You may wonder what is religious or spiritual abuse?
It’s not anger at going to church when you’d rather stay in bed or learning scriptures you thought were boring or sitting through long tiring sermons. Religion can become abusive when it involves a spiritual system that has developed either around a particularly authoritarian charismatic leader or domineering spiritual authority leading a church or group of churches.
Religious abuse can come in many forms. From what I’ve experienced, it happens when leaders and people of spiritual authority use scriptures and religious doctrines to manipulate people into obeying or performing activities that benefit the leader or the organization and not the individual’s walk with God. When other people are being used for the personal gratification of a leader or an organization, that is religious abuse.
If I can convince you that you cannot keep a relationship with God unless you come to my church and my organization, that’s manipulation. If I use —
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
to say that disobeying me is like disobeying God, because God has placed me in authority and I make you feel that my opinion as a leader is equal with God, that is abusive.
Remember , everyone in such a system: parents, children, sisters, brothers are family units and are caught up in the throes of that system. It will affect your relationship with with your family and other loved ones.
When trust is placed in a spiritual system, and that system becomes damaging to personal development, normal growth, childhood and physical health, then that belief system is dysfunctional.
When the system does not allow you as a parent to raise your children through your own relationship and understanding with God, that system takes the place of God in your life.
When the system preaches that the only way to heaven is through their organization and their organization stops following the Bible, that’s abusive.
When the system hides and ignores wrongdoing and still preaches that they believe in moral purity, then it’s abusive to hold everyone else to a standard that the leaders no longer have a regard for. Whether a church starts out right or has right teaching is not the question. A church’s doctrine can be sound, but if it is not followed correctly or is followed in toxic way that affects people’s lives, then that is a dangerous system.