By Martha Long
A while back, someone commented on this blog with a video link on Spiritual Abuse. It was very interesting. Many of the signs covered were exactly what many of us have experienced in Stanton and spoken about here on the blog. While a few of the signs (such as sexual abuse by leaders) are not a typical part of Stanton’s modus operandi, there were so many other signs that point to spiritual abuse in one form or another in Stanton that it’s hard to deny that Spiritual Abuse is part of Stanton’s culture.
So, what is spiritual abuse? It can be defined as abuse in which leaders find ways to control your life for the purpose of accomplishing their goals. I think some of us may have believed that our own goals were also being met (such as we are going to heaven), but we also know that a leader’s goal in Stanton is to make sure you believe all the same things they do and there should be no division (their goals). Those in position of power use God to empower themselves. Some might promote themselves, some are insecure and therefore do a lot of fault-finding in others, some are exclusivist, and most are all of the above. They see themselves as the Word of God. Merie Weiss clearly saw herself at one point as pretty much the only one holding that candlestick.
Even though Merie is long gone, her beliefs and tactics are still very much a part of her church. Merie’s objectives, which became the objectives of the leadership in Stanton, are for you to replace your trust in God with your trust in them; and to replace God’s word with their words. You may not understand or see that they are doing this. Some leaders may not even see themselves as doing this. The shift from trusting God to placing more trust in them is very subtle, although depending on which congregation you attended and how much “counsel” was pushed on you, it may have been not so subtle.
Here are 7 “never” rules that can help you identify spiritual abuse1:
- Never enough serving or attending. No excuses allowed, and certainly not for work or family.
- Never be yourself. Don’t be honest, don’t think for yourself, and don’t excel, especially too quickly. You could make the leader look bad, or you could be accused of having too much pride.
- Never ask too many questions. This starts to look like a threat real quick.
- Never express yourself to the leaders. Don’t talk about your hurts, your feelings, or your real thoughts. Remember, Christ is a rock.
- Never confront the leaders. This is pretty much an immediate withdrawal. Confrontation usually includes feelings. It’s a bad combination.
- Never be balanced. There absolutely should be extremes in your life. Too much fellowship time is perfect. So is spending very little time with your non-member spouse or non-member kids. If they want to spend time with you, they should come to church with you!
- Never be transformed internally. External transformation is enough!
If that’s not enough, here are some other signs of spiritual abuse. Leaders will:
- Betray your confidence and share your information with others.
- Shame or bully you if you don’t give up your free time for “the church”.
- Not allow themselves to be corrected easily.
- Make you feel like you can’t change churches.
- Shame you by bringing up past failures.
- Silence their critics by making them the bad guy.
- Be dismissive to you when you no longer serve their needs.
- Gaslight3 you into thinking you are crazy. Others will think you’re crazy too.
- Use others’ faults to create fear and intimidation in the group.
- Use their charisma to create a cult-like following so that others will defend them when they are questioned.
- Create a culture of a popular inner circle.
- Surround themselves with people who will either praise them, submit to them, or fear them.
- Convince members they can’t know the deep things of God without their help.
- Don’t really help you overcome sin long-term, but will discard you when you make them look bad.
- Think loyalty to them is the same as loyalty to Christ.
- Use exclusive language.
- Say everyone else is wrong.
- Create a culture of fear and shame, where there is little to no grace.
- Cultivate a dependence on one person or group for spiritual information.
The leaders of Stanton have replaced Christ with themselves, have employed far too many of the tactics mentioned above, and have caused many to leave Christ entirely. How many things on the list have happened to you or were witnessed by you?
I have asked Kevin to post Richard Bustraan’s YouTube video on Spiritual Abuse in the Videos section of the blog. He has suggestions for getting out of these situations at the end of the video.
