"It is not hard to tell a healthy faith system from a toxic one. The toxic-faith system stands out with its obsessive people who victimize family members and destroy their own faith in God." Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton
Toxic Faith is a power-packed resource! It contains crucial information about toxic faith systems. For those who suspect they have been negatively influenced, I urge you to get the book. I do not know the authors (although I'd love to meet them!) and this is a FREE endorsement which I am thrilled to make.
One of the most important chapters is entitled "When Religion Becomes an Addiction". Let's be clear… RELIGION DOES NOT EQUATE WITH JESUS CHRIST!!! Religion is a tool Satan uses to ensnare unsuspecting victims. Yes, religion can become an addiction just like alcohol and drugs. In the Bible it's called "idolatry".
The subsequent chapter, "Religious Addiction: The Progression", explains in great detail the foundations for religious addiction and the characteristics of the three states of religious addiction, specifically:. (1) the early stage (2) the middle state, and (3) the late stage. These three long lists are absolutely crucial in diagnosing whether one is "under the influence" of toxic faith. If you suspect that you have been affected, please consult this book.
Now let's examine toxic faith systems. Please understand that I am not criticizing all ministries. There are excellent churches and ministries throughout the world that are committed to helping people grow their faith and develop a close relationship with God. As Arterburn and Felton explain, "Knowing the characteristics of a toxic system can be helpful in evaluating whether a ministry is poisonous or pure, addictive or freeing." (p. 136)
Ten Toxic-Faith Characteristics (p. 159)
1. The members of the toxic-faith system claim their character, abilities, or knowledge make them "special" in some way.
2. The leader is dictatorial and authoritarian.
3. Religious addicts are at war with the world to protect their terrain and to establish themselves as godly persons who can't be compared to other persons of faith.
4. Toxic-faith systems are punitive in nature.
5. Religious addicts are asked to give overwhelming service.
6. Many religious addicts in the system are physically ill, emotionally distraught, and spiritually dead.
7. Communication is from the top down or from the inside out.
8. Rules are distortions of God's intent and leave him out of the relationship.
9. Religious addicts lack objective accountability.
10. The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the belief of the religious addict.
No doubt some of our readers are "reeling" after reading this list. I'll be frank — I am ANGERED beyond words! I am so grateful that the internet allows a way to get this information out to those who desperately need it. Praise God for this communication tool!
Arterburn and Felton explain each of these characteristics in great detail, so if any of this information has struck a nerve, please consult their book. Here's how they end this chapter on characteristics of a toxic-faith system:
HOPE FOR CHANGE
"Knowing the characteristics of a toxic-faith system enables individuals to evaluate the characteristics of their church or organization. When members of toxic-faith systems identify them as such, there is hope that multiple generations of abuse will discontinue.
At last, followers can see and feel manipulation by religious addicts. The persecution will stop when they refuse to be victiimized. When many victims move away from the system, the toxic leader may be forced to become accountable, while other addicts may recognize the reality of their compulsions. This may force religious addicts back into a real relationship with God, free of ego, manipulation, and the victimizing of those outside the system." (pp. 158-159)
On Thursday, I plan to explain "The Five Roles in a Toxic-Faith System" (which Lisa mentioned in her Amazon book review), and wrap things up. I am burdened that so many lives have been devastated by toxic-faith systems, but hopefully this information is helping some recognize strongholds in their lives. May they have the courage to break free…