A Cry For Justice

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

The Shooting in Ohio Poses a Question for Piper and Company

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.

***

I am totally open to correction here if I am coming to an erroneous and unfair conclusion about what the “no-divorce-for-any-reason-at-all” people would say regarding the murder of Katherina Allen in Ohio this week.  Yes, both she and her murderer-husband are dead so hey – death ends the marriage.  No question, right?  Not so fast.

I DO have a question.  First read the following news summary of this terrible crime, and then consider my comments and question that follow:

The 10-year-old daughter who survived a shooting Thursday night inside a crowded Cracker Barrel by her father that killed her sister and mother remains in critical condition in a Cleveland hospital.
Kevin Allen came into the restaurant in suburban Brooklyn with a shotgun and, witnesses said, “selectively” fired on his family. The shooting created panic and confusion in the restaurant, and a manager helped get people out through a rear door, a witness said.
“He didn’t say not one word,” a witness told Fox8.com. “He came in and pointed, and we could just see the fire come out of the barrel and we all just ran.”
In addition to the death of Katherina Allen, 42, and Kerri Allen, 10, the couple’s other 10-year-old daughter, Kayla, was wounded and in critical condition. According to police records, Thursday was Kerri Allen’s birthday.

10-year-old girl shot at Ohio restaurant dies

Ok.  That is what happened.  Now, let’s tweak the outcome just a bit.  Let’s say that Katherina, the wife and mother, was the survivor and let’s say that her husband was arrested and taken into custody, ultimately to be sent to prison.  You know the question that is coming, right?  To all those Christians — pastors, teachers, theologians, counselors — who are telling abuse victims that abuse is not grounds for divorce, I ask you pointedly:  “Would Katherina Allen have God’s blessing and authorization to divorce the man who murdered her daughters and shot her?”  

I think that every Christian has a right to a clear answer to this question from every one of the authors and teachers who are teaching millions and millions of Christians that abuse is not a biblical ground for divorce.  And I believe it is time for all of us to start demanding those answers.  If this challenge makes anyone angry, then I would honestly ask them: why?  Why are you angry?  Isn’t this a fair question?  You can’t just dismiss it with “Oh, that’s ridiculous!  How dare you make such a charge against respectable, well-known men in the church!”  Well, I would respond – “How dare we not ask these questions?”

Finally, at what point does a pastor/teacher becomes a false shepherd/Pharisee and thus one who is to be rejected by the church?  When they refuse divorce for emotional and verbal abuse?  “Well… no…. maybe not,” I hear people say.  Alright, then what about when they bind people in marriages in which a wife is being beaten?  “Hmmm…. that is a little harder.  But they mean well.”  Then let’s step it up another notch – is a man who stands in a pulpit and teaches that even if a parent murders his children and tries to murder his wife, she is not authorized by God to divorce him – is such a pastor/teacher/theologian/counselor a false shepherd of the church, to be rejected by the church?

I know what my answer is to these questions.  I ask the no-divorce-for-abuse  people:  what is yours?

18 Comments

  1. I am going to send this post as a link to all the big names who are getting it wrong. If others want to join me, maybe we can cause a little flurry in their inboxes, eh?
    We must keep nibbling at the feet of the giants till they notice.
    Ministries I will target are John Piper, John MacArthur, R C Sproul, … any other suggestions?

    • Survivor

      Great idea, Barbara, and I would also suggest we repeat this sort of argument on Christian Post (on articles regarding divorce), marriagemissions.com, FamilyVoice (Australia), Crosswalk (comments are welcome). This way we target both the leaders and the grassroots.

      There is an article on ezine about a woman who asked her pastor whether she should divorce her violent husband. The pastor told her to separate for safety’s sake, but the woman decided that if divorce was out of the question, separating would not give her any safety, so she stayed. The pastor assured her of the church’s prayers and dutifully asked the congregation to remember her in prayer. A few months later, he addressed the congregation again, this time sorrowfully announcing that they should pray for the children who had lost their mother. She had been murdered by the father and the father was in jail. The mother had wrongfully believed that God was against divorce at all costs. Isn’t it just a preposterous belief that God regards divorce as worse than murder?

