Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Deliverance ministry, "Christian Counseling", and parallels with Scientology (!)

Recently (in reference to this recent post on Dark Christianity) I stumbled upon the following series of articles on "Christian Counseling" aka "Theophostic Counseling", which is promoted heavily in the dominionist community as an alternative to "secular" psychiatry:


In these articles I found characteristics in addition to those aspects of "deliverance ministry/spiritual warfare" in dominionist churches that I am personally familiar with (being a walkaway from a coercive AoG church into "Third Wave" theology, which incorporates "deliverance ministry/spiritual warfare" as part of its integral theology, and having also done some research on churches in the dominionist movement with similar theology such as Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs) that are especially troubling, as they show that the basic coercive tactics used in these churches are substantially identical to those used in a group much better known for being coercive--specifically, Scientology.

For comparisons between the practices of "Christian Counseling" targeted towards dominionists and Scientology, I will rely on information from the sites listed above (and other sites where necessary) regarding "deliverance ministry" theology and will rely on various online sources regarding the latter (which will be documented).

The site lists "theophostic counseling" as being similar to "recovered memory therapy" with the following twists:

Associated with each of these traumatic memories is a false belief --
a lie -- implanted by Satan. It is the lie, more than the abuse memories themselves, that causes
distress in adulthood.

Now, this is a rather new twist, but this is almost identical to the entire idea of "engrams" in Scientology:

(from http://www.xs4all.nl/~felipe/cos/translate.html)
Scientologists are convinced that every human is under the influence of Xenu,
who 60 billion years ago released Thetans on earth.
These Thetans are in each of us, and cause 'engrams'.
Scientology can erase those, so that someone becomes 'clear'

Now, what the hell are "thetans" and "engrams"? According to Scientology, all of your problems are the result of "body thetans"--little alien ghosts resulting from Xenu having blown them up in Kilahuea and Las Palmas millions of years ago. They can in turn implant false mental images--"engrams"--that are the cause of all your problems. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/scientology/dictionary/ explains it a bit better:
Engram, a posited memory trace that remains after a moment of pain
and unconsciousness. Hubbard didn't coin this word; it can be found
in Webster's, and is part of the ISV, the International Scientific

BT, Body Thetan. Usually plural. Evil spirits which need to be
exorcized. "OT 5 consists entirely of running out BTs; what a

Remember these terms--many of the same concepts used in "theophostic therapy" to deal with "demon possession" and "lies implanted by Satan" are identical (save for the Bible-flavouring versus bad-space-opera flavouring) to those used in Scientology.
Satan, or one of his demons, continually tries to exploit these lies
by causing the individual adult to engage in sinful behaviors, causing
feelings of guilt.

Here, too, Scientology has almost an exact parallel:

(from http://www.xs4all.nl/~felipe/cos/translate.html)
Scientologists are convinced that every human is under the influence of Xenu,
who 60 billion years ago released Thetans on earth.
These Thetans are in each of us, and cause 'engrams'.
Scientology can erase those, so that someone becomes 'clear'.
This takes some steps, and they cost money. Initially little, but
the higher one gets (the purpose is to become Operating Thetan)
the more one pays. The director of Scientology International states in the
Washington Post that members can pay up to 20,000 dollar for this.
Critics estimate the amount as 300,000 dollar. The clearing process
can take long, because Scientologists are convinced that there are also
thetans from past lifes in us. They also have to go. Which costs money.

In the case of Scientology, the "engrams" and "body thetans" are seen as the cause of all ills, just as "demons" are seen as the cause of literally all ills in dominionist groups into "deliverance ministry". And much as in Scientology (where anything can be the cause of further infection with "engrams" or "body thetans"), many "deliverance ministry" groups will claim literally anything outside the group will cause one to be demonised.

Going back to the dominionist verison:
During a TPM counseling session, encourages the person to revisit the
memory and then allows Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to enter the mind of a
born-again Christian and cause the lies to be over-written and corrected
-- much like a virus is removed from an computer disk.

This is almost identical to the concept of "clearing" in Scientology. This bears some explanation.

