Friday, 23 August 2013

The Abusive Church - Part 1

Part 1
This is a true story of my personal experiences within an abusive church. I apologize for such a long post but there are things that needed to be said. 

This post is not intended to mock or criticise the many Church Leaders that promote the sound teachings of God and have a real duty of care and love for their congregation, but rather to expose some of the toxic features within a church that almost destroyed my relationship with God. I feel compelled that this is the right time to share my experiences and to warn others in advance. 

Seeking Hope
One of the things that most people search for is a spiritual source to fill the gap that nothing else seems to plug. A creator, a God, a being of some sort. After all, we have a longing to know who we are and where we came from. One of the many paths we take is the road that leads to God. 

At a young age I had already exhausted the nightclubs, lock-in pubs, underground raves, and designer clothes. I'd had my fair share of expensive dinners, holidays abroad and meeting people you wouldn't want to be associated with. I indulged in way too many deadly sins to mention.  

I began to have an intense inner feeling that I needed God and to find him I needed to find a place of worship.  

I eliminated the Jehovah Witnesses, Baptists, Catholics and Mormons because throughout my early life I had already spent time studying with them and their teachings just weren't my cup of tea.  I then remembered my relative telling me about this local Pentecostal church they went to and how different it was regarding worship, plus the preaching/teaching was very bible-based.  I decided to go along and take a look for myself. It was that decision which almost put me 'smack bang' into the gates of hell.

No Way Out
Within a matter of weeks of my being there, I was being taught in the Sunday school lessons that the reason I, as a new convert had chosen that particular church was because 'it was the place where God had sent me' and 'those that leave that church were never meant to be there in the first place'. People who left were being referred to as 'wolves in sheep's clothing' according to Matthew 7:15 in the bible. We were constantly being fed stories of how people came into the church and tried to cause havoc but when they didn't succeed they left and that was due to them not being a child of God in the first place, but of the devil. We were warned against associating ourselves with them. After all, those people had rejected the truth about God so what could we possibly have in common with them? We were light and they were darkness.
I had no reason to challenge this based on what I had seen so far, so I lapped it up like a thirsty dog. The noose was being tightened, but so slowly that I didn't notice it.

Warning 1
This is vitally important because they were quickly laying the foundations in your mind that the Almighty God had put you in their church. And to leave would be to defy God. 
It was also teaching you not to associate yourself with anyone who had left the group regardless to their reasons. They would be labeled as rebellious and/or backsliders - in other words, they walked out on God and wanted to return to the society that was on it's way to a fiery hell. 
Seem like simple statements don't they? But, in the long run, those words would plant guilt, fear and shame, and haunt you whenever you thought of leaving. 


Shut Up and Obey
As the months ticked by we were taught that we should obey God rather than man - Acts 5:29. It's a brilliant scripture if used in the right way, but it was constantly drummed into us that the Pastor and his ministers had been ordained by God, and they were the mouth-piece of God, so in essence, you were obeying what God wanted through them. You were taught that if you wanted to do certain things then you would have to ask the Pastor for 'permission' first. There would be serious consequences if you failed to adhere to this. 

Anyone who dared to challenge the pastor would be knocked back sometimes privately but more so publicly. They were made to look as if they were being disobedient to God's ordained authority. 

There was a situation where an elderly woman wanted to visit another church. She told us beforehand what she wanted to do but when the Leader refused 'permission' she decided not to go. We had been taught that to go without his express 'blessing' was to go against the will of God. As time moved on, I'd realise that 'permission' was sought for many things: dating, marriages, visiting other churches, social events and suchlike. 

Anyone who did not abide by these rules was privileged enough to be the topic of the next Sunday sermon in front of the whole congregation. Can you imagine, for example, how you would feel if you wanted to get married and because you didn't ask the pastor's 'permission' the next service would be about disobedient people marrying the wrong kind or that it wasn't ordained by God and that their marriages would fail etc?

Warning 2
Public humiliation was a way of telling the whole congregation to 'hear and fear'. The pastor did not take kindly to anyone who disobeyed him. Bit by bit, grown adults (many who I personally know) who were once very strong and independent minded were being turned into people who conformed to whatever this autocratic pastor wanted. Members were regressing to childlike vulnerability, they were no longer thinking for themselves. They were only interested in whether the pastor would approve or disapprove. In order for any cult to work you need total obedience. It was no longer about Jesus.  

But the worst was yet to come.
Part 2 will be posted on 6th September 2013.

Questions
Have you or do you know anyone who has experienced autocratic leadership?
Have you encountered these dynamics in other places apart from a religious setting?

I'd love to hear your comments, views and opinions.

