In the first part of this series, Brittany defines spiritual abuse and gives an account of her experiences.Support the show
Hey everyone. Welcome back to the you're not finished podcast. My name is Brittany Franklin and I'm the host of this podcast. And today I will be talking about what spiritual abuse is, my experience with it , and the effects of spiritual abuse on mental health, because there's so much to touch on. There will be an additional episode on this topic. This is actually in some ways, still an extremely triggering topic for me. Um, so please bear with me as I share everything that I'm going to share today. And by the way, if this topic is triggering for you, please refrain from listening or continue to do so with caution also, just so you know, there will be instances in which I briefly mentioned sexual abuse and misconduct. I want to go over quickly. What spiritual abuse means. An article on Christianity today, references a book called escaping the maze of spiritual abuse, creating healthy Christian cultures, which defines spiritual abuse as a form of emotional and psychological abuse. It is characterized by a systematic pattern of courses and controlling behavior. In a religious context, spiritual abuse can have a deeply damaging impact on those who experience it. This abuse may include manipulation and exploitation, forced accountability, censorship of decision-making requirements for secrecy and silence coercion to conform, inability to ask questions control through the use of sacred texts or teaching requirement of obedience to their abuser. The suggestion that the abuser has a divine position isolation as a means of punishment and superiority and elite ism . I know abuse occurs in many different religious settings, but for the purpose of this podcast and due to my lack of experience, in and knowledge of other religions, I will be talking about how this occurs in the Christian environment. So over the last few years, there have been many instances and details of spiritual abuse, misconduct, and violations that are come to light, including people sharing their experiences of abuse, bullying, and massage money on Twitter with the emerging church to hashtag in 2017, which has continued to this day, the sexual abuse and misconduct of Christian author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias the well at rise and fall of Mars hill church. The withholding of information of COVID cases and death amongst well-known leader, John MacArthur's church, and many other leaders using the Bible to justify oppression, racism, sexism, and many other injustices. I mean, the list goes on. And if you're unsure about who any of these people I mentioned are, or about any of these cases, then you're probably better off, but Google was there for you. If you need some additional background on them. Anyway, the abuse I experienced has kept me isolated and weighed me down significantly to say the least for the last few years. And it's only over the past few months that due to reconnecting with God therapy and unlearning oppressive and Iranian theology, that I've actually begun to feel much healthier. I had initially stated to my abuser, former boss, whatever you want to call them, that I would never speak publicly about what happened in 2017 is when he 18, while I was on staff for the Christian organization that they lead. However, the only person that that really benefits is that person and even my refusal to name the organization. Now, as I talk about what happened aids and allowing them to continue to be absolved of any responsibility they have and how myself and others were treated there, if I'm being honest, because I believe his organization is well-protected well followed and supported. So well, I don't think this leader will ever be held accountable until they actually meet God. And I'll elaborate more on that later on. Now, before anyone thinks about Matthew 18, 15, which talks about first going to someone privately with an offense and then taking the offense to the offender with two or more witnesses in the event, they don't listen the prior time. Please understand that there have been multiple conversations with this leader privately and in the presence of others via email, text by phone and in person to attempt to come to a resolution to the issues I'm about to address my purpose in speaking up now is to help others see the signs of a spiritually abusive environment and to encourage people to seek and pursue healing and freedom. So in January of 2017, I began to work as a staff member for a Christian organization as the administrative assistant . So the leader prior to me being hired, God had already revealed to me that I was going to be so, but as the person who was responsible for the worship administration, that responsibility and many others came a couple of months later. Now that I think about it though, there really wasn't a point in giving me a set position. If I was expected to do pretty much almost everything you could possibly do at that organization. But I digress the first couple of months on the job were pretty normal. He had semi awkward considering that we had to get to know each other a little bit more and figure out each other's working styles. I knew that there were issues prior to me being hired, but it was my understanding that at the time that these things could be and should be and would be properly addressed since we were all Christians, I trusted that there was a standard of repentance and reconciliation during the time that I worked there, which was a year and a half just about, and keep in mind, I'm giving you a brief account of what happened. I experienced controlling and manipulative behavior being micromanaged, sexually inappropriate conduct, including unwanted touches. And this wasn't from anyone on staff. I want to make that clear, but this was from a female guest who had very recently prior to that being a victim of trafficking and stayed on the premises for over eight hours without professional and mental health care. And I also experienced late payment of paychecks due to either lack of funds or miss handling of funds. If not both. Now, before I go any further, I just have to say this to whoever it applies to in ministry, especially if you do not have the resources to help someone who has been trafficked or is struggling with addiction, mental illness, mood disorder, or lack of any kind, please do not be like this organization and try to handle it yourself, delegate responsibility to untrained or uninformed staff members, or wait an extended period of time to help them. It is an extreme disservice to those in need the staff of your organization. And honestly, to yourself, I'm not sure that a lot of people have experienced what I just shared in regards to the trafficking victim. And I hope to God, no one does, but please leaders for the love of God care properly for the people that God has entrusted you with, even if that means you lead them away from your organization. And just so you know , um, after this event, we did have a couple of meetings to talk about what transpire there was a lot that went on that day. Um, but in spite of what happened and in spite of the effects that it had on the people that were involved, there wasn't much that was done. There was no protocol in play as far as what happens in the event that someone who is trafficked comes to the organization , um, nothing really changed. I even expressed to them that I didn't feel safe in that environment. Um, and their resolve was to just move me to the next building over, but that didn't last very long because being part of that organization required participation in both buildings. So I couldn't really escape my surroundings and there were no protections put in place for me or anyone else who could potentially experience that. Anyway, most of these offenses are documented via text or email, and all of these texts or emails are probably never going to see the light of day. And again, I will explain why that