Friday, September 19, 2008

A study of spiritual abuse - "The Crucible"

I’m reading “The Crucible” for the first time. This play written by Arthur Miller in the early 1950’s is today considered a classic. Set in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, it describes the events that occurred which later became known as the Salem witch trials.

This was an era of insecurity. Fear of the unknown was rampant and, as a result, over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned as witches. Nineteen of these were convicted and hung as witches and, at least, five more died in prison. All of this was done in the name of purifying and protecting the church from satanic influences. Although this was extreme behavior, it had the same characteristics of all other forms of spiritual abuse with fear being a major tactic. Since those in spiritually abusive systems don’t understand the nature and grace of God, they are subject to delusions and superstition which results in fear.

During the witch hunts, fear was widespread. Being ignorant of God’s nature and not understanding the scriptures, there was excessive fear of the devil and the supernatural. The people didn’t understand that Jesus had already defeated the devil so that they no longer needed to fear him. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ victory was complete in every way.

As families increased, the need for land also increased. As a result, there was much fighting over land and lawsuits were common. When the trials began, greedy farmers used this opportunity to accuse other villagers so that they could take their property.

Internal jealousies is another characteristic of spiritually abusive groups. The members compete for favors and the system of rewards and punishment used by the leadership encourages competition.

Colonial Salem was a highly religious community organized as a theocracy. The church was involved in every aspect of life and could administer capital punishment in spiritual matters. The minister was considered equal to God and was not to be questioned in spiritual matters.

The minister of Salem was a man named Samuel Parrish. His sermons had a strong emphasis on hell and he used his pulpit to push his own agenda. As a result, he was disliked by the villagers and there was constant friction between him and them.

When his daughter became ill with an unknown illness, he grew anxious and began to seek out the cause. At first, he was opposed to the idea of witchcraft causing her illness but he soon wholeheartedly accepted this as the answer. Because of his insecurities, his desire to protect himself and his ministry became obsessive. Not wanting his reputation tarnished, he allowed the witch trials to continue and made no attempt to calm the people. As the trials continued, he did everything possible to prevent the truth from coming out. He and other leaders were more concerned about protecting their own interests than they were in seeing that justice was done or that the people were protected.

This is common with leaders of spiritually abusive groups. These groups are all led by insecure leaders. Protecting themselves is their primary concern and the people under their care become something to use and then discard when they are no longer useful. Instead of being an avenue for teaching and encouragement, sermons become a tool to push their agenda and to keep the people under tight control.

Behavior in Salem was tightly controlled. Dancing was forbidden so when the girls were discovered dancing in the woods, the witch hunts began as they sought to protect themselves. People were expected to be in church every Sunday and to be able to recite by heart The Ten Commandments. Those who failed in doing this were considered suspect.

In spiritually abusive groups, conformity is expected. The people are expected to follow without question the rules dictated by the leadership. Individuality and creativity are considered forms of rebellion and all free thinking is to be suppressed.

“The Crucible” is a powerful and haunting portrayal of the pain caused by spiritual abuse. Although the events that occurred in Salem are extreme, all forms of spiritual abuse are harmful and destructive. People are victimized and families are torn apart.

A lack of understanding of God’s nature causes people to allow themselves to be abused. That’s why I believe it’s critical for these hurting people to hear the message of grace and love. I’m excited about the increasing amount of resources available to assist and encourage those who have been victimized. Healing is possible so I want to encourage anyone who has been victimized to check out the resources listed in my sidebar and begin a journey to freedom.


cybeRanger said...

Your blog has been awarded @

Barb said...

I have the book on my shelf but have never read it. I'll read it this weekend. I loved the parallels that you drew from it toward Spiritual Abuse. Brilliant - thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

The Crucible is such a great book. (I believe I read it back when I was a High School senior in English class). Enjoy your read of it!

"Although this was extreme behavior, it had the same characteristics of all other forms of spiritual abuse with fear being a major tactic. Since those in spiritually abusive systems don’t understand the nature and grace of God, they are subject to delusions and superstition which results in fear" - Aida

Yep. Very true, unfortunately.

I, too, am finding books I read in the past, and realizing the religious implications that influences the actions and events within them. Isn't it amazing how, now being freed from the constraits of legalism, the Holy Spirit enables us to "see" the Truth in such historic events?!

Well done with pointing out the many symptoms and behaviors of uses of confirmity, obsession, control, supression, obedience, and punishment with those who live in a legalistic mentality and ensuing treatment of others.

"That’s why I believe it’s critical for these hurting people to hear the message of grace and love." - Aida

Me too!

Always enjoy your posts, Aida.

~Amy :)

Aida said...

Cyberanger, thank you for awarding my blog. I've posted a blog expressing my appreciation for this honor.

Aida said...

Well, Barb, the week-end is about over. Did you get a chance to read the book? Arthur Miller was a gifted playwright and I want to read more of his work.

The story of The Crucible is haunting. I've thought about it on and off. Although extreme, I believe it perfectly describes the horrors of all forms of spiritual abuse. I'm glad you found my post enlightening.

Aida said...

Amy, I agree with you. It's really like I was blind and now I can see clearly.

I never read the book in high school and avoided reading it on my own because I found the subject uncomfortable. I decided to read it now becasue the class I substituted for had to listen to an audio of the first act. It captivated me so much that I got the book from the school library.

Father has put truth about himself everywhere if we can just see it. I'm glad he's opened my eyes so that now I can see those things that have been there all along.

There was so much more I could have written but the blog would have ended up being a book in itself so I cut it short. I hope what I shared will encourage those who have been victims of spiritual abuse to know that they're okay.

When the person's eyes are finally opened, one of the symptoms is a feeling of foolishness for having been duped. The resultant guilt keeps them from opening up. Perhaps, reading my post will help them to know that it's happened to others and they don't need to beat themselves over the head for having been deceived.

Thanks, Amy. You are such an encouragement to us all with your wonderful, well thought out comments.

lionwoman said...

Aida, thanks for bringing this book up and I'm glad you got the Cyberranger award!!

I used to complain about the 'classics' they made us read in school, which as a teen I didn't really get, because most were not written for children in the first place. But who knows, I might never have picked the good ones up again as an adult if I hadn't had them pushed on me in English class!

Now, I'm going to hunt down (sorry for the use of words!) The Crucible as a reading assignment for our homeschool...


Aida said...

Thanks, Amy. There were so many books I didn't read when I was locked in religion that now I've started reading just for fun. I love historical novels so I just checked out a book about Mary Tudor of England.

The Crucible is an intense book so I would recommend you take into consideration the ages of the children.