Domestic abuse and family violence are bound to increase because of the new laws and policies that have been put in place.
Many victims of abuse are stuck at home with their abusers because of lockdowns of non-essential services, people being urged to work from home, and people being ordered or choosing to self-isolate in their homes. There is financial insecurity for many.
In this article I’m not going to discuss whether institutional policies for dealing with #Covid19 / #Coronavirus are wise or foolish. I just want to focus on the plight of the already-abused… and the folks who no doubt will start being abused in their own homes now that more people are stuck at home together with family members for long periods.
I chatted today to a uniformed police officer. I asked for his thoughts on the changes. He said, “Family violence will go through the roof.”
Church provision of pastoral care for the abused has always been patchy and often downright negligent – resulting in further abuse and re-traumatisation of the abused.
Now that churches are closed or compelled to do most of their activities remotely – by phone call, social messaging, or online video – their pastoral care for the abused is likely to become even worse.
James 1:27 is an important verse for church leaders and all Christians who have the capacity to extend care to others. In reading this verse, bear in mind that ‘widows’ refers to all women who are bereft of a husband whether by the husband’s death, desertion or abusiveness.
Pure devotion, and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversity, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
‘Visit’ can mean a phone call. If you are making a call to someone who you think might be living with an abuser, be mindful that the abuser may be overhearing the conversation. Ask the person if it is a good time to talk or whether they’d like to talk another time, or interact another way. Also be aware that some abusers monitor their victim’s phones and computer activity. Take the lead from the victim. Victims are probably more expert on their own safety than you are, unless you have been trained in safety issues with domestic abuse.
To everyone of good will:
High anxiety reduces cognitive ability. If you’ve been making stuff-ups recently because the Coronavirus panic is making you anxious, don’t be too hard on yourself.
I hope you use common sense. Please do not forget the poor.
To pastors and elders of churches:
You had plenty of opportunity in the past to get to know the abuse victims in your church face to face – to find out who they are, hear their stories over time, lament with them, defend them, help them obtain justice and reparation, and help them in their advocacy for other victims. The time for that face to face ‘getting to know them’ is past, at least for the foreseeable future.
Think about that. How does that sit on your conscience?
To unrepentant evildoers:
Repent! Jesus Christ is coming again. No one knows the day or the hour.
To folks who are suffering abuse or are enduring the lifetime consequences of having been abused:
The bad news is that your abuser may escalate – become even more abusive. And support-services will be even more overstretched.
Your emotions of fear, anxiety, depression or anger may become more intense… or you may find yourself numbing your emotions and dissociating even more than you have in the past. I encourage you to be kind to yourself.
It may help to keep reminding yourself: “It is not my fault. I am not going crazy. I am not to blame. I am being abused.“
Whatever your circumstances, I encourage you to lean on Jesus Christ. Jesus does not break bruised reeds. He is patient and kind and merciful – especially to those who have been afflicted and mistreated by arrogant, foolish or malicious people.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider the trouble which I suffer of them that hate me : thou that liftest me up from the gates of death.
That I may shew all thy praises within the ports of the daughter of Sion : I will rejoice in thy salvation.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made : in the same net which they hid privily, is their foot taken.
The Lord is known to execute judgement : the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands.
The wicked shall be turned into hell : and all the people that forget God.
For the poor shall not always be forgotten : the patient abiding of the meek shall not perish for ever.
Up, Lord, and let not man have the upper hand : let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O Lord : that the heathen may know themselves to be but men.
(Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)
If someone is diagnosed with a ‘personality disorder’ or a ‘mental health disorder’ – does that mean that person has a deficit? Does it mean that person is deficient? Should that person be excused? Should that person be given compassionate help and assistance?
Mental health professionals use terms like ‘disorder’ and ‘personality disorder’ very inconsistently. When they say a person has a disorder, they do not make it clear whether that person freely chooses to do wrong, or whether that person is prudently and judiciously resisting the wrongdoing done TO them by people who have wronged them.
Let’s think about these terms — disorder / personality disorder / mental health disorder — these are all terms that are used by the mental health profession.
If the abuser is labelled as having a disorder, it gives the abuser an excuse because the abuser is conceived as merely deficient (but not evil by choice)
If the abuser is said to have a disorder, that gives the abuser an excuse because the abuser is conceived as merely deficient.
It suggests that the abuser has limited freedom of choice because he has a problem which he did not choose to have and which is outside his control.
It suggests he has a pathology that he can’t help — as if he has some disease or genetic defect which he acquired through no fault of his own.
More to the point, it avoids saying what an abuser actually IS:— evil and wicked through his repeated choices to do wrong.
If the victim of abuse is labelled as having a disorder, that conveys the idea that the victim is deficient and at fault
If the victim of abuse is labelled as having a disorder, that conveys the idea that the victim is deficient.
This deficit model sheds no light on all the ways the oppressed / mistreated / violated person has responded to the abuse….and creatively and prudently and judiciously resisted the abuse.
Allan Wade and his colleagues opened my eyes to how the deficit model is biased against victims and favours abusers.
I encourage all readers to review these posts:
Passages in the bible which plainly say that the abuser plots to do evil
He plans wickedness upon his bed; He sets himself on a path that is not good; He does not despise evil. (Psalm 36:4)
For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. (Proverbs 4:16-17)
Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, for it is in the power of their hands. (Micah 2:1)
The abuser puts his conscience in the deep freeze. He makes repeated choices to ignore his conscience until his conscience is seared and (practically speaking) he no longer has a conscience.
His choices, bit by bit, take him deeper and deeper down the spiral staircase. Dark ahead. Dark behind. With every step down the staircase it gets darker. With every step he self-justifies, rationalises, swells in self-glory, and gloats about hurting others and getting away with it.
His thinking becomes less and less based in reality. He blinds himself more and more, but he is responsible for blinding himself because he chooses to do so. (see my series on Blindness)
When he dies he will face God — then his conscience will be very wide awake…and terrified.
The words ‘he’ and ‘his’ are used generically in this post. When thinking about your own experiences, switch the gender of the pronouns if need be.
I want to thank the reader / commenter who gave me the spiral staircase metaphor.
Many people behave unethically when they are instructed to do so by what they perceive as a legitimate authority figure.
If you have suffered abuse, whether it be emotional, spiritual, psychological, physical or sexual abuse, you might be asking “How can someone be so cruel?”
The Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment have shown how quickly people can become abusive.
Both of those experiments were unethical. Some participants in these experiments have spoken up about the deleterious effects the experiments had on them.
Many unethical experiments have been done by scientists and psychologists.
Trigger warning: Some individuals might find certain parts of the video triggering.
This video summarises what happened in the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment. The presenter is Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Milgram set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.
The results showed the willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths of cruelty, on the command of an authority figure.
To explain the findings of the experiment, Milgram theorised that people have two states of behavior when they are in a social situation:
- The autonomous state —
- People direct their own actions and take responsibility for the results of those actions.
- The agentic state —
- People allow others to direct their actions and then pass off the responsibility for the consequences to the person giving the orders. People act as agents for another person’s will.
This helps us think about Sheep, Shepherds and Wolves in the church.
Sheep are told to follow the leader: the under-shepherd, pastor, priest, ordained minister, ordained elder in the institutional church.
- Some of the ordained leaders are good under-shepherds of Christ.
- Some of them are wolves.
- Some of them are blind and naive to the depths of undercover evil in institutional churches.
When sheep follow wolves or blind-naive leaders, the sheep will be tangled in thickets and the sheep may be chewed by wolves.
Sheep-like following of human leaders is risky. Obedience to human leaders is risky. Individual personal responsibility is never entirely erased.
But… Jesus has died for our sins so that all who come to faith in Jesus receive mercy and forgiveness.
The penalty for wrong doing has been laid on Jesus, so that all who come to faith in Him do not have to personally bear the penalty for their wrongdoing. Christ has borne it for them.
