Why the Church abuses

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Reuben
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Why the Church abuses

Post by Reuben » 10 Jun 2017, 09:45

Finally, I think I understand why the Church abuses some of its members. As always, I would be happy to be shown to be wrong. Besides being one great way to learn, in this case being wrong might paint a less bleak picture. Both reasons are why I'm posting my theory here.

A few things first, though.
  • I'm going to call it what it is: abuse. I won't apologize for using that word. When I start wondering whether it's really abuse, I remember testing positive for PTSD (which has thankfully mostly subsided now), withdrawing, hardly trusting anyone, and barely being capable of work. I wasn't just reading the wrong sites or concentrating on the wrong things. That wasn't at all like me; I'm not a naturally fearful person.
  • By "Church," I mean the members, including rank-and-file members and leaders at all levels - though of course those further up the hierarchy bear more responsibility.
  • The fact that the Church abuses doesn't necessarily mean its truth claims are false. A good illustration for believers: the Pharisees were God's chosen people, and even believed most of the right things, but devoured widows' houses and crucified the Son of God.
  • A Church led by and comprised of good people can still carry out abuse. In general, abusers treat those who they don't abuse as well as anyone else.
  • I'm not interested in Zen techniques for finding peace in the Church at the moment, as helpful as those can be. I'm just trying to understand its behavior.
  • I did not enjoy writing this. You might not enjoy reading it.
Apologies for the length. I've added section headings for easier navigation. I hope it helps.

Sources

My sources, roughly in the order I found them: "Why Does He Do That?" is a book about abusive men and how they think. I very much recommend it as well, both for understanding and self-reflection.

I disagree with that quote on trust and faith, but I think it illustrates very well the Church's attitude.

I haven't listened to Bill's podcast, only read his descriptions of it. But that was enough: the light bulb finally went on.

Elder Montoya's article is awful: yet more of the isolating, divisive, victim-blaming drivel the Church often produces to try to keep people believing the right things. I got an earful of the same from Elder Ballard a few months ago when he spoke at an area conference. In fact, I've been hearing it every few weeks since my faith crisis eight months ago. Elder Montoya's article was just the latest.

I could almost feel my children turning more against me as I read it. I occasionally ask my children challenging questions at the dinner table. Are those going to be "hurtful" questions now? Will they see me as a "so-called" father?

Roots of Abuse

The article is part of a pattern of emotional abuse that has a source I can't directly see. In the past, I've identified the source of abuse as lack of understanding or information, people really just wanting to believe, social momentum, shame, guilt, and pride. Those all probably contribute, but I don't think they adequately explain the coverups, misrepresentations, demands for even more belief in the face of disconfirming evidence, excommunications for telling the truth, the utter lack of anything resembling repentance, and accusing anyone who dares to doubt of giving in to Satan's lies.

Here's a theory that explains it all: the Church thinks it's entitled to its members' belief and trust. When we're born into an active family or baptized, the Church stakes a claim of ownership on our faith.

Abuse 101: Most of the time, abuse isn't due to mental illness, sociopathy, extreme insecurity, or anger management issues. Those things usually just instigate it and exacerbate it. Most of the time, abusers are regular folks who are often nice to everyone they're not abusing. They abuse certain people because they believe that they own those people to some extent. They believe it's okay to control the people they abuse to get what they think they're entitled to. In the end, abuse comes down to having a warped value system.

Abusers can be so nice when you're giving them X, where X is what they think they're entitled to. If you can't - and this often happens when abusers demand more and more until they demand more than you can give - they give you the back of their hand. If you call them on it, it's your fault. It's always your fault, because you weren't giving them X, and they have a right to it. If you strike back or even just try to defend yourself, they'll turn things upside-down by saying, "Why are you abusing me, especially after all I've done for you?"

As Bill so eloquently put it, abusers won't let you tell your own story. They'll tell your story for you, about how you're a bad person for not giving them X. They'll get you to believe it. They'll get your friends and family to believe it. If you call them dishonest or manipulative, they'll say it's you that's being dishonest or manipulative, and they can prove it, and they'll rally everyone in your life to the cause of protecting themselves from you. Everyone will side with them, and you'll wonder if you're taking crazy pills.

