Here are a few thoughts about spiritual abuse I pulled from various internet sources. I found these to be interesting and perhaps it will encourage you to research the issue more on your own.
Let Us Reason.org
-Do they call those who leave or fall away as enemies, dogs returning to their own vomit, using the examples of Korah or Judas?
-Do they defend all that they do even though it can be harmful or wrong?
-Ron Rhodes writes in his book “The Culting of America,” “It is a common myth that unbelievers join Cults.” Percentages show that those who join these aberrant groups formerly attended Christian Churches.
-Dr. Paul Martin of Wellspring Retreat (where cultists adjust from their harmful experiences) writes, “Twenty-five percent formerly attended evangelical, fundamental churches. Over 40 % had backgrounds in large, more liberal Protestant denominations.”
How Cults Work
-A cult needs to hide the truth from you until they think you are ready to accept it.
-A cult will have a slick well-rehearsed Public Relations front, which hides what the group is really like. Things will be introduced to you slowly, one at a time, so you will not notice the gradual change, until eventually you are practicing and believing things which at the start would have caused you to run a mile.
-Leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God. Questioning the leaders or program will still be seen as a sign of rebellion and stupidity.
-You will also be made to feel very guilty for disobeying any of the cult’s written or unwritten rules.
-Character Assassination is used to help create the guilt in you.
-Breaking sessions are when one, two, or more cult members and leaders attack the character of another person, sometimes for hours on end. Some cults will not stop these sessions until their victim is crying uncontrollably.
-Cults also try to cut you off from your friends and family because they hate others being able to influence you. A mind control cult will seek to maneuver your life so as to maximize your contact with cult members and minimize your contact with people outside the group, especially those who oppose your involvement.
-“The walls have ears”. Everyone is encouraged to watch out for “struggling” brothers and sisters and report what they see to leadership.
-Mind control cults keep their members so busy with meetings and activities that they become too busy and too tired to think about their involvement.
-Time control also helps the cult keep their members immersed in the manufactured cult environment.
-And time control helps keep cult members away from friends and family.
What Safe Leadership Looks Like
-A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
-A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
-A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
-A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
-A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
A Personal Testimony
-A leader who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to earn more and more money.
-A ministry that shamed me into throwing away all my evil music (including Lionel Ritchie and Duran Duran…oh the evil!)
-A leader who cornered me, threatened me, and yelled because I brought up a concern that others saw. This led to panic attacks.
(Spotting Spiritual Abuse)
– They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
– It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
– Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.
Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.
Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.
Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
Some religious groups view questioning the leaders as tantamount to questioning God.
Demands for obedience
Punishment (loss of privileges, shunning or expulsion)
Emphasis on performance
Exclusivism (“we alone are right, and everybody else is wrong”)
Isolation (refusal to associate with anyone but spiritual brothers and sisters)
Humiliation of the “disobedient”
Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-manipulation.html#ixzz2rcuDdtK5
Abusive churches train members to block out any information that is critical of the group. With enough thought and information control, the leaders can get those under their control to defend their new identity against their former identity. The first line of defense is denial – “What you say isn’t happening at all.” Next comes rationalization – “This is happening for a good reason.” After that, justification – “This is happening because it ought to.” Finally, wishful thinking – “I’d like it to be true, so maybe it really is.”
A characteristic of spiritually abusive systems is that a misplaced sense of loyalty is fostered and even demanded. This is not about loyalty to Christ, but about loyalty to an organization, church or leader. Because authority is assumed or legislated, following that authority must also be legislated. This is accomplished by setting up a system where disloyalty or disagreement with the leadership is construed as disobeying God. Questioning leaders is not allowed. After all, the leader is the authority, and authority is always right. Such spiritual manipulation denies the truth of Ephesians 1:22, which says that Christ is the Head of the church. Our loyalty is due Him.
Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-manipulation.html#ixzz2rcuXv1B9
All Christians need to be alert to spiritual manipulation and follow this example from Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Likewise with all teaching and preaching – we must hold it up to the light of God’s Word before we accept it. Any religious group that prevents its members from doing independent research, or from challenging what the leadership says, must have something to fear.