80 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. When you said it almost destroyed your relationship with God, I was glad that it did not destroy it in the end. I look forward to reading the next part.

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    1. Shelly I was hanging on by a thread mate, but I know that 'God is not mocked' and in the end, this pastor will not get away with it. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I'm also interested in seeing where this is going.
    Probably somewhere disturbing.

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  3. I have had limited experience with church and church issues
    I clean the church..yes.... And I do some small jobs for them.. But that's my limit.
    Like like big d
    I wonder what will turn up in part 2

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    1. Well, I'm hoping that the church you clean is nothing like this one, but sometimes you don't know what's going on until you begin to get more involved and hand over your trust. Thanks for commenting John.

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  4. In the early 80s, I went through a "tough love" drug rehab called Straight Inc. It was little more than a cult which employed public humiliation, food and sleep deprivation, social isolation, and brainwashing to break our spirits and "assist" us in complying with its mission. We were led around by the beltloop, not permitted to look at or talk to anyone of the opposite sex, restricted from reading, listening to music, or watching TV, and later (after we'd earned "privileges," our comings and goings and associations all had to be approved by higher ups. I was held there against my will, lied to and told that I was court-ordered there when, in fact, I was not. I used to sit inside that building, dreaming of how to escape. It was an absolute nightmare which took me much of my adult life to recover from that emotional trauma. Boy, can I relate to your story! Looking forward to Part II.

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    1. Yes, it seems like a very similar thing but in a different setting. The mental damage it does is unbelievable and it can take years and years to get over it, if possible.

      To be held against your will is terrible especially when you believed it was via a valid court order. How disgusting. I don't know how these culprits sleep at night especially if they have husbands/wives and children. I think I read some of this in one of your posts or discussions a while ago Helena. If you have a link, then please please leave it here for us to all read. Thanks mate.

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  5. I'd like to find a way to feel I'm somehow connecting with God. It would be such a comfort. Is there a place where I can do this? I'm not sure; probably not. Maybe it's a personal place within.
    I can see your point about how twisted formal religion can be. I was brought up as a Catholic. When I was in elementary school I was taught that committing a mortal sin without being forgiven by a priest in confession would land you in hell.
    I was taught that a mortal sin would be committing murder. I can go along with that. But other examples of mortal sins were: missing Sunday Mass, eating meat on Friday, masturbation, having sex without the intention of procreation, divorce and the list went on.
    How are these things just as evil as murder? This caused me much guilt, anxiety and confusion.
    Yet I have to admit there were still some spiritual moments!
    I'm still confused.

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  6. I forgot to mention how I no longer attend any church.
    I look forward to part 2.
    I look forward to all your posts. They cover such meaningful topics.
    Enjoy the weekend,
    Your friend,
    ~John

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    1. Oh John, I did the catholic thing too but I was convinced from an early age that my confessions go to God and not 'man' so I lied in the confession box. Not good, but I wasn't going to tell some bloke what I'd been up to was I?
      I can imagine the confusion over the list of many so called sins. The bible does make some sins quite clear but we can't force anyone to do anything or to live like how we live. I personally believe that God has given everyone a choice and it's not up to me to coerce anyone through guilt tactics or peer-pressure.

      I'm extremely cautious about christian groups now, you could call it being 'once bitten and twice shy'. Thanks for the comment mate.

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  7. Very interesting! I never really know what's going on inside churches. When I just got in this country I lived in Savannah, GA, on streets I saw some Christians "show" - a group of people performing some sort of "play" that demonstrated bible stories, my impression was that it really reminded me what I saw back in cultural revolution in China - absolutely obedience.
    How people can change under the influence of the people such as the pastor in your church is fascinating to me. Waiting to your next chapter.

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    1. You've hit the nail on the head Yun Yi. In order for anything to work, you first need their obedience. Once you have it, you can begin to mould and shape people into what you want. It should be a good thing, but often that power gets abused. With all your experience of China, you're spot on mate. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. This is very interesting. The problem is that the enemy is really working to use the church as his tool to gain his power over people. God is a loving God and He is the one we should see as an example. If a church is not showing love and mercy, then it is not a God based church. Remember, God loves us sinners that he died for us. We show mercy because God is merciful. We obey him because of love, not by duty. And besides, we are God's temple. It is more inportant to know what we do with our body than what we do in a church building.

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    1. Bam! Joy, thanks for this. Exactly my thoughts. I ALWAYS look to God. He's the author of my life and how I feel inside. If God is okay with me, then I'm okay with myself. I must admit that I wasn't always like this. Like RPM, I have had some bad church experiences that almost also ended my relationship with God. But once I discovered the truth about God and his abundant mercies I have stopped living my life in guilt about petty things.

