Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comparing the Two, Part 2

This post is continued from Comparing the Two, Part 1.

Some might ask how one can begin to compare the atrocities of physical starvation and beatings at the hands of a dictator to the emotional/spiritual abuse by pastor/elders of a church.   They seem worlds different.  I understand that question.    The physical abuse mentioned in the article depicts the effects of abuse which can be easily seen and identified by anyone, sometimes with just a quick glance.  We read about the physical condition of the children, distended bellies, weakened and tiny bodies, physical scars from beatings, children who starved to death, family members who disappeared.  The way people in this country are treated is horrific.  The signs of physical abuse are evident and leave little doubt as to what happened.   The signs cannot be hidden. 

Emotional and spiritual abuse are not as obvious.  You may not be able to tell by looking at someone that they are emotionally or spiritually abused.  They sometimes suffer silently.   They may not understand what happened.    There can be confusion, disturbed sleep, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in relationships, fears, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.  On a spiritual level, it can result in lack of trust in God (how could a loving God lead them to an abusive church),  mistrust of any spiritual leader, difficulty to pray, read God's word, difficulty to maintain relationships among Christians because of distrust, difficulty to trying a new church and some may never venture into a church again because of that fear or pain.   Because the signs are not as obvious as physical signs and can go undetected, it can lead to a mental or spiritual collapse.  I remember someone from church who had a mental breakdown leading to in-patient hospitalization.  Was this due the spiritually abusive environment?  Some have wondered.  This person never came back to the church, found a new church family and seems to be doing very well now. 

Regardless of the kind of abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse, there can be lasting repercussions on the health and emotional/spiritual well-being of the person.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I quoted paragraphs from an article in (In North Korea, a brutal choice).  I noticed the parallels between dictator/spiritual abusers and the people of N. Korea/people in abusive churches.  The indented quotes are from the CNN article and then you will read my observations on how it parallels with a church with this type of leader. 

When a country is led by dictators, it's the ordinary people who pay the price and are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions. 
I am keenly aware that there may be many people who go to church week after week, sit quietly, never ask questions and never have a problem.  They probably wonder what this blog is about, have never seen or experienced anything that has been mentioned and think I’m a crazy, divisive woman who has nothing better to do but cause trouble.   There are people in North Korea who adore their leader, believe everything their dictator says, never question or complain.  Even though they are starving, they keep supporting their leader and wonder why others distrust their leader and are trying to flee.  They think those who question their leader are wrong and turn them in to authorities if they see them doing something against their beloved government. 

In my first Google review which was removed, I said something to the effect that all will go well with you at the church unless you ask questions.  The same can be said in most countries where there is a dictator - you simply do not ask questions or complain to a dictator without consequences.  If you toe the line, you will be fine.   If you stay and submit to the leaders - all will go well with you - - unless you starve to death which is a real concern.   

We were fine in the church for 2 years . . . . until we asked questions and raised concerns.   It was never the same once this occurred.    We were publicly labeled as divisive and destructive slanderers by the pastor and signed by the elders (read Google reviews).   There are consequences to those who dare to leave, dare to question and we are dealing with those consequences nearly 3-1/2 yrs later.   

Defectors' stories are often the only way the world learns about what happens inside the reclusive country.  But many who escaped North Korea choose to remain silent, fearing repercussions for family members left back home.
Google reviews and this blog are a couple ways in which people can learn what has happened inside this reclusive church.  Many people who leave will choose to keep quiet about their story because they may have friends or family members who remain at the church and they fear there may be repercussions.  

Many who do speak out, including Han and her daughters, use pseudonyms (as they do in this article) to avoid detection by the North Korean government.
Many people who have left and have spoken out on Google Review or on the blog use pseudonyms to avoid detection by the pastor and his group of “spies”.  There still seems to be an element of fear even though they have left.  They don't want to be discovered and sought out again as many have experienced even months or years after they have left.

"I believed the party kept us alive," Han said. "I was very thankful. I was constantly trained to believe that without the party, we wouldn't exist."
We were taught to believe that our church was the best - that no other church could measure up - that most churches weren’t even taught the true gospel. 

