GoFundMe Campaign and Great News on Project Progress!

GREAT NEWS — hopefully I have just one last blast before I reach the finish line on volumes #1 and #2 of my 3-volume training curriculum!

Thankfully, it’s been a very productive last couple of weeks. I got my promotional website launched for this Futuristguy’s Field Guides curriculum project. I’ve also planned out the related media pages for movies, books, and other media I use as illustrations and workbook exercises. (I’ll finish those while the books are being proofread.) And I’ve gotten dozens of pages of notes typed up and ready to paste into place.

Plus, I finally got the majority of outlining on the workbooks done for all three volumes. This was a crucial step, because the many workbook sections need to feel connected. And I recently got some great constructive questions and positive feedback from the kinds of people I hope will use this material. That shows me I’m on the right track, and I’m feeling more settled than ever on the approach of tackling both what TO do, and what NOT to do in existing organizations and start-ups to deal with abuse or prevent it.

So, looks pretty much like a straight and steady drive from here! To which I say, “Huzzah! Hoorah! Hooray!”

I could even be done with volume #1 in a few weeks, and with volume #2 in a few months, and then ready for press soon after that. That’s because some financial support has come in, thanks to my friend Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch. She set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover 3 months of writing time and the pre-printing expenses for these first two volumes. (It’s about $1,000 for ISBNs, licenses for about 300 images and cover art, etc.) She and Julie Anne Smith from Spiritual Sounding Board are promoting it on their blogs. You might find their posts, my completion plans, and other people’s comments of interest. Here are the links to The Wartburg Watch post, and the Spiritual Sounding Board post.

If you feel led to help out financially and/or pray, great! If not or you can’t, no worries. So many of you have given in various ways along the way — please know I’m grateful for your encouragement, prayers, and supportiveness. This turned out to be a 7-year project, and I know I wouldn’t be this close to done with it, without my network of friends. Biggest prayer needs for next few months are: perseverance, not getting sick, and funds to get finished.

So — there it is. Hope that my next report can be that book #1 is d-o-n-e DONE!

~ Brad

Tributes for Two Teachers ~ Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2015

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years, I’ve come to see how similar many of the underlying dynamics and tactics are between domestic violence and abuse of power in religious contexts – the grooming, verbal assaults, emotional manipulations, implanting of lies, quenching of hope.

My awareness about survivors of domestic violence began earlier than my understanding of spiritual abuse. It started 40 years ago with what I learned from my sister, Romae [pronounced like row + MAY], who had friends who were survivors of domestic violence. She stepped into roles of support, advocacy, and activism, and taught me all along the way.

Then, 10 years later, I helped “Janet” – one of my own friends who was a survivor – edit the story of her experiences. I recently got in touch with Janet, to thank her for making a difference in my life by sharing her story with me.

Both my sister and Janet brought light into dark places to the people around them. Their role-modeling of advocacy and activism helped me learn how to come alongside those who were lurking in the shadows, or emerging from them, and offer them whatever support I could. In honor of Romae and Janet, I decided to share two short pieces I’d written. Part of the tribute to my sister is from the obituary I wrote for her memorial service. The piece about Janet I edited from a comment I posted earlier this year on David Hayward’s post about “Abuse and the Privileges of Power.” Continue reading

Check Out My “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” Curriculum Website

Do Good Plus Do No Harm Masthead 2

Do Good Plus Do No Harm ~ Cover art, “Pathway of Peace” ~ Original quilt design and production by Sonja Naylor Andrews, image used by permission.

It took a while, but I completed the website that details my forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guide training series, and overviews future Opal Design System resources. I had to finish editing samples from the curriculum, and upload the many images that illustrate the material. But, I’m delighted with the results, especially the images and the samples!

“Laundry Day” and Mental Models is one of my favorite sample articles … and I’m liking how the media case study “Master Class” on Dolores Umbridge turned out.

The three books in the training curriculum of Do Good Plus Do No Harm have been in the making since 2009, and if all goes well, at least the first two volumes will be available in 2016.

Check it out and see what you think …


If I Could Only Have 25 Books in My Ministry Library …

A friend of mine was interested in my take on a recent post by Thom Rainer, What If I Could Only Have 25 books in My Minister’s Library? I compiled my list and short descriptions of reasons for each of my selections before I looked at his list, to see how they compared.

Like Mr. Rainer, my list encompasses a range of topics and issues, and reflects my personal preferences. However, his list was what I suspected it would be: 25 books for a scholarly theologian. I guess that is how he interprets being a “minister” – some who emphasizes academic studies, exegetical research, and preaching/teaching. Certainly, there’s a role for a resource list like his. However, there was very little on his list that was directly about praxeology – practical ministry frameworks and methods – just a few titles on evangelism and church. And while his theological studies may “minister” biblical answers to people, it doesn’t seem to me it does much for the apprehension of people’s personal and social questions first, if at all.

