Cultic Studies Journal
Power of Spiritual Abuse
Manipulation and Society
Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 10, No. 1, 1993
- The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.
- David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen. Bethany House
Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1991, 234 pages.
In the book's introduction, David Johnson states,
"Though some will balk at the very term spiritual abuse, I believe this
illness is more widespread than we think and deeply ingrained in our contemporary
Christian culture." Jeff VanVonderen continues, "Today we see that the bulk of
our time and energy has been spent helping to heal wounds caused by spiritual abuse . . . an
abuse which occurs when someone is treated in a way that damages them spiritually."
According to coauthors Johnson and VanVonderen, spiritual
abuse is a very real phenomenon, occurring more and more in mainline churches; it is not
isolated to cultic groups or off-beat religious sects. To authenticate their claim, the
authors refer to the Bible's presentation of two opposing spiritual systems: "One
that is under the reign of God, intending to bring life and freedom to people; one that is
a false spiritual system under the rule of man, attempting to drive people so that they
perform in religious or pseudospiritual ways." References are provided from both the
Old and New Testaments of the Bible in which specific forms of abusive spiritual systems
A well-written book on the dynamics perpetuating a
spiritually abusive system, it is punctuated with a variety of real-life experiences,
easy-to-understand analogies, and powerful relevant messages from the Bible. Providing
comprehensive examination and exposure of the dilemma, the book is divided into three
integral parts: "Spiritual Abuse and Its Victims," "Abusive Leaders and Why
They Are Trapped," and "Post-Abuse Recovery." Within these sections, the
various issues are dissected into understandable components, and victims are given insight
into the psyche and modus operandi of an abusive leader.
Once the factors involved in spiritual abuse are
presented and discussed, along with possible explanations, guidelines are provided for
avoiding future spiritual traps. The importance of refocusing on the truth about God and
His "good news" is emphasized. The book concludes with a discussion of the
"fight/flight" syndrome for those currently in a spiritually abusive situation
who are trying to determine what action to take.
As one who has personally experienced the trauma of
spiritual abuse, I applaud Johnson and VanVonderen for their outstanding presentation of a
topic about which too little has been written. The authors reveal an obvious understanding
of the problem; and, more important, they are attempting to do something about it by
making others aware of its reality and shocking prevalence.
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
offers a Biblical perspective for Christians who have been hurt, and provides critical
understanding for secular helping professionals (and laypersons) who might otherwise have
difficulty understanding the plight of a victim of spiritual abuse.
Publisher, Editor, Savannah Parent
Purchase from Barnes and Noble: Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse