Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spiritual Abuse Blogs: Christ-Honoring?

Flowers in my neighborhood

This has been an interesting week or so, none like we've ever had before on this blog, that is for sure.   (If you are just coming to the blog for the first time, we had some great discussion in the three previous posts which are linked at the bottom of this post.)  Because I had already dealt with Mr. Butler on this topic on his own blog, I had an idea what responses to expect from him when I made a post highlighting his comment.  I thought long and hard before doing it. 

During that time, I received a handful of e-mails from people expressing strong emotions and opinions, some even asking me to move along to another topic.  Other e-mails from people said they were very uncomfortable and the blog did not feel safe anymore.  Some even told me that the condescending attitude and harshness was triggering them - reminding them of their painful experiences.  I intentionally allowed the topic to continue and did not put up more posts for a purpose (also allowing time for Fred to answer questions).  

Some of you have not exposed your spiritual abuse story to anyone.  It has remained private.   I used the dialogue between Fred and me to illustrate a point.    One aspect I hope you have been able to pick up is discerning who you can trust.  It's so important to have support, but clearly, some people are not willing to to hear, do not want to hear, do not want to believe your story.  They instead want to focus on other side issues unrelated to your story:  sin in your life, where was your husband, why you weren't in the Word, etc.  

Let your speech always be with grace,
as though seasoned with salt,
so that you will know how you should respond
to each person
Colossians 4:6

Those grumblers and complainers Fred spoke about probably do have sin issues that need to be dealt with.  But in cases of true abuse, the abuse was not incurred because of our sins, but the sins of the perpetrator.  People who believe that we are the cause of the abuse are not safe people.   It will be a risk to share with them and we will have to decide if it's worth the battle.  For others, who suffered deep abuse, dealing with someone who rejects their story could be devastating emotionally and can cause symptoms of PTSD (flashbacks, very bad memories), so those folks need to be very prudent in their awareness of what is happening in conversations, looking for clues to determine if a person is safe or not. 

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way

And the perverse mouth I hate.
 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, I have strength.
 By me kings reign,
And rulers decree justice. 
Proverbs 8:13-15

I want to open it up for discussion, but with a couple rules and this might prove to be challenging.   But it's worth it and I think a lot of you will agree with me.  Fred Butler is absolutely right about one thing (and I'm actually thankful that he underscored this very loudly and clearly for me).  If you search the internet and read spiritual abuse blogs, a lot of them are complaining and whining and seem to wallow in misery, getting nowhere.  I do not see the fruit in that.  Can our blog be an exception?  I think it can.  Can we keep our comments honoring Christ, yet speaking the truth in love?  I would like to issue that challenge for this blog.   Sharing our (your) stories is truthful and sometimes it is not pretty.  I'm not saying we cannot discuss truthful stories at all.  What I'm talking about is personal attacks on people.  Here's an example of how we can define that fine line:

"Mickey Mouse is a bully" = personal attack
"Interfering with someone's life to that degree is treating them like a bully" = not a personal attack
"I feel threatened when being around this person:  = not a personal attack 

In light of the last few posts, I want to bring some closure.  There were some important lessons to be learned and you might find it helpful to skim over the last three posts.  What can you take from those conversations (in the posts themselves and especially the comments) that will help you and others here?    We will run into people who don't believe us, want to accuse us of being the cause of the problem, etc.  So what can we learn from this?   What are some clues in determining who is safe or not?  What knowledge have we gained that will be helpful in the future in dealing with people who don't believe us, who don't want to hear us?  

Additionally, we can use this time to discuss what happened to you personally during this time?  Were you bothered by the conversation?  Some people shared their feelings with me privately.  Would you be willing to share them publicly (of course with an anonymous name if you prefer)?  Chances are, you are not the only one and by sharing your comment, others will be able to relate with you and discover they weren't alone.

And finally, feel free to discuss the parameters I suggested for blog discussions.  Is this the right direction for our blog?  Do you have any other ideas how to keep this place Christ-honoring?  I don't know if you caught it, but I'm using the pronoun "our" with blog.  The blog is not here for me.  It's here for us. 

Here are the previous three posts up for discussion:

If we have enough participation, we can use this info for the Spiritual Abuse Help area above. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Big Elephant: Contend for the Faith or Not!

 Note to Fred Butler:   My husband and I discussed this post at length, gave me his approval, and also said that if you want to call him, he knows you have our number.  

Here is the big reveal.  What is the big elephant in the middle of the room that so many pastors and religious leaders seem to avoid?    

Spiritual Abuse

As I was completing this post, I became aware that Fred Butler has posted a new blog post on his own blog in which he again discusses his disdain for spiritual abuse blogs like mine.  Instead of responding to questions in a timely matter here, where my readers posed very good and engaging questions, he has elected to take the questions to his own blog and answers some of them there, without even mentioning a thing here.   I think he should have responded here, where the questions are, and where people have been coming back to look for his responses.  Very strange, indeed.

