Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part One – Past Articles (2012-2016) on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part One: Past Articles (2012-2016)

on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities


I have been blogging since 2003, and in 2007 I began addressing surviving spiritual abuse – mostly from the perspective of investigative research writing on malignant leadership and toxic systems. I’ve written a dozen or so case studies on spiritually abusive situations, scattered across the spectrum of theologies and organizational forms. So I’m not a newbie to blogging or survivor blogging, or to many issues of conflict that arise.

One of the most recent relates to a so-called “crisis of authority” (especially for women who post their views online) and “beware of broken wolves.”

Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere? (The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.) by Tish Harrison Warren, via Christianity Today. See also her response to critics, posted on her blog: New CT Piece on Authority in the Church and Social Media: A Response to Critics.

Beware of Broken Wolves, by Joe Carter, via The Gospel Coalition.

The fast and furious interchanges sparked by these posts brought up some reflections on survivor blogging. So, I decided it was time to add these to my occasional series that I started in 2012 on trends in spiritual abuse survivor communities. Here’s the plan:

  • Part 1: Past Articles on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2012-2016)
  • Part 2: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs
  • Part 3: Positive Trends and Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Final thoughts in introducing this year’s trends: I hope I am known as a reasonable researcher on abusive systems, and also as a relatively fair-minded critic of our own survivor communities. I’m sure not everything I write goes down well in both of those circles, but I see my role as calling people to consider the larger picture of the organizational cultures we create and ways we misuse power in them. The squishy business of identifying and tracking trends, and giving reasoned speculation to where their trajectories may lead, is part of that role. Before I launch into what I think I see unfolding in 2017, here is the series of articles on trends that I’ve posted in the past five years, to bring you up to date.

Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2012-2016)

Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month: Emerging Issues, 2012. For a few years now, January has been designated as “Spiritual Abuse Awareness” month. So, I wanted to post a list of “barometer” readings of recent events in the “spiritual abuse survivors’ community,” plus suggest emerging issues that help us identify indications of change in the cultural atmosphere on issues of spiritual abuse. This post considers changes to the number of support and resource networks for survivors of spiritual abuse. It also looks at four emerging issues of note:

  1. De-Churched Christians.
  2. No virtual pass for abusive actions by leaders.
  3. More “citizen journalist” reports with detailed documentation of alleged spiritual abuse.
  4. Expanding the concept of accountability to “system partners” that enable abusive behavior by celebrity Christians.

“Hangover Unholiness” Left by Malignant Ministers: Spiritual Abuse Recovery Questions for 2013. I’ve been blogging on spiritual abuse the past five years, mostly on analyzing dynamics of “malignant ministers,” spiritually abusive organizational structures, and toxic cultures they create. Some of my writing has been on personal recovery issues, and it seems some new dimensions on this topic are on line for me to explore this year. Much of my practical synthesis of materials comes out of questions raised by personal experiences, and this year’s writings incorporate those, plus what I’ve been learning from the experiences of others.

For 2013, it seems my focus may be shifting to writing about organizational and systemic questions dealing with the aftermath of years of intact cultures of toxicity, and how to dismantle them – if they can even be salvaged. And what unique issues will be faced by multiple generations when they have been immersed in these abusive environments of faulty doctrines (e.g., authoritarianism, patriarchalism, legalism, perfectionism), and the organizational structures that institutionalized those anti-biblical rules?

Spiritual Abuse Survivors: The “Community” Becomes a ”Movement.” If you read my post on ““Hangover Unholiness” Left by Malignant Ministers: Spiritual Abuse Recovery Questions for 2013,” you may not have caught the comment that came in from my friend Linda of Kingdomgrace. She’s been a pioneer blogger in the spiritual abuse survivors community, and I appreciate her big-picture perspective on healing for individuals and how this works out in systems. Here’s what she said: “Brad, Really good questions. It seems detox has mostly been addressed at the personal level. You are doing important work identifying systemic issues at the organizational level. I think there is also a social-cultural aspect of detox that exists beyond the organization having to do with social identity, relationships, group think, etc. Your questions reminded me of how complex this issue is and how comprehensive approaches to healing must be.” My reply covers some things I’ve been thinking about for a while on the impact of toxic systems dynamics, and I felt it was important enough to highlight in a follow-up post to the one on “Hangover Unholiness.”

