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The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church
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The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  264 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In a breakthrough book first published in 1991, the authors address the dynamics in churches that can ensnare people in legalism, guilt, and begrudging service, keeping them from the grace and joy of God's kingdom.Written for both those who feel abused and those who may be causing it, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse shows how people get hooked into abusive systems, the ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Bethany House Publishers (first published October 1991)
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I read this book several years ago. Literally it saved our family! The title may scare some people away. As Christians, we don't want to think that abuse happens in the church, but it is alive and well. We think any book that speaks of psychology must be wrong; therefore, many won't read this book. This book is gracious. The authors realize they are dealing with wounded people. "The results of spiritual abuse are usually the same: The individual is left bearing a weight of guilt , judgement or c ...more
If all churches required their Sunday school teachers, elders, deacons, pastors, assistant pastors and congregations to read this, just think of the pain and damage that would be avoided.

As a youngster, I was in a church where the pastor used brow-beating as his whip of choice. Coming from a household where yelling and anger was common, this subtlety caused corrosion that lasted well into my adult years.

Sadly, even when the church this particular pastor 'ran' slowly rotted and died, he just move
Aug 12, 2008 Debby rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Spiritual manipulation, control and abuse is indeed a very deceptively and intricately woven web designed for entrapment. It is amazing how subtle this type of manipulation, control and abuse can be, how difficult to spot and even more difficult to break away from or get others to recognize it fow what it is - abuse of power in a spiritual leader. Reading this book can be like installing a Spiritual Carbon Monoxide Detector in your heart and mind. You may not need it, buy boy are you glad you in ...more
I found this book to be so personally helpful that I've already been recommending it to family members. Before I started reading, I was uncomfortable with the use of the word "abuse," but the book illuminated the complexities of this issue that make "abuse" a legitimate term. As with any problem area, there are, of course, differing levels of abuse, ranging from words and insinuations to full out physical abuse. With my background of extremely conservative fundamentalism, the book was most eye-o ...more
Kathleen L. Maher
Spiritual Abuse--the manipulation of a religious seeker by one in spiritual authority--is a force in modern Christianity to be reckoned with. Few religious figures have discussed it. It's a bit of a skeleton in the closet, or a family shame. But tens of thousands have fallen prey to the subtle power of spiritual manipulation and abuse, whether financially (think Jim Bakker in the '80's), sexually (FLDS Compound), emotionally (Jimmy Swaggart's tearful plea for his throne) or physically (Waco, Tex ...more
Keren Threlfall
This book was personally very helpful and healing. However, its application and writing deals with more than just spiritual abuse. I fear that some types of people will be turned away from the title: 1)people who don’t believe there is such a thing as “spiritual abuse,” 2) people who believe spiritual abuse exists, but don’t think they’re in a context where it would come up, and 3) people who may think this is only a book written only for lay people. Realistically, though, this is a helpful read ...more
Lynn Joshua
I highly recommend this book for those who have been wounded by the church and who need God's healing, and also for those in any position of leadership. (Although I don't know that manipulators will recognize their behavior, because so often they have the best of intentions and sincerely believe that their way is the right way.) This book covers warning signs such as: authoritarianism, lack of accountability, an us-versus-them mentality, an attitude of group superiority, and labeling those who ...more
The title of this book turned me off but it was recommended on a list of top ten favorite books of folks I respect. That being said I like how one reviewer wrote the following... pretty much sums it up...

"The book talks about churches having inverted values. They focus a lot of energy on smaller issues while ignoring larger ones. Spiritual relationships should bring peace, not shame. That isn't to say that everyone will always get along and there will never be conflict. It becomes abusive when y
I grew up in a spiritually abusive church, with a pastor who was on a "mission" to save souls. He was not there for his congregation, he was there for himself. (Much like the people who continue to knock at my front door to this very day.) It was not until years later that I understood no man can "save" anyone's soul.

This book touched me very deeply; I would have to say in a most profound way, as it spoke directly to me about my own situation vis-a-vis organized religion in general, and the Eva
Reading this book has confirmed to me that the ministry which sponsored the Christian high school that I attended qualifies as spiritually abusive. Reading this book has also made me doubly thankful for the grace of God.

Aside from some light criticisms I have regarding sloppy copy editing, my only other critique is that there are a few points which could have been fleshed out. It seemed in some places that differing points of view were not taken into account. On the whole, however, this book is
A shockingly accurate description which takes the veil off of unrighteous leadership and makes it easier to recognize and address. A must read.
This was a very interesting book to me. One that I couldn't put down.
There are 3 sections to the book-
1 Spiritual abuse and it's victims
2 Abusive leaders and why they are trapped
3 Post-abuse recovery

They gave many examples of spiritual abuse, some more severe than others. One was, it is not abuse for a church to hold certain dress standards but it becomes abuse when people are shamed when they do not hold to those same standards. The book talked about how some churches will have a couple of app
This book, while dated, gives a fabulous exegesis on spiritually abusive systems. I highly recommend this to anyone who left a cult-ish background, or any PKs (Preacher's/Pastor's Kids) out there.

