Monday, October 13, 2008

Spiritual Damage of Spiritual Abuse and Mind Control

Reading testimonies of former members of Bible-based cults and abusive churches and considering my own experience, I noticed that these groups often cause people to lose their faith in God. I think the main reason for that is authoritarian leadership in these groups.

On the one hand, the leaders present themselves as appointed by God and carrying out His will. They make their followers believe that they have unquestioned highest spiritual authority and this authority is given directly by God. Leaders also make members of their groups believe that they have a special commission from God and carry out His will on the earth. Everything they do is presented to the members as God's will. On the other hand, these leaders abuse their authority. They make people suffer constantly and severely. However, members of these groups are expected to believe that all these sufferings are directly from God. This causes them to conclude that God is very cruel and wants people only to suffer. This concept hinders them from seeing God's love and care for people.

I have read somewhere that there are two reasons why people deny God. The first reason is because they do not have adequate information about God. Nobody preached the gospel to them. They just do not know who God is. The second reason is when people have some reasons to feel that it would be better if God did not exist. I think this is exactly the problem of former members of abusive and mind controlling groups. They think that God is very cruel and subconsciously feel that it would be better if such a God did not exist. This leads them to losing faith.

The solution of this problem as I see it is for the ex-members to change their concept of God. I think reading the Bible and healthy spiritual literature may help them to see God in a different way. After I left the group where I was, I spent much time on studying the Bible and Christian theology. It really helped me to see God in absolutely different way. I realized that the concept of God taught in that group was completely wrong.

God does not want people to suffer, though He sometimes allow sufferings. There is a difference between what God really wants and what He allows to happen. The Bible, especially, the New Testament is full of God's love to people. Christ had to suffer crucifixion in order to save people. This was a great price paid for us, and this was a great manifestation of God's love.

The concept that God is cruel and wants people to suffer is not biblical. God is different from the concepts of cults and abusive churches.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Comparison of Spiritual Abuse and Mind Control

One of the classic books on spiritual abuse is Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth.

In this book, he describes seven characteristics of abusive churches:
1. Control-oriented leadership
2. Spiritual elitism, perceived persecution
3. Manipulation of members, fostering dependency
4. Life-style rigidity
5. Emphasis on experience
6. Harsh discipline of members, information control
7. Painful exit processes

Control-oriented leadership is authoritarianism of abusive church leaders. Strictly speaking, authoritarianism is not an element of mind control. However, both mind control and authoritarianism are important characteristics of mind controlling cults. Mind control methods are carried out by authoritarian cult leaders. So, mind control and authoritarianism are related. Authoritarian structure of cults is mentioned in Margaret T. Singer's Six Conditions for Thought Reform.

Spiritual elitism, perceived persecution match Dispensing of Existence of Robert Jay Lifton's Eight Psychological Themes of a Thought Reform Program.

Manipulation of members, fostering dependency somewhat matches Mystical Manipulation in Lifton's model. Need for obedience and dependency is one of the items of Behavior Control in Steven Hassan's BITE model.

Life-style rigidity matches Milieu Control and Demand for Purity in Lifton's model. Regulation of individual's physical reality is another item of Behavior Control in BITE model.

Emphasis on experience is not mentioned in any mind control models. This point is probably more theological than psychological. Since Enroth considered Evangelical churches that usually take the Bible as the foundation of their doctrines, the fact that abusive Evangelical churches misinterpret the Bible in order to justify their practices is very important.

Harsh discipline of members, information control. Information Control is one of the four components of BITE model. Discipline, rewards and punishments in order to change people's behavior are mentioned in BITE model and in Margaret Singer's model.

Painful exit processes are effects of mind control. People leaving mind controlling cults have to deal with many problems caused by their involvement.

So, in many aspects, the description of spiritual abuse given by Enroth matches descriptions of mind control given by psychologists. Probably Enroth did not give a complete description of spiritual abuse, but gave some points of spiritual abuse. Nevertheless, his description shows that spiritual abuse and mind control is the same thing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Recovery from Spiritual Abuse

Some of the books helpful for understanding spiritual abuse and recovery from it are:

1. Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth (pdf)
Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth (online version)
A review of this book by Margaret Singer

2. Recovering from Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth (pdf)

3. The Discipling Dilemma by Flavil Yeakley (online version)

Mind Control and Spiritual Abuse

Mind control, coercive persuasion, and thought reform are psychological terms used to describe the same phenomenon that takes place in cults and abusive churches. There are different definitions of mind control. According to Margaret Singer, thought reform is a set of techniques for changing people's behaviors and attitudes. This is probably, the most clear and simple definition. Thought reform (or mind control) changes not only people's behaviors, but also their attitudes. It is much easier to force people to do something than to change their attitudes. However, thought reform changes both behaviors and attitudes. Thought reform is practiced by authoritarian cult leaders. So, mind control implies authoritarianism of the cult leaders.

Spiritual abuse is a term used mainly by Christians. This term, mainly, emphasizes the authoritarianism of some church leaders. However, this term also includes undue influence on the members of their churches. This undue influence is mind control.

In The Discipling Dilemma, Flavil Yeakley described his study of changing of personality types of members of the International Church of Christ. Yeakley wrote that this change is the effect of undue influence. He did not call it mind control. Psychologists consider the result of Yeakley's study as the proof of mind control in ICC. Christian theologians and apologists consider his study as the proof of spiritual abuse in ICC. According to psychologists, ICC is mind controlling. According to Christian theologians, ICC is abusive. The same things in ICC are considered to be the result of mind control by psychologists and of spiritual abuse by Christian theologians.

So, mind control and spiritual abuse have almost the same meaning. The main difference between them is that these terms are used by different people. Mind control is a psychological term while spiritual abuse is a religious term.