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    2. I think you need to talk to this pastor Joy, ha ha ha! Once you have a certain amount of control over people it can go straight to their head, so to speak. I will never know if this pastor started out as a good one or if he was inherently bad all along, but only manifested himself later. I don't understand how someone could call themselves a pastor and carry on in those bad ways AND it's doesn't matter what denomination you are from, it's about how you treat others. Nice to hear from you Joy.

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  9. Wow RPD, this is a side of you that I don't think many of us expected to see!

    I'm sorry to hear what you have been through and appreciate you 'opening up' to share it with us.

    I also have had some involvement with a cultish church group and can relate to the damage it causes. Though I was fortunate to be able to get out without losing family members etc., as has been the case for some people I know personally.

    The thing is that when you say words like 'cult' or 'church abuse' a lot of people think straight away of a Waco or Jonestown type situation where weapons and death are involved. They do not realise the emotional and psychological damage that spiritual abuse can do.

    This makes the effects of these groups even more pernicious as it's harder to see the abuse straight away until, in a sense, you've already been drawn into the web,

    It's interesting to see how you're breaking down the subtle dynamics that are used to trap people and the warning signs... just wish I'd read this many, many years ago!

    I hope you will be able to move on from your bad experiences and learn to trust in God and find a genuine loving community to be a part of and with which to worship.

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    1. PS, sorry I've not commented for a while, though it goes without saying that I still follow your blog - avidly!

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    2. It was great to hear from you again Navigator and I'm glad you're still following my blog. Hope all is well with you.

      This is the thing Navigator. I feel that some of those cults may have begun on a positive level and as the leaders began to see how they could influence the people, the greed of it all took over and they became drunk with the power.
      Oh yes, there are hundreds of dynamics but I don't have enough time in this world to state them all, but although I'm writing this late, maybe I should have exposed this earlier via writing (I have exposed this verbally too many people).

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  10. Wow, RPM, yes you went there, and I'm glad you did. I too have had my experiences with pentecostal churches. I guess you have to be a very strong-minded person in order not to fall for half of the guilt messages they preach. One pentecostal pastor used to preach almost every Sunday about tithing and how half the church was poor and couldn't afford to pay their bills because they were robbing God. EVERY SUNDAY! Now imagine having skipped lunch in the morning because you had an empty fridge only to go to church and hear that God is punishing you because you did not give Him 10% of what you don't have. Now how's that for a guilt trip. Don't get me started on offertory and being a single woman in the church or childless or whatever. Apparently these are all fruits you're reaping from some seed you must have sown in your lifetime. Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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    1. Oh yes, I've had the same preaching of the 'tithes' and the 'robbing God' one too and also the teachings of why some women were barren. This is very serious because it adds to the hardship of people who are already in difficult situations by giving them an additional burden of guilt.

      It also falls into the category of 'the gospel of prosperity' where churches preach that if you are in favour of God then you will 'gain money, get rich and have all the glorious things of this earth' etc. This is clearly NOT what the bible states. And I've observed that it's normally the pastor who is in a position of wealth whilst the congregation are in poverty. Does this then mean that no-one is obeying God then apart from the pastor?

      What the bible does say is that the rich should give to the poor. What happens is the opposite. It's as though the exclusive way to give to God was by paying into his ministry.
      Thanks for the comment Nicole.

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  11. Any church that tries to scare you into staying with them and tries to keep you from other people is scary in it's own right.

    My church does not do this, my Heavenly Father loves all children not matter what faith they are and we are to love everyone too... We have a choice and we are not told how to make those choices.

    I am so sorry you had that sort of experience, thank you for posting though, I look forward to the next chapter:)

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    1. At first you didn't see it as scaring you into staying there, simply because you had it in your mind from their teachings that God had put you there. So you stayed there in obedience. Later, when you begin to see all the things that are wrong and become desperate to leave, the fear kicks in that you will be abandoning God as though leaving would be a sin. Yes, the bible does give you a clear choice and you'll read what I did with my decision in Part 2. Thanks Launna.

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  12. You've read my post on Lisa's old church, and how they treated Lisa. That was actually a Pentecostal church. It was a harrowing time. In the end, no church is 'perfect' as they all tend to abuse the scriptures in their own way, but sometimes you can easily be reminded of how bad a church can be because of how they go on a rampage and beat down the congregation....

    That one, about obey God and not man...Its amazing how they go around that. The Paster might have been ordained, but he's still a man....

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    1. Yes Dan, I read your post about what happened to Lisa and I was disgusted but not surprised. It's amazing how in this day and age with so much access to information that there are leaders out there still getting away with this.

