spiritual abuse with good results

spiritual abuse cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Spiritual Abuse with Good Results” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

Paul regrets writing a painful letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7: 8, 9). But he is pleased that at least they weren’t as terrible as he was and they used their pain to do the right thing. He wrote a hurtful letter. He’s sorry. But somehow they turned this terrible event around to make themselves better people. This isn’t about the effectiveness of Paul’s meanness. This is about the quality of the Corinthians.

Unfortunately, many feel that this gives them permission to hurt others as long as it receives a good result. The end justifies any means.

I know many people who are simply amazing. They have a wisdom about them, and are more resilient than others. Why? Because they’ve endured and survived abuse and have somehow risen out of the ashes of their suffering as incredibly deep.

This does not mean that we should abuse people so that they can be deeper or learn resilience. Of course not!

Unfortunately, this is how much of the church operates. People have no qualms about abusing people, humiliating them, embarrassing them in public, and shaming them. As long as it achieves the desired result.

And if it doesn’t achieve the desired result, the victim is blamed for not responding the way they should have.

It’s a trap!

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  • Aviatrix

    And often, those “abusing in the name of Christ” don’t recognize the depth and resilience which emerges in the abused – from their strength and will to thrive – as positive, but as yet one more thing to be shamed into submission. Seen and experienced it too many times – never again.

  • Al Cruise

    Many Churches should have a warning sign out front. ” DANGER attending here will teach you how to hate and be abusive”

  • klhayes

    People think that as long as they are doing it “in the name of Jesus” it is ok. Which essentially makes nothing they do wrong if they simply invoke his name.

  • Caryn LeMur

    One of my concerns is about the ‘brain wash’ techniques used by a church: one leader on stage preaching ‘truth’ with all listeners nodding their heads. Their is immense power of constraint and viewpoint when one questioning human is surrounded by many unquestioning humans.

    Although Jesus used this ‘single instructor’ model of teaching, I now lean towards the model being not useful beyond the most elementary teachings.

    I am intrigued that when Jesus stated “… but not so among you, rather, you are to call no man your father… teacher… mentor… for you are all brothers”, I think the model of ‘teaching’ changed deeply into a model of equal disclosure and honesty, using perhaps the written Bible as a launching point for that disclosure and honesty.

    The give and take, “I think this, what do you think?”, even spirited debate, are models of communication among equals. I have had great growth without damage when those models have been used with me (or when I have used them).

    I am afraid that the ‘single instructor’ model too quickly gives way to the Professor vs. Student model (“I know everything and you do not. Please sit and take notes.”) Which, in turn, over time causes a world-view that “The professor is right… wow… I guess lots is wrong with my viewpoint.” And then, over time, we ‘students’ long to ‘pass the test’, and endure ridicule, attacks, manipulations… all from the mouth of the professor (pastor) and his/her teacher aides (elders).

    All that to say, I think much of the abuse would be mitigated if the style of teaching was far more oriented towards discussion among equals.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Michael

    I appreciate it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to all the bad and not so good things the Church does, the wrong behaviour in the name of Jesus, but why oh why do you guys on these blogs continually go on and on about them. How about dealing more and more with the positive aspects of God’s Church!? There’s enough demonising of the world in the mass media and a mountain of hideous literature – let’s follow Jesus’ command and spread some love around. It won’t hurt now and again to be reminded of what is, in parts, wrong with the Church, but hey – enough already.

  • Michael

    Every church should have a sign on their doors: ‘You should find Love here – and if perchance you don’t, go find a church that has it, don’t hang around here.’ Or: ‘You should find Love here – and if perchance you don’t, give it heaps -bring it on in.’

  • baby76bear

    Thank you. This seems to be becoming a common theme for some. Not just to reveal spiritual abuse, but to go back again & again & again to the same incidents, the same experiences, the same people/groups, regardless of how long in the past it was & often without making ANY effort to see if anything has changed. As if Christians & Christianity don’t have enough negativity & abuse from the world now we’re attacking each other. Who but Satan would be happy about that?

  • I think step 1 is to stop regarding the bible as the word of God and then step 2 is everything that Caryn said.

  • “Who but Satan would be happy about that?” Perhaps other Christians that would like to see the more hard-line Christians stop declaring who is going to hell and not and moderate their theology to be more inclusive.

  • “Unfortunately, this is how much of the church operates. People have no
    qualms about abusing people, humiliating them, embarrassing them in

    This is how mean people operate everywhere. You will find the same emotional bullying in nasty fundamentalists as in militant anti-theists.

  • Of course, who could not agree with these wise words? :=)

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Unfortunately, the nastiness cycles in on itself and has a start in the thoughts that one must be right. To be fair to anti-theists, their philosophy and approach is far more recent than Christianity and the religious have RARELY taken kindly to those who express doubt.

  • If one assumes that x% of the world population is just plain mean and nasty you could say that same x% would be mean and nasty no matter what they believed. Although, when you mix in a religion that has scripture verses that says whole categories of people are going to hell coupled with the belief that these scripture verses come from God almighty, then you have the situation where some additional percentage of people (say y%) will also tend to be mean and nasty (who otherwise may not have been) because they think that is what God wants them to be. Since God will throw the “undesirables” into hell, then these believers may think (in emulating God) that they might as well start the “throwing in hell” process as well…. Then with religion, you can have (x+y)% being mean and nasty.