From http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/scgen3.htm:
In the book, Hubbard claimed to have developed a new scientifically
proven technique, discovered through "many years of exact search and
careful testing," for the improvement of mental health through the
eradication of "engrams"--stored memories that cause aberration in

According to Hubbard, engrams begin accumulating "in the cells of
the zygote, which is to say, conception," many of these engrams being
caused by abortion attempts, and that between 20 and 30 such attempts
are an average number for a typical mother.

Engrams are removed through a process called "auditing," which can
produce "tears and wailings," "somatics enough to make the patient roll
around on the floor," and a "patient...that bounces about, all
unconscious of the action."

From another article http://www.factnet.org/Books/PieceOfBlueSky/bs3-1.htm:
In Dianetics, the therapist asked the patient to repeat the phrases. Hubbard called this "repeater
technique" and, in early Dianetics, it was the principal method for discovering traumatic incidents.

Hubbard renamed the "unconscious" the "Reactive Mind." He differentiated two principal types of trauma: "physical
pain or unconsciousness," and "emotional loss." Before Dianetics was published, three words had been tried out to describe
the first type of trauma: norn, impediment and comanome. Eventually, Dr. Winter suggested that a word already current
would fit the bill. The word was "engram," defined in Dorland's 1936 Medical dictionary as "a lasting mark or trace .... In
psychology it is the lasting trace left in the psyche by anything that has been experienced psychically; a latent memory
picture." Hubbard limited the term to actual pain or unconsciousness, separating out emotional losses as "secondary engrams"
or "secondaries," meaning they were only stored where an earlier, similar "engram" existed. Freud too had commented on trauma based on both physical pain and emotional loss.

So, according to Hubbard, the "Reactive Mind" is composed of recordings of incidents of physical pain or unconsciousness
called "engrams." The earliest engram (or "basic") is the foundation of a "chain" of engrams, and through re-experiencing it, the "chain"
will dissipate. To make an earlier engram available it is necessary to "destimulate" more recent engrams by re-experiencing them.

Hubbard claimed it was possible to relieve all such engrams, thus "erasing" the Reactive (unconscious) Mind. A person without a
Reactive Mind would be "Clear."

Yes, you're reading this right--both Scientology and "theophostic psychiatry" are talking about "clearing the mind" of people, only using different terminology.

Again from Religious Tolerance:
It is possible that a demon has actually entered the client's mind,
masquerading as Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The therapist must verify the
identity of the indwelling spirit before proceeding.

And the Scientology parallel:
(from http://www.factnet.org/Books/PieceOfBlueSky/bs3-1.htm)
To make a Clear, it would be necessary to erase the earliest engram by re-experiencing it. Hubbard asserted that the engram of birth was very important, and claimed it was possible, and necessary, to find the earliest engram, long before birth, perhaps as far back as conception, the "sperm dream."

(from http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/scgen3.htm)
According to Hubbard, further research showed that, behind the
analytical and reactire minds, there lay entities known as "Thetans."
These Thetans are non-physical and immortal, somewhat analogous to the
human soul; they inhabit human bodies, moving them around like puppets.
Because of their immortality, when their current human host dies, they
are forced to vacate and must find another host.

Apparently, these Thetans come equipped with all of the engrams they
have collected in all of their previous lifetimes. Hubbard taught it
was possible, although extremely expensive, to clear even these ancient

Yes, demonology exists in Scientology as much as it does in "deliverance ministry"--it's a matter of terminology.

Going back to the Religious Tolerance article:
Once the lies in the person's early memory have been corrected, the
linkage to today's emotional problems and sinful practices is broken.
Satan can not tempt a person to sin as easily as he could before the TPM
sessions. The person is healed.

Again, this is nearly identical to claims for "clearing" in Scientology:

(from http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/scgen3.htm)
Once all the engrams are removed, the person becomes a "Clear" and
never again has colds or accidents, has improved IQ, total call, a
longer life, and is perhaps even cured of cancer. Or such are the

(The full depth of explanation in this case--most groups into "deliverance ministry" also teach that diseases, etc. are the result of demonic possession. This is most evident in the case of "word-faith" "healing services" but is explicitly espoused by at least one group promoting deliverance ministry and the concept has even been extended to "generational curses" in many churches into "third wave" theology.)