Evildoers lurk to snatch the poor, seizing and ravishing the people they target. Wolves hunt to catch sheep. Let me show you some words and passages from the Bible which say this.
I first published this post at The Mystery Of Iniquity (my blog which deals with extreme abuse) but the post is equally relevant to the more ‘common and garden’ types of abuse which I deal with here at a A Cry For Justice.
Psalm 10, 1662 Book of Common Prayer (minimally updated to modern English) 9 For he lies waiting secretly, as it were lion in his den; / he lurks that he may ravish the poor. 10 He ravishes the poor, / when he gets him into his net. 11 He stoops down and crouches, / that the poor may fall into the hands of his captains. 12 He has said in his heart, “Tush, God hath forgotten; / he hides away his face, and he will never see it.”
Psalm 10, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) 9 he lurks in secret like a lion in a thicket. He lurks in order to seize the afflicted; he seizes the afflicted and drags him in his net. 10 So he is oppressed and beaten down; the helpless fall because of his strength. 11 He says to himself, “God has forgotten; He hides His face and will never see.”
The words ravish / seize which I emphasised above are translations of the Hebrew word chataph חָטַף. That word occurs only three times in the Old Testament; twice in Psalm 10 and once in the book of Judges. To talk about its use in Judges I’ll need to explain the backstory.
Judges 21 recounts a historical event in the early history of the Israelites. The offspring of the 12 sons of Jacob became known as twelve tribes of Israel. Chapters 19 & 20 of the book of Judges recount how and why an inter-tribal war was fought between the tribes of Jacob, one tribe against the other eleven tribes, and how the eleven tribes eventually defeated the one tribe. Chapter 21 of Judges recounts what happened after that war—men prioritised the feelings of other men over the feelings of women and the choices women might wish to exercise in saying who they will marry.
The men from the eleven victorious tribes invited and allowed the surviving men from the defeated tribe to seize/ snatch/ catch their daughters and take them as wives.
In other words, these men — from all 12 tribes of Jacob – collectively deemed that the feelings, preferences, dignity, and choices of young women were less important than the need for men from the defeated tribe to get wives and thereby produce offspring to enable the defeated tribe to keep on going down the generations.
Please don’t think this story is recorded in the Bible to encourage such callous behaviour by men. Quite the opposite. This story (like all historical narratives in the Bible) has been recorded and preserved for our instruction. We need to read it with wisdom, bearing in mind that the refrain throughout the Book of Judges is “In those days, men did what was right in their own eyes.”
In my view, this account in Judges 21 shows us how easily male human beings can collectively decide to prioritise the feelings and preferences of men over the feelings and preferences of women. It illustrates how easily men can join together to entice/ persuade/ push a certain course of action on women so that men can catch and seize those women. You can watch more about it here: My video on The Levite’s Concubine — Judges 19-21.
Now we can look at where Judges 21 uses the Hebrew word chatap חָטַף.
ESV 20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
NIV 20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.
KJV 20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
There is a word in the New Testament which is roughly equivalent to the Hebrew word chataph חָטַף. This word is harpazō ἁρπάζω. It means to seize, carry off by force / to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly / to snatch out or away. (link)
All the passages below are from the New Matthew Bible Version (NMB). Each rendering of the Greek work harpazō is emphasised in bold. First I will give the passages in the New Testament that speak about how Satan and his agents do their utmost to snatch away Truth and carry off people by force. Then I will show you the good news — that God’s power to ‘catch up’ is greater than Satan’s.
Satan and his agents snatch the Truth away and carry off people by force
John 10:11-13 [Jesus said:] 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. 12 But a hired servant, who is not the shepherd, neither are the sheep his own, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep, and flees; and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep. 13 The hired servant flees because he is a hired servant, and does not care for the sheep.
Matthew 11:12 From the time of John the Baptist to now, the kingdom of heaven is sorely pressed, and those who go to it with effort seize it for themselves.
Matthew 13:19 Whosoever hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, there comes the evil one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart; and this is he who received the seed by the wayside.