1 As identified in Richard Bustraan’s video on Spiritual Abuse at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3mllQxJylA
2 This list partially extracted from https://jillmonaco.com/25-signs-of-spiritual-abuse/
3 Gaslight: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
Amazingly accurate. Describes Stanton and many other totalitarian organizations to a T. It’s a culture of fear, and it’s not the fear of God either, though the leaders will furiously deny this. There was a lot of gaslighting in Stanton. You were taught from childhood that certain behaviors would divorce you from sanity, and it was encouraged, probably not consciously, for people to believe they no longer had a mind. Multiple times teachers made pronouncements on whether others still had their minds. They were proven wrong on nearly every evaluation where they determined a persons Holy Spirit had vacated the… Read more »
Yes, the gaslighting is strong in Stanton’s teaching. You still show up at their meetings? I don’t get why. You don’t need their approval, Ryan. You’ll never get their approval. #RExit 🙂
Yes, because, as Plutarch said, ‘Perseverance is more prevailing than violence, and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little’. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard. And as the Bible says, ‘In your patience, ye possess your souls’. David demonstrated the correct spirit when dealing with Shimei. Wasn’t vengeful. Justice was eventually done. Funny, Stanton actually taught me how to respond to injustice:). DS was, and still is, as I always enjoy listening to his wise talks, a great teacher. Very enthusiastic, lively, and… Read more »
Your parents were sitting right there listening to that abusive language, am I correct? I’m shaking my head with grief. Now I ask you to take a moment and reread what you wrote about listening and considering ideas. You believe your ideas to be scriptural but the teacher doesn’t believe your ideas so the teacher says you are worthy of death and have lost your mind (probably not in the same rebuke but you have been accused of both). I agree wholeheartedly, you are being spiritually abused. Now I would ask that you reread some of your own comments on… Read more »
I’m afraid they were, PIMO. Thank you for your commiseration. When I stated my ideas, they were not haphazard, but the result of much study, prayer, and observation. My ideas are the same as shown in the New Testament, where dozens of people are healed of physical and spiritual maladies, and Christ plainly said his word would have the same power, but Stanton doesn’t believe that. It’s not bad to be in error, it’s bad to be confidently in error and to refuse to be corrected. I never sternly attack anyone without cause, and I generally try to attack the… Read more »
That said, no one is truly a victim, of anything but our own choices. No one can control the deck of cards they are dealt in life, but we do control how we play them. And, no one ever goes through any circumstance, that someone else in human history did not successfully endure and overcome, and often, others have endured and overcome far more than we.
Continually subjecting oneself to spiritual abuse is not a game. May I politely suggest that showing up to Stanton’s meetings when you know (and have documented here) how wrong their teachings and practices are, is not too unlike an alcoholic showing up at a bar thinking “I’m strong enough to not be affected.” Not judging you for trying—I’ve spent decades trying to reach Stanton myself, though in different ways (personal relationships and this blog, for instance). But I do believe your spiritual growth in Christ is being stunted by this obsession with inserting yourself back into their toxic culture. JMHO,… Read more »
The wilderness was to test the Jews, and kites fly against the wind, not with it.
You are convinced that avoiding Stanton like the plague is wise, and I am convinced that meeting it head on, and persisting until the problem is fixed is wise. Time tells all tales. We shall see what we shall see.
Actually, if all of America behaved like Stanton, there would be no Democrat party, and our nation would be a lot better off, though Stanton has difficulty with the First and Second Amendment:).
Yes, time will tell. 🙂 Perhaps God called you to this task, like he called me to mine. Maybe we each have our parts to play. But my concern is for your spiritual growth, which is going to be almost impossible while immersed in Stanton’s legalism. IMO, you’d be better off detoxing for awhile. But hey—you’re call, my friend.
Kevin, I can relate to what you are saying about continuing to attend while they are subjecting you to their brand or corrective teaching. I stayed for at least 2 years like that and I saw what it was doing to me. Even my wife saw what they were doing and how it was affecting me. You try to stay in good spirits being in the house of God with the people of God, but when a lot of the teaching are against you, how negatively a lot of the congregation acts toward you, and even being treated all around… Read more »
I’m glad you came around. It takes a certain amount of self-confidence to leave when they’ve been telling you seductive lies for so long. That’s why I liken it to “detoxing” from chemical addictions. Glad you broke away, brother.
That was me who posted that video. I’m glad you’ve shared it and are giving it more exposure. It was very helpful to me and hopefully it can be to others as well. He does a really good job of presenting everything in a way that’s easy to follow and understand. What’s ironic is that we point these things out to them only for them to ignore, dismiss and scoff at the blog both publicly in talks or sermons, and among themselves in secret. For you leaders and members of the SCOC who still read this blog, it’s one thing… Read more »
Hopefully they do, AOP. It’s kind of sad when the only people you can learn from are those from the Bible and the 1,500 people in Stanton, and actually, it’s even less than that, because you are not supposed to be learning from ‘babes’, or ‘spiritually weak’ (code for any Christian in Stanton for a two or more years who is not teaching in some capacity) only from teachers. So technically, there are only 100 people, out of 7 billion humans, on the face of the earth that a Stanton Christian can publicly admit to learning anything from. As you… Read more »
AFP, well thank you for posting it. It opened up a great search term for me and I discovered that spiritual abuse is found not only in Stanton, but also in many religions. I have a sister who was similarly treated by her church when she began to question and decided to leave. It’s an evangelical place she went to. Before I left, I did notice some things were changing in Merie’s church, but only for appeasement, not because the hearts of the leaders were changing. For example, young ones now are totally being allowed to travel a little more… Read more »
All. Of. This!!!!!!!!
