I received the following email after I was interviewed by Jim Robbins on his Good and Noble Heart podcast. Meredith shared her experiences in an abusive church and I believe many of us can relate to what she went through.
She has graciously agreed to allow me to post it here. My hope is that as you read her story, you'll be encouraged to move more deeply into the love and freedom that God has given to us.
Jim Robbins suggested that I write you and share some of my experiences with you regarding spiritual abuse. I listened to your interview on Jim's site yesterday and you were just great. Like you, I have survived abusive churches and am super well and have learned a lot from the experiences.
I told Jim I would share my response to your interview in an e-mail. There are a lot of similarities in our experiences. I think this kind of abuse follows the grand design for this kind of thing. The thing that I am most interested in lately is the particular special abuse heaped on women in these situations.
Thanks for letting Jim interview you.
The following is my response on Jim's site to your interview.
Great interview with Aida! She is amazing!
Having been though spiritual abuse myself...and I think many have---even more than realize it...She brought up a lot of points that resonated with my experience.
Submission--- Ha ha ha This is a BIG one, and something that I was very much criticized for. In fact I was labelled rebellious. These religious leaders do exactly what Aida says. The speak about submission and state that we are to unquestionably follow leadership and even if they ask you to do something wrong, you have to do it and God will bless you, otherwise you will be cursed. (I never bought that one.) And Jim, you are so right, this is a very cult-like. I remember leaving a church and the pastor insisted upon a meeting with me and I told him that it was starting to feel cult-like there. He said "we've been called that before..." I got chills.
Vested interest in ignorance---- Yes! Aida said that well! It is unbelievable that a church leader could know the truth or part of it and still withhold it. But they do. In these instances I assume that they are not who they say they are, because that behavior is not a product of goodness. They do this so that they have people around to do things and finance the church. Guilt is a good motivator to get people to do things...tithe, volunteer time, keep them in the church....
Upheaval---- Aida's experience matches mine. If something is going well, it is ended. And also it seems that the pastor will throw his support behind a class or project that is unfruitful or a complete failure. If someone complains that they do not want to participate in it. He will state that that person is not spiritually astute enough to understand its value. They want to keep people down not enlighten and free them.
Conformity--- I could go on forever on this. Originality and alternative views on scripture are demonized. If the pastor wants you at a particular meeting and you tell him you cannot then he will freeze you out and bring it up at a later date. I just have to tell this... There was a tea party at the church on a Sunday. Services were held Saturdays. They had me there virtually every afternoon after work/ school to "help" with things. I needed one day out of the week to do laundry and rest. I was approached by someone who asked if it was okay of they changed me from one table to another for the day of the tea party. I told them I did not RSVP and I should not be on any seating charts at all. I asked who said I would be there and no one answered but everyone was irrate. I told them that I had already been there 6 days and I need to rest. (Bad answer.) Well, I got calls from 3 people in leadership questioning why I wasn't going to the dumb tea party. I still refused and they were further angered..... I was respectful in my refusal and couldn't understand what the big deal was. That was the beginning of my bad reputation....:0)
But I agree with Aida that the experience does make us richer even though it is incredibly painful at the time. I too would not be the person I am today and wouldn't have understood any of this.