nice people before." A lot of people have expressed to me that they are even "AFRAID" of Christians, now with some unbelievers this may be an excuse they use to run from confronting their own sin and repentance, but for others, I think it could have validity...if after all you are abused by someone who emphasizes their "Christian" identity but shows nothing truly Christian, if you know no different and have no access to God's Word and how a true Christian is really supposed to act, how can you know any different?

All you have to do is tour a few websites out there. While some of the persecuted classes stuff can be taken to the extremes, there are lots of websites for "recovering this" and "that" and those telling tales of abuse at the hands of religionists. Even on the ex-fundamentalist websites like this one, some of what they write seriously concerns me. Are they all recalcitrant rebels spitting at God, and refusing Him? Perhaps a few are. But when you see things like this written, you know someone got the approach wrong...

They’ve learned not to question or express themselves. They’ve learned that it’s not what you do that counts but how people perceive what you are doing. And they’ve learned that perfection on the outside is actually better than perfection on the inside. In a thousand tiny unspoken ways they have begun to skip down the primrose path to fundydom.

Some may say, why are you taking the embittered words, of some nonbeliever who went away from the faith presented to them as a child, but they are on to something, don't we see much of that focus on the "perfection on the outside" even as far the Vision Forum stuff and the rest of it goes? When being a "Christian" becomes a "lifestyle" TM run from that as well. It is based in self righteousness. They obviously were taught wrong and given a very poor example of what a Christian was supposed to be. While the world will abuse the "do not judge" mantras to excuse sin and evil, we do not want to fall into the trap on the other side:

Luk 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luk 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luk 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

If anything that serves to chase the non-believers from the gospel as well, if destructive cults make the focus of everything your own "perfection" instead of telling them of being born again via the perfection in Jesus Christ that is where people lose the plot too. And here too, the false preachers elevate themselves and sadly too many people look to the status of this world and everything to define them rather then having God define them.

That's one tactic, the false preachers of the world and others use, against people, the claim to be 'experts" and sadly given the woeful knowledge out there regarding God's Word and if only people would pick it up and READ IT, sadly many trust in these pastors, even abusive ones, believing they hold much more knowledge and abilities that they themselves lack. Normal folks just see themselves as the "little people" forgetting God is no respecter of persons, and mistakenly think these pastors are closer to God then them and always "know more". This is one way, they get one over on people, so any charlatan with an excellent memory for bible verses, or with a savant skill in speaking, can claim to be over large numbers of people.

This applies to ALL the SAINTS, not just the guy in the pulpit:

1Cr 6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

It is getting tough out there, the lady who fled the Jehovah Witness cult is far from the only person who has faced an abusive cult and when you meet someone like this, and see the damage that has been done, in "god's" name, it can lead people away from the true gospel and Jesus Christ and for them to run from "Christianity" or what they think is "Christianity" as well. As I spoke with her, I realized she would need my prayers, as she had come to reject even "God" outside of a new age-hindu"namaste" version of the 'god within" every human.

I rejected what I thought was "Christianity" for years, as a result of my Catholic years, while I never faced abuse from any of the priests or nuns except your mild Catholic school happenings in a state where corporal punishment thankfully was outlawed--no being hit by rulers for me and the usual teachings to be absolutely deferential to clergy, I knew something was wrong from the system from the get-go, in one way, I was never a committed Catholic because even as a child, things just didn't add up for me. Catholicism is a cult no matter what Walter Martin said or left out. Fortunately I would get a Bible, start reading and had Christians preaching the gospel to me.

There are many other abusive churches, and organizations out there, where spiritual and other abuse, is happening. Even if its not a cult that forces you to put on the orange pajamas, and say the same mantra thousands of times a day, while sitting in a closet and where they will take all your money, there are other ways religious power and control can be abused and many of them will claim they are "Christian" and "biblical" as well.

One main stay of abusive cults and toxic churches is blind obedience to authority. I still think sometimes of that one fundamentalist church I visited locally here a few years back [remember the one that taught no one is to ever criticize the president and it'd be a sin to criticize Hillary too, if she made it in], I really knew something was wrong the minute I entered the room, at a Wednesday night service, the men were suited up in three piece suits, and the women in formal typical Sunday dresses fully coiffed. Some abusive and toxic leader rule with a heavy hand, that guy would be an example as I watched him yell at church members teens and adults, for "disobeying" him as the supposed "Lord's anointed". What made me sad and upset was seeing grown women and men cower before this person, but then I remember how much that people are taught that their pastors are "holy" and beyond reproach and his messages of blind obedience were strong. There are many churches of all kinds, where they have pastors like these, and they get away with it, because people instead of being taught to be born again and OBEY GOD rather then men,

Act 5:29 Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

are taught to fear men first rather then God.

