June 11, 2016

Spiritual Abuse Recovery

I attended a theological seminary and now it's finished finally. Having little kids and sometimes also a job, it took eight years instead of normal three or four to finish. I wrote the diploma thesis about spiritual abuse recovery in my country. 
Here is the English summary.

Spiritual abuse = behavior of spiritual authorities that weakens, undermines, harms spiritually and emotionally those under their influence. It mainly means emotional abuse, manipulation, using e.g wrong emphasis in teachings, discouraging relationships with and information from outside the congregation, etc.
 It can be just a certain controlling and manipulative leader or some problematic teachings in more or less normal organization/congregation, or most of the organization and it’s teaching can be abusive.

The purpose of the research was to study spiritual abuse effects and recovery from  English sources, to compare the findings to the experience of /my contryman/, and to draw conclusions for improvement of the care for the spiritually abused /in my country./

The main sources for the experience abroad were D. Johnson & J.VanVonderen's The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, R. Enroth's Recovering From Churches that Abuse, J. Hutchinson's Out of the Cults and Into the Church. The survey was inspired mostly by B. Orlowski's Spiritual Abuse Recovery research and the results were compared to the results of Orlowski were possible. 

The main questions for the survey of spiritually abused /in my country/ were:
  • Where and what kind of spiritual abuse have the respondents experienced?
  • What problems and how long did they experience afterwards?
  • What/who helped them to recover and what kind of help they would like still to have?
The survey had mostly scales and half-open questions, it was conducted by an online form and analyzed both quantitative and qualitative ways. The number of completed forms analysed was 31. Steven Hassan's BITE Model of Cult Mind Control was used as a base for cathegorizing the survey results about abuse. 

The research showed that the spiritual abuse, the following problems and the helping aids are similar both in North America and in /my country/. An important difference is the lack of information about spiritual abuse and recovery in /my/ language. 

The advice for impoving the recovery of the spiritually abused /in my country/ are as follows:

  • To translate or compile information about the characteristics of spiritual abuse and the recovery, including the stories of the abused;
  • To promote sharing and publishing the aforementioned information and stories, online,but also in print;
  • To unite persons who would like to support others using their experience of spiritual abuse and to create means for contacting them, like an home page.
Hopefully, the thesis itself provides useful information for the spiritually abused, for their concerned friends and relatives and for those in position to care for the hurting. 

July 31, 2015

A brotherly? relationship after the community

    There was a nice co-operation in a kind of ministry. He also had time to discuss various theological and practical church work questions and somewhat concerning our community experience. He let me and my spouse be part of 'God's work' and fellowship and take responibility, i.e contribute with ideas and various serving, including leading Bible discussions (it means he had enough trust in our recognitions). It was a good opportunity to learn deeper about non-controlling church-life.
    But I had been formed by the community and my before-community group to expect more personal fight-sharing, admonishing-encouraging- challenging relationship. He was somewhat open but seemed not very comfortable with it. Well, I expected, at least, that when our common 'ministry' ends, we will remain friends, sometimes sharing how it's going with us. But already when the end was approaching, he distanced himself, e.g didn't come to fellowship/ Bible stuy if others didn't come, later didn't inform any more about not coming.. Maybe these are symptoms of burn-out, and I tend to feel somewhat responsible for it (the burn-out). I have tried, but he seemed not to understand how to clear it up by talking (or I'm expecting too much).
   And after 'the end', when we happened to meet, he has been either in hurry or, in a church event, after greeting and exchanging some sentences, he has gone on to talk with others.   And there was even a case he answered my kid's greeting but didn't look up to greet me who was beside the kid. Well, I myself was that day already burdened by some problems and somewhat busy with the kid, so not enough confident to greet in the crowd unless he looked at me.
   We are not enemies, but just like acquaintances, or even less. After that edifying co-operation and my unfortunately groundless expectations it hurts. In worst moments I feel a bit played on: friendship lasted only as long as I was needed for ministry. It hurts already less than before, but I heard he's thinking of going abroad with his family, and when I see hints (in social media or common e-mail lists) he's probably prearing for it, I feel kind of betrayed again: even less chance we will have anything to do together again and clear anything up. When will I be detached from him and my expectations finally? When will I learn to have deep relationshps without expecting too much from anyone? Well, life must go on and usually I'm able to focus on other things and other people. And if God wants us to meet again and/or clear anything up, he is able to organize it in time we both are ready.