But we do need to carry on.  There is a big elephant in the middle of the room when discussing this topic with some people, religious leaders, pastors.  Fred wanted to talk about everything under the sun:  my husband, my family, where I live, how long since I’ve been in the church, my current pastor’s thoughts, but avoided the elephant in the room, and let's face it, it's a lot easier to revert the topic back onto the grumbler or complainer than to investigate and see if there are any truths to the "complaints".   Who wants to get their hands dirty in a messy pastor/congregant church situation?  I understand that. 

I also understand the knee-jerk reaction that causes many pastors/church leaders to think the first thought that I am of the whiner, complainer-housewife-who-has-nothing-better-to-do-but-sit-in-her-lougewear-behind-her-computer-all-day-long-and-blog camp.  However, it’s interesting that the secular media and a huge number of atheists seem to get a clear picture.  The overwhelming response by secular media was:  “hmm, she says it’s cult-like and he sure is acting cult-like”   . . . . . or  . . . “what kind of pastor sues a former church member?”

Spiritual abuse - why does that issue get put on the back burner with so many?  Why are all of these other matters  (where's my husband, where I live) more important than the spiritual abuse which is affecting scores and scores of people, perhaps some for eternity.   I have found this response truly baffling.

For those still caught in the trap of ignoring the big elephant, I will attempt to explain it another way:

Imagine escorting your 16-yr old daughter to the police station to report her horrific rape.  
The rape was perpetrated by a stranger and happened 2 years ago while at a friend’s party.  
Imagine sitting in the police office with your emotionally scarred and shaken daughter as she recounts the horrific nightmare story and then the police officer interrogates her.  
How would you feel if she was asked questions like this:  

  • what were you wearing?  
  • was your skirt too short?  
  • where were your parents when this was taking place?  
  • what does your family think of this?  
  • do you go to church?  
  • why did you go to your friend’s party?  
  • why were you out so late?
  • why are you just reporting it now?   

How would most parents respond to this kind of questioning?   There would be outrage!  Questioning a traumatized victim in that fashion only re-victimizes her, makes her cower, afraid to talk, afraid to trust.  This happens time and again to those who try to report spiritual abuse.   The topic of spiritual abuse is ignored and diverted to other irrelevant topics.  This not only happened to me on Fred Butler’s blog, but with other pastors as well.

But now, I will be addressing one last part of Fred Butler’s comment to me here since it’s very difficult to maneuver through the large amount of comments on that post (thanks, btw, great discussions).

Fred, it is interesting that the world looked upon our case and thought his behavior inexcusable, yet seasoned, godly men, including you, chose to interrogate me as if I was the criminal on trial.  Am I the criminal?  I have felt that way sometimes. 

Fred, you are not alone in this way of treating me and others like me, but that does not excuse the behavior. 

The Bible speaks clearly about false teachers and abusive shepherds.  Why do you minimize this situation to issues of mere “grumbling” and “complaining” without looking at the more obvious sign of a pastor filing a civil lawsuit of $500,000 against mothers and their adult children?   Why does the focus stay primarily on me?

Here was your comment to me:

Look, Scripture does warn us about bad pastors, but it also warns us about many of the folks I have encountered over the last month out in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Land. Jude also writes,

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:  how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (Jude 16-19)

Are you using this verse in reference to me and my blog?  Am I the grumbler and complainer, walking according to my own lusts?   Is this verse being used to reference the “many folks I have encountered over the last month out in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Land”?   Are you using this verse to justify why you believe I should shut down this blog?   (Side note:  "Survivor Land"????  as if blogging about this subject is some sort of amusement-park experience?  Ouch!!!, Fred - that's a hurtful comment.)

I am no Biblical scholar, but when I looked at your words and the verse you used to back up your words, I trusted you to be using them accurately.  You also mentioned teaching at church, so obviously you are a respected teacher with a reasonable amount of Biblical knowledge to have that position at your church.   Here’s my point.  You used that passage in a way to prove your point that I (and spiritual abuse bloggers) am out of line, in a rebuking fashion.   There were quite a few people who read your words here on my blog (I think people liked the debate - around 800-1,000 hits per day).   That's quite a lot of people to read your words, coming from someone who speaks with authority. 

A reader (who happens to be a woman) contacted me privately and mentioned something that I had missed and perhaps many of my readers had missed (however, I think “The Other Tom” got it).  This particular passage that you quoted is from Jude - a book about apostasy and false teachers.  The verse you quoted is talking about false teachers who are grumblers and complainers, walking after their own lusts, not people like me. 

It took me little time to search and look up Jude and read commentaries.  It took less than a minute to find the key theme from Mac's Study Bible notes that the book of Jude is about apostasy from false teachers.   I’m sure you have numerous references to this book on your bookshelf and you certainly have access to an envious amount of biblical reference books at your place of employment.  It is very clear, the whole book of Jude is about apostasy and false teachers in the church.  Here's a bit from John Mac:

From Introduction to Jude, MacArthur Commentary pg. 139
 "Satan's most effective agents, like spiritual terrorists, secretly infiltrate the church where they pass themselves off as genuine shepherds and leaders.  In reality, however, they are I posters and defectors, apostates who claim to know Christ, but in fact reject Him.    They verbally affirm their knowledge of His word, but their actions indicate that they are actually enemies of the truth.   ...The New Testament repeatedly warns of the danger that apostate false teachers pose to the church..."

