Drawing Lines In the Sand

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We began this blog as a family and we have covered all kinds of subjects, mainly to do with Christian living and spiritual abuse from cult-like churches. We have recently included some blog posts about specifics regarding our families and why we went no contact with them.

We just wanted to talk about what no contact actually is and what it isn’t and the thinking behind it because a lot of people talk about this on the net, but not a lot of people really understand the reasoning behind it.

Going no contact is not about ignoring or shunning. It is not about revenge and it is not about manipulating in order to get people to do what you want. It is an event horizon.

The phrase ‘drawing a line in the sand’ is something of a misnomer. When you think about it, sand is not something which holds it’s shape. Drawing a line in the sand is more akin to making a temporary boundary than it is to making a permanent one. Drawing a line in the cement is probably a better term to use in this instance. There is time for it to cure and therefore make the line fixed, but after that, it is indelible. Going no contact is about drawing a line beyond which reality changes.  It is a time line but also a paradigm shift. It can be temporary or not, the choice is up to you. And this, for abuse survivors is the most significant property of the no contact decision.  It is a choice we make to protect ourselves from further abuse.  A choice, I say again, that WE make.  When those choices are impugned or resisted we learn to live as viable adults who must accept that life is not simple and that we have to accept these tests of our character. It is where we grow and change.  Therefore the choice to go no contact is not just a border or barrier to abuse, it is a means by which our identity is matured. Through making and keeping boundaries we grow tougher and at the same time more malleable.  We learn to tell genuine belligerence from guileless ignorance.  And there is a difference.  The real wolves, the real life destroyers, are the blissfully unconscionable, not those people who have simply made bad choices.

Discussion online about going no contact, I think, began among those in the narcissistic abuse community. It grew from discussion about how to deal with narcissists in your family or other relationships who won’t stop abusing you. Most people do not go no-contact on a whim. In fact many people report not actually wanting to cut their abusers out of their lives altogether. Others have a great deal of difficulty making complete breaks. It is neither easy nor always possible to go this route. Often there are cases involving children where this is not possible. What is clear though, is that many recognise very early in their journey to health and wholeness that they simply cannot reason with their abusers. This is actually what prompts most people to even recognise abuse in the first place. It is the act of somebody who lacks the ability to use self-control or empathise with others, the act of somebody without a conscience who figures that laws or consequences are for other people.

I want to point out that for Christians, going no contact is reinforced by scripture. If you go to a brother and point out his sin and he refuses to deal with it, take another as a witness and try again. If he still won’t respond, take it to the church, and if he still refuses to change you refuse the sinner entry into the congregation until they come to their senses. No contact in scripture was always a means to get a sinner to stop sinning and keep the congregation safe from their behaviour. It’s all in Matthew 18.

In the case of the cult, we went to them, or rather Steve went to them, in order to talk to them about their behaviour. Steve got a lecture about how I was a ‘bad influence’ and that Steve needed to side with the elders against me and that if he didn’t…. You get the picture. Since we had already been witnesses to at least one family who they had destroyed, we got the picture very quickly. Fortunately for us, Steve stood up to their ridiculous assertions and we parted company. It took 15 years to get to this point. 15 years of trying over and over to fit in, to understand what was going wrong and usually blaming ourselves. 15 years of ‘discussions’ with cult leaders which ended up being more like confessions. During this time our self-respect was eroded, our mental well-being was undercut time and again and our faith in God and in other Christians was undermined. It was inevitable that we would come to the conclusion that enough was enough. The only reason it took 15 years was because they had not ever dealt with us in such a direct and retributive manner. We were being warned that the elders were targeting us, me in particular, because I had spoken to a ‘person of interest’, namely a woman whose marriage they were already in the process of destroying. They knew that if she talked to me, I would know the truth and they would not be able to deal with two of us knowing too much. They had already isolated her and planned on creating a divorce. In our marriage they simply warned Steve that his place was with the elders and their assessment of my danger to them. Steve saw this venality for what it was and made up his mind.

In cults unfortunately, you don’t get to enjoy the benefit of seeing them come to their senses because while you are cutting ties to them, they are cutting ties to you and lying about why you left to everyone still in the cult. They work on the people you know to ensure that they learn their lines, that we are cursed and that they should not have anything to do with us. So trying to explain to others why you are leaving is often completely pointless. They have already been brainwashed against you. Then you get all the fun things like coming face to face with cult members you barely know in the supermarket and having to ‘overhear’ them talking about you in the next aisle, or having to ask them to get out of your way so that you can get something from the shelf right behind them because they are being deliberately obstructive.

In our case, they also invaded our children’s school. Six months after we left, three cult members became teachers on our children’s campus. One of whom was in our home group for a couple of years and was to be teaching our son Nicholas. Nick was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand the dynamics of what had just happened and figured that his new teacher was a really nice lady. Which she was, to him. It was part of the agenda of dividing families.  Unfortunately, she refused to accept that Nick has dyslexia because in the cult, children don’t have learning difficulties because everything is caused by disobedience to the cult leaders. So it became impossible to relate to her. So going no contact was not really an option for us. The minute you leave a cult, you are persona non grata.

As far as going no contact with our families the minute we explained where we were coming from, the more we saw that our siblings in particular were not going to listen to us and were going to protect and agree with our mothers, on both sides of the family. Kind of interesting that both of us had the same dynamics happening.

The fact is that the whole ‘waking up’ crisis involves a deep level of trauma in itself. In effect, dealing with family who support a corrupt leadership is exactly the same as dealing with a congregation who support a corrupt leadership. If its not happening to them they will ignore, minimize, justify, explain and generally blame you instead of thinking that maybe there is something to what you are talking about. People will label you as the ‘crazy one’ rather than take time to understand. If you know anything about brainwashing and group-think, especially in relation to trauma bonding, you will understand that it takes a HUGE shift in thinking and an attendant strong emotional disturbance before you are able to even empathize. People who are not involved in the group will more easily be able to judge your story objectively. We discovered this the hard way. We did not want to have to go and tell our story to strangers, but having come from a cult and then recognizing the same dynamics in our own families, we realized we had no choice. Nobody we knew, nobody who had known us for decades, was going to be able to help us.

In a cult, you may be able to get the other inmates to agree that something is wrong. They may even go so far as to start questioning the status quo themselves. But its’ like being on a piece of elastic. People will only go as far as the elastic allows them and then spring back to their original mindset. It’s a form of self-protection. Any seismic shift in reality is incredibly difficult to manage. Human beings are more likely to stay warm and safe in bed than want to get out and get dressed in the cold. Once you are out however, you realise if you stay in bed, you won’t be living your life, you will be just existing, however warm and comfortable you will be. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees as the old saying goes. To which I would add, it is better to die in your shoes than be murdered in your beds. You still die, but at least you will have lived first.

So short of deliberately shaking people up you are really forced to make more changes in your life when your family and friends refuse to see the truth and choose rather to continue living with a lie. That is their choice, in the end yours will take you down a different path. What inevitably occurs however, is that while you manfully make your choice and travel down another road, there will be the pain of loss and even further abuse from a family who not only don’t understand your choice but actively oppose it at every opportunity.

So you will have to further consolidate your losses by making the choice to stop the exposure to more abuse. In our cases, we communicated with family members, wrote letters to explain our positions and were met with insults, accusations, fake apologies or attempts to diffuse the situation by saying ‘but we love you so much’ which actually does nothing to deal with the problem at all. Especially when you know that ‘love’ in an abusive environment is not love at all. People can be brainwashed into thinking that they are loved when they get attention, or they are given treats, or they are allowed to spend time with the person they want attention from. It is extremely easy to manipulate people into thinking that the leadership cares about them if the leadership plays good cop bad cop on a regular basis and keeps either the congregation or the group members in a constant state of imbalance, never knowing what is coming next. It is really the definition of “Stockholm Syndrome”. The reason that kidnapping victims end up relying on their captors and in some cases developing romantic relationships with them. They end up getting into a state of learned helplessness and believe that they have to do what they can to survive. Cult members do the same thing except on a much longer term basis. All of the friends we left behind in the cult have been there now for nearly 30 years. Their kids are all married and having kids of their own. It is a loss we feel at a very deep level because our own children were cut off from their friends and should have been having a life with these young adults, and sharing their own children with each other. You might think that we should just get on and ‘get a life’. But bearing the scars of a loss of a friendship group, especially in a christian group where the connection is spiritual as well as social and familial, is not something you can outlive or distract yourself from. These scars are lifelong, they are not to be dismissed lightly and they should be respected. You don’t just ‘get a life’. It is the reason that Christ’s scars remained after his resurrection. His sacrifice for us was not just temporal, it was eternal. Relationships involve deep scars, some sacrificial, some malignant, but we all bear them. It is what makes us human, the images of the God who created us.

Making the choice to go no contact with abusers and their supporters is the very means by which survivors ‘get a life’. We move on with our lives, cognizant of the memories of the people we choose to remove ourselves from, and not without the pain of knowing those relationships will possibly not ever be mended. We have told our relatives, in writing, that when they begin to treat us with respect, we will be happy to talk with them again. The ball is actually in their court. If they want to start talking to us as equals and with a genuine desire to relate in a healthy way, we are happy to talk with them. Nobody has ever taken us up on that. They have simply used our refusal to be treated badly as a weapon against us and even gone so far as to tell their own children that we want nothing to do with them either. This is patently not true. We do not know their children, they have made sure of that. As adults they have their own lives, and they can contact us if they wish to verify what happened. They are not likely to do this unless they experience a waking up of their own through hardship or trauma.

It is really that simple. We have learned to draw the line, to cut off the generational abuse. That may mean that we never have extended family around us until our own children marry and have their own children. We have come to terms with that and do not expect anyone to come searching for us. In fact, we expect the opposite. This blog is not widely read, and probably will never be. It is simply our means of speaking up about what has happened to us and why we have taken the action we have.

We wish no ill on anyone. In fact, we pray to the effect that no ill will happen to our family and even now, knowing that our mothers are old and will very shortly be required to stand and give account to God for their lives, we pray they will be spared the agony of being denied an eternity in His presence. We wish nobody the torment of hell, but since people make their own decisions about God likewise they make their own decisions about hell. I know that our families know the gospel, because we have told them the gospel ourselves. They are without excuse.

28 Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”

29 “Truly I tell you, said Jesus, “- no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come.

(Mark 10: 28-30)

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Conspiracies, Cults and Mainstream Christianity: How Five Men Changed the World

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A set of papers which came to our notice recently has changed the way we view the evangelical church. But perhaps that is too broad. It is our view of the movers and shakers of the evangelical church which has been changed. Then again if the ‘pillars’ of the church, those men and few women who have shaped congregations denominations and even generations of believers, suddenly lose their lustre and you see them not as godly mature teachers but secretive lying conspirators then it will in fact affect your understanding of the whole church. It is that grave.

