Indicators of Spiritual Abuse

What are some of the “indicators” of spiritual abuse?  Many experts cite control, heavy-handed authoritarianism, manipulation, legalism, power-posturing, an elitist attitude (only we have the Truth), and secrecy related to finances, personnel, and decision-making as possible indicators of a spiritually abusive system.

Because of the insidious nature of spiritual abuse, it is often difficult for the victim to identify the signs of a spiritually abusive church environment until indoctrination has set in. T. Michael Cart of the San Diego Christian Examiner, himself a “spiritual abuse survivor,” cites the following “common, tell-tale indicators that you can look for that may help you to determine what it is that you have become involved with”:

  • Is your success and worth as a Christian in the group based primarily on spiritual performance and/or obedience to church “authority”?
  • Does your particular church teach that your group is “set apart” from other Christian churches as being special, better or chosen?
  • Is there an overwhelming focus on maintaining the “spiritual covering” of a church leader, mentor or “shepherd”?
  • Does the group require personal and financial decisions to be “approved” by church leadership?
  • If a member disagrees with the church, is that member labeled a “rebel” or “jezebel”?
  • Is open communication discouraged or even forbidden?
  • Is disobedience to church authority considered the same as disobedience to God himself?
  • Are members discouraged from communicating with friends and family that don’t agree with church policy and doctrine?
  • Do church authorities decide what your “spiritual gifts” are?
  • When times become tough, is the member told that they don’t tithe enough, have hidden sin in their lives, or that they need “more accountability”?
  • Finally, do you feel the same joy in serving Christ that you did at the beginning of your relationship with the church? Or, do you just feel performance anxiety and intense need to ensure that you don’t fail or mess it up?  –   The San Diego Christian Examiner

Up next: “Unquestioned Authority”

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