Religious Tolerance has grave concerns:
Of concern is that TheoPhostic counseling is performed in a religious setting, typically by conservative Christian counselors with no academic qualifications. Many believe that since prayer is involved in the sessions, that God will prevent any evil acts or false memories from emerging. It is our opinion that God is not responsible for any good effects of TPM nor is Satan responsible for any evil results. Rather, the impact of TPM -- whether good or evil -- is determined by the counselor, the client, and their interaction. During the 1980s and 1990s, RMT seriously harmed many tens of thousands of its victims, drove some to suicide, and disrupted tens of thousands of families of origin. Many of its victims were counseled in a conservative Christian religious setting. Since TPM and RMT are so closely related, we urge the reader avoid becoming involved in TPM or in any other similar experimental therapy. We suspect that TPM has the same potential for evil, if it becomes widely used.

Another area where they can be compared, sadly, is in involuntary attempts to "exorcise" people.

Deliverance ministry groups (including "Christian Counselors") and Scientology also believe it is permissible to involuntarily confine and attempt exorcisms on people. Scientology terms it "Introspection rundown".

Anyways, here's a look at the "Christian counseling"/deliverance ministry version.

Per the ethical standards of one particular group certifying "Christian Counselors", they do accept involuntary restraints for persons being "exorcised" and involuntary exorcisms:

(from http://www.aacc.net/About_us/media/ethics.pdf)
1-331 Special Consent for More Difficult Interventions
Close or special consent is obtained for more difficult and controversial practices.
These include, but are not limited to: deliverance and spiritual warfare activities; cult deprogramming
work; recovering memories and treatment of past abuse or trauma; use of
hypnosis and any kind of induction of altered states; authorizing (by MDs) medications,
elecrtro-convulsive therapy, or patient restraints; use of aversive, involuntary, or
experimental therapies; engaging in reparative therapy with homosexual persons; and
counseling around abortion and end-of-life issues. These interventions require a more
detailed discussion with patient-clients or client representatives of the procedures, risks, and
treatment alternatives, and we secure detailed written agreement for the procedure.</blockqoute>

(At least two of these--"recovered memory therapy" and "reparative therapy" are in fact seen as potentially causing psychiatric injury by most psychiatric associations and the latter is actually grounds for decertification by the American Psychiatric Association.)

There are other accounts available regarding involuntary exorcisms at the hands of dominionists:

(from http://www.tvuuc.org/minister/archive/bbelt.html)
Father Leo Booth, an Episcopal minister, writes that one characteristic of abusive religion is that it is authoritarian and seeks to have total control over its adherents. When people use their thinking or critical skills they are told that the devil is at work in their lives or that they are possessed by demons.

This was true of my experience at summer camp. Because I continually questioned my counselors teachings, he performed an involuntary exorcism on me to remove the demons that were at work in my life. This exorcism was needless to say a traumatic experience. Father Leo Booth says that the prohibition against questioning is the prelude to all other kinds of abuse. Because if you cannot challenge authority then you are in danger of being abused by authority.

Skipp Porteous, who is a walkaway from the AoG, documented an exorcism as performed by "deliverance ministers" in that denomination:

(from http://www.skepticfiles.org/fw/exorcist.htm)
Exorcisms are long, arduous, and often violent. The church elders
and I usually went to private homes to perform exorcisms. On some
occasions our wives went with us, for extra spiritual power. In one
home, an average, middle-class housewife knelt on the wall-to-wall
carpet. As a dozen hands were laid on her head, we first prayed in

"Shun-da-da-da-ma hun-da. On-di, ma-kai-on-do," someone babbled.

"Come out! Come out in the name of Jesus! I command you to come out
of her!" one elder shouted into her ear.

"You evil spirit of lust," he continued with great power and authority,
"and you spirit of witchcraft, leave, in the name of Jesus!"

By now the atmosphere was charged and everyone continued to speak
in tongues. The pitch grew louder as we feverishly prayed for the
woman's deliverance from evil spirits.

Someone started to sing, "In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus."
Everyone joined in and lifted their hands toward heaven. The woman
slumped to the carpet floor and sobbed.