March 9, 2015

Longing for belonging

   It's about a year now since the Bible study meetings in our home ceased unfamously, because there were only few of us and two of them had unsolvable convictions' conflict. As i wrote, I don't feel really belonging in our mainline congregation. Now the family life demands attention and has to be in the center.
   And it's already ten years since the last spring in the community, when once I felt I couldn't really agree with certain attitude of some brethren. I don't remember the details but it was connected to a 'guest', perhaps too quickly rejecting him when he didn't agree with us. This summer ten years ago I felt I didn't belong to the community wholeheartedly and I felt somehow less accepted, less trusted by the community. Then I had some thoughts about life outside, and some dreams at night that I was again with my parents That frightened me for I was still faithful to the only-church-teaching. Anyway it looks like God was a bit preparing me for the exclusion.
   Well, now I feel somewhat alone spiritually again and with new challenges to find spiritual activities that fit my familiy as well.

May 22, 2014

Feeling excluded without exclusion

   Still years after the exclusion I haven't found satisfying lasting friendships. Well, kids take much of energy. But also I haven't got used with the relationsips in a 'usual' congregation. There is a time for free conversations with coffe/tea and some food together each Sunday, but often nobody comes to join my family in our table. Everybody seems to have their other friends to talk with. Well there is a custom of greeting by hand and perhaps saying some words, but then they go their way. And I tend to be too occupied with kids or some problems and sometimes just overwhelming loneliness that I don't have extra energy and ideas to start to talk with somebody myself.  It may sound just complaining, but it's a fight for me not to feel too useless and unimportant there and alone with my daily struggles.
    Especially hard is when an important e-mail (in church context) is not answered or the answer delays. Then I feel really anxious, rejected etc, similar to the exclusion experience. I get fear I wrote or did something wrong causing the rejection, and hopelessness I can ever learn to fit in and feel really belonging.
In the community there was a good habit to answer e-mails just 'received' or 'thank you', so that the sender knew it was received and seen. Well there was much less e-mail communication than people may have outside the community but anyway I find it was a good habit.

December 8, 2013

As others don't come, so don't I

"As others don't come to fellowship this time, I won't come either." Said by a former leader and faithful participant. What is it? Just effect of burn-out? Avoiding even possibility for personal talks? It hurts and makes me feel rejected again. And somewhat guilty of doing something wrong in relationships again.

December 14, 2012

Spiritual war

I was thinking about spiritual war and armor Ephesians 6:10-20, while an ex-brother wrote his faith had finished.. :(
The devil is trying to deceive us. He is wise and cunning. He can use our mind, reasoning, feelings, desires to make us doubt God, just like in the very beginning in the garden of Eden, asking: "Has God really said.. ? You will not die but become like God" 
But, it is a spiritual war and some die in it. So we are admonished to put on the full armor of God to be able to stand against the enemy. Truth as well as we manage to know it, rigthousness - faith in forgivness and living as right as we manage, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Word of God, and to stay connected to God in prayer.
   I think everybody has some misunderstandings what real Chistanity is because of our limits as human beings who are influensed by the broken godless world. We can just use the best picture we can have, but the base of it should be that God is love and you are one and an unique creature of him. Nobody is exactly like you, nobody can fulfil the part He planned for you. :)
   Well, as the devil can use any means to deceive us, so also God can use anything to help us to believe and go on with Him. But he is a gentleman, he usually knocks at the door and waits for us to open for him.  But he is greater than the devil, he has the final victory.
   Our bodies are mortal even according to Christianity. What comes after leaving our bodies, nobody can give 100% proof. We have only probabilities both for and against existance of God. Even those we don't believe in one and only God may believe in a kind of life after death. I think this is freedom God gave us. If there were no possibiltity to doubt in him, we would have no freedom but we would be forced to believe God because he is so great, powerful etc that nobody would dare to oppose him.