and Pg. 148
The rest of the New Testament records similar warnings, instructing believers to guard themselves against the deceptive nature of false teaching masquerading as Christian truth.  (Matt. 24:10-14; 2 Thes. 2:3-12; 1Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-19; 4:1-3; 2 John 7-10; Rev. 2:6, 14-16, 20-23; 3:1-3, 14-18; cf. James 5:1-6) 

Right now this is what I am doing:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jude 3

Now of course I suspect this was an oversight on your part, but what you have posted publicly on my blog is exactly what some pastors and spiritual leaders are doing intentionally all over the world:  some are twisting verses out of context in a lording and rebuking fashion to further their own agenda,  rather than using it appropriately in shepherding and protecting their flock.  Fred, that is one kind of spiritual abuse and you just demonstrated it on my blog.   Please reread that verse again and ask yourself if in fact you are the intended subject, not me  By twisting scripture to suit your own agenda, you are not doing God’s work, but are interfering with it. 

Imagine how easy it is for a power-happy pastor to twist a verse out of context to control and manipulate his congregation to further his agenda.  And the sheep follow, unknowingly, because they trust their pastor to be the man of God.  They are led down paths of false teaching, distorted half-truths, never being able to understand the true meaning of the gospel, of grace, of redemption, of forgiveness. 

In addition to misuse of scripture, I also see a disconnect between what your own pastor teaches (have you read Truth Wars?) about how to deal with false teachers and what you are doing.  God does not like false teachers and wolves, yet you appear to be allowing them a “get-out-of-jail free card" by focusing instead on the methods survivors use when crying out for help while dealing with this situation Biblically. 


I feel like I need to issue some sort of disclaimer to my readers, many of whom have gone through such horrific abuses I couldn't make them up in my mind if I tried.  I need to warn them about your blog, Fred, because I have not seen validation or a spirit of genuine love or concern there for survivors.  I am concerned about the ramifications if some of my readers go there, that it could trigger them emotionally.  Readers, please be aware of this should you chose to read there.  Fred's blog is known to be a debate blog.  Debate blogs are very factual and strong opinion and there is little regard to feelings.  Please be aware of that.

One more note to my readers:  Someone who cares about the abused is going to clearly demonstrate love to you.  If you don't sense the love, simply leave.  These verses can help you determine if you are dealing someone who is loving: 

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
1 Cor 13: 4-7

PS Kudos to Fred for getting my name spelled exactly right on his blog post.  And I look nothing like churchlady.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Far Will We Go to Contend for the Faith?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been waiting for this response from Mr. Butler for a while.  He has now addressed the issue and I would like to open it up for discussion.   I was concerned that we wouldn't hear from Fred again and that the questions might remain unanswered.  Thank you, Fred, for responding. 

My blood pressure rises each time I read his comment.  Mr. Butler is not the first person who has given me this response.  And sadly, I notice a trend of similar responses coming from people of Fred's ilk.   I may address that at some point because I believe we clearly have a systemic issue that has gone rampant in our churches - the failure to appropriately deal with false teachers and pastors who abuse their flocks.  Did Jude 1:3 - the part where we are to earnestly contend for the faith -  get removed from their Bibles?  Do pastors get to pick and choose their battles and ignore false teachers?  Really?  Is that how it works now?

While you read this, I ask you to do one thing.  Please imagine this is a situation in which there are abused sheep, a whole church full of abused sheep who are being misled.  Ask yourself what will happen with the abused sheep if we follow Fred's response? 

You have stated on more than one occasion that the blog on which we are now interacting should not exist. I'm curious: Under what circumstances would Julie Anne's blogging be appropriate, in your view?

Appropriate blogging against this current pastor and church specifically? Never.   If she felt inclined to leave a comment with google and it got removed, that honestly should have been the end of it. But she persisted. Julie Anne seems to suggest that she was under some obligation to warn everyone about this church, but why? She hadn't attended there in three years before leaving that google review comment, at least that is how I understand it. All of the sudden she felt she had to leave a negative comment and stir up strife with this pastor and church? I can be a gadfly at times on blogs, but if the blogger or web moderator is deleting my comments, I know when to take a hint.

What would have to transpire in order for you to concede that Julia Anne's blogging is no longer something she need repent of?

In my opinion, she needs to discontinue this blog and leave Chuck and that church alone. Her and her family live in an entirely different state now, as I understand it. This should no longer concern her. Further, make some sort of faith effort that she will cease and desist from bothering them again. That's I see it.

Interestingly, this is part of a similar discussion I had with Fred on his blog a while back.   I  posted the following comment and received no response from Fred.

Blogger Julie Anne said...
Fred: Let's back up a bit. I did not originally start a "Survivor Blog". I posted a one paragraph Google Review. Evidently, it was removed by the pastor. I added it again, and it was removed (repeat this story a few more times). This was the only place I intended to say anything. He removed my voice, so I went to a different venue.

