More Thoughts on Wolves Hiding Among the Flock
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Acts 20:29-31 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
One of the most common stories I hear from Christians who are abuse victims/survivors is the injustice they receive at the hands of their churches. And one of the typical ingredients in this injustice is the abuser’s success in winning the sympathy and alliance of the pastor and church members, turning them against the victim, who is then most often the one who must leave her church. Here is this fine fellow who admits to certain “shortcomings” in his performance as husband and father. But he is sorry for it all and he is doing everything he can to restore and preserve his marriage and family. But she simply won’t listen. She is unforgiving and bitter. She refuses to forgive and reconcile. And when she separates from him, she is the guilty one.
Still another common chapter in the stories these women tell is the refusal of their churches to effect church discipline upon the abuser. Some victims have pleaded with their church leaders to do this. They report, after years of secrecy, all the horrid evils Mr. Saintly church member has been committing against her and the children. But nothing is done. After some initial lip service and patronizing sympathies are expressed, nothing is done. Then some more “nothing” is done. Nothing.
I would like us to consider for a moment why the typical reaction is to do nothing. Why is it that so often the victim is branded the guilty party while the abuser remains in the pew Sunday after Sunday? I suggest an answer to you. It is because we have been taught to believe that a person can look like a wolf, kill other sheep like a wolf, and yet be a sheep of Christ’s flock. In other words, we dismiss the abuser’s evils because we assume he is a Christian. He isn’t a wolf — he is a sheep with certain “wolfishness” still tarrying in his flesh and we must help him conquer it. This of course takes great patience and understanding. It requires us forgiving him as Christ has forgiven us. And we tell the victim, while she is still getting torn up by this sheep with fangs, that she needs to be longsuffering and loving toward him too. If she doesn’t, well, she isn’t much of a Christian.
I can tell what a wolf looks like. I’ve seen them out in the woods. When I do, I don’t say, “Look! There’s a deer!” Wolves, even in disguise, betray their real character by their actions. But we have been taught to ignore those things. So when we see a wolf ripping the guts out of a lamb, we say “Oh my, that sheep has some real anger issues to conquer. Let us love him through his turmoil and help him.”
It is well past time for Christians and pastors and church leaders to STOP treating wolves like troubled sheep. An abuser is NOT a Christian. Never has been. Probably never will be. If you doubt that, review the basic elements of the abusive mentality – Entitlement, Power, Control, and Justification. Now, please explain how a person with that fundamental mindset, a mindset that defines the essence of who he is – please explain how that person can be a follower of Jesus Christ? How he can actually have denied himself, taken up his cross, considered others more important than himself, and set out in Christ’s footprints? How can such a person wear the fundamental badge of a disciple of Jesus Christ – “that you love one another”? (John 13:34-35). The thing is simply not possible. The abuser is lying. He is not a Christian. He is a wolf. And we really, really need to stop treating him like a troubled sheep.
I was recently reading a history of a terribly abusive man who was a pastor of a very large fundamental church for decades. He was exalted and virtually worshiped by his followers. His entire persona was that of a sociopath. How he loved his power and control! And he used it on women in the church. He destroyed at least one marriage. He was exposed eventually, with headlines of his sexual escapades appearing in the local newspapers of a major city. Finally, another pastor had the courage to take this guy on and announce from the rooftops what was happening. But the man was never removed from his pulpit. He played the victim quite successfully and the majority believed him.
Now, what I find particularly amazing is that even the courageous pastor who sounded the alarm, still left the door open to the possibility that this sociopathic abuser could be a genuine Christian. He cited the example of King David, a man after God’s own heart, who nevertheless committed murder and adultery. I do not disagree with the fact that a Christian still has his sinful flesh (Romans 6) and can sin grievously as David did. BUT, if he is a true Christian, genuinely converted and in Christ, he will most certainly come to true repentance just as David did. Herein is the difference between the soiled sheep and the wolf. Abusers among us do not repent. They always have their excuses, their blaming, their “I’m sorry, so you must forgive me now” attitudes. And then they go right out and do it again. This, King David did not do. There is simply no way that a pastor who displayed all the sociopathic, conscienceless, and unchanged behavior marks that this wolf in the pulpit did, can be considered to be a Christian. We should treat such men only as as wolves. And that is precisely what our Lord has told us to do.