I consider myself a ministry practitioner. I’ve been involved primarily with recovery ministries, social enterprise and church start-ups, and advocacy for survivors of spiritual abuse. So, I’m more interested in making sure I listen carefully and “get it” about actual questions, and then search the Bible for concept frameworks and practical applications as answers. My experience is that answers not matched to questions tend not to connect for people, but can pressure them to conform for wrong reasons. Also, I’ve found in my research on toxic systems and spiritual abuse that if you have supposedly sound theology but have a deficient praxeology, you tend not to be a minister who empowers hope, but end up a malignancy waiting to happen. So, I start with questions to explore, not answers to impose. My list intuitively leaned toward cultural systems and their specific underlying worldview paradigms, where Mr. Rainer’s understandably leaned toward systematic theology and books on specialist disciplines.

That said, maybe my strategy for choosing these books is more important than the final selections. In my opinion, robust ministries call for us to be generalists, conversant in multiple domains and disciplines, so we have raw materials from which to synthesize trustworthy ministries. Continue reading

Set-Ups for Being Picked Off by Authoritarian Leaders – Part 2: Dynamics of Fatherlessness and Susceptibility to Substitutes

Part 2: Fatherlessness and the Longing for Connection and Affirmation

In an earlier post, I mentioned as a key vulnerability point “Fatherlessness that leaves ‘holes in the soul’ and a longing for connection with a father figure — which a charismatic authoritarian man will gladly step in to act as and act out as. I suspect the dynamics here often lead to learned passivity, learned helplessness, learned devaluation of personal worth — and a false elevation of authority systems, masculinity, and patriarchy.”

About three years ago, I commented on the history of various men’s movements when TWW posted an article on the movie *Courageous* and the “Resolution for Men” that was being promoted with it. See: Comment 1 on general background about men’s movements over the past 50 years, Comment 2 on Promise Keepers and Christian publishing during that era, Comment 3 on core issues in gender roles, and Comment 4 on some specific streams in the secular men’s movement of the 1980s and ’90s.

Because I was involved with recovery ministries for men starting back in the mid-1980s, I read many of the secular books dealing with men’s issues. (It would still be 5+ years until Promise Keepers started, and with it, the floodgates of Christian publishing on materials for men opened … with just as much debris in that flood as life rafts.)

Poet and storyteller Robert Bly was one of the more popular writers for men in the 1980s and early ’90s. His book Iron John was a bestseller, but I found his follow-up book on The Sibling Society even more helpful on the historical roots of the mess that men often found themselves in. In it, he addressed issues of fatherlessness and the imprint of generational dynamics left on Boomer men by fathers who came of age during the Depression and World War 2, and who came home as fathers who were typically physically present but emotionally absent.

The key idea in The Sibling Society is that when the older generations are not people that younger generations want to emulate, then the younger ones create connections with their peers as the influential “others” in their life. This action cuts them off from those who could/should call them forth into being adults, which in turn sets them up to extend adolescence and delay maturity. (It can also lead to “Lord of the Flies” type situations where influence by dominant peers leads others into conformity and, ultimately, evil.)

As it turns out, Robert Bly had written the foreword to a revised and updated edition of the monumental research work by Alexander Mitscherlich: Society without the Father: A Contribution to Social Psychology. (If I remember right, this was originally published in the early 1960s in German — my copy is currently hiding in a box somewhere.) Mitscherlich had studied the fallout of the Industrial Revolution, where fathers increasingly abandoned the home, and especially the specific dynamics of what happened in his native Germany after the loss of so many men during two world wars. What had happened to the children of the WW2 years, when a generation of fathers and grandfathers in families — and in society — did not return home? Continue reading

Set-Ups for Being Picked Off by Authoritarian Leaders – Part 1: Susceptibilities to Seduction by Those with No Conscience


There has been an ongoing discussion about Douglas Wilson, about specific situations where there are allegations of abuse of authority, and about his leadership of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). Since I lived in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho, during the beginnings of what turned into CREC, I have been watching this current situation unfold and reflecting on its roots. For my observations and opinions on the history of ministries in these two towns, see these links on The Wartburg Watch: Comment 1, Comment 2, Comment 3, Comment 4. (There are other comments I made related to certain types of Reformed theology and Reconstructionism. To find them, search the comments section of this post for “brad/futuristguy.”)

The following comment is one I posted in response to mirele, who talked about the seductive nature of Mr. Wilson’s system. My general thoughts on what makes us susceptible to seduction by those with no conscience are here in Part 1. In Part 2, I focus in on some aspects of “fatherlessness” that makes us particularly vulnerable to authoritarian men with charisma who provide precise answers to our questions and presence to meet our father-longing. Continue reading

Building Blocks in a Certification System for Healthy Leaders and Holistic Organizations – Part 4

Leadership Certification Checkpoints

and System Trustworthiness Checklist

I’ve been having conversations with researchers and writers about spiritual abuse since the mid-2000 decade. Since at least early in the 2010 decade, we’ve increasingly talked about creating some kind of evaluation or certification process that identifies (1) issues of power abuse by leaders and (2) toxic practices in organizations. We see this as necessary because so many training programs and “meta-organizations” – like church denominations, professional networks, and informal associations – don’t always have mechanisms in place for such processes. Resources to fill that need seem a natural byproduct of the Do Good Plus Do No Harm curriculum I’ve been developing. Some of these tools will come into play in it, while others will have to wait for time and teamwork to get them produced. Continue reading