May 30, 2011

Theological Castle vs Life of Struggles

In the community we lived in a safe theological castle, but the life of most of people consists of various struggles: for job, health, relationships, caring for kids and/or other relatives etc.
We had much free time for Bible talks together and with outside people. The tasks were divided between several brethren, so less burden remained for everyone. We didn't need to deal with people who didn't join our life-style. But in outside life one has to take care for all his/her material needs and those of his/her family, and of cause for the spiritual, mental, emotional and any other need. And in the broken world around us there are many broken people and broken families who do not meet the standards of our community. So one has to and can experience God in the middle of his daily duties and struggles, not first of all via thological discussions. (there should be some Biblical knowledge as well, of cause)
In the desert, Israel had to learn very basic lesson of depending on Jahwe for their food and everything. In usual family life, there may remain not much energy for special Christian meetings or activities (like mission and Bible discussion). The Christianity must be intergrated into the usual life, into the ways we do things. Well, i think the community did not say we were not Christians while we were at work or in university, but they emphasized being together too much. They didn't consider the (outward) diversity of ways one may live with Christ.

February 9, 2011

Confess your sins... so that you may be healed (James 5:16)

Confessing of  sins has been a question for me as well. To how many people? How detailed? What sins? etc.
"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (Jm 5:13-16)

James says the aim of confession is forgiveness and health. He doesn't call to deal with sins constantly, but in case of sickness. I think 'sickness' needn't be only bodily problem but also mental, emotional or anything that hinders our relationship with God.

What I've heared and read, it's not healthy to dig in our sins constantly nor remember old forgiven sins and worry again about them. But in some cases, e.g if there are emotional wounds or unconfessed sins from the past, it should be healing to bring these into the light, to give them the right judgement, to forgive to your hurters, to ask and accept forgiveness. When it is cleard up, we shouldn't dig any more.
Well it's more complicated with present repeting sins. I don't have a good answer here.

And even we don't look for sins constantly, it's probably sensible to check from time to time various areas of our lives, if these are ok in front of God.

It's also good to remember that Satan can accuse us without a reason, reminding our past sins and failures, to discourage us. He can also make us restless and feeling guilty without a real sin. He wants us to feel hopeless. When the Holy Spirit convicts us in a sin, it is something specific. He calles us to clear it up with God and find peace.

Justfication and sanctification

Once at a talk about faith and deeds (after the community) I came to conclusion that one can distinguish two terms. All Christians are called saints in the epistles of the NT because we are justified or 'declared righteous' through our initial faith and repentence (change of our minds). On the other hand we still have to become more holy because our sanctification or 'making holy' is a process lasting as long as we live on earth.

 Rev 22:11b "and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still."(ASV)

One should avoid both extremes:
a) focusing on salvation: I'm saved and forgiven, I cannot loose it, I don't need to worry about my deeds nor spiritual growth.
b) focusing on good deeds so that it becomes base of salvation.

I think we should believe we are accepted by God because He is gracious. We needn't panic about loosing salvation, but anyway to be aware that if we take God too easlily, it may happen.

February 8, 2011

We want you to show this same diligence to the very end

Heb 6:9 "Even though we speak like this, [warn against falling away] dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your casethe things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

'Convinced of better things', but anyway, salvation seems to be accompanied by works of love. What to do if I think I don't have these enough in my life? Really, not easy. Right now, I don't manage much more than taking care for my little kids, and even this is far from perfect.   I'm not able to add much more deeds to my life, but I can still fight for patience, faith and other good attitudes in everything I do.
2 Pe 1:5-9 "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, loveFor if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins."