Monday, October 4, 2010

Spiritual Abuse

Okay, this is an odd posting, but really it is a question. I ask this question in response to recent commenters.

I've seen this book around but I've never read it. I've mentioned that someone (like a qualified psychologist) needs to write a book about the emotional games that can be played in a church setting, as within any human society. But within a church it takes on a spiritual flavor.

So, my question is, have your read this book and if so, is it one that you would recommend to others? I'm personally not interested in reading it right now because I still sting from my most recent encounter with my old church. I'm afraid if I read it now it would just stir up my feelings and I'm trying hard to move on. But down the road I would like to.

So, what's your thoughts about it?


Hippimama said...

All Van Vonderan's books are worth reading. He has a strong emphasis on grace, and on the work of the Holy Spirit in producing spiritual growth, as opposed to fake spirituality based on adherence to social codes. I can't remember specifics about this book, as it has been more than 10 years since I read it, but 2 of his other books, "Tired of Trying to Measure Up" and "Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them" (horrible title) were very helpful to me in understanding what are the essential things in practical Christian living. He is writing from the perspective of a person who had tried to do the Christian act, failed, became an addict, found grace and is recovering. I'll have to pull down my copy and re-read, it's probably about time. The "chemically dependent" book had a great chapter on sanctification, if I remember rightly -- a very clear and practical explanation.

Hope this helps.
Courage for your journey.

Recovering Alumni said...

I love this book. Super helpful in unpacking and understanding the harmful dynamics at play in a legalistic or controlling environment.

Anonymous said...

This was a foundationally helpful book...

Initially, I bought it to help me process through a Bible-based cultish church we'd attended. It had been some years since we left, but I thought it might be helpful. Funny enough, as I read it, I realized it was a lot more appropriately applied to my pastor husband...who specialized in spiritual abuse when it came to...ME.

It was so overwhelming that it ended up taking me a few more years to fully process and begin the slow climb out of that environment...

But I credit that book with opening my eyes. The author discusses the very basic core principles of spiritual abuse so's worth getting a copy, even just so you have it to hand out when you meet someone who's been through the wringer with an abusive church or pastor of their own.... I have given many copies away, and so many people have shared how helpful it was to them, as they processed through what happened to them. It's a foundation/core kind of book on all things "spiritual abuse," it really is.

Another book that I consider a "core/foundation" type of book, this one more describing the abusive man, is "Why Does He Do That?" By Lundy Bancroft.

Very powerful book...goes into the mindset behind the abusive man (which would include the abusive pastor). Doesn't specifically deal with spiritual abuse (more psychological/emotional/physical/etc), persay, and yet it does, because it aptly and correctly describes the mindset behind the abuse. It's freaky...and very very good, especially when one is processing through the abuse (in what I call the, "what the hell just happened to me?" stage)... It is totally applicable to the abusive pastor I once had in the Bible-based cult church, and would be equally applicable to the situation you just went through.

I had that one recommended to me by a few different well-read people, including professionals, as I tried to decide whether I was going to get a divorce or "give him another try." (I cried like a baby all through that book, as I realized how deep deep deep my husband's issues really went, down into the core of the person, far beyond my ability to change, and certainly well past any shot of "trying again").


Wendy J. Duncan said...

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse was one of the most important books that my husband and I read after leaving a spiritually abusive "church." Another highly recommended book would be Toxic Faith. In that book there is a list of ten characteristics of a toxic-faith system. We debated whether our group met all ten or "only" nine. It was an eye opener and instrumental in our leaving our cult (I believe religious cults and spiritually abusive groups are the same.) My husband and I started a support group for former members of cults/spiritually abusive groups almost three years ago which has been a huge help to many ex-members.

There are several good articles about spiritual abuse on our website:

Wendy J. Duncan
Author: I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in Dallas Cult

Leanne said...

Good book - I would highly recommend his book "Tired of Trying to Measure Up" above this one, though - for the reasons that you stated. "Subtle Power..." does tend to stir up all kinds of angry emotions, and since your wounds are still raw, it may not be the best time. But "Tired of Trying to Measure Up" and "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning have been extremely helpful resources for me in my counseling.

"Burned by two spiritually abusive churches in a row and now in therapy as a result"