      I agree that no church is perfect. It's like saying that no parent is perfect BUT there's a big difference between imperfection and downright abuse. When the negative influence is embedded, systemic and overwhelms any positive influence and that person is clearly motivated mainly by power, greed etc. then it's time to head for the exit!

      I'm sincerely trying through these 2 posts to provide a litmus test to tell the difference. Thanks for the comment Dan.

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  13. I think that just as we're all individuals, our path to understanding G-d is individual too. If a Church (Temple, whatever) nurtures us as we find our path, that's a good place for our journey.

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    1. Yes, nurturing is one of the things we should expect from anything claiming to be a church. If it doesn't do that, alarm bells should already be ringing. Thanks Karen.

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  14. I am sorry that you had such experience and went through all these unpleasant moments. I believe that what you went through could destroy you and make more complicated your relationship with God. And thanks that it didn't happen. You are strong, very strong! Once I had a very unpleasant experience with a little church. I felt that I was an outsider there. It took three years for me to say for myself, that this church isn't my church and I have to leave it. It was a difficult but right decision.

    You wrote a very open and very thoughful post!

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    1. You see, it took 3 years even though you felt as an outsider, and that's the sad part of it all. All those wasted years and then you still had to walk away. I'm also sorry for what you went through Kaya. I hope you've found somewhere better to go to now. Thanks commenting and hoping to hear from you again, plus nice to meet you.

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  15. The first thing I thought of rpd was this aphorism of mine: "Obedience corrupts; absolute obedience corrupts absolutely." Ostracism is the most powerful tool any social group possesses, so long as one is dependent on that group for one's sense of worth and well-being. That pastor is able to exploit and terrorize his congregation because of their "need" of him and the spiritual sustenance he is supposedly supplying. It was brave of you to question his tactics and authority and eventually break away. You took a great emotional risk, but I can see you emerged from it a stronger person. It all worked out for the best.

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    1. Loved the aphorism NP. We all need to be fully aware of whom we are serving and/or be prepared to walk away if we know things are becoming or/are abusive. Thanks for the comment Nothingprofound.

      Oh, I questioned it alright but there were consequences. I shall tell more later. Thanks mate.

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  16. It's sad to know this happened to you, Rumpunch. There seems to be no freedom when ruled by certain quarters and they are humans.

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    1. And it's still very sad to know that it's still happening with many people I know, but they can't get out! I'll explain more in Part 2. Thanks for stopping by mate.

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  17. Scary stuff. No, I've never been in a similar situation. I once did Transcendental Meditation but they were way cooler than that. I met a Moonie once but that's the extent of my experience with cults. That and the occasional Jehovah Witness that comes to the door. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story.

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    1. These dynamics also happen in any large group of people. I think the situation in Soviet Russia was similar with the rise of Stalin. That was a kind of atheist, secular cult, or with Hitler and Nazism. Only difference being they had the power to even get you killed! Thanks Lauren.

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  18. I'm sorry you had to go through such experience. I look forward to reading more.
    I have no experiences with any church. I'm a very spiritual person, though.
    I hope you find a church that suits your needs and that you find inner peace in your journey.
    Hugs,
    Julia

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    1. Thanks Julia. I'm extremely careful when it comes to christianity now. I'm not so quick to jump in with both feet and I like to ask a lot of questions. I'm also not afraid to walk away if I see things that are not right, as I don't want to get back in that situation ever.

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  19. RPD... Such a Powerful Post.

    More than anything else, I am so glad to hear that this "Bad Experience" did NOT drive you away from your relationship with God. Grace to you, my friend.

    Looking forward to Part 2. Have a great week, Slu

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    1. It took me a long time Slu. A very long time to think 'how could I have been that STUPID and/or sucked in, to have wasted so many years there?' Sad really. Have a grand week mate and I'll be over soon :)

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  20. I'm so glad you are giving us a glimpse into this piece of your life. I hate how groups that call themselves Christians but act like anything but give the whole lot a bad name.
    I can't wait to read part 2.

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    1. That's the flip side Karen. It does give Christianity a really bad name, and it's made people like me very doubtful when there most probably is no need to doubt. When someone says they are a Christian, immediately my 'wall' comes up and I have to check out things instead of just taking them at face value until proven otherwise. All because of my experiences in that... place.
      Thanks for stopping by mate.

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  21. This is my first time at your site and I have to say, this is a pretty heavy post. I've had my fair share of the Catholic church but have never experienced anything like what you wrote about. I'm sorry this happened to you but seems like you had the sense to escape it and overcome it.

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    1. Hello Allie and a warm welcome to you. Oh yes, I had a sense alright but it took it's time getting to me, ha ha ha. Glad you left a comment and hope you'll visit again.

