Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Halfway Houses

The thought I'm going to present here is something that's kicked around in my mind for several months now, but I've never, until today, really been motivated to sit down and write about it. I expressed this thought recently in a conversation elsewhere where it seemed to walk right through a door opened by a particular question, and given some recent events in the arena of Christianity (involving one guy in particular - we'll get into him in a bit) it seems an appropriate time to write this.

Teachers/pastors like Driscoll, Piper, Mahaney, Harris, Dever, et cetera, and movements like Sovereign Grace and Calvary Chapel are often halfway houses for people coming out of cultic Christianity like Gothardism or Vision Forum.

Do you follow what I'm saying? If not, here's an explanation... 

Anything looks grace-based and mainstream after you've been in ATI/IBLP or Vision Forum. Anything...including these men and groups - but they're far from mainstream, they nourish religious addictions, and they're religious abusers themselves. Any "elder-led" church (such as those pastored by the men mentioned above) is fertile soil for religious abuse and corruption, from the homeschooling/courtship/Shepherding mentality of Sovereign Grace to the "Moses Model" of Calvary Chapel. ALL of these men and groups marginalize, and basically render irrelevant, the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Some of it due to their connections within the Christian homeschooling movement world, some of it due to the lingering traces of Shepherding movement influence. In an "elder-led" environment, the congregation has no voice. Any attempt to develop a voice usually leads to "church discipline" of some sort.

Sometimes I'd like to tell people who've left the Gothard or Vision Forum world and ended up under these men and movements, "You ain't quite out yet." But, I generally believe they figure it out on their own sooner or later - or at least I hope they do. Also, this isn't to say there aren't some wonderful people involved in these movements, or that all of the elders and leaders are corrupt (they aren't). It's just that the same can be said for the laypeople (and some of the leaders) in the Gothard/VF world, however seriously misguided they may be.

I think part of it is the personal journey out of religious addiction. No one who leaves Gothard or VF while still professing the Christian faith is without religious addiction. It's next to impossible. So many overt rules and regulations, unspoken rules and regulations, so much emphasis on the outward mechanisms of Christianity. That kind of baggage doesn't get dropped overnight. It's a process. When you're still clinging to a "God's word" mentality, and you've been in an abusive group, your natural inclination is most likely to find a "softer" version of the same legalistic message (we tend to stick with some form of what we know), and like I said, after Gothard or VF, anything looks mainstream.

I know, from my own experience, how hard it is to deal with religious addiction while holding on to my faith - and I don't come from an abusive church or group. It can be grueling and overwhelming. I can see where people would find a certain amount of comfort and safety within dysfunction when dysfunction is the "normal" of your past. Moving out into the unknown can be brutal - especially when coming out of an abusive church or group.

You don't think these men or groups are messed up in their own way, and seriously so? Let's look at Mark Driscoll for a bit as an example...

In December, Justin Brierly of the British radio program "Unbelievable", committed what was apparently the "sin" of questioning Mark Driscoll during an interview conducted by Brierly for an upcoming edition of Christianity magazine. For some context and background, Driscoll believes that church members (and maybe people in general - I don't know) who question his "leadership" are committing sin, is a hard-core complementarian, and Brierly is the husband of a female pastor in England. Quite a tense dynamic, no?

If you have an hour, the full interview is HERE, and there's a good breakdown of the interview at Cognitive Discopants. I heartily recommend that you take the time to listen to the interview. When you're done, read Mark's response to it, and when you're done with that, read Justin's response to Mark's response at the Christianity website. After listening to the interview, ask yourself if Driscoll's assessment of the interview is honest or accurate...

"With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective."

Long story short, I've listened to the interview (in which Driscoll was an ass), read his blog, read Brierly's response - and I come away seeing Driscoll as an even bigger ass.

I fully believe Brierly's version of the way the interview was presented to Driscoll. No doubt in my mind. I think Driscoll leaped at the chance to market share his new money-making scheme ministry, the intrusion into the bedroom book he and his wife authored, "Real Marriage", with the British consumer church. He's building his personal fiefdom the kingdom one sold book soul at a time.

