I’m sharing this research because part of being a stable Christian is being aware of the pitfalls of religion. Frankly, any business, social or religious organization can become a cult. Just have the wrong people in leadership and there you go. As I talk to Christians, many are unaware of what makes up a cult. The word has such negative connotations, especially in the post-People’s Temple/Jim Jones age. The idea that cult members are these rabid, zombie-eyed deadheads who make no sense when they talk is a misconception. If one listens to , for example, Scientology interviewees, these people are sane, intelligent, educated people who simply thought they were joining an organization where they could make a difference. They didn’t think they’d give up hundreds of thousands of dollars, their freedom and the physical and mental well being of their loved ones. They got reeled in.
My husband and I were discussing what exactly defines spiritual abuse and why is it so bad? In my estimation, spiritual or religious abuse happens when religion is used, not for the spiritual benefit of the individual, but solely for the gain of the organization and its leaders. Scriptures and principles are turned on their head and used in a way to manipulate, coerce, force and extort actions out of the person being used. What is supposed to be holy, is used in a way that can result in financial, emotional, physical and sometimes psychological harm. What is so horrible about this is in the church realm is that people give a very special part of themselves (soul and spirit, not to mention time and effort they can never recover) to know more about God. The knowledge of God is tied to our eternal destiny, and many times people are willing to give up all, and open their hearts to obtain what they perceive as the ultimate prize, eternal paradise.
Let’s take God out of the box.
The idea of that one church, religious group, or denomination has a lock on God is ludicrous. The idea that God will only lead a person to one church organization is equally not supported by scripture. Frankly, when a person lets Christ into their heart and life, nothing else is needed, they are already a member of God’s church. God never says, “Now find a Pastor from _________church, and then you’ll be alright.”
When my daughter was 16 we went to a child therapist because my daughter was having so much trouble with depression. When Sydney left the room, she took me aside and said “You know, I was one of the child therapists that assisted in providing care for the children from the LDS cult of Warren Jeffs. I’ve worked a lot with children from strict religious backgrounds. The children who had strict clothing rules were actually well adjusted. You know why? Because that’s all they saw. They were in an enclosed environment, so the clothing issue was not damaging to them. But your church is trying to live that way in the middle of a big city where the kids are sent to school, and other places looking completely different from everyone around them. While that may be your church beliefs, your leaders should reconsider what they are putting their children through by doing this, and the damage it can cause in some children.”
Sometimes things that may seem small can have huge repercussions. I’ve talked about unsaid messages I received growing up. Now it was my turn to hear my daughter’s struggles. My daughter and I had a necessary conversation recently since we are both in therapy. I approached her with the thought of covering some ground in our relationship. She’s always been feisty (that’s my side of the family) but she had this underlying anger over small things that she didn’t like about herself. She said it was hard to discuss but she wanted to make a first attempt.