Spiritual abuse and scary science

[This is a part of a series on spiritual abuse.  You can see other posts in the series here (as they are published.)  A lot of this content is from the research of Dr. Lisa Oakley from Chester University.  I highly recommend her book with Justin Humphrys if you want to learn more about this!]

This one is for the nerds out there – the folks like me, who want to understand how our brains can be blind to our own participation in abusive systems or be blind to abusive systems around us.

The road to spiritual abuse is paved with good intentions

This post is a part of a series on spiritual abuse.  You can see other posts in the series here (as they are published.)  A lot of this content is from the research of Dr. Lisa Oakley from Chester University.  I highly recommend her book** with Justin Humphrys if you want to learn more about this!]

One of the reasons it’s so hard to label something ‘spiritual abuse’ or ‘spiritual misuse’ is that it feels like such a personal and dramatic accusation.  That’s also one of the reasons we often fail to see our own responsibility in abusive situations.  It feels impossible to reconcile the possibility that we have been a part of something abusive when we know our intentions were anything but that.

Is it spiritual abuse? Check yes or no.

This post is a part of a series on spiritual abuse.  You can see other posts in the series here (as they are published.)  A lot of this content is from the research of Dr. Lisa Oakley from Chester University.  I highly recommend her book** with Justin Humphrys if you want to learn more about this!

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So, is it spiritual abuse? 

When we’re wondering if something is spiritually abusive, we prefer to think in binary terms: check yes or no.  But abuse is more of a spectrum than a checkbox.  If you are exposed to a culture with behavior outside the range of ‘spiritually healthy’, that culture includes elements of misuse of spirituality or abuse of spirituality.  The intensity or pervasiveness of that misuse or abuse of spirituality can vary dramatically.

The rise and fall of spiritual abuse

With the popularity of the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, people are talking more and more about spiritual abuse.  Which seems like a cue to hit publish on a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I began a deep dive into researching the topic of spiritual abuse in the spring of 2020 – when Steve Timmis was removed from heading up Acts29.  What was weird to me was that the accusations laid out by some folks in Timmis’ church sounded…fairly standard?  I mean, clearly not great, but I was disturbed by how non-shocking I found them.  That seemed like a good indicator I needed to do a little exploration into my own brain and the nature of abuse of power.

Women, God gave us Easter.

I’ve heard apologists point to Mary at the empty tomb as evidence of the truthfulness of the Gospels. A woman’s testimony was inadmissible as a witness, so, if you were making up this story, you wouldn’t want to write that a woman was the one to see Jesus first.

But long before anyone was writing this story down, God was threading it together. And He chose Mary to be the one that day. Think about that for a second.