Jeremiah 5:26 for wicked men are found among My people…they set a trap, they catch men.” Then, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority.” (vv. 30-31)
Jeremiah 6:13-14 For from the least of them to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially saying, “Peace. peace,” but there is no peace. ” Special thanks to The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.
I want to thank all of you for your kind prayers and wishes during this past 10 days. It was a tough time due to somme complicated family issues but God helped me navigate those tough waters. I also want to thank Deb for holding down the fort here. I am now back in the saddle and look forward to writing some posts.
Since 2009, TWW has recommended The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church.There is a good reason for this. It is a relatively short and easily comprehended book which outlines a number of spiritual abuse tactics used by organizations. We refer to it frequently when we write out posts. Buy it! (Remember, we don’t take kickbacks for book recommendations.)
The Unspoken Rules
This book outlines a number of *rules* employed by abusive churches. The authors say that abusive churches have a number of *unspoken rules* that are to be obeyed even though those rules are not defined. When I was in business school, we learned that many corporations have unspoken rules that must be obeyed. My professor called these “the rules of the game.”
I broke one of these unspoken rules one time and got into a bit of trouble for it. My cubicle was at the end of a row and the lighting was quite poor. I walked past a trash barrel in a different division and saw a perfectly good lamp in a trash barrel. I asked the former owner of that lamp if he wanted it and he said I should take it since he didn’t want it.
However, unbeknownst to me, that particular lamp was only given to employees who were part of upper middle management and I was just plain middle management. So, one day, a *keeper of the unspoken rules* appeared in my office, quite upset that I had this rather plain looking, banged up lamp on my desk. I explained what happened and he lectured me on the *rules of the lamp.* He unplugged the lamp, took it away and reported me to my boss who thankfully just blew it off.
Here are some of the unspoken rules of churches, according to the book, which we reviewed extensively in several posts when we first started blogging,
“You know we must never disagree with the pastor on his sermons — and if you do, you will never be trusted and never be allowed to minister in any capacity in this church.”
In this case, the unspoken rule is: Do not disagree with the church authorities — especially the pastor — or your loyalty will be suspect. Rules like this remain unspoken, because examining them in the light of mature dialogue would instantly reveal how illogical, unhealthy and anti-Christian they are. So silence becomes the fortress wall of protection, shielding the pastor’s power position from scrutiny or challenge.” (p.67)
“In some churches there is “an unwritten and unspoken rule that said, ‘It is better to be nice than honest’.”
“If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem.”
“The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud, they don’t cause them, they simply expose them.” (p.68)
“Too many churches communicate this kind of shaming message: ‘The problem is not that your boundaries were crossed and violated, the problem is that you talked. If you would not have made such a big deal, everything would still be fine.’ If a person accepts that message, they will stop talking.
The real problem, however, is that if a Christian who feels violated stops talking, then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his behavior.” (p.69)
The Can’t Talk Rule
According to the book, this is one of the most powerful of the *unspoken rules.* We wrote about this back in 2009 in SHHH!!!!!!Don’t Talk.
“The “can’t talk” rule has this thinking behind it: ‘The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change so it must be protected behind the walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem. In some way you must be silenced or eliminated.’ … The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don’t cause them, they expose them… The “can’t talk” rule, however, blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence.” (p. 68)
According to the authors, here’s the real problem with the “Can’t Talk” rule. “If a Christian who feels violated stops talking, then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his behavior. And the victim will have to “freeze up” the pain and anger of being spiritually abused.” (p. 69)
Johnson and Van Vonderen then provide this thought-provoking comment: “Though some in authority would love to never be questioned or opposed, the fact of the matter is that such a system is a trap and a downfall for any leader. If noticing problems is labeled disloyalty, lack of submission, divisiveness, and a challenge to authority, then there is only a facade of unity and peace. It is impossible for wounds to be healed, and abuse will one day escalate. If authorities are not accountable, then you have built a system that is in opposition to the freedom that is in Christ. You are ignoring James 3:1, which says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (p. 68)
What happens when these rules are enforced by church leadership?
Let me outline a few points from the above two quotes. Think about the recent responses of Highpoint and SGC/SGM as you read these.
- If you talk about a problem, you become the problem.
- Silence protects the church leadership from having to deal with the problem.
- Often the problem is the church leadership and they don’t want to talk about it or they might have to do something about it.
- If those people hadn’t talked about it, everything would still be fine.
