real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

april 25 podcast

Part Two of the series on spiritual abuse featuring my interview with Dr. Cindy Kunsman.



  WWF Cindy K wrote @


My husband came home from work and asked right away if the podcast had gone online. He’s said for the third time now how impressed he is with how well you conduct the interviews. He’s a tough critic, too, so I wanted to pass that on.

I found myself squirming, wishing that we could have crammed more material in there and finished off all of Lifton’s critera, discussing how these influences can affect us in every day life. And we didn’t even get to the two biggies — the Sacred Science and Doctrine over Person. I’m so excited that people can hear about these things so that they can learn to recognise the insidious nature of manipulation in religious settings. (Or any setting, really.)

In the meanwhile, if anyone has interest, there’s a great online publication by Steven Martin that outlines Lifton’s criteria from a Christian perspective that people can read if they have interest while their waiting to hear the next podcast. Go to to get the downloadable book (and consider making a donation).

And there’s also a short version on under the “Spiritual Abuse” option. And it’s all over the internet as well.

This information “blew my mind” when I first heard it all, even after suspecting that my church might be “cultic” (weeks after I left the group). I am so grateful to have the opportunity to talk about it with you and so many others by way of this strange new world of podcasting. May the information be a seed of truth, “like a splinter in the mind” of those who listen, encouraging everyone in a more mature faith in Jesus Christ.

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, I had wished we could have gotten all the Lifton stuff on one podcast, too. There is just so much great information that I am certain we will have 2 or 3 more podcasts from what you and I recorded so far. I hate to have them go longer than 30 minutes for the sake of those who have to struggle with dial-up connections.

I will also be offering all the podcasts in the Spiritual abuse series on one CD for $4.00 postage paid when they are all complete and I know they will get passed around like the patriarchy series has been.

Last night as I listened to the podcast again, it struck me that your illustrations really make the principles come alive and help to drive home what exactly we need to be aware of in questionable church relationships.

Tell Gary thank you for his kind words. I have had such awesome and knowledgeable guests that interviews are so easy! We are also blessed with a terrific (not to mention cute as can be) sound man who takes away all the coughing, sneezing, heavy breathing, and crinkling of chocolate wrappers!

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, I can so relate to your “blew my mind” comment because that is exactly what happened to me.

We had been in a highly authoritative church and didn’t really realize it until we and others began asking some doctrinal questions. Suddenly anyone who asked any sort of question was suspect. I can remember the pastor warning people from the pulpit that no one was “allowed” to discuss any decisions made by the session among themselves. But even if you asked just the elders, which is what we initially did, there was this condescending demeanor and eventually the pastor said we needed to look at our relationship with the session as a child with his parents, not ever questioning anything they did because we all knew that would be rebellion. When my husband explained that that is not how our household functions, that our children are welcomed to talk about anything with us, even to respectfully challenge us, this pastor was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe Christian parents would approach raising children in such a way! When we brought up the topic of the priesthood of the believer, we were warned not to use that phrase in a presbyterian church! It was the realization that the Reformation meant nothing to this little group of popes that brought home LIfton’s teachings regarding questioning authority.

  WWF Cindy K wrote @


I don’t know if we talk about this in the podcasts at all, but I watched the first Matrix film about two years after we left our abusive church. I found that film to be the closest analogy to our experience — closer than any other.

In your comment here, I was reminded of something that my exit counselor kept saying — that usually the first inkling that you have as you realize what is happening to you lacks words. It’s an increasingly pervasive feeling that something is very wrong.

I’ve been working on a blog post on this where I have taken some liberties with the Wachkowski Brothers’ screenplay and adjusted it for the spiritually abused. Here are two sections spoken in the film by the character Morpheus. (I’ve changed Morpheus to Exit Counselor, Neo to True Believer and Matrix to the spiritually abusive system or some such thing.)

I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?….

It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth…..

That you are a slave, True Believer. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Spiritually Abusive System is. You have to see it for yourself.

This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more….

Have you ever had a dream, True Believer, that you were so sure was real. What if you were unable to wake from that dream. How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

Looks like I’m going to finish that blog post sooner rather than later!

Take the RED PILL, everybody.

  Lin wrote @

“I can remember the pastor warning people from the pulpit that no one was “allowed” to discuss any decisions made by the session among themselves. But even if you asked just the elders, which is what we initially did, there was this condescending demeanor and eventually the pastor said we needed to look at our relationship with the session as a child with his parents, not ever questioning anything they did because we all knew that would be rebellion.”

This is what is so insidious about this authoritarian view. It is not just how it treats people but it is making horrible sinners out of the leaders! But what is going on? Is it the last days? It is everywhere…little popes in Christendom.

“When we brought up the topic of the priesthood of the believer, we were warned not to use that phrase in a presbyterian church! It was the realization that the Reformation meant nothing to this little group of popes that brought home LIfton’s teachings regarding questioning authority.”

Well, we are ‘allowed’ to still bring it up in the SBC but it’s meaning has been changed to mean that you can be in the Holy Priesthood if you obey your leaders.

  Lin wrote @

Cindy, I don’t even know how to ask this but can these spiritual abusers…authoritarians…not even realize what they are doing? It is not like they are comitting crimes against the state such as the FLDS is doing and they try to hide it. They are quite open about it. They take scriptures such as Hebrews obey your leaders to mean they are ultimate authories.

