Wounded Faith: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse is a new collection of essays edited by the Reverend Dr. Neil Damgaard. It has two audiences in mind: recovering victims and the religious community at large. While it was written as an aid to help victims who are grappling with their faith, the book also seeks to clarify the meaning of spiritual abuse and instruct religious communities on how to effectively welcome victims of spiritual abuse. The book’s authors come from a background in Christianity and have each, in their own way, experienced spiritual abuse. Here they attempt to dispel commonly held misconceptions, to elucidate the circumstances in which spiritually abused individuals often find themselves, and to implore leaders in communities of faith to shine a light on this harmful, not uncommon offense. In addition, each chapter provides an encouraging and sympathetic voice that will be appreciated by readers who have also been victims of spiritual abuse.
Wounded Faith is a beacon of hope and help for those who’ve been spiritually abused and a guide for fellow Christians and church leaders to understand and help those who are recovering.
Unfortunately, many of us are too familiar with abuse that sometimes takes place in the church, but what happens when you’re one of the ones who’s been hurt? Wounded Faith is a compilation of teaching, insights, and hopeful guidance for spiritual abuse and healing from experts in cults and cult-like behavior. The authors are Christian scholars, therapists, and former members of cults or cult-like groups.
Their topics target three types of people involved: the abused, the fellow Christian, and church leadership. They all have a role that’s relevant to the recovery of the victims. From defining spiritual abuse and guidelines for spiritually abused persons and stages of recovery to healing your image of God, each topic helps everyone in different ways, depending on their role and perspective. Specific topics critical to spiritual abuse recovery include marital damage and recovery, post-recovery parenting, specific issues women face, and forgiveness. Fellow Christians and pastors/clergy can glean guidance from the topics of returning to church after experiencing spiritual abuse and making your church spiritually safe.
In the tragic realm of spiritual abuse, there is something for everyone in this book.
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Who would benefit from this book?
Wounded Faith is valuable for several different types of people. Those who have been spiritually abused would find comfort and solace in being acknowledged and find hope for their future. Christians who’ve been in denial about the spiritual and sexual abuse that takes place in some churches would get the eye opener they need, if they’re willing to open their minds and hearts to the fact that this sin exists, and how their actions can either help or hurt those who are already hurting and are skeptical about being hurt again. Lastly, ministers, clergy, and church laypeople would benefit from learning to recognize signs of abuse within their churches and how to welcome those who are afraid to trust in Christian goodness again.
How this book affected me
When I first saw that Wounded Faith was published through the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), it caught me off guard. After reading the introduction and with a little reflection, I could easily see some similarities in Christian churches and cult-like behaviors. The credence and total devotion that some Christians give to the humans that run their churches can be very cult-like. As I reflected on the sexual abuse cases that have been exposed within churches and how members “give a pass” to the perpetrators, it convinced me that the ICSA is a perfect organization to bring light to the topic of those who’ve encountered spiritual abuse. I pray this book reaches those who need its lessons and guidance, from the wounded and their Christian fellows to church leaders.
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