A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Control by Compliance, Control by Chaos, Control by Charisma

Three different types of control that are abusive

Abusers have lots in common with other abusers, but the ways they gain control are not all the same. This is one reason why a victim can get re-victimized in a new relationship: the second abuser did not have the same surface characteristics or modus operandi as the first abuser.

Julie Anne Smith, of Spiritual Sounding Board, has been trying to figure our how Doug Phillips of Vision Forum came to have such control and be so abusive. She has been talking by phone with a person whom she calls ‘Source’ — someone from the inner circle of the now defunct Vision Forum. This person, Source, has given JA a better picture of what Doug Phillips was like.  You also need to know that one of Julie Anne’s mentors and colleagues is Brad/furturistguy (that’s his internet handle in blog-land).

We think the three types of control which Brad has enunciated will ring bells or spark understanding for our readers who have suffered domestic abuse. Brad and Julie Anne are primarily talking about how this control plays out in abusive church systems, but the same dynamics can often be seen in the micro-system of a family where one of the spouses is abusive.

Now, over to Julie Anne. We are picking up the post a bit of the way into it:

After my phone call with Source, I called my friend, Brad/futuristguy, who has spent years studying and writing on the topic of systems of abuse, especially in faith communities.  After I explained to Brad where I had gone off in my wrong interpretation of Doug Phillips, I shared the new information to see if he could provide some feedback for me.  He sure did and I think the information he gave me might help others.  Brad identified three ways in which church leaders can exert their control, and by that, their abuse:

  • Control by Compliance:  The leader sets up a rigid system full of rules and regulations, “correct” theology, legalistic treatment of people, punitive (punishing) treatment for those who fall short, being very black/white in thinking. All this helps some people feel safe, secure, and competent because they supposedly know they are believing the right things and acting the right ways. But others feel locked in, blocked off, stifled.
  • Control by Chaos:  When there are no clear rules/boundaries, it can lead to a chaotic environment.  This may amp up a supposed creativity factor, but can also make people feel unsettled, insecure, and self-doubting because they don’t know what is going to happen next. So they get spiritually chained to the leader and expect him or her to take charge. But there is little consistency because the leader is always chasing the next new idea.  You will also find little-to-no accountability or follow-through by someone who controls by chaos.
  • Control by Charisma:  This leader thrives on being in the public spotlight, and easily attracts an audience by the way they look, their eloquent speaking, their passionate emoting, their awe-inspiring vision.  There is something magnetic there, and people following this charismatic leader get enamored by their vision or success. He represents something new and exciting and they want to be a part of that success.

Brad talked about how in any of these different systems, people put their hope in a leader or a system, and no longer directly in Jesus. So, if something happens to show the leader or system to be fake or flawed, it can pull the spiritual rug out from underneath these followers. (But that actually can be a saving grace as a puffed up person or system implodes, because it can force us to see what we chose to chain ourselves to, and maybe will start us on a pathway to peace and freedom.)

Ok, so here’s the main take-away for this situation. Before talking with Source, I [Julie Anne] had Doug Phillips placed mostly in the Control by Compliance category.  Although I had always considered Phillips to be showy and wanting public attention for himself, I was not considering that his charisma was a method of control, or that maybe he used chaos inside Vision Forum or Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) to control. Now, after this new information from Source, it is my opinion that Phillips’ primary methods of control were by chaos and charisma.(Methods of control can and often do overlap.)

We will soon see how these different methods of control played out. Please be patient. They may not all seem to fit right now, but I think you might see eventually that they do fit and that they form a different picture about the forms of abuse perpetrated.

* * *

Read the full article at Spiritual Sounding Board: Attempting To Set The Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 1, The Puzzle of Control (March 16, 2014). If you want to hear more from Julie Anne about this, you’ll need to read the subsequent posts that will be coming out in that series.

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Barb, Thank you for addressing the different forms of control and providing additional sources for study. You stated: “This is one reason why a victim can get re-victimized in a new relationship: the second abuser did not have the same surface characteristics or modus operandi as the first abuser.”
    Many victims were raised in abusive homes, fall prey to abusive spouses, and in their quest for serving the Lord will often fall prey to “abusive leadership” within the church. Note: the abuse is so subtle and it can take years before you are willing to admit to yourself that there has actually been abuse!

    • fiftyandfree

      So true. I was raised in a house with a step father who was an abuser, and a mother who was probably abusive too, but I still can’t admit that. Stepfather was a “control by compliance” type… angry, critical, threatening, physically and emotionally abusive, using a rigid set of rules which were fueled by a warped view of what children should be like and how they should behave. He thought we should be mini adults, fully grown and mature at ages 6, 8, and 9 (the ages we were when he met my mother). He fully believed that children were put on the earth to serve their parents, and we were treated accordingly.

      The thing is he was REAL, if that makes sense. You always knew where he stood, what his expectations were, etc. There was zero charm and no charisma. He was who was he was, and he made no apologies, nor did he attempt to portray a false persona. So, when I met my anti-husband who was full of charisma and psychopathic charm I was fooled, and fooled easily. I thought abusers were obvious and easy to spot because my step dad was so blatant. The anti-husband was a “control by compliance” type too, but still I didn’t see it coming until long after I said, “I do.” He was also rigid and black and white in his views and in his expectations. He too used threats to keep me in line. The difference is that he was a liar (my step dad was not) and he wore a facade, masquerading himself as a godly, Christian man.

      • FiftyandFree, what a good story to illustrate how a person can get sucked in by an abuser whose comes in a different package from the other abuser(s) she’s known. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂

  2. fiftyandfree

    You’re welcome. I am reminded of that thread about how it’s the abusers who pretend to be Christians who are the most dangerous. If the anti-husband hadn’t been so adept at faking morality and Christianity, I would have never gotten sucked in.

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