A Cry For Justice

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

Is Mercury Poisoning a Valid Reason for Divorce?

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.


We have quoted numbers of leading evangelical pastors and theologians who teach that abuse is not a biblical reason for divorce.  If you want to see their exact words you can go back and read them in previous posts here (search under MacArthur, Sproul, Grudem, and Piper).  Remember, our goal here is not to make these men or others out to be devils.  We are merely bringing what they teach about marriage, divorce, and remarriage out into the open.  These four men vary from holding that divorce is only permissible for adultery or literal, physical desertion to Piper’s absolute no divorce for any reason at all position.

As I was walking around the store this evening, hanging out in the hunting and fishing section and trying to justify buying a new rifle (which I couldn’t – and I tried hard), my wife headed over to the gardening section to get some slug bait.  Now, for you readers down there in Oz, and maybe even some of you in the more arid parts of the country here, let me tell you about slugs.  A slug is a snail without a shell.  There are small ones and some here that are up to 6 inches or so long.  They are fat, slow- traveling, and I mean they are slimy.  Big time.  They leave a trail of slime as a matter of fact.  And they are voracious.  They can wipe out your garden overnight.  So you have to buy slug bait and sprinkle it around.  They eat it and they are dead.

But that has little to do with the main subject here, except that the slug bait made me think of this scenario – What would Christians who oppose divorce for abuse have to say if I told them that I know a woman whose husband is poisoning her.  Let’s say he is lacing her food with mercury.  Little by little, she is consuming it.  Symptoms are starting to show.  She doesn’t know what is happening to her, but she knows that her health is going away fast.

If she were to find out, does God permit her to divorce this man?  Oh yes, I know they would all say (except for the really crazy ones, and believe me, there are a few of those out there), they would all say that she should call the police immediately, get away from him, testify against him, and he should go to prison for attempted murder.  But that doesn’t quite take care of loose ends, does it?  My question of these folks is – does God permit her to divorce the man?  She would have, by the way, all kinds of pressure put on her by various Christian friends and possibly church leaders, to show him mercy.  To not testify even.  How can she be sure he was really poisoning her?  He has some plausible explanations, after all.

Can she divorce him and move on with her life?  As bizarre as it might sound, I know that John Piper would have to say, “no”?  Right?  Unless he has some other card up his sleeve I don’t know about, he is necessarily forced to tell this woman she cannot divorce her almost murderer.  And really the other three would have to do the same.  He didn’t commit adultery.  And he didn’t divorce her himself or desert her, right?  (Somehow I think that murder is akin to some kind of desertion, and a pretty permanent one at that).

Well, here is my main point.  Abuse is a slow poison.  And it is deadly.  It kills.  Many, many, many of the abuse victim/survivors that I know have serious health problems, many of them stress-induced immune system related type things.  Others are having their lives shortened by lack of medical care and nutrition.  Still others – well, a knife or bullet or strangulation is a pretty effective poison too.  Abuse is poison.  And when anyone says that God does not permit divorce for abuse, you may as well just say that He doesn’t permit divorce for mercury poisoning.


  1. Maree

    Yes, abuse feels like a poison as it slowly kills the spirit. That was an interesting article. I hope the victim is able to break free soon.

    I loved your second paragraph by the way, and we DO have slugs and snails here, but not the monsters you have. We also have snail bait. You can try beer for the snails and slugs – they die happy. I’m glad you didn’t buy another rifle Jeff. The elk are safe for now!

  2. They don’t get it, Jeff, that verbal abuse kills the spirit, as Maree said. They don’t understand how living with the constant stress of walking on eggshells, being hypervigilant for the next assault, or wondering how he is going to react when the dinner isn’t to his standard (because he hasn’t given her money for groceries), etc. can literally KILL her – heart attacks, strokes, abdominal issues, hair loss, changes to her menstrual cycle, psoriasis and other skin problems. Even cancer. These truly good men, who mean well, just don’t get it. And women are dying, slowly, bit by bit. If one of those gents would publically acknowledge that abuse is worse than divorce, what a door that would open. Keep preaching it, brother.

    • Jeff Crippen

      We definitely need to keep preaching it! The dynamic and psychology of this denial is sadly curious. Particularly in conservative Christianity. Some/much of the problem is ignorance, but as you say, there is a “failure to compute” the facts here as well. There is something threatening to the system/structure/theology or whatever it might be called. Is it that we need to admit we have actually been wrong? And yet at the very heart of following Christ is ongoing repentance – and what is repentance except admitting that one has been wrong!

      I must admit that I have come to the point of being wearied by the “biblical” arguments that supposedly deny abuse victims freedom to divorce. Isn’t there a place in all of this for just plain common sense? A man terrorizes and/or beats his wife. Hmmmm…. wonder if she can be done with him? The world says, “of course! Why even ask the question?”

      Perhaps the words addressed (wrongly) to the Apostle Paul might properly be directed toward these all-knowing icons:

      Act 26:24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”

      Paul wasn’t out of his mind. The same cannot be said for any “great one” in the church who says to these victims, “Blessings on you my child. Now go home and submit.”

      • Love your use of that comment that Festus made to Paul! I’ve often thought of that verse as an example of the persecution abusers do to their victims (One of my ex’s favourite labels for me was “fruitcake”.)
        Yes, it’s the big men who are out of their minds, not the victims. We have been quietly presenting them with the truth for a long time. They just don’t want to listen because they have overweening male superiority.