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  22. Seeking Hope

    Some years ago, I found that to qualify for my Literature MA, I had to collect some few credits more than I had.

    The way to do this easily, I thought, was to get a minor in Comparative Beliefs. I thought this course would be just a learning of some words and find how many times those words were in each of the major religions. A piece of cake!

    The man giving the course was very much aware of the reason most of us were taking his lectures, but he was a very smart man. As soon as we made silence when he entered the room, he looked at us and asked:

    "Would the world be better if there would not be religions?"

    It was genial, he bought us just in mind and body, we had not a moment of quiet from then on, there were many ideas, discussions, reasons against reasons. The work! We were hooked. The time went off and we did not reach any sound agreement.

    The next class, we waited to find out what our professor had to say about his question, but he surprised us again with a new question:

    "Which is the main trait in the creation of human beings?"

    Again, in minutes we were in the middle of a word mêlée that seemed unruly.

    Then, half way into the debate, this incredible man, stopped us and added in a very low voice which made us strain our ears:

    "The answer to this question nullify the question posed in the first class, without answering it."

    We were bewildered!

    But I will make this long story, short.

    We discovered that the main trait in humankind creation was: They were created to image, and likeness of the Deity. Until that moment I had believed it was a Judeo-Christian affirmation, but it is a more general declaration since it is mentioned in almost every existing religion on Earth.

    What does it mean? The Deity had neither a body, nor a mind in the sense human beings do. The Deity is a Spirit and that is what humankind received, a hollow, an infinite hollow in their souls that can only be filled by another infinite Being. Hence the need to fill this gap, as you wrote, with a Creator, a reality, better than those bland offers the world have as replacement, namely: wealth, fame, human love, and whatever you may mention.

    Following this, the first question was irrelevant since humankind cannot survive the internal urge from the Spirit, then we cannot conceive a world without religions, even if this situation does not answer if that world would be better than ours, or not.

    No Way Out - Warning 1 - Shut Up and Obey - Warning 2


    The next step was to make the Deity's Word known, and here is where everything follows the path of the bitten apple, to mention a known happenstance here in the Western World.

    After leaving the caves, humankind divided in three factions: The Rulers, the Priests, and the Villains (in the sense of Serfs, not wicked persons). The two first groups easily developed a war for power that is still alive nowadays.

    As it is easy to find out the Villains, who are the vast majority, if they do not have any power to make it important, with their numbers they could make one of the other parts be significant enough to exert command.

    So what you need is a way to manage that big crowd and keep their loyalty at all cost.

    Not to be too long, it is enough to say that this explain all those illegitimate method used by all of them, and for the Abusive Churches in particular.

    Of course, this is a way to simplify a very complex thing, but I think it gives some answers.

    About your specific questions:

    Yes, I know a victim of autocratic leadership. Meself, ma'am. Not in a church, though. Fortunately, I could escape!

    Yes, this is the dynamic that keeps Corporations ruling the economic world.

    Sorry for the length!

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    1. Thanks for your perspective on this. So the stock that cults trade in is the sense of need for God in each person. They offer to fill it, trading false promises for true obedience.

      The amazing thing is that, unlike the kind of warfare you would need to unseat a political dictatorship, the only thing needed to rob the cult leader of his status is for people to vote with their feet... and simply leave and stop handing over their money. Always glad to hear what you have to say on this Od, thanks for the comment mate, always appreciated :)

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  23. I have my share of this so-called 'public humiliation' in the church or in any Christian gatherings and for me, it is not really encouraging. After many years, somehow I've learned where and who to listen. It is for us to discern the right from wrong...(But honestly, these kind of people are everywhere. You can find them in the Catholic church, Protestant, Baptist etc. because there's no perfect churches. It is our relationship with other people and God that matter...

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    1. You've made a good point Ric but I feel that your relationship with God, especially if you're a new believer can be seriously marred in an abusive setting. But, as I said to Dan, I'm not saying churches need to be perfect, only that, at the very least, they not abuse people. Thanks for you comment Ric LifeNCanvas

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  24. Today, my friend, I'm going to leave a fairly short comment. Your awful and disillusioning experience, sadly, doesn't surprise me. Although not nearly to the same extent, I went to church when I was about ten years old in Canada. I went there of my own accord to check it out. To keep an open mind. I found it humiliating as I was chastised in front of the congregation for questioning the words of the Bible.

    Outside, I was pulled off to one side by the reverend. He asked me a question that confused and upset me. "Gary?", he stated. "Who do you love more, God or your mother?" I answered, "My mother." The reverend got very angry and told me that I must love God more than my mother.

    Sorry, but personally I abhor religion in any form.

