Four Belief Systems That Support Spiritual Abuse
As spiritual abuse continues to make headlines, with the latest being allegations against a well-known international ministry, we often focus on the individual’s directly responsible, and with good reason. But, we should also remember that repeated abuse like those described do not usually happen in a vacuum. There are often conditions and beliefs that exist within these organizations that enable abuse of power, even using spiritual tactics.
Phil Monroe, respected Christian Psychologist and director of the Master’s counseling program at Biblical Seminary, recently created a list of conditions that enable abuse within the church and without. These beliefs are often even held by those who have been abused and keep them from seeking help.
- The Leader Shouldn’t Be Questioned – Pastors, priests, and other high ranking church members are often perceived as being ordained by, and thus speaking for, God. It may not be as literal in certain denominations as it is in others but the perceived closer relationship with god that these clergymen have means they also have deeply built trust within the church, sometimes to a fault. Those who bring accusations against these men and women are often ignored or not believed because it is hard to believe these trusted men would do such a thing, but it is most often hard for victims to corroborate their stories with witnesses Abuse happens in private, not in front of a group of witnesses.
- The Organization is More Important Than The Individual – If one person brings accusations against the church, many organizations will attempt to hide the accusations or scandal in fear that they could damage the institution. It isn’t unheard of for the organizations to push the victims to another church and restore the leader after controversy has past. What isn’t understood is that this undermines the authority and trust of the institution more than facing the accusations head on and taking proper actions against the person abusing their spiritual power.
- Chronic Weaknesses (mental illness) are Spiritual Flaws Worthy of Admonition – If a parishioner struggles with chronic anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, some leaders are prone to make it clear that the primary problem is not mental illness but a lack of faith and obedience. And in light of this ongoing rebellion, the person with mental illness (and their family) are not given the same kind of care as those with physical weaknesses.
- Thinking is Less Biased Than Feeling – Often when an allegation of abuse is brought against the leader, the merits of the case are decided in favor of the leader’s logical argument, because the victim’s story is emotional. Just as it is often assumed men are more logical than women or children, it is often equally assumed emotional accusers are less trustable than “logical” leaders.