Time for Victims to be Heard and Not Silenced

Last weekend Ross and I flew home from Birmingham, AL and watched two movies on the flight. The Post and The Help. Both portrayed heroic courage in the shadow of intimidation, corruption and racism, and illustrated the power in speaking up, telling the truth, and exposing evil.

Scripture tells us in Ephesians 5:11:

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Too often we’ve seen the victims of sexual predators in the church dismissed, not believed, silenced, minimized and shamed. Some have spoken up time and time again and seen no change. Some have just plain given up.

The time has come for those who have been victimized in the church or in church related circles to tell their stories. To be seen. To be heard. To be believed, no matter how well respected the abuser is.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household.
1 Peter 4:17a

I have not been the victim of sexual abuse within the church, but I have watched up close and personal the fallout of a respected “pastor” within a religious community (cult) turning out to be a sexual predator and pedophile. And I have watched those who were his “shills” (those loyal to him), defend the abuser and shame the victim.

I have experienced toxic spiritual leaders who used their power and authority to manipulate, silence, and abuse their flock. Using scripture out of context (no discipline seems pleasant at the time, don’t touch God’s anointed, ad nauseum) to justify the abuse.

Well people, this kind of behavior doesn’t just happen in legalistic and twisted Christian cults, it happens in plain sight at Christian writers’ conferences, in children’s church, in places God intended to be safe. Instead, those with evil intent have found it easy to blend in. Say the right words, quote the right scriptures, smile, serve, be caring, earn a position of leadership and power.

Calculating, cunning, and demonic, they take advantage of unsuspecting women and children.

I’m not trying to fear monger or turn us into cynical and suspicious followers of Christ. I’m saying wake up and learn to hear the warnings of the Holy Spirit. Beg God for His discernment. If someone makes you uncomfortable, stay away from them. If you see that creeper acting a little too chummy with someone, begin to dialogue with the possible victim. Ask if anyone asked them to do something they are not comfortable with and suggested they keep quiet about it. Watch their body language. Be a safe person for them to confide in. It just may be the conversation that leads to that predator being exposed.

Do not be shamed into silence if you’ve been the victim of a sexual predator, lest they continue in their shameless and destructive behavior and go on to harm others. Even if it happened a long time ago, it’s never too late to speak up and allow yourself the space to process the pain and humiliation.

I know the pain of being betrayed by those who was supposed to be trustworthy men and women of God. I’ve experienced the way they turned it back on me when I tried to confront the abuse and made me feel like I was the one in sin.

Just remember, the devil quoted scripture out of context to try to get what he wanted. And evil men (and yes, sometimes women) continue to do the same to this day.

Lord, Jesus, I ask that You continue to shine Your light on the deeds of darkness that have been going on for decades within Christian circles across this country. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear TRUTH and give us the courage to stand up and do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And to the guilty ones, those predators who might be reading this, mark my words:

What you have said in the dark will be heard in the light. What you have said in a low voice in a closed room will be spoken with a loud voice from the top of houses. (Luke 12:3 NLV)

How Could I Have Missed It?

I have finally been connecting the dots on an issue that has caused me great distress since I first heard of it. Early this year I was on faculty at a Christian writer’s conference where they had faculty sign a document that outlined appropriate behavior. Some of the requirements were so extreme that I was shocked we had to be told not to do them.

Come to find out the reason the document was created was because each of the unacceptable behaviors had been displayed and conferees had been victimized at Christian writers’ conferences across the country.

What saddens me is that some of the sexual predators exposed have been those I’ve respected and even spoken highly of. How can that be? How could I be so blind to the true characters of some of these peers?

Chatting with another faculty member this morning who’s experienced some of this abusive behavior, she asked if I’d seen the similarity in the predatory behavior that’s coming to light with my own spiritual abuse and betrayal. I’m so glad she suggested the connection as it provided me an opportunity to see the parallel and begin to process.

The trait in these abusers is one that dates to my time in the cult with evil leaders who were cunningly adept at quoting scripture out of context to make sure you never questioned or challenged them. At the same time, they surrounded themselves with those who never saw their dark side. These “shills” were Christians who loved God and endeavored to walk out the Word of God. They gave the abusers credibility. And they defended them when they were exposed.

The definition of “shill” from Dictionary.com is:
A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.

Being manipulated in this way by someone with evil intent is the height of betrayal. To realize that I praised some of these abusers has been a real trigger for me and I’m still dealing with the emotions.

Lord, how can we protect ourselves against sexual predators who would hide within Christian circles, surround themselves with credible people, and take advantage of vulnerable women?

What red flags are there that we should watch out for?

