04-INDEX Identifying and Dealing with Abusive Systems

This page is under construction. I am merging items and descriptions from multiple source posts, and will finalize the page structure once I’ve categorized the entries better and removed duplication.

SECTIONS ON THIS INDEX PAGE

  • NOTE: These section headings are tentative.
  • Basics of Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Historic Oppression
  • Spiritual Abuse Perpetrators and Their Enablers/Perpetuators
    • Concept Framework: Responsibility for Abuse — Culpability and Complicity
    • Qualified, UNqualified, or DISqualified: Identifying Malignant Ministers and Enablers
    • Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse ~ And Case Study of Mars Hill Church
  • Basics of Identifying Toxic Organizational Systems
    • Indicators of Power Abuse versus Safe Ministry Environments
    • Poisonous Paradigms, Principles, and Practices
  • Indicators of Healthy Individuals and Robust Institutions
  • Deconstructing Malignant Ministries and Toxic System
  • Taking Responsibility for Personal Rehabilitation / Restoration and Organizational Renovation / Remediation (Repair Work)
    • Concept Framework and Core Practices Based in Repentance and Repair
    • Abuse of Power, Plus Restitution and Redemption ~ And Case Study of Sovereign Grace Ministries
  • Larger Scales of Toxic Systems: From “Total Institutions” to “Totalist Psychology Societies”
    • Total Institutions
    • Interlocking Directories
    • Industrial Complexes
    • Sociological “Cults” and Totalist Psychology Societies
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04 Identifying and Dealing with Abusive Systems

Basics of Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Historic Oppression

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 1 (post). Systems and Systemic Abuse. Basics About Systems. Systemic Abuse. Transforming a Corrupted System – Lens #1: Repentance and Remediation. “Spotlight”: An Example of Research for Repentance and Reparations. (2017)

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 2 (post). Transforming a Corrupted System – Lens #2: Humility and Conciliation. Examples Involving Personal and/or Systemic Repentance and Remediation. Addendum: Complex Situations, Possibilities for Transformation, and the Realities of Ambivalences. (2017)

Recent events have made systemic abuse a more common term in news reports and on social media. Though we’re using the phrase more often, I’m not sure most people have more than just a vague idea of what it means. We’d benefit from a more detailed understanding of systems and systemic abuse, if we’re committed to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” So, that is where my Futuristguy’s Field Guides Training Series begins. If we’re going to talk about systemic abuse, first we have to grasp the core concept of systems. Here’s how I describe them:

Systems are a specific set of seven parts—people, principles (beliefs), practices (values and actions), partnerships, processes, products (tangible items or intangible goals), and impacts (personal, social, organizational)—that are all interconnected and function as a unit within some kind of boundaries (one organization, or an entire industry, as examples).

Systems are about how the parts in a set interconnect and make the whole more than the sum of those parts. And systemic abuse happens when people with self-serving motives or otherwise malignant intentions (1) use their power, prestige, relationships, and/or money to manipulate parts to take over the whole and (2) manipulate connections among parts to keep the whole under control.

When I talk about the people who instigate and perpetuate systemic abuse, I use terms like perpetrators, protectors, promoters, and pawns. The perpetrators benefit the most from warping a system to meet their desires. They cultivate (“condition, groom”) and enlist others to keep things going, either by providing real or perceived benefits to those who carry out their strategies. Those perks could include economic value, political-cultural-social status, and/or psychological esteem. So, basically, those who hijack a system offer their accomplices various forms of prestige and power.

Systemic abuse always includes a degree of relational manipulation to get people hooked in and keep them there, as well as deception in order to hide the truth. So, the longer that people who abuse the system hold on to power, the more their underhanded processes and procedures get fused into the working strategies and structures of the system. If these people get removed from the system or leave on their own accord, those toxic ways of doing things don’t simply disappear, because they were created to cover people’s tracks in the infrastructure.