We were reading on the website seekgod.ca a copy of the General Council Minutes of the Fort Lauderdale Elders, the men who began the Shepherding movement of the 70s and 80s and who had such a huge influence on the evangelical and charismatic church during that era. Literally dozens of denominations and congregations were involved in this movement which basically became a cult-like influence on people’s lives. These men, each of whom had their own very influential international ministries via books, tapes and conferences, became a massive force in American evangelical history not to mention in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world.

The Shepherding movement was at its heart a means by which a tyrannical pyramid shaped hierarchy was set in place to control and dominate the lives of those who submitted to its power. The five principal men involved were Don Basham, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter. These men came from varying denominational backgrounds from Assemblies of God to Southern Baptist and were known as the ‘Fort Lauderdale Five’ or the ‘fab five’. You need only to go online to research the heresies and devastation that the shepherding movement produced. The very worst of this scenario is that these men never really repented of their heresies and most of them are now dead. The one man who actually publicly repented via a letter of repentance and refutation of these heresies, Bob Mumford, didn’t actually make a full acknowledgement that the movement and the errors they taught and practiced were not orthodox and were not healthy. If you read the letter in its entirety, (at this site) you will see that he manages to skirt round issues and rather than make specific and direct statements that he was wrong and he recognizes the extent of the damage he and the other men did to the body of Christ, he simply explains why he did what he did.

His opening statement that “I feel as though I have offended the Lord Himself, resulting in His resistance and continued conviction” is a classic fluffy non-statement. He only feels as though he offended God, he doesn’t acknowledge his actions as sin or the result of fleshly desires for power over others. Later in the statement he says “Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts”. Yet he doesn’t produce a bible verse to this effect. The whole point of the Shepherding movement, that we all need to be ‘accountable’ to another human being and that this accountability should include every little detail of life up to and including who you marry and where you live, is antithetical to the freedom, liberty from restriction, grace and power that is found in Christ himself. Yet these men literally controlled whole denominations and the pyramidal structure of ‘accountability’ was such that they  were given pope-like adoration by many christians. And I don’t use the term ‘pope’ loosely.

Individually, men like Derek Prince who removed himself from the ‘Fab Five’ in 1983, still had a huge influence on the evangelical church. Even today, his dvd’s books and youtube videos are watched by tens of thousands and many consider his teaching to be biblical and authoritative. We ourselves were influenced by Prince’s teachings, many of which we hasten to add were not heretical in the slightest. This is often the way with teachers and pastors who end up damaging people’s lives. A large percentage of their preaching is biblical and orthodox. It is the percentage that isn’t which ends up damaging the body of Christ and in the end it is what they are known for rather than the good that they have done. Unfortunately, Derek Prince and his cohorts were not just guilty of false theology and praxis. They were guilty of much more that they did not ever publicly acknowledge.

Prince made a statement after Mumford read out his statement of confession regarding the Shepherding movement. He said “I never was involved in asking people to submit to me…I tend to let people go their own way…I don’t believe it was ever God’s intent to start a movement. All of us have to share the responsibility, however, of failing God and failing the body of Christ’. I think the phrase you were looking for Mr. Prince was ‘I sinned against God and the body of Christ’. Failure in scripture is not an option. Recognition of one’s sin is the means by which we are released from the wages of sin, that being spiritual death.

Neither Mumford nor Prince really made it clear in their statements at the annual pastor’s conference at The Church on The Way in November 1989 that they recognised the far reaching effects of their control and domination of the evangelical church. They could have been a great force for good on that occasion. “There were 1700 pastors and spouses in attendance. They represented 700 churches and 34 denominations in 41 states and 17 nations”. *It didn’t get very much bigger than that in that era. Yet they failed not only to fully understand the impact they had but to fully repent and acknowledge their errors and sin and make restitution to the millions of people whose lives they changed.

*http://jamiebuckinghamministries.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Jan.Feb-1990-The-End-of-the-Discipleship-Era.pdf

While all of this is bad enough, reading through the minutes of the General Council meeting of these men sheds a completely different light on their actions, intentions and agenda. For they did indeed have an agenda no less than setting up a world-wide movement which would include the Catholic church and every other denomination that existed at the time. They were well on their way to it if the minutes of these meetings in the mid-seventies prove. These are actual articles, they are not fiction and they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ‘fab five’ were intending no less than a world take-over of the evangelical church with their teachings. It is important then for all Christians, especially Christians who have been damaged and had their families destroyed by men like this to recognise that God is ever in control and these men did not get their way. We are not suggesting however, that the agenda of a one world religion has gone away, far from it. It will happen and be part of the final world government, there is far too much evidence of this both biblically and empirically for this to have been a one-hit wonder.

We will give you some quotes from these minutes which were taken from September 1974 to August 1977.

An interesting excerpt from the first set of minutes suggests that these men were only interested in working among themselves in terms of who they took orders from. There were no, at this point, outside authorities or groups who had input into their plans.

Bob Mumford was to be the presiding elder/head of the elders group, Derek Prince was to chair the meetings. The two men who basically admitted nothing about their own sins against God and the body of Christ were the ones with the most influence it appears. Prince stated in the pastor’s conference in 1989 that “I never was involved in asking people to submit to me” is a lie. He was accountable for a small group of men initially in this group which met regularly to table their intentions and plans for the future of evangelical Christianity. He was not only shepherding other men in that group, he was shepherding other larger groups as the minutes will prove.

Here is a very revealing statement:

We will not make a public announcement about our commitment together. We can be open about the commitment between Don, Ern, John, Derek and Charles now. Steve and Ralph have to get the approval of their community coordinators and inform the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Committee. We will discuss at our next meeting how to communicate about the full council”.

There are many statements like this throughout these sets of minutes which not only provide proof of their involvement with the Catholic Church but of their concerns about how their actions will be received by the larger protestant church. One statement urges Derek Prince to be cautious about how he presents himself to the leftist liberal churches and to be sure not to appear to be too conservative to them.

You can read through these sets of minutes yourself and come to your own conclusions. What this information has done for us is to make a huge impact on our understanding of what was going on among men who individually had a great deal of credibility and integrity as leaders and teachers in the body of Christ. They not only were involved in a conspiracy of the very worst kind, ie controlling not just congregations within their own influence, but planning to control congregations on whole continents and geo/political areas. The minutes prove that the Cardinal Suenens, a highly influential Catholic leader called “a major architect of 20th Century Roman Catholicism” in his New York Times obituary (see previous link) appeared to be wanting more control over what these men did than what they were comfortable with, but these minutes only cover a couple of years and are a snapshot of the inner workings of the sanctum of the ‘fab five’.

I find it interesting that the more we research about church history and the inter-connection of denominational leaders and the influence of various teachers throughout the centuries that a much larger picture becomes clear. It almost appears that nobody with a large international ministry can be trusted because as soon as they become leaders with influence and power, they become a part of a much larger global agenda which has been continuing through the centuries since the church of Jesus Christ was formed over 2000 years ago. These agendas are almost always secret and therefore conspiratorial.  Paul was aware of wolves in amongst the flocks we was overseeing in the New Testament and so concerned was he that he prayed and urged others to pray ceaselessly. (Acts 20:29) His fight is now done and we are left to continue to pray unceasingly for the faith of the remnant of believers in this day and age who will need every strength and help to continue on in the face of worldly opposition and persecution and the efforts of the enemy Satan to infiltrate the body of Christ and steal our spiritual lives and destroy our walk with Jesus.

We urge you to read these minutes and familiarise yourself with what these men were really about. If you have ever been part of a church which has instituted Shepherding teaching, or any other kind of aberrant teaching which leads to overt control and micro-management of the lives of congregation members, you will be fascinated at how these teachings were actually part of a much larger agenda. In fact, the whole of the seekgod.ca website is filled with proof that this agenda has played out in all kinds of church and secular environments throughout history.

I have to say that these minutes have changed forever the way I see the religious world. Billy Graham is another stalwart who has been proven to have an ecumenical, one-world religion agenda. Not only do these men wish to see a joining of that which cannot possibly be joined, the world and the church, false teaching and biblical teaching, they are interested only in individual Christians having somebody they can be ‘accountable to’ so that they can be controlled.

With the advent of electronic communication and databases such as google and facebook, the governments of the world are keeping a watch on our activities and ensuring that no opposition will go unnoticed. Even now, Youtube and Facebook will block and in some cases remove any upload which contains viewpoints opposed to theirs. It is no longer a free society, we are not able to publish independently of these media giants. In the seventies and eighties, the Fab Five were able to hold their secret meetings with the Vatican and other powerful religious bodies and foment their plans. Those plans may or may not have come to pass at that time. The Shepherding movement may not be lead by the Fab Five any more, but vestiges of the movement are still in operation and still forcing Christians to submit to their leaders in every possible way. The damage is still being done in one form or another.

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Of course, the Shepherding movement was only one way in which Christians were being controlled. The Brisbane Christian Fellowship which we were a part of was also affected by the teachings which influenced the Shepherding movement, specifically the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God teachings. Not only were we expected to ‘confess our sins’ to the various elders of this church, but unbeknownst to us, our confessions were being tabulated and filed for future manipulation. Our words were taken down and used as evidence against us if we looked like we were going to be a bit of a handful at a later date. When we left, accusations and snide comments were thrown at us proving that the elders we had trusted had been privy to every conversation we had ever had with any of them and then they twisted those words, made us look like evil villains whose every action proved us untrustworthy. The elders who controlled us were the ones who were untrustworthy. They used the classic bait and switch. They showed themselves to be genial, caring compassionate pastors and shepherds and then when we gave them our wholehearted trust, they broke that trust and used our vulnerability to control us.

There really are no words to describe the betrayal of men like this. Not only did the Fab Five betray the body of Christ with their carnal misuse of their positions of trust and authority, but they used their positions to secretively plan to control churches on other continents via the Charismatic and Pentecostal church groups in both Protestant and Catholic denominations. The catholic church was complicit in this and here is the rub. Who controlled who? Whose agenda was it in the end? We will never really know completely, but then we don’t need to.

For us, the event horizon, the point at which the whole picture becomes clear and we can see how everything links and where it is all going, was reading these minutes and recognising that trusting in any man wholeheartedly, even in the Christian church is dangerous. Yet churches everywhere, especially charsimatic churches, expect Christians to commit themselves to their leader’s vision, or their leader’s approval of their decisions or even their leader’s involvement in family and personal issues which have nothing whatsoever to do with them. Church covenants are a world-wide phenomenon which are growing more and more intrusive. Yet Christians continue to sign these ridiculous documents. We are NOT accountable to men, we are accountable to God through His Holy Spirit. We are free in Jesus Christ and have no obligation to the flesh, as Paul himself states in Romans 8; not our own flesh nor anybody else’s. When Paul wrote to submit to elders because they are responsible for our welfare, it was not a blank cheque for leaders to control and manipulate other people’s lives. Paul was making a statement about the responsibility leaders had to God, a much greater responsibility than anybody else had. They were not only looking after their own lives, they were caring for other people’s. This caring has NEVER involved expecting that people come to them as high priests to confess sins or look for acceptance or take the place of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Yet the control goes on.

