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Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences

Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences
by Ken Blue

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Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences by Ken Blue

A gateway out of a lifetime of spiritual bondage., November 20, 1998
Reviewer: A reader

Ken Blue interweaves simple, down-to-earth definitions of spiritual abuse with examples from the experiences of real people. Having grown up in an abusive church, I found it difficult even to give myself permission to pick up this book and start reading. His style was disarming, and the accounts of people's experiences were chillingly compelling. After the first few chapters, I was able for the first time in my life to use the word abuse in connection with that church.

Near the end, the author includes a checklist of characteristics of a "Significantly Abberant Christian Oraganization." Honestly scoring my church on that list is what precipitated my escape, for it gave me compelling, common-sense reasons for breaking off contact with that organization.

Walking away from spiritual abuse is a slow, painful process. My journey to healing didn't start, or end, with this book. But it was essential to one of the most significant steps I had to take in leaving the abusive environment behind.

Awesome Book, October 18, 2000
Reviewer: "dubs70" (Washington, DC United States)

Ken Blue disucssed not only the abused side of spiritual abuse, but also covered the abuser. This was a balanced look at where spiritual abuse comes from, and steps to take to be healed from it. It had an awesome emphasis on the grace of God. All those who have been feeling like the church has done more harm than help to them should read this book. There is a firm biblical foundation in all that is written. It was an awesome book to read to get a better understanding of what is really going on whith the church, and how people are able to abuse church goers so easily. I would recommend it to all people who are in the church, be they part of the church staff or occasional church goers.

One of the Top 3 titles on this subject, May 27, 2005
Reviewer: Ronald M. Henzel (Cape Coral, FL USA)

Along with Ronald Enroth's "Churches That Abuse" and Harold L. Busséll's "Unholy Devotion," this book shares the highest place on my list of books that helped me overcome a 5-1/2 year experience (1987-1992) of intense spiritual abuse, and thus I believe it will also help others. The first chapter is "An Invitation to Freedom," and chapters 2 through 6 focus on the characteristics of spiritually abusive leadership. The brief treatment in chapter 7 of "Who Gets Hooked and Why" supplements Busséll's book (which is subtitled "Why Cults Lure Christians"), and the final three chapters ("Healed by Grace," "Healthy Church Leadership," and "Healthy Church Discipline") contain much that will help victims pursue the path of recovery.

I don't understand why the reviewer from Heidelberg came to such negative conclusions about this book. Perhaps some of its points do not translate perfectly across cultures, or into her culture in particular. Perhaps spiritual abuse manifests itself with different issues in other countries than it does in the United States. It doesn't seem she ever gave her friends with the heavy-handed pastor a chance to profit from it, and that's a shame because their response may have altered her view.

In any case, it seems clear to me that she misread the author's intention on the points where she criticized him. Nowhere did he indicate that "any time a church develops some commonalities, this is a 'danger sign' for spiritual abuse to those who come in from the outside." Instead he was addressing the issue of being "preoccupied with a desire for uniformity among believers" (p. 76), and making too much of "external signs of devotion," (p. 77), as did the Pharisees of Jesus' time.

Nor is the author against referring to our leaders as "pastors." Rather, as the context on page 79 shows, he opposes leaders who *demand* titles of honor.

As for the reviewer's claim, "After reading how the author describes everything that is supposedly spiritual abuse, I cannot put together a picture of what a healthy church would look like at all," it makes me wonder if she read chapters 9 and 10 on "Healthy Church Leadership" and "Healthy Church Discipline." Her remark, "He does state 'all churches are abusive to some degree' (p. 95)," is from chapter 6.

My guess is that she read the book too hurriedly, perhaps out of a laudable concern to find the appropriate help for her friends as quickly as possible. But you can take my word for it: anyone who has truly suffered from spiritual abuse will not try to make this book a fast read, but may even read it a second and third time.

For the Love of God, May 2, 2004
Reviewer: Sam Vaknin "author of books about narcissistic abuse" (Skopje, Macedonia)

The book deals effectively (though sometimes too expansively) with narcissistic and messianic leaders of churches and congregations. Priests, leaders of the congregation, preachers, evangelists, cultists, politicians, intellectuals - all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God.

Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogynism freely and openly. Such a narcissist is likely to taunt and torment his followers, hector and chastise them, humiliate and berate them, abuse them spiritually, or even sexually. The narcissist whose source of authority is religious is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked mastery. The narcissist transforms even the most innocuous and pure religious sentiments into a cultish ritual and a virulent hierarchy. He preys on the gullible. His flock become his hostages.

Religious authority also secures the narcissist's Narcissistic Supply. His coreligionists, members of his congregation, his parish, his constituency, his audience - are transformed into loyal and stable Sources of Narcissistic Supply. They obey his commands, heed his admonitions, follow his creed, admire his personality, applaud his personal traits, satisfy his needs (sometimes even his carnal desires), revere and idolize him. Sam Vaknin, author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited". 

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