I did what I felt was right. Yes, it is messy.  The whole thing is uncomfortable. What feels right about false teachers?   Nothing! However, after beginning the blog, I have been in contact with countless people who discovered the story thanks to the pastor's foolish lawsuit and subsequent media response.   These people have told me story after story of abuse that I was unaware of because they experienced it many years before me and I had never heard of them.   They have been living in silence for years, sometimes more than a decade, some families have been torn apart, some no longer go to church or are afraid to go to church - - - all because of this one man.  I felt by not doing what I did, I would be sinning:

Criticize and rant all you want about my method, but until you walk in my shoes . . . .
9:17 AM  (Click here to read entire blog post and comments)

I would also like to remind Fred more words from his pastor,  Dr. John MacArthur.  In MacArthur's Truth War book, he mentions, "even some pastors and popular writers in the Christian market might be the enemy disguised as comrades.  The apostle Paul warned of that very danger in 
2 Cor. 11:13-15." 

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 
2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Once again - if all other appropriate Biblical methods were employed, if the pastor refused to communicate, refused to meet with a local pastor who offered mediation, if he refused to listen to MacArthur's people, including Phil Johnson, what next, Fred?   There were a number of pastors in the local area who knew of this situation and all chose to not get involved. 

Are pastors and church leaders the ONLY people whom God uses to point out abuse and false teachings?  Luther's nailing of the ninety-five theses to the Wittenburg church door was one method of calling out wrongs.  Do you think if he had the internet available, he would have snubbed modern technology?

Fred,  now what?  Walk away from abuse?  Don't you have a child, Fred?  Would you walk away from your son if you saw him being abused?  Would you take the blog down and walk away?  

Which reminds me of this brilliant post from Craig Vick, who asked you some questions that you perhaps missed earlier.  I thought I'd bring the  comment here so you'd be sure to see it:


You are clearly very bright, and I think you are interested in real discussion. Consider, then, what I take to be a central problem in all of this. There are churches that do not overtly transgress orthodoxy and yet are very cult like in their behavior. Do you agree that such churches exist? If so, how do we spot them? I would find it more constructive, and a better use of your gifts, if you would wrestle with that question rather than simply tearing apart the tests that someone else has proposed. I don't think it's easy to do. Some wolves are very adept at looking like sheep. If we say, for example, that such wolves differ from sheep (or true pastors) in that they are manipultive and controlling it's easy to respond by saying that's a bit vague (it is). That doesn't mean, however, that this test isn't getting at something very real. So how do we distinguish between cult like control and normal, responsible teaching and care? What would you suggest? You yourself say "There are pastors who are controlling and lord it over the flock they are to shepherd." How do you distinguish these from those using Scriptural authority appropriately?

My readers have asked some great questions.  I hope you will be so kind as to respond.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

All-Blogs-Are-Not-Created-Equal Rant

I moderated and subsequently posted a comment earlier this morning and this is only part of the comment.  I have family issues to tend to today and will be out of the house for much of the day, so I will only be dealing with this part of the comment, but you can be sure that my mind is stewing on the rest of the comment.   This comment is from Fred Butler who maintains a blog called Hip and Thigh.

To David

Sorry you were offended, but you need to know a little something about the blogging world.
I've been doing this for a while, so I speak with some experience.  
Those who seek to hide themselves by anonymity by commenting with a "nickname" or just anonymously, tend to have something to hide. The person is a trouble-maker or is running from some sort of accountability.  In honestly, it shows a profound lack of respect to the person's they are commenting toward.

I don't usually suffer anonymous individuals who have no profile page where there is something a little bit about the person, who they really are, where they attend church, where they live. Especially if they are accusing me of shepherding crimes of bullying congregants.

That isn't asking for much. I just want to know where the person is coming from, because I am in fact responding as a person to a person.

Hi Fred:  I want to welcome you to my blog and thank you for commenting as your comment has given me much to post about, not that I've experienced boredom yet.  Your comments and style seem to add a trickle of fuel to my fire.

I've read your blog and see how it works.  I've also read some of the blogs you have listed on your sidebar over the years.  I get blogging, too.  I've maintained another blog for years, one which would probably not be of interest to you (motherhood, sewing, knitting, crafting, food, children, etc), and interestingly, 99% of those who comment there use pseudonyms because they are posting about their families, pics of their kids, etc.  There are a lot of people who comment on blogs who don't want their first and last name out "there" in public on the web.  As a mother of children, I respect their privacy and they respect mine.

Some religious bloggers seem to work differently.  I understand that some religious bloggers do not care for anonymous posters.  The majority of the comments on this blog would not be approved on your blog because of the "rules" you have established on your blog.  That is fine.  That is your blog, your rules.  

However, all blogs are not created equal.  This blog is different in that we have a pastor who sued me right after the blog went public.  Has any pastor sued you because of your blog?  I couldn't find any evidence of that on your blog.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.   I saw your connection with Grace Community.  Is John MacArthur your pastor?  I saw that you work for Grace to You on your info page.  I know his personal opinion on suing (especially after my former pastor accused a Grace Community pastor of encouraging him to sue us), so I'm sure he wouldn't go against his own teaching and sue you.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

At the beginning of the blog, readers commented under the names "Anonymous" and other pseudonyms.  After the first former member used her real name, she, too was sued (Meaghan).  Have you had a pastor sue any of your readers who comment on your blog?   In the past 10 years in which I have read blogs, I have never read of any pastor suing someone who started a blog about a church, nor have I encountered a situation where a pastor sued someone who commented on a blog using their real name.  