As yet, we are not clear what this event horizon changes in our lives. It is a  huge eye-opener, and all but completes the picture we have been piecing together since our exit from the cult. While we still accept the Bible as the word of God, we still see God’s truth as never failing or passing away, we recognise that nobody in public ministry is immune from the corruption of power. We still believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and as the son of God and God himself. We still believe that the body of Christ belongs to Him and that He is the author and perfecter of our faith, not men. We everywhere see the failings of men in churches, and especially the failings of church leaders. We all sin, but some sins are worse than others, and the sins of leaders who use their positions to control others are not ignored by God. He is very very concerned about those who use their leadership to profit off the very sheep they are supposed to be protecting.

 

 

 

Can Authentic Christians be Chronic Abusers?

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20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.  (1 John 4)

To begin with, a man’s actions mark him out.  They characterise him, they qualify him and they prove his allegiances and his God.  In the case of a Christian, love is what proves us. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

If we love God at all, it is because He loved us first. It follows then that if we have God’s love in us we would automatically love God’s people over and above even our own unsaved family.  Because our love FOR God is actually the love OF God himself. But how is love proven?  It is very simple. God sacrificed himself to bring us again to himself, His love lead inevitably to the willingness to die in order to restore His people. So it follows that a loving Christian parent nurtures their child.  A loving Christian sibling values, approves and respects their siblings.  A loving Christian pastor protects, supports (materially and spiritually) and teaches his flock.  A loving Christian marriage partner lays their lives down for the other.  True love is both felt and seen and it involves actively caring for and fellowshipping with the other.  Chronic abuse of other Christians proves not love but hate.

The conclusion I have come to is that even a true Christian can develop really bad habits, but they prove their genuine faith by responding to the love of God and repenting of their ways when they are confronted with their sin.  Anyone who says he has no sin and that the person who accuses them must be the sinner is not an authentic born-again Christian. They have not the love of God within them, because they prove by their refusal to humble themselves and their hard-heartedness that they are lost. They need prayer, they need to hear the genuine gospel and they need to be born from above.

When Christian people you trust and love prove themselves untrustworthy and capable of betrayal, a Christian’s worldview is shaken.  When that same Christian attempts to reason with the person who has betrayed them and finds that the betrayer does not want to either admit to or apologise for (or make fake apologies for) what they have done, the Christian becomes distressed and upset.  When their betrayer then turns around and expects them to forgive them and forget what happened and pretend it never happened, the pain of this becomes too much to bear.  Many questions swirl around a Christian’s head, not the least being ‘was the betrayer actually a Christian to begin with?’ .  It is a fair question.

I would first of all suggest that we demarcate the differences between ‘offenses’ which the scriptures help us to deal with (Matthew 18 is a good example) and ‘abuse’ which is more about character disorder and chronic offense  often not just with one person but with many.  In the case of a church elder or leader who has abused many in the congregation and has refused time and time again to either acknowledge or repent of their sins against others and at the same time expects their congregation to remain silent about what happened and never even mention it to others, then you have all the elements of a reprobate.  No Christian who loves God and God’s family will abuse in this way.

Some may have developed a carnal lifestyle because of lack of genuine teaching and a failure to mature and act out of ignorance.  But all genuine believers, because of the presence of the conviction of the Holy Spirit are able to a) recognise sin and b) repent of it out of the understanding that sin separates and confession and forgiveness reconciles. It might take some discussion with mature believers who can help the offender recognise that their actions and beliefs are irreconcilable with scripture, but it is possible to bring people like this to their senses.

It’s those who steadfastly maintain, over time, that they are faultless in the face of not one but many accusations of abuse that we must call out, accuse of their sins in public and hope that they will eventually come to a place of crying out to God.  It is a terrible thing but there are people who identify as Christians who will never cry out to God in repentance or even acknowledge to themselves that their actions are not just sinful but in many cases criminal.  I am not just talking about rapists, child molesters and serial adulterers.  There are many in churches today who repeatedly indulge sexual sins of all types.  There are many in churches today who think it is their right to control and manipulate other Christians. There are many who cover over their sins, persuade others to cover for them and ensnare weak minded and immature believers.  Chronic abusers are not just damaging themselves, they are damaging the body of Christ.

Jesus and Paul had a lot to say about the ‘weaker brother’.  Paul even went so far as to say he would rather become a vegetarian if eating meat caused a weaker brother to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:13) This is a rather dramatic statement.  Yet how many Christian leaders today have this level of humility, this level of self-sacrifice to their church members?  Very few. But its not just church leaders who fail in this.  Church members, ordinary Christians who run businesses or act as ‘counsellors’ or teach Sunday School or influence other church members in some way can be guilty of reprobate behaviour.  In short they are hating their brothers and sisters by treating them as lesser beings or beings whose lives don’t even register.  Hurting fellow Christians can take on the characteristics of kicking a dog or stepping on an insect.  These people may believe that Jesus Christ is their Saviour, but how can these people claim to be loving others when they are acting like this?

This issue is not a delicate one.  It is not enough to simply excuse the pastor because ‘it has nothing to do with me’.  It is not enough to turn the other cheek when chronic abuse is happening.  Scripture tells us that every fact should be verified by the witness of the two or three. If anyone is to bring an accusation against an elder there should be again a witness to the fact.  In the case of Brisbane Christian Fellowship, the witnesses number two or three hundred at least, and I would suggest even two or three thousand by this date.  The same applies to individuals who are not leaders.  But what happens when that fact is established beyond reasonable doubt?  The answer is not just to hope that it all goes away and never speak of it again.  I propose that the answer is to keep speaking about it until the abuser repents and acknowledges that their actions have damaged lives.  If it means that the accusations have to go public, then it is necessary.

Two thousand years ago, you could ‘take it to the church’ as Jesus mentions in Matthew 18 if the accused will not repent.  In today’s culture, when it is the church who encourages and protects abusers, we take it to the wider Christian body.  Even in the face of malicious charges of ‘just being bitter’, or ‘not dealing with it privately’ it is necessary to speak up, and keep speaking up.  Why is this necessary?  To annoy the abuser?  NO, because of love.

How can ‘airing your dirty linen’ be a loving act?  Because the pain of betrayal means that the betrayed need the offense, the sin of abuse to be brought out into the open in order that the deeds done in darkness will be brought to the light.  Only then can the relationship hope to be mended, and only then can the abuser hope to be changed into Christlikeness.  Most chronic abusers don’t want to deal with this.  But it is their only hope. The reason they became chronic abusers in the first place is because their actions were not dealt with properly after the first time they offended in this way.  They need restoration, renewal and transformation, and only God can do that for them.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1)

When the betrayer confesses, recognises the pain and destruction to the relationship and willingly concedes the need to repair the damage, there can once again be true fellowship.  Christians who see no need to either confess or repent of sins against relationship do not value relationship.  This is why it is neither helpful nor scriptural to insist that a woman who is being physically abused by her husband should ‘submit’.  A woman in this situation needs help, and there needs to be distance between her and her husband and she needs to protect her children if necessary.  The only way that marriage can mend is if the abuser changes, and that can be a wife or husband.  The only way that they can change is if it is made abundantly clear that other christians around them will not tolerate them in their midst if they keep abusing.

A loving Christian does not deliberately offend others, does not abuse when confronted with their sins, does not incite abuse by others against the one they offended.  Again, a chronic abuser who does all of these things does not have the right to be called an authentic Christian by the church.  We MUST have, not a standard of behaviour, but a recognition that actions are determined by choices and choices by faith.  Our love for God and His people will cause us to make every effort to bring the abuser to repentance even if it means turning them out of the church.  If every Christian takes a zero tolerance approach to abuse in their own lives, we will all be doing each other a great favour.  But love needs must be extended to those who abuse.  And loving the abuser means making extremely painful decisions and being willing to follow through on them.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You See Me?

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I received an email update from a forum I am part of the other day.  It contained a vivid and extremely disturbing account of the victim of a rape whilst out with a group of college students.  This account is actually so disturbing and vivid that I would caution anyone who has been through a similar incident not to click on the following link as it will trigger you.  But for those with stronger stomachs, you can read the story here.

This story is from a young woman who attended John Macarthur’s Masters College.  She had had what she describes as ‘three glorious years’ training to be a counsellor, and this event occurs in the last year of her training.  Here is en excerpt from the beginning of the story.

Spring break starts tomorrow. I was going to go home today but last night I hit my head and suffered a concussion. The doctor said I need to take it easy so I decide to stay on campus and catch up on rest and homework. Not to brag or anything but I hang out with the smart crowd, and the smart crowd hangs out with the seminary students from The Master’s Seminary. They invite me to go to a play in town and then to dinner. I probably shouldn’t but it’s an approved outing as some of the seminary guys are bringing their girlfriends, and of course there will be no drinking, drugs, or dancing. We all had to sign a contract that we would not do those three things while attending Masters. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t drink or do drugs anyway.

Four of the seminary students live together and I know three of them. The fourth, a stranger who I have met maybe once, sits by me at dinner and asks if he can get me a soda. I thank him and say yes, but about a half an hour later I start to feel foggy. Everyone begins to discuss going ballroom dancing after dinner. I want to weigh in but my words are slurring and I can’t move my legs. The rest of my friends start laughing because I’m acting funny. They remember I suffered a concussion yesterday and think I need to go to bed. They urge the stranger to take me to my dorm room so I can rest. By this time he has to carry me out of the restaurant. No one thinks this is strange or seems at all concerned. I black out.

I will draw a veil over the rest of her account except to say this.  The treatment she received from the Master’s College teaching and admin staff was literally sickening.  After  having been to the police and the doctor, this young woman goes to those in charge at the college and is interviewed in a frankly disturbing and completely unprofessional way.

I tell him every excruciating detail I can remember…

Rick leaves the room several times to go talk to John MacArthur. He comes back with John’s ruling on the matter. Rick tells me that I need to be disciplined for doing drugs, drinking alcohol and almost dancing. He said the consequence for breaking the rules is that I will be kicked out of the college. He is angry at me for going to the police and the doctor. I should have let the church handle this without outside interference. He tells me not to tell anyone else, not my fellow classmates, not my teachers, not anyone at church.

“You are ruining that young man’s life!” He says.

He tells me I have to go to the police and drop the charges or I will be brought in front of the church to be disciplined. I don’t drop the charges. Not that it matters. The police interviewed my rapist and all the “friends” who were there and ruled it a “he-said, she-said” incident that can’t be proven either way.

I don’t keep quiet either. I reach out to the professors who “disagree with John MacArthur on a few things.” They won’t see me. People are avoiding me. I feel their whispers. Even close friends are acting weird.

Throughout the whole ordeal, the rapist’s situation and feelings are given priority and is treated as a victim and the victim of the rape is treated as the criminal.

