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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

Emotional abuse exists in U.S. churches

How churches tend to manipulate members

Some churches in America today prey on the vulnerability of the spiritually lost through emotional coercion. 

 Having the courage to speak up in the church about what goes on behind the scenes can be difficult and isolating. No church is perfect, but an issue that is very real is emotional abuse and coercion on the spiritually vulnerable. Some churches pray on their congregation in a way that they say reflects God, but is actually just an extension of their own agenda.

This misleads people and misguides them down a very difficult road to recovery and spiritual wholeness. People become scared to have spiritual encounters because of this issue. It is a topic that is very real within the Christian community, especially today.

Classmate Lexi Abruzzo expressed to me that the topic of emotional and spiritual abuse is not talked about a lot within the church. Older generations, especially, try to conceal the faults within the church to appear unproblematic and unflawed. She shared that sometimes, it’s hard for people to see what pressure they were put under until they are out of that environment and have experienced actual encounters for themselves later on in life.

People who experience spiritual abuse within the church are often hesitant or fearful of spiritually connecting with Christ or with anyone at all. Religion can be perceived as fickle or hypocritical.

Another classmate, Allison Haines, says that although she has not personally experienced emotional or spiritual abuse within the churches she has attended, she knows family members and friends who have. She recognizes that although this very real problem may not play a direct role in her own life, it is still a very significant issue in churches today. Allison shared that she knows a woman who felt scared to speak up in her own church as a result of emotional abuse within the church.

Some environments can be very hostile and unforgiving, and I think a lot of fear to speak up stems from that. This can be very difficult because the way to heal and fix an issue first starts with speaking up, and if an environment where speaking your mind has not been cultivated, it can be nearly impossible to change the culture.

Some of the key characteristics of spiritual abuse can be identified as coercion, control, manipulation, pressuring of individuals and control through the misuse of religious text in scripture and providing a ‘divine’ rationale for behavior. Reports show that emotional abuse is very real and evident within churches.

Although most do not speak up about it, some do and it is heartbreaking to see the serious, long lasting effects of this type of abuse. Messages and sermons should be delivered in a mindful way and opinions should not be stated as facts or direct wishes from God. To avoid spiritual abuse, coercion should be avoided at all costs. Preachers should teach well. As believers, we must call out false gospels and spiritual abuse, include spiritual abuse and safeguarding policies within the church, and expect opposition and be ready for it. (

Finding out what type of abuse exists in the church, why it happens and how we can forgive plays a big role in the recovery stages of said emotional abuse. Churches and places of worship are for the broken, but sometimes churches abuse and manipulate situations to make others feel inferior to administration rather than fearing God. Churches and church faculty within some churches enforce rules and activities that humiliate and degrade members of the church.

The Bible can be used in a way that can be taken out of context to forward the agenda of church administration. It is important to remember that not all churches are like this. Within the community of Christianity, we should be mindful and aware of this issue. We must not turn our heads away from the emotional abuse that is very much within some churches today. Part of fixing the problem is acknowledging that it is there. (