    And I'm doubly sorry about what you experienced.

    In sincerity,

    Gary

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    1. Gary, what an experience to have at such a young and tender age. I always find it so very odd how questioning the bible is so offensive to some of those leaders.
      It's as if they expect you to just accept everything BUT even the bible tells you in Proverbs 6:20 "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not the law of your mother." and in Ephesians 6:2 "“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)". So go figure!?!?!
      Thank you so much for commenting Gary. Hope Penny is well too :)

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  25. This is some thing sad and scary happened to you my friend , beast of luck for next time , have a good day, write the next post soon :)

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    1. Yes, I'm much more wiser now. Thanks Aunt Mary and Part 2 will be on 6th September.

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  26. This is so frightening! It sounds like you got trapped into a cult. I'm just glad you were able to get out, RPD! I am totally intrigued by your story and anxious to read part 2.

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    1. Oh, I got out alright. But it was definitely a cult. You know what? I don't believe in every religion and every denomination, but I wouldn't call them cults. So long as those people are free to study, worship and think without being bullied, manipulated or coerced I wouldn't stigmatize the organisation with such a name. That's what sets a cult apart. Thanks Menopausal Mama.

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  27. Why did you say the article was long? You had me engaged the whole time, when I reach the end I did not realized it was the end, really looking forward to the continuation.
    I think so often we allow our limited understanding of God not only to cloud our vision but the visions of others, especially to fulfill some vain desires.I am from the Caribbean and its no different here we hear the stories that follow close in suit to the pastor dictating what goes and what does not, your case seems to go way further I am interested to hear the continuation and sorry for the long comment friend.

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    1. It's quite long for me Ricardo, because my posts are usually much shorter but I had so much to say, and I know I won't be able to mention everything so it's difficult to know exactly how much to leave in.

      'Vain desires'? So true because maybe the pastor saw himself as a god of some sort. He certainly had his eye on the offering plate.

      Now, your comment was not long at all. I do like people to feel free to express what they are thinking, so don't worry about the length of what you have to say. Thanks you so much for stopping by again Ricardo.

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  28. You know, I have a problem with churches their chicken is SO greasy and I also have a problem with churches..lol. a little comic relief. In America we have a place called churches...well anyways my problem: Church like network marketing, can be EXTREMELY bias and cult like; it's almost scary like they want you to conform and become this person; not be yourself. Before I say more, I'm not here to offend anyone, I just noticed a trend in some churches. It hasn't turned me away from God because I have come to find that God is in my house and is always with me. I think going to church is a good place to connect with those who are like you, as in praising God; however to go every Sunday or everyday is a bit redundant. I love people and at the same time I don't. In church, man is found, and man is born a sinner. It's almost as church contradicts it's self...

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  29. BTW AWESOME POST! I'm waiting for part two...

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    1. If I hadn't been to the USA a couple of times, that joke would have gone right over my head, but nice one mate!

      I agree with your point. You are who you are. If you join an organisation that is supposed to assist you in developing they must first accept this. Otherwise it's like forcing change from the outside in. Like forcing the petals of a flower open - you will only end up damaging them. Instead, put them to bask in the sun and they will open from the inside and show their beauty. Guess some people don't have the patience for that... or don't get the same power trip from it. Nice to hear from you LA Green and thanks for the compliment.

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  30. Hi Rum-Punch Drunk. What a terrible experience you had with that Church! In many respects, it closely resembles horror stories I’ve heard about the Pentecostal Church. Other churches too but even more so regarding the Pentecostals. Their very rigid “them or us” views are even worse than the Catholics (and I know about the Catholics). The way they plant guilt, fear and shame if you try to leave is the opposite of what a church should be. Asking the almighty pastor for “permission” before doing things is so cult-like, so controlling. “Hear and fear” is hideous! Shaming people publicly if they did not conform, or even if they didn’t ask permission, is not based on any true Christian teachings. It’s most certainly does not following the example of Jesus. Thank you for sharing this with us. I will definitely be back for Part 2.

    To answer your questions:
    Have I experienced autocratic leadership? The years I spent at a Catholic orphanage run by so-called good nuns was a prime example of autocratic leadership. (As you may recall from blog posts about my family, my siblings and I arrived at the Catholic orphanage after the parish priest betrayed my father.) The nuns had rules set in stone and any children not following the rules exactly were severely punished. You didn’t eat, play, or even go to the wash room without permission. Many of the children there were not orphans as such. Like my family, they were there due to traumatic circumstances at home and had relatives or friends who would visit (our dad visited), but visiting was only permitted on two Sundays a month. Anyone visiting any other time was not allowed in, even if related. Any toys or gifts you received on visiting day had to be handed over to the nuns immediately when visiting hours were over, never to be seen again. Failure to do so resulted in severe punishment. That’s how the nuns controlled the children, through fear. Definitely an autocratic system.

