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PACEs in the Faith-Based Community

Spiritual Abuse (Rise to Resilience blog repost)


By Leona LaForce

My bio indicates that I was in the Christian church for over 30 years. The US, patriarchal, evangelical, Republican, anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-etc church. I am really unclear how I got out of that place, but now that I have, I’m extremely aware of the rampant emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse that is accepted and promoted in the church. Promoted as god’s will, of course, and supported by cherry-picked scripture.

I ran up against some spiritual abuse this week from a non-Christian source and I was going to write on that, but when I did a search for the definition of spiritual abuse, a Christian website came up with a definition…except that it wasn’t a definition. It was a declaration that the spiritual abuse perpetuated in the Christian church isn’t abuse. The article in question said that spiritual abuse existed, but provided no real definition of it nor clearly identified how to avoid it. Mostly the article explained some of the cherry-picked scriptures to indicate how common practices in the church are NOT abusive.

There are probably some Christian churches who do not have spiritually abusive practices, but I’m not focusing on them in this post. I believe that by identifying ways that abusive practices are perpetuated, we can find the churches that don’t use them as well as the churches that do. So here goes.

All abuse has as its goal power and control over the abused. Different methods are employed, but the goal is always power and control. While obviously different in expression, financial abuse, such as withholding funds, threatens and controls a person similarly to the fear of being beaten. Spiritual abuse also has its goal: the power and control over a person using spiritual means.

Read the rest of Leona's reflection on the Rise to Resilience blog by clicking here.

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Hi Leona

You are right, all abuse is about power and control.  Any church that won't let you 'test and approve God's will' (Romans 12:2) is abusive.

Having my own experience of spiritual abuse I found Dr. Barb Orlowski and to be very helpful in not only defining and recognising spiritual abuse, but also in the process of healing from it.

Churches are filled with broken hurting people and finding one where the leadership is open to discussion & correction as well as a willingness to be authentic and vulnerable can be exhausting but so incredibly worthwhile in the long run.  I know so many people who blame God for the hurts inflicted by toxic church leadership and it grieves my spirit and makes me feel so sad. However, maintaining my personal and intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer and study got me through that trial and I pray it sustains you through yours.



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