Episode Summary:

If you have ever been abused by someone in the church, been manipulated by the church, or been under abusive authority within the church, or want to know how to avoid all the above, then this show is the perfect show for you.

In this episode, I speak with Athena Dean Holtz about spiritual abuse.

Those at greatest risk of being the victim of spiritual abuse appear to be those who don’t truly know what the Word of God says. Manipulators thrive on control, and thrive on converting others to their way of thinking. Intimidation is another characteristic of abusers, leaving their victims feeling all alone, powerless, defeated, and victimized.

While most situations of abuse are not the victim’s fault, it can nonetheless be so helpful for the victim to ask God the Father “What role did I play in this?” When we take responsibility for our own behavior, it strips the abuser of their power. Furthermore, learning what behaviors and patterns are recurring and leaving victims wounded, helps us take responsibility for the role we played, and it makes us more responsible for having honest dialog with the one who is wounded by agreeing in prayer, and agreeing with what God says about us, and often has the added benefit of helping us not repeat behaviors and patterns in relationship that would lead to future abuse.

In this article, Athena shares was she learned from 12 years of spiritual abuse and manipulation.


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Quotables from the Episode:

  • It’s so crucial that we know the Scripture and know when it is being taken out of context. Furthermore, when we aren’t familiar enough with the scriptures for ourselves can make us easily intimidated by the scriptures when others proclaim them.
  • If we leave wounded areas in our life unhealed, leaves us open to further work by the enemy of our soul.
  • Intimidation is a common strategy used by those who are abusive. And that’s just like the enemy, who is a big bully and is intimidating when Jesus isn’t like that at all.
  • When we have been hurt and wounded by people, that can leave a void in our lives that can leave us open to being wounded by others and be drawn in by others in the future, and manipulators are good at observing and figuring out what our triggers points and vulnerable weak spots are, so they can use those to their advantage.
  • Abusers often begin with a grooming process, where they take a special interest in someone and go out of their way to make that person feel special. But at the same time, they also make it seem that anyone who questions, or challenges, or who points out anything that could be negative as the enemy. The abusers will often make it sound righteous by cutting off anyone who disagrees with their position.
  • In the grooming process, they also want to isolate you and cut you off from friend, family members, and anyone who might point out the fallacies of their beliefs and help you see truth.
  • If a spiritual leader is not humble enough to allow people to challenge them on their opinions or teachings, but instead intimidate or get angry, that’s a very dangerous place to be.
  • To aid in our healing, we have to be willing to ask God, “What was my role in this? Where did I open the door for the enemy to come in? What do I need to take responsibility and repent for?”
  • God’s way is for us to be teachable and humbling ourselves to his conviction.
  • Another useful thing to do when you want to ensure that you know truth, is to ask the Holy Spirit “What do you say about this?” The Holy Spirit’s job is to remind us of all truth. But He can’t remind us of the truth if we haven’t already been exposed to it by reading God’s word.
  • If you have a friend or loved one who is being spiritually abused, pray for them. Because of the brainwashing that takes place, they are not likely to listen to your concerns. You might gift them a copy of Athena’s book because it comes from the perspective of someone else who has been there.
  • If you’ve been in a position of having been spiritually abused, do not allow it to steal your trust with others. Not all churches, pastors, or spiritual leaders are abusive. You need to find a safe community of believers who believe the truth, and help you get healed from the past abuse, whereas the enemy would like to use this to isolate you further.

Scripture References:

  • Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
  • Joshua 1:7, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.”
  • Isaiah 30:20-21, “Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.’”


Recommended Resources: (If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).


Social Media Links for Host and Guest:

Stay connected with Athena Dean Holtz

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Guest Athena Dean Holtz

Athena Dean Holtz, publisher, speaker, former radio host and pastor’s wifeAthena Dean is a publisher, speaker, former radio host and pastor’s wife. For the last 30 years she has worked in the industry, spearheading the independent publishing movement in the Christian publishing market. In 2014 Athena co-founded Redemption Press to fill an author-centered niche in publishing.

She was president of the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association from 2016-2018, is a president’s club member of Christian Women in Media Association (CWIMA), a member of Advanced Writer & Speaker Association (AWSA), and recently retired host of a weekly radio program, “Always Faithful” on AM 630 KCIS, where she shared God’s faithfulness with women across the globe.

Her newest book recounts the story of her twelve-year Job-like experience and the modern day Cinderella story she is now living.

Radio Air Date: November 25, 2019

Hosted By: Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Audio Technical Support: Bryce Bengtson


In this episode, I speak with Athena Dean Holtz about spiritual abuse. If you’ve ever been abused by someone in the church, been manipulated by the church, been under abusive authority within the church, or want to know how to avoid all the above, then this show is the perfect show for you.