When Hospitals Become Battlefields: The Impact of Spiritual Abuse on Faith & Flourishing / Dan Koch

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Thinking of the Christian church as a field hospital is a wonderful thought, but what happens when the very place you go to for healing becomes the locus of trauma? What happens to faith and flourishing when the hospital becomes a battlefield? For all the media attention given to cases of spiritual abuse, there is very little by way of psychological research. Dan Koch, host of the podcast You Have Permission and a doctoral student in counseling psychology at Northwest University, explores the tragic and damaging phenomenon of spiritual abuse; its impact on the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual life; and identifies some of the most important factors in understanding its underlying causes and developing approaches to healing for victims. Interview with Evan Rosa.

Show Notes

  • "Religion is like nuclear fission. When done well, nuclear fission can give us free electricity indefinitely with a little bit of care and a little bit of grooming. It's this tremendously powerful source of energy and flourishing. But it also, when done poorly, can melt a reactor, kill tens of thousands of people, and irradiate land for a million years."
  • "What we do when we spiritually abused someone, not only do we harm them, we cut them off from what may have been their primary healing source. In the same move, we make it harder for them to use their faith, use their spirituality to heal from the harm we just did to them."
  • “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
  • For our purposes, "spiritual abuse" means any form of physical, mental, sexual, or spiritual harm or trauma that occurs in a religious context.
  • About You Have Permission
  • Theology and psychology—TheoPsych and Blueprint1543
  • How Dan Koch got interested in spiritual and religious abuse
  • End-times terror as a form of spiritual abuse
  • Spiritual and religious abuse has scant literature, but covers a variety of species of abuse and harm.
  • A Venn diagram with other kinds of abuse and harm, in religious contexts
  • Controlling and narcissistic pastors
  • Conditionality
  • Violence, horror, and terror
  • Developing a God image
  • Restricting negative emotions and unhappiness
  • The prevalence of spiritual abuse—Liz Oakley's study of the U.K.
  • Jean Vanier and Ravi Zacharias—celebrity, fame, and power dynamics that lead to spiritual and sexual abuse
  • The power of religious leaders in American life
  • Conflating the religious leader with God
  • The impact of spiritual abuse on the plausibility of faith: rationality, emotion, and the holistic response of a person to abuse
  • Responding to spiritual abuse
  • Standing in solidarity with victims

About Dan Koch

Dan Koch is host of the podcast You Have Permission and a doctoral student in counseling psychology at Northwest University. Follow him on Twitter @DanKoch.

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