Monday, July 9, 2012

A Parable of Suffering

  I've been excited about this next post and couldn't wait any longer to share it with you!  The article regarding my case brought a number of visitors to the blog.  One person was Craig Vick, who also is a pastor.  He read the blog and stayed, participating in discussions.  I appreciated the way in which he expressed himself as he dialogued with other readers.  He came here out of curiosity because of the court case and then hung around.   In the process, he learned about spiritual abuse as he read our experiences. 

The stories we share do not always create a warm, cozy environment for pastors, and actually might put them on the defensive, but Craig stayed, wanting to learn more.  He's mentioned privately to me that the stories from the blog have influenced how he preaches.   He's obviously taken to heart that anyone listening to him preach may have gone through experiences we have described.   His sensitivity has really touched me.

I think Pastor Craig has sensed the ongoing frustration that some of us have experienced  - that some people just don't get this thing called "spiritual abuse".   He sent me a little parable to illustrate my story (our story) and granted me permission to share it with you.  

Thanks, Pastor Craig!   

 ~Julie Anne (illustrations contributed by resident artist,  my 9-yr old son)

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Parable of Suffering
by Pastor Craig Vick 

P.R. O'Baton felt tired and generally unhealthy. He decided he needed to make some changes and looked for help. He found a book, Dr. Wolfe's Way to Vitality, that promised to bring vigor and health through various exercises and a strange diet. Dr. Wolfe's promises were so convincing that O'Baton bought a copies for himself and for the whole O'Baton family. O'Baton started doing the exercises and encouraged his family to do the same. After some mild resistance, he was able to get the family on board with the new diet as well.

After the first week there was no real change. Dr. Wolfe, on page 13, indicated that this was normal and so O'Baton pressed on. Months went by and O'Baton began to feel worse, not better. His back began to ache all hours of the day. He had less energy than he had ever experienced before. To make matters worse, many in his family were experiencing similar symptoms. Dr. Wolfe, on page 47, said this was normal. It was the result of not being diligent enough. O'Baton believed it was his own fault he was doing so poorly. He could get better only by a more rigorous application of Dr. Wolfe's book. 

After a year, O'Baton found himself in a state of constant, excruciating pain. His son, whose health had also degraded, had had enough and stopped following Dr. Wolfe. O'Baton was terrified by this. He was afraid that his son would discourage other members of his family. He was afraid that all he and his family had endured would be for nothing. He didn't want to quit when he might be so close. Dr. Wolfe, on page 167, agitated O'Baton's discomfort and fear with threats of failing health and even death to those who quit following his book. 

O'Baton's son got better. O'Baton got worse. He decided to quit using the book. By this time he couldn't remember what it was like to live without pain. He was sick, exhausted, depressed and frightened. He was also becoming angry. He wrote a letter to Dr. Wolfe and told his story. Dr. Wolfe responded with a form letter. It indicated that anyone not experiencing success with Dr. Wolfe's book was not following it correctly. O'Baton wrote again. Dr. Wolfe sent him a coupon for a discount on any further purchases of the book and expressed more than a little rage against those not finding health.  

Three weeks after quitting Dr. Wolfe's regimen, O'Baton started to feel a little better. He went to see a doctor. He was still in much pain. The doctor was appalled at what O'Baton had done to himself. O'Baton was embarrassed and ashamed. He had followed a sham.  

One morning O'Baton noticed Dr. Wolfe's book on Amazon. He also noticed that he could leave a review. He was still suffering the horrible results of following Dr. Wolfe. He thought to himself, "Maybe I can warn others to stay away from this book. Maybe I can spare someone else the pain I've endured and am still enduring." He left a review telling his story and warning consumers. It was the only review. 

A month later O'Baton returned to Amazon and noticed several new reviews. All of the reviews were glowing. It looked as if Dr. Wolfe and friends were leaving disingenuous reviews. O'Baton's lone negative review was difficult to find. He was horrified by this new state of affairs. His warning would not be seen. Others would be trapped by Dr. Wolfe's harmful exercises and diet. Others would find their bodies wracked with pain. O'Baton started writing more reviews. Soon, others injured by Dr. Wolfe added reviews as well. For every negative review posted, however, hundreds of positive reviews would be posted as well. Dr. Wolfe knew how to hide the truth. Then, for reasons no one really can explain, the negative reviews started to disappear altogether. O'Baton was determined to speak out. He started a blog. 

Dr. Wolfe wasn't happy. He sued O'Baton for ten thousand talents.  

Many visitors to the blog found solace there. They found a place where they could tell their stories and comfort one another. Many suffered permanent physical damage from following Dr. Wolfe, but still found comfort in knowing they weren't alone. Other visitors, however, blamed O'Baton for all of his problems. They criticized O'Baton for not letting go of the ills suffered under Dr. Wolfe. They criticized him for being so critical. They criticized him for leaving negative reviews. They criticized him for starting a blog. They didn't seem to notice or care about the suffering of many who had religiously followed Dr. Wolfe's Way to Vitality.

Admin note:  I've got a few posts to put up before the court case, please feel free to continue this discussion.  I know I want to :)


  1. Forgot to mention: Craig told me the word 'probaton' is the Greek word for sheep, hence, the name P.R. O'Baton. So clever!

  2. Thank you, Pastor Craig, for relaying the story in such a clever way and then for the compassion you have continued to show. You have illustrated how ridiculous it is that some have attacked the messenger in this case.

    I am blessed to have a wonderful pastor, and you remind me of him in many ways. You are such a blessing to people on this blog. And by the way, I wish I had even a fraction of your tact.

  3. Yes. Thank you Pastor Craig. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

    This parable sums it all up. You saw the elephant in the room.

    I only wish for Julie Anne that more pastors would come forward with support like you have given.

  4. Pastor Craig, I wish I lived closer to you church! Julie Anne, you are in my prayers!

  5. As the week unfolds and the 'lucky day' comes rolling along I am comforted that God is more than able to right the wrongs of this lawsuit.
    I am grateful for the truth that is here on this blog, and grateful for the courage of you, Julie Anne to do what is right~and that is to speak your truth of the abuse many of us have suffered.
    I know how ever this turns out God will receive the glory and we, abused and shredded sheep, the good.
    I feel so amazingly peaceful and full of love. God's grace and protection is available to me, everyday. He doesn't leave us nor forsake us. I am so blessed to have a church and fellowship who loves AND cares about me, prays for me, and encourages me in my walk with Jesus.
    My daily devotion today was so appropriate~Great people, great responsibilities-"God, give the king your good judgement and the king's son your goodness." Psalm 72:1
    "Let him be honest and fair with all your people, especially the poor. Let peace and justice rule every mountain and hill. Let the king defend the poor, rescue the homeless." Psalm 72:2-4

    God is blessing us as we walk this road, trusting in His providence that truth is to be warn others of our truth. What happened and is happening to us, even now after three and a half years later, is abusive.

    I am grateful to live in a land where I have the freedom to speak my truth and there is separation of church and state. I am grateful to my wonderful attorney, Linda who has explained the LAWS with patience and kindness.

    Tonight, and the last 3 months my sleep has been sweet, my fellowship with others has been restored, but most of all~

    Love to all, praying for humility and grace when I will have to face the wolf, and those who have been deceived by him~IMO~I too was deceived at one time, but to God be the glory, He has opened my eyes and given me a voice to speak into the darkness, warning others of what I have experienced. In God's timing, He will open eyes to the deceptions.

    Thanks again Julie Anne

    1. Meaghan

      I'm very moved by your praise to the One who calls the king to defend the poor and rescue the homeless. He is faithful. Thank you for your encouraging words.

    2. Meaghan said: God is blessing us as we walk this road, trusting in His providence that truth is to be warn others of our truth. What happened and is happening to us, even now after three and a half years later, is abusive.

      Meaghan, you are absolutely right. We are so blessed. God has given us peace in this "trial" (pun intended). But you also so clearly remind us of the truth in your last sentence that the abuse continues even now through this lawsuit - 3-1/2 years later.

      I believe the lawsuit is an extension of the spiritual abuse that this man is exerting over former members - an attempt to silence us in a bullying fashion. I have not seen or heard of one pastor who agrees with him taking legal action against us. He has been counseled by many pastors (including Grace Community pastors) and others (who have sent me copies of their e-mails) that they have encouraged him to withdraw the lawsuit. Taking Christians to court is against scripture.

      The stories we've heard have not gotten better, but worse. I have spoken with many former members on the phone. To hear their voices shake, to have them say "wait a minute", as they pause to weep, to hear them tell of their adult children abandoning the faith, to hear of broken relationships - of relationships that were very, very close, but now are broken by shunning - what kind of church is this? Decent pastors/churches do not leave people battered like this. This is the fruit that we are seeing and now have come to realize has been happening for approximately 13 years.

