In anticipation of the Nov 1st release of my new book, Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church, I am making my way through a 5-part blog series on misconceptions and misunderstandings of spiritual abuse. You can read prior installments here, here, and here.
We come now to misconception #4: “Spiritual abuse is not as harmful as other kinds of abuse, so we shouldn’t worry too much about it.”
In my research for my forthcoming book, I was a bit surprised to discover how many people think that the harm caused by spiritual abuse is a distant second (or even third) to other kinds of abuse (whether physical or sexual).
Indeed, some seemed to view the heavy-handed behavior of pastors as one of those “regrettable” things that happen, but not really that big a deal. It’s just an inevitable part of church life that people should just be willing to “get over.”
Sadly, this kind of disposition sometimes morphs into an additional claim that those who are victims of such abuse are probably just overly sensitive to legitimate expressions of pastoral authority. Maybe they have just been influenced by our progressive, anti-authority culture. They are making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Now, to be clear, some people in churches are overly sensitive. Some folks seem offended by just about everything. And I make the point in my book that being offended or hurt, is not, in and of itself, proof of abuse.
At the same time, I think far too many abuse concerns are swept aside under the claim that the victims are “overly sensitive.” While merely claiming that a pastor is abusive doesn’t make it so, it is also the case that merely claiming that the victims are overly sensitive doesn’t make it so.
So, I think there needs to be a fresh assessment of the type of damage done by spiritually abusive behavior, so the phenomenon can be understood better. My book covers this in more depth, but here are a few quick thoughts. [Read more…]