She did not doubt the leaders, even as her family went hungry. It was the United States and South Korea's fault, they were told, that they had to hunt frogs, rats and even snakes.
Even though there were some odd teachings or perhaps strange vibes that we felt, we overlooked them because we didn’t want to be in a church with false teaching, watered-down messages, seeker-sensitive churches which didn’t measure up to what we were being taught.  We were convinced that our church was the best and any other church would have been inferior or bad. 

The first time Han and her husband snuck into China and hid at a relatives' home, she got her first glimpse of a rice cooker, full of steaming, hot white rice.
The rice in Han's story represents spiritual life to me - an opportunity to live.  The first time people ventured into a new church, they got the first glimpse of normalcy, grace, life, joy.   The abundance of grace, life, joy is overwhelming to one who leaves this kind of environment.   I remember seeing former BGB friends weep during a worship service at another church - to be free was amazing.

The next day, officers came for her, too. In custody, she was forced to kneel in front of police, who kicked her, beat her with a wooden rod and smashed her skull. They lay her hands flat on the cement floor and stomped on them.
The pastor and elders have come to our homes, unannounced, demanding information weeks and months after leaving the church.  This is not physical abuse as in the N. Korea incident above, but this type of coercion and control felt spiritually abusive to us.  Could he not have picked up the phone and asked for a meeting?  Why the show in force with the elders in tow?  Why was our conversation recorded without our consent?  We are not in N. Korea.  Having been treated like this, it sure makes one wonder:  does he think he owns us?

There are some who have left the church and have come back.  If you are brought back, whether voluntarily or by coercion, you may be forced to repent of your “sins” even if you do not believe you were sinning.  You may have to do this before the church body or on the internet publicly.  You might be beaten down emotionally.  If you humble yourself and give in, you may go back and settle back in, but there is a cost.  Or you may be tainted and never treated the same way again.  But if you leave once again, you know the price that will be paid:  most likely labeled as being in church discipline and shunned.  Either way, this feels like an emotional beating.  

"We can talk about what happened," she said. "All my family in North Korea has died. I realized God chose us. Other people cannot talk or their family will suffer."
We have been out of the church for nearly 3-1/2 yrs.  I signed my name "Julie Anne" on the original Google review.   My review represented what happened to me and what I saw at Beaverton Grace Bible Church based on my understanding of church policies and the Bible.  I believe a lot of people at Beaverton Grace Bible church have "died" emotionally and spiritually in this spiritually abusive environment and I want the story to be told just as Song Ee Han is telling her story publicly.  Even after nearly 3-1/2 yrs, my former pastor seems to be trying to control what I say by suing me and 3 others for $500,000 for "defamation".

The final post in this series can be found here:  Comparing the Two, Part 3


  1. I am curious, if you can comfortably say, how you found out he recorded your conversation. That is HORRIBLE! If you don't feel comfortable, please don't feel obligated to share. I will understand.

    1. I had been tipped by someone who overheard pastor/elders talk about the recording device. It was shocking. I will share more about it later. It is my opinion that this church discipline/shunning business is not really about church discipline at all, but about keeping people quiet. The no-talk rule doesn't work for me now. I'm not going to hide the truth anymore.

    2. Oh it was never about church discipline. We know that from our own story.

  2. I never asked questions but I was not okay in this church. The elders and most notably their wives constantly talked about me and my family behind our backs. Several times CO'N told a story in a sermon that referred to us, but was inaccurate and misleading. He talks about those in his church as if they are his to use in any manner he likes. It is not about discipline. It is about boosting the egos of those who are not finding their satisfaction in Christ and His Glory.

    Sorry I do not sign my name, but I also fear being hunted down and persecuted.

    So glad to have moved away as it seems the only way to get this soul-sucking church off one's back.

    1. "hunted down and persecuted" Really?

    2. "Several times CO'N told a story in a sermon that referred to us, but was inaccurate and misleading."

      He told many stories that seemed exaggerated. The pulpit was used to bully the poor sheep.

    3. Anon post #!: I am definitely familiar with sermons that were used to "preach" to a particular person and their "sin" issue. I'm sorry to hear it happened to you and your family. How did you find out that you were being talked about? Your words: "soul-sucking church off one's back" and "hunted down and persecuted" are very descriptive and deep. It sounds painful :( I'm sorry your family went through this experience. As you can clearly see, you are not alone! Thanks for sharing and keep sharing!