Seizing the moment, an elder clutched the woman with his burly hands.
He blurted loudly in tongues and vigorously shook the woman. The rest
of the group stopped singing and shouted incomprehensible utterances.
The woman sat up, her knees digging into the carpet as the elder continued
to shake the demons out of her.

"Come out! In the name of Jesus, I command you!" he yelled into her
ear. Overwhelmed, she screamed and fought back. Now everyone held
her by the arms and shoulders as they yelled for the demons to come

"Fuck you! Fuck you all!" the woman screamed. "You're all going to

While some of the women were shocked by the vulgarity, this outburst
only encouraged us. Because a Christian wouldn't talk like that, we
were now certain it was the demon speaking through her. Discovered,
he was obviously ready to come out, but not before a last ditch effort.

Then she screamed again, and started to cough and gag. Having been
through this many times, we had the whoopee bag ready, but she missed
and vomited on the carpet.

Ecstatic, we shouted in unison, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!"

(The article also has accounts of other exorcism attempts.)

Another account of involuntary captivity of people subjected to "Christian Counseling", this time in South Africa:
(from http://www.rickross.com/reference/exorcism/exorcism15.html)
Johannesburg -- A church on the East Rand has apparently been keeping people in shackles on church grounds for the past couple of years "to drive their demons out".

Although the Gauteng Association for Mental Health has been investigating this alleged "inhuman" situation for the past three months, the seven people, who might be mentally ill, have still not been freed from their chains.

Police spokesperson superintendent Eugene Opperman said police were investigating these allegations. "We will decide what to do as soon as we have enough information."

Some of the people have allegedly been held for years at the St John's Apostolic Faith Mission in Etwatwa, a township outside Benoni.
"For their own safety"

Pastor Paul Mabothe, a representative of the church, said it was necessary to keep the people in shackles "for their own safety".

"These people do funny things. They could run around and damage themselves or church property," Mabothe said.

He claimed these people had been possessed by "demons". "There is no scientific way to exorcise a demon. We do it through prayer and holy water. It normally takes between six and 18 months to heal a person."

These people may not leave the church grounds and sleep in shacks on the premises. They are given food and water "but we are overcrowded and need money to care for them properly," Mabothe said.

It may surprise people, but Scientology does have its equivalent. Scientology's term for an involuntary exorcism is an "introspection rundown", and is performed for very similar reasons (usually on people at threat of walking away from Scientology):

(from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/scientology/dictionary/)
Introspection Rundown, a therapy for handling psychotic breaks in
the cult. Involves locking the person up to prevent bad PR with the
isolation step, also called baby watch. Sometimes instilling such
wacky ideas as Xenu, Body Thetans and OT III can make people a bit
unstable; the IRD is used to contain people when they flip out.

(from http://www.whyaretheydead.net/lisa_mcpherson/introspe.htm (info on "introspection rundown" on Lisa McPhereson, possibly the most famous case of "death by Scientology"))
L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, wrote several "bulletins" about his process that he declared "Its results are nothing short of miraculous."[2] The three bulletins I'll be quoting from are:
1) HCO Bulletin 23 January 1974 "The Technical Breakthrough of 1973! The Introspection RD"
2) HCO Bulletin of 20 February 1974 "Introspection RD Additional Steps"
3) HCO Bulletin of 6 March 1974 "Introspection RD Second Addition; Information to C/Ses, Fixated Attention"

A "rundown" in Scientology is a series of prescribed steps designed to produce a certain end result. These steps involve "auditing", which is looking back through a person's past to find some memory that is causing the person present time problems. The Introspection Rundown is designed to handle a psychotic break or mental breakdown. The theory of the Introspection Rundown is that if you can find what caused the person to become introverted and psychotic then you can handle that cause and break the psychotic episode.

The first step of the rundown is "isolate the person wholly with all attendants completely muzzled (no speech)." [1] Auditing sessions are given infrequently to search for the cause of the psychotic break during this rundown, otherwise the person is isolated in complete silence.