Field Guide “Essentials” — A Series of Three-Frame Tutorials on Dealing with Systemic Abuse. This “Essentials” post has a series of three-frame tutorials, or “Threetorials,” as I have sometimes called them. In the 10 Threetorials posted, the first slide usually gives a definition of the concept framework, or a summary quote about it. The second slide usually gives some kind of visual image, chart, or graphic, plus a few details. (Note my Fotolia licensing information at the bottom of such slides.) The third slide expands on some of the most important points in the first two slides. The 10 tutorials are as follows, and they address many of the topics listed on the slide that follows them.

  • Essentials #0 – Introducing Terms: Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Societal [Historic] Oppression
  • Essentials #1 – Three Core Individual Freedoms
  • Essentials #2 – Reversing Freedoms via Restrictions
  • Essentials #3 – Taxonomy of Toxic Tactics
  • Essentials #4 – Individual Conditioning
  • Essentials #5 – Institutional Control
  • Essentials #6 – Ideological Conformity
  • Essentials #7 – “Totalist Psychology” Systems
  • Essentials #8 – Four Forms of Social Control
  • Essentials #9 – Six “S” Indicators of “Success”

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Spiritual Abuse Perpetrators and Their Enablers/Perpetuators

Pyramid of Abuse (c) 2018 Brad Sargent

Concept Framework: Responsibility for Abuse — Culpability and Complicity

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse (category). List of category posts and their descriptions and links to be added.

What levels of complicity, culpability, and responsibility do spiritual abusers and those who prop them up have, and what should we do about it? For an extensive development of these topics, see the series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse:

Pyramid of Abuse (page; original version of 2014). This long-form article starts by looking at the roles various people take in creating and maintaining a system of abuse, their degree of culpability for causing harm to others, and tactics used to keep people under control. Then it gives a framework for thinking through degrees of damage, using the metaphor of physical and spiritual maladies. This provides the backdrop to the final sections, which give a range of indictors for identifying where abusive leaders and affected groups or organizations are along the spectrum of toxicity and appropriate kinds of solutions for that level of dysfunction and disrepair. (2014)

This series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse is an excerpt from the book I’m developing as a combination “field guide” plus workbook to exploring why things go wrong in organizations, even when we want to do good, and processes to repair any damages we cause. I have broken down this extensive series into what I hope are more reasonable-length “chunks” for reading and reasoning through. Many of the posts in the series include discussion questions, word studies, visual illustrations, and/or case studies.

Note: This series is cross-listed with the category on Mars Hill Church, which includes the series on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Research Guide. That series and this one were both written at the same time, and I was sharing some of this material with survivors of alleged spiritual abuse that happened in the Mars Hill system. I believe this helped ensure the material in this series was as practical as I could make it so the how-to’s here could be cross-referenced to the ongoing and unfolding story of authoritarian control at Mars Hill.

Part 1. Questions of Culpability, Complicity, and Recovery for Spiritually Abusive Individuals and Toxic Organizations. Real-world problems in discerning what constitutes a toxic organization, who is a spiritually abusive leader, and what to do about them and others who keep a harmful system going.

Part 2A and 2B. The “Pyramid of Responsibility” in Toxic Systems. When it comes to spiritual abuse, who has higher or lower responsibility/accountability and for what – whether they are leaders preaching from the pulpit, or people sitting in the pews, or outside individuals and organizations that keep a sick system propped up? This framework is based on my own experiences of malignant ministers and ministries. I suggest a pyramid of people playing 10 different roles in creating and perpetuating a toxic system that ultimately harms people, despite any good that its leaders or members may do. The 10 roles are sorted into layers of what I believe run from greater to lesser levels of responsibility – from higher culpability on the upper layers of the continuum, to higher complicity (“accomplices”) at the lower layers.

Part 3A. Taking Responsibility, Being Conciliatory, Exploring Just and Appropriate Remedy. People ARE responsible for abuse they inflict – but TAKING responsibility for the damage done is a different matter. This section moves from questions and initial ideas of how to organize observations, to figuring out relevant biblical concepts about levels of responsibility when things turn malignant in a ministry. It reviews the “Pyramid of Responsibility” and organizational roles involving culpability and/or complicity, and overviews cultural and organizational modes of blame-shifting. It concludes with an exploration of three main attitudes it takes to make “remediation” (remedy) plans work, and how that can tie perpetrators and survivors together in a redemptive process.

