01 January 2011
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
Johnson, David and Jeff Van Vonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1991.
If you have ever felt controlled or shamed or manipulated by what happens at your church, if you have ever dreaded Sunday mornings, if you ever wondered whether you have unknowingly stepped into a cult, then this is an excellent resource for you. Johnson and Van Vonderen do an excellent job of describing the traps of spiritual abuse and the signs to look for. The statement "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" sums up the point of this book. Some people can fall, Macbeth-esque, into the power trap, and they end up hurting those around them. This is especially evident within churches, places where people should feel loved and welcomed and cared for.
I appreciated the authors' descriptions of the signs of spiritual abuse and their discussion on recovery from such abuse. I also very much appreciated that the authors chose to recognize something that would be hard to acknowledge when leaving an abusive situation: the abusive person, in this case likely a pastor, may not be abusive intentionally. Some people were brought up in spiritually abusive churches and educational systems and may be carrying on the tradition from good intentions; perhaps these people actually think they are glorifying God and helping others as they wreak their havoc. I am firmly convinced that there are many churches in this type of situation, and this viewpoint helped me to feel sorry for such pastors and churches rather than being angry at them.
Overall, this is an excellent book and definitely worth your time.