Spiritual Abuse

My friend Mrs. Miriam Anderson (wife of Pastor Eric Anderson) recently suggested that Christians banish “abuse” (as in “spiritual abuse”) from their lexicon, since it has become a jello word often molded to refer to almost any disliked word or action.

Principally it’s used to describe illegitimate injuries inflicted by church leaders on members. (Curiously, it’s almost never used to refer to illegitimate injuries inflicted by church members on leaders.)

Entire websites and cottage industries have emerged to counter “spiritual abuse” (often cloaked as “discernment ministries”). And there’s no doubt that a number of churches and leaders (all sectors of Christianity) have been guilty of what has traditionally been called abuse.

The difficulty, however, is that in our therapeutic age, “abuse” is now employed to refer to any language or position that seems just a little too harsh or demanding.

This has led to abuse inflation. After all, if “spiritual abuse” can refer to both a pastor‘s rebuking a young single man for fornication because he loves to sleep with unmarried girls, as well as to the assistant pastor who rapes a 19-year-old under his care, the expression has clearly outlived its meaning.

I suggest, rather than “spiritual abuse,” we simply start specifying the alleged abuse. If the pastor shouts obscenities at one of the members; if a member persistently slanders the elders; or if the youth minister fondles teenagers – then say that. Don’t simply employ the blanket expression “spiritual abuse” and expect everybody to immediately resort to fulsome pearl clutching.

Because there is both actual abuse, and false abuse, let’s start specifying what the alleged abuse is, and not simply employ the jello expression “spiritual abuse.”