At the end of the interview, we see the real Mark Driscoll. When challenged, he falls into the "compare what you've accomplished to what I've accomplished!" routine at the drop of a hat, something that only insanely insecure people do. With him it amounts to "I'm a better, more courageous, more better, more better courageous Christian than you! Look at all I've done! Just look at it!" I'm pretty sure I could clean the guy out at poker. Too many tells. His Christianity is all about him. His position as pastor is all about his power - an effort to make up for some significant failings somewhere in his psyche, because without that power, he's nothing - and he knows it. His insecurity leads to the dishonesty you see in his blog post which responds to the interview.

Then, there's THIS. Yowza. "Courageous" anyone? You know, the movie that mainstream Christianity has so warmly received - and its merchandise line is being marketed by Vision Forum? Yes, that "Courageous". Looks like Mark might be taking some cues from the fine folk down in San An with these "vows". I agree with the blogger that the last vow is the most perplexing, and given the issues that I deal with here on this blog, the most alarming...

"And my grandchildren will worship the same God as me, because my children will worship the same God as me."

Yikes. I find that spiritually perverse, actually. Thanks, Mark, for making rather significant life decisions on behalf of your children and grandchildren - decisions which, to be valid, must be personal, but don't let me go raining all over your Vision Forum-esque multi-generational faithfulness parade.

The difference between men (such as Driscoll) and movements like those I mentioned above and Gothard/VF are really pretty minimal. Largely the same crap in a slightly more aesthetically appealing wrapper. For those individuals or families looking to get out of abusive groups while still holding on to your faith, the best advice I can offer is to thoroughly examine to make sure, in your effort to leave or your process of leaving, you aren't still using your faith as a drug, a numbing agent (as abusive groups indoctrinate you to do). If it is, it's gonna be unhealthy no matter where you land. 

[For further examination and discussion of the abuses of Mars Hill church, read here.]


  1. Great observation.

    I've been so shocked and awed at Driscoll's continuous stream of B.S. It never occurred to me that his church would be make a good halfway house.

    But you are right on, as usual.

    1. LOVE that letter in your new post...

  2. Really, anyone should be concerned when they start off the bat with disobeying Jesus:

    “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

    Isn't that enough?

    1. It should be. It's a shame that it apparently isn't for a lot of people, and even worse, that they're ok with being "taught" that it isn't enough.

  3. I have been waiting and waiting for you to find an excuse to address Driscoll. :D I am so delighted!

    Sometimes I am truly baffled---and I mean truly, truly, truly baffled---at the number of level-headed people who can't see the MANY THOUSANDS OF RED FLAGS surrounding Driscoll. We're not talking people who are into spiritual abuse. I'm talking people who go to my own non-abusive church and ought to be a little more discerning. It's scary.

    Driscoll says a lot of things that I agree with. But he also says a lot of creepy things that I disagree with, and he says them in a way that makes him come off as insecure at best and intentionally controlling/abusive at worst.

    And then there are all sorts of other little details, like his "I had a vision about..." stories that always feel a bit off. Or that interview with him and his wife where they talked about SAHDs and he gripped his wife's leg the entire time she was talking, and her voice was shaking. I mean really people. Context. Body language. REASONING SKILLS.

    If you read Driscoll's response to that interview, it should be clear as day that his real concern was to never be questioned. He even did a Freudian slip and used the words "exercise authority over," the very thing he's always ordering people to let HIM do, and the one thing that he himself will not ever submit to.

    Driscoll is a master at smoke-screening any failures on his part, rather than allowing people to hold him accountable. This interview is not the first time that Driscoll has publicly almost-apologized for saying mean things, yet we never see any improvement on that score, and his almost-apologies are always followed by the weak excuse of "Well other people go too far the other direction, so I'm just trying to make up for it."

    Can we really look at this dirty laundry list without getting at least some indication that there are tendencies toward spiritual abuse here? And the thing is, this list could go on.

    I'm usually not this mean about an individual person, but really! The extent to which he A. Looks like an abuser and B. Is vehemently defended by followers, even in his most ridiculous moments, is really starting to frighten me. I hope that I am wrong.

    1. I hear ya...and trust me when I say that there's a lot more I'd like to say - but probably shouldn't.

    2. Driscoll says a lot of things that I agree with. But he also says a lot of creepy things that I disagree with, and he says them in a way that makes him come off as insecure at best and intentionally controlling/abusive at worst.

      That's kinda what I thought.

