Category Archives: healing

If you need to leave baggage behind

If you need to leave baggage behind, remember what it looks like, so you don’t pick it up again.

Additional thoughts about healing and personal growth

Continuing some previous thoughts:

Forgiving someone for real damage does not necessarily heal the real damage.

Not all real damage is merely emotional.

If real damage is thought to be merely emotional when it is not merely emotional, then forgiveness will not usher in rapid healing and release.

Some real damage can be a matter of integration — concept, habit, worldview, and pattern, as well as emotions.

Imagine a teen driver accidentally bumping a middle-age cyclist off the side of the road. While the cyclist recovers, he forgives the teen driver, but the cyclist still has to heal.

More to the psychological point of this post, imagine a young man whose vulnerability is exploited by cult recruiters. The young man joins and devotes several years to working in the cult. Eventually, the young man’s eyes are opened to the true nature of the cult. He might be able to forgive the recruiters and leaders. Years of thinking and behaving within the cult’s ways and means, however, make lasting change a difficult process.

Caution flags in healing and personal growth

I’m not going to do much explaining here. I think anyone who might benefit from these will benefit from them as they stand.

♦ Forgiving a person does not make that person safe.

♦ Healing is not a process by which I realize all things are equal.

♦ The goal of healing is not to conclude that everything is equally benign.

♦ As someone else has said, “The purpose of an open mind is to close on something.” In the case of emotional boundaries, sometimes it’s more important to make a decision rather than to exhaust all possible grounds and evidence for making that decision. Goodness knows, there’s no moral relativism in saying, “That movement or person or idea or activity is bad for me.” Others in my social circle might not see things the same way, but I’m not living everyone’s life, just my own.

Is Pastor Mark Driscoll’s leadership at Mars Hill Church unique?

(Updated 2:20 p.m. July 16 to include Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth, a sociologist whose work has been insightful and helpful. The book cover is linked. It appears as the last book on the list below.)

(Updated and edited 10:20 p.m., July 3: I decided to remove some of the books I originally placed in the post because I thought they would distract from the best and most relevant books in the list. However, the books removed from the post are still available on the linked book page; just click any of the book covers below.)

Mark Driscoll and the current situation at Mars Hill Church are NOT unique. In the U.S., spiritual abuse, toxic religious communities, and narcissistic leadership are substantial problems. These problems have spurred dozens of books — and who knows how many counseling sessions.

Before I list the books, two blog posts can give you some background on the Driscoll-Mars Hill situation. If you haven’t already, be sure to read “Hello, my name is Mike, I’m a recovering True Believer” by Mike Anderson, and “A Former Mars Hill Pastor Speaks Out and Why Others Are Afraid: The Mars Hill Non-Disclosure Agreement” by Warren Throckmorton. Apparently, Driscoll isn’t the only pastor who has caused problems for his congregation and ministerial team, as these books suggest (click a book cover for more information about the book):

Click the image to learn more about the book.

Click the image to learn more about the book.

1112HealingSpiritualAbuse 127ICantHearGodAnymore 121FreedomOfMind 120ByHookOrByCrook 119TwistedScriptures 118PropheticCharisma 117TakeBack 116RecoveryFromCults 115HealingYourChurchHurt 114ToxicSpirituality 113HolierThanThou 111SubtlePower Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth(Remember, for more information, you can click on each individual book above.) Also:

Websites that give specific accounts of spiritual abuse:

From various people who grew up in particular types of authoritarian churches and homes: Homeschoolers Anonymous Ongoing coverage of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle: Wenatchee the Hatchet A helpful look “cultic aberrations” in the Roman Catholic Church: International Cultic Studies Association’s Catholic Aberrations Page That last webpage includes an interesting point, a good thought for the closing of this post:

The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church makes it easier to connect these various movements and organizations to the Church. Protestantism also has many cultic movements; however, there are so many Protestant denominations and so many independent Protestant churches that it is more difficult to associate them with an institution.

Prosecutor: Faith-healing choice hurt child – USATODAY.com

But don’t you want to believe that God heals today? And why doesn’t medical intervention amount to meddling in God’s sovereignty?  Prosecutor: Faith-healing choice hurt child – USATODAY.com.

Barna Group misses a major point about re-entering church life

The Barna Group has posted an article that says so many good things and intends the right thing, but in the end, it fails to address the problem it claims to answer.

“Millions of Unchurched Adults are Christians Hurt by Churches but can be Healed of the Pain” makes an assumption that reflects the worst of our culture: that problems are primarily emotional and not about truth.

The article, rightly, talks about the need to forgive, but it makes no mention of the doctrinal and theological content one should look for before re-joining church life.

Sometimes, bad doctrine and bad teaching cause pain.

Church-inflicted wounds are not always just about people. They can be the result of a pastoral failure to consistently and thoroughly teach the truth of the Gospel, grace, and love.

Let me use an exaggerated example to make my point clear. If a woman you know walks down a small city street and is attacked, you may commend her — after much time — for forgiving her attacker. But you would not require her to walk down that street again.

Or, for a less-exaggerated example, what if a young man becomes sucked into one of the Bible-based cults — horrible vortexes that are indistinguishable from nondenominational churches in our current American Protestant malaise. Surely we would say he should forgive, but we not suggest he return. In fact, we would give him books and counselling to shore up his understanding in direct opposition to the cult’s twisted teachings on Scripture.

If adults hurt by churches should forgive, they still shouldn’t repeat the same mistake twice: if the church they attended is weak on the Gospel, grace, and love, that church will hurt people on a regular basis. The Barna article only goes so far to address “insensitive and ignorant” actions. What about theological illiteracy? What about fashionable legalisms?

It’s wrong to make yourself vulnerable to certain groups, ideas, and beliefs when you are trying to heal. Just like it would be wrong for a woman to walk back down the same dark city street where she was once attacked; just like it would be wrong for the young man to return to the cult.

Furthermore, as Yale theologian Miroslav Volf rightly points out in The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World:

“As trauma literature consistently notes, the healing of wounded psyches involves not only remembering traumatic experiences; it must also include integrating the retrieved memories into a broader pattern of one’s life story, either by making sense of the traumatic experiences or by tagging them as elements gone awry in one’s life. Personal healing happens not so much by remembering traumatic events and their accompanying emotions as by interpreting memories and inscribing them into a larger pattern of meaning – stitching them into the patchwork quilt of one’s identity, as it were.

“For example, as I relive in memory the humiliation and pain of my interrogations by military police, I can tell myself that that suffering has made me a better person – say, in the way it has drawn me closer to God or made me more empathetic to sufferers. Or I can decide that my experience has contributed in some small way to exposing the injustice of a regime that controlled its citizens, curtailed their freedoms, and sacrificed their well-being out of a commitment to an unworkable ideology. In either case, healing will come about not simply by remembering but also by viewing the remembered experiences in a new light. Put more generally, the memory of suffering is a prerequisite for personal healing but not a means of healing itself. The means of healing is the interpretative work a person does with memory.”

I first found the Barna article via Kendall Harmon. Thank you, sir.

How many concerns do you have about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland, Fla., ‘revival’?

Before you answer, check out this video clip, and then click the comment button below, and start making your list.

How many items on your list of concerns?