The thing that makes abuse really, really hard to fix and really hard to even identify is that, with the exception of a few sociopaths, abusers think they're acting morally. The man who beats his wife when she doesn't have dinner ready when he gets home is only keeping his wife from walking all over him. The man who keeps calling his girlfriend lazy and fat thinks she just can't take a joke - with half his brain, anyway; the other half thinks that he's entitled to always be right and has discovered that shattering her confidence makes her give in. The domestic tyrant who seeks sole custody honestly believes he's the better parent. I mean, look at her: she's a mess, isn't she? She's completely unraveled and spitting fire while I'm calmly telling the truth about her lack of parenting skills.

Most abusers don't even consciously recognize that they think it's okay to control the people they abuse. They're just doing what has worked in the past, either for themselves or for a role model. Most abusers can't see their own sense of ownership and entitlement. A worldview in which they see themselves instead as good, as the underdog, as persecuted, and even as abused, shapes itself around their warped value system.

A lot of that seems awfully familiar to me.

The theory that the Church - again meaning its members, but especially its leaders - believes it has a right to your belief and trust is the only way I can explain the laden-with-contradictions "the Church is right even when it's wrong, and I'll punish you for saying otherwise" attitude of most leaders and seemingly about half of active members.

How To Tell It's Entitlement

How do we know when abuse is driven by a warped value system? With humans, there are some simple questions we can ask.

How does he treat others? Is he awful to everyone, or does he restrict his abuse to certain people, such as the people who have made commitments to him? If he restricts his abuse, it's probably entitlement.

Was there a "honeymoon phase" with few warning signs? If so, it's probably entitlement.

Does he acknowledge fault, make amends, and honestly try to change his behavior? Does he repent? If not, it's probably entitlement.

What does a breakup look like? Does he make life a living hell for the people who try to escape him? If so, it's probably entitlement.

With the Church, there's an additional question that sheds light onto the cause of abuse. Has the Church ever thanked those who leave for the time, effort and money they've put into it?

No, not once, ever.

A couple of good questions to ask to identify what an abuser feels entitled to are "What does he retaliate over?" and "What interest is he protecting when he tries to control people?"

I'm still answering those questions for the Church, but here's something preliminary. If you say that you don't believe in God because he's never answered your prayers, members will just feel sad and sorry for you. Yeah, they'll testify a lot and they'll try to get you to see things their way. But if you say that you don't believe Joseph Smith was a prophet because he married and slept with other men's wives, holy moly, look out.

This tells me that the Church isn't always looking out for our eternal welfare, which both kinds of unbelief would jeopardize. The second statement is about belief and trust in the Church, which it thinks it's entitled to.

Good Signs

Not everyone in the Church has an abusive value system. My ward's bishopric doesn't, for example. President Uchtdorf apparently doesn't. "It's not that simple" speaks volumes.

The Church seems to be starting to give up its entitlement to our time. More leaders are working with members to find callings that fit, more members are declining, and the top leadership hasn't tried to guilt members into doing otherwise.

Probably the best sign is that those wonderful Millennials who don't trust organizational power nearly as much as previous generations will be in charge someday. They also have much more direct experience with openly LGBT people and members who have left. The Church slowly has its brain replaced every 40 years or so. Maybe the abuse will stop by 2057.

Bad Signs

Most of the Q15 seem to have an abusive value system. Elder Ballard apparently does. "Where will you go?" also speaks volumes. Elder Holland apparently does. "I am so furious with people who leave this church." "Don't break your mother's heart." I think his anger and attempt at control arise from entitlement. (Also, is your mother entitled to your faith in the Church?)

The Church is currently doubling down on demands for belief, even as it teaches more accurate history that gives much more room for doubt.

Probably the worst sign is that the doctrines themselves help propagate abuse. They contribute to the warped value system that leads to abuse, and they also help justify abusive behavior. Examples:
  • This is the only true and living Church, and every other inside-outside, good-vs-evil, us-vs-the-world pronouncement that increases trust in the Church and dehumanizes outsiders.
  • The prophet can't lead the Church astray. "I'm right even when I'm wrong." The Q15 needs to stop believing this damnable heresy.
  • Satan exists. This provides the most ready, isolating, divisive and wrong explanation for when members lose faith.
  • Good emotions communicate objective truth. Being at peace with the abuser therefore means the abuser must be right - which for a human abuser can only happen when you're giving him what he thinks he's entitled to. Also, under this doctrine, it's next to impossible to identify abusive behavior, because identifying it makes you feel bad. I felt horrible writing this. Does that mean it's wrong?
Can a church with doctrines like this not be abusive? I don't know.

What To Do About It

The vibe I'm getting from "Why Does He Do That?" is that it usually takes a great deal of external pressure to get an abuser to see the sense of ownership and entitlement that drive his control and abuse. It also takes a great deal of internal will and humility on the part of the abuser.