      In my comments, we have read from pastors who have had to work with former members helping them to "detox". Former members leave with distorted view of the Bible, distorted view of God, distorted view of themselves and their faith, destroyed relationships. He has created a nice little niche for himself in a place where no one holds him accountable, but we are not under his authority and we have the right to tell our stories. And we will. Let's see what our US court system says about our right to free speech. We will in three days.

  6. Thank you, Pastor Craig, that was most beautiful!

    Meaghan, your comments, especially the verses from Ps. 72 brought tears to my eyes. O How I long to live under the peace and justice of such Kingship! vs 18:

    “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
    Who only does wondrous things!

  7. Thanks to all for your kind words. Writing this parable helped me think through and hopefully understand better the abuse many of you have experienced. Karis, I often thought as I was writing "Please don't shoot the messenger" so we're on the same track. Churchian_Not, exposing that elephant was my main goal. One who gets t, I wish you lived near our church too. Monax, thank you for your encouragement and the many great thoughts you've shared on this blog.

  8. Nice story but Pastor Craig left a few things out.
    First, that there is a plan out there that completely cures P.R. O'baton and not just makes him feel better.

    Second, that the plan exists in written form handed down by a recognized Practioner who cannot be wrong in his prescription.

    Third, that the plan was communicated to us by handpicked messengers who wrote exactly what the "Perfect Practioner" wanted, and added commentary to the plan at his instruction and again that commentary is perfect in accordance with his instruction.

    Fourth, that as "patients", these messengers instructed us to compare ANY plan to the one handed down, and if differences are found to adhere to the original plan. If the differences are significant we are to abandon the secondary plan and its author and have nothing to do with it.

    You see, if P.R.O'baton had only followed the "Perfect Practioners" plan he would never have had any problems from dr. wolfes wrong one.

    While dr.wolfe will certainly answer to the "Perfect Practioner" for any errors or deviations from the original plan, P.R.O'baton would have saved hinself from his problems by following the "Perfect Plan" hinself. By deciding that he was in a position to decide tha dr.wolfes plan was accurate he set hinself up for problems down the road. If he only would have compared the two plans early on he would have been able to run the other way.

    I realize that all analogies and parables break down at some point, this one serves to illustrate that if we rely upon our own understanding we will make serious mistakes that have consequences. If however we rely on the perfect plan and the "Perfect Plan Giver" to guide us our misteps will be apparent before the consequences are to great. This applies equally to dr.wolfe and P.R.O'baton

    1. Hi Dino:

      I'll just cut to the chase cuz I'm like that and very limited in time. (Hope you don't mind, my heart is genuinely interested in your response and I mean no ill-will toward you.)

      Are you suggesting that I didn't follow the perfect plan when I posted my Google review or blog?

      I did search scripture before posting (and got permission from my husband to post - you all knew I had to throw that one in there). :)


    2. I don't know, this sound a bit like telling a victim of a mugging that if only he had been wise, street-savvy enough to have not walked down a particular street, perhaps sticking to the two-lane roads instead of the lanes, than he would not have been mugged (obviously), and therefore, the responsibly for the mugging does not really belong to the mugger, but to the victim, who should have known better.
      I used to subscribe to the theory that if only I were educated enough, in terms of doctrine/Bible, and serious enough about my faith, then I would be immune from being victimized. But, biblically, the False Teacher (and in some cases, the abusive pastor) is a very clever, manipulative, doctrinally-aware individual. He often understands the arguments of the "Perfect Teacher" and his commentators (not sure who those would be, in the analogy)better than most believers. Christians who look to their doctrinal convictions alone as the means of safe-guarding themselves from abuse are a turkey-shoot to a real False Teacher. He eats those kind of believers for lunch, often using their own intellectual and spiritual pride as a recruitment tool. We need to maintain a healthy, humble, openness to the Spirit's leading, the Word's direction, and the miraculous intervention of Christ Himself to deliver us from False Teachers and abusive ministries. These guys aren't called "wolves" for nothing: they are wild, cagey, intuitive, predatory, and slippery. You'd be a fool to agree to have coffee with one of them, unless you were told by him beforehand that he wanted to meet with you to discuss his repentance and remorse. Don't think a degree in theology or a good study Bible is all you need to go toe-to-toe with these guys! Blessings, Pastor Ken

    3. Julieanne, with respect that is a loaded question, but at great risk and wearing a flame retardent suit, I will say that it is in fact a possibility. This in no way should be taken as a defense of the pastor. I will further say that it is NOT my place to make that judgement, nor am I doing so. That judgement is between you and God, and I in no way presume to enter into that transaction. In short, without clear evidence of sin that directly contradicts the received Word of God, I will NOT now or ever make that charge. I do not have nor do I expect to have such evidence.
      Let me try to explain,
      Lets say Gods perfect plan for health states that we are to eat 6 oz of broccli every day, with no qualification.
      dr. wolfes plan says to eat 6 ozs of broccli with a fork held in your right hand.
      P.R. O'Baton says says I dont want to eat it with a fork in my right hand.
      OK, no problems yet, both are still eating the prescribed 6 oz of broccli.
      P.R O'Baton then tells other patients of dr.wolfe they dont have to use a fork either. Still no problems
      dr.wolfe then tells P.R. thats the way we eat our broccli around here, if you dont like it you can go somewhere else to eat your broccli. dr. lupines patients use a spoon in their left hand, dr.canine's patients dont use any utensils but eat it straight off the plate.But if you are going to be here we use a fork in our right hand. Still no problems, everyone is eating the 6 oz of broccli as prescribed by God.
      P.R O'Baton then writes publicly that dr.wolfe is wrong for insisting that the 6 oz of broccli is to be eaten with a fork in the right hand. dr. wolfe then reponds publicly that P.R. was asked to leave his patient group for refusing to eat the 6 oz of broccli with a fork in the right hand. Still no problems. Just a disagreement over how to eat the 6 oz of broccli. Its unfortunate that it is public, but within reason.
      P.R. then writes that dr. wolfe is a bad doctor and should have his credentials pulled because he insists that the broccli be eaten with the right hand and a fork. dr.wolfe then writes that P.R. is a bad patient, if in fact P.R. ever was a patient because P.R. refuses to use a fork in the right hand.
      Now we have a problem, both have now placed their judgement and belief on the same level as Gods original instruction. They have substituted their beliefs for Gods absolute standard, or at least added to that standard with their own "wisdom". The problem here is'nt really between them but between the individuals and God.
      The fact that dr. wolfe chooses to have his patients use the fork in their right hand, is no more wrong than P.R. choosing to use chopsticks held with toes. That is what Paul is talking about when he talks about comparing, Paul, Apollos, and others. It is what he is talking about when he says dont sweat the small stuff but get the essentials right. The problems come when we elevate our views and beliefs to the same level as Gods clear and established word, not when we disagree about how we live out that word.

      Now, I get that I very probably did not make my point very clearly, and that may lead to misunderstanding of what I am trying to say. Further I realize that even if I did make my point clearly some are going to have serious and deep disagreement with it.I dont have complete knowledge of your situation let alone all the other ones that are present on this board and my feelings on this matter mey carry no weight or validity. If that is the case you should disregard them entirely, I will try to clarify if questions are asked but I will not argue. The scriptural basis for my opinion starts in Gen chapter 3 and ends in Rev 20.

      You asked if I(dino) was "suggesting that I(JA) did'nt follow the perfect plan when I posted my Google review or blog?", I am saying the possibility exists but the only one who can answer that question is you. As a fellow Christian, I am bound to accept your answer. However we really know that my opinion,as well as any other persons, really doesnt matter.

    4. Ken

      I once heard Tal Brooke, the president of Spiritual Counterfeits Project, say something like, "Even if my IQ is 200 I have to realize that my enemy has an IQ a hundred times greater than that". That made me reconsider how immune I am in myself to falling for a false teacher.

    5. Dino - Thanks for taking the bait. I thought parables were supposed to be simple - haha. My brain is frazzled. I'm off for a quick swim and will respond when I get back :)


    6. Ok - back now and family is fed.

      I had a whole bunch of responses in my head, but I guess what I'd like to ask you, Dino, is what you would have done if you were in my shoes. Keep in mind you have at least 1 adult kid abandoning the faith, you've seen many adult kids abandon the faith, families/long-time friends with broken relationships because of forced shunning, it's been going on for years and there is no one in authority to stop this craziness.

    7. I took the bait earlier I might as well take the line and sinker too. I must say however I find it easier to just stand back and "throw stones" than to answer your question. I cannot say what I would have done or would do if faced with the situation you present. But I would like to try to reason through it if you will allow me.

