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Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness Paperback – January 1, 2010
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of wholeness. Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock.
This book is a result of extensive doctoral research on the topic of religious abuse and recovery as identified as originating from Evangelical, Pentecostal or Charismatic churches (EPC). The primary focus of the book is on how Christian believers most effectively discover authentic healing after being spiritually abused by those in church leadership. Through the related experiences of those abused, a challenge is put forth to clergy to both understand the nature of spiritual abuse and how they may best act as effective change agents rather than continuing to contribute to the problem. The research included an extensive questionnaire resulting in the completion of 110 individual surveys coming primarily from Canada and the United States. A strict and careful criterion was used to identify those most appropriate participants for the study.
A review of the primary Christian literature is provided with a discussion of the complex nature of the subject. Reasons for and results of religious abuse are examined and discussed. Various definitions of spiritual or religious abuse are considered. The relational nature of this form of abuse is examined and the individual unique and complex nature of recovery is explored. The healing role of community and importance of good theology is reviewed. Considerable attention is given to the importance of egalitarian relationships and the importance and role of forgiveness without at the same time denying abuse. The inseparability of emotional and spiritual health is affirmed. The role of healthy decentralized relational leadership models is considered.
One full chapter focused specifically on how the Bible speaks into this topic. Four particular factors are identified as relevant to the topic: legalism, a faulty hermeneutic, the role of leadership and the place of spiritual and emotional injury are all examined in Scripture. A primary emphasis is placed on the place of authority as identified in both the Old and New Testament. A suitable leadership model is suggested. An examination of the results of the research and its implications are explored and discussed. The most effective means of recovery from religious or spiritual abuse are identified. Of the five most identified sources in the order of their effectiveness were: having a significant non-judgmental confidant and support from friends and family, reading relevant books, examination of various Scripture passages, insights derived from relevant blogs and support from small focused support groups. Prayer, journaling and music were also identified as being significant in the healing process. The rarity of finding relevant small support groups was identified as being rather significant. The antidote of sound theology and the importance of healthy relationships were offered as most important to finding authentic healing. Finally, further research projects and topics of interest were suggested.
I found this text theologically and academically refreshing and on most levels well-informed. The book involved a great deal of time, energy and carefully reasoned arguments on the part of the author. While the text was clearly an academic effort it provides the average reader with many insights and thoughtful suggestions. It offers helpful contributions to the broader audience than to the clergy to which it was originally intended. I applaud the author's efforts in confronting this form of abuse. One additional chapter might have significantly added to its gravitas. This chapter would have included considerations provided from both Family Systems and Attachment theory as seen through the grid of a Trinitarian Christian worldview. This would have helped round out a more holistic conceptualized picture of how people are abused and how they might best understand and experience recovery. That said, I will gladly recommend this book to those with interest on the topic of spiritual abuse and recovery.