There is a section on healing, as well, which has quite sound exegesis. Some of the stories aren't quite for every situation (the spiritual abuse I endured was much more subtle) but an excellent read even if you THINK you might have endured spiritual abuse.

This book made me grateful for my parents (who
I'm very glad I stumbled across this book! It helped me to straighten out in my head some of the experiences I had growing up in church; and in a situation very similar to that of one of the authors. There was definitely a few lingering effects from growing up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist environment that I might not have identified otherwise. I have to thank God that I have been out of that situation for some time now and have found a good church! And, bonus, one of the authors is one ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
If you have ever had to deal with church people who are professional in guilt trips and manipulating you for the glory of God, so they would think, this book is an eye opener. Those Bible thumpers who can use the Bible to twist your arm and mess with your human conscience in order to get their agendas fulfilled. They are using something intimate to the heart such as spirituality and manipulating you. It happens all the time!
This was the book God used to help me understand some of the error that I was in. It is great for anyone coming out of a place of church or minstry wounding. I am re-reading it to write a paper on it for school.
This book is hit and miss. Some chapters are absolutely brilliant and apply to all religions. It is most valuable when it focuses on systems that are abusive, rather than born-again Christian theology.
I thought this was a excellent book which thoughtfully addresses a problem which is so prevalent in many sudo-churches.
Excellent analysis of the troubling, abusive trends in the church today, particularly its evangelical wing. Highly recommended for those who are in the church or who have left, believers and unbelievers alike.

Some organizational difficulties, a lack of real-life examples, and a slight overload of technical information in the first half of the book make it a little hard to keep track of the author's points. Still, the information is very good, very sound, and so very important.

As I read, I foun
Paul Goodman
Very appropriate and up to date reading. The author tackles a subject perceived as "taboo" in most evangelical environments. Church members have been shamed, manipulated and weighed down in many evangelical churches by a distortion of the Scriptures. For example, there's a false notion out there that a spiritual leader is synonymous to "anointed of the Lord." As far as I'm concerned, Jesus is the only true anointed of the Lord - the Christ. This kind of misconceived notion of "spiritual authorit ...more
Wow. I wish every Christian I know could read this book. I don't even personally feel like I'm really a person who has been deeply abused by the church, I started reading it because I was curious about what in the world the term "spiritual abuse" could mean. That said, I found it super encouraging, eye-opening and centering, for lack of a better word.

Johnson has a way of peeling back the cultural habits, inclinations, traditions, and myths of the church and letting you see with acid clarity the
Joy Matteson
Not enough is said in the church about the damage done by spiritual abuse, especially by those place in authority. All my life I heard, "Submit to those in authority in the church, obey your leaders, etc", never, "if your church leader (or parent) is laying suffocating burdens on its members (or children) in the name of Christ, you are not obligated to submit and obey. This is not of Christ." If I had heard that from my parents and church leaders, perhaps such spiritual abuse would have not been ...more
This was an interesting read and very well written. There is so much nonsense taught under the guise of Christianity these days. Prosperity gospel is one that comes to mind I see this on Christian TV programmes all the time. Jesus came to bring us freedom from sin and freedom from the law not to give us a whole new list of rules to obey. The key is grace - grace is a gift not something to work for.

The book also gave me insight into my own faith. How much am I striving for in the flesh? How much
This book does a pretty good job detailing what happens when churches and their members "go bad" and start hurting people. The larger thing missed in all books like this, though, is that the Bible itself (and Jesus Himself) said that most of those who call themselves "Christian" would not be, but would be filled with evil spirit and worldly values (not the Holy Spirit and Jesus' values) instead.

Read this book to learn that its not your spiritual job to take crap from someone pretending to repre
Adriel Rose
This was a highly insightful book that covers a myriad of situations that many Christians have experienced. The authors did a very good job of conveying compassion for both the victims and the abusers, and they stressed that God wants the abusers to turn and repent just as much as He wants to heal the victims. I would recommend this book to anyone who has gone through a situation in church, in their family, or in other relationships that involve manipulation, particularly having to do with the m ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Donna by: Robb Ryerse
a GREAT read. Nearly as inspiring book as I ever read. To see that "Pastor's" are manipulative, conniving lil' dicks changed my world view, and helped me delve further into my own history as a Fundamental Bible Believing "Baptist Born and Baptist Bred and when I die I'll be Baptist Dead" background.
Given to me when I left an abusive church by the next Pastor, who had the Balls to APOLOGIZE for his fellow Pastor's misbehavior.
(But I'm not bitter)...LOL !
Winter Rose
Eye Opening, Informative & Balanced!
Randy Phillips
This was an entirely new area of subject matter for me to consider. I found the book to be balanced and well written. I read this book obviously from a pastoral perspective and truthfully found the behavior of a few of the "main characters" to be unconscionable. That being said - the introduction to this entire issue/concept is eye opening in the best possible way.
Not normally of fan of books which combine current psychology and ones spiritual well-being, but this book is useful in alerting you to manipulative techniques that can hinder spiritual growth. Must-read for every willing disciple engaged in community.
I loved this book because it was HONEST! It really helped me. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who has experience a spiritually controlling environment. I gave it 5 STARS because it was just one of those books that changed my life...a landmark reading for me.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
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