A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Tillamook testimony concerning Jeff Crippen

Tillamook Speaks presents witness / survivor testimony from someone who used to belong to Jeff Crippen’s church in Tillamook. It is published by Sister, who is a regular commenter here.

The Tillamook survivor, “Chris” (a pseudonym), contacted Sister and myself. Sister and I know Chris’s real name but at Chris’s request we are not disclosing it. Chris told us another side of the Christ Reformation Church story (CRC Tillamook, formerly Idaville Bible Church). Chris’s testimony rings true to me in a similar way to many other testimonies I have heard from survivors of abuse.

If you read no more of what I am going to say here, I urge you to read Tillamook Speaks. But if you intend to read the rest of my post, I urge you to read Tillamook Speaks first.

In 2012, the year the ACFJ blog began, Jeff Crippen wrote an Open Letter to Pastors, preaching to pastors how they could confess mishandling a case of abuse. He wrote:

“What would happen in your church if you went before your people, after some genuine self-examination, and confessed to them that you have not done well in this matter. If you stated that you have created an oppressive environment for women. State that by God’s grace you are resolved to set about making it right? What if you went to any specific woman in a particular case you have handled, and confessed these things to her? And then set out to re-tool the culture of your church?”

Jeff Crippen did not do what he advised other pastors to do. He had vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Despite publishing his Open Letter to Pastors, Jeff has not gone to the former congregants that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

Jeff does not practise what he preaches. Jeff has rebuked Wayne Grudem because Grudem has not apologised for spiritually abusing those who have suffered spousal abuse . Here is an excerpt of what Jeff said:

I want to point out that Wayne Grudem offers no apology nor shows any remorse for or confession of the damage his erroneous teaching has caused for countless victims of abuse. He and his crowd (and its a big crowd) have for years refused to acknowledge that abuse is grounds for divorce. They have thereby put guilt and shame and condemnation on countless Christians who have gotten free from their abuser in spite of what the no divorce for abuse crowd said.

…Where is Grudem’s repentance of this? …Where is his godly sorrow for what he has done? I sure don’t see it.

Jeff has not apologised to the people he spiritually abused in Tillamook, yet he admonishes Grudem for not apologising! I have concluded that Jeff is the kind of man he warns others to have nothing to do with: a hypocrite of the highest order. Therefore I cannot shirk my duty to warn people about Jeff.

I thank Chris for having the courage to reach out to me. I thank Sister for compiling Chris’s story and publishing it in Tillamook Speaks . I thank both Chris and Sister for being patient with me while I was procrastinating on writing this post because I was ploughing through heavy emotions — fear, anxiety, self-accusation and shame.

Think about the warnings the apostles gave about power-mongers in congregations who were lording it over the flock. For example, the apostle John denounced Diotrephes for always wanting to be first and lording it over the congregation. Perhaps Diotrephes was verbally teaching sound doctrines, but his conduct was inconsistent with sound doctrine because he was bullying the congregation (3 John 9-11). I think you would agree with me that Jeff has written good articles about how to identify abusers. I have seen Jeff write good doctrinal articles. But now I know that Jeff’s pattern of conduct is the very opposite of what he preaches.

How Chris made contact with us

In 2019, Sister published her first article Jeff Crippen is Unsafe. It got very little traction. At some stage, Chris found that article and contacted Sister. Then Chris contacted me. Chris told us another side of the CRC Tillamook Church story.

In private correspondence to Sister and myself, Chris named the names of people I met in the Tillamook congregation. As well as knowing their names, Chris knows what happened to those people under Jeff’s leadership. Chris’s accounts matched what Jeff had told me about the people and events in the CRC Tillamook saga, the only difference being that in Jeff’s accounts he always depicted (and still depicts) himself as the victim, but in Chris’s accounts Jeff is the controlling, spiritually abusive, and cruel bully.

Chris told me:

When Jeff started writing about abuse, we hoped he would reach out and apologize to all those he had abused, but he didn’t. He just started writing about how we had abused him. It was…something. But when we thought about it, not shocking. Then people kept leaving, with similar stories.

[While we were in the church] he even organized book burnings, because we couldn’t read things he didn’t sanction.