    Of course it could conceptually work the other way as well where religion tends to make people more tolerant and accepting of others…. But it never seems to work like that for most people – just some people.

    Personally, I will always tend to ally with the progressive Christians and criticize the fundamentalists for these very reasons.

  • I agree with almost everything you have written.

    But I strongly doubt that hell (even in the Bible) is eternal. I explain my view of salvation here https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/salvation-by-love-erlosung-durch-die-liebe-unten/
    Augustine was the first Christian to teach that God predetermined most people to eternally suffer in hell.
    And he also was the first Christian to teach that heretics ought to be tortured and even killed.

    Was it just a coincidence?

    2013/10/7 Disqus

  • I wish you well in spreading a more kinder gently interpretation of the various bible verses.

    Of course I think a more rational approach is to simply view all those verses as written by mere people. But if one must believe they come from God, I hope the interpretation you favor gains more momentum.

  • Thanks!

    “I think a more rational approach is to simply view all those verses as written by mere people.”
    As you know from a link in an older post of David, this is the view I hold although I think mere people can have genuine spiritual experiences.

    2013/10/8 Disqus

  • Gary


  • Brigitte

    “Preaching Christ crucified for sinners is gritty, honest, grace-drenched promise, with no bullshit and no platitudes.” (FB, Donovon Riley)

  • Dylan Morrison Author

    Maybe we should get tee-shirts printed ‘Abused – What Would Jesus Say?’

  • Al Cruise

    After many years of street ministry I found that if people are in need help it’s best to direct them to a secular organization, like women’s safe houses, food banks, AA, community colleges, community counselors, etc. Lobbying Churches is usually a big waste of time. I don’t know how many times I heard, ” their just going to spend it on beer”, “that’s the governments job”, ” it’s their own fault and God is judging them,” I have seen so many people healed by secular organizations, physically and Spiritually.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Michael: what positive aspects do you see within the church institution? And what type of church institution seems to work the best for you, and why (small group; lecture series; visiting the sick; etc.)?

    Let us know your thoughts. I would love to hear about some non-abusive church relationships that helped your grow into a stronger more spiritual mature and independent person.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Michael

    Thank you baby76bear – you are right. The healing of memories is very important, but, ( and it is a ‘but’ with great caution ), one must bear in mind Jesus own words about living in the day – yesterday has gone and we should not worry about what tomorrow might bring.

  • Michael

    Yeah! Exactly! Well put Jeff.

  • Michael

    Oh dear – am I a stronger more spiritually mature and independent person? I will have to think VERY hard about that. Wiser, maybe!
    There are two wonderful things that give me a positive wow factor every day – the increasing number of people I discover doing fantastically brilliant stuff, quietly and without fuss, living out the Gospel of Christ in gentle, caring, loving ways, most of which the church institution hasn’t got a clue about because it’s too dam busy running itself. The second is the huge number of people, particularly elderly people, who spend significant parts of their day in quiet and contemplative prayer, with expressions such as, “I am old, and it’s all I can do now.” How wonderful is that – not hurting anyone, not abusing anyone, just loving their God and Creation.

  • Michael

    Al, when ( as a much younger man ) I was doing street ministry, I could talk for hours – and listen for hours – about faith and spirituality, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, St Paul, and much much more. But talk about the Church and one’s listener had gone almost before the words were out of my mouth. What does that say about Mother Church?!

  • Michael

    I like that.

  • Caryn LeMur

    I like what you wrote. Thank you for your thoughts. Blessings! Caryn

  • Michael

    What!? I am not sure that is right. Can you tell me where I can read that please.

  • Michael

    “Unfortunately, the nastiness cycles in on itself and has a start in the thoughts that one must be right.” In terms of verbal abuse, Pope Francis recently wrote some very good thoughts/instruction regarding the subject of gossip.
    Was it C S Lewis who said, ‘Murder of the mind is far more heinous than murder of the body.’ ?

  • Michael

    Thank you.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    I believe you missed Al’s point that the Church has programmed this judgment of others into us.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    True, but you don’t have to be an asshole to strongly preach

  • Guest
  • Livin

    Matthew 5:43-48

    Love Your Enemies
    43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies[b] and pray for those who[c] persecute you, 45 so that you may be[d] sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary?[e] Don’t even the Gentiles[f] do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Of course for balance

    1 Corinthians 2:14-15

    14 But the unbeliever[a] does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated[b] spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate[c] everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated[d] by anyone.

  • Michael

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean by this, in the context of Al’s contribution.

  • wuzzi

    At some point I became a progressive Christian. I honestly don’t know if I had much to do with it,though. A church drove me out and I realized its hypocrisy. I ended up in another church that treated me with a sincere, humble love. If I didn’t try that church and/or if it had treated me as badly as the previous one, I might have left religion. I’m not sure. In a weird way I have been Christian so long and seen so many miracles in my life that I cannot fathom no longer being Christian.