Part 3B through 3H. Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan.” The rest of the series presents a five-step framework for building a comprehensive “remediation plan” in the setting of what’s become a toxic organization. It lays out four Layers to consider: personal growth and recovery, peace-making in personal relationships, qualified leadership in the organization, and how to discern whether a toxic organization should even survive.

Steps 1, 2, and 3 develop a set of questions and concept frameworks to address recovery issues both for organizations that have become toxic and for the people who control them. It begins with a few key ideas for analyzing problem situations for patterns. Then it looks at a general continuum for thinking through how healthy or sick a person is, using analogies like injury triage, hospitalization, and recuperation. It extends that health/toxicity continuum analogy to parallel situations in organizational systems.

Steps 4 and 5 set up the frameworks to apply to four specific layers in a system that needs healing – whether the healing needed by leaders and organization is relatively slight, or all the way to very substantial. Step 5 also includes a series of seven real-world case studies in ministries with toxicity problems. They are presented in order of increasing severity of relational and organizational issues to address, and with ever more likehood of a need to be shut down completely (or probability of implosion, regardless of whether the group affected wants to dismantle it or not).

ABUSIVE LEADERS

Layer 1 – How to determine the levels of personal growth and recovery needed by leaders who harm others, regardless of how gifted they are or how much they help others.

Layer 2 – How to identify what levels of peace-making are needed in personal relationships where a leader has caused damage.

AFFECTED GROUPS

Layer 3 – How to ensure individuals qualified for roles to lead the organization stay, when those disqualified should be removed, and when/if they should ever be restored to a former position.

Layer 4 – How to discern whether an organization that is toxic can be repaired, or should not even survive.

Here are links to the entire series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse (2014 version).

Pyramid of Abuse and Culpability/Complicity (page; revised version of 2018). This article gives my answer to the question, “How do authoritarian leaders and their toxic control systems get into power – regardless of whether it’s a culture of compliance, chaos, charisma, or competition – and keep it going?” It looks at the roles various people take, their degree of culpability for causing harm to others, and tactics used to keep people under control. (2018)

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Qualified, UNqualified, or DISqualified: Identifying Malignant Ministers and Enablers

Four Categories for Evaluating Leadership Qualifications and Disqualifications (post). Section #2 gives brief look at criteria in four categories: character/behavior, civil responsibilities, regulatory requirements for non-profits, and professional fiduciary duty standards. (2016)

Review of *UnLeader* by Lance Ford. This was my first-ever book review on Amazon – well over a year after I received a review copy from Lance in September 2012. I was planning to post a review that year, but other circumstances took over for a while and many things disappeared into that vortex. However, what the time-lag added to the writing of my review was the reality that for 16 months, UnLeader keeps coming back to mind as really something extraordinary. I hope what I’ve posted will give a fresh and helpful perspective on grasping the value of what Lance Ford has produced, and the gift it is to the Kingdom. I also hope you will buy a copy, read it, and be changed by the  powerful and empowering message that Lance Ford offers!

How could he ever be abusive, when he just seems so “nice”? How could he ever be abusive, when he just seems so “nice”?

How do an abuser’s authority, theology, and pathology interrelate? How do an abuser’s authority, theology, and pathology interrelate?

What about leaders who seem to have personality disorders – extremely self-centered, no conscience, no compassion? [Forthcoming.]

What sorts of roles can abuse perpetrators and their enablers take, and what are hallmarks of each role? Thoughts on Redemption in the Wake of Abuse: Agents of Damage versus Agents of Healing.

Who are “Commenders” and how do they enable spiritual abuse perpetrators? Who are “Commenders” and how do they enable spiritual abuse perpetrators?