I am standing outside the door to Rick’s office. I take a deep breath and feel confident that I am strong enough to do whatever it is that he asks me to do. I open the door and am shocked to see the stranger sitting there. I am starting to shake and sweat. Rick asks me to sit down by my rapist. Rick speaks for the rapist.

“He has admitted to everything he has done. He has acknowledged his sin and that this relationship was not consensual and he has repented. Look at him, he is crying.”

I don’t want to look at him but I do. I feel panicked sitting this close to him. I am wondering why I have to be present if it has become clear that I am innocent. Why wasn’t I immediately reinstated in school?

“Now it is your turn to apologize.”

I am not hearing right. I think that Rick Holland has just asked me to apologize to my rapist.

“Apologize for what?” I ask.

Rick says something about apologizing for the dress I was wearing at the bar and for drinking alcohol. He says I caused this young man to stumble, and he is incensed that I have not dropped the charges with the police. He says he has been talking to Joe and Sandra and my RD and they all say that my story keeps changing. I wonder why they are all allowed to talk about it but I am not. If I am to be reinstated in the school I must agree to weekly counseling with Rick and the stranger. I am told that the stranger and I have committed this sin together and therefore we must work through it together. I must agree to sit next to the stranger in church every week.

I don’t know where to begin. Do I start with the fact that I didn’t put that dress on or how my story isn’t changing, I am just remembering more things? I feel confused and angry. I am yelling. I hear more accusations coming out of Rick’s mouth. I am not submissive. I don’t trust the men that God has put over me. I am rebellious. He is angry and I cannot keep up with all of the attacks on my character that are flying out of his mouth. I am kicked out of school. I have less than twenty-four hours to get my things out of my room and get out. If I show up on campus, I will be arrested. They are changing my three years of earned college credits from A’s to F’s. I have flunked out of college.

There are a number of websites which discuss what happens at the Masters College and also at John Macarthur’s church.  He is by all accounts a bully and a bigot and will not countenance anyone who does not agree with everything he says.  I have seen too many men like this who run megachurches. This young woman’s experience is not unusual, and if you go to the website I linked to and read the 90 odd responses (probably more since this account was published) you will see more corroborating evidence.

Speaking up about abuse is vital, but speaking up about abuse always involves risk. People may not believe you.  People in particular who know the high profile leaders of the college will have a vested interest in rejecting accusations against their heroes.  Scripture tells us when bringing a reviling report against an elder to have two or three witnesses.  Even when there are more than two or three witnesses, people will still not believe you.

When you have been as damaged as this woman has, you don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with further abuse from those you trusted to protect you.  She had no reason to doubt that Rick Holland and John Macarthur would turn on her when she needed their protection the most.  Yet they supported and protected somebody she had never even met before.

Every comment I read on the website supported and ‘saw’ this young woman.  It was heartening to know that so many responded so well.  Yet, this is nearly twenty years after the event, and it would have been good for her to have had that support when the rape  occurred.

When somebody hears about abuse, they often want to minimise its severity or undermine the account by the victim in some way so that they either don’t have to process what they are hearing or consider that somebody they like or admire is in fact a criminal and possibly a morally insane individual.

If we ever hear an account of abuse from somebody and it sounds unreal or difficult to process, remember that cognitive dissonance is a normal reaction to having your belief system challenged. Nobody wants to believe that somebody they have thought of as trustworthy would do what they are being accused of doing.  But just because you have not seen the abuse, or the abuse hasn’t happened to you, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to the victim. Often the official response is that the victim is making it up, or that somehow they caused the abuse themselves, especially in rape cases.  This is rarely true. Every account of rape should be treated with due sobriety and concern, and in particular, if necessary, the victim should be assured that their case will be immediately investigated.

Whether we believe what is being told to us or not, if we understand that the first response is usually unbelief and discomfort, we will be more likely to understand why the report sounds unbelievable.

Since this young woman’s report was not only corroborated by others who have been through what she has been through and by others who understand what the Master’s College administrative team are like under these kinds of circumstances, there can be no reason to doubt her account.  This has not only happened at this college, but at many other secular colleges and workplaces and churches.

In my mind, the most important aspect of this account is that while the college admin treated her rape with less than Christian mercy and compassion, they also deliberately sabotaged her academic career and destroyed any hope she might have had to complete her degree and recover her dignity and heal.  It is one thing not to believe a person when they tell you they have been raped, it is quite another to consciously slander and destroy that person’s reputation and standing in a christian community.  She had not previously shown herself to be promiscuous or of bad character nor had her academic record proven any lack of intelligence or ability.  There was patently no defensible reason to attack this young woman.  Yet they went out of their way to make sure she was punished for not simply bowing to their bullying and abuse.

Sadly and frustratingly, this is happening to women everywhere.  Infuriatingly, it is happening in Christian churches and communities.  Not only do Christians themselves find it difficult to know how to respond to this kind of traumatic event, non-Christians find these situations pretty horrific.  How is this possible in places where people claim to be motivated by the love of God? It is possible because people lie about who they are, and it is possible because even Christians get to choose their actions.  People can choose to do ugly wicked things just because.  There doesn’t even need to be a reason, they just feel like being ugly.  When a rapist or abuser becomes a predator there needs to be more than just decisive and rapid response.  There needs to be a finality.  Deal with the abuse, get rid of the threat to the safety of those who are vulnerable, and don’t even think about blaming the victim.  It’s that simple.

Door to Door Cult Service

 

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We keep getting visits from the members of the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.

Just about every month they show up in our street, which is pretty long. They turn up in the middle of the day, and the houses they don’t hit during the week, they come back on Saturday morning and try again. What amazes me is that they just keep coming despite getting the same responses from the same houses every time. They continually knock on our door despite the numbers of times I have asked them to take us off their list. We are not interested, we do not want to read their literature since we already know what it says, and we know for a fact that engaging with these people in conversation would be redundant. Trying to get a cult member to see the light is an exercise in futility. Only God is able to reach them and often they need to be at the end of their strength in order to do that. Been there, not interested in revisiting.

My son opened the door to them the other day. He asked me what he should say to them, I just told him not to bother trying to witness to them, just tell them we are not interested. However, a few minutes later after I thought they had gone, they were still there trying to shove tracts in his face, and I heard the sentence “we would just like to share with you from this literature”. He had not asked them in, and since it is still my house I would have objected anyway, but I came to the door and was, frankly, a little too brisk with them. “No, you will not be sharing anything today, now you need to leave the house, off you go” I told them. They looked a bit shocked to be dismissed in such a fashion, but left quickly thank heavens.

We tend to see people from cults as being carriers of doctrines of demons and also of carrying some rather nasty spirits themselves as they walk around. If you open yourself to darkness it will come in without a second invitation. I know from experience what some of my former friends became upon having spent only a few months at BCF. They were not the same people they were, they were darker, without peace, self-focused and easily irritated. In fact, everyone, including us, became shadows of their former selves.

A woman I knew from my Pentecostal days, Jan Groenveld, now gone to be with the Lord, spent a great deal of time setting up a website in Australia to inform others about the tactics and beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as she used to belong to them herself. Jan was tireless in her efforts to inform and expose this organisation. Yet despite the work of people such as Jan, the organisation appears to be growing bigger. The enemy is clearly delighted at the success of his campaign. If it’s not the Mormons, it’s the J.W.s, or the Scientologists, they are all the same in their approach to the truth and their rejection of those who question their beliefs. If once you ever get inside any of these cults, they will treat you all like worker ants. You have no rights, no personal life and no mind of your own, you must do as you are told and people do. It is the methods they use to get people to accept them as genuine kind and good Christians which upset me the most.

The whole concept of door knocking is to make disciples. They are not interested in asking questions about their own faith or discussing their own doubts in a realistic way, this would be akin to committing spiritual suicide. They are not open to your opinion or view and once they know that you are a committed Christian their only concern is to get you to change your ideas to conform with theirs. This is an insidious and unstoppable religious spirit which is determined to break and destroy the faith of genuine believers and to ensnare as many people as possible into their cult. If they can’t cause you to doubt they will dismiss you as quickly as most people dismiss them. It is a cold-hearted and unfeeling spirit which quenches the life in people.

When I was a much younger Christian, I used to try and talk to them, discuss their beliefs pleasantly and try and witness to them. I was an abject failure. After having exited a cult myself, I understand their thinking a whole lot better. I also understand that it is almost impossible to try and talk these people out of their faith. It would have to be the exception to come across a J.W. who is wavering in their own belief and the fact that they go about two by two, an older J.W. with a younger would ensure that anybody who is susceptible to doubt would be kept out of the conversation by the older and more experienced person.

Trying to talk to somebody who is deceived by doctrines of demons is very difficult. It is even more difficult when you know that these people are not friends who you just happened to meet at the local shopping mall, or even invited into your home to have a coffee. No, these people are trained in more ways than one. They are told how to witness, they are told what to say, they are informed about all of the ways in which they will be responded to by the world, and any ‘persecution’ ie shows of rejection or worse by those on the other side of the door would also be dealt with the JW way.

So what you are dealing with is an organised and systematic assault (although they wouldn’t think of it that way) which is not to be dismissed lightly. Having spent many years in a controlling religious cult, I am probably not the person to be talking to about witnessing to cult members. I have tried talking to my former friends who are still in the cult I belonged to. They do not want to listen to me, I am considered to be apostate and therefore a bad influence, and this is what happens to all who leave a cult. You are shunned and ignored and treated with contempt.

So when I see Jehovah’s Witnesses, I do not get warm fuzzy feelings inside hoping that I may open up their eyes to the truth of the real gospel. I am afraid it takes a whole lot more than good intentions to talk to these people and most Christians do not understand the strength and depth of the delusion they are under.

I have tried being polite and indifferent, and a lot of the time I am just annoyed. They come into my house despite the many ways I show them I am not interested, and on one occasion I had a bevy of women standing at my front garden gate actually yelling at me while I am standing inside my house. Was this designed to make me feel embarrassed so that I would come out and talk to them? I am afraid all this does is upset me. Nobody with that kind of rudeness is welcome in my home even to discuss the gospel, and I am not at liberty to discuss the gospel with those who do not ‘have an ear to hear’.

So while many Christians have the opinion that Jehovah’s Witnesses should be given every opportunity to hear the gospel, it is important to remember that in actual fact the witnessing days when they are at your front door is probably the time they are the least open to the gospel. They are taught how to think they are told what to say and they have their very large and abusive organisation behind them. Knowing what it is like to live in these types of environments, I can say that there is a very great deal of fear involved. You may not be conscious of it, but you do what you are told to do because you are too scared not to. You think that if you don’t God will somehow punish you.

