We are currently in Part 3 of the Korah theme. In Part 1 we discussed pastoral authority and how the Korah scripture was used to exert the pastor's "imagined" authority over people. Part 2, the issue of "do not question authority" was discussed. In Part 3, we will continue to discuss the pattern of using the Korah scripture in spiritually abusive churches, including more on the topic of the unspoken rule "do not question authority".
In spiritually abusive churches, there seems to be a pattern of avoiding questions and then accusing the questioner of being divisive and in sin rather than answering the questions. Not knowing the frequency of the use of this tactic, it didn’t dawn on me until just recently. Perhaps the pastor really doesn’t have answers to those questions. That's just a thought. But clearly, it is a tactic used by many spiritual abusers to shut down someone from asking questions. It’s just a lot easier to shut the questions down by proclaiming that anyone asking pastor/elders questions is in the sin of Korah.
It was easy to find examples of this kind of tactic on the internet. Here's one example I found by Jeff Dunn from Internet Monk:
Preachers can get away with saying the craziest things. They seemingly get a free ride. If they are questioned, it’s not long before the “touch not God’s anointed” verse is misused as a shield. I know this to be true from personal experience. The church I grew up in as a believer was led by a man who announced he was God’s anointed and we were not to question him. Of course I thought it kind of silly when he railed against Catholics for (as he claimed) elevating the Pope’s words to the level of Holy Scripture when he did the same thing with his own words. Anyone who questioned him in the least was considered to be a son of Korah and was to be shunned. Spiritual abuse at its best.
Meanwhile, if the person who asks the question is unsure of their faith, they may be convinced to believe the problem lies within themselves and their sin. Many times, the question is never asked again and thus, the situation is “hushed”. The original question is left unaddressed and now the congregant has hit a dead end and instead focuses inwardly. There's a good chance that this person will never dare to question the pastor again. And for the pastor, this "problem" is solved. This is how a pastor can use his authority to control his congregation by squelching any questions or comments that he deems threatening.
There are many in the church who might never have a question to ask. They come to church week after week and don’t see any problems. They are good little congregants, never asking questions, never commenting, and they keep the peace. They wonder what the deal is with all those "divisive" people pastor keeps talking about and read the reviews shaking their heads.
We were good little congregants for two years. We wore the right kinds of clothes, attended regularly, took notes, brought our new and pastor-approved NKJV-sanctioned Bibles, sang loudly, sent family members out evangelizing on Friday nights. We went to the pastor for counseling issues regarding our children, freely discussed other “wolves” and it seemed we were generally on the same page with the pastor regarding doctrinal issues. It wasn’t until we asked the tough questions that we became a threat and were asked to not come back.
Rich Diamani wrote an article in which he describes spiritual abuse characteristics and his experiences: "We were once subjected to a two-hour sermon called 'Korah and Co.' in which we were told that any who dare to question the leadership were like the sons of Korah."
He also describes a method called Mystical Manipulation used in spiritually abusive and cultic churches:
Mystical Manipulation - This is the claim that the leaders are acting for God in a way that makes them unquestionable. They have the truth, they have the anointing, and questioning them is to be like the Sons of Korah, who rebelled against Moses. To dare to question the leadership is to run the risk of falling from grace. Honesty with oneself about the real questions you have over the many contradictions in the lives and teachings of the leaders is impossible if you are to be faithful to God. Self-expression and reason are subordinated to the leader, and eventually they are fully subverted.
There are specific patterns abusers use to maintain authority in their churches. They need to be pointed out loud and clear so that those who have already gone through abuse can be aware of what to look for so they don't get caught in the trap again.
Here are some important thoughts:
- It is normal to have questions regarding teachings, scripture, and your faith.
- Asking your pastor/elders questions is not a sin (unless you really are trying to cause trouble).
- Using scripture to "quiet" questions is not appropriate. A good shepherd wants to teach and help you understand.
Admin note: This is a 4-part series:
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here?, Part 1
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here?, Part 2
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here?, Part 3
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here, Part 4