    Have I encountered these dynamics in other places apart from a religious setting? Yes, in the workplace, on more than one job and I’ll just mention one of them here. When I was 19 I was offered a job as a dental assistant trainee. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy that kind of job (turns out I didn’t) but thought I’d give it a try. The dentist seemed like a nice guy at first. Patients liked him, by all accounts he was a good dentist, but he was rude and very autocratic to his staff, especially the women. He barked commands, dumped file folders on the floor for you to pick up if he couldn’t find something right away in the file cabinet, expected you to bring him coffee and yelled if it wasn’t precisely the way he wanted it, and on your own lunch break, you were expected to walk (and pick up after) his dog.

    But that wasn’t the worst of it. If that dentist didn’t like the way you were doing something while a patient was in the dental chair, rather than explaining what you were doing wrong (and I was still training), he’d kick you under the chair. Yes, kick! I was stunned the first time it happened, I thought it was an accident that his foot hit mine while the patient was sedated and having dental work done. He kept doing it; it was no accident. If he didn’t like what you did, he kicked you! I couldn’t believe it. That was not only autocratic, it was abusive. I know some people would have walked out then and there, but I was a single woman living on my own and needed to finish out the pay period so I could pay my rent. I considered reporting him but I was only 19 and a former foster child. He was a well-respected dentist in a small community, who’d believe me? It wasn’t worth the hassle. So I stayed long enough to collect my paycheck and never returned. Needless to say, I chose another line of work, secretarial and later editorial work, better suited to my talents. The whole experience is almost comical when I look back on it now. Definitely an example of autocratic (and abusive) leadership outside of a religious setting. Looking forward to reading Part 2, RPD!

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    1. It's awful what those nuns did in the name of Jesus. Children in an orphanage are even more vunerable, so to rule them with fear is much more disgusting even than doing it to adults. I don't know how you came out of that place normal, JerseyLil. What harm would it have caused to have visitors every weekend? Shame on them all.

      You gave a perfect example of an autocratic person. 'Butter wouldn't melt in their mouth' to those on the outside whilst they treat those on the inside as if they were wild dogs. To kick you under the table must have made you feel very humilated especially because you needed the money to pay your rent. I understand that perfectly and I bet the dentist knew it too. I feel quite upset just reading this, to be honest.

      I'm glad you found your niche in life and you are truly talented for sure. I know what you mean about it being comical though, it's sometimes strange to look back to see the things that we all went through.
      I always appreciate your comments JerseyLil. Thank you :)

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  31. Brother it looks like you were in a serious pickle! Yes its true there are some people who take the word of God and twists them to favor themselves rather than you and me. This preacher was an evil man and i hope you were smart enough to get the hell out of there. These people have a way of speaking to others a kind of hypnotism or something. Or maybe he told them about them burning in Hell if they defy the pastor that they actually began to believe it.

    For me religion is just a form of control. Even though the Bible was not for that but people take advantage of it and use it for evil. I believe in God and i know you do to and yes we have all indulged in things and hung out with bad people but that is life brother. Believing in God does not have to be something that you need to go to a building to get or to hear a person who says that God talks through him as he is just like the rest of us "imperfect" he has no authority over you!

    I understand you were looking for more spirituality and instead came face to face with a power monger. Like i said the kingdom of God is within you, so if you need to speak to him then go ahead and speak to him! There is no need to have a "Middleman" telling how to life your life.

    Keep rising Brother!

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    1. Yes, quite a few people who have become disillusioned with 'organised religion' prefer to go 'directly' to God.

      But I do believe that there should be a community element to faith where people can share and grow. I also believe in elders in the faith. People of wisdom and experience who can help those who are new and learning around the pitfalls and spiritual landmines of life. I know these things are out there... somewhere.

      Sadly, though, these cults or cultish behaviours are part of the problem whilst pretending to be a solution. I'd like to think there is a community or a group out there for me, somewhere and that I won't be over-cautious if I ever find it. Thanks for stopping by Jose.

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  32. Hum! Wow! RPD, that's heavy. You know that I am a Christian and a preacher, and I know you have made occasional mention of your past experience with church, but I never knew any of the details--'til now. I am not sure where to start. I read through many of the comments, and I can see that a number of the readers have had bad experiences in the name of Christian or the church.

    I'm really sorry that you experienced that. Those are deep wounds that merely time will not heal. But I am glad that God can heal our inner wounds. Let me say very clearly, that there was little or nothing Christian about that Pentecostal church you attended.

