Monday, December 21, 2009

Who Joins Spiritually Abusive Groups?

I regularly check for cult related news at a rather unique website. You can check it too at this link.

One of the things I hate to see when I go there is under the title “Clergy Abuse.” Most of the news in this category is sexual abuse but other forms also show up occasionally.

If you have not experienced spiritual abuse personally thank God for it. You probably wonder how people get caught in something so obviously bad for them. Its not easy but it extremely common. Spiritual abuse grows out of a seedbed of legalism, a performance-based relationship with God. This leads to a focus on the external, or what is visible and can be checked by others. This is what Jesus referred to in the Pharisees as “whited sepulchers.” When our relationship with God can be reduced to the external it is probably accompanied with a person or group that reinforces that view.

Anyone who has experienced this abuse needs to know three things. First, recovery can be found. Second, when you have recovered, give from your experience to others who are struggling with abuse and legalism to help them find hope again. And third, thank God for your experience (and the recovery) because you will then be a much stronger, and wiser Christian whom God will use to heal His wounded sheep.

My workbook on Spiritual Abuse Recovery was dedicated “to the ‘Wounded Sheep’ who just wanted to serve God and please Him.” I have excerpted part of Chapter Two below to provide some insight into why this is a growing, and unrecognized, problem.

Chapter Two: Who Joins Abusive Groups?

“Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.”
G.K. Chesterton

The question of who joins high control religious groups seems like it would have a simple answer. It does not. Nor is there a simple answer to how it happens.
The starting place should be the question of what disposes a person to spiritual abuse? Why is a person vulnerable? What differences in people make one vulnerable and another not so vulnerable? I would love to know your answers to these questions but here is a list that may help you think it through.

Which of these statements fit you?
1) I had a lack of knowledge of the Bible.
2) I was raised in an abusive family or church so I didn’t know the difference.
3) I was not sufficiently strong in critical thinking skills or will power.
4) I came to Christ through the abusive group’s influence.
5) I was like the frog in the kettle where things changed so gradually I didn’t notice until it was too late.
6) I am easily led, or I want someone to take the lead for me….

…. People who were raised in families where dysfunction was the norm may gravitate toward a church that is like their family of origin. It’s all they know. It’s the familiar rut with an accepted comfort level. The way to break out of such a rut is exposure to a much more gracious culture. Hopefully the contrast will stir a hunger for grace and not performance. This is what the people in the Bible who knew they were sinners saw in Jesus. They contrasted Him to the self-righteous Pharisees and knew instantly that Jesus was someone to listen to.

If you would like to obtain a copy of the Spiritual Abuse Recovery workbook send me an email at the address on this blog. I will tell you how you can receive it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Questions to Ask a Mormon

A scene from a Star Trek episode finds Captain Kirk posing questions to a computer that is determined to exterminate all carbon-based life forms. Kirk poses a question to the computer that the computer cannot resolve. Finally, the computer begins repeating the phrase, “More data please. It does not compute. It does not compute….” Kirk’s questions cause the computer to lock up in a never-ending struggle to resolve the logical conflict.

Mormons are not computers or Star Trek aliens. They are not like the Romulans, Klingons or Ferengi. I have already linked those alien species to other cult groups. :-)

On the other hand the use of a question can highlight a logical fallacy for any cultist. It can send the mind into what is called cognitive dissonance, a state of confusion caused by the perception of two conflicting truths. The resolution is found only in the acceptance of one and the dismissal of the other.

There is a significant problem, however, in using logical arguments with Mormons. They do not decide what is true on the basis of logic. They determine the truth of Mormonism by prayer. In the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4) an “investigator” is challenged to read the book of Mormon and pray that God will show the truth of it. To a Mormon the proof is in a subjective “burning in the bosom” response to their reading. This is a physical/emotional/spiritual experience. Those Mormons who have experienced it have a stronger resistance to objective evidences. That is not to say that objective evidences, or logic, are worthless because God opens the closed mind. We are simply to present the truth and leave its impact to Him.

The Objective Challenge

Though Mormons test truth by prayer Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the LDS church, gave an objective criteria for determining the truth or fallacy of Mormonism. He said in his book Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, page 188,

Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures.”

The “accepted standards of measurement” have always been objective. They include the written revelation of God in the Bible, the natural revelation in His creation, and a rational mind that can logically weigh evidences. When the Holy Spirit speaks to the human heart His words will always be in agreement with those objective evidences. Though prayer is good it is not one of the “accepted standards of measurement” because Satan can impersonate the Holy Spirit through what the Bible calls “seducing spirits”. This presents us with the first question to ask a Mormon.

Questions About The Book of Mormon

If you have a “testimony” of the truth of the Book of Mormon how do you know it is not from a “seducing spirit” (see 1 Timothy 4:1)? Would not a “seducing spirit” be seductive, or in other words, feel good?

Why rely on a subjective test when the Biblical test of truth claims were always objective? Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony (scripture up to that time) if they speak not according to this word there is no truth in them.”

Aren’t the scriptures “the accepted standards of measurement” according to Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation (quoted above)?

Do you know that the Muslim scripture, the Koran, is not scripture? How do you know? Have you read it and asked God sincerely whether it is true or not? Or, is it not true because you know it teaches doctrines that are not true? Isn’t that why the Book of Mormon should be tested by the same criteria, the “accepted standards of measurement,” the scriptures?

Next time you have a couple young missionaries at your door thank them for coming and say, “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve had some questions I have wanted to ask. Let me get them (print this out and put it in your Bible).