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.