My husband worked for a man once years ago who was a Jehovah’s Witness. He was a very kind and friendly man and once he knew that my husband and I were Christians, he offered to have us over for dinner in his house and to debate the subject of the Trinity. We were more than happy to show him the verses in our bibles which told us that the Holy Spirit was a person and not an impersonal force, and spent a couple of hours after dinner talking with them about it. My husband had written down a lot of his notes and later gave them to his boss. This was in the days before personal computers and iphones, so sending information by email wasn’t a common thing back then. His boss was quite glad to be able to read his notes, but I don’t think either he or his wife ever left the organisation. The trouble was, he used to be a Catholic and the JWs entered his home one day when he was in a very difficult time of personal crisis and because he was vulnerable, they were able to get him to commit himself to their organisation. That is the way cults work. They love bomb you, convince you they are the answer to all your problems and then after the honeymoon period, the hard work starts.

While my husband was able to be a consistent witness to this man and his wife, he was not able to have as much influence as he would have liked. We left much the wiser when it came to talking to cult members, ironically we became cult members ourselves shortly afterwards. So it is very important to remember how easy it is to be deceived and entrapped by lies and false gospels. The most important thing to do is to make sure we know the gospel ourselves, and to keep reading the word of God on a regular basis in order to remind ourselves what it actually says. This way there is less likelihood of being deceived by the enemy who loves to question the word of God and get us to do the same.

Bless you.

Steve and Anita Brady

 

A TimeTo Speak and A Time To Be Silent

Original Artwork Copyright 2017
This is an old blog post from around 2008.  The original blog ‘Tales From The Crypt’ is now deleted, but the blog was my attempt to make sense of what happened to us when we left the cult.  I kept that blog going for 6 years, and it helped some people, and gained some traction when the ABC documentary exposed the cult. I should probably apologise for some of the language ahead of time. I left it in because it reminds me of who I was back then.

OLD BLOG POST

You know, there comes a time when you feel the need to speak up about your experiences. Then there is a time when you recognise that you probably need to just shut up about it. That usually comes when you realize that there are a lot of people out there who actually don’t give a crap. The ones who do give a crap are going to support you anyway whether you have been through a traumatic experience or not. The ones who actively work against you aren’t worth talking to. It’s difficult to determine who is the right and best person to hear your story. It’s a slow journey.

I have made a lot of mistakes telling my story to the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.

We told one of the Pastors at an extremely large church (founded by ex-MCF members)  here in Melbourne about our plight, hoping that we could find a fellowship that would be supportive and nurturing. Now, that was not a sin, and it wasn’t a mistake. We did a very normal thing for a Christian to do. We went to a pastor who by his own confession and trade is a professional carer. We contacted him, he made it clear that he was willing to talk further, and then invited us over to his house for a meal. We just assumed that we had found somebody caring enough to want to help us.

Here, I would like to make a point of saying that in my experience as a christian, I have not met that many pastors who know what they are doing. Too many young men go into the ministry with bright ideas, but no real understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, or level of compassion. Like any of the caring professions, I imagine people get worn down and forget to care for themselves. They get emotionally tired, stressed, dare I say cynical. They get sloppy, bad at what they are doing, and when they should have cut their losses, or looked for some help, they continue on in body while the spirit has left the building.

To the credit of this man and his wife, he listened for nearly four hours to a very intense story. It would have been exhausting.. At some point in our conversation, he must have figured he was either in over his head, or that he just didn’t have what it took to help us. He explained he was on his way to Canberra to some sort of political conference and couldn’t help us right now.. The impression we got was that his agenda was politics, and not pastoring. Now that is another subject entirely, but suffice to say he should not have met with us at all if his attention was focused on his own career, and not his job description. We weren’t part of his portfolio, so he passed us on to ‘somebody who can help you better than I can’. It was just a shame we spent so much time and emotional energy talking to someone who couldn’t help us.. We sent him a few emails after that trying to clarify a few issues, but his attitude was clearly that of somebody who had already decided he didn’t want anything else to do with us. Ok then.

So, he passed the buck. That meant we would have to go over the whole thing again with another complete stranger. Unfortunately, the complete stranger that we spoke to had previously spent 30 years in MCF and was still struggling with the fact that his daughter hadn’t left with him. He was clearly devastated and used the opportunity to spill out his agony to my husband when he phoned him. Still more unfortunately, my husband let drop that we were not attending a church. He told us we would lose our children if we didn’t immediately go back to a fellowship. At that point, we had just had enough. More accusations of irresponsible parenting, or ‘backsliding’ as a Christian (whatever the hell that actually means) we did not need. Besides, this gentleman was hardly in a position to be helping others since he had clearly not come to terms with his own grief on this issue. He was very intense and confrontational. So, lesson learned…you would think. You would be wrong.

Some time later, I made the mistake of telling my story to the administrator of a course that I had taken at my local TAFE college. I was not happy with the actions of a teacher who had some serious issues with misogynistic and inappropriate behaviour. I made some complaints to the administration, (who had confided in me that I wasn’t the first person to complain about this man) wasn’t getting anywhere, and felt that if I explained my background to these people, they would understand why I was felt so distressed by the behaviour of this teacher. I was wrong. I was essentially giving them a reason to not follow through with my complaints. Instead of allowing the issue to hang on its own merits, I sought to give it some extra oomph by explaining my personal interests in attending a college which took some effort to make sure its teachers were not abusing their positions. What happened instead was that my ‘history’ now mitigated my complaints, and actually lessened the potency of my case against this teacher. I became the ‘cult survivor’ with all of the insinuations that carries about my alleged emotional and mental stability, rather than just being a concerned female student. Although they went through the motions of passing the buck from one department through to the next, no real action was taken and I got tired of being ‘wrangled’. In the end, I felt I had exposed myself and my personal history in a way which did not honour myself, or even my own family for that matter, and the information was not treated with respect.

They were not ‘bad’ people as such, but I wasn’t using discretion, I was getting desperate enough to think that if I ‘confessed’ they would support me and deal with the teacher who was behaving inappropriately towards me. The fact is, this is exactly how I functioned at BCF. Confessing your struggles, your most intimate secrets, your bad experiences, your failures is a way of lifting the burden of guilt that you carry with you daily. Apart from that, you are expected to go to the ‘fathers’ in order to be matured as a christian. The more you lay yourself open to them, the greater your spirituality is supposed to be. It doesn’t work that way in practice however, everything you say is taken down as evidence and used against you at the soonest opportunity.

Only other cult survivors can truly understand what you have been through when you exit a cult. The trouble with that is, often cult survivors want to get as far away from the cult as they can, and that means they don’t want to socialize with other cult survivors that much. All you end up doing is rehashing the experience, and it can be ten times as stressful as talking to someone who doesn’t share your background. You are not only living your pain, you are living other’s pain as well. Despite that, you still need to construct a support group to replace the one which was so cruelly ripped away from you, so the process of recognizing and relating to emotionally healthy people is a very complex one. There is no such thing as pre-packaged premium grade materials with which to build a truly supportive and loving ‘family’ to replace the one which you either didn’t receive when you were born, or the one which you thought would do you in its stead, your local christian cult. So you are not only having to use some wisdom in knowing who to talk to, but you need to be able to bounce back from the inevitable disappointments and frustration of coming across people who are either completely incompatible with you (despite their initial apparent concern), or are actually out to use their position to take advantage of your vulnerability. Yes, life is a bitch. Or to put it more eloquently, small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it. But then, this is all part of the change of attitude I needed to espouse on coming out of the cult. Cults make everything black and white, right and wrong. Life just isn’t like that, and if you have a penchant for easy answers, real life has a way of knocking you back down every time you think you have got it all pegged. But then, I think everyone faces that frustration, not just cult survivors, its just much harder for us because our brains are hardwired to ignore the inevitable anomalies to our world view. When you exit, you have to find another world view. Therein lies the problem.

 

I was looking for emotional and personal support. I didn’t find it at college, I didn’t find it at the church we went to, I didn’t find it in my family (who are dysfunctional anyway) and I didn’t find it from the counselors I spoke to. Counsellors and psychologists who claim to be ‘good with cult survivors’ generally aren’t. Unless you have experienced it first hand, don’t even think that you know what you are talking about. It’s like a virgin looking up a sex manual and going, ‘yup, know what that’s all about’, and then teaching a sex education class. Not only will you be giving out faulty information, but those with experience are going to pick your lack of it very quickly and any credibility you may have had with the inexperienced is going to fly out the window. You will in short get your bottom kicked very quickly and you will deserve it. Unfortuntaely, nobody kicks the bottoms of most psychologists or counselors, they tend to just not go back to them if they aren’t good at what they do. I think the professionals tend to pass this off with the euphemistic phrase ‘not everyone is compatible’. They fail to see that sometimes they are just not good at what they do. So what’s the answer? When I was looking up scriptures while writing this post, I came upon that old group of couplets from Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

What I think is interesting is the line in verse 8, ‘a time to love and a time to hate’. There is a time to hate. A time to hate what is evil. There is a time to tear down, and then there is a time to build. For us, these last four years have been a time to tear down. We have had to tear down the wrong, the evil, the bad, the destructive, the lies, the deceit, the toxic relationships, the friends who weren’t, and the family who had no capacity to love. We have had to deconstruct the world according to Meg and Burnie and replace that with the truth. Truth has to be sought. It doesn’t stare you in the face. If it did, Paul would never have had to be knocked off his horse. We have had our time of weeping, in fact, I wouldn’t like to say we are done yet, I think we have some weeping still to do. We have had our time of mourning, and our time of throwing away, our time for war. Now we are looking at a time to rebuild. Our time for healing from the destruction is now, and that means that we gather the wisdom we have gleaned from our mistakes, the mistakes we have made since leaving BCF, and we recognize that not everyone is our friend. Not everyone even makes a good friend. Not everyone who appears benign is so, not everyone who says ‘tell me your sorrows’ is genuinely good at listening. Not everyone with a title has the attributes of that title, not everyone with a profession is naturally gifted in that profession. I guess this is not exactly a revelation for most people, but it is what we have learned over the recent past.

I am overlooking the good in all of this however. There are people in this world who are compassionate, good at listening, selfless, patient and gentle. They are not as common as they need to be. Finding them takes time and effort, and for every time you think you have struck gold, be prepared to realize that fools gold is always more abundant than the genuine article and you are going to be disappointed now and then. Having said all that, God himself fills in the gaps that people leave. For as many times as you strike out, the comfort of God can give you encouragement which makes up for the frustration. He also gives you the ability to keep going long after you have grown tired of other people. Once you are stronger, you are able to accept other’s inadequacies, and you learn to lean on Jesus more often.

I was going to title this post ‘note to self’, but it applies to everyone I think. There is a time when you realize that the need to tell your story is completely valid, but your story is so important that you make a lot of mistakes trying to find the right avenue for it. You need to talk, that much is absolutely vital. I still need to talk. I need to get past those tapes in my head which still say ‘who the hell do you think you are’ every time I voice an opinion. After the initial gush of talking, when you find your voice, you discover the elegant, subtle and much overlooked virtue of discretion, and recognize that you have the unrestricted power to choose what you will say to whom, and how and when you will speak. It is an unadulterated pleasure to me to think well before I speak, and to make my decisions with the maximum of forethought rather than being hasty and deciding because I feel pressured by someone else. I am even learning the art of the well-timed retort to presumptuous questions; learning I say, not good at.