I remember him laughing over an account of one of the Puritans beating a child “because he had it coming to him.” The child had refused to recite the Lord’s prayer to the preacher — a stranger.

When I first read his Open Letter to Pastors, I had so much hope. If I didn’t know, I would have been taken in by that open letter.

Jeff taught logic to some of the older kids. And he used it to presume to know what was in people’s hearts. “You did such and such a thing, therefore logic says you must be thinking…”. He misappropriated so many evil motives that simply weren’t there.

Jeff has never been balanced on the whole counsel of God. He spent years preaching Romans. He preached so many sermons that went something like “you might not be saved if…”. He basically taught that you can’t have assurance [of salvation].

There were many children in that congregation and I would expect there are still some children there. Can you imagine how terrifying it would be growing up in a church while being told “You might not be saved if…” from the pulpit every Sunday?

Many of the stories and names Chris disclosed privately to Sister and me cannot be disclosed publicly because the information is not in the public domain and we want to protect Chris from further abuse from Jeff and his loyal remnant. We also want to protect other current or former members of the Tillamook congregation whose stories of suffering mistreatment are only for them to tell, not us.

In my view, Chris demonstrated his / her veracity beyond reasonable doubt. I will now explain in more detail why I have come to that believe that.

Chris hesitantly reached out to me. I could see Chris’s fear and trepidation when Chris wrote to me. It was obvious that Chris was testing the waters to see how I would respond. That is one mark of a genuine victim of abuse.

As the conversations between Chris and I — and Chris and Sister — developed, we did not ask leading questions of Chris. Chris told us accounts of people and events that had happened at Tillamook. How Jeff spiritually abused Chris’s family, and what was done to and in other families who belonged to the church. Chris sent photos of diary entries which Chris had written at the time Jeff was perpetrating particular instances of spiritual abuse. A victim’s diary entries are pretty good corroborative evidence. Diary entries are often accepted as corroborative evidence in secular courts or public investigations of alleged malfeasance.

While Jeff and I were co-leading the ACFJ blog, I visited Tillamook twice, making the trip all the way from Australia at my own expense. I met the then members of the Tillamook congregation, went to church with them, hung out with them. During those times, in many face to face conversations, and before and after in emails and video calls, Jeff told me about things that had happened in the Tillamook congregation. He always painted himself as the victim of others. He named to me men who had been elders whom he had told to leave, and men who had resigned from eldership, leaving the church because they did not see eye to eye with Jeff. He described in detail what had happened in certain families. He expelled another elder while I was there on my second visit.

The names and stories Jeff told me matched the accounts Chris has told us, but Jeff’s accounts were deceptive because Jeff is the bully, not the victim.

You may be reluctant to accept Chris’s testimony. After all, Moses told the people of Ancient Israel that one person’s testimony is not enough to establish wrongdoing:

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. (Deut 19:15)

But Chris’s testimony is not the only one.

My own experience of Jeff’s bullying

In 2018, Jeff bullied and vilified me. What he did is detailed in Sister’s article Jeff Crippen Is Unsafe which Sister wrote on her own initiative (I did not prompt or ask her to write it).

I published one blog post about Jeff’s bullying: Response to my detractors and apology to ACFJ followers I’ve hurt. I have done my best since to reform my communication style and my character so that I am less likely to say things in ways that come across as unfairly harsh or blunt. Some people still find me abrasive; that may or may not be a good thing. Jesus was abrasive to the wicked, warned the foolish, and was kind to the oppressed; my aim is to be more and more like him. But in contrast to Jeff, I did not go on and on about Jeff’s bullying of me. Unlike Jeff, I did not feature a message in the sidebar of this blog telling victims that I thought Jeff was unsafe. I did not constantly blazon to the world that Jeff had done wrong by me. No other advocates stood with me. Some of them reviled me publicly. Many other advocates have shunned me.

