Two-thirds of Christians have experienced spiritual abuse -survey

A new online survey has uncovered that two-thirds of the Christians who had participated in it admit that they have personally experienced spiritual abuse, safeguarding charity Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service has revealed.

(REUTERS / Mark Makela)A member of the clergy uses the papal mass program as a fan while Pope Francis leads the service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Penn., Sept. 26, 2015.

In a survey carried out by academics from Bournemouth University on behalf of CCPAS, 1,002 out of its 1,591 Christian respondents said they had been spiritually abused. The charity's executive director of safeguarding, Justin Humphreys, said the results were significant, considering that the participants were not required to have experienced the abuse in order to be part of the poll, the Church Times detailed.

"Yes, the results are significant, as [being spiritually abused] was not a prerequisite for participation," said Humphreys. "Having said this, in some ways it is not surprising, as many will have taken this as an opportunity to share their story in anonymous form, possibly for the first time."

The study admitted that the term "spiritual abuse" has not been clearly defined, but 72 percent of the respondents expressed confidence that they knew its meaning very well. The research also enumerated a number of its characteristics, such as coercion, control and manipulation of people with the use of religious texts in order to justify their behavior.

In an article published on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Mike Fehlauer reminded Christians about God's anger against authorities who abused the people they were supposed to bless. Jeremiah 5:30-31 talked about priests ruling "by their own power" and prophets giving false prophecies, and how the Lord's anger burns against these people.

In contrast to self-serving religious leaders, Jesus Christ expressed genuine care for his people. Matthew 9:36 showed how Christ was deeply moved when he saw people scattered because they had no one to lead them.

Because of his compassion for his "scattered" sheep, Christ invited the people to approach him with all their burdens and rest in his presence, as written in Matthew 11:28-30. In light of this, Fehlauer called for churches to foster a healthy environment that encouraged peace and rest for the souls under their care.