the old bait and switch and spiritual abuse

baptized into abuse cartoon by nakedpastor david_hayward

In unhealthy relationships, the tactics used to keep you are not the same as those used to get you.

It’s the old bait and switch!

This happens not only in business: “What are all these hidden costs? You never told me about those!”

It happens in romantic relationships: “I can’t believe it! He was so loving. But as soon as we got married he changed into this monster!”

Sadly, it also happens with churches: “The church was awesome until I became a full member. Then suddenly all these expectations were dumped on me and I felt trapped and used!”

Sometimes it’s not malicious. Sometimes it’s just, “Now that I know you’re committed I’m going to be vulnerable and show you my dark side.” But sometimes it is malicious, as in, “Now that I know you are mine you will serve me forever or else!”

The common expression, “I didn’t sign up for this!” is common for a reason.

What’s your story?

(If you long for a safe place to share your story with other good listeners who know exactly what you’re talking about, consider joining The Lasting Supper!)

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  • In a fallen world, full of fallen people, the abuse begins when we come out of the womb.

  • Whoa! This happened both with church and my religious marriage. Can we say ‘love bombed- then dropped like a hot potato’. It is also why persons who have never been members of a legalistic org will never understand. They experience the wooing but never see the abuse. Only after becoming a member you get to see all that.

  • Chester McMackin

    Experience for me is similar to what you have stated. There is, however, no recrimination, as human nature reveals itself in more detail as one gets older. The name over today;s church door is , for the most part, a corporate organization reflecting the policies of the head kyoodellers. The corporate name is a man-made , and therefore open to flaws of one kind or another.

    The intent id sto reflect what GOD intended, but , as humans, we fall short.

    Do not despair from this past, present, and future conduct. Best to apply the principles of REAL Christianity and slough off the ridicule and criticism of our born equal people.

    Less sweat about other’s MINOR sins, and more sweat about BEING that to which we have been directed, and the stage is set for positive example for others. ,Screeching, screaming , scaring, long winded , brain numbing preaching methods don’t cut it !!!

    Will I be fed to the Lions for such philosophy ????

  • Adam Julians

    My story begins with having grown up with undiagnosed dyslexia. What that made me vulnerable to was in the school environment being told I was lazy when I was exhibiting symptoms of the disability. This was epitimsied with a head teacher saying “Adam must work harder if he is to achieve his full potential”. My parents picked up on that and treated me as such. This lead to lack of confidence, poor social skills and a sense of worth dependent on others approval and my achievements rather than having inherent self-worth. This was particularly an issue with my mother as she was the more dominant of my parents. In more recent years there has been an improvement in relationship by me as an adult realising that in her ignorance she had been doing what she thought was best, the harm done was not intentional, and in her admitting she had been overburdening that was a mutual recognition of the problem, and with us both working hard at it, we enjoy a good relationship now. Dad died a few years ago and in his decline of health, he softened and in the last few months of his life we had a peace and a closeness together.

    In church experiences, a common thread for me has been a vulnerability to approval of pastors / leaders. When this has resulted in difficulty and I had done something about it, I have been falsely accused of being insensitive, guilty of pride, having an issue with women in leadership, and attacking.

    In my most recent experience of leaving church, I shared my experience of having grown up with dyslexia and the mistreatment by my mother. The way I was treated on this occasion was with the presumption that, as a man, I had the power in the situation and that I had been doing wrong in the relationship with my mother, where it was her that had the power and I had been wronged. The leader doing this said they were being prophetic and that this is how God deals with things because men have the power and God deals with the ones in power in the first instance. They were wrong to apply that assumption to my situation.

    I lost respect for that leader and the pastor said he couldn’t have me not respecting the leader. At the same time he said “we love you and we value you”. This became stressful for me to the point that I was not sleeping, I asked for pastoral care and attention to this but it was not forthcoming. So I chose to come out from under the pastor’s spiritual authority rather than experience further stress and loss of sleep.

    Since then, I have been recovering both form the symptoms of having lived most of my life with undiagnosed dyslexia, and from church experiences. I get along fine with both the leader and the pastor from my last church. And there had been a church member there who had been praying for 3 weeks to know what to say to me. We had a good talk which resolved the issues I had been carrying from the church experience.

