An Unhealthy Body

Part 7 of 7

Sadly, spiritual abuse is all too common and eerily similar wherever it occurs. It is not limited to particular denominations or extreme cult-like churches, but also happens among many normal, mainstream churches.

A contributing factor to this is occurring is that churches are organized with political structures for governing. It is the nature of these structures that can corrupt relationships within community. Hierarchical structures and authoritarian leadership produce the power politics that result in abuse.

Pyramid-shaped leadership structures produce an elevated class. This is damaging not only to the members who assume passive roles but also to the leaders who take on an inflated view of their spiritual authority and responsibility.

The idea of spiritual covering is a common teaching that supports this distorted concept of a leader’s authority. The covering teaching elevates the leader as a mediator, replacing the role of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the person’s life.

The church was supposed to be a new kind of society with a unique character. It has instead emulated the world in its leadership and organization.



14 thoughts on “An Unhealthy Body

  1. I’ve really enjoyed this series, Grace. Thanks for your insights. I hope we can, as you say, “be willing to change for the health and growth of the Body, not protecting our organizations and structures as if they were sacred.”

  2. Thanks grey owl and cindy.

    Now I think I’ll take a little break and spend my time reading what you guys are writing. It looks like good stuff. :)

  3. Very well said. Never understood the church having an elaborate “consitution.” That is one thing that has bugged me.

    Have you studied how New Testament churches were structured? Not much about orgnization can be drawn from Paul’s letters, but I’m curious.

  4. Grace,
    Today I read your series on spiritual abuse, and it describe what I had to live and to experience now.

    I think you had the best words to express or explain what people that suffered spiritual abuse can feel.
    I lived it 1 year and some month ago in Vail, CO and I’m still living in pain.
    I’m from Argentina where now I’m living with the help of my family on it. But it still is a hard and painful time.
    I read books about spiritual abuse, maybe I’ll ask for same sharing because I want to share about it in spanish, cause there’s not much material about it.

  5. Hugo,
    I pray that the Lord will continue his healing in you. I hope that you have people to support you and to talk with.

  6. Grace,
    I spent all day reading your serie on it. I’m translating to spanish to share with those who don’t know english.
    I have my family (small) and 1 friend.
    I loose a job, a good place, desires, communication w/ best friend, plus all that you mentioned on it.
    I’m not willing get out of my home anytime. Part of it I think is the social-economic situation of Argentina.
    I’ll write you much later.

  7. Grace,
    I didn’t find your email, so I write here.
    I’d like to use what you wrote on my blog. I want to share with others about it. I’d like to translate it and make references to your blog.

  8. Some of what you say in this entry reminds me of a piece by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Stupidity, shared with me by a common friend – Jimmy over at FluidFaith.

    “Stupidity is a more dangerous foe of the good than evil is. It is possible to protest against evil, to expose oneself, and at times it can be prevented by force. Evil always carries in itself the gern of a substitute for it, in that it leaves behind at least a feeling of uneasiness in men. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor force can accomplish anythin here; reasons are of no avail; facts that contradict one’s own prejudices simply do not need to be believed — in such cases the stupid person even becomes critical — and if they are unavoidable, the can simply be shoved aside as insignificant, isolated cases.

    In this the stupid person, in contrast to an evil one, is completely satisfied with himself. Indeed he even becomes dangerous in that he is easily inclined to assume the offensive. Thus more care must be shown in dealing with a stupid person than with an evil one. We shall never again seek to convince a stupid person with reasons; it is senseless and dangerous. In order to know how to deal with stupidity we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is not essentially an intellectual defect but a human one. There are intellectually quite able men who are stupid, and intellectually very dull men who are anything but stupid. In certain specific situations we make this discovery to our astonishment. In this connection one has less the impression that stupidity is an inborn defect than that under certain circumstances men are made stupid, or perhaps let themselves be made stupid.

    We observe, moreover, that men who live secluded and alone show this defect less often than men and groups of men who are inclined or fated to sociability. Thus stupidity seems to be less a psychological problem than a sociological one. It is a particular form of the effect of historical circumstances on man, a psychological phenomenon that accompanies specific external relationships. On closer view it is seen that every strong outward development of power, whether of a political or of a religious nature, smites a large portion of mankind with stupidity. Yes, this has precisely the appearance of a sociological-psychological law. The power of one man needs the stupidity of another. In this it does not turn out that specific — and thus perhaps intellectual — human concerns suddenly are spoiled or go awry, but that under the overpowering impression of the development of power, man is robbed of his inner independence, and theat he now — more or less unconsciously — renounces any attempt to find his own relation to the situation that has developed.

    The fact that a stupid person is often stubborn should not deceive anyone into thinking that he is independent. In conversation with him it is felt that you are not dealing with the person himself, but with cliches, slogans, etc., that have gained dominance over him. He is under a spell, he is blinded, he is misused, mishandled in his own being. Thus having become a will-less instrument the stupid person becomes capable of all evil, and at the same time incapable of recognizing it as evil. Here lies the danger of the diabolical abuse. In this way men can be destroyed forever.

    But it is here that it also becomes quite clear that iti is not instruction but only liberation that can overcome stupidity. In this connection we must first realizae that a genuine inner liberation is possible in most cases only after external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must renounce all attempts to convince the stupid. In this state of affairs lies the reason why under such circumstance it is useless to seek to know what ‘the people’ are really thinking, and why this question is so superfluous for the one who thinks and acts responsibly — only however, under the given circumstances. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10) says that the inner liberation of man to responsible life before God is the only real conquest of stupidity.

    Furthermore, these thoughts about stupidity have this element of comfort, that they by no means permit one to regard the majority of men as stupid under all circumstances. It will really depend on whether those in power can expect more from stupidity or from the inner independence and intelligence of men.”

    — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I Loved This People

  9. This is why more and more I am moving away from organized religion and toward Christianity. I don’t need a big organization behind me to be a child of God. What church did Jesus belong to?? None. If you say He was a Jew, then I would say He was a very BAD Jew, seeing how He failed to keep many of their customs and spoke to those Israel had rejected. (Samaritans) He broke the social rules of speaking to women. He ruined His reputation by eating & drinking with “sinners”.
    I must follow my Savior. If this means leaving a church- then I will do it if it comes to that. Often the structure and the fact that most in the church seem to be working their way up the ladder of influence is distracting. Many sermons are rhetoric shared with the intent to keep the church under control, etc.
    All I want is to be close to God and mingle with others who desire above all things to demonstrate His love in their daily lives.

    Blessings Be Upon You, Grace!

  10. Right on Grace…
    We have set about in our fellowship doing the exact opposite too break down these structures and mechanisms. The difficulty though is that people actually WANT it the wrong way because it allows them to be comfortable. Appease their conscience and not be messed with…

  11. Dear Grace
    I recently discovered your blog and the Spiritual Abuse postings. My church is going through some of this right now and I’ve sent a link to it to as many of my church family as I possibly can. I’ve since been told that your words have given peace and comfort to several and encouragement to all who have read them to be bold enough to stand up for Christ in His church and not be hounded away from the body by a bully and his followers who have most definately lost God’s anointing in ministry. Thank you so much and I pray for continued healing for everyone who is still hurting from ungodly behaviour from people who perpetrate such situations.

  12. MarySue,
    I’m sorry that you are going through this. I’m glad that the posts have been helpful. Grace and peace to you.

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