  4. Spot on. So glad to see you address Mark Driscoll, the Christian Badboy. I am so sorry for the woman in his life, and for the women whose lives he is adversely affecting through his nonsensical teaching.

    The halfway house comparison is so accurate. After we left the Piper influenced church, it struck me how it was like the way some of these insufferable Southern sympathizers in the homeschool movement point out how kind some masters were to their slaves (gag)...even letting them eat in the kitchen and play with the master's children! Imagine that!Somehow, they think that kindness made slavery somehow less...bad? Well, that's how it is for women in this brand of are either out in the fields, mistreated, or you are in the house, warm and comfortable...BUT YOU ARE STILL A SLAVE! ( I don't mean to minimize the horror and suffering of slavery.I am just making the point that enslavement is wrong whether it's cruel or kind.)

    Well, the best thing that happened during the ATI days were the kids we had. The worst thing may have been smashing my amazing rock music record collection...and wasting a lot of time feeling much holier than I was.

    Now, we are kind of unattached from church, though we attend one on a regular basis. I am disturbed at how this complementarian/ VF stuff is creeping in to all the churches. Is there such a thing as a fairly conservative denomination that is egalitarian? When you leave the halfway house, you can feel like you have been turned out with a new suit of clothes and a few bucks. Where do you go?

    In the meantime, I will debate and try to bring these issues to light when it would seem beneficial to do so.I will pray that God keep His hand on those who are walking into the same stuff we did. If that doesn't work, I will put on the Clash and sing along...C.D of course, remember, we smashed the records??? :)

    1. It IS hard to find a relatively 'conservative' egalitarian church! I am looking, too. Anymore, I am not sure what I would really be comfortable with. More and more, the idea of one person in charge, so to speak, of a whole church, is kind of creepy. I mean, can no one else hear from God in a congregation except the leader(s)? Or can no one hear in a 'big' way? I honestly think authentic church now may best be found in places like this blog and others where people get together and share and THINK and try to discern. I don't know, I just know that formal regular church kind of makes me nervous anymore, and I was fine before I had my fundy church encounter. It really ruined church for me as well as bible reading in the way I used to do it, etc. I think, overall, these are good results, but they are very, very unsettling and one does feel like they have just heard the gates close with a loud bang behind them.


  5. "When you leave the halfway house, you can feel like you have been turned out with a new suit of clothes and a few bucks. Where do you go?"

    Good question, and one I'm sorry to say I don't have a good answer for. "Forward" would be the best answer I can offer.

  6. Haha,I don't think I had a half-way house - I DID go to a PCA college when I left home for my mother's sake since she thought it was important that I have some kind of spiritual authority me since my stepfather had kind of failed at that. But during those years I consciously distanced myself from God. I just couldn't reconcile him with the God of my parents. I'm inching my way back in to Christianity, but my ideas are still very radical.

  7. Isn't Driscoll the one who struggled for years with his Big Feelings over his wife having slept with someone else before they married and at a time in their lives when they were both helling around, and that's a big chunk of his marriage book? And then he mentions in one paragraph or so that oh, yeah, also his wife is struggling with the effects of past sexual abuse, BUT BACK TO ME AND MY BIG FEELINGS?

    He acts confident and he tells people that there are simple answers that will make their lives secure. Me, I'm training my daughters early and often in the use of Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. Yes, even though he was an atheist.

    Jenny Islander, who can't post with her LJ handle, yet again

  8. Where do you go when you leave a halfway house? (I like to use the analogy of switching drugs of choice, though the addiction remains untreated.)

    Where's the best place to go, IMO? I eventually went to the literature on spiritual abuse. I believe that, without knowledge of how these churches work and how manipulation of groups works, people are bound to just end up cycling in and out of one halfway houses after another (or just trading up their drug of choice), repeating the trauma.

    This is often called "cult hopping" among people who work with survivors. People lay the blame of failure of their spiritual abuse on the pastor, leaders, or the life of a single church but fail to realize that the patterns of abuse. They find familiarity in the patterns though, or they hold the ideals of the group in a place of idolatry, and they end up repeating the process of abuse over again because they choose to join the exact same kind of church. They never deal with the root of the problem -- the bad ideology.

    Gothardism and shepherding were my halfway house out of the abuses of the Word of Faith movement. Like a pendulum, I swung from one extreme to the other. I didn't find the information about "toxic faith" until after I got out of Gothardism. But we were STILL destined to cult hop again, so to speak.