Just for a moment, will you please put yourself in my shoes.  Imagine what it might feel like to maintain a blog.  Each time you post, you have the dark cloud over your head reminding you that your former pastor is suing you for $500K for defamation.  Please put yourself in the shoes of my readers who might want to comment, but are fearful.  They have already seen me being sued, 3 others sued, and now an additional member who recently posted a comment on my blog using her name.  They may want to offer support or comment, yet are afraid that if they sign their name, their name will likely be added to the lawsuit.  

Keep in mind at the court hearing, the pastor's attorney mentioned wanting to bring more people in.  My attorney stood up and reread the anti-SLAPP motion reminding the pastor's attorney that they had already used up their one and only amendment by adding Meaghan to the lawsuit and they were not able to amend again.  What does that tell you?  That this pastor is finished suing former members?     What does his track record tell you?  Those facts speak for themselves. 

The former members of this church are in a real predicament.  If they speak out using their real name, there is a very real and valid threat of being sued based on factual history (do the numbers $500,000 mean anything to you?   they do to the ones who have been sued).   Do you get the seriousness of this situation?  Let me cut to the chase:  how many people do you know have $10K in their back pocket to plunk down to retain an attorney, who want to risk emotional turmoil, time, publicity to get involved by disclosing their identity publicly on a blog by commenting.  Is it worth it?  No!  This is the REALITY that we face here on this blog.  Please get your head out of the sand and realize that our circumstances are far different than the day-in-and-day-out brouhaha about doctrinal issues that so many "religious" blogs discuss.  

There is another issue that I have not discussed, but has been discussed among former members.  There are people who not only fear a lawsuit, but fear for their lives.  I refuse to go into more detail on this blog, so don't ask, but that is the reality for some folks who were former members.   Many concur with their assessment.

Another issue is that I am now dealing with on the blog is people from other churches who have dealt with abuse in their own church.  Some have e-mailed me privately telling me their personal accounts of sexual abuse that was ignored, overlooked by leaders in the church.  I am not about to expect them to reveal their identities and re-victimize their children who have already been abused.  Even the media does not do this.  

This is not a normal blog situation, is it, Fred?  

The purpose of this blog is to provide a safe place in which all can comment.  Yes, it also means that people (whom we bloggers call "trolls") have the opportunity to wreak havoc and disrupt the peace.  I've had a few of those:  people calling me Jezebel, saying I'm evil, not a Christian, etc.  Whatever!

Keep in mind, for me, this is about free speech as well.  If there wasn't freedom of speech, I wouldn't have been able to tell my story and so many people wouldn't have been able to identify with my story.  So, daily I put my big girl panties on and moderate comments:  I deal with anonymous posters who "hide" behind a pseudonym telling their stories of abuse, who try to connect with others, who encourage others, and also I deal with the dark side of the anonymous trolls.

This is my blog and I will continue to allow anonymous posters to tell their story.  Those are people I care about and want to reach out to.  I don't care about the rules of other bloggers.  This is my blog and my rules.  And on my blog, I will continue to provide a safe place, regardless of the extra trouble it causes me by allowing trolls to comment as well. 

End of Julie Anne Rant.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Free Kindle Offer: A Place of Healing, Joni Eareckson Tada

Any Kindle readers here?  I am now.  I recently downloaded the app to my iPhone.  Evidently, you can download free Kindle readers to pretty much any device or computer, so you don't need an actual Kindle reader.   Amazon is offering the Kindle book:

for the big price of $0.00.   Yes, FREE!!   I don't know how long these offers last.   Even if you don't have a Kindle or free Kindle app yet, you can always "purchase" it now and save it in the Kindle "cloud" for later. 
I've always liked Joni's writings and love to hear her on interviews.  She is so humble and gracious despite her very challenging life.  I don't think this book is about spiritual abuse, but she knows pain, suffering, and grief.  I haven't read the book, but I have it now.

Here is the Amazon summary:  

In this eloquent account of her current struggle with physical pain, Joni Eareckson Tada offers her perspective on divine healing, God’s purposes, and what it means to live with joy. Over four decades ago, a diving accident left Joni a quadriplegic. Today, she faces a new battle: unrelenting pain. The ongoing urgency of this season in her life has caused Joni to return to foundational questions about suffering and God’s will. A Place of Healing is not an ivory-tower treatise on suffering. It’s an intimate look into the life of a mature woman of God. Whether readers are enduring physical pain, financial loss, or relational grief, Joni invites them to process their suffering with her. Together, they will navigate the distance between God’s magnificent yes and heartbreaking no—and find new hope for thriving in-between.


I Would Love Some Feedback

So many of my current readers already know this story, but there are new people stopping by, so please bear with the repeat.  I had posted negative Google reviews of my former church, but they were removed.  My Google review was based on my personal experiences at the church and expressed my opinions.   This blog was "born" as a result of having my Google reviews removed by my former pastor.  After I began posting on the blog, I was sued by my former pastor for defamation (in an attempt to keep me quiet aka No-Talk Rule - see the No-Talk Rule under "Definitions"). 