Telling your story is important, and when the urgency has faded to a low roar, you are more in a position to choose your words wisely. This is a skill learned slowly and carefully, and not one I would insist on for those who have recently come out of abuse. Your need to talk is too great and I wouldn’t want to smother anyone. To each, the wisest course is best discovered in their own way and time.

How Can I Know I am Deceived?

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It is something of a paradox.

You can only see deception before you get into it.  Once you are there, deception makes it almost impossible to know whether you are deceived. In fact, one of the hallmarks of being deceived is the conviction that you couldn’t possibly be deceived.  It is always possible. Moreover, false teachers are mentioned in the New Testament by everyone including Jesus.

You need discernment, and discernment comes from the Holy Spirit. Even though some more mature Christians could tell from the outset that somebody is preaching or practicing error just from their own experience. Sometimes it is hard even for them to tell the difference between false and true.  That is why you need God himself to give you the ability to tell the difference. If you fall into the sin of pride and believe that it is not possible for you to be deceived because of all your experience, you are then in the greatest danger of deception because you are deceived already. Nobody is immune.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has famously said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right”.

And as anyone who has had to try and tell a fake from the original would know, most counterfeiters will go to great lengths to make their version appear true to form. They always manage to make some tiny mistake which tells you that this is not the genuine article however insignificant it may seem at first. Of course some scam artists are not that concerned with making perfect forgeries.  They are aware that the general public aren’t looking too closely at that designer handbag or expensive perfume.  They make it look almost correct and that is usually good enough. Fortunately, or not, false teachers are not that good at faking it any more either.  They don’t need to be.  Most Christians don’t bother to check the labels on their new pastor or their exciting guest speaker, they just go with the flow.

In order not to be deceived, you have to be on the lookout for deception. Jesus told us that in the last days, there would be many false teachers and He even said that there would be many false Christs.

3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24)

Now there are those who claim to be Jesus, but most genuine believes would of course recognise these men as insane straight away. The ones to look out for would come in His name, and we know for sure that many false teachers claim to be believers. Yet the Christ they claim to be or rather teach is a false Christ, for of course there is only one second advent and that hasn’t happened yet.

We have been deceived before. We belonged to a small church in Brisbane whose elders listened to false teaching without their theological thinking caps on. The message was about unity. So they were deceived even further when a religious cult which also preached unity wanted our church to join them. However, this cult’s version of ‘unity’ was – they were the true church in our city, everyone else had to come and join them, moreover, everyone had to come under the leadership of their ‘apostles’. Well, you know you are in a cult when you are flattered, cajoled and deceived into joining a group, but as soon as you do the knives come out. Everyone who has left this cult has done so under duress. Anyone who leaves it according to them is now going to hell, because they are leaving the true church.

While you are being deceived, it doesn’t seem like deception. When you are in the midst of the deception you can’t know that you are deceived because you would swear black and blue that you are not. Have you ever had a conversation with a cult member?  Maybe a Jehovah’s Witness is at your door and you mistakenly think all you need to do is show them the truth from scripture and they will see the light?  It isn’t easy to talk to them, they are literally brainwashed.  Their minds run a particular course, they are taught how to respond to the people they ‘witness’ to. It is like talking to computer software.  They only know one type of response, the one they are programmed with. Cults are an extreme example, but in fact the problem is the same regardless of whether people are in a cult or not.  Deception creates people who repeat what they are told.

In fact, one of the best ways you can tell if somebody, or a group of somebody’s are deceived is if they keep quoting their favourite teacher, take any and every opportunity to spruik that teacher’s words, and in fact keep using the same language that their teacher uses.  One group I can think of off hand that we had to deal with kept using the term ‘Father’ instead of our Father when referring to God. “Father says this, or Father wants me to do that”.  This may not seem to be that much of a sign people are deceived, but it is the way they say it, the number of times they say it and the fact that everyone is using the same terms without picking up that they are simply repeating somebody else.  In short, there is no sign of independence of thought, simply a reiteration of the teacher or teachers.

 It is only people who can question what they believe and weigh the evidence who know they are not deceived. A deceived person, in my experience, neither knows nor is able to question the deception. When we were presented with the foregone conclusion that our church was going to join this other larger cult church, half of our congregation refused to join and left. The rest of us, who were mostly in our twenties with not much experience of churches in general other than the one we belonged to, trusted our pastors and let them lead us into a destructive and deceiving cult. We realise now of course if we had not been so lazy about our walk with Jesus, nor so trusting of men, we would have stopped and checked things out. But let me just say this. If you follow men, you won’t bother checking them when they fall into error. You will believe that these teachers love you and wouldn’t willingly lead you into false teaching. But if they themselves are deceived, and they then lead you into deception, it will be the blind leading the blind and we did fall into a very deep ditch.

The antidote to this is not to follow men, but to be in Christ. That way, when error comes, and it will, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak to your spirit and warn you that something is not right. You don’t even need to be a theologian, just awake to the voice of your Lord and God, the true Jesus.

Now, this is a tricky business. Paul called false teachers twice accursed, and he asked the Galatians ‘who has bewitched you’. (Galatians 1) Deception is like being under a spell.

Look at Eve in Genesis 3. It was only after God spoke to her and asked her what had happened that the spell was broken and she was able to say “I was deceived”. Nobody who is actually within the spell of the deception is able to see that. Eve sinned and partook of the punishment that was meted out to both Adam and herself, but she was able to recognise the source of the lie. Adam however is not recorded as ever having recognised Satan as the deceiver. He actually blamed God for giving him the woman who gave him the fruit. In fact, he, the keeper of the garden, allowed Satan to get in in the first place, stood idly by while his wife was being manipulated and then took the fruit which he was told not to take. And for centuries Eve and subsequently all women, have been made the source of all temptation and evil by both unbelievers and believers. Manifestly, Satan is the source of all evil, and deception. Yet Eve was called ‘the mother of all living’. It was also Eve who was the first to announce that God was her ‘Lord’ when she gave birth to Cain. I think those who have woken up from deception, repented of it and dealt with the sin of pride which precedes deceptions are probably in the best position to recognise error in the future.

I say pride is the source of deception because Satan himself, who was the greatest of all living creatures God had made at that point, decided it wasn’t enough just to lead the worship of God, he wanted to be like God and sit in the place of God. This of course is not just pride, it is insanity or psychopathy at the very least. It seems impossible to us as earthbound humans from whose eyes God is hidden that Satan who stood before the throne of God would actually think that he could be God himself. I don’t know what went on in his brain, but I do know that ever after this, he has tempted human beings to do what he did. He deceived Eve into believing that God had not given her everything she could ever need. Eve was perfect! She had a perfect relationship with God! As Satan used to. Yet he convinced her that the fruit of this tree would ‘make you wise’ knowing good and evil. Eve forgot that she was already perfectly wise, she knew God what else was there to know? Satan’s knowledge is corrupt, gives death not life, and is in fact not knowledge at all, it is a corruption of the truth, and is in fact all lies. There is no knowledge that Satan has which is not a counterfeit of God’s eternal truth. It may seem novel and exciting when men sell everything they have to attain it, but for centuries all Satan has done is lure men to their deaths, simply because that is his nature. He is profane, wicked, evil and sadistic and hates all life.

If we succumb to lies, to deception which lies are, then we will taste something of Satan’s kingdom. Make no mistake, deception, theological error, false teachers, are cursed simply because they are undermining the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are presenting a false Christ, and therefore they are leading others from the true Jesus of Scripture.

How do you know if you are deceived? If you can’t question what you believe, check it out against the Bible, do some research and look at your leaders and teachers and see if these men have been accused of heresy by other Christians, then you are probably under deception. If you have already checked out what is being taught to you against scripture and know for sure that you can defend what you believe sincerely and without hostility there is a good chance you are not deceived.

But even I can’t tell you that you are not deceived. Only the Holy Spirit can show you. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked and can lead us into error even in our own minds. We can believe we are without sin, but only God can show us that to be true, because only God is perfect. This is why it is so important for us to continually pray, commune with God, read His word and even listen to others when they tell you might be wrong. There is nothing wrong with having a conviction of truth, in fact we are told not to be double-minded. There are many Christians who at one time or another have listened to or believed falsehoods. It is the Christian who follows the teaching and practice of liars and frauds and then defends that teaching without checking to see if it is true who are deceived to the point of deadly error. If these ones don’t change their ways, they will be counted as wicked as the teachers they agree with.

It is a serious thing to fall into error, but it is not the end of your spiritual life. We know in our own lives that the Holy Spirit continually spoke quietly to us that all was not well. Our cult leaders were destroying peoples marriages, controlling people’s lives and telling everyone if they didn’t obey them they were not saved. It isn’t rocket science. Anyone could have told us that we were in a bad place. But we didn’t see it. Scripture tells us that you are a slave to the one whom you obey. Once you are a slave, you have to wait for Jesus to free you from the prison you have locked yourself into. I still remember praying that prayer, very simple, but from the heart one day in my bedroom. “God deliver us”. I knew straight away that God had heard that prayer. I knew something was wrong and woke up much faster than Steve did. Within two years, God had engineered our circumstances so that they were so bad, so difficult that Steve was forced to admit that we were surrounded by enemies, and that we needed to escape. It took 15 years all up. And then a couple of years after that of dabbling in emerging church error and other bad theology before the Holy Spirit taught us to stand on our own two feet and do our own bible studies and research and find out what is the difference between right and almost right.

God can save anyone, and the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Do not give up on anyone in a cult. But don’t be deceived yourself. False teachers, especially false teachers who have been plying their trades for decades and destroyed many other Christians will have to pay for their sins. If they don’t repent, they will go to hell. For these ones are not saved. It is doubtful they were even saved to begin with. There are many who profess to be Christians, who even know exactly how to preach the truth, or what sounds exactly like the truth, yet who are not in the body of Christ. Pray for discernment, use wisdom and do your research.

May God keep us all from deception and false teachers.

Church Hierachy and Invalidation

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Invalidation can come in many forms.

You can be ignored or you can become enmeshed.  You can be attacked or you can be minimised. Whichever way you are invalidated it is always abuse.  It is abuse because you are being told that you do not matter, that your opinion, your personhood has no import, no impact on the people around you, that you are in effect invisible. You are being abused because the person abusing is the person with the influence and authority.  There is a power imbalance.  There is nothing more damaging to a human being than to be informed by the human beings they value the most that they are themselves value-less.  It creates a deep feeling of insignificance, powerlessness and depression.  Unfortunately, in churches, it also gives people the erroneous idea that God himself disapproves of them because the hierarchy disapproves of them.  This is the idea.  In the most abusive environments, the hierarchy stands in for God and therefore any communication with the congregation is purported to be from God himself.  If you buy into this idea you start to believe that the human being you support as pastor or elder is the conduit through which your relationship to God is realised.  Their acceptance becomes God’s acceptance, their disapproval becomes God’s disapproval.