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Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse ~ And Case Study of Mars Hill Church

A Brief Timeline for Young Leaders Network and Terra Nova Project, for Understanding Ron Wheeler’s Open Letter to Mark Driscoll. In the ongoing efforts to call Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church to account for past and present behaviors, his former colleague and protégé Ron Wheeler posted the following open letter: I. Am. Not. Anonymous. In it, Mr. Wheeler details his early history with Mr. Driscoll and mentions the Young Leaders Network, Terra Nova Project, Emergent, emerging, and New Calvinism. This post gives some historical context, focusing on a timeline of Generation X-oriented networks, terminology for ministry during that period of the mid-1990s to early 2000s, and suggest how this movement settled out into various “streams” in contemporary Christianity.

Part 1- Questions of Culpability, Complicity, and Recovery for Spiritually Abusive Individuals and Toxic Organizations. Real-world problems in discerning what constitutes a toxic organization, who is a spiritually abusive leader, and what to do about them and others who keep a harmful system going. This post includes a list of questions. Some apply generally to any individual or organization apparently engaged in spiritually abusive practices, and some deal specifically with the current situation of the leaders and institution at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

Part 2A and Part 2B – The “Pyramid of Responsibility” in Toxic Systems. When it comes to spiritual abuse, who has higher or lower responsibility/accountability and for what – whether they are leaders preaching from the pulpit, or people sitting in the pews, or outside individuals and organizations that keep a sick system propped up? This framework is based on my own experiences of malignant ministers and ministries. I suggest a pyramid of people with different roles and levels of responsibility in creating and perpetuating a toxic system that ultimately harms people, despite any good that its leaders or members may do.

Part 3 – Onlookers Aren’t Necessarily Innocent ~ Moving Toward a Theology of Complicity. This moves from questions and initial ideas of how to organize observations, to figuring out relevant biblical concepts about levels of responsibility when things turn malignant in a ministry. This is my first attempt to forge my reflections into a more coherent theological approach on moral responsibility and accountability for spiritual abuse. The issues I’ll deal with arise out of my own experiences of figuring out peace-making responsibilities I had for reconciliation and restitution as a result of involvement in several churches that turned out to be toxic. I’ll address both the culpability of those who are primarily responsible for creating sick systems, and the complicity of those who might general consider themselves nothing but bystanders and therefore without blame. But are they innocent? I’ll also talk about how I discovered hope and help in the midst of attempting to cope with the confusion, anger, and grief of realizing I’d been victimized … and also served malignant ministers as a surrogate victimizer.

There may be a Part 4 – Current Case Studies from Abuse Survivor Communities ~ Looking for Larger Patterns. Several situations have dominated the focus of spiritual abuse survivor communities the past few years, and there is far more use of “digital dissent” and online documentation to push back on people/organizations who need to be held accountable for the direct harm they inflict under a guise of righteousness. But, this has expanded to holding “Commenders” accountable for indirectly keeping abusive people and their systems propped up though endorsements, certifications, speaking engagements, publishing contracts, positive-spin media exposure, etc. What might these patterns mean for a more transparent, accountable, and responsible Church in the internet era?

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Basics of Identifying Toxic Organizational Systems

Indicators of Power Abuse versus Safe Ministry Environments

Toxicity versus Sustainability (category). List of category posts and their descriptions and links to be added.

What Makes a Ministry “Safe”? Introducing Four Core Questions of “Safe” versus “Sick” Systems (post). I have long held the opinion that it is not enough to critique what is wrong with something, if you are not interested in figuring out what is right with it and extending that, or doing something to help fix and then keep improving what is deficient. Much of my research and writing for the past seven years on futuristguy has been about evaluating problems and moving toward solutions. This article on what makes a ministry or system “safe” versus “sick” introduces four core questions to guide our thinking. (2015)

  1. Are we treating people with humanization and hospitality, or objectification and hostility?
  2. Are our leaders qualified, unqualified, or disqualified from service in a responsible public role of authority, influence, and decision-making?
  3. Are our organizations structured to dominate and control, or develop and give freedom?
  4. Are our collaborative social involvements designed for sojourners or colonizers?

