Archive of ‘Spiritual Abuse’ category

Our Savior’s Church Pastor Minimalized a Family Death

The story of how Master’s Commission treated it’s staff members in relation to family and vacation was terrible and there is much more to it than what I’ve started to write. How Pastor Daniel Jones, Senior Pastor of Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, treated me as his staff member when my grandmother died, was beyond terrible.

After a long summer of depression, burn-out from overwork and little sleep, and suicidal thoughts, I contemplated quitting Master’s Commission for good and heading back to California to live near my family. I found it difficult to view my life outside of Master’s Commission: I had no degree, no career, little professional skills, and no assets or savings. I also had little identity outside the group.

Pastor Daniel Jones got a hold of me after that summer and offered me a job with him. I’d be his wife’s personal ministry assistant, and would have nothing to do with Master’s Commission. He was appalled when he found out Nathan was only paying me $150 a month, and he offered me $500 a month. He said it’d be mostly part-time and I could do any ministry I wanted.

It was a dream come true for me, at the time. I had wanted to be a missionary for years, and had liked working with the women’s ministry.

None of what he promised came true, except that I made $500 a month and that I was his wife’s assistant. The $500 a month wasn’t fair compensation for the full-time hours I pulled at his house, and for being on call every weekend day and night of the week. I was his wife’s assistant, but what I mainly did was home-school their middle son, clean their house, do laundry, and clean their entire house after every major dinner or holiday party they had at their house. So, I was a live-in slave, as I affectionately call it.

Fast forward to October of 2004. My mom’s mother got really sick and ended up in the ICU. My parents paid for my flight home (of course, my paycheck couldn’t cover even part of a flight home) and I grabbed the next one (after asking permission, to which I want to throw up over how stupid I was to do that).

I spent the next day or two at the ICU with my mom, dad, brother and sister. I was filled with a terrible amount of guilt, because I’d rarely seen my grandma over the past few years. I worked in a cult. I wasn’t allowed much time off for the holidays to see my family and never a vacation.

My grandma passed away that weekend. It was awful. I was so sad, and my mother just lost her own mother. We had a funeral to plan, and after that was done, we had to take care of bills, her condo, and all the other paperwork type of stuff that you just don’t think of (when you’re young) and don’t realize you have to do so suddenly after a sudden death.

To top it all off, we’re a very close family and I just felt terrible that my mom was grieving. All I wanted to do was to be there for her, but after the funeral, there was this looming feeling that I had to call Pastor Daniel  to see when I had to come back.

I called.

I explained that I needed to help my mom take care of my grandma’s condo, deal with her mail and bills, and all the other stuff I had no idea was such a big job. I told him Daniel Jones that I couldn’t leave my mom alone here without my help while she was grieving over her mom. I had to help her. I was a grown woman, and it was just right for me to stay to help her. I wanted a week there to stay with my mom.

After that week, I also wanted to go to a long-time friend’s wedding. It was on a weekend in nearby Texas. He had been in Master’s Commission with me, and we had developed such a great friendship. Actually, he was the kind of person everyone loved. He was always laughing and joking and making people feel great about themselves.

Pastor Daniel  said no to me staying to help my mom and he said no to me attending the wedding of a long-time friend.

Like a robot, I headed back to the airport. I was heartbroken. I felt like a horrible daughter. I felt trapped.

My years of friendships and everything my life was all about was in Louisiana. I couldn’t just tell the senior pastor to eff off and stay in California and jeopardize every friendship and relationship I’d come to love. I knew what happened to those kind of people. I knew what awful things were said about them. I knew the Scarlet Letter they wore for life after they did something like that.

Looking back, of course I feel disgusted with myself. I should’ve been stronger. I should’ve left Our Savior’s Church at that moment. I should’ve woken up from the brainwashing. I should’ve shooken off the pixy dust that was covering my eyes making me walk under Daniel Jones’s spell.

I should’ve put my mother first, and I should’ve put my friend’s wedding first.

