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Comments

kathryn

I found your blog through browsing on pcablogs.com, and just finished reading your series of posts. Wow, that brings back some memories that I'd rather forget.

My experience wasn't in a church, it was a parachurch organization. The leaders of the local prolife group were people that my family had known for several years, they were members of the homeschool group that my parents were on the board of, so we thought that we knew them well. Through a series of events, we ended up getting involved in prolife activism, and everything went along smoothly for a few years, until the woman started seeing my mother as a threat. My aunt lived in a town where a major prolife organization was headquartered, they went to church pastored by a big name in the activist side of the prolife movements. Basically, because of that, my aunt would find out things that were going on, and because my mom would talk on the phone with my aunt a lot, naturally my mom would hear things from my aunt before the local leaders heard about it from the national leaders, and before the local leaders decided to bestow the information upon us. It just ate that woman up that she wasn't able to totally control my mom. This woman was very good at manipulating and controlling people, we see that now, though at the time nobody realized it soon enough to get away without getting hurt.

It was a weird situation, everything came to a head with a meeting that was supposed to be several couples involved talking out their differences with the leadership couple, it turned into the couple trying to turn the other couples against my parents (I wasn't supposed to be hearing any of the conversation, but I was in the other room and heard everything), and it was just nasty. They sent out letters, called my parents and two other couples loose cannons and all sorts of things. At some point after that, a few weeks I think, we happened to be over visiting my aunt when a national prolife leader was speaking at her church, that lead to a meeting with the pastor, the national leader, my parents, the couple, and one half of another of the couples who had been attacked. The national guy really had no idea what was going on, and everybody sort of sat there blindsided while the couple went on a full blown attack on my mom, my mom ended up being forced to say that she hated the woman (which was a complete and utter lie), and then it was all supposed to be good, it was all dumped on my mom's head. A few days later and after seeking advice from some trusted friends, my mom ended up sending out a letter to all who were at the meeting, saying that she lied and did not hate the woman, and that she never had hated her, and basically that was the last real contact we've had with those people in a decade. The national leader who was at the meeting didn't know what the real deal was, he thought it was just the sort of difference of opinion that he had to work out with someone a few years before, it wasn't until last year that he finally saw what sort of manipulative controlling people they were, when he found himself in dissagreement with them and they cut off contact with him and started badmouthing him.

It's such a sad situation, because in the intervening decade they've become worse than when we knew them, back then they were just manipulative and controlling, now they've wandered off the path of orthodoxy and have a house church that, from the best I can tell, has all of the markings of a cult. Their daughter-in-law died at the end of last year, bled to death after giving birth at home without any medical assistance, after they refused to call an ambulance until it was too late and wouldn't let anyone else there call either. The woman is now facing felony charges for practicing midwifery without a license, and rather than realizing that they did anything wrong, it's all everybody else's fault, and anybody who says anything against them is an apostate.

The hardest thing in all of this is that when we look back on all that transpired, it's extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly what happened. At times, you almost start thinking that maybe you were in the wrong, that maybe if you'd handled things differently none of it would have happened. And to compound things, at the same time they were accusing my parents all sorts of horrible things, the woman was being all nice and friendly to me and my siblings, and I almost felt like I was being asked to make a choice between my parents and them, which is not a fun position for a highschooler to be put in. There was no way that would work on me, I heard too much, but still, today I've got a college education, I've moved on but when I look back it seems like they're still reaching through the years and trying to mess with my mind. Even though I know that I can use the experience for good (today, I can see through anything remotely 'off' long before anybody else does), it's not something I'd wish on my worse enemy.

Gin

This is the first time I've commented here. Thanks, Dory, for a great series of posts. They've been very helpful. I'm new to blogging and have enjoyed reading yours.

Newmodel

I have so much to say on this topic of abuse...I've not only studied it for years, but experienced it personally, through being excommunicated, going through situations individually, and through counseling others who were victims of it.

Everything that Dory said would fit my situations and experiences...they do lie, they do project, they definitely have a sense of grandeur that involves them being connected with "big names." These people are extremely paranoid and can be your best friends one moment and have half your friends turned against you in the next!

As for sense of humor...in my situation, they had a sense of humor...I WAS IT! THE BRUNT OF CRUEL JOKES! Empathy? left me alone for hours crying because of them shunning me and me not having a clue what I did wrong. When I later asked WHY? The response was, "We knew what you needed, but giving into that would just have fed your manipulations of us" When I was asked "what would you do in that situation?" I responded, "I would have hugged me anyway, manipulative or not...I was hurting because you were ignoring me and wouldn't tell me why...I deserved a hug and was feeling insecure and you didn't care!" Their response, "oh, well I couldn't do that"

If you dare to confront the situation...then YOU BECOME THE PROBLEM. They like to keep things very secretive and hidden. It's been a secret for years and how DARE you think you are now going to blow their cover?!

