A big part of my paradigm shift centers on the topic of spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse runs rampant in evangelical orthodoxy. So many people across this planet, in one way or another, fall victim to it. It stems in large part from the constitutional-legal view of Scripture and is found most often in what are called Bible believing churches. Many of these churches are cultic in nature. I'm not saying that evangelical orthodoxy is a cult per se. However I am saying, that evangelical orthodoxy lends itself easily to cultic behavior, and that the two, all too often, go hand-in-hand. In most cases, spiritual abuse gets its teeth from the constitutional-legal reading of Scripture. It is easy to project the idea, that if one varies or strays from the acceptable norm of doctrine, they then somehow put themselves outside of the will of God, and it is this accusation, that is the source of spiritual abuse.
The breeding ground for spiritual abuse is an autocratic and authoritarian model of church governance. I call it, the "it's tight, but it's right" syndrome. Over the course of my affiliation with many and various churches, I have heard from time to time, altogether too frequently, preachers say from the pulpit… It's tight, but it's right… When I hear someone use this phrase, on the one hand I want to laugh, and on the other hand it makes me want to cry because I can be certain that at the business end of that phrase lies spiritual abuse every time. It is essentially saying, whether or not you want to hear it from me, it is what the Bible says, and so you better listen. The problem with this statement as I have shown over and over again on this blog is that interpretation is not always right. In fact, in most cases within evangelical orthodoxy, interpretation is faulty at best, and downright erroneous at its worst. All one need do is look at the 30,000+ denominations that exist today and one can readily see that interpretation is certainly not tight and frequently not right.
Spiritual abusers use the Bible and church tradition as a weapon for punishment. It is sad to me that the story of redemption, the chronicle of the living gospel, is used in such nefarious ways for such abominable purposes. At the heart of this is always a control freak. One who is drowning in fear and desperate to control all situations. 99.9% of the time, spiritual abuse is promulgated for the purpose of control. The main tactic that is used over and over is the promotion of fear and shame. These are always done for control purposes. This is the main reason that there is so much condemnation spewed from the pulpits of churches across the globe.
I see spiritual abuse being used often by the leaders of one church or group toward another church or group. It is subtle, especially in the view of one who has bought into the constitutional legal interpretation of Scripture. Many groups that fellowship together regularly have underlying issues of fear and dread that result from the rampant use of fear and shame. Simply put this is spiritual abuse in its most repugnant form.
It finds its greatest strength in the CEO pastor form of church government. Eldership alone will not rule out the abuse. If you’re a group that holds to a tightly constructed, constitutional-legal interpretation of Scripture, this abuse will always arise to the top and rear its ugly head. In future posts, we will look at specifics in this area… What I think the Bible says about it really… How the original apostles doctrine impacts this idea… How the first century church was governed by the Holy Spirit, and other areas surrounding the subject.