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.

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