      First, lets start at the end. There IS someone in authority to stop this craziness. A soveriegn God who knows how many hairs we washed down the sink this morning. A God who says he controls kings as easy as his hands change the flow of a small stream of water. A God who knows what is going on in HIS church and in fact pre-ordained that it would happen. A God who proves this pre-ordaination by predictive prophecy shot throughout his scripture. But why did'nt he fix THIS situation? It is a question I am sure that the Jewish nation asked as they were held in captivity, or one the pastors asked during Diocletions persecution, or that the martyrs asked during the inquisitions and so on. Why God lets the "craziness" go on is a question Peter deals with in the third chapter of 2nd Peter, where he says that God is not slow but he will be right on time. HIS time not ours. It is also a question that Jesus and his apostles asked I am sure as they were killed or boiled in oil. We see through the glass dimly but then face to face as Paul puts it. We may rest assured that God will take care of it when he is ready and not before. Note what happened to the 12th apostle that was chosen before God was ready. what do we hear of him? Nothing, because God had chosen Paul, but the apostles would'nt wait. Look at Saul in the Old Testament for the same lesson, God chose David. The excesses, heresies, and evil of the medieval church lasted for hundreds of years before God brought about the reformation. Why? I dont know, I only know that God was in control and worked it out for HIS glory and to HIS good purpose. How does that help us, today? Only this, NOTHING happens that our soveriegn God does not control, from the outcome of your lawsuit, to who is preaching at BGBC.
      This line of reasoning does not allow us to do nothing however. It is clear that we have a part to play in Gods plan, and a responsibility to act. But it is not accurate to say that there is no one in authority to stop the craziness.

      More in the next post

    8. As for the abandoning the faith issue, I feel your pain. As a later in life(42) father of a 10 year old son (our only child) I am under no illusions about what the future may hold in that regard. Having left the church(and seminary) myself as a young adult I understand some of what you are going through and what I put my parents through. I can not speak to what happened with your adult child or the others, and I wont speak about my situation, but I would like to look at it generally.
      I think as parents and as the modern church we present a very skewed picture of God and Christianity to our children that causes a dis-connect as they get to the point they think for themselves. We present God as love, and Jesus as someone with butterflies on his shoulder who is there to fix all that is wrong in our lives. We present the Gospel like this, If you are addicted to drugs Jesus will fix you; Are you lonely? Try Jesus; things not goin the way you want? Get a little Jesus in your life. Oh we talk about sin, and hell, but our real pitch is Jesus as a fix-all. We talk about freedom in Christ as if we have no responsibility to a holy God who saved us. And what did he save us from? Certainly not the wrath of God, because God is love. He saved us from being lonely, addicted, sad, poor, tired and all the rest. What do we expect them to do when they find out they have been sold a bill of goods, and the church is full of sinners and their life is'nt turning out the way they thought it should? It just isnt the prosperity preachers who teach this, it seeps into our churches as we dont want to teach the hard stuff to our kids. I finally had to force myself to talk to my son about what actually happened at the crucifiction because I found myself wanting to save him from hearing the gory details. We tell them all about "God so loved the world" but we never say anything about "Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me." Trust me thats not a phrase you see on a greeting card at the Christian bookstore. Break that phrase down and look at its two parts and really spend some time thinking about what it says. Is that what we teach our kids about Christianity, is it what WE think about it? Thats what Jesus said its about. Forget about what you want, and get ready for some pain, thats what He said. Now, does Jesus help us? Yes, sometimes he does but that is not why he saved us or what the main thrust of Christianity is about. Its not the way I would have designed things to work, but God did'nt ask me for my opinion when he put this all together.

      The New Testament, the whole Bible really, is full of Gods people, lying, cheating, stealing, killing,incest, betrayal, idolatry, divorce, you name it Gods people have done it and we are surprised they are still doing it? Our kids are suprised because we have sold them Christianity as it should be, or as we want it to be but not as it is. Bad leaders? Look at Saul or the other kings who "did evil in the sight of the Lord", look at Arrons sons who were killed during church for being drunk, Judas,and a host of others in the NT. We shouldnt be surprised, but our kids are, and its our fault for not teaching them biblical Christianity, but instead teaching them just the good stuff.

      Our kids get to young adult hood and discover that the Church is full of fallen people in various stages of being set apart. They discover that the Church is full of both leaders and members of the body who are just pretending. They discover that it is'nt what we told them it was, that it does'nt do what we said it did, and we are SUPRISED that they throw up their hands and walk away. If my son walks away because of one bad pastor or church then the fault is mine not theirs. Because I didnt teach him about the difference between how it is and how it should be, between "here and now" and "then and there", between a Holy God and a fallen world, between acting like a Christian and being one.

    9. Dino: Thank you for taking the bait, hook, line, and sinker. You are more brave than others :)

      I'm going to once again be direct and I hope you don't mind. Are you saying it's bad parenting that causes adult kids to walk away from their faith because they weren't presented with the hard (negative and difficult) truths?

      Have you personally dealt with someone who was spiritually abused? What does spiritual abuse mean to you?

    10. Dino,

      I hope that you are teaching somewhere because you have an uncommon grasp of and gift for articulating the real truth of the gospel.

    11. Dino - My head was going to town as my feet were walking in the neighborhood :)

      I've read through your posts a few times now. Our children were not coddled, they were taught there will be persecution and to expect it. Our former pastor was HOT against false teachers - go to the church website and see for yourself. Go read his blog. Actually, if you replace the name of his church with another church with false teaching, he would have been proud of me for posting the Google review and blog - I learned from him :)

      I'm going to have a few interruptions today, but wanted to post this while it was fresh in my mind. I may have more . . . because that's how my brain works :)

    12. Julie Anne, I never mind directness, it leaves less room for misunderstanding. Talking around issues is one of my pet peeves.
      Bad Parenting is a loaded term and overly broad in terms of the point I was trying to make. I trust we can agree that Scripture clearly teaches that parents are responsible for the spiritual training of our children. My point is in an effort to spare them and to make Christianity attractive to them we over emphasize the good points and down play the negatives associated with Christianity. We do the same thing by and large with our adult evangelism.
      I will try to illustrate; 30 or so years ago I decided to be a professional Bull rider. Something I did as an occupation for 4 1/2 years. In my first session of my first training camp the instructor said "It is not IF you get hurt doing this, it is how often and how bad." A cliche to be sure but it was the first time I had heard it. I heard that phrase at least 100 times over the following 7 days. A couple years later when I was teaching at the same camp I asked the guy why he said it so often. His answer was " If I tell them once or twice they will know it here" as he tapped his head, "but if I tell them 1000 times they will know it here" as he tapped his chest. The result is that when it happens, as it did to me frequently, it is expected and the focus is on results not circumstance. That is why people frequently marvel that a Pros first question upon being injured is "when can I ride again." But it is not really that out of the ordinary if you understand their mind set.

      Likewise Christians who are taught that Christ will make everything better for them are being set up for disappointment. We hear "everything works out for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose" But we rarely define what "good" is. Good is to often defined as " I lost my good paying job so God must have a better one coming" but when they find a minimum wage job in a crummy town they feel as if God has failed them.
      Got to go have a meeting, if you want me to finish I will try later.

    13. sorry, my wife was the meeting and my son is getting a face/mouth full of stitches after falling of the deck rail and the grandparents house. He was warned once, but thought he could handle it, apparently he could'nt.

      To continue: That crummy job may be for the "good" of Gods plan but feels like "bad". Just read the whole of Romans 8, there are a lot of very bad things in that chapter happening to Christians but they are presented as being good. Not all of them come from outside the church either. How does that work? It doesnt if the focus is on the Christian and not on God and his plan.
      As we focus on the "here and now" with our kids we often give the "then and there" short shrift. Our focus needs to be trained on "then and there" with "here and now" just prelude. That is why we are "sojourners" whose home is not of this world.

      It is relatively easy to teach about persecution as an outside force that acts on Christians and that fighting against such persecution is to be valued. Those lessons are taught(and should be) and recieved. The issue is with internal persecution, the negative aspects of a church made up of fallen human beings or regenerated people still trapped in the fleshly bodies. If not innoculated against such internal persecution/abuse it is truly a shock when it happens. Sometimes that shock translates to walking away. Because the "church" is not actually what it was presented as being. Spend some time thinking about why the Church grows so dramatically during periods and in places of extreme persecution.

      To say its "bad parenting" is to discount all the other "good parenting" that is done. It is rather a failure in a specific area of spiritual education, and it is clear that that failure is a parental responsibility. One that NONE of us carry out with perfect execution, but one that must not be neglected.

    14. You're a good story teller and I'm going to attempt to read between the lines and give my interpretation. I love how you brought your son's injury into the discussion - timely! :) Hope he heals well . . . . . and learns his lesson :) I've got boys around his age. I get boys.

      You seem to be bringing this down to a parenting issue of presenting the good, not the bad in Christendom. I disagree that that even happened in this situation and maybe Hannah can pipe up if she gets some time on her hands.