When the ACFJ blog went suddenly off-line in 2019, I did not tell the world that all the evidence pointed to Jeff having engineered that with his assistant TWBTC – The Woman Behind The Curtain. (TWBTC had promised me she would hand over to me the ability to pay the domain name renewal fee before it next became due. After leaving  ACFJ she betrayed me — she did not keep that promise. That story is detailed in Jeff Crippen Is Unsafe.) When the ACFJ blog went offline, I did not say publicly that they were trying to destroy the ACFJ blog. I kept my mouth shut. I had only three close cyber friends who helped me through that; those three people are pretty much ‘nobodies’ in the advocacy world. I managed to get a new domain (web address) for the blog and my assistant Reaching Out manually transferred every post and page on the blog over to the new address and fixed every broken link. By the skin of our teeth we kept the blog alive … so that every post and comment made at the blog is still online for readers to view and comment on.

The advocates who have shunned and reviled me — let God be their judge. If they have clubbed together to shun me, will not their judgement be even more severe? Let few be teachers, for teachers will be receive a stricter judgement (James 3:1).

It’s fine for advocates to expose abusers in churches, but when an advocate turns out to be an abuser, what happens? Advocates did not remain silent when so-called advocate Jon Uhler (Church Protect) lorded it over victims and betrayed Jimmy Hinton. Advocates did not remain silent when so-called advocate Jennifer Michelle Greenberg threatened Dee Parsons who runs The Wartburg Watch. But when Jeff bullied and betrayed me, advocates went silent, or they joined with Jeff in vilifying me.

Despite Jeff’s prophecy that I would go off the rails and be teaching weird heresy, I have not. No one has presented solid evidence to show that I am teaching heresy. Instead of presenting reasoned arguments that challenge my teachings, they just slander me and shun me. Ironically, the only person who challenged something I have written and caused me to revise what wrote has been Sister! (see here)

Sister published her first article Jeff Crippen is Unsafe in 2019. Although I agreed with most of it when it was published, Sister had labelled Jeff as a wolf in that article and I was reluctant to accept that as an appropriate label.

I did not publicise Jeff Crippen is Unsafe in 2019, because I knew that some people (especially those who ganged up against me) would assume I was giving Sister’s article publicity in order to get revenge on Jeff for what he had done to me. I was afraid of being publicly persecuted again. I was afraid of being sneered at by all the people who had ganged up against me on the ACFJ Facebook page when Jeff reviled me there in Sept 2018 (link).

More than a year has passed since then. When Chris contacted me, what he / she told me intensified my belief that Jeff Crippen is unsafe. Before Chris contacted me I had known that Jeff had been a duplicitous bully towards me… but I’d been making allowances for him and praying that his treatment of me was a somewhat isolated incident. Furthermore, I was aware that some survivors of abuse get help from the blogs which he started after resigning from the ACFJ blog. I was doing my best to wish his followers and him and TWBTC well… and striving to keep my hurt feelings to myself.

Over the years, some survivors of intimate partner abuse (both male and female) had told me they felt hurt and gravely mistreated by Jeff. I did not discount their testimony — I was keeping it in mind — but I was still reluctant to call Jeff a definite wolf. Perhaps I was being ‘too nice’. I was still struggling with my own hurt feelings about Jeff, and my hurt feelings from being maligned and shunned by so many other advocates.

Sister and Chris conversed a lot, and Sister drafted her article Tillamook Speaks. I have been privy to some of that process. When Sister shared with me more of Chris’s story, with some screen shots of Chris’s diary entries, I became REALLY angry at Jeff for how he has treated the people of Tillamook. Chris’s story removed that last vestige of reluctance I had to call Jeff a wolf.

I ask all the people of Tillamook who have been mistreated by Jeff to forgive me. Please forgive me for not being a person you might have wanted to reach out to for support. Please forgive me for promoting Jeff for so long. Please forgive me for having been deceived by Jeff.

I also apologise to the individuals who told me they felt hurt and mistreated by Jeff. One of them was a male survivor of intimate partner abuse; he told me a very credible account of how Jeff had treated him as a probable abuser. I am pretty sure I responded by email to each of those people’s disclosures, but I did not publicly do anything about it. I let it sit on the back burner. Please forgive me.

My shame

I have had to work through feelings of shame that I was ever a colleague and co-worker with Jeff. Shame that I felt so thrilled when he first contacted me asking for permission to quote a paragraph of my book Not Under Bondage in his book A Cry For Justice. Shame that I felt like a Deborah who had found her Barak. Shame that I was deceived by (yet another) abuser! Shame that I helped edit and publicise the written work of a spiritual abuser. Shame that he managed to publicly persecute me in the end. And shame that I felt such deep shame — I could not slough it off. Parts of me still cannot.