    I know churches and pastors are not perfect though they serve a perfect God. And one of my greatest concerns are for babes in Christ who trust everything they hear from church officials. This innocence makes them extremely vulnerable to being emotionally and/or spiritually destroyed by bad leaders.

    Too many leaders abuse their authority in one way or another. As leaders, we must understand the awesome responsibility of being messengers of God's holy Word. The implications of that are bigger than words can convey. We must minister to those we serve with fear and trembling, and not with abuse and intimidation. I look forward to part 2. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. I have read many of your posts Frank, followed your blog carefully, and read your responses to me whenever I left a comment. And I really believe that if I had encountered you or someone like you during those early days, things would have worked out differently.

      You are authoritative without being an authoritarian. I've noticed that when Christians do things that are not biblical, you're not afraid to write about it, and encourage others to put it right and that's what I like.

      I'm glad there are men like you out there who recognise the seriousness and duty of pastoral care involved in the role they have taken up.

      I hope you take this post as an encouragement to keep going because society needs pastors like you to set the example of how a leader should be.

      I encourage everyone who reads this to please visit Franks King's blog and let him know what you think by leaving comments:

      Frank King's Blog

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  33. Yes, I've been to some strange churches in college. I never went back.

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    1. Good for you mate :) and thanks for the comment Susana.

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  34. I think the work place can sometimes be like what you explained. Many people are scared to be an individual or express themselves differently for fear of being ostracized. It makes a person think it's not okay to ask questions.

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    1. That's so true Kissa, especially in those large organizations where everyone is trying to climb that ladder of success. Thanks for your comment.

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  35. I'm very curious to read the rest of this though I've got a feeling where this is headed. Any organization which tells people the should just follow blindly and not think for the themselves is scary, indeed.

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    1. Yes, I'm hoping that my experience will at least get some people thinking. Thanks Mom.

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  36. Hello Rum-Punch Drunk. This is Light in My Smile, just to tell you I started a new blog, to follow me during my Year in The Mountains: www.walkingthroughlife.net :-)

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    1. Hello Sabina. Good to hear that you're back blogging again. I shall pop over soon.

      What do you think about 'The Abusive Church?'and have you ever experienced this type of set up in an organisation before?

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  37. It's so sad that when I read the title, the Pentecostal church crossed my mind...mainly because I am a member of the Pentecostal church. And I've heard stories similar to what you experienced both within the Pentecostal churches and among other denominations. Fortunately, I haven't experienced anything like that in the churches that I've attended. It is absolutely shameful that some church leader with lead by distorting the word of God in order to shackle it's members. I'm so sorry that you experienced that in a place that is supposed to bring healing and love.
    I'm very curious to read part 2...I wouldn't be surprised if more of what you speak of is familiar...

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Hope. It really is sad that I had to write about my experience within the church this way but sometimes when we hide things, it makes it easier for the abuser to carry on. If I can help at least one person then it was well worth it.
      Always good to hear from you.

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  38. I admire you for having the courage to write about this. I saw the title for part II, and wanted to start from the beginning. Sorry I didn't see this earlier, as I was out of the country.

    Julie

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    1. No problem Julie. I appreciate the fact that you still took the time to read it when you got back.
      It took me a long time to decide to write about this but I didn't want to cover up what happened and hoped that it will help someone else to get the courage to walk away. Thanks Julie.

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  39. I would like to comment on this from my perspective as an atheist, but I have a feeling that I may come across as disrespectful (and I know how you feel about disrespect)
    However, Elaine was a Jehovah's Witness for her first 18 years on earth, due to her mother being a controlling, fanatical, spiteful b***h and not giving her an option. She was treated appallingly by Church and family and escaped as soon as she could (on her 18th birthday)
    She is a very (pagan) spiritual person, so the horrific experience didn't rob her off her belief, but it certainly made her wary of organised religion.
    Glad you got out.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about what happened with Elaine and I can imagine your frustration with all of this due to you being an atheist too. I have some family and friends who are still part of the JWs so I know what you're talking about. I met a really nice couple a few years ago who had left the JWs after 30 years but unfortunately their children are still part of that organisation and no longer will communicate with them in any way shape or form. They are still very much broken hearted about it.
      I'm also glad Elaine got out because places like that can seriously damage you.

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  40. Sadly, there are too many of these autocratic leaders in religious groups. That's why I eventually chose a path of spiritualism over religiousity. I'm just too much of an independent thinker. I like my relationship with God and think of it as personal - just don't need someone telling me how it should be.

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    1. I've found that independant thinkers just don't last long in these sort of places. They always become a target for the autocratic leader because they want to break you down, so to speak. Thanks for the comment Donna.

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