      The full picture here is that whole families were sucked in, single moms, seasoned elders, even former pastor, etc, not just my adult kids. Hey, I was sucked in, my husband was sucked in (husband has been strong Christian for 40 yrs, MK, etc). There was something happening and I couldn't put my finger on it completely when I was there. When we read in the Bible about false teachers, we find they go in quietly, unnoticed, deceiving and devouring.

      If you think that by simply reading the Bible and having an understanding of false teachers and how they work that you will be exempt from wolves/false teachers, you may be deceiving yourself. You seem to say it a "sin" for falling in the trap. Am I understanding you correctly? I have to stew about that one. I think of the people who followed the truth of what he preached and gave him 110% percent supporting (because much of a false teacher professes is truth!). And then they got dragged along and finally realized something was just not right and eventually got out - some after only 2 yrs, others after a decade or so.

      I guess the underlying message I'm reading (and please correct me if I'm not reading it right) is that those who experienced spiritual abuse are reaping consequences because they weren't clinging to God and His Word as they should have. In essence, they created the situation they are in.

      But - even if what you say is true, we still have a problem on our hands - people who refuse to go to church, etc, because they are so battered and in pain. And as much as you, Dino, or Fred, or Anon want to focus on what happened, what (alleged) mistakes were made, how I posted publicly and I shouldn't have, how my husband shouldn't have allowed me to post, etc, how are you helping those wounded sheep by saying "told you so"? Is that going to help them?

      I think I could have worded this more softly and gently, but I'm pressed for time to polish it up. I hope this is clear and that you know that it is said with the heart of "wrestling" these tough subjects to get to better understanding.

    15. Julie Anne I will be brief for reasons stated privately.
      First off I did not bring the issue to parenting, I simply answered the questions you asked. My original point was not to denigrate parenting but the focus in todays church being on what God can do for us NOW verses what he has done for us eternally. That disconnect I believe causes unrealistic expectations given of whom the "Church" is made up. When those unreal expectations are dashed it is not unexpected that the frustration and disapointment would be lived out by leaving a "Church" either individual or corporate that does'nt deliver what was promised.

      I am absolutely NOT saying that falling into the trap of is sin. As you say some got out after 2 years, some took 10. Why the difference in time? You are absolutely right in saying false teachers sneak in, and are disguised as "angels of light". They do teach a Gospel that is not far off the true Gospel. False teaching is rarely a choice between Good and Evil, it is almost always a choice between, "Kind of", "partly", "almost" true, and absolutely true. Thats why individual study of Scriptures is so important. Paul says to Timothy "Study to show yourself approved" and to "become a workman of the word". Study and Workman (or workwoman) are action words that denote strenuous activity. By being "Berean"(not a bad thing) about the word we will recognize the false teaching when we see it. Will that keep us from falling into the trap, sometimes, but it absolutely will get us out of the trap sooner before the damage being done is permenent. You say you knew something wasnt right but you could'nt put your finger on it, how did you finally figure it out? Please tell me it wasn't worldy council that did it, but that you found the answer in Scripture. Thats all I am saying. It is not our fault for falling under a false teacher but surely we bear some responsibility for staying there dont we? We did'nt( I am including myself here) create the situation we were in, But God has given us clear warning signs, and descriptions of those situations.

      Finally, I am not sure why you grouped me into the list with the other two posters and their charges, as I can't seem to find anywhere where I have made them. Sayin "I told you so" to a wounded sheep is the same as saying to a sinner "you are in sin, you are in sin" it just doesn't do any good unless you give them the second half "Here is how you get out".

      If you believe that all I have done is to point and say "told you so" I have utterly failed at communicating what I felt led to communicate. The responsibility is mine, and I apologize.

    16. Julie Anne,

      It’s not that I want to focus on what happened, or what mistakes were made it’s that there is a palpable lack of acknowledgement that there might be even a smidgen of responsibility for joining and staying in a church where more time was spent on behavior than onn the real heart issues of a human being and their Creator in nearly everything that I read on “spiritual abuse”.

      I’m going to go way out on a limb here and bring in politics (groan) but when I read many of the posts on your blog I am reminded of the former pastor of our President who became (in)famous during the election. He represented himself as a minister of the gospel but listening to his preaching, it was clear to me that it was much more important to him to be a wronged, victimized member of a minority than to entrust himself to the One who made him. There was no gospel in his message, there was only vitriol. Sadly, that is what I am seeing here…people who want to remain in a victim state and talk about it rather than acknowledge, as Dino has so eloquently reminded us, that really bad things happen to all of us…and NONE of it is outside of the purview of our God.

    17. Anon

      It's reported that President Kennedy, after hearing two contradictory reports about Vietnam, looked at the authors and said, "Did you two go to the same country?" I'm wondering if you and I are reading the same blog. I'm not sure how you can read about the broken heart of a mom after her daughter's ordeal and write that there's not even a smidgen of taking responsibility. As far as your comment that people here want to remain in a victim state, I just don't see it. Perhaps you can help me. To whom are you referring? Certainly not Julie Anne.

    18. Dino: I'm responding to your 3:39 post. I did receive your note - you have my thoughts and prayers.

      Please be patient with me, Dino. This topic has become quite heated on my blog and elsewhere and I may have inadvertently brought some of that to the table in my tone/words and I apologize, Dino.

      I think what I read you saying in this comment is that God has given us everything we need by knowing Him and through His Word to keep us from falling into the trap of being deceived by false teachers. I equate it with experts on counterfeit money. They know and have studied the real thing so much they can easily spot a counterfeit. That idea is the perfect situation and how wonderful it would be if that could always be the case. The reality is that deceivers deceive and "get in". People have their guards let down for any number of reasons. We are human and we fail.

      But obviously God knew that there would be false teachers and he knew the destruction they would cause and he also talked about the destruction that would occur to false teachers who lead ones astray. And He also talks about caring for the lost/battered sheep and going after them.

      I appreciated Craig's simplistic parable. Of course he could have elaborated more fully. You bring up the important idea that if we would have done XX, then we wouldn't be experiencing XX. Of course you are correct.

      But at this point, I am actually thankful for what happened. Yes, I'm thankful for the circumstances that led us to remain there for 2 years, instead of 2 weeks. If I would have followed the perfect formula of XX, I would never have known the pain that thousands and perhaps millions have experienced at the hands of false teachers. I would never have known how to love them and show them compassion as I can now. And because they know I "get it", it opens up more doors for me to share how God has been faithful to me, even through my bad experience and encourage them to risk and to try to seek Him again.

    19. Craig,

      I don’t feel it would be right to call any individual out, but I will say that no, I’m certainly not referring to Julie Anne.

    20. Anon 3:41 - In Honor of Hannah You might read more of my heart in this post about mistakes I made.

      I think others might disagree with your assessment of the blog. You might change your mind if you stick around and take to heart the stories that you read.

      The healing process is not something that happens overnight. Imagine this, I've been out for 3-1/2 years and new things still come to mind about what happened. Meaghan and I were discussing this today. She was telling me things 3 years ago and I did not believe her. Now I wholeheartedly agree with her. I think God reveals things to us in His timing because for some of us, the full knowledge of the abuse and its ramifications might be too much to bear. So, yes, it does take time. While outsiders may call this "victim" mentality, I call it processing. It's one more step of healing.

    21. Dino: I received your note, thank you. I'm fine about continuing this discussion. These discussions are good. I asked Pastor Ken about an issue not too long ago and we went round and round on it, (right, Ken?). I was having a difficulty with what he was saying and he knew it. We trudged along and after studying scriptures he sent me and considering his words and praying, I came to the conclusion he was right! LOL What was I thinking arguing with a pastor who has way more Biblical knowledge than me? :) Anyway, sometimes these kinds of debates are so helpful.

      I'm also cognizant that if I am struggling with an issue, others may be, too, and may benefit from the discussion.

      I would like to respond to another part of your note privately, if you are okay with that. bgbcsurvivors@ gmail dot com ~ja

  9. Dino,

    I like the way you've expanded the imagery. It gives us more tools so that we can better express ourselves and think more clearly. I agree that we've been given a perfect plan. Where I think we need to be careful is that we don't use the perfect plan, unintentionally, as a battering ram against those who need it most - those who are suffering. Though the plan is perfect we're not. We are prone to misunderstandings. Let me give some examples. The father of a friend of mine believed that the plan guaranteed perfect health to the faithful. As he aged his body began to wear down. When he was in his late seventies he came down with cancer. At a time when he desperately needed the comfort of the giver of the plan, he found only despair. He believed that he had cancer because he didn't have faith. The plan was like a hammer to him, beating him down. This wasn't because there was an imperfection with the plan. Another friend of mine gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome. By God's grace she was able to find comfort in her suffering. She shared that comfort with others. She spoke to moms at many Bible studies and fellowship groups. After she spoke there was often someone present who would indicate that the reason she had a child with Down Syndrome was because she wasn't following the plan. This perception of the plan did much harm.

