The Particulars of Spiritual Abuse: Mind Control and Loyalty

Last year, Rachael Clinton Chen and Dr. Dan Allender dove into a series on the dynamics of spiritual abuse and forms of trauma that can emerge in situations of spiritual abuse. This week, we’re sharing with you their conversation about some of the particulars of spiritual abuse including mind control, dogmatism, suspicion, and loyalty. One of the first categories you’ll hear them unpack is mind control, including the implications and consequences of abusive mind control which distorts desire for attunement in order to grow suspicion and mistrust.

All of these systems and categories, however, are ultimately about control—structuring power and authority in such a way that spiritually abusive leaders have total control over the minds and bodies of those in their communities. Dan and Rachael invite us back to that which spiritual abuse most fundamentally sabotages: hope.


“Mind control is so linked to identity formation. When we’re talking about mind control, we’re talking about how you’re being told to make sense of yourself, how you’re being told to make sense of God, how you’re being told to make sense of the world.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“That’s so huge, so important to underline that when you’re engaging a story—and the Bible is 70 percent story—it doesn’t lend itself to mastery and control. There’s so much more room for ambiguity, for a very rich explication of meaning.” Dr. Dan Allender

“I would say one of the most pervasive consequences is fear—a fear to explore, to question, to rethink. […] There is a genuine, primal, very embodied fear that if I question, if I explore, if I rethink, I’m going to have profound loss of relationship. I will be punished. But I think if we’re honest, depending on the level of mind control, the actual, deep-seated fear is that I might actually cease to exist.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“To start with a very core premise: Jesus is not bound to white supremacy. Jesus is not bound to capitalism. Jesus is not bound to the western way. Jesus is not bound to a particular denomination.” Dr. Dan Allender

“How about you let God do the work of laboring you anew, of breathing new life into you. And trusting that God wants to do that, and is not demanding that you have to have airtight belief with no doubt and no heartache. Because in this context, the doubt is actually just trauma. It’s trauma and fragmentation.” Rachael Clinton Chen