Preoccupied with appearance? Heck yeah! And furthermore...if you are with them..if YOU don't look good, THEY don't look good and OUT YOU GO, in favor of someone who will BETTER REPRESENT OUR VISION!

As far as withdrawing attention...being that I tend to be codependent, and they knew this since the relationship began with me seeking them for help in overcoming it...THEY USED IT TO THEIR ADVANTAGE. Any time I was "bad" (aka: caught on to what they were doing to myself or others and dared to address it and point it out as being SIN) I was ignored, shunned, mocked and mistreated. Of course, I was told "You aren't being PUNISHED...SEE LAURA, you are so insecure...don't you know that we love you no matter what you do? You need to be dependent on GOD not us, that's your problem"...however, they were fostering depedence on them at the same time.

Even as I write all this, the fear of them FINDING OUT somehow is still there. I'm still in contact with some of these people, so I'd appreciate this staying as private as possible. I love these folk more than they even realize, and I long for this all to come to a head, as they are now most likely going to do this to another person that is with them even as we speak, who I used to be very close to.

Please just pray and realize we can only change our world...one person at a time...starting with OURSELVES :)

Health and a Hopefilled future to all

~"NewModel"

marcy

I've been told I have a fair number of manipulative and controlling behaviors myself.

I'm also terribly afraid of such behavior from others.

For these and other reasons, I find relationships and community pretty difficult. I think some of my discomfort in my current church is a good discomfort, because community and relationship do not come naturally to me, but we're called to them anyway. But I'm also very afraid, and having a bit of a hard time understanding where the boundaries should lie.

WordGirl

Bless you for shedding light on this! How very helpful, especially the last paragraph. Beautiful. That's exactly what I have to remind myself of every day. An excellent resource is: "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by Johnson and VanVonderen. I would highly recommend it to ANYONE in this situation.
Thank you!!

Anonymous

Glad you allowed for anonymous comments in this case. This was an excellent series on a topic that needs greater attention. Be aware that even Big Name Christian leaders can be manipulative and abusive. People with highly popular books, conferences, radio programs. When you hear that they in fact publish lies, mislead the public, exploit their staff, etc., don't dismiss it with the thought that surely someone with his or her reputation could not possibly do such things.

The article linked above on "Covert Aggression" gives a good description of how third parties often fail to recognize the signs of a manipulative person. The article "Psychopathology in a Suit" says there is a higher proportion of abusive types in such areas as business, politics, law enforcement agencies, law firms, and religious organisations. "They have a predatory quality to them and the prey is always around certain areas."

If you are or have been in a relationship of this kind, be utterly convinced that the greatest spiritual growth comes through crises and suffering, and that God can use even dysfunctional relationships in a powerful way for healing and renewal as you turn to Him. "This is a people plundered and looted," says Isaiah 42. But later, "Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives from the fierce? Yes!" (Isaiah 49) God can rescue you from a predatory relationship and help you grow stronger through the process.

louise

Absolutely fantastic reading.I have been dealing with the aftermath of getting involved in a controlling church and it has taken me two and a half years to recover properly.I feel as if you are writing about the same place I was in.Anyhows it is very difficult to see this stuff as its subtle and these people are masters of guilt tripping you for "having a bad heart" if you smell a rat.Thanks I do believe more needs to be done to make christians aware of the dangers

Kathy

Dear Dory,
I was in tears as I read your last paragraphs. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." Thanks so much.

A. Fitzgerald

Jesus did eat with a Pharisee named Simon. Please note: Luke 7:36

Anna

Yes, but remember Simon insulted Jesus by refusing Him the appropriate hospitatlity and respect, and then accused Him of sin in the presence of all the other guests.

sarah

I was involved in a controlling church for 2 years. Yes, at first bells did ring inside me saying "is this a cult?" I stayed though. I felt like I could never leave and if I did I would know so much more than any other church so I would never find my place. (Which I found was a total lie once I went to a new church) Yes, other churches are sharing the gospel and really loving God and people. Let me tell you, I was so incredibly depressed when I first left. I had no friends because all my friends went to the church. But, the process strengthened my walk with God and made me really dig into the word and pray. Even though I did go through a tuff time, I grew ;)

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