10 Questions Churches Can Ask Themselves About Spiritual Abuse

"Questions About Spiritual Abuse" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Questions About Spiritual Abuse” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Did you know the purpose of the law is to protect the rights of the individual? Therefore, I think it is important for churches to establish at least unwritten laws concerning the way it treats its individuals.

In any relationship, those involved need to constantly check to ensure that they are treating the other fairly, compassionately, and justly.

This includes churches. I’ve come to believe that all churches are prone to spiritual abuse. In fact, I claim that the abuse of people is the gravitational pull of all institutions and organizations. So we must be diligent to ensure that they don’t go there.

I’ve assembled these 10 questions the church can ask itself to see that it isn’t abusing its people:

  1. Do we use guilt, shame, humiliation, or fear to motivate people?
  2. Do we elevate the church’s wellbeing over the individual members’?
  3. Do we employ peer-pressure to get our members to do things?
  4. Do we treat the truth as though we have it and the people don’t?
  5. Do we speak before we listen?
  6. Do we try to distance our members from their other relationships?
  7. Do we punish with demotion, isolation, or silent-treatment those who differ?
  8. Do we trivialize our members’ feelings?
  9. Do we get jealous when our members seek out other spiritual helps?
  10. Do we always blame the people for when something goes wrong?

Have you experienced spiritual abuse? Come and join us at The Lasting Supper. There are a lot of people there who will welcome you with open arms, including me! We are all survivors. And, btw, we are not a depressing bunch. We’re fun to be around. Most of the time! 😉 CHECK US OUT!

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8 Responses

  1. Jonn McDaniel says:

    Holy crap! These questions resonate well with the “holy crap” that I have experienced in almost every single Christian church I have worked or attended. This should be the new 10 commandments…of how to become and stay a healthy church with a healthy faith story. Kudos.

  2. Thanks John! Right on!

  3. James Paul says:

    Good morning, all. David wrote:

    “I’ve come to believe that all churches are prone to spiritual abuse. In fact, I claim that the abuse of people is the gravitational pull of all institutions and organizations. So we must be diligent to ensure that they don’t go there.”

    I’m in a season of rethinking church & I’d appreciate links to the blog posts & books you would recommend that best unpack & support the idea that the western, institutional church wineskin is, by nature, prone to spiritual abuse. Thanks!

  4. Jo Hilder says:

    Great piece, David. I wrote this one w few weeks ago following a discussion in my Facebook group, Free-range Christians, on how to recognise a spiritual abuser.
    Hope you don’t mind me posting the link.
    Love your work 🙂
    Jo
    http://www.johilder.com/how-to-recognise-a-spiritual-abuser/

  5. Melody says:

    Recognize most, but for me number 1 is really the big one. They are such strong and horrible and devastating motivators. I’ve recently started reading “Healing the shame that binds you” and it is so illuminating. It is all about being motivated mainly by shame, being shame-based as a person and coming from such a family or church. There is a bit about religion in there too, mostly about unhealthy perfectionism in church which only increases the shame as no-one is perfect yet nearly every-one is striving to be (or pretends).

  6. James Paul, here is a list of books I started with:

    Snakes in the Temple – David Orton
    So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore – Jake Colsen
    He loves Me! The Relationship God Has Always Wanted With You – Wayne Jacobsen
    The Naked Church – Wayne Jacobsen
    This Is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended – Keith Giles
    Pagan Christianity – Frank Viola & George Barna
    Reimagining Church – Frank Viola

  7. Mike says:

    This, for me, nails it more than any piece of yours I’ve seen. Just perfect. I didn’t even need to read your description.

  8. the other mike says:

    While we know these are the classic signs of a cult, we also know that almost no organization is going to adopt these guidelines much less teach them to their congregation,..It’s just not in the self-serving interests of Institutional Christianity’s entrepreneurial model.

    “I’ve come to believe that all churches are prone to spiritual abuse. In fact, I claim that the abuse of people is the gravitational pull of all institutions and organizations.” Keen Observation. now lets define that “gravitational pull”?…It’s the pastors Egoism, it’s their insatiable hunger for power/authority mingled with greed. The “pastor’s” of Christianity are really no different than any other megalomaniac, they simply operate behind the cloak of a do-gooder façade.