    That being said, some of the hatred that comes from fundamentalist Christianity makes me cringe to take that label, because it makes it harder to convince people that I and God can love them as soon as the word is uttered. Sad truth, that is. 🙁

  • Aviatrix

    I concur.

  • Aviatrix

    If rather large swaths of the church didn’t tolerate – let alone encourage – abusive, controlling behavior in its ranks, it wouldn’t be necessary for the problem to be discussed and exposed to the disinfecting light of day. There are lots of happy-talk, cheerleading blogs and websites where difficult realities are ignored or excused. Those who have witnessed, experienced, lived, endured – or even participated in – the harm which is all too often done “in the name of Christ” and who are courageous enough to speak up about it do a service not only to the injured, but those who have never experienced such rottenness and have only experienced the good. If David and others who speak up didn’t value what is at the core of the best of the church, they’d be silent and simply let it be damned – further corrupted by the infection that needs to be exposed to the light of day.

  • RobinMcM

    Paul was a total prat.
    Paul on homosexuality – hated it: Romans 1:24-27; 1Corinthians 6:9-10; 1Timothy 1:10
    Paul on women – hated them: 1Corithians 14:34–35; 1Timothy 2:11-15; Ephesians 5:22–24
    Paul on slavery – loved it: Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9-10; 1Peter 2:18; 1Peter 2:18-25

  • Michael

    Oh dear, St Paul being misquoted again.

  • Tabitha Elkins

    The word “Hades” meant grave and was (mis) translated as hell. The ancient Romans believed in eternal damnation, and so when Jerome translated it infernus, he was assuming that there would be an eternal hell for sinners, something that Jews never taught. The English word “Hell” comes from the name of the pagan goddess of the underworld, hel.

  • Tabitha Elkins

    The Bible is the word of God, but God didn’t write it. It was written by people who were INSPIRED by God. Secondly, it WAS NOT WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. Most translations contain errors, so if you want to understand the Bible, READ THE BIBLE in Hebrew and Greek (original languages). Otherwise, your interpretation will probably contain errors. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you become dogmatic about YOUR particular errors.

  • Tabitha Elkins

    How about finding a church that ISN’T abusive, and then focusing on what they are doing RIGHT? It’s true that there are abusive churches out there, but a person has to walk away. Too many stay and then dwell on it.

  • Aviatrix

    That’s fine advice, as far as it goes – but it is only part of the solution. There are abusive spouses out there too – and the answer is for the abused to leave the abuser, get a divorce, never look back, and start over. I’m sure you’d agree that is the wisest course of action in those circumstances. You might also say that it is best for the abused spouse to simply forget what happened, not discuss it, certainly not speak out or speak up publicly concerning such abuse or work to prevent it from happening to others, or provide a forum for other abuse victims to learn that they are not alone and that there is a way out. If so, I’d say you were short-sighted. Additionally, what about children who grow up in an abusive environment, or teenagers, or a spouse who is trapped for a variety of reasons, or someone who has been convinced that leaving would be a sin against God, or who has been gaslighted into believing that it’s all their fault and they deserve such treatment? Would you also complain that they need to just get a grip, walk away, and start over with someone new? The parallels between spousal abuse and abuse within the church are very strong – and the psychological grip held by those in authority in such situations can be even stronger. Those who have come to their senses, finally found the strength to leave, and publicly speak about what happened to them aren’t merely bitching about trivial hurts and annoyances. They perform a service for those who desperately need assistance in finding a better way, standing up for themselves, confronting their abusers, and never putting up with such shit from anyone, ever again. Those who think it’s just an exercise in whiny self-indulgence are blind or fools or fortunate to have never been exposed to the very real harm – not annoyance, not hurt feelings, but real harm – that is sometimes done in the name of Christ. Yes, if they still have any desire to participate in a church environment – and can do so without trauma – then by all means they should find a loving, accepting group that is what a good church should be. But no one should feel that their experience is trivialized or that they just need to get over it so as to not annoy the good Christian folk who just don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

  • RobinMcM

    St. Paul is misquoted in the Bible? Extraordinary.

  • Michael

    I did not say St Paul is misquoted in the Bible.

  • JenellYB

    To read in the original languages is sure to bring even more misunderstanding and misinterpretation, because to any of us, they are foreign to our language experience, but even more so, to the cultural context of the times in which any were written. The difficulty of attempting to translate biblical Greek was why the Latin Vulgate was commissioned, even for devoted learned scholars that struggled with Greek. I took freshman Kione/biblical Greek, and the one thing I learned that stands above all else is what a complex and difficult language it is to attempt to accurately translate, for even the most advanced and learned in the language. The all too common “study of the bible in Greek” that is practiced among Christians is a simplified ‘plug in the word’ effort, simply trying to replace Greek words with English words, and that does not work. For many words there are no exact or clear translated words, and the grammar, syntax, sentence structures, are completely different. Greek has more verb conjugations and noun declensions than English, for example, forms we do not use and are not familiar with.
    So I think the better “translation and interpretational method” is to work from English versions that we have, but filter all through sincere love and desire to understand in a loving way, rather than to establish rules and dos and don’ts and judgments.