When I returned, Daniel  didn’t feel any remorse for telling me to leave my mom behind grieving. There was barely a word spoken about it. In fact, we just went back to work and every day I laundered his dirty underwear and washed his dirty coffee cups, I began to resent the fact that I’d come back for something so unimportant and something that I was over-qualified to do.

My Tragic Love Story, Part 2

I was on staff at a ministry training school in a small, bayou-surrounded Louisiana town.  At that time, I had been serving with the same pastors for around five years. Our entire staff and some students had moved from Austin, Texas in 2003 to begin a new school at the church in Louisiana.

In 2004, I met “Tool” (the guy who claimed he was in love with me). Our friendship was a love-hate relationship from the beginning. He had a real problem with women and I was his superior in the hierarchy that was our church. I later learned that the Tool had plenty of childhood and family issues that made him the jerk that he was. After our friendship developed for a year, I started developing feelings for the Tool and he fell for me.

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date. I was 24 years old and he was around 23 years old at the time.

The steps we had to take to date were lengthy and involved male-initiated leadership. It was taught by our pastors that the man in the relationship had to initiate everything relating to a dating relationship or courtship. That man also had to ask our pastor permission to date the girl of his dreams.

And that pastor had to approve.

For Tool, these were not easy steps.

Forgiveness

A few months ago, someone shared with me that my blog was missing a section. He shared that some people might find it helpful to see how I’d recovered from this group. What spiritual journey had I taken? he asked. How had I dealt with depression? How had I forgiven? He said you guys would want to know.

I didn’t want to push any of my personal beliefs onto anyone or “preach,” so I haven’t written about this until now. I realize that sharing my own journey doesn’t mean I’m pushing my beliefs onto you, nor does it mean I want you to agree with me. In fact, sharing my journey is perhaps the most vulnerable thing I could do. I don’t trust all my readers. Some, inevitably, are out to get me. Others of you are deeply wounded, like I am and have been for years. We need to stand together and know that we can get through this together. I need this to be a safe place, and so do you.

I’d like to share with you some valuable lessons I’ve learned, from my heart, and some resources that have helped me. Perhaps they’ll offer you some guidance, like they have to me. Perhaps it will just be nice to see that we’re all getting “there,” wherever that may be.

I share a bit of my journey that began in a Religious Studies class here: http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=332. What I learned over the next few years from my professor, Dr. Campagna-Pinto, was to become invaluable to me.

In Dr. CP’s classes, there were such meaningful convicting lessons, such as: “To create change you can’t have hatred in your heart. You have to re-humanize the people who torture you.”

We read A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I studied the chapter, I Have No Hatred in My Heart, and learned such truths as “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

What I’d become was an outcast to Master’s Commission and to Our Savior’s Church. They no longer accepted me, as most cults no longer accept outsiders, because I chose to leave their “authority” and “promised land.”

My perpetrator never showed remorse. I had to live with that.

It was a difficult thing for me to face. My perpetrator never showed remorse. Nor did he ever plan to. In fact, his own son said that he looked at people like me as less than nothing.

Although he had never shown remorse, my perpetrator had committed crimes against humanity. Crimes of abuse. Crimes of manipulation for power and reputation. Several years of anger and grieving took me to the place where I’m beginning to feel sorry for my perpetrator. And I’m very thankful I’m not him.

At the same time I studied the South African Apartheid, I learned that there are different ways to think about forgiveness. I read The Sunflower: On the Possiblities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. Simon tells the story of a dying Nazi soldier asking him forgiveness for his crimes against Jews. The dying soldier even told the horrific story of shoving Jews into a building and setting it on fire. His orders were to shoot anyone who tried to jump from the building. He shot.

After studying the Holocaust, and the amount of death and atrocity that Jewish people went through, I learned that forgiveness is a complex thing. Like Simon discusses in his book, there’s much more to forgiveness than a simplistic, “You’re forgiven.”