      Anon post #2: When you are on the receiving end of a spiritually abusive pastor or church situation, one can definitely feel "hunted down and persecuted". Those are heart-felt and deep words. This family can use our prayers and support. I hope you will pray for them.

      Anon post #3: Someone recently told me about the following expression with reference to this church: "Bully Pulpit". I can't think of a more apt description.

    4. When you've told something to one person in confidence and it comes back to you in conversation with several others it is so clear that private information has been shared.

    5. That kind of thing really annoys me. When you are sharing a confidence, it is usually a struggle that you are going through. You go to the person who you trust to be a spiritual support, a friend, to give advice, etc. For that person to turn around and tell someone else absolutely erodes trust and is so painful. That's yuck :(

  3. on January 1st, 2009~C'ON, DL and DW were on my front porch, there on the word of my new pastor to speak with me about my not submitting to them and causing discord with the the way, my pastor offered to sit 'en masse' with the several families at this new church to settle the disputes with Chuck, he refused. Instead came to my home unannounced with a recording device. I knew this because I didn't open the door instead listened to their conversation via my peephole listening device. Heard DL say 'Do you have the recorder on? To which Chuck said yes. When I didn't open the door, they left only to return an hour or so later. Then we told them the police were called and to leave us alone, at which Chuck yelled all kinds of reviling remarks about us and they left. The police later spoke with Chuck and he told the officer he was given permission by our pastor to speak with us! The officer informed him only we could give him the 'permission' to be on our property and speak with us. Then Sept of 2010, after we returned a 'family' heirloom piano, of which we were only storing, the 'church', a mob of 30 or more, showed up on our front yard with the piano, all the while Chuck was video taping it. We didn't engage, though it was very very sad and sickening to see the hatred in their faces~next day the piano was given away via craiglist to a very happy large family. God works wonders as painful as it was to see true colors. Since that day, I have been praying God will lead HIS children out of there, and give grace to those still there being blindly persecuted...may your day be filled with His love and grace. I am so thankful to God for leading us out, and when my eyes were opened, they were OPENED!

    1. I suppose all of that was done in 'love' and would be considered 'biblical discipine'. What kind of weird control is exerted to get 30 people to show up at someones house? Unbelievable! It's very telling that Chuck would not meet with your new pastor and you. Our new pastor also offered to meet with Chuck and us but he refused. Doesn't sound like he wants reconciliation.

    2. Meaghan - Thank you for sharing your story. I never would have believed it had I not experienced that kind of thing myself. This stuff only happens on tv or in the movies, right?

      Anon: I'd say that's pretty weird control, too. You can apply what I said to Meaghan here as well - only in movies, huh? I don't *get* a pastor who refuses to make an effort in reconciliation.

  4. What possible excuse can a pastor have for filing a lawsuit? The bible is clear we are not to file lawsuits. Here is his reason given via google, "We are not wrangling over some monetary loss that we have been defrauded. We are not losing financially due to some dispute of business with a fellow Christian. There is no property in question. There is nothing petty at stake. The local church, the ministry of the Gospel, and our families are under attack.... After three and a half years of suffering a great many injuries tamely, without stirring for our own relief, we are now using lawful means to right the ministry of the Gospel at BGBC and to protect our families. It is not a “threat”." First of all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, endured much more than this, secondly, our truly persecuted brothers and sisters around the world are being beaten, starved, and KILLED, and finally I clearly remember endless teachings on how we will be persecuted for our faith and we are to patiently endure. I do not believe he is being persecuted but merely exposed for the false teacher he is and he doesn't like that so he is trying to silence you. How is his family being attacked? What a perfect example of how he twists the scriptures to mean what he wants them to mean!

    1. Go look at BGBC website. He doesn't seem to mind calling people all sorts of names. (perhaps Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, etc, etc,...will sue) But of course he is qualified to make such judgements. Hypocrisy at its finest.

    2. Hypocrisy! Don't even get me started!!!!

    3. Anon #1: I agree with you completely. The whole thing is quite ridiculous. This blog would probably not even be in existence if my original post was not removed on the Google review site. So, in a way, I'm glad they were removed. It forced me to find another way to get the message out and consequently, it's been a great way for others to read and share their stories. It's not "defamation", it's the truth. And it's obviously not only my truth as evidenced by the scores of comments posted both anonymously and with names.

      Anon post #2: Good point!

      Anon post #3: Exactly.


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