My friends’ counselor at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KSARC) mentioned the other day that the way a pedophile grooms a child to become a victim is the same way cults groom their members to become victims. I’ve been doing some reading up on this and see some amazing similarities.
I guess there’s nothing new under the sun. Whether its spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, or physical abuse (domestic violence) there’s a red thread found in the intentional manipulation for a desired end. How much more important it becomes, then, for us to guard against being vulnerable to abuse. And the only way to do that is to become emotionally healthy so we can differentiate between our true selves and our true feelings and those thoughts and emotions we have been manipulated or pressured into feeling.
Differentiation – Living Faithful to Your True Self
One very helpful way to clarify this process of growing in our faithfulness to our true selves in a new way is through the use of a new term: differentiation. Developed by Marie Bowen, the founder of modern family systems theory, it refers to a person’s capacity to “define his or her own life goals and values apart from the pressures of those around them.”
Differentiation involves the ability to hold onto who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinctive values and goals apart from the pressures around you (separateness) while remaining close to people important to you (togetherness) helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation have their own beliefs, convictions, directions, goals, and values apart from the pressures around them. They can choose, before God, how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. Intensity of feelings, high stress, or the anxiety of others around them does not overwhelm their capacity to think intelligently.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Page 82
When you belong to a cult, you aren’t able to choose anything about how you want to live your life. Your entire life is wrapped up in being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. As I think back about the ways that Tim Williams intentionally groomed the Sound Doctrine members so that they would never believe their associate pastor could be guilty of child rape. He made a big deal of telling emotional stories of innocent victims being imprisoned for years and finally freed by lawyers for The Innocence Project. Then there were the comments about false memory syndrome and his opinion that you can’t believe someone who claims sexual abuse from childhood. Oh, and we can’t forget about the sermons that bashed any sort of inner healing and biblical counseling for emotional wounds. Nothing like keeping the flock incapable of having their own thoughts, beliefs, convictions and goals. They are much easier to manipulate this way.
I’ve been puzzled by the Sound Doctrine’s extreme paranoia lately and adamant refusal to even ask the question if Malcolm Fraser could possibly be guilty. But the more I think it through, I begin to understand their dilemma. If any of the current members consider the possibility that their associate pastor is a pedophile and has been one for many years, then the gig is up. They would have to admit that Tim and Carla Williams really do not hear from God and have created such an unhealthy controlling environment that it’s become a fertile ground for an abuser to thrive. The house of cards would fall and those who have burned every bridge in their lives and thrown away the last 10-20-30+ years on a lie would have to confront the fact that they’d been duped.
Not an easy place to be.
I know…I’ve been there.
Praying for God to continue to expose the lies, shine His light on the evil deeds of darkness, and set the captives free.