They don’t even equate their wrong behavior with all the scripture that spells it out so plainly.

What is going on?

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @


That’s the tough moral question that I have to leave with the Lord but one that proves haunting to me. When we left our church, my husband said for many years that the leaders could not be Christian, based on their conduct and character. I know that I also hear about these things from people with intimate knowledge of some of these patriocentrists and their dirty dealings.

I know that with me, there were points along the way that were bathed in confusion where I was required to either trust my better judgement or trust the authority of an individual or a group. Those things haunt me, and I repented for as many as I could where it was appropriate. At some point though, I believe that these leaders must make a choice. When the stakes got bigger for me, I identified them and chose the tougher path of truth over going along with avoiding offense, political correctness or the politically expedient. That decision comes to all of us. I don’t know why I chose what I did and why others choose differently. At this point, I don’t want to know and I don’t believe that we should.

What we can do and what we’re called to do is to “call ’em like we see ’em.” We’re commanded to bring everything under the authority of the Word of God. So that’s where we start.

I think that asking these things and questioning motive are inevitable, but I think that only God has the solid answers. If we have evidence that proves motive through testimony of some of these people, we need to bring it to light, but we can’t know the interworkings of the heart of another. Jeremiah says that we don’t even know our own heart. But we can certainly see the works and the words spoken from the heart, those things that flow from the intent of our hearts.

It’s a tough subject.

  Lin wrote @

Cindy, The problem is what we tell others about our decision to choose truth. Why we left. Why we spoke out. That is where the rubber meets the road. That is the hard part. People do not like negative truths. They think negative truths are ‘unchristian’.

Most people believe the ‘authority’, anyway. In my case most of the stuff centered around behavior that was hidden from most people. It was willful sinning and Hebrews 10: 26-31 speaks to it clearly. There was also watered down preaching such as sin being mistakes and cheap grace. It makes it harder for people to see certain behaviors as real sin. Me included until I could not dismiss what I saw any longer and ran to scripture to figure it all out.

I had to come to the conclusion, in my case, that Martin Lloyd Jones had it right about the Christian life can be very lonely.

  Lin wrote @

BTW: This podcast was wonderful and I am looking forward to hearing the rest of it.

  Amy Brigham wrote @

Thank you so very much for sharing all of this fascinating information on this series of podcasts Thatmom and Cindy. So much of my faith journey over the past few years is suddenly “clicking” as this information about spiritual abuse sinks in. The part of your discussion about language was especially fascinating to me, as “loaded language” was what helped me sink my toes into the murky water of patriarchy in the beginning. I *was* a very radical leftist, feminist, active with NARAL & NOW, preparing to become a clinic escort (& even accompanying a friend to an abortion clinic & walking out with her when she THANKFULLY couldn’t go through with the abortion), participating in all sorts of wacky discussion groups & protests, and really screwing up my life in the process. When I first began to realize how awful my life had become, I came across the LAF website and foolishly thought that their definition of feminism must certainly be the same as mine, and from there, a new light came to my Bible study and life in general. It took quite awhile for me to realize that their definition of feminism is nowhere near what mine was, nor anything close to what I actually believe about womens’ rights and many other ideas, etc. Since coming to understand what “patriarchy” truly encompasses, I have felt like a foll for falling for everything I have, but listening to this podcast and realizing that I am not the only one who has fallen for such things makes me feel human, rather than stupid.

A BIG thank you for this important information you two are sharing here and over at True Womanhood! You two and all the other ladies who have offered their knowledge and wisdom over at TW have been such a blessing to me, and my husband and daughter as well :o)

  thatmom wrote @

Thank you for your very kind words, Amy. We have both been praying that these podcasts would be a source of education as well as healing and comfort to those who listen.

Since both Cindy and I have been on the receiving end of spiritual abuse, we have a great deal of compassion and empathy toward those who also have experienced it.

In the next few days I hope to post a couple things about explaining this sort of behavior to our children and some of the things that I personally have found helpful in these matters.

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @

When I got out of my church, I called all over the Baltimore and DC area, looking for a pastor that could counsel me. I didn’t even want to tell anyone who my pastor was and sought pastors that knew the Word who could help me. There were none. Most of them insisted on knowing who my pastor was and all insisted that I had to return to the pastor and repent. (Repent of what? I’d done nothing wrong.)

I eventually started calling former members and ventured to call a woman that I’d never met but heard was into witchcraft. She wasn’t. She’d joined a PCA church! She put me in contact with an exit counselor who offered me the only viable knowlegable support that I could find, even among Chrisitan counselors. What she offered me was painfully true, but it was true. So I offer it to all who will listen, especially to those who are involved in patriarchy. I don’t think it was any mistake that I ended up in Doug Phillips’ church (Grace OPC) before he started BCA. I’ve got a duty to that knowledge and the knowledge that has been imparted to me. Sola Deo Gloria. May we all be healed.

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @

Thinking about kids and all this stuff, what comes to mind that was offered to me was how Jesus was wounded in the house of His friends. I think, too, of many different Psalms that are so sweet and simple.

  Beatrice wrote @

I can not thank you ENOUGH, Cindy and Karen, for providing these podcasts! And everyone else for the great discussions afterwards.

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