My apologies to Martha, she wrote this guest post and I had it in draft mode, but apparently clicked “Publish” before finishing the attribution. Fixed it—and thanks Martha for a great article!
Yes, thank you Martha, the article was very well done, past differences notwithstanding.
This list is all so correct. The last few years that I was there I was under a lot of this. This is far from what Christianity is supposed to be. I’ve shared, already, a lot of what I went through there and agree with this list. I just don’t see how doing these things to the children of God and in any way be justified. If I’m doing any of these things to anybody I will be held accountable for it. I was almost raised in the “off” Churches of Christ in AZ, TX, and in Tacoma since I… Read more »
Lynn, you say you “couldn’t grow anymore”. I felt the same way. It is upsetting that we can’t just say “Hey, this isn’t the right place for me because there are things being taught that do not lead me to follow Christ, but rather cause me to follow man.” I’ve said it here before: for many, it leads to a very immature Christianity. In Stanton, many are forever babes, lacking understanding in so many areas because Stanton sits on ridiculous judgements,not allowing anyone to disagree with them. And I don’t mean babes by years, but rather lack of knowledge or… Read more »
That “regurgitation” reminds me of re-education camps in totalitarian societies. You must comply, and if you don’t, you must be re-trained, or there will be heavy-handed social consequences. I think everyone takes notes all the time because regurgitating their doctrines helps keep a facade of conformity. It also reminds of the common refrain in Stanton that they have the “meat” of the Word, but the “religious world” only has the “milk” of the Word. Such complete nonsense. The teachers feed the flock pre-chewed food, and they are expected to regurgitate it loyally. If someone doesn’t, they get ostracized from the… Read more »
Kevin, you are not wrong and I am one of the living proofs. As I have said, I refused to follow that because I was studying and seeking for myself and could see what was happening and I did get ostracized. It was like I was withdrawn from, along with my family. It seems you only get the benefits of the congregation if you in that conformation, because, since I wasn’t, we got nothing. I had to do things on my own and still they wouldn’t understand that. CS, the preacher from the south, continually taught that you shouldn’t look… Read more »
MLong, “Following man” is one thing that I refused to. With knowledge and understanding we know when what we are being told isn’t spiritual. I knew that in whatever was said from others and if I chose to follow it that I would still have to answer to God for it. Just because a preacher, teacher, or Evangelist said to do something doesn’t make it law, but I sure saw plenty of times where it was expected to be followed because they said it. “The truth will set you free” applies to more than just nonmembers hearing the gospel. Knowledge… Read more »
I had a friend send me an article about cults..I’ve vented to her many times about the stuff my family is wrapped up in wishing they could take their blinders off & realize how insane they sound. When I read these they all are pretty much accurate to this “church”. I 100% believe it’s a cult! No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture Dishonoring the family unit Separation from the Church The group relies on shame cycles The group uses “thought reform” methods..in other words brainwashing Unreasonable fear… Read more »
Shannon, I am glad you had a friend to count on. I’m not sure if Kevin has done a post on critical thinking, but that is a HUGE problem there. They love to say PROVE ALL THINGS, but what they mean is, PROVE ALL THINGS THAT THE LEADERS HAVE DECLARED TO BE LAW, OR ELSE!
I like your term “Dishonoring” the family unit. Indeed! It was God who created families, yet Stanton devalues them to the point of destruction.
Thank you MLong..I am too..she has been a literal lifesaver for me throughout the years of hurt. When she sent me this I was like..WOW this is hits the nail on the head with this cult!
You’re exactly right!! There is no critical thinking..it is this is what it means & what you need to do OR ELSE!
Exactly right. Critical thinking is almost non-existent in the cult. When it does exist, it’s self-suppressed because of the social consequences of dissent.