Then there are the others where the pastor rule with a sweet smile, but people within that church learn fast that when they bring up some points, they will not be listened to, they will be rendered voiceless in a system, where the pastor rules totally. One church I visited for a Bible study and left after only a couple visits, the pastor's sheer charisma, was a definite lure, some may think this is odd for me to state, if your pastor is too charismatic, and I do not mean charismatic such as in speaking in tongues, but charismatic in terms of having the personality to lure people in and influence them strongly: [think Bill Clinton in the 1990s] then watch out, that can be trouble. This church's pastor was so charismatic, even I felt could see what was enticing people--he had the timing of a TV comedian mixed with the excellent speaking skills, but kept my senses about me. This is what is happening in a lot of these churches, a lot of these preachers are master salesmen, master speakers and they lure people in and gain in popularity. I have written about the CELEBRITY preachers before and how breaking people away from their net seems so utterly difficult. These are the one's with mega-charisma, that achieve notiriety.
I have visited some churches, where the pastor seems to slide on a river of oily crooked used car salesman ooze. Sorry if I sound so disappointed in pastors, I know there are some good ones out there, and they are only human, and I had a good one for some years, but some of what I have seen has NOT been good. Do any pastors read this blog? You do not have to tell me your name or church if you do. Probably writing the above may not endear me to the profession as a whole, but if any are, maybe a few of you wonder about the big picture too. Maybe you know something is really wrong. Maybe you are actually aware of the deep deceptions and how the luciferians have entered in.

Speaking of the pastors of today, and continuing the scattered sheep theme, here are more verses from Eze 34: This refers to the shepherds of Israel, but definitely there are parallels to today.

Eze 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

Eze 34:3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: [but] ye feed not the flock.

Eze 34:4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

Eze 34:5 And they were scattered, because [there is] no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

Eze 34:6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek [after them].

Notice where it says "but with force and cruelty, you have ruled them..."

That said, the pastors who are more covert in their dealings with people with a smile on his face, can be running just as toxic an operation as the guy who screams, yells and rules by fear instead.

More from the spiritual abuse link...
Agnes and John Lawless argue in The Drift into Deception that there are eight characteristics of spiritual abuse, and some of these clearly overlap with Enroth's criteria. They list the eight marks of spiritual abuse as comprising:
charisma and pride,
anger and intimidation,
greed and fraud,
Enslaving authoritarian structure,
Demanding loyalty and honor,
New revelation.

Good list, except the "exclusivity" one is open to abuse via the ecumenical, the most important thing to remember is anyone of course who teaches more loyalty to THEM instead of God, that is a problem. The Pope would definitely be an example of that and those leaders who all proport to be "speaking for God" especially those who declare themselves "prophets", and apostles, who have "new revelation" to offer which is on the list above. The Bible can be abused and skewed and twisted, and it seems everyday, that someone has made up a new cult, adding their own crazy twist on the Bible, and usually declaring their utter over-weening total authority. Ever read one of those cult books where there are hundreds listed, those may cover other religions, but there are dozens of "Christian ones".

Ever notice most cults are not run as democracies? In other words you do not get to vote, and they are there to boss you around. There is no relationship with God that leads you but their list of rules, and edicts. I have noticed even some of the "control" pastors here locally even refusing or actively detracting from independent Bible studies within their own churches.

So how do we preach the gospel to those who have been hurt by cults, toxic churches or preachers?

Among un-believers, many are telling me they reject "Christianity" because they state, all religion is about power and control. I have even heard some who are more new world order aware and thinking types say that all religion is run by the elites and popes, priests and politicians, to control mankind. When looking at these Dominionists and even writing about their antics, and their previous less severe in the 1980s, sheer frothing at the mouth campaign for power, I even think of my UU days, and how I thought myself how "Christianity" seemed to be just about a "control matrix". My blessing came in reading God's Word, and realizing God stood against this stuff, and realizing the truth in freedom in Jesus Christ. I seek to try to impart that message with the gospel to many unbelievers I encounter, but it is not always easy, I have to pray a lot, and let the Holy Spirit do the leading of me and them. Some have listened, while others I have not been so fortunate. But one of the most important things with these folks, is to preach God's Word to them. God's Word will cut through the muck and what the world tells them. Here you can introduce things to them from the Bible that contradict what their false cult or controlling pastor taught them.