Judgment Coming to the House of God

5 years ago, I saw God shut down a pedophile who used his position as an associate “pastor” to serve his own sick ends with young girls whose parents were part of the Sound Doctrine cult. Even though many cult members declared his innocence, the testimony of one victim put him away for 18 years. That final verdict began to restore my faith in our justice system.

Then not long ago, the #MeToo movement began to make waves across America as women stood up and broke their silence about the sexual harassment and abuse they’d experienced.

Seeing justice served with a sexual predator like Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar proved that high profile abusers will, sooner or later, be found out, exposed and sentenced. It may be here on earth, and if not, it will be before the judgment seat of God, but it also began to raise awareness of the criminal attitudes towards victims of abuse by those who turned a blind eye and even covered up for the abuser.

To then see the #MeToo movement give courage to those who would stand up against Dr. Paige Patterson’s involvement in sending battered wives back to their abusers and silencing rape victims on his college campus, at the risk of losing their jobs … I began to thank God for exposing the fruit of the twisted mentality. An attitude that one in a position of leadership like Dr. Patterson could use to intimidate those in his employ to keep silent and not question or criticize blatant sinful behavior, with the threat of job loss.

That’s the mentality and culture that offers a breeding ground for predators. I saw it first hand in the cult, where you couldn’t question leadership or point out anything unbiblical for fear of being humiliated and disciplined for having a bitter root and gossiping. There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to people who want to use others for their own personal benefit and use intimidation and scripture to get away with it.

Some have said judgement has come to the house of God, and rightly so. As one friend said, too bad it took the world championing the #MeToo movement in order for the church to start addressing what’s been happening for decades in her midst. Sad.

However, I’m hopeful that those courageous souls who’ve endured shaming, shunning, and ridicule for speaking up will not weary of doing good. Their courage gives other victims the strength and permission to speak up. A good day for righteousness, but a bad day for all those abusers out there who thought their intimidation could keep their sinful behavior swept under the carpet for good.

Not gonna happen. More to come, I’m sure of that.

Cult Survivor’s Faith Journey Brings Her Full Circle

Press Release from Icon Media Group – Media Contact: Katie Powell Bell

Athena Dean Holtz shares the deception that wrecked her life and how she found her way back into the arms of Jesus in new book.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 2017— From a young age, Athena Dean Holtz chased affirmation and attention from all the wrong sources, leaving her empty and alone. A victim of physical abuse and spiritual deception, she was deceived by Scientology, forays into mysticism and 12 years in a restrictive and legalistic cult, she lost everything—her marriage, relationships, home, business, money and reputation. In her forthcoming book Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God (Redemption Press, Feb. 27, 2017), Holtz candidly tells her story of self-discovery, redemption and freedom as she surrendered to Jesus.

“This is the story of how God brought me full circle,” writes Holtz. “How he brought me home . . . to a place I had always longed for, but never knew how to find.”

In Full Circle, Holtz vulnerably shares her journey and gives readers a front-row seat to her story of a shattered life restored. An important story for anyone who has questioned his or her worth or direction; Holtz proves that anyone who believes God and invites Him to join in their trials welcomes the result of His triumph. Full Circle offers not only her life story but biblical answers to the raw questions she asked during the peaks and valleys of her life.

“Knowing how much God loves me, I am finding my significance in Him rather than in what I do or with whom I am associated.”

Holtz is available for interviews. Potential interview topics include:

  • Good grief: how to embrace life’s most painful moments to find true peace
  • If God is good, why does he allow bad things to happen?
  • Five ways to fight the thorns of insecurity
  • From hurt to happiness: three steps that healed me
  • Seven common pursuits that rob us of true joy
  • How I escaped life in a cult
  • Bless this mess: God’s perfect love for your imperfect life

About the Author

Athena Dean Holtz has been at the forefront of Christian custom publishing for the last 30 years. The co-founder of WinePress Publishing, she now leads Redemption Press. Author of three previous books and a highly-rated personal blog, she serves as president of the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association, is a president’s club member of the Christian Women in Media Association, and a member of the Advanced Writer & Speaker Association. She serves as host and interviewer on “Always Faithful Radio,” KCIS, Seattle. Married to Ross Holtz, pastor of The Summit, Athena enjoys her grandchildren and time spent sailing. The couple makes their home in Enumclaw, Wash.

Autographed copies available at www.redemption-press.com/shop/product/102606

Ebook available now:

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The Hidden Language Of Narcissists: How They Manipulate And Traumatize Their Victims

narcissist-language-702x336To those who still believe Timothy S. Williams and Malcolm Fraser are men of God, consider this with an open mind…

BY A CONSCIOUS RETHINK ON 29TH APRIL, 2016

Narcissists are masters of language who use words to deceive, coerce, seduce, and mislead. They have the forked tongue of a viper and have no misgivings when it comes to spouting poisonous, vitriolic abuse at their victims.