When I began this blog, the intention was to share my experiences of my previous church, discuss my interpretation of Scriptures, healthy/unhealthy churches/pastors, etc.  The blog also allowed an opportunity for others to share their thoughts and experiences.  And they did.  For a small church of maybe 100 people at the most, this blog site averaged between 250-450 hits per day before the media found the story. 

I was also aware that people might stumble across this blog by performing internet searches, searching for key words like "spiritual abuse", just as I had previously done and continue to do.  Spiritual abuse stories tend to be similar.  Pastors who spiritually abuse follow similar patterns in methods of abuse.  The end results are the same, too.  It makes sense that people who have suffered spiritual abuse can identify with others who have shared the same experiences, but with different churches/pastors. 

After the media excitement, the blog readership has leveled off and has easily doubled from pre-media days.  I figured there would be some who would happen upon the blog through searching spiritual abuse, but this was much more than anticipated.    I suspect now that most of the people who comment or read have never been connected to my former church.   

I'm wondering if it would be appropriate to change the name of the blog from Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors to something more encompassing of what is going on here.  Sure, I will continue to tell my stories - because as I said, the abuse really is the same, just minor twists and turns from another's spiritual abuse story from a different church and pastor.   Lately it seems that there are more people commenting (and e-mailing me privately) who don't have connections with BGBC.  The media gave me an opportunity to highlight this growing problem in churches and I don't want people to come to this site to think that this is only BGBC-related.  It's not.  Do you think the current blog name is obsolete? 

I'd love your feedback.   Should I change the name of the blog?
Can you offer suggestions of a new blog name that would be more encompassing of spiritual abuse in general - something that would let people know that this is a place where they can find support and information and good discussion?  What are your thoughts?

Edited to add:  This is the Blogger info showing keyword searches for this blog for the past month.  Keep in mind that exactly a month ago the media was still a bit crazy.

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BTW:  The next court hearing is Friday the 13th (of July) - only 25 days away.   The website this photo comes from says this about Friday the 13th:  It’s Friday the 13th. A day best spent indoors, in a padded room. Considered to be one of the most unluckiest of days.  

Is the courthouse room padded?  LOL.  I don't believe in "luck".  I have a much better Insurance Policy.

Going Back to Church? Some Thoughts to Consider

Admin note:  An earlier post (Happy Tears),  we discussed going back to church after abuse:  what helped, what to look for, what to avoid, etc.  The list was compiled and so I am posting it here (in order to have a link) and will also post a link to it in the "Spiritual Abuse Help" tab at the top of the page.   A big "thank you" to those who contributed.   Feel free to add more and we'll keep this list growing.  What worked for you just might be the thing that works for someone else!  Please share!


PS - Special thanks to a new friend and blog reader who volunteered to compile this list into a much easier-to-read list,  highlighting the most important points that were posted in the comments and tied it all together beautifully.   I appreciate this help!

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 Going Back to Church?  Some Thoughts to Consider

EN suggested we explore other traditions, check out different kinds of churches. She found solace in liturgical services and found a church that met that spiritual need.

wallflower, after leaving BGBC visited more than 10 churches until she found the right one for her family. wallflower’s advice: “Keep trying, dear ones.” You will know you found the right place by the grace and understanding and compassion and utter freedom in Christ that is evident there.

Beloved in Recovery wrote, “Many years ago, I used to be judgmental of the "church hoppers" who couldn't settle. I was taught to scorn them by those in leadership. I suppose it kept others from doing the same, because we didn't want to be scorned. I used to think "it was them." But now I stand with them and say "It wasn't us ... it was YOU!!!" ...the leadership in these abusive churches.”

Even though Penny Holgate was so hurt and betrayed by her last troubled church she still recognizes her need for fellowship and is praying for healing and asks for the prayerful support of others as she embarks on finding a good church home. Prayer is essential.

Holly encourages us, “Please don't stop looking for a church. There are plenty of good, healthy ones” out there. 

Shirley reminds us that “church is not about some building or organization or programs.” We are the church by nature of being born of the Spirit into the Body of Christ.

Carol makes a great point: “Maybe REAL church, the one that makes you feel complete and full of love and wonder is where you least expect it to be... Sometimes the most spiritual, peaceful, and deeply moving experiences happen in Nature.”

Stalked Blogger
recognized the need for moving slowly, the need for wisdom and discernment. SB wisely and quietly left a second church when (she?) fell victim to their judgmental spirit. Because of the ever prevalent tendency for many to misunderstand and judge wrongly, I believe SB’s advice is for us to wait and observe, to wait until others get to know your character before sharing your past experiences of abuse.

futuristguy recognized that survivors make good "spiritual barometers" for our experience has matured us and taught us how to measure “the environment of safety and healthiness there.” We can be assets to the church for we have “had [our] senses trained to discern between good and evil” (Heb 5:14). What may appear on the surface to be good weather, may actually just be a bright and sunny covering for some foul darkness beneath. Church “leaders would be wise to listen. They can't build healthy ministries if they don't understand how things can go desperately wrong. We are walking testaments to the dark side of church life...”

futuristguy continues, “The discipline of discernment is a sort of spiritual investigative reporting. We must do a lot of work to accomplish it. But it’s not all up to us. In biblical discernment, we rely on the Spirit to give us insight continually as we gather facts and make observations, analyze the material and develop tentative perspectives, and pray and process with others and refine our interpretations.