Those feelings of shame were a bit like the shame a woman feels when she discovers that her ex-husband has been sexually abusing their daughter on visitation. I know a woman whom that happened to. She told me she felt deep shame thinking about the fact that for years she had shared a bed (been one flesh) with a child molester. Even though the man only became a child molester after they had separated, she felt contaminated by his evil perversion.

I intend to write a short “caveat about Jeff Crippen” to put at the top of every post by Jeff Crippen on this blog. That is the least I can do to make amends.

“Suffering and the Heart of God” by Diane Langberg — Review by Barbara Roberts

Diane Langberg doesn’t seem to believe there are people whose father is the devil — so she doesn’t seem to understand the mind of the sociopath. In her book Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores (New Growth Press, 2015), she writes as if all people have active consciences and every person feels bad when their conscience pricks them.

She depicts the abuser as self-deceived, rather than as an intentional liar. In my opinion she lets the abuser off the hook too easily, describing him as a victim of his own self-deception:

… the narcotic of self-deception has become so powerful in his life that he not only cannot stop lying; he does not even know when he is [lying] and has lost his capacity to tell truth from lies, good from evil. (p 225)

She comes across as something of a ‘bleeding heart’ who thinks she has to have unlimited compassion for everybody, even predators.

Failure to love his [God’s] people, even his predatory shepherds, is a failure in my love for him. (p 310)

In my experience as a recipient of abuse (sexual, spousal, social and spiritual), I have spent a lot of time scrutinising my heart to see whether I have failed to sufficiently love the people who predated on me and the ones who favoured and cheered on my abusers. I have asked myself whether by failing to feel loving feelings for my abusers, I am a crummy Christian who does not love and revere God. That self-scrutiny drove me into morbid introspection, downwardly spiralling into a morass of confusion and self-condemnation.

The way to love predators is to expose their evildoing, confront it, resist it, call them to repentance (a call which the vast majority of predators will ignore), and exclude them fellowship. Cast them out. Avoid them. Report their crimes to the secular justice system if you feel safe to do so.

Let us read Langberg’s assertion again:

Failure to love his [God’s] people, even his predatory shepherds, is a failure in my love for him. (p 310)

It’s the kind of stuff the abuser will jump all over because it enables him to accuse those who confront him with his sins — (trigger warning): — “You are not being loving! You are confronting me in an unloving manner! You are being judgemental!”

Langberg appears to be writing primarily for an audience of professional counselors in this book. What she doesn’t seem to take into account is that victims may also be reading her book and will almost certainly be taking her sweeping statements personally. In my view, she has thereby failed in her duty of care for the abused.

Here are a couple more of her sweeping statements that would certainly sting victims of abuse:

Understanding one’s own production of sewage and the ensuing damage is vital. (p.45)

As I bow before God and allow him to produce his viewpoint in me, several things will result:  First, I will know without question that evil is not just “out there”; it is also “in here.” I will never see the world as divided between “them” and “us.” There is no “them” because we are all “them.” (p 95)

Langberg’s phraseology is sin-levelling. She implies that the victim, the counselor, and the predator are all producing the same quantity of sewage, and all causing the same degree of damage to other people.

She asserts that an abuser’s bad behavior can be explained because he was probably victimized as a child (p. 51). This plays right into the myths that

  • the abuser isn’t responsible for his own choices
  • the abuser needs therapy because his problem is in his emotions (rather than his beliefs & distorted thinking)

These myths, especially when they are articulated by respected Christian professionals, contribute to why victims stay so long in abuse. The victim is urged to think, “I need to be more compassionate towards my husband. He must have suffered awfully in his childhood.”

Furthermore, it seems to me that Langberg has a similarly muddled theology of shame to the one articulated by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. She confuses shame and sin, and thus insufficiently distinguishes between false guilt and true guilt. On pp 138-9 she writes:

Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Hiding our faces is exactly what we want to do when we feel shame. Children know this instinctively. They run, hide in the closet, or they cover their faces when they feel shame. He did not hide; he despised it, hated it. Jesus spit on shame, considered it worthless, it carried no weight, no value. Jesus spit on being spit on. He scorned scorn. He diminished shame itself, one of the most diminishing agents of human beings. He shamed shame. He did not hide; he did not cover; he did not shrink. He hated shame and stared it straight in the face. And then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God full of glory.

