A Cry For Justice

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

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.

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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.

6 Comments

  1. I’d forgotten until reading this but actually, some of the people in my old church made things much worse. I remember a couple of women fawning over my estranged and going on and on about ‘what a great man of God’ he was. Years later– right before I left in fact– one of these same ladies heard him praying out loud in a service and told him he had ‘a double anointing over all his brothers.’ Made me sick to my stomach at the time but she didn’t ask my opinion (not that I would’ve been free to give it) and I got out of there as quick as possible.

    What if someone had confronted him with the truth ? I do remember one man who tried early on but of course, it wasn’t received so well. I guess people hear what they want to because the estranged liked the fawning women’s opinion much, much better for some odd reason.

  2. I like this post Jeff.
    I calls into question the whole matter of whether abusers do sometimes reform. That’s throwing a subject open for comment, isn’t it?
    I know some say it occurs. And who am I to gainsay that it does occur in a minority of cases?
    But still, most don’t. That’s what it looks like to us at the coalface….

    • Jeff Crippen

      I think that “sometimes” implies that “some” abusers do reform, and I believe that is to imply that this is “some-what” common. Psychologists, however, who are knowledgeable of the psychopath/sociopath (Robert Hare, George Simon) tell us that there is no therapy that can help such people. They are beyond help. I know that not all abusers are sociopaths – or are they? We aren’t talking about mere “difficult” men here. Once a person’s conscience is gone, what chance is there for reform? And those who claim they are Christians even worse. They despise Christ and put Him to open shame by their facade. I think Hebrews 6:4-6 applies well to such a person. I’m not holding my breath waiting for an abuser to reform.

  3. survivor

    Have abusers who have reformed, eg formerly abusive pastors who run courses for abusive men, given any insight to the change process when it does happen? I am sometimes tempted to direct my abusive husband to such people, hoping that if he truly is trying to change, these are the best people to walk alongside and help him, and if he is not changing, then these are also the people who will be able to call his bluff and point out why his change is not genuine. At the moment, his changes are being monitored by those who are not equipped to do the job.

    For abusers who seem to want to change, they should surely be given the opportunity to connect with the right people. Secular mens groups are viewed with suspicion as pastors themselves don’t tend to refer Christians to such groups and most don’t even know of the existence of such groups.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Perhaps Anna or Barbara might be better at responding to your question than me (Jeff). It seems to me that valid, informed therapists who are competent to lead groups for abusive men are a bit hard to find. Anger management groups are all over the place, but Bancroft is confident that anger management is definitely not what abusers need. It is just a band-aid. I asked one reformed abuser that knows a friend of mine to write his story for me, but I have never heard back again from him. I would really like to know. I do believe he is now a Christian, so that may explain the change. I am sure that a secular men’s group that is truly in tune with abuse is better by far than no group at all. Yes, you are right, pastors don’t like to refer people to secular counseling. There is reason for caution, but my opinion is that it is better than nothing.

  4. In my view, it is far better for an abuser to attend a men’s behaviour change group that is run by secular professionals, than to be in an ‘accountability relationship’ (whatever that means!) with a Christian man who is clueless about abuse. Besides, some secular groups are led by professionals who are actually Christians but are working in secular agencies. And even if the leaders are not Christians, they are going to be far more clued up about abuse than most Christians are. A behaviour change group for abusive men is going to address the attitudinal and thinking issues that lie at the bottom of the abuser’s conduct. It’s going to be educational, not therapeutic (working on the guy’s thinking, not his emotions). And that’s what’s needed.

    Anger management is not the right model. A man can learn to control his anger but still be incredibly abusive — picture a cold, ruthless, shrewd, withholding, cunning, manipulative, lazy man, and you’ll see that abuse doesn’t need to ever display anger but can still effect fear, isolation and deprivation in its victims.

    Pastors need to stop being so prissy about avoiding all secular services. Look at the stiff talk God gave Cain: he didn’t tell him to cultivate spiritual practices more, he just told him to change his thinking and his behaviour. And that’s what perpetrator programs do, when they are run right. Secular professionals leading such a group may not have at their fingertips all the Bible verses with which to refute the twisted scriptural excuses spouted by “Christian” abusers, but they can still call them on their attitudes and behaviour.

    I do know of a Christian behavior change program for men in the States. It’s called Changing Men Changing Lives, and it’s run by two Christians (husband and wife) who have both worked for years in the secular Duluth Model, which is the world’s best practice model for addressing domestic abuse. After years of doing this work in a secular setting, they have been allowed (by the Duluth organisation) to run groups that are specifically aimed at abusers who profess Christianity. Their names are Ty and Barb Schroeder and you can find their website here:
    Help for Christian Men
    I have spoken to Barb on Skype and had contact by email, and I think they truly get it about abuse.

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