    How can we avoid examples like these? Of course, one thing we need to do is study the plan very carefully in reliance on the plan giver. There are other correctives as well it seems to me. We need the humility to recognize that we all are capable of misunderstanding the plan. In fact, we've all misunderstood it at times in our lives in ways that bring harm rather than good. We also need to remind ourselves that the plan is to be used in love. Like you I want to call P.R. O'Baton to a better life. If I'm not careful, however, I can come across as simply and coldly blaming him for all of his problems. Love calls me to weep with him first, as a fellow imperfect follower of the plan and then to examine the plan together with him to find what we missed.

  10. Great writing, Pastor Craig! Blessings, Pastor Ken

  11. Let me start out by saying what I should have in my first post. I am in full agreement that Spiritual abuse happens, further I believe, based on scripture, that it is a heinous sin that God hates.

    Pastor Craig,
    I get what you are saying about cancer, and downs, and other evils that inhabit this world because of sin. But in your parable you are not talking about evil that "happens" to someone based on a fallen creation. You were writing about an evil that P.R.O'baton actively participated in. Not as the perpatrator surely, but actively and by choice.
    This is markedly different from the passive evils of cancer and downs. Using Gods given word will help us understand why the passive evils happen, and why a good God allows them to, but will not allow us to avoid them. This understanding is a great comfort sent from God to not only help us through such events but also to allow us to be a witness of his goodness despite going through them.
    In your parable using Gods plan as an objective, absolute standard for "being healthy" would allow P.R. to avoid the problems that befell him. Gods plan/scripture delivers to us on a multipicity of levels but three main catagories are 1. Explaining to us how we may be saved from Gods wrath that should be ours as a result of our sin, 2. Explain who God is and Why He has done things as he has (to the extent our earthly minds can comprehend), and 3. to provide a roadmap for navigating creation as children of God. I would submit that your parable deals with number 3, and your response with the second one.

    I get what you are saying with the parable(i think), my point would be that to focus on the last 4 paragraphs may well negate the lessons that are in the first 3. I believe that those lessons are equally as important as the later ones.

  12. Two major differences between Julie Anne’s story and the parable of P.R. O’Baton:

    1.) When you go to a doctor, or even read medical advice in a book, you do so as someone unschooled in the principles of medicine; and are therefore, completely reliant on the medical practitioner’s judgment and treatment(s).

    Conversely, a believer need never take the opinions/advice/judgment of a pastor at face value due to the fact that we have access to and are to have knowledge of the same TEXTBOOK that he does. We are not to be blind followers of anyone but our Lord.

    2.) If you are comparing Dr. Wolfe’s “Way to Vitality” to the preaching of the Word of God, consider this: the gospel is not just a set of rules to follow that comes without back up support. It cannot be compared in any way, shape, or form to a doctor’s prescription. It is the LIVING communication of God to His people.

    “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:15-16).

    “For the word of God is living and xactive, ysharper than any ztwo-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and adiscerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

  13. Dino,

    You are correct that my parable doesn't address how we may be saved from God's wrath.

    I find a range between passive evil and full participation. Being deceived by a false teacher is in that range. It's both something that happens to someone and something where there is participation. It's a form of being conned (a very serious form). For this reason we need to be quick to listen to the pain and damage of the abuse and slow to judge the active part. I think we agree on this, but you want to make sure that we don't somehow leave out a positive call to the Gospel.

    Note that in my parable Dr. Wolfe recommends changes in diet and more exercise. This sounds right. Exercise and diet are key to physical health. Yet, Dr. Wolfe is still a deceiver.

    1. Craig,
      I must apologize, I missed the final paragraph at your post at 12:54.That sums it up rather well.

      However the issue I have is that unlike the diet and exercise example and the mugger (not yours) we as Christians have an absolute and objective standard by which to judge teachers and alley ways. If a teacher were to propagate a diet of sugar donuts and exercise consisting of dodging rocks thrown by major league pitchers we have a standard of evaluating that teaching. To ignore the standard and place our trust in a man is clearly wrong and there is a heavy responsibility borne by the hearer. The issue is as you so aptly stated, that the teachings are rarely that far from the standard. But the fact that we are warned that there are such teachers, told how to recognize them, instructed as to the standard they are to be measured against, and given a course of action when we find them, indicates that there is responsibility on our part to do the above things.
      While we can and should weep for those who have been misled, if thats all we do we are doing them no favors. Feeling sympathy for them does not relieve us of our responsibility to show them their error, or how to keep it from happening again.
      I certainly dont want to come across as cold, it is not my intention. I am reminded of recently having a bone repaired that did not heal properly and was causing me problems. The physician certainly understood my current pain as well as the previous pain, he, as a friend would, felt bad for me. But he re-broke it anyway, causing me considerable pain again.

      It is not my place or job to try to fix this and I absolutely do not want to add to anyones pain without need, I am just trying to provide a different viewpoint.

    2. “Feeling sympathy for them does not relieve us of our responsibility to show them their error, or how to keep it from happening again.”

      AMEN, Dino.

      This is exactly the crux of why certain of us are having difficulty with this whole issue of spiritual abuse. I’ve seen almost no time spent on discussing one’s own culpability in the matter or coming up with a plan to prevent getting involved in a church with legalistic and/or heretical teaching in the future.

      And when any one even attempts to mention this, they are met with cries of “re-abusing the victim!”, “making them feel unsafe!”, “it’s just like accusing a rape victim of bringing on the attack!”, “where is the compassion?!!”

      Frankly, this is obfuscation of the highest order..considering what is at stake here.

    3. I’ve seen almost no time spent on discussing one’s own culpability in the matter or coming up with a plan to prevent getting involved in a church with legalistic and/or heretical teaching in the future.

      I'm not sure what to make of the first part of your above sentence. Are you saying that we should be responsible for the abuse? If we believe a lie, we are at fault?

      On the second part of your sentence: we have discussed healthy/non-healthy churches, signs to look for or avoid and have begun a list. I'd like to get much deeper, however. How about share some of your knowledge in this area and offer your suggestions? I will add them to the list.

  14. Anon

    I'm sure there are many more than two differences. As for the ones you highlight, notice that medicine is moving in the direction of erasing the first difference. We're encouraged to be a full participant in our medical care. We are instructed to seek second opinions. So I think we could say that the goal in either case is for us to be able to make fully informed decisions. I would argue that abuse undermines a persons ability to do that, but that's probably for another post.

    As for 2), I'm comparing Dr Wolfe's book to false preaching. It looks right, but it's deadly. The Scriptures you quote do indeed highlight the difference. There's no real power in a false prophet's ministry; it's deception.

  15. "Dr. Wolfe wasn't happy. He sued O'Baton for ten thousand talents. "

    I thought it was thirty pieces of silver?


  16. I love this parable! Wow, it sounded EXACTLY like my abusive pastors teaching. He would rant and shout, "you don't TRY faith, you walk it out. If you're not walking in prosperity and healing like I am than your only "trying" your faith instead of walking in it." He'd strut back to his office then almost collapse into the chair because his healing didn't stick in between services as he struggled with painful back issues. But during service he would claim till he was blue in the face that he was walking in healing. Apparently, he was only "trying" his faith instead of walking in it like he preached.
    Man, he made so many people feel guilty for being poor, or sick, or for having relationship issues because they weren't "walking in faith". Thank-you Jesus for Grace and that God gave me the grace to walk away from my old church.

  17. In reading this parable and the ensuing discussion I was powerfully reminded of something Jesus said, "I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

    Certainly, as Dino points out, we need to be in God's Word for ourselves and be discerning about the preaching and teaching we are subjected to, but our enemy is crafty and ruthless - 2 Corinthians 11:14 says he disguises himself as an angel of light. The lies he wants us to believe can come in the form of a sermon preached by a trusted pastor or elder. And when that happens, the truth can be very difficult to discern. We expect lies from outside of the church, but when they come from the pulpit, we aren't expecting it and probably aren't on guard.

    By the time we realize the truth, we are more than ready to run the other way, but the abuser isn't just going to let us leave. In my personal experience, this is where the majority of the abuse comes in. The abuser wants your autonomy, and so he or she tells you that you won't fit in anywhere else. The abuser wants your confidence, so he or she tells you that you just aren't good enough. The abuser wants your community, so he or she instructs others to shun you. By the time the ordeal is over, you feel unlovable, unworthy and constantly falling short, and alone.

    Could all of that have been avoided by being discerning in the first place? Perhaps. That's not the point though. The point is that we have people hemorrhaging from our churches because they've been made to feel like less than nothing. Do we meet them with compassion (as Pastor Craig Vick is trying to do) and guide them lovingly back to God and to a place where they can trust Him and others again? Or do we judge their discernment in how long it took them to leave?

    Malinda, as an aside, I read your "Journey From Spiritual Abuse" blog a few weeks ago and was really touched by it.