    My husband who was not exactly comfortable with the idea that we'd been duped, and out of a desire to get away from everyone having everything to do with speaking words of knowledge wanted to go to an Orthodox Presby church. I think of that like a halfway house as well and is the place where I met Phillips and his followers. (I would have chosen to attend elsewhere, but this was where my husband who was still hanging on to abusers like RC Sproul Jr wanted to attend. No one else had the right truth or the right take on it. Sigh. It took about ten years for him to separate from that stuff.)

    (To that OPC's credit, the leadership there was not strong, and the pastor was elderly, ill, and had many other demands upon him, so it was not healthy. In many ways, it differed little from the place we'd left. That church had potential, and I hope it is not representative of all OPCs, though I choose not to go Presby anymore.)

    . . .

    I will not be surprised if I end up at another halfway house before I'm done, but I will have the benefit of the tools to recognize it as such and can get out without getting entrenched. We've gained the knowledge about the dynamics of these places, we have the experience now of spotting the trends, and we don't want to stay in them.

    1. No, I suspect that all OPCs are like that. The cult experience we had was in an OP church, and when we left we went for maybe 2 weeks to a watered down OP church, but past the nicer looking exterior, we quickly realized it was still the same bad philosophies.

    2. Could it be that any church that has gender roles is susceptible to sliding into cultishness?

      I am mulling these things over in my mind and this seems to be a commom denominator in our neck of the woods.

      Just thinking.

    3. well...

      i'm Pagan. i was raised Pagan. i was also raised to believe the sexes were equal, so i was a bit... discomfited the first time i ran into a matriarchial group.

      and i'll tell you - i've yet to meet a matriarichal Pagan group that doesn't have at least *SOME* cultish issues [matriarchial = women in charge and etc, and is NOT the same as "women only". i've met women only groups that do have cultish tendencies, but i've also met those that don't. i've yet to meet a matriarchical group that *doesn't* have cultish tendencies]

      having said that, and having similar experience with Christian and Muslim groups that practice their own versions of gender essentialism - Patriarchy as opposed to Matriarchy, sure, but given that the culture at large is Patriarchy, Patriarchially influence religious groups tend to do more damage - i think that *YES*, any religious group ["church"] that practices gender essentialism *IS* going to be *VERY* susceptible to "sliding into cutlishness".

      sad but true

  9. Well, we had marginal ATI as our first stop, through a church that was run by an extremely close knit group. Left there after Ezzo took over and a couple we knew was told their baby was born dead maybe due to the fact they had left the church. Cult Alert!

    On to what seemed like a mainstream Baptist Church... it was there that I learned all I need to know about Mark Driscoll. You see, the pastor was a senior citizen version of him from head to toe. The emphasis of the church was 90% serving and honoring he and his wife...Harsh words, vulgarity, calling out from the pulpit and bullying were the order of the day. It was implied that if you couldn't take it, get out. Sex was talked about from the pulpit in almost pornographic terms cloaked in King James English..very sexist too.

    So, on to the Piper influenced church! And I want to emphasize, as you mentioned, Lewis, that there were wonderful, kind, and sincere people at all these places. Particularly at the Piper/McArthur church, the pastor and wife are two of the most generous, kind and selfless people I know....but they believe most of the standard stuff and are HEAVILY into a kind and gentle complementarianism. Seemed refreshing at first, but then led to my analogy with slavery in my last post.

    In between, there were brief stints here and there, kind of resting, regrouping, and hiding out, as it were.Even home church, which is probably the nuttiest of all. So, all this to say, there can be more than one rehab program, in your recovery. The books on spiritual abuse have been very helpful and we feel as though we could write one ourselves...Church was not meant to be a place of laws,manipulation and control, and I know there are many Christians out there who don't buy into this, but once (or several times) bitten, twice shy.

    Lewis, this brings to mind one of the most insidious mind controls that ATI puts out there...that led to our first evacuation..."Do not take up offense for another"...This translates to "When you see your brother or sister having the **** beat out of them, smile and step aside. God is allowing this for their spiritual growth (or chastisement)". I guess the good Samaritan really upset God's divine plan when he helped the guy in the road...

    But you guys that have or are going through this- God is good! Keep the faith!

