It's been a while since I posted part 1 but here at last is part 2. I'll still be using "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" as my source. Following the pattern set up by the authors, in part 1, I focused on "the unhealthy dynamics that dictate how people function within spiritually abusive systems." In this post, I'll discuss "the dynamics that create walls around abusive systems."
"Certain characteristics of spiritually abusive systems make it immensely difficult for people caught up in them to leave. Because of the focus on religious performance, things look good to those on the outside. The system acts like a "spiritual magnet" pulling in people from the outside. Inside, however, the system acts like a black hole with spiritual gravity so strong it is very hard for people to get out."
Following are listed those characteristics that create an inward pull that keep people trapped in abusive systems. These are taken from chapter 6.
"The following characteristics are what make these abusive spiritual systems so difficult to escape:
5. Paranoia. In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy "us." This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave - because they will then be outsiders too.
6. Misplaced Loyalty. A misplaced sense of loyalty is fostered and even demanded. We're not talking about loyalty to Christ, but about loyalty to a given organization, church, or leader.
Once again, because authority is assumed or legislated (and therefore not real) following must be legislated as well. A common way this is accomplished is by setting up a system where disloyalty to or disagreement with the leadership is construed as the same thing as disobeying God.
There are three factors that come into play here. First, leadership projects a "we alone are right" mentality which permeates the system. The second factor is the use of scare tactics. The third method is the threat of humiliation.This is done by public shaming, exposing, or threatening to remove people from the group.
7. Secretive. When you see people in a religious system being secretive - watch out. People don't hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate.
Conclusion. When these characteristics exist in a church or Christian family system, the result will be spiritual abuse. It will be a closed system, with rigid boundaries that prevent people from leaving."
In my blogs on spiritual abuse, I've only touched on the highlights. I really recommend studying this topic further by reading this book or studying any of the other resources available. In a previous blog, I recommended some of these additional resources.
I don't know that I'll be adding any more to this series but then originally I wasn't planning on writing a series on this topic. What I've discovered is that this is a broad topic that has affected and is still affecting a multitude of people. It's heartbreaking that the gospel that was meant to be bring freedom and joy has instead been used to enslave and devastate.
Spiritual abuse can thrive only in the darkness of lies and deceit. My hope is that as the shame is removed and people begin to discuss this type of abuse, those that are still bound will be set free and healed of the negative affects and begin to enjoy the freedom that is available in Christ.