Trends, Turning Points, and Tipping Points in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2014). Part 1: Setting the Stage. Part 1 introduces the overall framework I use for analyzing developments in abuse survivor communities:

  1. Trends – general patterns in beliefs, actions, and consequences.
  2. Turning points – noticeable course corrections for the better, or changes for the worse.
  3. Tipping points – passing the threshold for sustaining a trajectory in the long run.

Part 2: New Observations, Analysis, Interpretations. Part 2 shares a series of specifics in those three categories.

  1. Trends – survivors from different types of abuse connecting; and public apologies by people culpable for or complicit in abuse.
  2. Turning points – wiser crowd-sourcing of information; getting better at navigating legal issues involved in confronting abuse; and increased emphasis on prevention practices and starting healthier systems.
  3. Tipping points – interpreting from a systems mindset.

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities ~ 10 Trend Projections and Predictions for 2016-2020. [2016]. These trends and related predictions are in no particular order other than in when they came to mind.

  1. Four core false doctrines [word of faith, health-and-wealth/prosperity gospel, shepherding movement, Eternal Subordination of the Son], and three core toxic systems [authoritarianism, monetarism, patriarchalism].
  2. Networking is moving toward more collaborative action.
  3. Increased calling out of abusers plus their commenders, defenders, and enablers.
  4. Implosion of the Southern Baptist Convention and other ministry associations.
  5. Lawsuits against allegedly abusive religious non-profit boards, staffs, and membership.
  6. Child abuse prevention training.
  7. Organizational evaluation and certification for preventing spiritual abuse.
  8. IRS regulations and investigations on religious non-profits will change.
  9. Abuse survivor specialists in academic, practitioner, and ministry fields.
  10. Advances in trauma psychology and research.

NEXT POST: Part 2: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs.


5 thoughts on “Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part One – Past Articles (2012-2016) on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities

    • Perhaps it isn’t/won’t happen, Seneca. On the other hand, sometimes when a group sets out to “purify” the ranks and succeeds, it resets a trajectory that is difficult to shift. That is my impression of what the conservative movement within the SBC did in the 1980s, in pushing out moderates. And now it seems that Neo-Calvinists are taking over by intention and/or attrition. Militant separationalism doesn’t bode well for future sustainability. So, just something to be watching for.

      An intriguing historical case study with enough parallels to be relevant could be the history of the Plymouth Brethren movement, where what I see as militancy in orthodoxy/purity quickly split what had been an amazing movement of the Spirit among those from Church of England and other backgrounds.

  1. Fascinating, Brad, thank you! I hope to also see a trend of cooperation and inter-disciplinary sharing between Christian counseling and non-Christian counseling, in regards to cult recovery strategies. I wonder if there is a degree of distrust between the two, and therefore a failure to collaborate. Also, at an ICSA conference (in ’15) I gained the impression that there are less cult-recovery specialists, and fewer counseling students pursuing that specialty for practice. The future of cult/abusive church recovery care seems a bit unclear now, so I’m excited to see how it all shakes out! Thanks, again!

    • Yes, the cooperation that has emerged there is intriguing. I believe there is a general movement toward finding common ground for the common good, so it could be that unexpected — and uneasy — alliances will form in particular arenas because we cannot afford not to connect.

      As best I can figure out, the roots of both sides of cult recovery could be traced back to early work of Robert Jay Lifton and others in trauma psychology and social control tactics of “totalist psychology” societies. Some of the unease could be about “cult” having been used by Christians with the term heavily weighted with theological connotations, while it seems to me that Dr. Lifton was specifying it in sociological forms.

      I don’t have much knowledge about pursuit of specializations in cult recovery, but the behind-the-scenes connections of survivor bloggers and those in violence/abuse recovery ministry at least seems to be leading to wider knowledge of advanced research. For at least five years, I’ve probably had at least one person a year contact me about academic-level research on aspects of abuse, systemic abuse, recovery, etc., for their master’s or doctorate work.

      Also, there seems to be more cross-disciplinary/cross-issue awareness of research, and looking to figure out its relevance for related fields. Such as meta-analysis of statistical research done on false reports of sexual assault on college campuses, which compiled studies from multiple colleges/universities on three continents to produce a range of figures (2%-8%, if I remember correctly — will edit that later if need be). If that’s the statistically significant finding of that kind of analysis for false reports of sexual assault, what potential relevance does that have for false reports of spiritual abuse, domestic violence, etc. — where victims are sometimes silenced by implying their accusations are false.

      Anyway, much to keep watching for …

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