Because I write regularly on topics of malignant leaders and toxic organizations, sometimes spiritual abuse survivors ask me for help related to their story of experiencing misuse of power by people in ministry. I’m not often able to do that, but occasionally I know I must. And The Voices of Redlands book, video, and website put together by Ryan Ashton, John Baldwin, and their friends was one of those situations. Months ago, I reviewed next-to-final versions of their book. I had a few conversations with Ryan about the purposes of the project and offered feedback on their evidence and analysis.
Today they launched their RedlandsBook website and made their project public. I’ve just watched the seven-minute video of Ryan’s testimony on Facebook, skimmed through the final PDF edition of The Voices of Redlands book they posted, and took a look at their initial website. I would commend this set of materials to you as an important, in-depth case to study. It shows, not just tells, what it feels like to be embroiled in the midst of abuse, what it means to stand up for others as their advocate, how to push back on control as an activist, and ways to support a community that is confused and suffering. Besides being a call to action in their local situation, these all provide tremendous practical resources for anyone thinking through the damaging dynamics of abuse, silencing of victims, and spinning the story.
They have well documented the situation in Redlands, California, with first-person accounts, factual evidence from other sources, theological insights, and helpful analysis about how spiritual abuse happens. I believe they’ve made the case that there are serious problems in both doctrine and authoritarian influence afoot in Redlands, and that such abuses can’t be corrected by ignoring, deflecting, or defending them.
They did not put this together hastily – it took three years for them to get to this point, with many attempts to challenge alleged abuse and seek reconciliation along the way. Sadly, the situation remains unresolved and so they have gone public in order to warn others.
So, as you listen to Ryan and read from John and others about what happened, I hope you will hear their hearts in seeking to protect the Church and restore relationships, however imperfect their efforts and others’ reactions to them. I appreciate Ryan, John, and their friends risking what it takes to shine the spotlight into the dark. In my opinion, they have been careful, self-critical, and conciliatory – and this makes them role models for making a difference in the face of surviving abuse.
Please take time to consider their work, and reflect on their efforts to bring truth, justice, and hope into what looks to be a severely abusive situation.
[Edited slightly to expand text.]