He despised shame and sat in glory. We are shamed and glory disappears. He faced shame and transformed it into glory. On the cross Jesus spits back, not on shameful humans, those warped, ruined, and twisted but still created in his image. No, he spits on the shame they spilled all over him, and he refused to let it define him, diminish him, or destroy his work and purpose. And what was that work and purpose? To change our shame into glory.

We are there with him, all of us bearing the shame of our sin and of the sins of others against us. …

Note: Where Diane Langberg wrote, ‘Jesus says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”’, she seems to be quoting the KJV rendering of Isaiah 50:6 I hid not my face from shame and spitting. She did not state that she was quoting from the KJV there. The words ‘Jesus said’ are Diane’s, not Isaiah’s.  Her failure to tell her readers which Bible version she was using there has caused perplexity for at least one of my blog readers. See the comments thread. (This note was added by Barb on 6 Sept 2021.)

Note: I have not given this post the tag ‘bad books’, because we reserve that tag for books that we think are out-and-out bad. If I were to review Suffering and the Heart of God on Amazon, I would probably give it a three star rating because there are quite a number of good things in it. But because the ACFJ blog prioritizes the viewpoint and well-being of victims, I cannot include this book in our recommended resources. However, if you are a Christian counselor and you were to read the book with discretion, especially if you kept in the front of your mind the concerns I have raised here, you might gain quite a lot from the book.

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO MAKE A COMMENT. I love receiving comments at this blog. Even if you only write a few words, that will encourage me, because it will show me that you read my post.

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Further Reading

Is it wrong to feel anger and hatred for my abuser?

Blindness series

Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but… (pt 3 of series on SBC’s ChurchCares program)

Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?

Don Hennessy says domestic abusers are like pedophiles — and there’s not much proof they’re redeemable.

Divorce, language use, suffering and substitution, in “Is It My Fault” by the Holcombs

How do I find a good counselor?

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn, Feign, Flirt – ways recipients of abuse may respond to their abusers – Gary Pfeifer

“Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn, Feign, Flirt” — these are some of the ways recipients of abuse might respond to their abusers. In his post Separation from my body to escape suffering, Gary Pfeifer talks about this. If any readers think that recipients of abuse are silly or stupid for responding to abuse by fawning, feigning or flirting, please read the Further Reading links at the bottom of this post.

When you click on the above link, you will be taken to my Mystery Of Iniquity blog which is where I focus on the nature and extent of extreme abuse. At Mystery Of Iniquity, I share testimonies from survivors of extreme abuse, and I present evidence that extreme abuse is sometimes perpetrated by well known Christians who are deeply corrupt but highly skilled at hiding their corruption from the average churchgoer. I also discuss how all that relates to scripture and how the Bible warns us about it.

In Gary Pfeifer’s blog post, which I have featured in the above link, Gary does not go into graphic detail about the things he suffered. Rather, he talks about how he responded to the traumas and how he is gradually healing.

For those of you who are easily triggered by images, I can assure you that there are no pictures or graphics or videos in Gary’s post Separation from my body to escape suffering. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing images or videos in any of Gary’s posts.

I have come to respect what Gary Pfeifer writes. I’ve been following Gary’s blog for some time. He seems to me to be a genuine recipient of extreme abuse in childhood. He suffered systematic torture-based mind control, ritual abuse, rape by pedophiles, and sex trafficking. He writes about how the traumas affected him, how he responded to the traumas, and how he is healing.

Gary Pfeifer blogs at garypfeiferramcsurvivor.wordpress.com.

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Further Reading

Victims invariably resist violence and other forms of abuse

Victims resist abuse in prudent, determined and creative ways

Honouring Resistance by Dr. Allan Wade

Respecting & Listening to Victims of Violence — a handbook from Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter

Unclenching Our Fists: Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence — book review

Unclenching Our Fists: Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence is not primarily written for women who are recipients of abuse. I do not recommend it for women who are living in abuse and longing for their abuser to change.

