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The Answers You Need

The use of spiritual or religious language and/or beliefs to unduly influence and exert control over individuals, exploiting vulnerabilities for the apparent benefit of the organization or those in positions of greater authority or power.

What is beEmboldened’s working definition of spiritual/religious abuse?

At beEmboldened, we follow the BITE model for undue influence, as designed by Dr. Steven Hassan, which can be found here. The BITE model stands for Behavior Control, Information Control, Thought Control, and Emotional Control. To warrant the label of “cult,” a group must demonstrate acts of undue influence in all four areas of control. Additionally, since bE focuses on religious cults, we include doctrinal twists in our definition as well.

While many groups are “cult-ish” in their functioning, they would not be considered a cult without meeting the full criteria. Ultimately, this label is much less important than the characteristics of the environment, the experiences and well-being of members who are abused, and the impact upon any loved ones affected by the ripple effects of the abuse.

What is beEmboldened’s working definition of a cult?

An individual’s emotional, psychological, and physiological response to a distressing experience, likely unexpected, sudden, and/or unpredictable in nature, and involving a serious threat that feels beyond the person’s control.

beEmboldened recognizes the potential for complex trauma in our clients who may have experienced repeated abuses prior to the age of 18. In addition, we recognize the possibility of a compounding event later on in the client’s life, and the various ways in which these factors can impact an individual’s needs within their healing process.

What is beEmboldened’s working definition of trauma?

The Board of Directors, employees, and volunteers of beEmboldened have affirmed a Statement of Faith that can be found here.

What is beEmboldened’s foundational approach to this work?

Absolutely. While those who serve at beEmboldened hold a Biblical / Christian worldview, the same is not expected of our clients or larger audience. We respect an individual’s right to form beliefs for themselves, finding this to be of the utmost importance, especially since so many have had this freedom restricted in the past.


Due to the nature of our work, we believe in the need for transparency in order to establish genuine trust and relationships. We openly discuss our belief statement. We desire to cultivate and provide an environment that encourages safe, honest, and fruitful conversation.

We do not wish to push our beliefs upon anyone. Our hope is that our clients will come to know the truth of who Jesus Christ is–in contrast to what they might have been told or seen modeled–and make their choice based on accurate information, rather than on an abusive leader’s agenda.

Does beEmboldened serve non-Christians?

Definitely not. beEmboldened sees the greater umbrella of religious abuse as existing on a spectrum, from unintentional abuse of power in a doctrinally sound church that may be reconciled, to an authoritarian doomsday cult, and everything in between. All of the work we do and the resources we create are designed to provide overlapping applications to situations all along this spectrum of manifestations.

Does beEmboldened only serve those who have experienced cult abuse?

Those who serve at beEmboldened love the Christian Church. We wholeheartedly embrace its purpose and mission while grieving its failures both past and present. We do not support abuse of any kind–especially that which is committed in Jesus’ name or under religious pretenses–and we will always stand against it. We are committed to standing with Jesus in his mission to love and embrace the oppressed and vulnerable.

With this, we believe that scripture calls us to unify with all believers in our love for Christ and our belief in the biblical and historical essentials of our faith. We will not condemn the Church, for whom Jesus died. Rather, we will endeavor to help the wounded heal, to help those at risk be educated and empowered, and to equip leaders who wish to create healthy, safe, Christ-honoring cultures.

What is beEmboldened’s view of the Christian church in relation to spiritual/religious abuse?

We desire to serve communities near and far, large and small, that have been or currently are being impacted by religious abuse in any of its facets. While beEmboldened seeks to expand its influence, we are committed to passionate and professional care of individual hearts and lives.

What is the team’s vision for beEmboldened in the future?

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