Through my studies, and through the years, I have come to believe that there’s a striking flaw in Christianity when it comes to forgiveness. Forgiveness in Christianity is simple: Jesus died on the cross to forgive you and I of our sins. Therefore, when you and I sin, we can “wash away our sins by the blood of Jesus.”

Right?

No. People need to be held accountable. They need to be responsible for their actions.

Thus the flaw in the Christian belief of forgiveness. When something devastating happens to a person, or a group of people, can you expect them to just “wash it away?” No. There are stages of grief that are normal and natural. I learned that Judaism takes seriously the act of forgiveness. During Yom Kippur they pray and fast, asking for forgiveness.

I began to respect Judaism for what I interpreted as a more realistic answer to the “forgiveness problem.” I knew that I had been wronged deeply. Not as deeply or as terribly as the Jews in Germany during the Holocaust, but I’d been wronged nonetheless.

I began to realize that I also felt forgiveness was a complex, serious matter and it was okay if I didn’t instantly grant forgiveness to someone.

In fact, it was more than okay.

It was perhaps responsible.

The Word “Offended”

thought-control

I’ve been told I’m “hurt and offended” so many times since I started this blog.

I can’t even explain to you how “over” those words I am.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being hurt. Remember the first time your son or daughter came home from school and said to you, “Bobby pushed me down on the playground,” or “Susie made fun of the ribbon you made me?” You were offended, right? And your little daughter or son was hurt after falling on the playground. Maybe even bleeding.

Spiritual abuse causes wounds. They might be bruises, cuts, or deep oozing gashes. But, they’re still wounds. And wounds hurt.

Second of all, there’s this thing–this sickness—that’s only in the Christian community that takes a line like, “You’re hurt and offended. You need to get over it and move on. Stop dwelling on the past,” and makes it a curse; a condescending line to tell you they’re sick and tired of listening to you (or in fact, that they dismissed you after just a few seconds of listening), and that you’re a bad person.

In reality, the bad person isn’t YOU.

If you’re hurt, most likely, someone caused you deep pain, lied to you, and betrayed your trust. The human-to-human bond is broken, bruised or injured.

If you’re offended, it’s most likely that someone was out of line in the way they treated you. Perhaps they belittled you, bullied you, etc.

In most cases, the pastor or someone in direct authority has used their power to throw their weight around, figuratively slapping around a few people. They don’t give a damn who they hurt or how badly they hurt them. They won’t care unless that person starts detracting from their power and money (perhaps by detracting their followers).

I was sixteen years old when I was taught to look down upon those who were offended in church. My pastor taught me that. I believe he was wrong.

I also think grief comes and goes in waves. It may wreck your life for years, or altogether. Pain is sometimes so unbearable for people that they’re not able to move on from it. For someone in power to purposefully cause you pain and maliciously belittle you is wrong.

 

Questions:

Have you ever been dismissed by someone by being called “offended?”

Do you think being hurt and offended can be constructive for someone?

My New eBook – Spiritual Abuse: A Victim’s Guide to Recovery

Written exclusively for my blog readers, Spiritual Abuse: A Victim’s Guide to Recovery is now available for your Kindle.

About the eBook:

Spiritual abuse is happening in increasing numbers around the world. As Christian fundamentalism grows, so do the numbers of psychological and “spiritual” abuse victims. Spiritual abuse is becoming a common term for those harmed in churches and cults. Lisa Kerr is an ex-cult member and former reverend with the Assemblies of God who worked with a group called Master’s Commission for nearly a decade. Today, she advocates for ex-cult members and those who’ve experienced spiritual and psychological abuse in the hands of clergy.

If you enjoy the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or visit my author page for upcoming events.

Updated: Are Pastors Our Advocates?

It’s come up dozens of times while I’ve been blogging: Lisa, why didn’t you just tell your pastor that you were hurt?

Well, I did.

Over and over. I called and got no answers. I wrote letters and ensured they got them. I got no responses.