      • Thanks survivor. my typing fingers getting busy here…

  2. joepote01

    Point well made, Jeff. Of course, you know my answer.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Joe. Yep, I know:)

  3. Pippa

    Genesis 2:24 indicates that a husband and wife are one flesh. (“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”) So does this mean that there should be no divorce under any condition?
    It does not. Let’s take some other examples of “one flesh.” Lets say for starters that I have a friend Frannie and she has a tumor. It is malignant. Obviously one flesh, right? Ok, some would say no, that the tumor is a foreign thing. Well what if it is a dermoid tumor that has become malignant. This kind of tumor starts with the embryo of the person who will later harbor it. It is basically a pocket of flesh that has turned inward and is hidden. Same genetic makeup as Frannie. Has some teeth and bones. It has been gradually killing Frannie and now it is quickly killing Frannie. Shall we tell Frannie that it is part of her and that she will have to deal with it? Some would tell Frannie that she needs to get her spiritual life right and expect healing. This is true but would we also refuse to allow for surgery? Are those who say “no divorce” also telling people not to get medical treatment? They should be consistent.
    What about Leroy who is psychotic (in modern terms) and is hearing voices in his head telling him to kill himself? Aren’t there “two minds” here in one flesh? Should Elroy learn to stop having disputes with his voices and get along better? Who wants to refuse Elroy attention? Who wants to refuse to pray that either the spirits will be bound up and cast out of Leroy or to refuse to give him medication to stop the voices? Or both? Wouldn’t you want to spend some time with Leroy, keep an eye on him and be sure he is ok? Would you just leave Leroy alone with the voices?
    If you’re not a believer, where’s your common sense? If you are, have you partaken of the Lord’s Mercy? Do you think your job is to lay down the law or to show Mercy?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Pippa – Very good analogies. Thank you. Also, your mention of Gen 2:24 brings to mind the formula “what God has joined together…”. I wonder…. if a wicked, abusive man makes vows at his wedding, is God joining the man and woman together? Because with all we know about the nature and mentality of the abuser – we know that his “vows” are false. He has no intention at all of loving anyone. So often victims tell us that the “wonderful guy” who had charmed them disappeared literally on the honeymoon. Was there ever a marriage? I don’t think so.

  4. Pippa

    (Whoops Leroy, not Elroy)

  5. Pippa

    I would agree that there was never a marriage on the EHTB’s part. Guess I can’t say that I was the only one married since it does take two. I believe that my “divorce” is simply a long needed acknowledgement of the facts. He has never been married.

  6. J. Ann

    Why are these leaders afraid to take another look at the scriptures and consider that there may be more to the story than they originally thought? Are they so fearful of being seen as “going liberal” that they will refuse to consider anything other than a simplistic interpretation (one that they inherited from the Roman Catholic Curch from before the Reformation)? Those of us who have not had the opportunity to study in Bible College or Seminary have had to read the Bible at face-value and trust our preachers to guide us in proper interpretation. We have some excuse for trying to live out a simplistic, literal interpretation. But the educated theologians have a wealth of information available to them about the language and customs of Bible-times that is growing all the time. They can learn a better and truer interpretation of that scripture that has always been so difficult in application. Unless they just put their fingers in their ears…

    • Jeff Crippen

      J. Ann – Your comments are very insightful. Why their fear? Yes, to some degree they are afraid of being seen as “liberal.” In my Notes on Baucham’s Sermon blog post you will find that Baucham labels all of us who allow divorce for abuse as “liberals.” Now, why would they fear being seen as “liberal”? Perhaps it is a genuine fear of not being faithful to God’s Word – though even that fear is misguided in this case. However, I think there is another reason, and this one grows in intensity the more fame a preacher gains. Here it is – “disapproval from the brotherhood.” In other words, there is an unhealthy and powerful peer pressure on pastors to stick by the company line. Step away from it and you will be chastised. I have seen it. Whenever I make it clear to other pastors who share my conservative convictions, that I maintain that abuse is a biblical grounds for divorce, the looks and the frowns and the reaction and distancing starts to go into play. The Pharisees had quite the frateral brotherhood too – and plenty of wrath ready to pour out on anyone like Paul who strayed from it.