- Silence means the pastors will be protected and the church will not get embroiled in a legal situation.
- When problems are openly discussed, they can and should be dealt with. If they are are not openly discussed, they fester and will eventually lead to an escalation in problems.
- Ignoring disunity and strife only leads to a facade of unity and peace.
- If problems cannot be discussed in a church, there is a lack of freedom that is supposed to be found in following Christ.
Spiritual paranoia directed at abuse advocates.
According to the book, spiritual paranoia is a sense that people resources and relationships are unsafe. Here are two recent examples of that paranoia. Watch carefully for proof/examples for their claims via documented examples. There are none.
Paranoia example #1: Abuse advocates are vigilantes and virtue signalers.
Christian Today posted Rachael Denhollander and the scandal of sexual abuse in the church.The author starts off well but quickly launched an attack on those who attempt to help abuse victims. Sadly, he signals to those of us who do care that he is willing to employ a spiritually abusive tactic called “shut up.” (By the way, David, I was right about Iain D Campbell and I will continue to write about Tom Chantry)
we need to stay away from the vigilantes and the virtue signallers; those who don’t hesitate to conduct trial by social media and who get a kick out of thinking they are ‘in the know’ and have the ability to act as judge and jury. Just because you get an e-mail offering selected insider ‘evidence’ does not mean that you know. The abuse of justice in any form is wrong. As is the sad practice of ambulance/fame chasers who will even use fake claims of sexual abuse for their own gain.
Paranoia example #2: Abuse advocates are the problem because they upset the status quo.
Update on 3/6/18 I made a mistake with this example and I apologize to the author and that is why I have deleted it as opposed to merely crossing it out. I now know the intent behind this comment and it was not meant to insult victims’ advocates. Just the opposite is true. However, for very good reasons, it would not be wise for me to discuss the reasons behind this. The individual did not ask me to remove this but I felt I must do it. -Dee
- Advocates are ambulance chasers
- Advocates are fame chasers
- Advocates get a *kick out of being in the know.*
- Advocates fake claims.
- Advocates act as judge and jury.
- Advocates are *advocates.*
- Advocates are meanies who cause the male establishment to close ranks.
Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches and the *Can’t Talk* rule has prevented them from seeing that they are their own worst enemy.
I have recently been talking with a number of SGM/SGC abuse victims and their families. Today I want to focus on one point that we, and many others, have written about for years. One individual reminded me of how CJ Mahaney used to treat those who came to him with *observations.” SGM had many insider words and phrases. *Observations* was a code word that meant a person was taking a serious concern to CJ or his one of his designated consigliere. Here is a real conversation with the details changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.
Member: “Pastor. I have an observation. I am concerned that the church discipline of Bob was pretty harsh. The family adopted several kids and they are doing their best to discipline them in accordance with SGM mandates. They have only had them for a few months. Why did you have to discipline the father for not having his kids under control?”
Pastor: “I am observing that you lack trust in your leaders. Not only are you not bringing your pastors joy in this conversation, as you are commanded to do by the Bible, you are demonstrating sinful arrogance in your willingness to approach your busy leaders with a problem that has been Scripturally dealt with. In fact, I have a concern that you lack humility and believe that you need to spend time in prayer about your own serious issues. We will need to discuss whether you need to be disciplined as well.”
The member has now become the problem. In fact, he has to be concerned that he will be disciplined next. These *don’t talk* tactics are effective to a point. However, the years of employing such strategies have come back to hurt SGM/SGC and related churches.
SGC and Rachel Denhollander
Take a look at the SGC response to Rachel Denhollander. See if you see the *Can’t Talk* rule in play. In the following statement, SGC claims not to have shared details of the raised concerns in order to *protect the victims.” I sincerely doubt that many of the victims and their families have ever felt *protected* by SGC/SGM/CJ Mahaney and his consiglieres.
Over the past few years, we have regularly shared details on these matters privately with those who have approached us in good faith with understandable concerns. However, in our public statements, we have been reluctant to share many details concerning these accusations. Far from hiding facts, we have sought to be discreet in our communications to protect those involved—first and foremost victims and their families.
In this following quote, they state that advocates have publicly pronounced SGC and its pastors guilty of sex abuse. Those of us who believe the victims, instead, suggest that SGM did not respond appropriately to reports of sexual abuse and we have documented our concerns for over 9 years. We have been accused of all sorts of horrible things like slander, etc. for speaking on behalf of the victims. Now, Denhollander is accused of the same thing because she, too, has broken the *Don’t Talk” rule.