  18. So . . . . . amidst all of this talk about failure to heed Bible's instructions about false teachers, telling the messenger she may have been error . . . . . . . . . who is tending to those wounded sheep?

    1. Primarily God.

      “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice." ~Ezekiel 34:11-15

      And there are of course some pastors and churches, and men and women like you who pursue the wounded as well.

    2. But Lydia, I'm in sin and didn't do it the right way. I shouldn't even have this blog, remember? I did get my husband's permission, but my husband is probably out of line. (following the line of thinking that so many have told me)

    3. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I don't think even the most perfect Christian in the world could avoid suffering - suffering is part of God's purifying design for believers. And even the most discerning people can be led astray by the enemy to negative consequences. IF IT WERE a matter of sin, the minute (down to the instant) that sin is confessed before God is the minute it is gone. And at that moment God begins to transform our mistakes into something beautiful.

      I have a few questions for you, Julie Anne. I'm asking from a sincere heart (my email is on my blog link if you'd rather not answer publicly). Do YOU think you are in sin? Do YOU think you didn't do it the right way? Do YOU have guilt about this situation?

      Or are you letting others tell you that you are in sin? Or tell you that you didn't do it the right way? Or make you feel guilty about this situation or even this blog?

      If you answered yes to the first set of questions, pray about it and ask God to show you what needs to happen. Ask Him why you feel guilty - understand that if you do have any unconfessed shortcomings, Jesus' cross is more than enough to cover them.

      If you answered yes to the second set of questions, don't give people the power of conviction in your life. That's the Holy Spirit's job. If you are doing what God wants you to be doing, why should it matter what I say or what anyone else says?

      I'm not trying to attack you, dear Julie Anne. As a sister in Christ, a fellow victor in spiritual abuse, I want to encourage you on your journey to healing as well as spur you on in your relationship with Christ. I use the Bible as much as possible to back up my statements, not to show you your faults, but to point you to the most encouraging place I know.

    4. I know you aren't trying to attack me, Lydia I do not believe I am in sin. I think there is a biblical precedent to call out wolves. We followed Biblical guidelines as far as going to the pastor, getting others involved, etc.

      The snarkiness you sensed is a continual frustration that I experience when dealing with spiritual "intellectuals" who instead of wanting to get their hands dirty and deal with the pain of people who have been abused, would rather complain at the messenger. I don't sense any love or compassion from these individuals whatsoever. They also don't seem to be able to fully comprehend the effects of spiritual abuse, yet they come across like they are the Biblical authority and I am a woman and less-than and so my words don't count (not saying this has happened on this post). As my mother would say, "it irks my buns". (Hannah don't tell Grandma - haha!)

    5. I understand your frustration...

      I think we have a general problem with pain and hurt and anger and negative emotion in modern Christianity - it is easier to not deal with these things. (But not better to not deal with them).

      And I meant to post this in my original comment, but awesome art work!

    6. Thanks, Lydia. I will be sure to pass your comment along to the 9-yr old redhead.

    7. Wow! Julie Anne, can I ever relate to your frustrations when you talk about being a woman, a less-than, and your words don't count for anything. I realized the other night, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that I have been defending my "right" to be a minister of the gospel since I was 14 when I knew that God called me into the ministry. I've had people yell at me, dismiss me, ignore me, discount me and disrespect me as a called woman of God. I've been in and out of ministry since God first touched my heart and spoke purpose into my life at 14. I've been a music minister for 6 years now in an official capacity and this whole time I've had to defend the call of God on my life because ignorant people who refuse to see God in others have tried to convince me that God could not have possibly called me, a mere, lowly woman.
      God has called me to have a voice. If He had not, He would not have given me one to speak and to sing. I cry out for the wounded, hurting, the blind and the helpless and I sing over them a balm of God's peace, forgiveness and love.
      Julie Anne, don't ever let anyone discount you because you are a woman. It's hard to not have those knee-jerk reactions to rise up and defend our rights to have a voice and God use us to minister. I do that all the time when someone tells me I have to do something or I can't do something, or even just treats me differently than they would treat a male worship leader (like I'm their personal songstress that they can order to sing the songs of their liking. Sorry, I don't play for tips!). But be encouraged for God has called you for such a time as this. Keep being that voice of encouragement and do not be ashamed of your gender and always remember what Jesus said to the disciples of John the Baptist in Matt 11:6. And Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.
      Religious, Pharisaical people will always be offended by the Spirit of God in and moving through Spirit led Christians. Read the end of the beatitudes in Matt chapter 5. Jesus was talking, not about unbelievers, but of people who are supposed to share our faith. Hebrews persecuted Hebrew prophets. God's "chosen" people persecuted God's chosen people.

    8. Malinda - we share another thing in common. I've been involved in music for decades (singing/piano P&W).

      I've never ever felt like a less-than at any point of my life until recently when discussing this case with "spiritual leaders". (BTW, one of them even told me he was a top pastor . . . hmmm.)

  19. Okay...I really am not trying to single Dino out, but his comments are familiar ones to me - like ones I have heard as I have come out of the abusiveness of my past. I am not trying to say that this is what Dino is thinking - I am only trying to express my experience with others who have made similar comments and what they were (by their own words) thinking....

    So, to preface, here's one of the quiet teachings the Holy Spirit showed me through this (ongoing) process of healing is - - -

    "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will bring forth justice in truth." - Isaiah 42:3

    "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering (dimly burning) wick He will not quench, till He brings justice and a just cause to victory." - Matthew 12:20

    He does not - with me has never - when I am in pain and confused, come at me with chastisement, saying (in effect), "Well, if you had been more diligent or paid more attention or been a better Berean...." He does not tell me the abuse is my fault. As I begin to heal, we have discussion about how to avoid similar situations in the future, but He has never told me that if I had done a better job of studying, I wouldn't have fallen for that.....

    In my experience, the primary people who place the fault in the hands of the abused - especially while said abused are still in pain and trying to recover their footing - are the abusers themselves or those who follow their teaching.

    I recognize this could be viewed as an attack on Dino, but it is not meant to be. It is meant to highlight what I see as a problem with the perspective that the abused need to be corrected.

    Sometimes, when a bruised reed is met with even mild scolding concerning their culpability in their own pain, they will break - their faith will break, their heart will break, and yes, depending on the severity of the abuse and manipulation, even their mind might break.

    It is better, I think, to come alongside with Love and compassion than to come alongside with doctrine. Recognizing "how" is a part of the healing process, but is a good piece down the road from the beginning....

    1. Jeannette -You saved my health (blood pressure) and time (typing) by posting your great responses. No need to echo what you so beautifully expressed!

  20. From "The Bruised Reed" by Richard Sibbes, 1630


    The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption makes him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man. This is such an one as our Saviour Christ terms `poor in spirit' (Matt. 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice. He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and thereupon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it.

    1. Ok, so we have a boatload of young adults who have abandoned the faith, want nothing to do with pastors, church, and God. I'm trying to imagine sending a card to them with a printout of this included. Wonder what their response would be?

    2. That's the thing Julie Anne...until these young adults you mention, or any of us for that matter see ourselves, as Sibbes puts it, "indebted to divine justice" it truly does not matter if we want anything to do with pastors or churches. It's just going through the motions unless there is a true circumcision of the heart...and only God can accomplish that.

    3. How does one get to true circumcision of the heart? Bring it down to bare bones for me, please.

    4. It’s the new covenant. Outward circumcision is now made meaningless. When the temple veil was torn in two at the crucifixion, there was no more need for the external signs of belonging to God, the ultimate sacrificial Lamb had been slain so that the dwelling place of God would now be among men…in our hearts.

      “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deut 30:6

      “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Rom2:29

    5. Okay, so how does coming up to one who is wounded in spirit and telling them the wounds are their own fault help facilitate this process?

      From Romans 2:29 - it is of the Spirit, not the letter....telling someone they are wounded because they 'did it wrong' feels like the letter....

      "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." - 2 Corinthians 3:5-6

      There is a time to be taught how to avoid wolves, but it is not when you are lying on the side of the road bleeding. That is the time for a doctor or a nurse, not a schoolmaster. To put the concept of making sure they understand the rules they missed above helping them recover from the wounds is to put the letter above the spirit.

    6. Jeanette,

      I just read what you wrote in a post below this about not reading the books that people had given you. Been there, too. If you are interested in reading more of "The Bruised Reed" by Richard Sibbes, it's free online being in the public domain due to its publication date of 1630! :) Nobody can teach heart surgery like the Puritans!

    7. Anon-

      Thanks for the recommendation. I appreciate the thought, but....

      I honestly have to laugh. As I said, I don't read them. The quote you posted from this work goes against my heart already.

      Hmmm....the Puritans are not my go-to choice for 'heart surgery'.... they were sometimes brutally legalistic....I really don't want to risk my heart getting twisted up with that again - it's been painful enough recovering as it is.