John 6:15 When Jesus perceived that they wanted to come and take him up to make him king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
Acts 23:10 And when great controversy arose, the captain, fearing lest Paul should be pulled apart by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
God has the power to transport his people supernaturally: from one place to another on this physical earth, or from this physical earth to heaven.
Acts 8:39 And as soon as they had come out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, and the chamberlain saw him no more. And he went on his way rejoicing.
2 Cor 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ about fourteen years ago (whether he was in the body I cannot tell, or whether he was out of the body I cannot tell, God knows) who was taken up into the third heaven. And I know the same man (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God knows), how he was taken up into Paradise and heard words not to be spoken, which no man can utter.
Rev 12:5 And she brought forth a man child who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. And her Son [Jesus Christ] was taken up to God and to his seat.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 I would not, brethren, have you be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow like others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so then also those who sleep in Jesus, God will bring again with him. And this we say to you in the word of the Lord: we who live and are remaining at the coming of the Lord will not precede those who sleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will arise first. Then shall we who live and remain be caught up with them also in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
When a person trusts in God’s promises, nothing can snatch that person out of God’s hand.
John 10:27-28 [Jesus said:] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give to them eternal life. And they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Someone can hear the story of the gospel, fashion in their own strength their imagination of the story, remember the story, and think: “I believe — I have faith”.
That person has believed in a story faith but their heart and nature has not changed. Their spirit is not reborn. That person will always be striving to masquerade or perform Christianity in their own strength.
I learned the phrase “story faith” from William Tyndale. He writes about it in several places. Here is an excerpt from his prologue to Romans (link) —
Faith is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine, and form their own ideas when they hear the story of the gospel. The cause is that when they hear the gospel or glad tidings, they fashion by their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts, saying, I have heard the gospel; I remember the story; lo I believe! And this they count true faith – which nevertheless, since it is but man’s imagination and assumption, does not profit. Neither do good works or lasting amendment of life follow.
But true faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Spirit in us, which changes us, transforms our nature, begets us anew in God, and makes us the children of God [John 1:12]. A faith that is genuine kills the old Adam, and makes us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, desire, and in all our affections and powers of the soul, and brings the Holy Spirit with her.
Faith is a living and steadfast trust in the favour of God, whereby we commit ourselves altogether unto God. And that trust is so surely grounded and sticks so fast in our hearts that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times for it. And such trust wrought by the Holy Spirit through faith makes a person glad, joyful, cheerful, and true-hearted, toward God and toward all creatures.
Therefore take heed to yourself. Beware of your own suppositions and imaginations, which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, but are blind, and of all things most unwise. Pray God that he will assent to work faith in your heart, or you will remain evermore faithless, however much you surmise, imagine, strengthen your resolve, wrestle with yourself or do what you will or can.
Having a story faith ≈ blindness
Story faith assents to and remembers the historical story of record of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It mentally assents to the proposition that he died for all sin on our behalf. But believing a story faith does not change the heart; it does not transform the natural man’s birth poison — original sin. Nor does it lead to assurance of forgiveness.
The heart that wants to ‘do life’ without regard for God’s loving and good design — the heart that is spiritually dead despite the fact that it is physically pumping blood around lung-breathing flesh — that heart will never be transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life by believing in a story faith.
Story faith is cold. True faith is a feeling faith.
Emotions, feelings, affections, heartfelt responses of compassion for the oppressed — and heartfelt dislike of falsehood and wrongdoing — are intrinsic to true faith.
Tyndale contrasts story faith with true faith:
For the reasons and similitudes of man’s wisdom make no faith, but wavering and uncertainty opinions only. One draws in this way his argument, another draws that. And of whatever principle you prove black, another proves white, and so am I ever uncertain, as if you tell me of a thing done in a far land and another tell me the contrary, I know not what to believe.
But faith is wrought by the power of God, that is, when God’s word is preached, the Spirit enters thine heart and maketh thy soul feel it and maketh thee so sure of it, that neither adversity, nor persecution, nor death, neither yet all the pains of hell could yet once prevail against thee or move thee from the sure rock of God’s word, that thou shoulds’t not believe that which God hath sworn.
