I am posting this due to some comments in my blog wherein the writer or a friend of the writer (of the comment not the post below) is within an abusive system, or one which appears to have abusive traits, in this case Mars Hill Church, and cannot recognize the abuse and deeply desires to defend the system and/or the leader. In saying that, I also give credence to the fact that in some systems the abuse takes place not so much where the newcomers and fringe attenders dwell, but within the inner circles of official members, more devoted and service oriented (or mandated?) members, leaders of community groups, deacons, elders, etc.
One difficult aftermath of spiritual abuse is knowing friends or family are still inside the abusive group, that they can’t see, or can’t fully see the problem. We want them to know what we’ve learned about manipulation, mind-control, pressure. And yet, we know that since we are the sinful outcasts or exiles, they would never listen to us.
We wish, sometimes, that someone they respect, someone they would listen to, would take them aside and say something like, “You know, your group sounds a little strange. It sounds like there may be manipulation going on. Have you ever heard of spiritual abuse? You might want to look into it.”
But, of course, there are few people they respect enough to listen to like that since abusive leaders steer them into an elitist perspective. And these leaders move themselves into the place of prominence. Not obviously, of course, but slowly and surely. No one knows truth like the leader. How can inferior Christians have any special insights into spiritual matters. Why, they attend a church that doesn’t believe X or does believe Y. No point in listening to their opinions.
So, they stay trapped in the group.
You know that they are confused, as each new person leaves the group or is kicked out. You know they are confused when the pastor says something that is at odds with what they know is right and they struggle to rationalize it. They waver, they struggle, they fight their own conscience and reason.
They know it’s godly to think the best of people, so when something critical comes up against their leader, they think the best. What they don’t consider, though, is that to think the best of their pastor or leader, they have to think the worst of all the other people hurt by that pastor. And they do. They think of them as rebellious or selfish or worldly or sinful, or maybe just weak.
So they struggle and you only pray that someday, before too much damage is done, they will be able to see through the manipulations and have the strength to get out.
Though I consider our group only somewhat abusive, after two years I was not able to hear from God anymore. It took another year and a half before I knew for certain God’s voice to me personally. I wasn’t sure I’d ever know it again.
I’ve been on sites of those who suffered too much damage and who can no longer hear from God, or no longer know if they can hear from Him. It is the saddest thing to come across these sites. Your heart just aches.