When I say I was in an abusive faith system, it's not that I think the people in charge were thinking that they wanted to abuse anyone.
But I was in a pretty authoritarian church. Especially in that even though there were many elders, it was pretty clear that there was one guy in charge and everyone seemed to kind of fear him. If you asked any of the elders a question, basically the answer you would get is "Let me check with _____ and I'll get back to you." It's kind of accepted with a little humor that this is the way it is. But should the church be this way? The word "pastor" is never used in the Bible as a position to be held in the church. When Paul writes to the people in charge, he writes to "elders" and it's clear that the churches had a plurality of elders. And the word for "elder" is actually the same word as used for a person who is simply older. The older brother in the prodigal son story is also described with the same word. It doesn't insinuate a political position. Just that there are older people who are respected. I think that's interesting.
Rich Mullins talked about going to other countries and how the scriptures one area may emphasize are not always the same as what another area might emphasize. He talked about that in the context of going to China but I think it's very true, even from church to church. It is interesting to me that the scriptures that were emphasized at the church I left tended to be about judgement and authority. But verses like Mark 10:42-45 were never even thought of. I knew it was there, but I never thought about it.
I find that many of the problems in my life have not stemmed from the areas that I so worry over as the imperfections in my character. Many of the problems stem from things I thought I was doing to please God but I was actually following the teachings of men. It doesn't always show right at the moment but years down the line I realize how God really just wanted me to obey and listen to Him and not everyone else.
And this is the thing. It's not about hating people or trying to justify oneself or getting people angry. But it's about what people take away from other people when they exercise authority over them and tell them to listen to you. You deprive them of the chance to listen and talk to God for themselves. What kind of marriage would people have if they always talked to their spouse through a third person? I think God made each of us because He wants a relationship with us Himself.