  21. Hmm....I believe a bruised reed is one who has been beaten down by religion - look at the context in Matthew 12, and Isaiah 42 as well. I believe a smoldering wick (flax) is one whose faith has been so twisted and used against them that it is on the verge of going out.

    In my experience, coming out of these spiritually abusive situations, a person is so spiritually and emotionally battered - bruised - that they can ill handle chastisement. When your child has just had the snot beaten out of them by the neighborhood bully, do you start right in telling them how they should have known better than to get within the bully's range or do you first and foremost make sure they are alright - tend to their injuries?

    That same person's faith may be so shattered as to have been reduced to a barely smoking ember. That is not the time to throw cold water on them - it may well quench their faith entirely.

    Again, in my opinion, that is a main part of what these verses are talking about.

  22. As one of those "young adults", I understand bruised reed and all that. Speaking only for myself, but probably echoing a common thought: Giving us a card or books on recovering from spiritual abuse won't help unless we are already trying to regain what we lost. Otherwise, it will just fall on deaf ears. I have spiritual books that well-meaning people gave me when I first left my family and church, books that are either still in boxes packed away or honestly probably in sitting in Goodwill right now. I read this blog for two reasons: 1) I'm involved in the lawsuit and 2) it's written by my mother. If both of those were not there, I wouldn't read it, because I'm simply not interested in being healed spiritually at this point. But of course, if I ever felt like I wanted to head back that way, I'd know where to go. In my teenage years, I used to read tons of spiritual blogs, blogs on how to lead a godly life, Christian teen/young adult, living in a secular world, etc. Now, the only ones that have even a slightly spiritual bent are written by personal friends from church that I grew up with. I ignore the topics that talk about spiritual things, and focus on the ones that are about their life in general. I have nothing against Christians, I still love my family and friends. I can still debate the finer points on a vast variety of Biblical topics and often provide the Christian point of view with my friends and the reasons behind it, but it is no longer "me" if that makes any sense.

    To be frank, major kudos to my mother for understanding that I just want to be loved, and not have religion slammed down my throat like it was for the later part of my Christian experience. We can talk about things now like we've never been able to discuss before, and I greatly appreciate her frank and openness, even with the sensitive and tender recent history.

    1. I love you, Hannah :) See you in less than 3 days!

    2. So figure this one - we have a pastor whose hot topic is evangelism and spends each Friday night evangelizing with people from church and then he sues someone who has left the faith.

      ::::::::::oh, the things that make JA's head spin :::::::::::::::

    3. Hannah, absolutely. I have a lot of books that were given to me about recovering from a 'wounded heart'. I never read any of them. The only healing that has taken place has taken place over time through therapy and unconditional love from a dear friend. I have developed an almost allergic reaction to religion - and I don't care to have that 'healed' because from where I sit now, I think that is probably one of those healthy things that will help me not get led down that primrose path again.

    4. Hannah wrote: I just want to be loved

      I’ve heard that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’ When it comes to the core-issues of the heart I believe it’s true: people don’t care what you know or what you have to share until they see the love. In fact (and I think we all automatically do this), the first measure in discerning the authenticity of the knower and his or her knowledge is by the presence or absence of love. Is there love present?

      For all of us who know the Way, the Truth, and the Life—the only viable, authentic means toward sharing our ‘care’ is through the Spirit of Love. But ‘if I have not love, it profits me nothing’ (1 Cor 13:3).

      Some well meaning people do the sickest and meanest things under the presumptions of love. Mike Mason, in The Gospel According to Job, writes (on p 126):

      “Some Christians treat love as though it were an evangelistic strategy, a kind of gospel-bait. Love is seen as a useful tool for attracting or alluring people into the Kingdom. Naturally, once the fish has been hauled into the boat, the lure is cut from its mouth. But love is not a sliver spoon or a jitterbug. Love is not bait for the gospel; love is the gospel. Love is not a means towards some other end; love is means and end together. The moment love is used as a tool, it ceases to be love. When people try to use love in this way, what they are really doing is using God. Instead of being used by God, they try to turn the tables and use Him. Religion becomes an instrument for the expansion of one’s own personal power. Love becomes a weapon of aggression. Little wonder that the person who is suffering comes to hate it. For true love is not aggression; true love is not concerned with gaining power over others. Rather, love is the humility in which self becomes subservient to relationship.”

  23. Hannah,

    One of the most egregious teachings that I have heard mentioned from your former church is that if you walked away from that church, then you were walking away from God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Reject that church, reject its legalistic overbearing over-reaching teachings. You can do that and still embrace your Savior and Creator.

  24. 56 years a Baptist, mostly SBCJuly 11, 2012 at 3:51 AM


    To say that God pre-ordained that His children be abused is a false teaching. Yes, it is hyper-Calvinism that is popular in some circles, but it makes God the author of evil, and He is not. That kind of determinism is the illogical taking of a few pieces of scripture totally out of context and using it to make God into a monster who puts charlatans in the pulpit to abuse the flock for no purpose but to have the abused be dependent. Not a God I can worship.

  25. Great post! It's amazing how re-framing an argument can make it so much clearer.

    1. Heretic Husband - yes, it does become more clear for some . . . . . . . . . . . . . ::::::sigh::::

      I find it ironic the real message of the parable is sometimes clouded by the message of this parable which is clouded by the message of this parable . . . .

  26. 56 years a Baptist 3:51 AM You make a good point. I can't worship a monster either. I have enough trouble with 5 point Calvinism, let alone hyper-Calvinism. I won't argue with them! They seem to LIVE for that! I hate to encourage their BS. -grin-

    Agreeing totally with Heretic H 4:46 AM I presume you are Julie Anne's husband, who gives her 'permission' to blog. -grin-

    {{{Hannah}}} I don't blame you for the way you feel. Hang strong!

    {{Jeannett}} Sounds like you have recovered from a toxic faith system. Therapy works. Been there, done that, got the T shirt.

    Beating us to death with scripture and taking us in circles just makes us dizzy. IMO (Especially when love is missing!) It's difficult to put out a fire by throwing gasoline onto it.

    1. Sheep-Dog - I had to ask my husband because he was just reading this post and commenting on it. Heretic Husband is not my husband - hahaha - love that name.

      I don't know if I got permission to post this parable, but I assume he'd be okay with it since it was written by a pastor. Craig, I think you're fine, don't worry.

      Thanks for your comment - you are exactly right about that love thing. It's such a powerful word and action.

    2. For the record, I had Kelly, my wife, ask me if I could post this parable and I answered that I could.

  27. Julie Anne,

    Pardon me. I made a false assumption on the husband thing. I like the name too. Really cool!

    I don't want to make this about me, and you already know this.

    For your readers: I have posted under the name Churchian_Not. People in my area say, "I'm a Christian, not a Churchian."

    I will now use this more blog-friendly name. -- Think Border Collie -- And it just feels better to me.

    1. Ok, thanks for letting me know. I will now do a mental readjustment and replace Churchian_Not with Sheep-Dog. I like sheep dogs.

  28. On one of the anniversaries of the Jonestown disaster I read several accounts of victims of both the tragedy and the cult. I poured through these first hand testimonies. It forever changed my perspective on cults. I realized then that anyone can fall victim to a charismatic leader. Many following Jones were intelligent, successful, gifted and strong. If that's true of a cult, it's also true of a cult-like church. The dynamics are the same. I'm more than open to a discussion on such topics as "How do people get trapped in such things?" or "How can we avoid these traps?" I suggest one rule. We must not act like this could never happen to us. We must have a strong sense of "There, but by the grace of God...".

    1. Craig - you raise such a good point. Doing research on cults, you realize the people were bright, some highly-educated and brilliant individuals. There's that expression: having the wool pulled over their eyes which applies. Nobody wants to get sucked into a group like this or experience spiritual abuse - it comes slowly and deceptively - so that even grounded people can get the rug pulled out from under them.

      I love Pastor Ken Garrett's study on Jude where he discusses, "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…"

      These teachers don’t show up at the door of the church with a name tag that says, “Hello, my name is…and I’m going to ruin your life through my false teaching.” Jude tells us that they show up very quietly. Their entrance into the lives of those they would lead is very low-key, and is not generally a very noticeable event. False teachers require time to accomplish their agendas, in order to win loyalty and credibility in the church, so they don’t usually make a big splash when they show up on the scene. Often, it is very difficult to discern when a false teacher’s ministry started spiralling downward, the descent happens so subtly, and often secret sins were successfully hidden for years before they were unleashed on the church. Also, it is not uncommon for those trapped in the ministry of a false teacher to cloak the abusive and defective character of their leader in their interactions with those outside of their churches and organizations. They are subtly taught to protect the shortcomings of their leaders through denial and deceit in their conversations with others, thus setting the stage for their leader to “creep unnoticed” into the lives of others who visit the church.

      This is taken from the Fingerprints of a False Teacher article on his blog.