  3. Now Free After 42 Years

    Yes, abuse kills the spirit…it wounds your very being. I was slowly, under his insidious watch, being poisoned by his actions, words, attitudes and beliefs. The creeping poison was slowly killing me. Years later I didn’t even know my own self! I used to wonder why I wasn’t the person I used to be, why I was depressed, had severe migraines.

    I went to a few counsellors over short periods of time for depression, never realizing that the root problem was the abuse being administered to me on a daily basis. I thought that I was the sole cause of unhappiness in my marriage. A few years ago I finally informed one of the counsellors of the physical abuse. Even then I didn’t realize that he had been verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusing me for decades. This counsellor tried to hypnotize me by instructing me to pretend I was on a beach and forgive him. Needless to say It didn’t work.

    I also suffered from many other stress symptoms such as severe insomnia, hair loss, abdominal pain, etc. On the day I left, my hair fell out in handfuls. To be the recipient of abuse is a very dangerous thing..it can kill.

    The Lord is guiding me and with His help I am rebuilding my life. It is not easy at times, but it is so wonderful to have Him set me free from the poisoning and take it all away. I really do feel revived and free.

  4. Maree

    Speaking of not having money for groceries, I remember a few times after spending a long time in the supermarket choosing carefully what I wanted to buy, at the checkout not having any money in the account and having to leave a cart full of groceries behind. Very embarrassing.

  5. It *is* the same thing. And I’m tired of saying, ‘if you haven’t lived through it, you just don’t understand,’ because I’m starting to feel its a cop-out.

    I’ve never gone without food for long, but I know what hunger feels like and I can empathize with those who are starving. I’ve never lost a child to accident or disease but I can show compassion to a parent who’s mourning their child’s passing. Likewise, a person who never experienced ongoing, day-by-day-by-day verbal, emotional, spiritual and/or sexual abuse can recall the intense pain of mistreatment from someone, at some point in their lives and show mercy to those in bondage.

    Willful blindness to the suffering of others is *not* okay.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Ida Mae – That is striking home with me more and more. This is WILLFUL blindness rooted in a refusal to acknowledge what is plainly true. It is mercilessness. If anything, I think what has happened to abuse victims is that the suffering has broken them – in this sense, in a good way. Maybe they would have been just as willfully blind as everyone else, but they have had the thorn in the flesh and the Lord weakened and humbled them of their arrogance. You know, as suffering church, a suffering body of believers – now that would be a church community where the suffering of victims would be acknowledged and properly embraced. You are absolutely right. This is not mere ignorance. It is intentional refusal to obey Christ and give up our comfort zone. Who has ever excused the two Jews who bypassed the beaten and robbed man in the account of the Good Samaritan on the basis of “well, they couldn’t feel for him because they had never been robbed”?

  6. Sheryl

    Right on target. Great writing and discussions…thank you. I have/had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and needed to have the right side of my thyroid removed. When I asked the doctor’s what causes it, I was taken back by their answer = stress! Just one of my, aha!, moments.

  7. Maree

    “This is not mere ignorance. It is intentional refusal to obey Christ and give up our comfort zone. Who has ever excused the two Jews who bypassed the beaten and robbed man in the account of the Good Samaritan on the basis of “well, they couldn’t feel for him because they had never been robbed”? You bring up a very good point here Jeff. My greatest support and closest friend is not another abused divorced woman, but a godly woman who has never married.

  8. Pippa

    I love the title of this new blog “Is Mercury Poisoning a Valid..?” I just had to laugh. Perhaps we should make a list of all the possible times when being unequally yoked might be a bad idea and send it around to churches. Like: “Is having one finger cut off by one’s abuser a valid reason? How about 2 and a toe?” I keep thinking that this kind of Godly humor, or something else startling, might help to jolt some elder to his senses, but I think y’all are right that their blindness is willfull…at least often and up to a point. I can remember one instance in the not so distant past when, looking back, I believe I was pretty blind. As a psychiatrist for about 30 years, I think I have heard just about every possible life story. I was already maybe more empathetic than some, probably because of the things I’ve been through. A likeable and often vivaceous woman came in to see me for depression and anxiety. She spoke of her emotionally abusive husband. Of course I believed that. She said she and her sons had always been close. She spoke of beautiful times with her children and what great relationships she and they had. Of course I believed that too. As her life progressed and she decided to leave him (something that didn’t encourage or discourage), she began to experience her teen sons turning against her, wanting to be with dad, treating her like the ex had. I remember thinking to myself on many occasions “What has this woman really done? How could her sons suddenly treat her like that? They wouldn’t suddenly support the dad who had been less than caring with them too.” I now believe I was wrong. I’m glad I never said those things to her.
    Well, this is not what I was thinking I was going to write either because I remain in disbelief that any one who knows both me and the EHTB could believe anything he says!
    I think a good question is “At what point does sympathy become unhealthy or wrong? At what point does it become sympathy for the devil?”
    The phrase in this discussion that is exciting to me and that I meant to respond to was..”You know, a suffering church, a suffering body of believers – now that would be a church community where the suffering of victims would be acknowledged and properly embraced.” I really long for that. Do we have to wait for Heaven or are we suppose to be living in that sort of community now? A rhetorical question of course. And I am sure that in some way we are all doing that to an extent. But what is He calling us out to do?

  9. Maree

    I meant to say in my previous post that some people can choose to have compassion even though they haven’t lived through what a victim is going through. Others choose not to have compassion and to turn a blind eye. My friend has not been abused, but understands and is very supportive and sees in Scripture the right to divorce an abuser and to remarry.

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