  10. Cindy, I found your comment here very insightful (incidentally, your Botkins blog has also been very helpful to me). I've been trying to learn from the literature on spiritual abuse as well, in addition to being in weekly therapy in an attempt to deprogram/detox. I think recognizing and breaking those patterns is key.

    Lewis, I like your halfway house concept. When I try to think of where I might best fit in the church at large, I find that I'm confused as to whether I might be either reacting to the past, or sub consciously attempting to recreate the past, as opposed to genuinely moving forward. Of course having been trained to doubt myself and my instincts does not help with this. I imagine many other QD's struggle in this way as well.

    For my own part, I find I'm currently very drawn to Christian churches that are liturgical, sacramental, formal, and structured. The predictability, beauty, and consistency seems to give a place to breathe, and I like that they are focused on something higher than the emotional and psychological control of individuals. On the other hand, I worry that I'm simply trading an unpleasant form of authoritarian, structured religion for one that is more congenial and impersonal, but authoritarian and structured all the same. I know I'm not the only QD to make the leap, or consider making the leap, into an Episcopal, Catholic, or Orthodox church. Any thoughts on this?

    1. I'm Catholic, after a lifetime of conservative Bible churches and Campus Crusade. Someone has already noted that one of the great things about liturgical churches is that it isn't about me, and it isn't about the preacher, either. Nobody gets to pre-empt the liturgy. Catholicism, being worldwide, also tends to be less culturo-centric, and while we are all profess to believe the same creed and catechism, the ways that gets lived out are extraordinarily and beautifully varied.

  11. Driscoll IS an ass. I feel so sorry for his wife. Just look at her....she seems to constantly be scanning him for validation and approval of whatever she is saying. As he sits there smirking....burns me. The halfway house analogy is right on. My own family has been homechurching for years,b/c we couldn't stand evangelicalism anymore, but the isolation ended up killing my soul. Family-based, elder-led, homeschool-only, etc. They are still there b/c this is my husband's comfort zone, but I ended up Catholic, and it works for me. Much less 'personality' focused, and more freedom to hold a variety of views on most issues...and MUCH less Bible-worshippy. Since becoming Catholic I no longer stake my salvation on a Young Earth Creationist viewpoint (find it unlikely, actually), I strongly oppose corporal punishment, especially on my own kids :), and I've questioned all kinds of teachings without being shut down or 'controlled'. Kindest, most balanced people I've ever known. Love it. The structure is *there* for you (my faith profits from some structure). But it's on you to appropriate it to whatever degree you decide, and people don't get all judgey on you. That's what I've found, anyway. I know I have a great parish.

    1. Yep. His wife always looks wary of him whenever they are in public together. And judging from some of the attitudes he has freely admitted to holding towards her (yelling at her while she's pregnant over something that happened years before when they were both leading crazy lives and weren't even engaged, anyone?) is it any wonder she feels this way??

  12. YES, YES 1000 times! Thank you! I read once in a "recovery chatroom" that those of us who are recovering from spiritual abuse have our BS meters set on high. Which is why I believe there are so many former-culters that freak the heck out when they start hearing Driscoll's crap.

    My husband and I started attending a church a couple years ago. When we first started, it was glorious! Yay! Grace! The pastor is actually best-friends with Mark Driscoll and works in the mid-west.

    I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Tripp brothers, but they are behind a lot of the authoritarian teachings in Christian (fundamentalist to evangelical) circles. As a teenager, I was once beat black and blue for literally nothing based on his teachings.

    I was doing some research and discovered that the Tripp brothers are still at it and even did a seminar at Mars Hill. I was really upset by this. I was even more upset when, sitting in what I thought would be a conference on raising children in my home church, here comes Paul Tripp in all his mustached glory. Very openly (but in a way that didn't startle the masses) telling people they need to spank infants. I almost ran out. I was sobbing and hyperventilating in my church's bathroom. Here, the source of some of my abuse, is in my "safe" church, urging people to do the same to a new generation. In a GRACE church???!!!

    I tried to raise the battle cry, but it even took a long time for my husband to "get it". Even my closest friends in that church have no idea why I'm so upset and they say "I didn't get that out of what he was saying".

    The thing I took from that whole experience. Blind acceptance doesn't start with information that is scary. It will always have a lot of truth (which Tripp's teaching do emphasize a close relationship with the child, lots of praise etc.) But in the other hand he taught absolute obedience and an authoritarian, us vs. them attitude when it came to physical punishment that could easily get out of hand. So he's selling sugar-coated crap and somehow, even us St. Louisan's who never trust anyone get on board.