"When it is obvious the person is out of his psychosis and up to the responsibility of living with others his isolation is ended." [2] The supervisor in charge of the person being isolated tests the person's condition by writing a note, such as "'Dear Joe. What can you guarantee me if you are let out of isolation?'" [2] If Joe does not answer in writing satisfactorily, the supervisor must write back "'Dear Joe. I'm sorry but no go on coming out of isolation yet.'" [2] Of course, "this will elicit a protest from the person" [2] but the rundown is not over until the supervisor concludes that Joe has recognized what caused his psychotic break. Once the rundown is over, if the person is a Sea Org member (the elite corps that signs a billion year contract with the church), he/she is put on the RPF - a sort of manual labor detail, and is "told to make good." [3]

Just like in dominionist groups, people are held involuntarily:

(from http://www.lisamcpherson.org/pattinsn.htm (court testimony against Scientologists))
2) In June of 1996 I was held against my will in the Scientology, Clearwater,
Florida facility and "ordered" to pay $7,400 before they would let me out
of the room. I did not want to pay for what the two staff members insisted
I must have, and what ensued was a verbal battle, emotional trauma and
an attempt at financial extortion. After a time I managed to escape the
physical detention, but two "Sea Org" members chased me right out into
the streets of Clearwater to try to recapture me. I did not pay the money. This
incident is on file with the Clearwater Police Department.

3) In June of 1991 I was forced to pay, despite vehement protestations, the
sum of $7,400 to Scientology on the "Freewinds" ship. The ruse used
on that Wednesday was that if I did not pay then they would withhold my passport
from me until I did pay. They did so and I had to pay the money to get
it back.

4) At the end of 1996 I was subjected to [a] horrible kind of "religious
deprogramming" in the Scientology "Fort Harrison Hotel". This was done,
using an "E-meter", by a top official of the "Religious technology Center" (RTC)
namely Mr. Marty Rathbun. I was interrogated for several hours on the most
intimate personal religious beliefs (Christian) and his actions were designed
clearly to get me to give up my Christian religious beliefs in exchange
for RTC's "eligibility authorization" to read a confidential publication
about a defective "OT level" I had previously completed (OT 7).
His utter contempt for my religious beliefs were all to apparent. He felt
that all other religions apart from Scientology should be destroyed and
probably would be in time by Scientology, using RTC's programs
of "eligibility's" as the means of forcing people to give up other faiths.

I also had to undergo many hours of 'false data removal",,,to try to
"get me to realize" that the ONLY valid religion was Scientology.

It did not work.

Much as is the case with Scientology, dominionist groups are now being sued for involuntary confinement:

(from http://www.rickross.com/reference/exorcism/exorcism6.html re a woman who won a $300,000 judgement for involuntary confinement by a "deliverance ministry" group associated with an AoG church)
But Bill Wuester, Schubert's attorney, said the teen- ager was a model high school student who held a job, paid for her car and looked forward to her senior prom. That changed in June 1996, he told the jury.

"This girl had no problems. ... She had a great life," Wuester said.

He reminded jurors that church officials and youth group members testified that they had pinned her to the sanctuary floor.

Schubert and other witnesses testified that she had kicked and yelled to try to break free.

"I don't know how many times a woman has to say `no' before she is believed," Wuester told the jury. "How many times does she have to say, `Get away. Don't hold me. Let me up. No!' ?"

(from http://www.tvbn.com/Charisma/CharismaNewsUpdate20020325.html (warning: pro-dominionist))
Schubert's lawsuit described a bizarre night in which members anointed the sanctuary with holy oil, rapped on pews and propped a cross against the church doors to keep demons out.

(from http://expentecostals.org/DELIVERED041502web.htm)

In Tarrant County, Texas, a judge has awarded one Laura Schubert $300,000 in a civil case that charged the pastor and several members of Colleyvilles's Pleasant Glade Assembly of God with abuse and false imprisonment. Ms. Schubert successfully claimed in court that on two occasions, members of this church attempted to "exorcise" her after anointing the church with holy oil, and propping up a cross against the door to keep demonic forces out, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. These attempts were particularly abusive to Ms. Schubert, spurring this lawsuit; however the church claims in a statement that "We are a Bible-believing, Pentecostal church. For this we make no apologies."

Sadly, too, in both cases people have died from exorcism.

With dominionists, probably one of the more infamous cases involves the "death by exorcism" of an eight-year-old autistic child:

With Scientologists, probably the most infamous case is of Lisa McPhereson:

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