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Customer Review

60 of 84 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cautious and tentative recommendation, June 13, 2004
This review is from: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (Paperback)
Well written, this book addresses the issue of spiritual abuse in the church. Yeah, it is worth the read, but I can only give it a tentative recommendation. The authors take great care in defining what they mean by abuse so that ordinary issues of discipleship and church discipline can be exercised without the abuse epitaph being sounded. Yes, there are abusive and insensitive spiritual leaders in the church. Yes, there are pastors and church leaders who try to manipulate their congregations through intimidation and shame. Yes, there are church leaders, churches systems and denominations that are just plain toxic. Yes, I even learned that some of the children's songs we teach our little ones promote legalism and shame rather than freedom and grace.
Yet, with this said, I was very uncomfortable reading this book. Part of my discomfort was conviction that, on occasion, in the past, I as a pastor have used legalism and shame to motivate my people; part of it was shame and embarrassment at how some leaders abuse their congregations, but most of my discomfort comes from what I perceive as the unintended consequence of this book of spreading the victim mentality in another area of our lives. Let's take a look at chapter three where the authors describe the ten common areas of struggle for those who have been spiritually abused. As I read this chapter, I could not help but think it described every church that I have attended, ministered in or know of. For instance, what Christian or church does not have a distorted view of God? Can anyone really comprehend the infinite God? Human understanding and human reasoning can never comprehend the infinite God and fallen human nature tends to corrupt what little we do comprehend. Also, in every congregation you will find people who have problems in the area of personal boundaries, or who may have difficulties with personally accepting personal responsibility, does this mean they were spiritually abused? Or have they been abused outside of the church and brought their fragile victim mentality into the church? Or, could this just be a character flaw? Or perhaps, they are just human. But here is the clincher: The authors state that you may be spiritually abused if you have a hard time admitting the abuse or cannot remember it (repressed memories). Let me see if I got this right- If I admit I have been abused, I have been abused. If I cannot admit I have been abused, I have been abused. If I have no memory of being abused, I am abused. Hum.
Let me prove a point concerning repressed memories. If horrid abuse causes the victim to repress his or her memories, then, it would seen to me that victims of the holocaust would as a group be prone to have no memories of their abuse by the Nazis. Every holocaust survivor I have talked to remembers everything. Speaking of repressed memories, how about spiritual abuse by those who claim that they are fighting spiritual abuse? I am acquainted with a so-called Christian counselor who specializes in recovery of repressed memories. Guess what? Almost every client she has discovers that their parents in satanic rituals abused them. Whoa! Who would have known in our little town of 2500 had so many secret covens. Personally, I choose not to a victim, no matter how rude people are to me and no matter how bad people treat me.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2007, 7:42:15 PM PDT
Repressed concentration camp memories??? This review is just a little weird. The book is great.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2008, 3:19:58 PM PST
G. T. Howell says:
I believe the reviewer's point was that there were NO repressed concentration camp memories, which is the opposite of what you would expect to find if repressed memories of abuse were really true.

Posted on Aug 2, 2011, 2:35:28 AM PDT
Gary Lee says:
Not all holocaust survivors remember everything. You clearly have not talked deeply to any one of them. Survival modes cause us to escape the torture of reality. I wonder if there is some deep pain and maybe repression in the question, "how about spiritual abuse by those who claim that they are fighting spiritual abuse?" I will consider your question.

Posted on Oct 21, 2011, 6:54:34 PM PDT
One Opinion says:
It has been my experience that those who have been abused do not have a hard time remembering the abuse. They have a hard time forgetting it.

I agree with you, Robert. Some of the meanest, most verbally abusive, and frankly, deranged people I have ever met have been those who claimed to be concerned about the spiritually abused.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2011, 7:11:37 PM PDT
One Opinion says:
Gary, it's not about being uable to remember everything. Repressed memory therapy alleges that a person remembers nothing until they have gone through questionable therapeutic treatments meant to recover memories. A person reaches a crisis point in their lives, and goes to a therapist. The therapist uses hypnosis and other techniques to help the person go back in their memory to discover the cause of the emotional breakdown. That is when the person "remembers" the abuse.

It has been discredited, and such recovered memories cannot be used in a court of law. Repressed memory therapy is itself a form of abuse. Victims of repressed memory therapy often breaks off all contact with family and friends after the alleged memories are "recovered." Sometimes they even take family members to court in order to prosecute them for alleged abuse. They can become quite aggressive, even, with anyone who dares to tell them that the abuse never happened.

Does that sound like any Holocaust survivors you know?

There was even one case where a father believed he had recovered memories of how he had sexually abused his daughters. this was back in the '70s. He was convicted, but later exonorated because his daughters finally convinced the court that the abuse had never happened. That is when it was revealed that the memories were recovered during some inner healing sessions with a faith healer.

I also have some concerns, though much of the book is helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2012, 10:12:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 10, 2012, 10:31:55 AM PST
I agree about questioning if the people who are fighting abuse may still be a little abusive themselves.

The larger truth is that "abuse" is part of our wider lust for power and our universal lust for brutality. I am wording it this way because I believe that brutality is not just a means to attain power, but something that often brings an evil pleasure in and of itself. Sadly, we are all tempted to fall in love with our literal or figurative "knives and guns." (Can anyone be 100% free of emotional defenses, for example?)

Those who try to completely divorce themselves from brutality find that it is impossible to be completely free of it. Being alive involves some brutality. When we walk, we are crushing small, unseen creatures beneath our feet. When we eat, we feast on the death of plants or animals. Even the most saintly can only be less brutal.

I am thrilled that the authors wrote this book, but it does lack this deeper sensitivity. Opinions are presented not only as superior, but at the expense of others. Other perspectives are sometimes demonized. There is a brutality in that. In other words, the authors speak from an "us versus them" mentality at times.

I finished the book feeling as if I had learned a few things, but I also felt as if I had been knocked around a little. I would have preferred the authors to speak more gently, to acknowledge that we are all in the same boat. All people on a spiritual journey are struggling to be less brutal, and we are all failing to some extent.

Posted on Nov 8, 2013, 9:24:00 PM PST
I agree with the poster's comments. That chapter was too generic and created a victim mentality. However, one thing that a person notices if they are ever in an abusive church is that various people will work hard to forget cruel things done to them. There are multiple reasons for this - if a person has decided to stay in a certain environment, they cannot survive if they remember wrongs done to them. They have to forget and they will work to either reinterpret the abuse as discipline or some other kind behavior, or they will "forgive and forget" and work hard never to remember the evens that they cannot reconcile into their framework that their church is good and that their leaders and co-members are good people. They can't afford to remember what has happened to them.

That said, the book does help create a victim mentality - and everyone reading it needs to be very certain that they realize that there are very few true victims in the world, most of us need to stop feeling victimized and start feeling empowered by the grace of God, which is a point the authors make many times in this book and in others they've written.
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