Maybe I'll have more ideas when I'm done reading it, but honestly, it looks pretty bleak for the next 40 years or so.
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by Ray DeGraw » 10 Jun 2017, 10:33

I am going to state something fundamental here at the beginning of this response as an admin, so:

[Admin Note]: This is an important topic, but it can go off the rails quickly and turn hyperbolic in a hurry. If that happens, it will be closed. That does NOT mean anyone needs to stifle what they would say. It simply means the comments need to be focused on two things: 1) an attempt at fairness and accuracy; 2) an avoidance of extreme over-statements.

For example, almost everyone abuses someone else in some way - even good, sincere, caring people. Nearly all organizations abuse their employees and members to a degree, including every religion and demonization. Abuse is, in many cases, objective - but it also is incredibly subjective in other ways. Shouting at someone and demanding they do exactly what you tell them is seen rightly as abuse - except in sports, the military, some personal physical training, etc. It still is abuse in those settings, in a real and important way, but it is overlooked by the majority of people in those fields. Abuse, unfortunately, is part of our "natural (wo)man" existence.

I am NOT saying abuse is good in any way, but I am saying we need to be careful not to accuse the LDS Church of being uniquely or extremely abusive in ways that actually are common and somewhat moderate - especially since the people who abuse within the Church generally are very good people who honestly don't recognize the abuse they are perpetuating. If there is systematic, serious abuse, we should talk about it - but we need to try to be as objective as we can when discussing this topic.
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Reuben
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by Reuben » 10 Jun 2017, 11:41

Thanks, Ray, I appreciate that.

As an illustration of good people abusing, one of the reasons I so highly recommend "Why Does He Do That?" is self-reflection. I've learned a lot more in the last couple of weeks about the abuse I've visited on my children and the abuse that runs in my family than I have in the prior 40 years. Yes, ADHD + autistic spectrum makes loud, shrill noises hard to deal with. They can honestly hurt, and when they persist it's hard to remember that the source of them isn't trying to hurt you. At the same time, I would never shout at my wife, but somehow I've thought it's fine to shout at my kids. I thought I was entitled, and I thought trying to control them was okay.

I'm really just trying to understand, and I'd also appreciate charity toward others who have abused.
Last edited by Reuben on 10 Jun 2017, 15:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by nibbler » 10 Jun 2017, 11:43

Thanks for the post Reuben. You make some excellent points and I'd love to see where this discussion goes.

This subject hits close to home for me. I'll have to spend some time thinking about how I want to phrase things. Not because I'm fearful of moderation or because I'd be worried that I can't be impartial to the "church." It's just that it's extremely difficult to talk about the subject of abuse without either consciously or unconsciously assigning guilt to the party that is being labeled the abuser, in this case the church.

You alluded to this as well:
Reuben wrote:
10 Jun 2017, 09:45
Most abusers don't even consciously recognize that they think it's okay to control the people they abuse. They're just doing what has worked in the past, either for themselves or for a role model. Most abusers can't see their own sense of ownership and entitlement. A worldview in which they see themselves instead as good, as the underdog, as persecuted, and even as abused, shapes itself around their warped value system.
It makes the subject of abuse, with it's often implied guilt, all the more difficult to talk about because a part of what has become my coping mechanism has been to give the abuser this benefit of the doubt, to attempt to view the world from the perspective of the abuser. When I attempt the exercise sometimes I'll see that what feels like abusive behavior to me can look like "love" from the perspective of the abuser.

To the victim, this process of "excusing" the behaviors of someone that's abusive can feel like yet another form of abuse. I've experienced those feelings firsthand. The most charitable thing that I can say on this front is that when it comes to abuse there are no winners. The life of the victim is difficult, very much so. The life of the abuser is also difficult... in its own way. I only say this because finding a way of creating some sympathy, however small, for the abuser gave me a small toehold towards healing.

I'll have to think carefully about how much I want to share in future posts. I'm glad this is up for discussion though.
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 10 Jun 2017, 16:16

Good points; I would summarize the general attitude displayed by Church leaders, published lessons, etc. as, "We know what's best for you." Many in the Church will deny how abusive some of this is and don't really feel like victims of abuse because they have already bought into the premise that this came from God and the stakes are supposedly so high. Sometimes you have to step away from it and look at it as a relative outsider in order to recognize how one-sided and unfair some of the Church's demands and expectations really are in terms of upholding tradition and serving the Church's interests at the expense of rank-and-file members' time, effort, inconvenience, freedom, money, etc. that really add up over a lifetime.
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by Heber13 » 10 Jun 2017, 16:22

Reuben, thanks for taking the time to articulate things so well, and the deep thoughts put into that. Very sincere. I can tell it is something near and dear to your heart.