– William Tyndale “The Obedience of the Christian Man” p 165 (Penguin Classics 2000.) [Punctuation in quotes from Tyndale has been altered to make it easier for modern readers]
Tyndale denounced the Roman church’s insistence on auricular confession: the doctrine that a person must confess their sins into the ear of a priest. Here is Tyndale speaking of the role of feeling (emotion) in confession:
When a man feels that his heart consents unto the law of God, and feels himself meek, patient, courteous and merciful to his neighbour, altered and fashioned like unto Christ, why should he doubt that God forgive him, though he never cram his sin into the priest’s ear?
(ibid p 118)
Tyndale talks about how the natural man can be taught to behave ‘morally’ but that only intensifies the vice of self-glory. The natural man can be motivated by fear, praise or profit. But when people in their own strength try to conform to or impersonate morality, they become more prideful.
That you may perceive and feel the thing in thine heart and not be a vain sophister disputing about words without perceiving, mark this:
The root of all evil the greatest damnation and most terrible wrath and vengeance of God that we are in is natural blindness.
We are all out of the right way, every man his ways: one judges this best, another that to be best. Now is worldly wit [cleverness] nothing else but craft and subtlety to obtain that which we judge falsely to be best. As I err in my wit, so err I in my will. When I judge that to be evil which in deed is good, then I hate that which is good.
Now; when we say every man has free will, to what him lusteth [what he desires], I say verily that men do what they lust. Notwithstanding, to follow lusts is not freedom, but captivity and bondage. If God opens any man’s wits to make him feel in his heart that lusts and appetites are damnable, and gives him power to hate and resist them, then is he free even with the freedom wherewith Christ makes free, and has power to do the will of God.
You may hereby perceive that all that is done in the world (before the spirit of God come and gives us light) is damnable sin, and the more glorious the more damnable: so that that which the world counts most glorious is more damnable, in the sight of God, than that which the whore, the thief and the murderer do.
With blind reasons of worldly wisdom may you change the minds of youth and make them give themselves to what you will either for fear, for praise or for profit: and yet you do but change them from one vice to another, as the persuasions of her friends made Lucrece chaste. (In Roman legend, Lucrece gloried in her chastity. Having suffered rape by Tarquin she took her own life.)
Lucrece believed if she were a good housewife and chaste, that she should be most glorious, and that all the world would give her honour and praise her. She sought her own glory in her chastity and not God’s. When she had lost her chastity, then she counted herself abominable in the sight of all men, and for very pain and thought which she had, not that she had displeased God, but that she had lost her honour, slew herself.
Look how great her pain and sorrow was for the loss of her chastity, so great was her glory and rejoicing therein and so much despised she them that were otherwise and pitied them not. Which pride God more abhors than the whoredom of any whore.
Of like pride are all the moral virtues of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, and all the doctrines of the philosophers the very gods of our school men.
[school men = legalists/ false teachers/ false christians/ scholars who debated about topics like how many angels could fit on the head of a pin]
(ibid, p 44-5, minimally updated)
The apostle Peter talks about the blindness of those who think they are following Christ but are not fleeing the corruption of worldly lust. It is a blindness they bring on themselves, by their own hypocrisy.
Grace be with you, and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called us by virtue and glory, by the means whereof are given to us excellent and most great promises, so that by the help of them you may be partakers of the divine nature, in that you flee the corruption of worldly lust.
And give all diligence to this. To your faith add virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things be among you and abound, they will make you so that you will neither be idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(v9) But he who lacks these things is blind, and gropes for the way with his hands, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. For if you do such things, you shall never err.
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
(from the hymn “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”)
Bible versions used in this series
New Testament: NMB (New Matthew Bible); notes from the NMB are in grey italicised text.
Psalms: Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Old Testament other than Psalms: NKJ (New King James).
Other parts in this series
Part 2: Blindness from original sin
Part 6: Blindness as a judgment from God
Part 7: is this post