Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Us Against Them

This form of emotional manipulation is usually a subtle one. There aren't a lot of church leaders who just come out and say, "It's us against EVERYONE else," including other churches. There are some who do that. Stay away from them. :-)

This is about a more subtle approach. It is one I am familiar with as it was employed at a church that I went to for many years. They don't come out and say that everyone is against them because they KNOW that would be a big red flag for most people. Instead, they say things like, "Be prepared when you talk to people outside of our teaching. They aren't going to understand you and may call you crazy for believing what we believe." Then they will say something about how persecution is to be expected if you are really doing what God says. 

This pastor actually said, "If you want to visit another church, that's fine; as long as you are attending every service we offer first. If our doors are open, you should be here." Notice he didn't come right out and say that you shouldn't go to another church. The church offered three services a week. How many people are going to be into attending more church services per week than that? If you feel guilty about even going to a a special meeting hosted by another church, you need to examine that. If that seems to be a church wide feeling, get out.

Isolating from other churches is a precursor to the forming of a cult. Those that they can get to go along with the isolation policy are then targeted for the next step. They are drawn into the "inner circle" of the leader's friends. From here the leader will hand pick a core group that will be his buffer - that will defend him to the teeth - that will be loyal to him no matter what they hear. From there, it can really begin to get ugly.

This same pastor has said, from the pulpit - with a smile, "Some people out there have actually accused us of being a cult. Can you believe that?" Then the part about being wary of the people outside his teaching because they didn't get it, poor souls.

Another way they reinforce the "us against them" mentality is by disparaging those who have left the church. Not blatantly - carefully, under the guise of being concerned about the spiritual health.

Another aspect of this is the idea that because their church is so "faithful" to the 'fill in the blank,' now they are going to get special revelation. The implication is that you will not get this revelation ANYWHERE else and so you better NOT go anywhere or you might miss out.

If any of this sounds familiar, please, step back and apply some logic - some discernment - some (yes) judgment - to the situation. If what they say will not stand up to logic and questions - if you feel overly embarrassed to discuss what your church teaches with other Christians, you're probably being led down the primrose path. Leave. Period.

Remember, the more isolated you become, the less accountability they have and the more they can begin to teach you things - slowly, carefully, bit by little bit so you don't choke - that are further and further from reality - from Truth.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever notice how these are the same tactics used by emotional abusers in the home? Divide and conquer. Once your victim is isolated, you have complete control, as there's no external input and you can make them question themselves so they don't question you. Ugly, evil, mind control. Thank you for this blog, it's great!

Katherine Gunn said...

Yes, I have noticed this. My mother has used this tactic often through my life. Comments like, "You're the only one who understands what I'm going through because you've been there, too," or, "You're the only one who cares," are part of a concerted effort to get you to join them against everyone else. A lifetime of this sort of thing . . . well, I may need to to an entire post on this.

Meg said...

I've always believed abuse is on a continuum, and that these sorts of tactics, if left unchecked by the members of the congregation will just devolve the church into a cult.

We came out of a cult which also asked the question. "How can we be a cult, there is so much love here". So the congregation all look at each other and shake their heads along with the elders. How indeed.

Katherine Gunn said...

The "left unchecked" part is right on target. Something I failed to mention before (and this should be a HUGE red flag) is that there was no accountability. The pastor was answerable to no one. He would declare, often, that he and his wife were accountable to the board of directors and that the board sets their salaries, etc. What many in the congregation don't know is, the board consists of him, his wife, and family and a friend. But because they put on a big show of being accountable, the congregation thinks everything is nice and safe and above-board. They are not affiliated with any denomination and have no one above them to be accountable to. A situation ripe, in the hands of an abuser, like a narcissist, to take advantage of - one that he, in fact, set up.

Barb said...

Great post! Spot on. So many of us think that it was only our church who said these things and was like this.

James said...

Katherine Gunn

Thanks for post this thread “Us Against Them”.

As I read your thread I saw things that is happening in some of our churches (the wrong church for me anyway) that similar to what is also happening in abusive relationships

(The honeymoon stage:)

When we found a new church and meet the members of a church this begins our indoctrination into this church. We discover new members. Talk and share our spiritual experiences. Told of what great things the pastor/minister is doing with the church and the community. Like a new relationship we see ourselves bonding with both church and members.

But also like all marriages the honeymoon will end sooner or later.


“Isolating from other churches is a precursor to the forming of a cult.”

Like in an abusive relationship we might find ourselves being isolated and even “watch”. Having some member telling us how we shouldn’t visit that church because they don’t do this or that. “Why would you waste your time going there?” Or some other rationalization to make us thing maybe we shouldn’t and might even feel an type of shame or guilt for “not being a good member of our church”. This same type of manipulation is also done by the abuser of an relationship to isolate their victim. Like telling them you spend too much time at your mother’s or some other “outside” relationship or event.

(smear campaign:)

“"Some people out there have actually accused us of being a cult. Can you believe that?"

This statement is just that type of attacking others even before they are in fact attack.

Once the victim breaks the spell and see the abuser as controlling and manipulating them many will break free of this relationship in a attempted to get away from the abuse. Because the abuser know what they did is wrong and how others might view them and they actions they will start a “smear campaign” against the victim. Telling others pretty much what they the abuser did to the victim, but the abuser turns it around so the victim looks like the abuser and the abuser look like the victim. In short the abuser will destroy any creditability the victim might have.

(I love you more then anyone else will)
“The implication is that you will not get this revelation ANYWHERE else and so you better NOT go anywhere or you might miss out.”

Like the church members and/or leaders of this church promises (lies) to their members this falsehood so does the abuser in a relationship telling his/her partners “I love you like no one else will.” Leaving the victim afraid of leaving the relationship fearing that indeed no one will love them as much. But this logic breaks down because whenever we love someone we want what is best for them and not what’s best for us. If we truly love someone we will let them go. So should it be as well with an church and an minister who is teaching us the true message of God. That God puts us before all and proved this to us by allowing his own son to die on a wooden cross. That God wants what is best for us. True love is sacrificing and never selfish.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

If any minister or church put their interests first before any member or members then they aren’t following the teaching of our heavenly Father..

So it’s it with an abuser who’s needs are greater then that of the victim of their abuse.

Thank you, this has given me great insight!

Katherine Gunn said...


Thanks for coming by. Your comments were insightful. I'm glad the post helped. :-)

You bring out an very important point... whether it is a church, a home, a friendship or a job, abuse is abuse and uses the same tactics, tailored to the surroundings. Abusers are, in the end, all the same, at heart.

James said...

Welcome Katherine Gunn,

I am glad to report that I seen mostly good come out of our churches and religious communities but there are some who hungry for power over others (even God-sic-) and will use church and the teaching of Christ for their own agenda. Thanks for the feedback and God bless.