Rom 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

This means get God's Word to both their ears, and also get His actual Word in their hands. Start with tracts, but also get them a Bible to read. One can get cheap Bibles from thrift stores and elsewhere to mail or give to people.

There is a reason the Bible speaks of the what awaits the false preachers. It is because of all those led away from the truth, so the penalty will be even heavier.

Mat 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

One thing, I am encountering this more and more, due to the Taliban-like Dominionists, many unbelievers, are rejecting Christianity based on their example. It's tough. One thing you do not have to be afraid, to tell a non-believer of "sins" in the so called "Christian" camp if they ask about them or bring them up. Focus on God's Word first and getting the gospel to them but nothing is wrong about honest conversation. In fact many of these things you can answer with God's Word. Those concerned about Dominionists: I read them the verses, where Satan offered Jesus Christ, the kingdoms of this world, and how Jesus turned Him down.

I have gotten some unbelievers to listen, even admitting that some things they see as problems like the Dominionism, is A PROBLEM TO ME TOO. In fact with a few, this surprised them, but it also helped open up a few ears so they didn't just write you off as a cariacture of what they thought a Christian was. With the lady in Jehovah Witnesses, I plan to give her a book on my bookshelf full of verses that contradict the deceptions of Jehovah Witnesses, I pray she will read it. Giving information to people like this, is for the best, you want to give them good uncorrupted books and tracts that lay out God's Word, and confront the errors of whatever cult they are within. Once before in life, I was able to dissuade a family from joining the Mormon church, they were "nominal" Christians that the Mormon church had deceived into selling itself as "Christian" to them. Remember we are planting seeds.

Show them LOVE. I know some of the misguided will say oh yeah, "all that hippy-dippy stuff"...but we need to ignore all those who want to get "Christians" busy fighting culture war and for "dominion" and doing battle for the Pope, and actually go show some non-believers love and concern. If they have been beaten down by a cult or abused as a child by one, then you need to think of what they have dealt with. One thing that is scary is how some seem to scoff at LOVE, if that isn't a sign of the MEANNESS growing out there, I do not know what it is.

Jam 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Showing love of course, never compromise truth, even I have to continually remind myself not to compromise any truth and to warn people and preach the gospel to them. There are times I have lost friends in warning people, and lost an online friend who got caught up in a New Age derived cult that called itself "Christian", when I warned her. Pray to God to direct your words. Sometimes I have worried about mistakes I've made with people, and we will not always succeed, those who come to Jesus Christ or heed His warnings will do so out of their free will, but remember this Bible verse.

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

You want to show them and if you are coming from God's will this will be true, but that you have true love and concern for them rather then just "appearing" to seeking a number to add to a conversion list. Yes for the Christian getting them to heaven and born again, IS first on the list, but as a non-believer they will not see things the same way, they just do not understand yet. Pray to God to even help you to KNOW what to say. This is imperative especially for a hurting person.

There are so many false cults out there. I think of the sheer volumes of false religious organizations even ones under the "Christian flag" I've covered on this blog, not all are overtly abusive, but many out there are. More and more people are being victimized by them.
Christians need to confront how to deal with this growing problem. Share anything you have to on this. Have you witnessed to someone who came out of an abusive cult, or toxic church?


Anonymous said...

My family was a part of a spiritually abusive cult from the time I was 16 to 22. I am now 29 and don't think I will ever devote myself to a church membership again. I saw how self serving the pastor was and how all the members sacrificed time, money, sleep, their extended families, their education, sometimes their jobs to attend every service because it was essentially required. People who left were not to be spoken to. I watched families shun "rebellious" family members and be heralded by the church as "faithful". It was ridiculous. And today I feel like I can do more good on my own, loving and being a blessing to my family, and people I meet without wasting so much time ministering to a fat preacher.

Bible Believer said...

I am glad you got out of the cult. Understand staying out of the religious system. I've had a couple okay churches but most are fallen away. Control freaks do spiritual abusive, and all those actions are spiritual abuse. Did the rest of your family leave this cult. I sure hope and pray so!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thankfully all 4 of us did leave, one by one, in the span of about 6 months. Thank you for your insight and addressing this subject. God Bless.