Different church hierarchies tend to use different methods.

A patriarchal and authoritarian structure has more heavy handed methods of invalidating.  Generally they choose to invalidate the opposition without by isolating their group and any criticism from those within by abusing their members.  Women in general and wives in particular are seen as a threat in these structures.  They are a threat because the wives are far more perceptive than their husbands, and they have an intimate relationship with them.  They know all their dirty little secrets. So in order to control them women will be invalidated by being handed a gender role defined, they decree, by scripture.  Often these structures claim to be ‘the truth’ and they will therefore invalidate all other denominations as ‘other’, or in some cases ‘irrelevant’.  John Macarthur recently decreed anyone not reformed as ‘basically irrelevant’ and another reformed pastor added ‘and wrong’.  This kind of fascist approach to faith is not what we see in scripture.  The disciples knew the truth, they preached a true gospel and they condemned preachers of a false gospel, but they did not murder those who opposed them as Calvin did, or shut down genuine questioners in the church.  It seems all of Calvin’s children have a similar mindset to himself minus the bloodshed.  But this is just one denomination.  We have seen similar attitudes in other types of churches, notably those who embrace Latter Rain theology. But plenty of Baptist or even Pentecostal churches have this kind of heavy handed approach.  There are always of course the independent groups or minor cults. It seems to come down to the spirit behind the church itself rather than the denomination, but there certainly are some denominations which lend themselves to this attitude.

On the opposite end of the scale, the emerging seeker-sensitive church takes a different approach.  Their attitude to dissenters is just as self-righteous and just as invalidating but they are often much more subtle.  Rather than take on other Christians they are apt to take on ‘the world’ although how much change they are actually effecting with their political and social activism is yet to be ascertained. This is their stated aim.  They are not interested in being changed from within by Christ, they are more interested in changing things around them; in particular political or social problems such as poverty which they say is the responsibility of the church.  It is easy to see that their theology is skewed in this way in order to avoid actually being accountable to other believers and to God.  If they keep the focus on changing the world, they appear to be both engaged in the world and therefore powerful, and also ‘doing what Jesus did’ ie. feeding the poor. What they inevitably refuse to accept is that Jesus’ message was not ‘feed the poor’ it was ‘be saved from out of this perverse generation’. That has always been God’s message to His people and to the rest of the world.  He came to save our souls, not feed our bodies, although obviously He has also promised to feed us as a good Father and a good Shepherd.  For God though, relationship with Himself through His Son is the essence of His message.

In our experience the emerging approach to any opposition or even casual questioning is to either pretend you don’t exist or to embrace you in a warm fuzzy ‘we love you anyway’ conversation.  Here I should point out that others including ourselves have also experienced rudeness, rejection and shunning from individuals in the emerging church.  So they are not without their clumsy and immature attempts to avoid dealing with questioners.   The face they present to the world is a much more benevolent one.  They want to disarm  you and help you to understand that they are not about conflict, they are about peacemaking. So the conversation becomes moot and you are left hanging, wondering what just happened.  In effect, this is a form of enmeshment and gaslighting.  They convince you that you are the problem not them yet the genius behind their approach is that they maintain an almost hypnotic insistence that they are simply interested in embracing your views along with everyone else’s.  It is impossible to argue with somebody who refuses to recognise the differences between two opposing ideas. We are all the same, each person is valid, and in this apparently egalitarian theology what they are actually doing is invalidating everyone. Its like that statement ‘everybody’s special’ which essentially nullifies the meaning of special – that which embodies the idea of different, or out of the ordinary.  If you change the meaning of special so that it actually means ‘the same’, then the word has lost its specific meaning. Covertly changing the meaning of language has always been one of the methods that cults and or political movements have gained traction with their ideas.  It’s a classic bait and switch. It not only destabilises their followers, it confuses the enemy, and produces cognitive dissonance, an important ingredient in manipulating the masses.

In many ways, the emerging church theology as a whole is about enmeshment.  They wish to do away with opposition entirely. They don’t like to declaim their beliefs, they do not have a ‘theology’, there is no right and wrong and everyone’s ideas are valid. Or so they say.  In actual fact they are invalidating not just individuals but whole faith systems by homogenising all faiths into one.  There are no more boundaries there is just this apparently loving whole which revolves around….well they don’t like to define what it revolve around but often it is their Jesus, who in fact is not the biblical Jesus but a synthetic amalgamation of eastern and western mysticism which is embodied in an impotent, unilateral Jesus.  In fact, this Jesus is the forerunner to the Antichrist who will be worshipped by all religions.  If you buy into the emerging church anti-doctrine doctrines, you will inevitably lose any biblical perspective that you originally had.  The emerging church is actually a political tool of the movers and shakers of this world which uses the Marxist and Hegelian doctrines and methods of social and political change.  Hegel stated:

(the state)‘has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State… for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges (source)

This is a quote from the same source above which describes Hegelian philosophy.

The Hegelian dialectic is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution. If we do not understand how the Hegelian dialectic shapes our perceptions of the world, then we do not know how we are helping to implement the vision. When we remain locked into dialectical thinking, we cannot see out of the box.

Hegel’s dialectic is the tool which manipulates us into a frenzied circular pattern of thought and action. Every time we fight for or defend against an ideology we are playing a necessary role in Marx and Engels’ grand design to advance humanity into a dictatorship of the proletariat. The synthetic Hegelian solution to all these conflicts can’t be introduced unless we all take a side that will advance the agenda. The Marxist’s global agenda is moving along at breakneck speed. The only way to completely stop the privacy invasions, expanding domestic police powers, land grabs, insane wars against inanimate objects (and transient verbs), covert actions, and outright assaults on individual liberty, is to step outside the dialectic. This releases us from the limitations of controlled and guided thought.

The emerging church above anything is a political force being used by the powers that be to manipulate and control the Christian church.  We are being manipulated into taking a political stand when Jesus did not tell us to be political.  His kingdom is not of this world, and when He returns very soon to claim His own, He will not be making any political statements.  His is the power and the glory forever and ever amen.  Therefore, our eyes should be on the returning King and not on changing the world which needs must deteriorate.  We cannot stop the sinking ship.  We are urged to love our neighbours, to minister to our brothers and sisters, and to love our enemies.  We do not gain anything in God’s Kingdom by endorsing political manoeuvres by religious leaders or by fighting social battles to help feed the poor. Yet this is the agenda of the emerging church.  You don’t count unless you are poor and either unchurched or of a different religion.  People of this nature are, by definition, more virtuous and need greater recognition and help than any Western Christian.  Yet the very people who espouse this idea are western Christians.  What is this but invalidation on a mass, and political scale.

In essence, and this is an exceedingly ironic fact, the emerging church purports to be the antidote to the patriarchal and authoritarian church theology and methods of preceding ages.  The leaders present themselves as non-authoritarian yet wise. However they still lead megachurches as professional Christians.  Their target is the younger generation who have not yet been established in traditional theology and are still easily persuaded.  They convince even older Christians that the idea of an imposing and angry God who ‘murdered his son on the cross in an act of barbarism’ is not biblical, that God is in essence Father Christmas and does not want to punish anybody in an eternal hell.  They therefore, in order to uphold this ‘theology’ need to invalidate the historical and biblical Christ and remake Him into a clappy-happy loving peace-nik neo hippy who embraces everybody and does not impose any expectation upon his people.

In essence, the emerging church invalidates everyone who does not agree with their version of the truth.  This is the same problem any hierarchical system has, they just have different agendas.  While many hierarchical church systems preach the gospel, they present a straw man god who is the ‘angry god’ that emerging church leaders love to impune.

There you have two sides to the argument.  The dialect is complete and  you must choose which one you embrace.

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ is neither a hippy nor a policeman, He is the Son of God, himself God and the creator of the universe, the saviour of all mankind who brings to us the gift of eternal life.  He neither condemns us nor tells us we don’t have to change, nor does he endorse socio-political ideologies.  He is not a change agent, He enables us to be born again.  He does not change our flesh, He makes us wholly new.  Neither approach is right, both approaches invalidate the individual, the theology of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ and blaspheme Jesus himself and His cross.

God does not condone abuse, nor does He endorse false doctrine.  A false teacher is twice accursed and their end is destruction, and we are told not to even greet such a one.  It is starting to look as though the life of a genuinely born-again believer and son of God in this world is that of a weary but determined soldier fighting the final battle before the return of Jesus Christ.

My encouragement is to stand fast, hold your ground and resist the Devil and he will flee.  That is our battle, that is our calling.  Jesus is coming!  Hallelujah!

 

Christian Narcissists

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Not a Christian, but looks a lot like one.

Narcissism is not what some people might think.

 

It is not self-absorption or even extreme selfishness.  It is a pathological lack of conscience, empathy, compassion, humility and reasonable self-image which revolves around actual talents and character.  It is about lying every time  you open y our mouth.  It is about thinking about your life as a fantasy of what you want to be and then believing it to be true. It is also about expecting others to believe it even when there is no empirical evidence to support that belief. Incredibly,  Narcissists seem to manage to convince others that what they think about themselves is true. They seem to be able to project an image and convey such confidence in that image that others are manipulated into believing it to be real.

Narcissists do not cope well with denial of their fantasies about themselves. Unfortunately, although they are toxic emotional vampires, they can be very charming and persuasive and make you believe that you are their very bestest best friend at first meeting.  They love bomb strangers and at the same time treat their old friends and relatives like dirt. Then they want to know why you are acting strangely around them. It’s because you are catching onto their behaviour and trying to fit it into the jigsaw puzzle of their lives.  The bits don’t match.  They won’t, they belong to a number of different jigsaws.  The one the narcissist is working on is different to the one  you see. They mess with your head and make you believe you are the one with the problem. So lacking in normal morality and working conscience are they that they can carry on like this with a huge smile on their face and be completely free of any shame, guilt or concern about their actions and their consequences. They are like six-year-olds playing a game and they get just as hostile when you don’t want to play any more.

Narcissists can turn from the cute six-year-old to the homicidal maniac at the drop of a hat.  You might think this is an overstatement, but there have been narcissists of my acquaintance who would easily kill somebody if they thought they would not be caught or that it wouldn’t harm their image.  Fortunately they usually stop short of this and just murder your soul instead.  Murdering somebody’s reputation or character is also a good substitute.  That takes time and effort however, so you would have to have upset the narcissist a lot for them to get to that point. On the other hand if the narcissist has a willing pack of servants, often called flying monkeys on the internet, especially family members, then they can get them to do the dirty work for them.

Narcissists have been known to destroy marriages, families, people’s sanity and their careers and to cause nervous breakdowns and suicide, but not so as anybody would notice.  They attack by stealth and its a campaign of attrition. Only the victim knows anything is wrong at first and afterwards, they still blame the victim when it is clearly the narcissist staring at you with the knife in their hand.