is the case later on, but it seems that in their minds, at least at the time, I'm not really sure what they're doing now, but in their minds, being on staff at this place, wasn't just a job or a ministry. And that isn't to diminish anyone's vocation or calling and ministry. But being on staff of this organization was a lifestyle you had to commit so much time to this place. I found myself conforming to a style of worship and prophecy that I wasn't purposed or created to do. And in a few ways is actually erroneous in early 2018. I wrote an email to this leader and the second in command outlining specific instances of abusive behavior. And yes, I used the word abuse and I stated my desire to get a decrease my involvement significantly or resign my position in an in-person meeting with both leaders. Following this email, I was convinced to apologized for calling this leader's actions, abuse, and rescind my resignation, the leader apologized for the way I felt, which we all know is not a real apology, or if you don't know that you know that now, but let me make that clear. If anyone ever apologizes that you feel a certain way that is not an apology or taking accountability. Anyway, I finally discontinued all involvement with this organization mid 2018. I had another interaction with this leader via email in 2019, initially in an attempt to meet in person reconcile and returned to leading worship on weekends for a specific ministry. However, it was made aware to me that something I posted on Facebook regarding an event that the mega church or movement, I guess I could say that this organization stems from caused them concern instead of bringing their concerns directly to me, which they could have easily done. They had my phone number, they had my email address and apparently they were still friends with me on Facebook. They decided to bring it to a friend of mine and accused me of wrongdoing. That posting question was me commending, a leader who had publicly repented of an ongoing sand that they struggled with. I deleted the post in an effort to show no reason for pause and to make peace, but also have screenshots of the posts and the email conversation that followed as proof that this was really an attempt to control what I speak about this organization and all its affiliates, and have what I say used against me after confronting this leader directly, it was clear to me that this person's leadership style had not changed. And I removed myself from the equation. Again, all of this might lead you to ask why I'm not going to name this organization or go into further detail about what happened during that time. For starters, there are way too many details and instances to speak about, and I'm still working through to depression, anxiety, and PTSD that have occurred as a result of my experiences there. I don't want to re-traumatize myself or anyone else. And so I'm being very wise about what I express and what I don't. For two , I'm still connected with people who remain involved in this organization in one way or another, which leads me to my third reason. These people who I'm connected to in varying degrees know what happened yet, still remain connected to this organization. This is the main reason why in my mind, there's no point in revealing which organization this is. And if I'm wrong about this, I would love to hear the perspective of those who are listening, but in my mind, my own friends and acquaintances show by their affiliation to his organization, that what I experienced is something that I need to handle on my own. I'm not saying they haven't been supportive friends in many ways because they have, but encouragement to forgive and forget as well as continued involvement with this organization does make me feel uncomfortable at the same time though. I know that they are well within the right to continue being involved. And because of that, I don't make an effort to dissuade them from doing so. I just make my movements accordingly. I also want to point out that I commend those who have bravely named organizations, churches, and abusers without, or in spite of their fear. To be honest, I just don't have that bravery right now. Now that I think about it, I think most Christians may just simply not know how to respond to people who have experienced abuse or misconduct in the church due to those actions being justified by the Bible or weird theology that has ruined the foundation of what Christianity is supposed to be. It's like some abusive behaviors have just been considered norms in the spiritual world or necessarily suffering for the sake of saving souls or advancing the kingdom or whatever other reason people like to give. I'm not saying that that's okay. I'm just saying that's what it has been another reason for not naming the organization that I just thought about is I have witnessed firsthand others being demonized for walking away from this organization or the roles and impact of former employees and volunteers being minimized after they left. Especially if they might've had an issue with a leader or practices of this organization. I liken this to the time that I was sexually assaulted. And I'm sure that some of you can resonate with this feeling, but it's the same belief of feeling like you will not be believed because of who people perceive you to be because of this. I didn't reveal that I was assaulted until years later, either. I think if I would have shared this experience earlier, I would have done so out of anger or deep hurt, and maybe even hoping for avenge , but as weird as this sounds recalling this experience after having therapy and having a different perspective of it being removed from the situation, I actually felt bad for these leaders in a way. I mean, they were clearly very broken individuals. And in spite of the severity of these actions, I actually don't think that they were being malicious. Now that doesn't make any of this okay. Or absolve them from any responsibility, they are still dead wrong, but I just hope that they, and the people who enable them get the help and revelation that they need in order to either be a better leader or just remove themselves from leadership altogether. If that's what it takes, you also might ask why or how I'm. So Christian, after hearing this brief account of my experience to that, I would say my belief in God existed and was cemented for the most part before I stepped foot in this organization. Sure. I have doubts and I get angry. I God, but I can't deny my experiences of, and with him, although it could be stronger. I can't deny my belief in his word. I can't attribute the actions of unrepentant or unapologetic people to a God that is perfect for every abuse at the hands of people that I've experienced there's healing. And for every lie that I've been told by men and women about what it means to be a Christian there's God given truth. And for every instance of oppression, there's justice. I have more hope in that now than I ever have. And I'm throwing the entire Lord away for anybody also on a practical note therapy is just great. Okay. I really recommend like, please go to therapy if you have the ability to do so , um, and find the right therapist for you, because that really helps. So on that note, I'm actually going to end things here for today and talk about signs of a spiritually abusive organization and the effects of spiritual abuse on mental health in the next episode. But if you need additional resources for mental health addiction and suicide had over to , you're not finished.com and click the get help section. If you want to share your story or journey as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder to be shared publicly or anonymously on the Y and F website, shoot me an email to you're not email@example.com and make sure to follow me on Twitter at Y in finished and on Instagram at Y and F cast to stay up to date on latest episodes and for encouraging content. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you again next time. Bye.