Verbal trickery is their preferred method of manipulation and they have a talent for saying the right thing at the right time to confuse, belittle and degrade the other person.

They devalue their victims, purposefully seeking to make them feel worthless so that they may subjugate them to their will. The unrelenting mind games of the narcissist are incredibly damaging to those on the receiving end; they can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other psychological effects.

Victims are left traumatized by the bombardment, with emotional pain that seems to have no end. They become mentally crippled by the onslaught, not understanding what is happening or how to escape from it.

That’s why it is so important to educate yourself regarding the sadistic language of narcissists; only then will you be able to recognize it when you encounter it. Knowledge of their ways will help you to form a shield against their attacks and prepare you for a quick escape should you ever get lured in by one.

If you have already suffered abuse at the hands of a narcissist, a better understanding of how they operate might aid in your recovery process. It might help to persuade you that you were a victim and not merely a participant in the whole episode. Whatever role you think you played, chances are you were only acting out the narcissist’s will.

So, here are just some of the ways in which a narcissist will exploit language to control his (or her) victim.

Low-level Stealth Abuse

This is an umbrella for the almost ceaseless stream of small, almost insignificant comments that form the foundation of a narcissist’s verbal abuse.

This is how they will usually begin to exert control over their victims, starting early on in the relationship when it might seem nothing more than a small flaw in their otherwise charming demeanor.

Often with a friendly smile on their face, they will say things like “you’re a very sensitive thing aren’t you?” or “no, you have misunderstood what I was saying.” These are the beginnings of a much longer process to wear the victim down, but they are rarely seen for what they are because of their seeming insignificance.

This sort of hidden abuse will continue throughout a relationship as an accompaniment to further, more insidious attacks.

The “Special Relationship” Myth

Another thing that narcissists will do, particularly at the beginnings of a relationship, is to convince their victim of the unique and special bond they have. They may use phrases such as “I’ve never felt this kind of love for anyone before” or “what I feel for you is so much more than what most people think love is.”

This is a form of grooming that begins to sow the seeds for the victim’s future tolerance of more hurtful abuse. They are lulled into a sense that what they and their narcissist partner have is unlike anything they have experienced before.

They are misled into thinking that all the best relationships are explosive and passionate and that this is a sign that theirs is something very precious. The victim becomes convinced of this “fact” and, thus, finds it more difficult to break things off with every passing day.

I Didn’t Mean It / I Was Only Joking

Another way that a narcissist will inflict their spitefulness on their victims is to constantly dismiss insults or criticisms by claiming that they didn’t really mean them.

They know full well that their prey will have been wounded by the initial comment, but make their excuses to cover up their malicious intent. They say they were joking, but, in reality, they were craftily going on the offensive to maneuver themselves into a dominant position.

This sort of language further conditions the victim to accept the narcissist’s behavior. It confuses them and makes them unsure as to whether or not they should be offended. Not knowing when to view a comment as an insult and when to take it as a joke simply hands power over to the narcissist to say what he likes.

Targeting Flaws And Insecurities

A narcissist has an uncanny ability to tease a person’s insecurities out of them and to identify all of the things that the other person considers as flaws. They also have a brilliant memory for such things and almost perfect timing when it comes to using them against their victims.

They may even be blunt in their questioning, using the cover of intimacy and vulnerability to pull down any defenses that they may encounter. To the victim, it feels like a way to build and strengthen the bond that has so far been built, but for the narcissist, it is a way to build up their stores of ammunition for use at a later date.

When the time comes, they will launch an offensive, using the information you handed over in trust to reopen old wounds and make you feel the same trauma and pain you have associated with for all of your life.

The narcissist thrives on the power they hold over you and are not afraid to use it in any situation where they feel it would advance their cause.

False Praise And Real Criticism

Coming across as nice, charming, and even complimentary is a skill that most narcissists have. They can lavish praise on other people when it suits them, but not a single word of it is heartfelt and honest.

Instead, they use false praise to manipulate others, to get them onside, and to make the criticisms that follow more palatable. They may say things like “I like your dress, but it really doesn’t flatter your figure” as a means of softening the blow while still having a dig.

It might seem like honesty, but it is anything but. The compliment is nothing short of a lie – something that they themselves don’t believe, but that serves their purpose.

This is another example of implicit abuse; something that might not always seem so bad to the victim and onlookers alike, but that has a cumulative and damaging effect on the self-esteem of those being targeted.

Projection

Undesirable, vile, and malicious thoughts and actions stemming from a narcissist aren’t things that they wish to see in themselves. To overcome this, these are projected onto their victim as a way of shifting the problem to someone else.

They unleash a barrage of words designed to convince the other person of their wrongdoing, to bamboozle them into believing they have done wrong even when they haven’t.