What’s the main difference between sin and evil? Malignant Ministry ~ Excerpt 1: Discerning and Dismantling Systems of Spiritual Abuse. The title of this excerpt from forthcoming Opal Design Systems curriculum is, Malignant Ministry: Discerning and Dismantling Systems of Spiritual Abuse. It focuses on the essence of “malignant ministry” and some basics of identifying it. It includes a five-year-old’s view on the differences between sin and evil, and I share some thoughts on why spiritual abuse at least constitutes evil.

What do “safe” versus “abusive” environments for personal and social transformation include? What Do “Safe” Versus “Abusive” Environments for Personal and Social Transformation Include? Someone working on a research project recently asked me for my definition or description of “spiritual abuse” and how I would “measure” the levels of abuse and recovery that a person experienced. I’ll get to that task eventually, as it is part of my own research work on metrics of transformation. But, to answer my researcher friend, I realized that first I needed to figure out the contours of what makes a system conducive to either constructive growth or to harm. A quick checklist of abusive actions would be meaningless for measuring the degree of destructive impact from spiritual abuse. At the least, a workable checklist needs a reasoned and relatively comprehensive theory behind it. If we’ve developed a clear context for said checklist, that makes it possible to interpret the abusive actions, not just observe their presence. And my intuitive hunch is that a systems approach will also make measurement more possible for the overall negative impact or positive recovery from abuse.

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Poisonous Paradigms, Principles, and Practices

What’s been the trajectory of misogyny in emerging ministry? What’s been the trajectory of misogyny in emerging ministry?

Misogyny, Misandry, and Pathways of Peace (post). We get our words misogyny, misandry, and misanthropy from misos (the Greek word for “hatred”), used as a prefix to combine with an object of antipathy. Over the years, I’ve concluded that all three forms of misos are much more prevalent than we might realize, and this article looks at both the personal and social dimensions of them. (2012)

How do “cultures of consumerism” contribute to unhealthy dynamics for leaders and followers in ministries? Review of *UnLeader* by Lance Ford.

What does a comprehensive toxic “paradigm” look like? Definition and Description of the Term “Calvinistas.” I wrote the original version of the following article as a comment on a spiritual abuse survivor blog post about a controversy involving a “Calvinista” denunciation of gender parity in a particular parachurch ministry’s leadership teams. This “neo-Reformed” movement has become pervasive in the past few years, and I have already written extensively on many of the individual elements in its faith and practice. So, I expanded upon my comment and presented it here as a summary of how I define and describe this movement of “the Calvinistas,” based on my readings about individuals and organizations that have been so labeled, and my analyses of their paradigms (dominant forms of information processing, values, beliefs, organizational structures, forms of collaboration, and cultures).

What are strategies and tactics of leaders who are abusive? What are strategies and tactics of leaders who are abusive?

What is “objectification”? Spiritual Abuse Part 3C: Power Addiction is Like Porn.

How does the “mental illness” label get used in spiritual abuse? How does the “mental illness” label get used in spiritual abuse?

What is “gaslighting”? [Forthcoming.]

What is “spiritual negligence”? [Forthcoming.]

How can irresponsible endorsement of unqualified or disqualified leaders happen? Lakeland Part 3: Seven Critical Lapses in Leadership and an Appeal to Own Our Responsibilities.

What’s gone wrong with church discipline, and what does it look like to do it right? Reflections on Malignant Ministries 2: Three Additional Lessons Learned.

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Indicators of Healthy Individuals and Robust Institutions

What do relatively healthy leaders and churches look like?

