There is something interesting that I noted down thru the years. It has to do with the temperament of the constituents in a given church body.
I was born and grew up in the cult like atmosphere where spiritual abuse was rampant. My own father was the pastor/spiritual leader for the greater part of my life. I was not only affected during church services, but I lived with the knowledge that he was my “pastor”, which trumped the father relationship.
My own temperament was always extremely sensitive. I was one that responded very easily to any message of guilt or shame. From a very early age I was a perfectionist and a people-pleaser. However, given my early history as a nine-month-old baby being trained to sit alone on the front pew of the service, it’s hardly surprising that my nature was so sensitive and retiring. I would respond to a simple suggestion of what I should do without a direct command ever having to be given. That was because I was trained from a baby to respond to authorities in this way.
I’m sure that, genetically, I was also wired to be this type of temperament, because my mother was very similar. My sister, who was born after me, was not of the same temperament. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of the constituents of these congregations did often have gentle natures from birth. We are all more submissive by nature.
If you are not by nature submissive, you will not last long in the cult. I noted, as a young adult, how my family was always saying we needed to pray for “strong men” to come into the church, so that they could help carry some of the leadership. Oddly enough, there were never any strong men in my dad’s church.
After I married and moved away, I began to think about this, and I began to realize why. Any time there was a strong man in the congregation, he had a tendency to butt heads with my dad and leave. I began to note that strong men could not survive the environment. If you were in this atmosphere, it was not OK to ever disagree with the pastor. If you disagreed with the pastor, or questioned the pastor, you had a “rebellious spirit”, and you would either leave, or learn to submit.
Obviously, a strong spirited man is not going to submit to that, so they would always leave. Oddly enough, there were a few strong spirited women in the church. They would either leave, or become very close to my dad and mother, to the point of becoming a leader in the church, under my dad’s leadership. It’s a very interesting phenomenon to me that strong men could not learn to do this.
I watched my dad at one point try to have an assistant, or a youth leader. It never worked out. He would literally crush the spirit of any male who came to work closely under him. Strangely, he was pretty good at mentoring men who would live in other cities, and just call him for advice. Allowing someone to work under him in his own church…that was a different story.
I began to understand that there is a very real sense of insecurity in the cult leaders. When people begin to wield so much power, they don’t want to share it with anyone else. They begin to be suspicious of others, in fear of ever losing that position of control.
For many of the people who were constituents of these churches, there was a lot of past abuse, mental problems, or just gentle submissive temperaments involved. It is impossible to rule over and brow beat people who are mentally healthy and strong in their temperament. Therefore, these types of leaders by their very nature, attract congregants who are natural follower–submissive, and gentle by nature.