I’ve come across this issue time and time again with so many readers out there who want to do the “Christian thing” or the “right thing” as they see it–if someone has offended them, they feel (and I felt) that it makes sense to go talk to your pastor.

What happens when that pastor does nothing, or just gives you lip service? What happens when that pastor just accuses you of being immature, unforgiving or offended?

Sometimes, we’re perfectly reasonable, mature, and able to forgive when we approach someone we think might be an intermediary between ourselves and another party. I was. Yet, my pain was denied and worse yet, the things that the pastor did to me were denied too.

Yet again, for months, I’ve contacted pastors that are related to matters on this blog. When I let them know that dozens and dozens of people have been hurt by Nathan Davies’ ministry, they simply say, “Give the person my contact info and we’ll talk.”

So, I do.

Later, I usually ask the person how it went and they’re honestly, truly disappointed.

Instead of receiving some advice and an apology for the deeply hurtful events that happened under this pastor’s roof, they’re told they should overlook it, forgive and be more mature.

What bullshit.

What’s so important about the hierarchy of pastorship that a senior pastor can’t be open and honest about hiring and keeping on a cult leader (or, call him an abusive pastor)? Why are pastors so seemingly power driven and money hungry that they can’t admit openly that harmful (or even criminal, at times) events are transpiring under their church’s roof? This particular church I’m referencing, Glad Tidings Assembly of God, also known as Church of Glad Tidings, has had youth leaders sexually molest kids and has housed Davies’ cult-like ministry (or House of Pain, can we say?). Yet, no public disclosure has taken place. No letter was sent to the parents of youth group members, saying, “We’ve had leaders convicted of molestation. Please report any misconduct your child reports to the proper authorities.”   I’ve recently been informed that the Church of Glad Tidings did, in fact, prepare letters to the parents and a press release following the sexual molestation case. After that, an Advisory Board was set up to oversee Master’s Commission (since the youth leaders were actually Master’s Commission students). The Advisory Board interviewed staff members independent of Nathan; however, after a few years, this Advisory Board eventually disolved into a financial oversight board.

It also must be noted that Master’s Commission students rarely interacted with the pastors and church staff at great lengths of time. I often wonder how much the church staff knew about our situation as students. I have a feeling they probably didn’t know what we were going through as students at the time.

Is it a liability issue? I’ve wondered this for years. Are churches like this afraid of a lawsuit? Losing all their money? Their reputation?

Is it a pride issue? They don’t want to seem weak and vulnerable?

Do they want to protect their ministers reputations, if they’re under fire? Innocent until proven guilty, perhaps, but when hundreds of kids come forth saying they underwent severe mental trauma, I think that’s cause to look into the guilt factor and take it serious.

How can a person with any conscience really excuse, deny and cover up all this abuse? Worse yet, how can one stand before God with a clear conscience knowing they covered up acts to protect someone on their staff, while damage has been done to hundreds of kids?

Shame on any “man of God” or “woman of God” who can not publicly offer an apology and consolation to a hurting young person. You’ve only made the wound worse.

A note here: After receiving new information on Glad Tidings on the sexual abuse cases, I’ve given this a post a lot of thought. I think Glad Tidings handled that situation responsibly and if informed, would have probably taken action to stop Nathan’s abuses. Unfortunately, it seems they were unaware of the abuse until after the Davies’ left. Upon them leaving, students came forth one-by-one over the years. The pastors have chosen to deal with each person directly, instead of issue a mass statement. When I’ve talked to them, they were very helpful, though out of touch with much of what occurred during my time there. I just simply think they didn’t know.

Spiritual Abuse is Abuse

I went on a job interview a few weeks ago and my blog ended up in the conversation. When asked what I wrote about I said “Spiritual Abuse” which is the sort of standard term we use for what cult survivors and general survivors of abuse from pastors.

The man interviewing me asked what that meant and in an attempt to explain it, I listed some of what has happened to myself and others I know. He said, “Oh, real abuse.”