Ministry Models and Measuring “Successful Impact” – Present Validity Doesn’t Ensure Future Value (post). In the debate between whether we should embrace and celebrate all kinds of ministry methodological models, I can only say “yes” to a “both/and” approach in the present. But, as a student of cultures and strategic foresight/futures, I’m not so sure this holds up in the long run. When I consider futurist factors affecting these opposite-paradigm models (like mega-church and missional) operating in the present, I have go to with “either/or.” Not all ministry models with present value have future validity. So, yes, I can celebrate them now for how the Spirit is using them in the Kingdom in the present – but no, I don’t embrace them as holding similar impact in the forthcoming and vastly different cultural future. (2011)

Building Blocks in a Certification System for Healthy Leaders and Holistic Organizations – Part 2 (post). Twenty questions about problems we encounter with leaders and organizations, divided among three categories: (1) Paradigms, perspectives, and pathways. (2) Organizational strategies and structures. (3) Peers, partnerships, and projects. (2015)

15 Indicators for Discerning Robust versus Hazardous Systems: Who and What Deserves Our Trust? (post). A brief look at nine indicators to discern healthy vs. malignant leaders, and trustworthy vs. toxic organizations. I’ve put these in categories: Credentials (education, certification, verification,), Financials (capitalization, publication, association), and Influentials (reputation, promotion, protection). The article also includes brief descriptions of six indicators of “success” in social impact, in dealing with issues of: power, people, resources, cultures, trajectories, and legacies. (2016)

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Deconstructing Malignant Ministries and Toxic Systems

Malignant Ministry ~ Excerpt 1. The title of this excerpt from forthcoming Opal Design Systems curriculum is, Malignant Ministry: Discerning and Dismantling Systems of Spiritual Abuse. It focuses on the essence of “malignant ministry” and some basics of identifying it. It includes a five-year-old’s view on the differences between sin and evil, and I share some thoughts on why spiritual abuse at least constitutes evil.

Malignant Ministry ~ Excerpt 2 ~ “Safe Houses for God’s People.” I believe all followers of Christ need to become safe people to serve those who have endured the grievous wounds of spiritual abuse (and other kinds of human frailty). Also, as teams and congregations of His disciples, we need to ensure that our churches, ministries, and activities are safe places where bullying is never tolerated. The house of God should be a safe house for discipling all people … even for repentant abusers … and we should consistently deal with any attempts at manipulation or control in the name of Christ there and, in fact, vigilantly prevent them.

Reflections on Malignant Ministries and God’s Mercies Thereafter. I spent some time over the past week thinking through a series of malignant ministries and ministers I’ve encountered in the last 40 years. It turns out that I spent 26 years in churches and ministries that turned out to be majorly abusive spiritually. I was shocked! But in looking for the redemptive edge in these experiences, I identified five patterns that I believe can offer hope and encouragement to people who’ve survived similarly devastating experiences of spiritual abuse. God was merciful in providing: (1) personal support, (2) justice, (3) validation, (4) beauty/creativity, and (5) constructive experiences to counteract the destructive ones. Hopefully we sense God’s presence with us always – even if we don’t always perceive His many acts of providence on our behalf until later …

Reflections on Malignant Ministries 2: Three Additional Lessons Learned. The past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences with various kinds of churches, ministries, and Christian non-profits. Mostly I’ve focused on situations that relate to spiritually abusive leaders and toxic organizations. But I’ve also considered relationships with other Christians where they got into or came out of “christian cults.” I won’t be going into the details here, but I did want to share the big picture of what’s happened. Keeping that big-picture perspective in mind, here are the contours of what I’ve experienced. (1) Some characteristics of cultic (and even occultic) ministries. (2) Church discipline – used too often and mostly done badly. (3) Key questions for personal reflection and ministerial responsibility (doctrine, enablers, exclusion, inhumane treatment, monocultural supremacy, power-lust, resource misappropriation).

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Taking Responsibility for Personal Rehabilitation / Restoration

and Organizational Renovation / Remediation (Repair Work)

Concept Framework and Core Practices Based in Repentance and Repair

For an extensive development of these topics, see the series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse:

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Abuse of Power, Plus Restitution and Redemption ~ And Case Study of Sovereign Grace Ministries

Thoughts on Abuse, Position, Power – and Restitution. If you’ve followed my blogging at futuristguy on WordPress, you’ll know I’ve been doing research writing on systems and dynamics of spiritual abuse and recovery for 7 years, tracking various aspects of the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) situation for a minimum of 3 years, and first blogged something about the SGM system in 2012. Spiritual abuse survivors and others who follow what happened at the SGM association of churches and civil lawsuits from it knew that a related criminal trial was scheduled for this May. The results of the first trial came in Thursday, finding Nathaniel Morales guilty on all counts. A second trial for Mr. Morales begins next week.

