When People Say, “Not All Churches!”

"Not All Churches" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Not All Churches” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

My posts about spiritual abuse often get reactions from people claiming that I’m needlessly and bitterly highlighting an infrequent and isolated problem in the church.

They are usually angry and defensive.

They say things like:

“You’re crying out like a wounded animal! Get over your bitterness.”
“How dare you attack Christ’s bride! He loves her and gave his life for her.”
“This hardly ever happens and you’re just trying to make us look bad to the world.”
“Okay, we heard you. But do you have to be so negative all the time?”
“If you aren’t in the church you have no right to criticize her. Mind your own business!”

I could go on and on.

Shouldn’t it be obvious to us by now that spiritual abuse… everything from manipulation to sexual assault… is rampant in the church? My newsfeed in Twitter and Facebook is full of such stories. It’s all over the news. And it’s not fake! The couple hundred members of my online community The Lasting Supper agree that spiritual abuse is common. I’d say it’s rampant.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: church is the perfect culture for abuse to occur. It has all the ingredients for abuses to be committed and gotten away with. Things like ignorance of systemic evil, the lack of accountability, leader adulation, predatory attitudes about women and children, the unwillingness or inability to criticize something considered holy, submission as a value, unquestioning obedience as a requirement, denial as a default position, and the compulsory forgiveness, reconciliation, and restitution of fallen leaders we admire… all these and more combine to make churches very susceptible to spiritual abuse.

To deny these dynamics to survivors of spiritual abuse is beyond insensitive. In an attempt to silence them, they dismiss their pain and nullify their experience. All so that they can nurse their ideal of church.

Of course, since I talk openly about spiritual abuse, I do tend to gather people who understand, who know what I’m talking about, who’ve been there, and who appreciate someone who finally gets it, who cares, who advocates, and who works for constructive change. And let me tell you, it’s a long line of wounded people I call survivors.

Like me, they say, “I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else. Things must change!”

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2 Replies to “When People Say, “Not All Churches!””

  1. So true churches don’t want to expose abuse. But I do know of two church who have stood up to mission boards about covering up for abusers on the mission field. A Pastor from a church that stood up to the leaders of a mission that just moved child abusers around instead of exposing them as child abusers. He will be speaking at a MK Safety Net Gathering in Chicago to adults who were abused as children by missionaries. Most of these MKs never have heard of a church supporting them when they reported the abuse. So technically you can say not all churches but do you have actions that prove it. Your actions are your proof.

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