This post is a continuation of the series looking at the 8 marks of an abusive church from an article written by Pat Zukeran in the previous posts.
Another mark of an abusive church is the manipulation of members. Zukeran states that:
“Abusive churches are characterized by the manipulation of their members. Manipulation is the use of external forces to get others to do what someone else wants them to do. Here manipulation is used to get people to submit to the leadership of the church. The tactics of manipulation include the use of guilt, peer pressure, intimidation, and threats of divine judgment from God for disobedience. Often harsh discipline is carried out publicly to promote ridicule and humiliation.
Another tactic is the “shepherding” philosophy. As practiced in many abusive churches this philosophy requires every member to be personally accountable to another more experienced person. To this person, one must reveal all personal thoughts, feelings, and discuss future decisions. This personal information, is not used to help the member, but to control the member.
Another means of control is isolation. Abusive churches may cut off contact between a new member and his family, friends, and anyone else not associated with the church.”
Recently in the comments someone spoke of a friend who has become involved with SCOAN. They said “[if] he has a problem he runs to the prophet, he meets a girl he loves he runs to the prophet to endorse the relationship”. The life becomes controlled by the “prophet”. Several disciples have told very similar stories, including Beth and Giles. The control is so strong that people have lost their lives following TB Joshua’s deadly advice to stop taking their medication.
Harsh discipline is common at SCOAN. Ex disciple Gareth describes the kind of routine punishment meted out on disciples for upsetting the “man of God”.
The kind of trouble I experienced is referred to by disciples as “Adabba”. When this happens you are not allowed to eat, sleep, enter the dormitory or shower. You are not allowed to talk to anyone and no one is allowed to talk to you. TBJ usually shouts at you (sometimes slaps you) and you have to mope around his office until you are “forgiven”. Disciples is this situation feel terrible, you feel like you have let down not only man, but God. As a disciple you see TBJ as the link between you and God – failing him is failing God.
Another ex-disciple Beth had a similar experience, one that left her suffering from malaria.
If he was disobeyed, meals or access to the dormitory were restricted and TB Joshua had to grant permission for these to be returned. I was once forbidden to return to the ladies dorm one night because I had not stopped a door from slamming, which meant I spent the night on wooden benches in the church at the mercy of the mosquitoes.
As sickening as Beth and Gareth’s experiences are, this was mild punishment, typically reserved for western disciples. The punishment inflicted on Nigerian Brother Nosa could only be described as torture.
Disciples at SCOAN are completely cut off from the outside world. As Beth put it “Contact with my family and friends was totally forbidden without written permission from [TB Joshua]. Any desire to make contact was taken to be an indication that you wanted to return to your old life.” We are in contact with many people who have lost sons, daughters, brothers, parents and spouses to SCOAN. Whatever religion it is they preach, it has destroyed many formally happy families.
There is so much material on this site that demonstrates SCOAN’s manipulation of members, but if we mentioned it all this article would never be finished. If you’re still not convinced, read through all the disciple testimonies.
For now, we finish with a final quote from Zukeran.
How different this style of leadership is from the leadership of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who lovingly, gently, humbly, and sacrificially leads His sheep.”