“Did you catch the phrase that said, “process with others”? If we consider discernment as a communal practice instead of simply an individual procedure, I think we will come up with better insights, fewer gaps in our perspective, and a more balanced and timely approach to our responses.”

When we come out into the shared light of the faithful ones the darkness loses its power over us, the lies begin to dissolve. Instead of bondage and self-condemnation we embrace the self-affirmation of the faithful and the life-giving freedom we have in Christ.

mustang sally recognized the value of this website that affords us all an opportunity to tell our stories and to read about the experiences of others. She writes, “it helps to know that I am not the only one who has been 'through it'.. for a while I thought that 'I' was the problem; I now see that was not so.”

Jeanette Altes
reminds us that when we walk away from an abusive church, this is not a walking away from God. Quite the opposite. After twenty years of not be involved in church, she tried again. But failed for some time to recognize the “brainwashing and mind manipulation” of the church she settled into. She confessed, “Because of my abusive childhood, I was all too willing to accept the blame and responsibility for anything the seemed wrong. Must be me.” The sick, controlling Pastor would not permit her to leave.

This is a reality that must be recognized, there is a spiritual bondage that paralyzes and blinds. Once you’re free of it, you ask yourself, What sort of spell was I under? Why did I allow myself to be so deceived and controlled? Jeanette tells us, “unless you have been under that level of mind manipulation and spiritual twisting, there really is no way to explain. The fear of "being out of God's will and losing our salvation" was very real.”

The truth of the gospel is that once God has taken us as His own we can never loose our salvation. For Scripture tells us,

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
        we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, no one, not even our selves. We are eternally secure in the One who died and lives and intercedes for us to the end that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Jeanette speaks for so many of us, “I know I need fellowship, and let's call that "church." But I am not really sure what "church" is supposed to look like. And I have to wonder if God is cleaning house.”

Craig adds:  Look for self criticism. As the leaders describe past conflicts do they quickly acknowledge their own mistakes and sins?  Talk to members. Ask them where they agree and disagree with the leadership. Listen to how other churches are described. (JA note:  some churches present an elitist attitude and talk down other churches - not good!)  "If there's a conflict between a member of your 
church and the leadership, how did you go about resolving that conflict in a Biblical manner?

Ken:  I think the best shot at not being abused is to prayerfully observe the church, its leaders--and note how people act, and how they are treated. 

Look for humility, brokenness, and a deep fear of God and love for all people in a pastor. Listen to how he speaks of those who disagree with him, his church's doctrine. 

Does he smirk at doctrinal systems that he does not agree with, and present them as silly, unbiblical, even satanic, etc., as compared to his system (which, of course, is perfectly clear, biblical, etc.!) 

Does he speak of gays as if there are none in the room--and they wouldn't be welcome if they were? 

Does he spend much time criticizing other churches, and those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ, such as the Catholics and Orthodox? 

Is he critical of mission/evangelistic organizations with whom he disagrees as to their style and such, and does he encourage you (his loyal church member) to also be critical? Is it hard to be a divorced person, or an addict in recovery, or a relapsing addict, in his church? 

Does he bad-mouth the local and federal government a lot, and disrespect governmental leaders? 

Finally, a couple of BIG things that I would observe: Are the women in his church confident, assertive, and respected, regardless of the church's views on the egalitarian/complimentarian debate? 

Are the children "normal"? (By that, I mean, are they free to do the goofy, messed-up things that ALL kids do, or are they so "locked down" that they live in fear of failing and displeasing their parents and pastor?) 

And, last but not least--do your family and friends (who know and love you) see this church you're looking over as a good place for you, and for your relationship with them, or do they have reservations 
about it, and about how it makes you treat them?

What is your policy when you become aware of physical/sexual abuse in the members of your church?

Wise words from Joy:  The problem with asking questions of wolves in sheep's clothing is that they will answer as sheep. It is only through their actions that they'll be outed as wolves.

An Attorney reminds us:  Has the church ever shunned anyone and how was that decided?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Glad You Asked!

 Muckraker asked great questions yesterday and I'll address them on this post.

Julie Anne: What does it mean "reviews are slowly being removed"? Who removes them?? Google? The church requests it? Or demands it with some kind of legal pressure?

I thought the whole point of online reviews is that "customers" can FREELY post their OPINION of a business.

If my memory serves correctly, I am pretty sure the church's reviews were numbered somewhere around 960.  Now they are at 933.   I assume that Google removes them.  I don't know if the church requests it or not.  I do know that Chuck removed some of my Google reviews from a while back and he admits it here in his declaration which was submitted to the court  (public information):

JA's side note# 1:  I would disagree that he removed only 2 or 3 - give me a break
JA's side note #2:  he asked Google to remove "defamatory" comments which supported his claim to sue, so he basically asked Google to remove the evidence?   mmmmkay.   Excuse me for a sec:

Perhaps someone complained about the Streisand Effect that occurred, that most of those new reviews are from people who have not attended the church and only responded because of the media.  I don't know if that is part of the Terms of Service or not (whether one must visit an establishment before reviewing), but it very well could be.  Someone told me that removed quite a few comments, too.  What a colossal waste of time to go one by one, removing reviews.