Some psychologists have made the suggestion that Narcissists become what they are because they were abused as children and have never grown up and have no real choice as to how they behave.  But the evidence belies this statement.  Anyone with any intimate knowledge of narcissism, especially if they have been raised by it, grown up with it or married it will know that narcissists are not just abused children.  They are extremely functional adults who know the difference between good and evil, and switch between the two depending on who they are talking to and whether or not there are witnesses.  I have seen children do this as well.  And these children were not abused, they were simply choosing to do the wrong thing to suit themselves, and then to cover it up by charming the person in authority, usually the parent.

I am not a psychologist, although I am an avid student of human behaviour. Having grown up around narcissism, and spent 15 years in a religious cult you have no choice but to deal with it.  It is a case of adapt or die.  You have to learn who your enemy is.  And this brings me to the point of my title.  Christian narcissists are liars.  They are first of all not Christians, because it is not possible to continually sin without conscience and be genuinely filled with the Holy Spirit.  Therefore if a narcissist claims to be saved and moreover is a member of local congregation I treat them with the utmost caution.  So called Christian Narcissists can run churches, preach from pulpits or sit on boards.  They can be married to the pastor or serve on the missionary committee, you will know when you have struck one because they continually leave you stunned with their rudeness and contempt. Should you try and deal with this person they will look and sound as though they are truly interested in helping you come to terms with your stupidity.  They are simply not able to recognise their own sin, and will wipe it off onto you because you are blaming them, the blameless, spotless lamb of God.  I heard an abusive former elder of the religious cult I went to actually say this.  He spent decades preaching a false gospel, abusing and bullying everyone he met yet when they finally kicked him out, and we went to him to ask him to be accountable for his actions, his whole demeanour was one of total innocence. Who me?  How could I be at fault?  Now scripture tells us that nobody is without sin and if anyone says he has no sin he is a liar.  This man had lied to us for a couple of decades and after having been kicked out of his own cult, he was still lying.   However, I once saw a picture of him up on his facebook page.  He had that typical narcissist smug grin.  It is the grin of a naughty child who is making you their co-conspirator.  It’s the ‘we all know I am naughty but you know you love me’ look that very small children are apt to get away with.  Its ugly and its an outright offence against the body of Christ and God himself.

Family Privilege

weird family

Parents who provide consistent affection, emotional and physical safety, boundaries, limits and expectations, opportunities, role modeling, belonging, safety, unconditional love and spiritual values foster the healthy development of Family Privilege. However, in spite of our rhetoric about the family values and the value of families, Family Privilege is largely invisible to children and young people who benefit from it. Like the wind, which is unseen but powerful, Family Privilege has a profound impact.

John Seita “Reclaiming Family Privilege” (https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-2942825771/reclaiming-family-privilege)

 

There seems to be an idea that regularly surfaces that people who are estranged need to ‘get over their past’, make or receive amends for things that have happened and get on with it. Sometimes people who have elected to estrange are perceived as being “ruthless, unkind, damaged, lacking in compassion, unwilling to forgive and forget –  unwilling to go the distance”.

What is regularly overlooked is that for some people who are estranged the problems didn’t necessarily start in childhood nor did they end there. Adults may be subject to ongoing toxic stress and trauma and just because they are older it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less.

Fiona McColl – E-stranged.com (http://e-stranged.com/blog/tag/family-estrangement/page/4/)

 

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.

(Psalm 27)

We have been reading and researching on and around this topic for the last dozen years but it wasn’t until I read John Seita’s quote above about family privilege on Fiona McColl’s  blog that I realised how profound this concept is. Those  who have healthy, or at the very least non-abusive, families do not even realise what privileges they have in the community.  And that is as it should be.  It is only abused children who sense deeply that they have been bereft of something important.  Those children who have no sense of belonging, although they may not have been able to identify it, will be able to recognise that belonging in healthy family dynamics around them.  It will resonate with them at a profound level and they will carry that pain with them to adulthood and beyond.

This is actually a good thing.  For when those children grow up, this ‘knowing’ will be the catalyst and motivator to seek out reasons for and answers to their deep seated distress.  If we don’t recognise what constitutes normal healthy and good family dynamics we will never understand why the dysfunctional and abusive doesn’t quite sit right. We know at a visceral level but until we know with our hearts and minds we will continue to pine for what is rightfully ours.

Unfortunately, it often does take many decades before adult children of dysfunctional families discover what is wrong.  They will have always thought it was them, but usually something will trigger an awakening in which they suddenly see themselves in a different light. Sometimes it will be through therapy, sometimes through their own research, sometimes it will take a traumatic event but they will start to see that their issues have a much broader landscape than they ever dared to imagine.

In the same way that family privilege is camouflaged to the members of that family, familial abuse is considered normal and the deep down shame and guilt that members carry is often mitigated by mentally and verbally excusing the abuse in some way both to yourself and outsiders. Should anyone else try and point it out, the members of the abusive family will defend their family dysfunction to the bitter end. “Nobody is perfect”, and “but at least they provided food on the table and a roof over our heads” or “they weren’t that bad” are some of the extenuations we tell ourselves. Yet these statements in themselves are evidence that there is a problem.  As we stated above, children in privileged families don’t need to excuse anything.

As Fiona McColl points out, for many who come from abusive families of origin there is an ongoing problem; not just in the way they cope with the abuse from their families but because they continue the pattern and cycle of abuse with significant others (spouses, partners, friends). Until this recognition hits and we seek out knowledge, support and help we will continue to see these isues as either insignficant or somehow our own fault.

In our case, it wasn’t until we left an abusive cult ‘church’ which we had attended for 15 years that we realised that the problems we faced in the cult were exactly the same problems we had faced growing up. It wasn’t until we woke up to what was going on in the cult and asked ourselves how it was that we allowed all of this to happen and thought it was normal that we looked at our lives as a whole and saw the patterns.

To those who ask, and it is a common question, how normal intelligent and otherwise sensible people manage to get themselves involved in cults I have this to say.  Read John Seir’s quote above.  It is hardly revelatory, these aspects of family have been recognised for centuries.  We all know why family is a good thing, they have your back, they are a safe place to fall, a place where you belong.  If you don’t have a safe place in  your family then where do you have it?  We have it in God.  Many will go to God for support, love, encouragement, a safe place.  And scripture is clear, ‘when my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me up’ (Psalm 27 v 10).  So we go to church.  A good church functions like a good family.  It provides everything that a fallen, broken family doesn’t.  And of course a privileged christian family in a privileged christian spiritual family or church is quite something to behold.  Here, and nowhere else, do we see the way family is supposed to exist, living in both the joy of physical closeness and oneness with God.

A cult is what happens when we see a ‘form of godliness’ (2Timothy 3) without the power.  A cult is a mile wide and an inch deep.  Their love is ‘love bombing’ it is not real.  Their closeness is based on fear and trauma bonding not freedom and their sense of belonging is based on secrecy and punishment not genuine acceptance.  For those who have come from abusive and dysfunctional families looking for the genuine article it is very easy to be deceived. They have had no experience of the real thing so they tend to move towards what they think is normal.  However their ‘normal’ is in fact dysfunction.

A cult doesn’t look like a cult on the outside, and its members, because they reside in a dysfunctional spiritual family, don’t recognise the abuse from the inside either. Nobody finds out about a cult until somebody who left talks about what went on.  In order to do that they fist have to wake up.  When they do they begin to hold the abusers accountable.  Then the fireworks begin.  It is the wilful, narcissistic malice of the cult leaders and their cronies which both drives and contains the group.  It isn’t until you fall foul of these wolves that you realise the kind of group you were in.  This is a place of deliberate deception.  If you wonder how anyone could stay in a cult, or join one, recognise if nothing else that deliberate deception is demonic in origin and keeps a strong hold on its victims.  Those who step into these groups do not choose to join cults, they desire to be accepted, loved and embraced.  They are looking for a place of belonging, and God’s family does provide that.  It is only when sin, the wickedness of the false shepherds and false Christians, gets a hold on a group that you end up with a cult.

It has been over ten years since we left the cult and embarked upon a life changing journey to examine ourselves, our families of origin, our own family dynamics, our marriage dynamics and our personal issues.  We have made every effort to align ourselves with not only God’s word on all of these things but to apportion responsibility where it actually resides and not heap everything upon our own heads. Not even God blames anyone for something they did not do. Amazingly though, Jesus took other peple’s sins against us to the cross as well as our own sins. He died for those abuses that others perpetrated against us. It is because of this that we can understand that becoming part of God’s household where He himself is the Father is taking us into totally unexplored territory. Our family privilege comes from being part of the body of Christ.  It is both an inherited privilege and one we learn through faith.  We don’t immediately recover from what we experienced in our biological family when we become born again, but knowing what happened and seeing the truth of how we were damaged can give us a new appreciation for the fatherhood of God and the ways of His household.

One of the biggest problems with Christians coming into the Kingdom of God and learning about how God’s family operates is that more often than we would like, the ones trying to teach us about Kingdom principles have themselves come from dysfunctional backgrounds and have not done the work needed to free themselves from their own unhealthy ways of relating. For example, when I was 19 and suffering from panic attacks I looked to other Christians to help me deal with it.  I had become a Christian myself at 13, but living in a household antagonistic to faith of any kind and not having any other support from Christians outside my family, I ended up backslidden and trying desperately to get my family’s approval thereby causing myself much grief through compromise.

So I went and talked to a Pastor’s wife I had met briefly through a friend of mine.  She herself had come from an abusive dysfunctional family and though I didn’t know it her own family were not coping either. Pastor’s kids I have known have generally ended up pretty screwed up. It seems leaders’ families get the brunt not only of the general family dysfunction but the dysfunction brought on by religious duties overriding family needs.  So, here was I, a total emotional mess due to my upbringing trying to get some much needed spiritual and familial support from a spiritual ‘mother’ but I ended up inheriting not only my own biological family issues but many of hers.

Not only was the pastor’s family something of a mess but they were not able to recognise that my own familial issues were similar to theirs.  We focused on things, good things, like baptism in water and in the Spirit and bible studies, getting involved in church and so on.  While these things helped me progress somewhat in my walk with God, they did not address the core issues which were causing my panic attacks.  It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I realised my panic attacks were a result of my upbringing and could not therefore be fixed with just prayer or bible study or memorising scriptures or going to church.  There needed to be a painful awakening to what was broken in my family and therefore in myself.  For however much parents want to blame their children for their children’s issues, there is no getting away from the fact that these children are the way they are because they were raised by their dysfunctional parents.

Any child, regardless of their innate personality is going to be affected by their family environment in profound and far-reaching ways.  These issues are generational to the extent that they remain unrecognised or unresolved but they can be changed and blocked from going any further.  This has been the intent in our family.  By recognising what had gone before it is much easier to address what is happening now, be accountable for how you have raised your family and make an effort to talk to your children, repent, ask for forgiveness and discuss what is happening.

Then you will be able to move from briar to myrtle, from the curse of sin to the blessings of God.  This alone is the privilege of the inheritance of the children of Abraham.

Anita Brady