There are many reasons a spiritually abusive person in a position of power is difficult to correct/stop—reasons that have nothing to do with the abusive person and everything to do with the human condition. /1
A) Many people grew up without a stable or safe family of origin. When they find it in a church family or in specific church leaders, it becomes a healing balm, a sacred bond. They would do *anything* to protect it. /2
B) Even after people become Christians, it can take a long time to develop intimacy with God. This is particularly true of those who have childhood trauma. An exploitative, manipulative leader can easily become a god surrogate & create strong emotional enmeshment. /3
C) People from abusive backgrounds hate that they were abused, but abusive dynamics are what’s familiar to them & to their nervous systems. They quickly adapt to spiritually abusive systems without recognizing them as abusive. When confronted w/evidence that a church/org... /4
...they love & consider family is abusive, they’ll defend it w/fierce loyalty. Because if they admit what’s happening, they’ll have to excavate a lifetime of trauma, which would provoke more grief & pain than they’re ready to deal with. That’s when they can become abusive too. /5
For these reasons and more, holding a spiritual abuser accountable is more complex than most people tend to appreciate. Abusers, who are often victims of childhood abuse themselves, feed off & recruit support from a nearly endless source of human brokenness. /6
It’s a complex shepherding problem, and it’s spiritual battle for the souls of both the sheep and the abusive shepherd. In Mark 9, the disciples attempt to cast out a demon via a power confrontation, but they fail. Jesus, on other hand, takes the boy by the hand & raises him. /7
When the disciples ask him why they couldn’t cast the demon out, Jesus responds, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:29. /8
If we love the church, it’s important that we think beyond public take-downs of abusive shepherds. Justice is important for all who have been harmed & are being harmed, but we also need to assess the loss it would represent to sheep who already carry heavy burdens of loss. /9
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