    I would say that looking back on it, the pastor and leader were not intentionally doing any harm in this situation, but they misunderstood, and made presumptions that were not accurate. When it came to difficulty, they were not as willing to consider being challenged about the presumption made or in provision of pastoral care as they were to being challenging about my approach. I appreciated what they said about me being loved and valued, but I needed to be in community that met my needs or at least wasn’t wounding and this was not afforded me.

    I also realise that for my part in difficulty there will have been times where I will have acted as a wounded animal and that healing from wounds will be important in order for future healthy interaction in both church and other communities for me.

  • Al Cruise

    This is why we left our church 2 months ago, after 15 years. We ran an evening fellowship service , for people who didn’t feel welcome in morning service. We ran it like David talks about in his video, we let people come and just be themselves. We sang songs , fellowshiped, had meals together, we would ask everyone who came if they knew of anyone in the community who needed help, didn’t matter who they were or what they believed , just that they were in need, and we would do voluntary donations to the person ,and they would receive everything that was given. We would give a message of hope and love.We saw many amazing changes take place in peoples lives. People were driving 3 hours to attend. We had up 300 people some times. The church leadership noticed and said we should be trying harder to get everyone to come to morning service, finally a newly hired lead pastor came and told us everyone just needs a good kick in the rear end.
    Then he came to one of our services and told everyone there was no blessing here, that only happened at morning service. After 7 years of doing this service we walked . This coming Sunday we are going try on our own at a community hall to carry on. Thanks for this site David, it has helped us through this trying time.

  • wow Al. yep. that’s it!

  • Al Cruise

    Yes. I would have fallen into extreme bitterness, I was having moments of rage, and wishing ill will on the church leaders. I don’t even remember how , but I came across one of your cartoons, and the anger lifted right off me and I laughed.

  • Carol

    This is why I am an “active non-member” of a local church.

    Once we officially “join up” the heard mentality kicks in and any lack of conformity is experienced as a threatening lack of loyalty by the more docile members.

    Same is true in most human organizations where membership often becomes part of one’s socioeconomic/political identity. That is why what masquerades as patriotism these days is often shameful jingoistic nationalism.
    “Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest”, but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.” –Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986)

    The ecclesiastical subculture doesn’t experience any sociopathic disorders that are not equally present in secular society. Unfortunately, our expectations for the church are often unrealistic because we have a magical instead of a mystical understanding of Grace.

    “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it.  But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.  Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

    “Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. And when that person moves away, someone else arises to take his or her place.” ~ Parker J. Palmer

  • ccws

    I’ve never understood that whole “under authority” biz. Where I come from, it was “Christ has made us free, and we are free indeed.” I didn’t run into the authoritarian end of things until I hit college. Very Strange Planet, that…and I turned right around and ran like hell, and still do whenever the slightest hint of it rears its ugly head.

  • Al Cruise

    The real irony in this, is that they preach about outreach and how important it is, but don’t have a clue what real outreach really looks like. What on earth is being taught in seminaries and religious colleges these days. The message from God through Christ is for people on a one on one basis, its for each and every single soul that was created in the image of God. It is not for groups, cultures, denominations etc. They are just to play a supporting role, nothing more.

  • That’s why in certain churches, you catechize adults before giving them sacraments so they know what they are getting into. And so all that is left for them in the end is to receive the gifts, not nasty surprises.

  • Al, your story is clearly a case of the church failing to see the Holy Spirit alive and in its midst. The young pastor was so wrapped up in the church, he missed seeing God.

    While I agree with nearly all of the original post and the comments above, I do want to throw out one glimpse of the flip-side. I am on my congregation’s church council. We are a small congregation (about 40-50 active families). As with any organization, there are some members that contribute a bunch of their time and there are some members that never want to engage in any of the “heavy lifting”. As one of the “cornerstone” families, we are possibly looking at having 3 members of our family on council next year (myself, my wife, and my son). This is NOT a healthy situation for our family or our congregation… The only reason for this is that there are too many families that are saying, “we didn’t sign up for this.”