Do you find writing it out is cathartic? I hope so. I hope we can discuss it and share views on our experience with it...it's good for me to get other views on things like this.

In general, defining abuse may be very difficult in many situations, but I would say that anyone who feels they are in an abusive relationship should leave it and not stay in it, if it is truly abusive.

I hope in this thread there can be examples of what the problems and questions are to address, so we can talk about them.

I don't see many questions for me to know what to respond to, although I have personal experience with abuse that make me question how my experience compares to the abuse being raised here. Not sure, so I will wait and read more to know what we are talking about.

One part I would disagree with is the attack on the Q15, here:
Reuben wrote:Most of the Q15 seem to have an abusive value system. Elder Ballard apparently does. "Where will you go?" also speaks volumes. Elder Holland apparently does. "I am so furious with people who leave this church." "Don't break your mother's heart." I think his anger and attempt at control arise from entitlement. (Also, is your mother entitled to your faith in the Church?)
I would have to re-review those quotes in context and what was said, but I do not see any of the Q15 have a value system of abuse. I don't doubt or dismisss the limitations of church leadership, and even mistakes. But abuse by the Q15 and their value system? Hm. No. I have no evidence or proof of that. I disagree. Pretty strongly, actually.

Perhaps contrasts help me understand better. What would be examples of leaders of large organizations that are not abusive, and how they compare to the Q15?
Was Christ abusive to Pharisees and Sadducees? If so, was that wrong?

I hope I don't come across dismissive in any way. Simply want to learn more from your posts, and others'. Thanks for the dialogue.
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Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
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Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by Heber13 » 10 Jun 2017, 16:30

DevilsAdvocate wrote:
10 Jun 2017, 16:16
Sometimes you have to step away from it and look at it as a relative outsider in order to recognize how one-sided and unfair some of the Church's demands and expectations really are in terms of upholding tradition and serving the Church's interests at the expense of rank-and-file members' time, effort, inconvenience, freedom, money, etc. that really add up over a lifetime.
I agree with that, and also think "stepping aside" is a good approach to see clearly.

It can help get perspectives in order, and then you can re-engage knowing what you want to do and what you want to give in time, effort, money, etc. so you are comfortable where you are at and are doing things for the right reasons. It also helps to see what is "tradition" vs what is really gospel teaching.

Sometimes what we think we are being asked to give in time, effort, money, is not really what we are being asked to give, or perhaps our fears over-amplify what could be the punishment, when that isn't really what happens at all. Stepping aside helps us sort that out. As Ray pointed out...seeing it and parsing it correctly...not running off of emotion of how we felt we were asked.

We should never do things just because we are told to or expected to, or because everyone else is doing it. We should understand why we are asked to do things, and be willing to do it when we feel good about it. Otherwise, don't do it. I think most church leaders would agree with that.

We have to be careful we don't label ourselves a victim, when we have the power and control to do something about our situation. We can stand and be heard so we do not leave silence to invite abuse.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 11 Jun 2017, 00:38

Heber13, I agree with you on this. I love Bill Reel's podcasts and his latest episode was a powerful and emotional one. I agree with Bill regarding church talks where people tell why other people faith crises to begin isn't right (particularly over-generalizing), but I'm not so sure that constitutes abuse. I've seen abuse happen before and, in my opinion, I think the word gets thrown too easily. Don't get me wrong, Bill made other great points in his episode, but I think he got a little too worked up.

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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by SamBee » 11 Jun 2017, 03:41

Briefly there are two main reasons -

* It is a power structure - as is the state, a company/organization or the military/police.

* It creates an environment in which people are trusting. On one level this is good, and on another it makes people vulnerable.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
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Re: Why the Church abuses

Post by DarkJedi » 11 Jun 2017, 03:55

I agree with ILC that the word abuse gets thrown out too often. It goes back to Ray's idea that it can be very subjective. Once a good member of our ward shared a story with me about this guy who made his teenage son clip the grass in their entire yard using grass shears. The task took all summer (they certainly don't live in the northeast US). So while his friends were off playing ball (gasp!) and having all sorts of other fun, he "learned the value of hard work." After reading the story my friend asked me what I thought. I replied I thought it was abuse. My friend thought liked the moral of the story and thought it was a prefect example of good parenting.
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