02 FAQs: Spiritual Abuse and Recovery, Toxic versus Healthy Systems


  • Spiritual Abuse Article IndexIncludes all series and individual posts on futuristguy writings on spiritual abuse topics, plus links and one-paragraph descriptions. Also includes links to multiple case studies and archives on spiritual abuse.
  • Spiritual Abuse Book Lists – Two extensive lists of primary Christian books on spiritual abuse – categorized and chronological – and tips for how to use each.
  • Spiritual Abuse FAQsSeven years of futuristguy writings on spiritual abuse, toxic organizations, and recovery – put into FAQ format.
  • Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research Resource page on technical topics related to spiritual abuse, e.g., non-profit problems, different “thresholds of evidence,” child abuse and mandatory reporting, hostile work environment, “digital dissent,” SLAPP suits, documenting and writing your story of spiritual abuse.


This is a long-term project, with more items to be added when I can. It won’t take long to notice that multiple links to the same question contain a lot of duplication. That’s because the first stage in this project is just gathering together “chunks” of relevant information from a variety of places. At some later time, the next stage will be to put those pieces together and edit them to come up with a more scaled down and polished version. Meanwhile, some of the additional questions I intended to respond to are listed as “forthcoming.”

The following responses to frequently asked questions about spiritual abuse link to posts on my futuristguy blog, and to comments I’ve made on other blogs posts.

If it is a blog post, the actual title linked to may not say FAQs or the exact question – but it addresses the question somewhere in the article. Please be aware that I’m not necessarily giving the full title of a post as the link. Also, a series of links after a question may not all be from the same series I originally posted on that subject – some questions use links drawn from multiple series I’ve written.

If I’ve copied and pasted on my blog a comment I made elsewhere, I may have added links and formatting that were not in the original, plus made minor corrections. Perhaps I’ve added an introduction to help understand the context of the comment. Otherwise, the text here is substantially what it was there, and to get the overall context you may want to go back to the original post on the linked blog.

The Spiritual Abuse Article Index page shares summary descriptions of most the following posts that appear on futuristguy, excluding the FAQ articles. Hopefully their titles work well as a summary description of the content.

Also, because I comment on a range of contemporary situations in the North American church, you may find me occasionally using the following abbreviations. Here are those terms, with links to some of the related case studies or archives I’ve produced. In them you will find numerous examples about what spiritual abuse perpetrators and enablers, toxic organizational systems, and challenges and recovery (or lack thereof) look like.

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Spiritual Abuse Victims/Survivors and Supporters

Becoming a Survivor

What made me susceptible to spiritual abuse?

Healing from Spiritual Abuse

How do I know I’m healing from spiritual abuse? How do I know I’m healing from spiritual abuse?

What are some constructive ways to leave the past and move ahead? Spiritual Abuse Part 1: Five Personal Lessons from My Surviving Toxic Leaders.

How can I find authentic hope and wholeness? [Security, Identity, Belonging, Purpose, Competence.] Spiritual Abuse Part 3A: Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness.

What kinds of practices will help me heal? [Personal support, justice, validation, arts-beauty-creativity, and constructive experiences to counteract the destructive ones.] Reflections on Malignant Ministries and God’s Mercies Thereafter.

How can arts, beauty, and creativity contribute to healing?

How do I learn to discern so I’m less likely to get taken in again?

What does it looks like for someone to return to a functional life after deep brokenness, how does that comes about, and what does it means for the Kingdom? Redemption and Restoration Part 1: The Power of the Powerless.

Reaching Out … and Pushing Back

What kinds of questions could we ask to identify and/or responsibly challenge abusive leaders and systems, and to help people recover?

What things should I watch out for if/when I feel led to share my story about spiritual abuse?

How do intervention, interception, and prevention fit in with challenging toxic systems and leaders? Spiritual Abuse Part 2C: Five Criteria Concluded … Detailed Criteria.

What is “digital dissent” and what does it have to do with challenging toxic systems? [Forthcoming.]

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Spiritual Abuse Perpetrators and Their Enablers/Perpetuators

Identifying Malignant Ministers and Enablers

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?

Toxic Tactics

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.

What Do Health and Healing Look Like for Leaders?

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:

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 do relatively healthy leaders and churches look like?

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

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Toxic Organizational Systems

Identifying Toxic Systems

What’s the main difference between sin and evil? Malignant Ministry ~ Excerpt 1: Discerning and Dismantling Systems of Spiritual Abuse.

What do “safe” versus “abusive” environments for personal and social transformation include? What do “safe” versus “abusive” environments for personal and social transformation include?

What are the research criteria for identifying authoritarian “sociological cults”? Lessons from The Hunger Games. Robert Jay Lifton’s research criteria for identifying “cults”: Lessons from The Hunger Games – How Do We Discern Dystopian Dynamics and Totalitarian Tactics?

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

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

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

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.”

What Do Healthy and Renovated Systems Look Like?

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

What do relatively healthy leaders and churches look like?

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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Getting a Big-Picture Perspective

What is the “Christian/Evangelical Industrial Complex” that spiritual abuse survivors talk about?

How is post-apartheid history relevant to issues of abuse survivors, perpetrators, and the community? How is post-apartheid history relevant to issues of abuse survivors, perpetrators, and the community?

What are some emerging trends within spiritual survivor communities?

What can we learn about authoritarian leaders and systems from George Orwell’s dystopian masterwork, Nineteen Eighty-Four? Lakeland Part 3 – Addendum #1: Notes, Quotes, and Questions on Reconstructing Authority.

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

One thought on “02 FAQs: Spiritual Abuse and Recovery, Toxic versus Healthy Systems

  1. Pingback: Annotated Reader’s Guide to Futuristguy on Abuse Recovery, Advocacy, and Activism | futuristguy

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