Tag Archive | cults

Checklist: 55 Attributes of a Spiritually Abusive Leader

To recognize a spiritually abusive leader, first we have to define spiritual abuse. Jeff VanVonderen, co-author of the classic book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, defines spiritual abuse like this: “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority–the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s […]

Frankenstein Faith: Misuse of the Old Testament (Part 5 of 10)

In the late 1990s I attended a running camp for two summers in the mountains of New Hampshire. The camp had a lake, cabins, and was surrounded by thick piney woods. Built into a natural plateau was a field. We used it for ice breakers, cabin competitions, and Ultimate Frisbee. Trees ringed the field. The […]

Review of “A Journey to Waco: Autobiography of a Branch Davidian”

A Journey to Waco: Autobiography of a Branch Davidian by Clive Doyle with Catherine Wessinger and Matthew Wittmer. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. 298 pp. On February 28, 1993, ATF agents raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. The Davidians had separated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1955. This particular group lived communally […]

Does the Church of Wells Teach a False Gospel?

Over the past several months, the Church of Wells in Wells, Texas has received national media attention, most recently by the ABC show Nightline Prime with Dan Harris, which aired on 4/5/14. Background Concern about the group first rose to prominence when the church allowed a baby to die in the summer of 2012 rather […]

Rethinking Matthew 18 – Gossip Control and the “Can’t Talk” Rule

Editor’s note: This is a re-post from Dr. Stephen Crosby’s blog, “Sword of the Kingdom.” This article about the “Can’t Talk” rule explains how authoritarian church leaders misuse the church discipline process in Matthew 18 to stifle dissent. It is an excellent article, used by permission. For my related post on “Church Leaders and the […]

The Lion Makers: Fred Phelps and the Outcome of Cult Leaders

In India, there were four Brahmans who set out on a journey. Three of them were highly educated but had little common sense. The fourth had little education but good sense. As they journeyed through a field, the first Brahman said to the second and third, “Through our own efforts and hard work we have […]

How to Deal with Personality Disorders among Church Leaders (Part 5 of 5)

I am not a clinician and this is not a prescription. This is my attempt to start a conversation which is long overdue. I welcome the input of Christian brothers and sisters whose education and experience better fit them to tackle this topic. Thankfully, you don’t need a psychology degree to start to construct a […]

Personality Disorders in the Church: Paranoid Personality Disorder (Part 4 of 5)

In my research on cults—and in my own experience as a former cult member—I have learned that many cult leaders evidence traits of undiagnosed personality disorders. What is a personality disorder? According to the Mayo Clinic: “A personality disorder is a type of mental illness in which you have trouble perceiving and relating to situations […]

“The Other Half of My Brain is My Grandmother”: Why Christians Must Learn to Think

I grew up in a Bible cult full of intelligent, sincere people. Many were college graduates. But when it came to studying the Bible, for the most part we rolled over and accepted whatever our pastor said. He was a Princeton grad and had attended seminary. He knew Greek and Hebrew. He had a commanding […]

Brother’s Keeper or Big Brother? 15 Signs of Surveillance in Your Church

We’re back to our series entitled “Frankenstein Faith” about scriptural distortions in the church and how to correct them. [You can see other posts in this series at the end of this post] In George Orwell’s famous dystopian book, 1984, the main character is ever aware of the presence of “Big Brother” looking on. In […]