    2. Craig Vick asks, How do people get trapped in such cult-like churches, falling victims to cult-like leaders?

      One answer: Some people are born into that world. They know nothing different. They may sense something is terribly wrong, but they just can’t get outside of it, can’t get outside their cult-controlled-world to get their true bearings.

      The sheep and shepherds alike in these fundamentalist traps are in such bondage to the spirit of the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2), that unless the Spirit opens up their eyes and frees them, they seem unable to escape the confines of their proscribed darkness.

      I was adopted at birth into a fundamentalist world. Personally, I would assign ‘cult’ status to all forms of legalistic fundamentalism. In fact, I’m quite certain the Devil himself is a fundamentalist. Legalism kills and brings death, it chokes and binds people in the most spirit-crushing form of bondage. Legalistic fundamentalism is everything the Gospel has set us free from!

      And Praise Jesus for this testimony: Even though I was adopted at birth into a sick fundamentalist world and suffered the abuses that are natural to these legalistic strongholds, know this: the Lord saved me from becoming sick from it, and even from as far back as kindergarten I remember him empowering me to combat this wickedness wherever I might find it. You know, Thank You Holy Spirit for letting me know as a little boy that there was nothing inherently evil in denim blue jeans and facial hair! Anybody feel me here?

      And Yes, Craig, I believe your suggestion is a universal rule: none of us are necessarily and absolutely free from ever being deceived. Agreed. There but for the grace of God, go I.

    3. Monax I'm so glad you brought this out. What children endure in these places brings tears to my eyes. I believe that in Jone's "church" children were made to stand in front of the whole congregation and be publicly ridiculed. There's great evil here because it crushes children while at the same time destroying the moral center of all (especially parents) in the congregation.

      I too praise God for his grace and faithfulness to you.

    4. How can we avoid these traps?

      I’m thinking of Adorno’s 1950 collaborative work The Authoritarian Personality where they articulated their F-scale (F is for Fascism), a constellation of certain childhood experiences and personality traits that might identify one to be of fascist or authoritarian character. Fwiw, I believe these are approximately the nine traits they considered:

      1. conventionalism;
      2. submission to authority;
      3. authoritarian aggression; tendency to reject and punish others who are different; very hierarchical power structure;
      4. anti-intellectualism; deep contempt for introspection and sensitivity, imagination and artistic creativity;
      5. heavy reliance on stereotypes and superstitions;
      6. masculinity valued higher, power and toughness, dominance and submission;
      7. cynicism; hostility toward things human; contempt for everyday life; projects weakness on others;
      8. theories of paranoia;
      9. fixation on the sexual

      I realize my social theory reference may puzzle a few people, But does anyone remember this famous quote attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

      When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    5. Yeah, so, I was wondering if we might, you know, collaboratively articulate some sort of Wo-scale (Wo is for Wolf).

      In the spirit of Jesus who said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-20), How might we characterize the fruits of these wolfish ones?

      off the top of my head I'd suggest:

      1. unsubmitted to Scripture; un-Christlike; walking according to their own lusts; they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage; by covetousness and through deceptive words they will make merchandise of the flock;
      2. judgmental; controlling; lack of love; lack of joy; mockers;
      3. strongholds of pride and lust in their lives;
      4. . . .

    6. Great idea. Let's get a list going. The whole book of Jude is good and 2 Peter offers a lot as well.

      4. they creep in unnoticed (Jude 4)
      5. they not only deceive, but they are themselves deceived (2 Tim 3:13, 2 Pet. 2:13)

    7. 6. masculinity valued higher, power and toughness, dominance and submission;
      7. cynicism; hostility toward things human; contempt for everyday life; projects weakness on others;
      8. theories of paranoia;
      9. fixation on the sexual

    8. you crack me up echo!

      Craig. Yes, what it does to the children breaks my heart. These are the templating years of life, the vulnerable formative years of childhood. These abuse systems harbor and create monsters, and the wounding effects of this treachery, even after being long free and extricated from the abuse, still reach deep into years of adulthood.

    9. "...and the wounding effects of this treachery, even after being long free and extricated from the abuse, still reach deep into years of adulthood." - monax

      Yes, it does reach deep. It has taken me years outside the institutional church - alone with God, arguing these things through to find some stable ground. And even now, I am more easily wounded by certain types of theology than I would like to admit - the daggers can still get through, sometimes. It does indeed still reach deep - and the only one that has kept and is still keeping it from pulling me into the realms of mental breakdown is the God who does not reside in the religious boxes created for him....

    10. 10. They destroy people from the inside out.

    11. I remember in the 90's when I was making a study of the charismatic / pentecostal churches, word faith, third wave blessings, revivals, manifestations sort of things, Well at that time I remember also making a study of fascism. I was amazed at the parallels between the two.

      Perhaps the most obvious parallel might be in their idealization and idolization of their leaders. Yes, both systems employ a cult of personality, with absolute worshipful adherence to the infallible spiritual and militaristic authority of the Fuhrer or the Prophet. Consider, also, how the various rituals, symbols and pageantry are deeply occultic. And when I say ‘symbols’ I’m referring, also, to the trigger words and coded phrases deployed in deliberately magical ways. At the heart of it, dare I say they both are mystically Roman, based upon the mystery religions of ancient Babylon and Egypt.

      BGBC, however, is not a charismatic / pentecostal / word faith sort of church. No, BGBC is a legalistic fundamentalist church. But here’s my question, How many fundamentalist institutions share traits with the F-scale? The fundamentalists I knew as a boy had a real strange ‘fixation on the sexual,’ were ‘anti-intellectual,’ were ‘hostile toward things human,’ tended ‘to reject and punish others who were different,’ had contempt for the creative imagination, etc., etc. Does anyone else see any parallels between fascism and fundamentalism?

  29. Monax

    That's an interesting and useful question. I think the first challenge would be arriving at a working definition of 'fundamentalist'. The term was coined in the early 20th century during the conflicts in the Presbyterian church over the authority of the Bible. In an attempt to identify what constitutes the basics of Christianity five fundamentals of the faith were articulated. To be a fundamentalist meant to adhere to these fundamentals. The intent, in part, was to unite Christians around the basics of the faith so that we wouldn't be so divided by non-essentials. By this definition, I'm a fundamentalist - I believe the five fundamentals (though I think some of the assumptions of the movement were flawed). This, however, is rarely what is meant today by the term. For example, by this definition it would be nonsense to talk of an Islamic fundamentalist. So what do we mean by the term today? It's tempting to build F-scale traits into our definition, but then your original question becomes trivial. I suspect our working definition would need to focus on how these groups see themselves relative to modernity. How's that for a start?

  30. Yes, Craig, I embrace the five fundamentals too, but I would never consider my orthodoxy as fundamentalist. Imo, we’re generations removed from when that term was an honorable designation. I qualified the Christian fundamentalism that I see as diametrically opposed to the gospel of grace as legalistic fundamentalism.

    Fundamentalism = Legalism.

    Although I would be considered a fundamentalist when the term was coined nearly a century ago, the dogmatic forms of fundamentalism we have today are all anathema in my book.

    Speaking of books, I have a book in my library by Historian George M. Marsden entitled Fundamentalism and American Culture. He wrote it while teaching at Calvin College, published in 1980. I was spot reading it this past week and think I might now be ready to tackle it.

    Since finding this blog, and after reading some of the stuff on Calvin over at Paul Dohse’s site, recently when Ed Chapman was trying to pin me down with some sort of designation he asked if I were a Calvinist. I told him I’m Pauline in my soteriology. I guess I don’t really want to characterize my doctrine of salvation as Calvinistic even though my favorite book on the topic is by the late Anthony A. Hoekema of Calvin Theological Seminary, Saved By Grace. I don’t think there’s anything Hoekema wrote in this most excellent book I disagree with. [Hoekema’s eschatology is another story]. However, the name of Calvin has become a bit vitiated to me after reading some of the stuff Dohse had posted.

    Likewise, the fundamentalists in their legalisms have so denigrated the name of Christ the term fundamentalist is anathema to me, it only stands for a cursed way of being.

    Craig, you write: “I suspect our working definition would need to focus on how these groups see themselves relative to modernity.” Would you be willing to flesh out a bit what you mean by this?

  31. I'm just thinking as I type, so take this with a grain of salt. My guess is that these groups have a strong us vs world dynamic. That much is somewhat Biblical (the "vs" misses the heart of John 3:16), but they then take the step of identifying the world with modernity. This isn't Biblical. Modernity is no more or less worldly then any time in the past (real or imagined). They see science, the arts, philosophy and other aspects of our changing culture as the enemy. The legalism comes in as a way to protect them from this changing world. This way of thinking and living breaks any sense of community with those outside the church, and that's at least one door to a cult like dynamic.

  32. wow! very good, Craig.

    let me sleep on that

    it's already after midnight here in pittsburgh


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