I find in the civil suit against SGM and related criminal cases a complex situation with many kinds of victims, perpetrators, and enablers – each category of which could use some specific messages at this time. I felt compelled to do what I could to address key issues as constructively as possible. This post is a compilation of writings posted so far. My hope is that they provide some insight into how the human systems of real people intersect the organizational systems of SGM and Covenant Life Church (CLC) in ways that caused damage – and, potentially, could bring recovery for individuals who’ve survived abuse, restitution by those who were “agents of damage,” rehabilitation of the extended SGM system (if that is even warranted, and where it is even possible) to bring health, transparency, and accountability, and restoration of  a besmirched testimony of the Church before a watching world. (This post is part of the #IStandWithSGMVictims campaign on Twitter, and #IStandWithSGMVictims campaign on Facebook.)

Thoughts on Abuse, Position, Power – and Restitution (post). This article is a compilation of writings I posted or tweeted as part of the #IStandWithSGMVictims Twitter campaign. I hoped to provide insights into issues of damage and what actions could  potentially bring relief and recovery for abuse survivors; restitution by “agents of damage”; rehabilitation of the extended Sovereign Grace Ministries system to bring health, transparency, and accountability if that were warranted and where possible; and restoration of  a besmirched testimony of the Church before a watching world. It includes sections on dynamics in systems of abuse, contrasts between restitution and revenge, and prayer points for those affected by abuse. It also includes eight suggestions on restitution, three for individuals to take personal responsibility, three for institutions to develop a safer congregation/organization, and two for “injunctions” in dealing with those who refuse their responsibility/accountability. (2014)

Thoughts on Redemption in the Wake of Abuse: Agents of Damage versus Agents of Healing. I suspect that acquiring a deep understanding of how relational dynamics works in the real world is something that takes us all a lifetime – as does our applications of those healing skills to bring Kingdom transformation on earth as it is in heaven. My journey with Jesus on that pathway to peace has unfolded in unexpected ways. But the longer I go with Him, the more spiritual sense it all makes. Here are some snapshots from my journey in learning about victimization and recovery and how it involves Agents of Damage and paradoxical parallel Agents of Healing. (This post is part of the #IStandWithSGMVictims campaign on Twitter, and the #IStandWithSGMVictims campaign on Facebook.)

What are some indicators of genuine restoration to watch for in those who have abused their ministry position, versus counterfeit repentance hiding under the garb of reinstatement to leadership? Redemption and Restoration Part 2-The Restoration of the Powerful.

What is restitution about? Thoughts on Abuse, Position, Power – and Restitution.

How can abusive systems be changed? Spiritual Abusers, Toxic Systems, and God’s “Gestalt of Grace”

How can we work toward system solutions to repair toxic organizations – insofar as possible, if they are not so corroded that they should be imploded?

How can churches become safe places for spiritual abuse survivors? Malignant Ministry ~ Excerpt 2: “Safe Houses for God’s People.”

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Larger Scales of Toxic Systems:

From “Total Institutions” to “Totalist Psychology Societies”

Total Institutions

Items to be added.

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Interlocking Directories

How do “interlocking directories” fit into toxic organizational systems? How do “interlocking directories” fit into toxic organizational systems?

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Industrial Complexes

Deconstructing “Christian Industrial Complex” (category). What exactly is an “industrial complex”? Why is there increased interest at this time? How do we dissect it, identify how/why it affects us, and why it’s even relevant? This long-form series compilation introduces three major frameworks I use for analyzing social movements and toxic systems, and builds toward describing what this phenomenon of a Christian Industrial Complex is, how it works, and how it can inflict damage. It also suggests a list of indicators for identifying layers of enmeshed involvement among celebrity leaders, Christian business industries, and followers/consumers in such probable toxic systems as this. List of category posts and their descriptions, year, and links to be added.

Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex (2014). SERIES SUMMARY. A question that’s arisen lately on spiritual abuse survivor blogs has to do with the “Christian Industrial Complex,” or some variation thereon, such as: the Evangelical Industrial Complex, the Emergent Industrial Complex, the Resurgence Industrial Complex, the Patriarchal Industrial Complex. These are contemporary versions of the idea of a Military-Industrial Complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against in his farewell speech. I’d describe it as a gridlock of military, political, and business interests that formed a self-benefiting association of preferential relationships that went against the public interest. (Some of the classic research behind the Military-Industrial Complex comes from The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills.)

When it comes to Christianized variations of this organizational complex, what exactly is that all about? Why the increased interest at this time? How do we dissect what this thing is, how/why it affects us, and why it’s even relevant?

This series introduces three major frameworks I use for analyzing social movements and toxic systems, and builds toward describing what this phenomenon of a Christian Industrial Complex is, how it works, and how it can inflict damage. It also suggests a list of indicators for identifying layers of enmeshed involvement among celebrity leaders, Christian business industries, and followers/consumers in such probable toxic systems as this. It ends with some initial analysis and interpretation of toxicity issues in two streams that came out of the “emerging ministry movement” – the more conservative New Calvinism of Mars Hill Church/Resurgence and the progressive Emergent Movement of Emergent Village.

Note: These posts are designed to be read in order because of the sequence in which terms and concepts are introduced.

Part 1 – Culturology, futurology, and three frameworks for decoding the Christian Industrial Complex.

Part 2 – Framework #1. Trajectory arcs of emerging subculture movements and interactions with the mainstream.

Part 3 – Framework #2. Power dynamics that corrode populism into consumerism.

Part 4 – Framework #3. Psycho-social strategies and structures that lock people into toxic systems.

Part 5 – Christian Industrial Complexes, institutionalized social movements, and the dark side of toxic systems.

Part 6 – Thoughts on Mars Hill Church and Emergent Movement as Christian Industrial Complexes.

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Sociological “Cults” and “Totalist Psychology” Societies

Research Criteria for Sociological “Cults” (category/series). List of category posts and their descriptions and links to be added.

What are the research criteria for identifying authoritarian “sociological cults”? Lessons from The Hunger Games – How Do We Discern Dystopian Dynamics and Totalitarian Tactics? This three-part series introduces and overviews Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for totalitarian thought reform (“brainwashing”) systems. He did this research in the 1950s and it is considered a foundational work for the framework used in what became the psychology of trauma and for sociological studies of “cults.” This series also gives some learning exercises for two groups: survivors of spiritual abuse and their personal network, and organizational designers/leaders who want to develop healthy and sustainable ministries. Note: I have split this material into three parts so readers can receive the best benefit from it.

  • Part 5A – Dystopian Dynamics, Totalitarian Tactics, and Lifton’s Criteria for Identifying “Cults.” This article prepares our thinking with a review of previous points in the series for discerning an abusive/dystopian system, thoughts on totalitarian tactics from The Hunger Games trilogy, and the “before” part of the learning exercise.
  • Part 5B – Identifying Cults: Authoritarian Communications, Motivations, Restrictions, and Confessions. This installment summarizes Dr. Lifton’s system for identifying “cults” and how the various elements work together. It then explores the first four of his eight criteria, dealing with: communications, motivations, absolutism, and confession.
  • Part 5C – Identifying Cults: Ultimate Vision, Reductionist Language, Ideological Conformity, and Social Ostracism. This concluding article explores the final four of Dr. Lifton’s eight criteria: ultimate vision, language, ideological conformity, and ostracism. It also gives the “after” part of the learning exercise, and draws out three key issues for putting “brainwashing” into perspective.
  • Or download the PDF of Lessons from the Hunger Games – Parts A-B-C.

What are some differences between a “sociological cult,” a “religious cult,” and a “heretical Christian cult”?

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All materials (c) Brad Sargent except where otherwise noted.