The second sign of spiritual abuse is that authority plays the God card to manipulate or control.
Playing the God card happens when someone avoids confrontation or accountability by claiming divine sanction for their choices. This strategy dodges accountability in two key ways. First, God does give direction and guidance to people and therefore a claim to divine guidance cannot be categorically dismissed. In leveraging the claim “God told me,” they are able to avoid confrontation and accountability while at the same time propping up the appearance of spirituality. Second, it’s difficult and inappropriate to disagree with God. In overtly claiming divine sanction, they are covertly communicating the message “don’t you dare question me.”
God’s guidance in our lives is real, but when received with health, we steward his guidance, not by avoiding accountability, but by welcoming it. Part of the way we confirm God’s guidance is in submitting what we feel we’ve heard to the influence of the community around us. When leadership plays the God card in order to insulate themselves from input, feedback or boundaries, they are actually perverting the reality of God’s voice and direction and using it in a manner that is directly opposed to God’s actual purpose.
Illegitimate power is gained and protected through manipulation. Those who gain power in this way live in fear of losing it. Having their decisions questioned is perceived as a threat to power. Playing the God card is a toxic tool used to defend the threat.