They make accusations such as “you’re paranoid” or “you’re a control freak” to mirror their own problems and transplant them into the beliefs of their victims.

They repeat this again and again, with such conviction that the other person ends up thinking that they actually embody these traits or that they have actually perpetrated some wrongdoing.

The more a narcissist can confuse their victim, the easier it becomes to make them bend to their will. They will set out upon a campaign of trickery and deceit that will slowly persuade their prey that they are losing their mind. By blurring the other person’s perception of reality, the narcissist can effectively write their own script and know that it will be accepted as truth.

They will constantly question their victim’s memory and insist that events were different to what is being recalled. They will withhold information or manipulate the truth to create doubt and confusion in the other person. The aim is to make the victim feel ever more dependent on them and ever less likely to leave.

They might say something along the lines of “thanks for taking the trash out this morning” even though they are fully aware that they did it themselves. When the other person responds by saying they didn’t take it out, the narcissist will insist that they must have done because they certainly didn’t do it, and it didn’t move by itself.

A small thing, perhaps, but when this scene is repeated over and over, it can be incredibly disorientating for the victim.

Singling Out The Victim

To maintain an air of normality, and to lay all of the blame squarely at the feet of the other person, a narcissist will insist that they never have any issues with people outside of the relationship.

They will claim things such as “you’re the only person I have this problem with” or “nobody else ever seems to misunderstand me like you do” in order to make the victim believe that the issue lies with them.

This further weakens the self-belief and self-confidence of the other party and makes them more vulnerable to future manipulation.

Silence, Volume, And Tone

Sometimes the most powerful use of language that a narcissist can employ is to pursue a silent approach. During a confrontation, they might simply choose to glare, frown, shake their head, or turn away.

Alternatively, they might alter the volume of their voice to change the way they get their message across. They might get louder or quieter; either change is a demonstration of the malice bubbling away under the surface,

They may also switch the tone in which they are speaking to convey a different meaning to their words. They may speak slightly higher when on the defensive or put particular emphasis on certain words to push their agenda.

These manipulations of language – and others like them – are designed to exert influence and control over the victim. A narcissist will adopt whichever approach is required to continue their war of attrition, wearing the other person down in a non-stop assault on the mind. Identifying these tactics is only the first step to overcoming them and to freeing yourself from the hold a narcissistic abuser has on you.

Have you suffered at the tongue of a narcissist? Can you relate to the language described above? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with others.

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The Power of Stillness

I continue to receive comments on this blog from those who still believe the false doctrine and lies of Tim Williams.

These messages are so hateful and profanity-filled that I would be remiss to allow them to defile my readers. Instead, I choose to join with Jesus in the power of stillness.

From Streams in the Desert

March 18
He answered nothing. (Mark 15:3 KJV)

There is no scene in all the Bible more majestic than our Savior remaining silent before the men who were reviling Him. With one quick burst of divine power, or one fiery word of rebuke, He could have caused His accusers to be laid prostrate at His feet. Yet He answered not one word, allowing them to say and do their very worst. He stood in THE POWER OF STILLNESS—God’s holy silent Lamb.

There is a place of stillness that allows God the opportunity to work for us and gives us peace. It is a stillness that ceases our scheming, self-vindication, and the search for a temporary means to an end through our own wisdom and judgment. Instead, it lets God provide an answer, through His unfailing and faithful love, to the cruel blow we have suffered.

Oh, how often we thwart God’s intervention on our behalf by taking up our own cause or by striking a blow in our own defense! May God grant each of us this silent power and submissive spirit. Then once our earthly battles and strife are over, others will remember us as we now remember the morning dew, the soft light of sunrise, a peaceful evening breeze, the Lamb of Calvary, and the gentle and holy heavenly Dove. A. B. Simpson

The day when Jesus stood alone
And felt the hearts of men like stone,
And knew He came but to atone—
That day “He held His peace.”
They witnessed falsely to His word,
They bound Him with a cruel cord,
And mockingly proclaimed Him Lord;
“But Jesus held His peace.”
They spat upon Him in the face,
They dragged Him on from place to place,
They heaped upon Him all disgrace;
“But Jesus held His peace.”
My friend, have you for far much less,
With rage, which you called righteousness,
Resented slights with great distress?
Your Savior “held His peace.” L. S. P.

I remember hearing Bishop Whipple of Minnesota, who was well known as “The Apostle of the Indians,” voice these beautiful words: “For the last thirty years, I have looked for the face of Christ in the people with whom I have disagreed.” When this spirit drives us, we will be immediately protected from a feeble tolerance of others, narrow-mindedness, harsh vindictiveness, and everything else that would damage  our testimony for Him who came not to destroy lives but to save them.  W. H. Griffith-Thomas