The author, Sara Elinoff Acker, says in the introduction:

If you’re a man who’s just admitted to yourself that you are abusive, this book is for you. …

When I first started working in the field of domestic violence, I didn’t believe that abusive men could really change. Now I know that some can. Sadly, men who’ve committed to change are only a small minority of men who are abusive.

The author recognises the risk of publishing stories by men who are reforming — the stories “might kindle an unrealistic sense of hope among women experiencing domestic violence.”

While the book is written for men who have admitted they are abusive and are wanting to change, there is one chapter for women partners. That chapter is titled “When the man you love is abusive”. The subheadings in that chapter are:

  • Many abusive men do not become nonviolent
  • Attending a domestic violence intervention program is essential
  • If he doesn’t “own” his problems he can’t change them
  • Substance abuse is a separate issue
  • Couples’ counseling is inappropriate
  • Keep your guard up; change takes time
  • Two steps forward, one step back
  • Your own experience matters most
  • Signs he IS changing
  • Signs he is NOT changing
  • Healing yourself no matter what he does
  • You deserve a supportive community
  • Commit to an abuse-free life

I could see that the men’s stories in Unclenching Our Fists might give hope to men who were genuinely admitting their abusiveness and committing to change.  Of the eleven men whose stories are in the book, some of them seemed to me more awake and more committed to change than others, but that is to be expected. ⁠It sounded to me like all of the men were changing their behavior and attitudes to a fair degree, but I had the sense that some of those men might not persevere and stick at the hard work of changing deep down into their hearts.

I personally know of less than a handful of men who were abusers who have changed into non-abusers. Two of those are men who were not Christians and are still not Christians. Those two abusers both attended secular Men’s Behaviour Change Programs in Australia and kept repeatedly attending and working on their stuff until they deep down changed. They are now both working professionally in the Men’s Behaviour Change movement. One is Dave Nugent who now runs the Heavy Metal Group and was involved in the film Call Me Dad; you can see Dave talking to a group of Jewish men here. The second is Ivan Clarke who tells his story here. [This video takes time to load. Editors.]

The only other case I know of where an abusive man seemed to reform, is Dave Weir. He tells his story on pp.118-25 of Unclenching Our Fists. While serving a jail sentence for domestic violence, Dave was convicted of sin. He doesn’t recount that any Christian spoke to him, he simply says that he felt this from God. It sounded to me like Dave Weir became a genuine Christian while serving the two-year jail sentence. He says that with the help of some books and a few courses he “worked his own program”. After he got out of jail, he went voluntarily to a batterer’s program. His wife never lived with him again. The most compelling evidence for me that Dave did genuinely reform is the way his ex-wife Leta responded at the close of his life. By the time the author of Unclenching Our Fists interviewed Dave, he had cancer of the throat and was having difficulty speaking. The interview was recorded, but Dave’s speech was so hard to understand that the author couldn’t transcribe it. After Dave died, his ex-wife Leta volunteered to transcribe the interview, saying she was proud of the work Dave had done on himself (pp.186-7).

When an ex-wife is sure that her abuser has genuinely changed, and she has remained permanently separated from him (she has not put back on the rose-coloured glasses), but she chooses to have a friendship with him, a friendship that is mutually enjoyable, and she voluntarily does something to help his story get published after he has died, that is pretty telling, in my view.

None of the men in Unclenching Our Fists were what I would call “pseudo-reformers”, ⁠but some of them seemed to be “half-hearted reformers” — i.e. men who have made and are continuing to make substantive changes in their behaviours, but who have not (or not yet) developed deep and lasting empathy for their victims…men who are doing genuine reformation in their head, but not deeply in their heart. Some professionals who work in men’s behaviour change groups may think I’m free with my opinion without having enough experience of reforming men. So be it. I can only share my impressions and gut feelings.

I think Unclenching Our Fists could be worth reading for a woman who has been abused by her male partner, IF she is separated from the abuser and well on the road to recovery and building an abuse-free life. If you are such a woman, this book might help sharpen your discernment about how to discern different degrees of reformation in men. It might be especially worth reading if you are a victim who is becoming an advocate.