Having said that, the decisions of Rachael and others to publicly pronounce SGC and its pastors guilty of sexual abuse and conspiracy, on the basis of false allegations and with no direct knowledge of SGC’s history or the facts, have profoundly damaged the reputations and gospel ministries of innocent pastors and churches.
SGC and Boz Tchividjian
It appears the Boz did the wrong thing as well. He spoke publicly about SGC.
Boz Tchividjian, the leader of GRACE, has on multiple occasions written and spoken publicly in ways that suggest he has already prejudged the case against SGC. He has publicly indicted the motives of SGC as it relates to those allegations, and he has publicly criticized others who have expressed any support for SGC.
And here it is! Everyone needs to shut up because *no one has the facts.* Except, as we all know, Denhollander did and so have many of us who have spoken out.
No matter how great the passion for an obviously righteous cause, no fallen human being possesses absolute moral authority, and it benefits neither the victims of sexual abuse nor the name of Christ when believers publicly condemn one another without the facts.
SGC/SGM is losing the *blame it on the people who won’t shut up* game.
According to SGC they are not the problem. Denhollander, Tchividjian, the bloggers, etc. are the problems because they talked. SGC believes that if only those people hadn’t talked, SGC would be sitting pretty. They are wrong. The many people who have spoken out about SGM cannot all be wrong. Yet, SGM/SGC/CJ Mahaney continue the blame game. They are slowly losing the PR battle and sound more desperate with every pronouncement.
Highpoint Church Memphis and the *Can’t Talk* rule.
Highpoint has a real problem. Due to Larry Cotton’s resignation, there is now no question in the minds of reasonable observers that Jules Woodson experienced abuse at the hand of Andy Savage. Savage, as an ordained youth pastor, had his *organic experience* with a student in his ministry 20 years ago. Incredibly, Chris Conlee has copped to knowing about the escapade and declared Savage *forgiven and restored.*
Once again, rational people observing this from the outside would agree that Savage did something wrong and that he and Chris Conlee (along with Woodson’s former pastors) are to blame for this situation. Let’s look at this quote from the book again.
“Though some in authority would love to never be questioned or opposed, the fact of the matter is that such a system is a trap and a downfall for any leader. If noticing problems is labeled disloyalty, lack of submission, divisiveness, and a challenge to authority, then there is only a facade of unity and peace. It is impossible for wounds to be healed, and abuse will one day escalate. If authorities are not accountable, then you have built a system that is in opposition to the freedom that is in Christ. You are ignoring James 3:1, which says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (p. 68)
In fact, this problem festered for years, causing enormous harm to Jules Woodson. I would venture to guess that there was also guilt inside of Savage and other pastors as well. The fact Savage did not return her email demonstrated his inability to deal with his guilt and the pain that it caused Woodson. He and the others allowed this problem to go unresolved until Woodson talked. It was the bloggers which told her story when Savage refused to answer he email.
What was the response of the Conlee and the church? The bloggers are the problem and Woodson should have been on the path to healing like Savage!! It was so simple in their eyes.
- Savage=gets a standing ovation
- Woodson= should be healed by now
- Bloggers= spawn of Satan
What precisely did the bloggers do? They spoke the truth of an incident that should have been dealt with 20 years ago. They supported Jules Woodson because the church leaders, including Conlee who should have called the police the second Savage told him, did not. I recently heard this quote on a show I was watching.
Is a crime that was committed 20 years ago any less of a crime?
I believe that Sovereign Grace Churches/Ministries/CJ Mahaney and BFFs along with Highpoint are the poster kids for The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church. These ministries need to pull on their big boy pants and deal with their problems instead of trying to deflect it onto the bloggers or the victims.
Thankfully, many of us are on to these forms of spiritual abuse and they don’t work on us. Go ahead, call us fame chasers, ambulance chasers, etc. It won’t work. In fact, it makes many of us snort since we know what is going on. Next time such comments are made, pastors and professors who teach the Bible should know what constitutes real slander. It is not calling Iain D Campbell a serial pervert because he was and it has been proven. It is making claims that bloggers are ambulance chasers without proof. Slander is giving false testimony and that rule is in the Bible.
So stop deflecting and trying to make us the problem. Instead, deal with the perverts and abusers in your camps. You should have enough to keep you occupied until the Second Coming.