      As far as these people’s ability to interpret Scripture – in many cases the system of theology that they learned in seminary actually hinders them. It did me for a long time. I was trained in what is called dispensational theology and never was able to make sense out of the Bible very much until I came to an understanding of Reformed theology. It would take some time to explain what this all means (you could understand it though), but essentially many of these men have been taught to adhere to a biblical interpretive method that is of the letter and not of the Spirit. Rote, minute, exactitude in handling Scripture. Literalness run out to a point of foolishness. Looking at small phrases and isolating verses without taking into consideration the overall Genesis to Revelation big picture of God’s redemptive plan. Dividing up the Old and New Testaments in an erroneous way.

      This of course is not the only reason for wrong teaching on divorce and abuse and remarriage and so forth. There are errors in this field among Reformed theology people too. But it is an issue that is larger than we might realize.

      One final note – When was the last time that you heard a famous preacher, teacher, theologian, author, counselor – admit they have been wrong? Recently I heard John MacArthur boasting that he has never changed his theology one bit from day one. Somehow, I don’t thing that is something to be boasting about.

  7. Maree

    I spent most of our marriage on my own. Much of the time I didn’t know where my husband was or who he was with. If I was ill I fended for myself. If I needed someone to speak with I spoke with the dog. If I asked my husband a question he grunted, shrugged his shoulders or rolled his eyes. If I wanted someone to explain God’s word to me I had to work it out myself. My husband had never made the emotional break from his parents. The marriage was a farce. I don’t believe that God blessed or approved of that marriage at all. I made legal what was already dead.

  8. J. Ann

    Thanks for the reply to my post above, Jeff. As I reread it I realized that I neglected to say that I was referring to the research work of David Instone-Brewer on the “any cause” divorce and remarriage. Barbara has a couple links on her site that lead to some videos of Instone-Brewer explaining his views. As I understand it Instone-Brewer has realized, through much research and study of the Rabbis and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, that they would have understood Jesus’ comments differently than we would today. Ironically this interpretation fits better with the whole of scripture and the image of the loving God that we know Jesus to be. Why would he refute the sneaky questions of the Pharisees who were trying to trap him with another even stricter Pharisaic pronouncement? It doesn’t even make sense. Yet, we conservative, Bible believers have accepted the rigid interpretation, because we, in our ignorance of the historical information of the first century, couldn’t discover a better interpretation. I am sure that you could explain this better than I, Jeff. I do know that I really had my eyes opened by your explanations of the several “problem” scriptures in your sermons.

    I believe these Bible teachers dug their heels in on this topic, because they saw how the “liberal” churches got “soft” on divorce, despite being contrary to scripture as it was understood then, resulting in the divorce rate increasing radically. My understanding of “liberal” is not taking the scriptures very seriously. And they thought the only way to discourage their followers from following in the same pattern, was to discourage divorce at all costs, while insisting that was what Jesus meant. And the “cost” has indeed been high. Not only have the “conservative” divorce rates also increased dramatically, but abuse has permeated the conservative churches as well. Weak marriage seminars will not affect this issue. I believe that those leaders were and are woefully ignorant and naieve about how sin and satan work. I know that I was terribly confused for a long time. They need to hear your sermons, Jeff, as did I. I have had to repent of my Pharisaic thinking, as well. Our pride in being true to the letter of the Bible is still pride that is self-serving and destructive. The consequences often have to become very painful before we realize that we have been wrong and admit it. Sincere repentance, turning and apologizing is the only answer to this issue, just as it is in abusive marriages. I am praying for that to happen.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Very accurate observations. Yes, Instone-Brewer is right on. Read him and Barbara Roberts book and we get a really good foundation of correct theology on this subject. Your statement that marriage seminars won’t do any good is accurate – we should have figured that out by now after 3 decades or so of focusing on the family without any real effect. I originally entitled my domestic violence/abuse sermon series The Psychology of Sin because that is exactly what we learn when we study the mentality and tactics of abuse. Indeed, we are ignorant about sin and Satan, and he has infiltrated our churches where he is protected by unbiblical traditions and those who defend them.