Lesson learned: rape, physical maltreatment, being hit, verbal abuse–these are all ABUSE. Maybe we shouldn’t use the term spiritual in front of them. It seems that some people (even ourselves) don’t take it seriously.

Online Harassment: Or, A Haters Gonna Hate

Why you hating on me??

We’ve all seen it happen before and since I started this blog, I realized that I opened myself up to be targeted by psychopathic, jealous trolls. The Internet brings out the worst in people, and people forget their manners and say things they would have never have said face-to-face. However, here’s my advice and tips on avoiding online harassment. Not to mention, some assurance that I won’t tolerate any type of harassment on this site (directed toward YOU or ME or any writer or contributor here).

I realize that I’m writing on a very personal matter here: religion. Not to mention, I’m openly discussing my experiences with ministry groups and public figures here. I’m the first and only blog that I know of to bring to the public the experiences people have faced in an abusive relationship with these prominent Christian ministries, and name them. Yes, it sounds egotistical, but I’m leading the way. Therefore, as a “whistle blower” of sorts, I take a pretty hard hit. I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve wanted to shut down this site. I haven’t told my readers all the stories, all the emails, all the text messages. And, I won’t.

Although I won’t publicly disclose them here, I keep track of them. Why? When you put yourself in a vulnerable position as a spokesperson for a group of victims, you can’t turn a blind eye to the harassment. They may be harmless threats, or just jealous retributive emails, but I take each one seriously. I record IP addresses, email address and the identities of those I know.

I keep a log of particular “stalkers” and “trolls” so that in the event their harassment turns to violence, there will be a paper trail and a report. I also think it’s important to share this with you, my readers, because I feel a sense of safety here. I feel like you all “have my back.” I’ve also contacted a lawyer regarding several issues related to recent online harassment I’ve received and it’s being dealt with. It may be the Internet, but there are still laws against blackmail and harassment.

See, it’s my first time “around the block” so to speak. My blog is new–about six months old. The amount of attention it’s garnered is something I never imagined it bringing in July when I started it. The evenings after work have been filled with me teaching myself technical aspects of running a website, forum, etc.; learning how to be a professional and reliable journalist; online etiquette and blogger-to-blogger “rules; and overall just running like a gazelle to keep up with the pace at which this entire project is growing.

It’s fun. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and would love to develop this into more of a group “voice” with stories, resources, etc. made available to my readers. Mine is just one story. My voice is just one voice. Writing has brought me so much happiness and liberty in my life. I feel healthy. I feel good. I hope each of you partakes in that same joy and knows that a troll is just a troll. Deep down, they’re just a hater. They’re filled with unhappiness and jealousy so deep that they try to derail my efforts and your efforts of making ourselves better here.

Call me naive, but I’m going to pretend they don’t exist. Because honestly, someone that low in life isn’t even worth a minute of our time.

So, together, let’s all say it: DFTT “Don’t Feed The Trolls!” =)

Red Flags and Warning Signs

Hello readers! I’m in the process of compiling a list of specific red flags and warning signs about OUR experiences in a destructive discipleship program and/or a church that teaches unbiblical doctrine. Most specifically, what are the warning signs of a controlling group or a manipulative pastor (or discipler) according to your experiences?

For example, some Master’s Commission’s applications to enter as a student ask very specific questions about a person’s sexual life (i.e., Do you masturbate? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you had a bisexual experience? Do you use pornography and when was the last time you did?). Other groups take students into a room for a meeting and forbid them to have sexual thoughts, to masturbate, or look at pornography. Other groups tell men and women what to wear, and make women change their clothing or burn it if it’s too tight fitting or revealing. Group and individual confessionals are frequently required.

These are ALL red flags of a controlling group.

in retrospect, what are some warning signs YOU may have seen BEFORE joining a group like this or a church like this?

After your experiences in a church or group like this, what warning signs and red flags can you IDENTIFY now?

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