    I'm trying to slowly get my husband to think about leaving, but again (same as the last situation) all of our friends are here...

  13. Anonymous, I too feel very drawn to the idea of a more formal, structured and sacramental church and I am trying to figure out why. Maybe meditating on a beautiful stained glass window would be a lot more edifying than hearing about submission, authority, on and on...Maybe that's more in tune with the nature of God?What do you think?

    1. Hi Laura,
      I guess I'm not sure what to think right now. I know that last Saturday I attended an Eastern Orthodox service for the first time, and it was more peaceful, worshipful, and reverent than any church service I have *ever* been to before. Afterwards I kept trying to pin point what the unusual feeling I had was, and days later I realized it was that I felt *free.*

      I'm a little suspicious of this feeling, though, because I'm aware that these kinds of churches *are* very hierarchical and authoritarian, maybe not over the minutia of the minds, hearts, and lives of individual members, but certainly over how (and whether) the church as a whole is allowed to develop and change. There must be a reason so many leave these "man made traditions" for the "freedom" of the evangelical or fundamentalist Christian world. It's hard to know what to make of that, given my own experience. We are told that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, but when one person's freedom is another person's box how does one identify what is in tune with the nature of God, when it comes to the externals of religious organization and practice?

      Anyway, these are just some of the thoughts I'm thinking. Sorry Lewis if I'm derailing this comment thread.

    2. as i may have mentioned before, i'm Pagan. not Wiccan, but there are similarities. of course, i'm also Cherokee, and there are gigantic similarities between Cherokee and Christianity... so i'm used to things that are different having things that are the same.

      anyone, a fundamental concept i was raised with: God is everywhere and everyhing; religion is what we use, what we wear, with which to see God. it doesn't matter what you call God, but THAT you call God.

      i don't know if that helps

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  15. Anonymous @ 6:02 a.m.: I was raised in an ELCA congregation and am raising my children in an Episcopal congregation. Here's a list of things that nobody has EVER told me to do in either of those churches, from the pulpit, in publications, or on the sly:

    *How to vote.
    *Who to marry.
    *How to dress.
    *When I "should" be in church.
    *How to discipline my children.
    *When to marry.
    *How much contact with the opposite gender was permissible.
    *How responsible I was for other people's salvation.
    *How much money I was supposed to give to the church.
    *How evil other denominations were.
    *How evil public institutions were.
    *How evil the latest commercial success was.
    *Basically how there was no hope or help for me except inside the church.
    *What music I should listen to.
    *Whether I should go to the movies and if so which ones.
    *What I should read.
    *Whether I should dance and if so what kind.
    *How much of my time I was expected to give to attempting to convince others to join my church.

    There are probably authoritarian ELCA and Episcopal congregations out there. Me, I haven't seen any.

    Jenny Islander, her LJ sign-on not accepted yet again.

  16. Wouldn't it be nice to find a church that was not a halfway house , fun house, or scary house! It is so easy to slide back in somewhere that has a different tone from what you are used's hard to notice the oppression at first.

    My oldest son graduated from a Christian college and he said there was kind of a mini exodus at one point of kids he went to school with from evangelical backgrounds into the Greek Orth. Church. In fact, a friend became a priest (is that the term?) and that was weird for all his friends to get used to the beard.

    As you point out, there is a big emphasis on authority though...

    Maybe the Episcopalian Church has promise? The list above is encouraging.

    Thanks for sharing. It would be nice to find a place that practices true Christian liberty.

    1. Unitarian.

      also Friends [aka "Quakers"]

    2. i'm also sure there are many, many more Christian places that are "good" in the specific sense you're meaning. i don't know what they are, being not-Christian - but when/if you discover them, could you share the results?

    3. My twin sister ran into the same old same old in a Friends church. I think that while some doctrinal stances are more egalitarian than others, each congregation is only as loving and welcoming as the leadership of that congregation allows. And, for both good and evil, that can always change as people can always change. So there it is in a nutshell: the reason I don't go to church now even if the friend inviting me assures me that this is going to be "the one". (Sounds like dating again, doesn't it?)