    • Marriage seminars and make-your-marriage better books are a big industry. They keep regurgitating the same stuff and while it may help those couples who have *little* problems in their marriages, they are worse than useless for the big problem: abuse.
      I have a theory: Satan has shares in both the forestry industry and the publishing industry, and he just loves using up trees to publish books that wives will buy (a quick look at the cover art will tell you that most of those books are aimed at women, because most men don’t read). To Christian publishing houses, they must be like cookery books. The reliable genre that always sells, no matter how many other titles in that genre have already been published. I’m open to be corrected, but you’d have to prove your case well!

      • Jeff Crippen

        It would be interesting to research – I have no idea how one would do it – to research how the last 30 or 40 years of focusing on the family/marriage, etc in the evangelical church has actually backfired. I mean by this, that it has not only not been effective, but that perhaps it has actually contributed to the problem of abuse and breakup of the family and marriages? Here, I think, is the correlating Scripture on the matter:

        Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

        Also related would be the teaching about a swept house devoid of the Spirit, doing nothing more than making us simply a better place for the demon and his pack of buddies to return.

        So many of these marriage and family books and seminars are put on by people who are sadly deficient in their theology – specifically in their knowledge of biblical truths on justification, sanctification, the ministry of the Spirit in the believer, the nature of sin and the strategies of Satan and so on. What if all of these books and seminars and billion-dollar ministries have been doing little more than teaching “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” false religion of works? Of outer reform without inner reality? Scripture tells us what will happen. These things will not only be powerless in the battle against sin, they will actually FUEL it!

        1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

        Romans 7:8-11 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. (9) I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. (10) The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. (11) For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

      • Oh Jeff, your comments are scintillating my brain! That scripture is perfect for what we’re talking about.

        And the research topic: I reckon there would be a whole family of doctorates that could be written on that. Anyone looking for a doctoral thesis topic? (No pointing at me, please, I don’t want a doctorate. I’ve got too much else to do!)

    • Your ideas about why the Bible teachers dug their heels in have some merit, Jo Ann. And they are true, in my view, as far as they go. But there is much more to it.

      I have to sadly tell you that mis-teaching about the doctrine of divorce goes *way* back further than the emergence of liberalism. It’s been around for nearly two millennia, so far as I can tell, within the church. It was around in Jesus’ day as well (viz the Pharisees who posed trap questions to Jesus). And it was around in Moses day too, hence Moses’s ruling in Deut. 24:4.

      The Reformation and especially the Puritan era brought some light to the doctrine of divorce. Calvin’s Geneva was known (probably with sarcasm) as a ‘haven for women’ because in that city some women could find refuge from their abusive husbands. (However not all women could find safety in Geneva, as appendix 15 in my book shows.)

      But the temporary light was snuffed out again pretty soon. I can only speculate that there have been abusive husbands hiding out in powerful positions in the church (and in Old Testament Israel) since day dot. And they’ve been deliberately snuffing out any rays of light that got shed on the true doctrine of divorce, motivated by their father Satan, at every chance they get, because they want to go on abusing their wives with impunity.

      The backlash against liberalism was/is just the latest current in a long saga.

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