The cautions that the author gives to women who want to read the book need to be taken seriously. If you’re anything like me, you can easily think “I have shed my illusions; I’ve dropped the rose-coloured glasses, I have seen the abuse for what it was! — but there are still illusions to shed and false concepts to be brought to the light of truth.

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Note: I was prompted to write this post because someone tagged me on Facebook while writing about Unclenching Our Fists. See here. The link goes to a private FB group run by another survivor-cum-advocate.

Some of this post is copied from my post Chris Moles has a Play Doh understanding of salvation which was published in August 2018.

Related reading

Abuse and Empathy: How Abusers Flunk the Empathy Test

SBC’s ChurchCares Program Digest

In 2019, the SBC produced its ChurchCares Program. I wrote five posts about it. Here they are for ready reference.

1. Churchcares.com – the SBC’s plan to equip churches to respond to abuse (focuses on Chris Moles)

2. Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but…

3. Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but…

4. Why I publish my concerns about various abuse advocates

5. Leslie Vernick – various responses that domestic abuse victims have to her work.

Father-daughter incest: is it prohibited in the Bible? This is not a stupid question.

Leviticus has several verses that forbid father-daughter incest. Despite this, the ESV Study Bible’s note on Leviticus 18:6-18 reads as follows (bold emphasis mine):

These laws prohibit sexual relations (approach…to uncover nakedness), and therefore marriage, between people who are too closely related by blood (mother, sister, granddaughter, aunt) or by marriage (stepmother, stepsister, stepdaughter, stepgranddaughter, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, aunt by marriage). The clause “to uncover nakedness” can at times merely refer to voyeurism (cf. Gen 9:22-23), but in the Old Testament it is most commonly used for sexual intercourse. No mention is made of the daughter, probably because that needs no comment (cf. Gen 19:30-38) and this prohibition is already well known in the laws of other cultures.

To demonstrate that Leviticus has verses forbidding father-daughter incest, I will mostly be citing the KJV. I am citing the KJV because it uses the term “uncover the nakedness” whereas many modern translations use the term “have sexual intercourse”. I think “uncover the nakedness” is a better term because in addition to connoting penetration of a person’s bodily orifice (e.g. mouth, vagina, anus), it also connotes voyeurism, indecent exposure, etc. 

You might find it helpful to bear in mind that when the KJV uses the word woman or wife in the verses I will be citing, it is translating a Hebrew word that can mean woman or wife or female. When translating the Hebrew Bible, the translator has to decide whether to render that word as “woman” or “wife” or “female”.

I will also be citing the Apostolic Bible Polyglot (ABP) which is an English translation of the Septuagint. When I cite the ABP, I will give a link so you can check that I’m not pulling the wool over your eyes.

19:29 ABP  (link You shall not profane your daughter to fornicate her. And you shall not fornicate the land and the land be filled of lawlessness.

19:29 KJV  Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

20:14 KJV  And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

20:14 ABP (link Whoever should take a woman and her mother, it is a violation of the law; in fire shall they incinerate him and them, and there shall not be a violation of the law among you.

Lev 18:17 KJV  Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.

18:15 KJV  Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

19:20 KJV  And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.

Note: by extension the above verses could be applied to father-daughter relationships. In “quiverful theology” the daughter is not free of her father’s authority until he hands her over in marriage to a husband. The daughters are akin to servants and bondmaids in such families.

I would argue that daughters who are subjected to father-daughter incest should NOT be ‘scourged’ or punished, because those daughters were not willing participants in the sexual relationship — rather, they were coerced, controlled, intimidated, and assaulted (see here).  The punishment ought to be laid on the father, not the daughter.  Paul did not say that the man who was sleeping with his father’s wife should be incinerated; rather he said that the man should be put out of the church, handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. (1 Cor 5)

The ESV is notorious for its bias in favour of male headship and for translating in ways that oppress women and which obfuscate the legitimate needs and dignity of women. In my opinion, the ESV Study Bible notes need to be read with caution. The notes can be valuable when giving historical background; but when it comes to abuse and gender issues, the notes can be dangerous.

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Further reading

Books by Topic: Sexual Misconduct by an Intimate Partner

Resources on Sexual Abuse

For my children’s sake, it is better to leave?

How can I help my children heal from abuse?