    4. I grew up around Friends and they were awesome...and then, years later, and after a bad and unexpected Fundie experience, I visited local Friends' Churches only to find that in name only were they 'Friends' or Quakers. They all taught or practiced patriarchy in some form (something the original Quakers did NOT), they did the sacraments which wasn't early Quaker, etc. They had essentially become standard Evangelical Protestants, with the usual good and bad mix of people within. One really does have to simply visit a place and find out what that individual church believes and practices. There is so much blurring these days. Sadly, I am also discovering that patriarchy is making serious inroads into churches that were formerly egalitarian. It tends to sneak in via the likes of the ever popular Beth Moore studies, Nancy Lee DeMoss, etc.


  17. I was so happy in an ELCA church, but the pastor has lost his way and gone off the deep end. The first step was to leave the ELCA over the ordination of homosexual clergy in committed, holy relationships (marriage where legal) rather than demand lifelong celibacy of them- something we allow heterosexual clergy. That was the first time he ever sounded self-righteous, gossipy, manipulative, and even told lies to garner votes for his side. Did a real hatchet job on the characters of all who opposed him, and misled many people over his true position.

    Now that church has lost so many members (including me) BUT has replaced us all with disgruntled anti-gay marriage parishioners from the rest of the city's ELCA faithful congregations. I would go to another ELCA church, but...

    I don't want to put that much effort into a new relationship that might not last. I sound like I have sworn off dating rather than church!

    The ELCA is a doctrinally sound place- egalitarian, welcoming, grace-based. Maybe someday I'll get up the energy to visit another ELCA congregation. For now, I'm taking yoga on Sunday afternoons. =)

  18. Well, I hope you don't write a book called "I Kissed Church Goodbye"...Really! But it does take a huge amount of energy (and risk) to try again. I know I don't seem to have it right now.

    1. Someone wrote that book in 2006: "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore?"

    2. I just bought Divine Nobodies. It's subtitle is Shedding Religion to Find God. I'll give it up a SS thumbs up or thumbs down when I finish it. :)

  19. cindy said, "When you leave the halfway house, you can feel like you have been turned out with a new suit of clothes and a few bucks. Where do you go?"

    @laura, what cindy said! i love her advice.

    as soon as i saw the truth that these "halfway houses" were all the same cultic stuff just wrapped in a different packages, & i saw that one of them especially was a full blown cult, i began my search truth. a gr8 friend led me to a great ministry called headed by james walker who is gr8 friend of mine. he gave me tons of information advice wisdom stories ppl etc. he has spent so many hours with me. james hooked me up with an ex-cult support group here in dallas led by wendy and doug duncan. i started, in their group, the 1st family with cult members group which is how i met my special friend who i mention in the next paragraph. these guys are some of my best friends. i have been with them for about 4ish yrs. they along with several other ppl in that group suggested books to read to help with critical thinking, to help with recovering from spiritual abuse, to help with recognizing a cult,etc. one of the moderators is also a counselor. these moderators have also held many conferences and classes which i've attended to help me personally and to help others.

    one thing led to another because it was @ this support group where i met a dear friend who invited me to an very secure closed group online with ppl much like my story. it was there my eyes were opened and the pieces began to fit into place. i've met some of my bestest friends in that forum. i was very scared initially to meet ppl online but my dear friend assured me that i would be safe & feeling safe secure loved accepted etc is what we all need when recovering. that forum is near and dear to me.

    a few good friends in my ex-cult support group went to a facility located in ohio called for intense recovery. i had always wished to be able to afford to go there. i've helped a few friends from the online forum get to places where they needed help like wellspring & one of these places is called

    i love what cindy said here, "I will not be surprised if I end up at another halfway house before I'm done, but I will have the benefit of the tools to recognize it as such and can get out without getting entrenched. We've gained the knowledge about the dynamics of these places, we have the experience now of spotting the trends, and we don't want to stay in them." the more knowledge about spiritual abusive churches what cults look like the easier you will be able to recognize it's cultic/abusive leanings.

    i have actually stayed away from church for over a yr now. i have ppl in my life who question that but i tell them i am @ peace/content, i've experienced spiritual abuse etc, i also try and educate them about cults/spiritual abuse. i am not ashamed that i'm done with "halfway houses".

    another major piece for me was prayer. i had put in my life several ppl, who love to pray, pray for me, my situation, ppl in my situation etc. that has made a huge difference!!