All I know is many of my Google reviews were removed over the 2-1/2 yrs.  I had to rewrite it from scratch and then finally got smart and saved it on my computer, anticipating their removal.    For a time, I was unable to post any Google review on the church's review site.  That was strange. 

I don't understand how he was able to get them removed because I, too, tried to get Google to remove a few reviews which I believed to be defamatory, not only that, they were reviewing ME, not the church.   I received these generic responses from Google:

Feb 29 (2012)


Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each
day; your message is in our queue, and we'll get to it as quickly as our
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that
we will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond
with questions or requests for clarification.  For more information on
Google's Terms of Service, please visit

We appreciate your patience as we investigate your request.

The Google Team

And then I finally received this response nearly 1-1/2 weeks later:   

March 9, 2012

Thanks for reaching out to us.

Based on the current information, we are not in a position to adjudicate the validity of the claims alleged by your note. If you're concerned about the content, we suggest that you directly address your concerns with the author of the content in question.

If you choose to pursue legal action against the individual who posted this information and that action results in a judicial determination that the material is illegal or should be removed, please send us the court order so that we can take appropriate action. In cases where the author is anonymous, we can provide you with user information pursuant to a valid third party subpoena or other appropriate legal process against Google Inc.

The Google Team

Some attorneys I spoke with said that he could have had an attorney write a letter on behalf of the Church requesting they remove reviews or face legal action.  It would probably be easier for Google to remove the reviews than face possible legal action.  Who knows!  I wonder how much it would cost to pay an attorney to write up a threatening letter? 

Some people also uploaded some crazy pictures to the church's Google review site during the media frenzy and most of those have been removed (devils, witches, and bizarre stuff).   How did they get removed?  The same process?  A photo of Josh Groban is currently posted and I really wish Josh Groban would stay out of that church for the time being.    The picture below was one that was removed and was my favorite (and the only one I saved).  Notice the names on the sign:  "TODAY'S HERETICS:  MR. AND MRS. SMITH" - lol.  I have been told that I have a warped sense of humor.

So, evidently, Muckraker, Google will yank posts if someone requests it, but I don't know how to work that process.  I certainly wasn't going to hire an attorney to threaten Google.  Maybe my former pastor did.  I find it interesting that Google tells me that I have to provide the court order for them to remove posts, but they didn't require it from the pastor (because there wasn't and isn't a court order as of this posting).   I also still don't understand why they allowed the reviews of ME.  Below are a couple examples that I sent to Google and show how Chuck and Stephanie were reviewing me and not using the review forum appropriately to review the establishment. 

 Stephanie said:  "Nov 18, 2009 Beware! Negative reviewer is currently under church discipline.  JulieAnne, the other reviewer is currently under church discipline."


LANGDON who is likely JulieAnne, is wielding 1 Cor. 6:7-8 in order to further defame BGBC and Pastor Chuck O'Neal. It is convenient to wage a three and a half year war of reviling defamation in which you and those with you ACCUSE THE PASTOR AND CHURCH OF HORRIFIC CRIMES AGAINST GOD AND MEN, to then hide behind 1 Cor. 6:7-8.

JA's side note #3:  Has anyone figured out what kind of horrific crimes I have committed?  (BTW, is that defamatory?)  When I think of horrific crimes, I think of murder, rape, armed something or other.  Meanwhile, I sit at home, make mac n' cheese for the kids, do laundry, read stories, yell at kids to quit fighting over the Wii controls.  If that's criminal activity,  all moms are busted.

Keep in mind when the above reviews were added, it also upped their rating because they were rated 5-stars.  Now, if they were rating me, Julie Anne,  as 5 stars, that's one thing, I guess Google would need to give me a review site.   But their 5-star review of "me" bumped up the church's positive ratings (and of course it was significant at the time there were only a few reviews on the site). 

Crazy stuff, I tell you.  Well, Hannah and her boyfriend will be visiting this weekend.   I can't wait.  It's supposed to be 90 today and in the 80s tomorrow.  We'll be doing some co-ed swimming at the pool and our swimsuits don't look like this:


Have a great weekend, everyone!  :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

And the Winner Is?

One of my "informants" passed along this information.  Even while reviews are slowly being removed, it appears that BGBC just might be the most "Google-reviewed" church in the States, currently at 933 reviews.    If someone finds out otherwise, please let me know.

And next behind is Westboro Baptist with 713 reviews:

Edited to add:  I keep stewing about this minutes after posting.  The sad thing about this whole thing is there is no winner in my book.  A winning church is one where there is a shepherd who tends to the sheep and sheep that are growing, flourishing.  I kind of wish Google would remove all of those extra reviews.  The bottom line is I wrote my original Google review because I was crying out for help for this church that I had called my church home for two years.  I loved these people in the church and I still do pray for them.  I wish someone could make this nightmare go away, that we could redo the last decade for some people, stop the shunning, stop the madness.  Off to cry one more time.  Sometimes this sucks.  Wow, I used that word again.  

Julie Anne being real