  20. As embarrassing as it is, most all churches are competitive. So when people leave one church because of stated abusive beliefs and practices any church those people visit are naturally interested in convincing them that "THEIR" church is NOT like that.

    I have found them willing to bend over backwards even pretending tolerance and acceptance of views they had historically been emphatically opposed to all for the sake of 'winning' the disillusioned into their fold.

    Then, as someone has already stated, the 'disillusioned' are so grace-deprived and lonely, they can't even conceive that these new churches that are love-bombing them so have self-serving interests themselves.

    Funny you call them 'halfway houses'! This is exactly what we called the still very conservative church we gravitated to. They were good to us, and honestly, we were not then at a place of enlightenment enough to go to a more 'liberal' church, so we summed it up as part of the journey.

    Cindy@Baptist Taliban and Beyond

  21. In response to my recent related blog post related to this subject of swinging like a pendulum from one place into another, I received some feedback that cast the "halfway house" as somewhat of a negative thing to a small extent.

    Much like in my previous comment, when you get out of one group, it seems to make sense that you'll find safety in another but they turn out to be just as extreme, but different. This isn't an altogether unhealthy thing.

    I have an acquaintance who suffered a terrible trauma, and she took that energy and channeled it into doing something positive and good by creating a support organization to help others who have suffered in the same way. But, to a large extent, she used that busyness to distract her from her own healing. She made the source of help her new halfway house, and she hasn't really dealt with the main root cause of her deeper problem that contributed to her trouble in the first place.

    This halfway house is a far better place to be than remaining in bondage in the initial situation. It's halfway healthy and a part of this woman's journey. If we are like plumb bobs, swinging out of an extreme, we've built up a great deal of momentum. It takes awhile for us to slow down, and sometimes, the halfway house is a place to discharge that swing. I also think of how painful it feels to me if I'm driving in fourth gear and downshift into second by mistake when intending to shift up into fifth. The engine spins and roars, because it just can't slow down that fast. I think that we are like this when we first get out of the fast pace of the extreme.

    So I am grateful for the halfway house, and I honor those lessons that I learned in them. We don't get well overnight, and for some of us who don't find comfort in the halfway house as an ultimate destination, they are often a part of the journey out. If you're on your way out, then the halfway house is a blessing.

    People shouldn't feel any shame over time spent in the halfway house, because they are also a place of learning as you give up the idolatry. For some, that takes time and experience. The halfway house can be a very healthy alternative (depending on what it is). Pat yourself on the back if you made it the rest of the way out to get better than half way out. Half is better than nothing if you're open to the truth and use it as a learning experience.

    1. Cindy, you have a lot of wisdom in your comments. In particular, diffusing the momentum of the swing in a gradual fashion makes sense, as does not berating oneself if their journey takes them through a half-way house or two, or friendships, etc. I am very leary of churches right now, and find that I even seem to find 'half-way' friends without trying, so I am trying to be very careful in that realm also. This process doesn't happen overnight, does it?! I am currently trying to learn to just be ok mostly without any religious fellowship other than blogs and online. It is painful because I would love to have face to face fellowship, but just don't know how to find it with other ex-churchies like myself who have come out of a bad church experience.


  22. Well. I've seen this "halfway house" thing in action a few times now. Is it funny that Gothard was my family's "halfway house" when we exited the Church of Christ? Tells you how bad that church was that even Gothard looked full of grace to us. :P

    1. Reminds me of some other conversations that have sprung up in light of this week's stuff about Driscoll.

      I fear that for far too many people, it's all about the cult of personality. They're just trading one leader/set of leaders for another leader/set of leaders. Unhealthy.

    2. Many people exit cults but never leave the cult mindset behind. That is why they get sucked back into yet another authoritarian church structure.

    3. This post describes me to a t. I've gotten involved in various churches and something seems "off" but I can't quite put my finger on it. This is "it"! It's such a comfort to me hearing others put my concerns into words and not feeling so alone anymore! I have so many questions about the Bible, and faith, belief, grace, and could go on and on, but for this post I'll just leave it at: I no longer think I'm completely crazy for seriously considering going to a liturgical church! I'm not quite sure what I believe at this point and I have a lot of doubts & questions but that's one thing I've been thinkin about. So glad to have found this site!