A Cry For Justice

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

Getting Free of the Bondage of Magical Thinking

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.

***

Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Children often think magically.  They believe that their thoughts or actions or words have the power to cause things to happen, or to not happen.  “I wish you were dead!”  can later cause the child who uttered it to be in genuine fear that his wish may well become God’s command to strike down the sibling he was fighting with earlier.  Those of you more knowledgeable than I about psychology could probably have stories to tell about this.  I do know that this kind of thing can cause tremendous anxiety to a child who lives in a dysfunctional or abusive home.  He is made to feel as if he is the cause of the trouble, and he believes it.  Then, he may set out to be sure that he behaves in such a way that insures the trouble never happen again.  Of course, the trouble comes anyway — but the child will chalk that up to his own failure.

God is good!  I mean, really, really good.  His goodness far exceeds our thoughts.  And one of the very good things that God does is to refuse to be manipulated by us. Our thoughts, our sins, our good deeds, the intensity and length (or lack thereof) of our prayers or offerings — do not put Him in our debt one cent.  God is not obligated.  God is free.  When God chooses to answer our prayers (which He is most willing to do in Christ), He does so solely out of His goodness, His kindness, and His grace.  If our prayers need to be “tweaked” (and they usually do), the Spirit of God intercedes for us (Romans 8).

Nothing — and I mean absolutely nothing — that we do or fail to do can manipulate God.  Thus, Christianity is not magical, while I think it could be said that every other religion is.  The pagan temples, sacrifices, the priesthood, the cutting of fanatic followers — what are these if not things designed to magically cause some force to act?  But the Living and True God is not like that.  Not at all.  He is not the creation of man’s imagination, and He cannot be tamed to do our bidding.

What has all of this to do with abuse?  Just this — abusive people love to pile false guilt upon their victims, convincing them that the bad things that happen are their fault.  The direct result of the victim’s own behavior.  And worse, many times Christians affirm that this is true.  If the victim will behave “better” — the abuser’s actions can be improved.  And the sincere Christian victim can even start to believe that if she would just be a better wife, God would be pleased with her and the abuse would lessen.  In fact, she often thinks that she is the cause of most all this trouble, which is what the people around her seem to believe anyway.  If God were happy with her, then her life would be better.  So she tries.  She accepts the guilt.  She works to earn God’s favor by doing better at…. you name it.

But God is not like that.  In fact, God is most often in the business of giving us what we don’t deserve, and that is called grace.  And He withholds from us what we do deserve — that is called mercy.  God loves to give His children good things.  Not because He has to.  Not because we have been “good.”  But because He is good.  And that is called love.

We would all do well to examine our thinking for the magical element and reject it.  Whether it be our taking on the false responsibility for an abuser’s rage, or seeing that rage as punishment from the Lord because we weren’t as good as we should have been.  The fact is, we aren’t that powerful.

4 Comments

  1. Now Free After 42 Years

    God is all-powerful, full of goodness and grace and mercy. Thanks for this great post, Jeff.

    I lived for decades with this feeling of false guilt. My to be ex-husband was a master manipulator, and very clever about it. He somehow made me feel that I had a character defect, was not very smart, and everything bad that happened was my fault. I blamed myself all the time, and the guilt was overwhelming.

    We can try so hard and do so much to please our abusers, and it will never appease them..they will just keep wanting more and more.

  2. Now Free After 42 Years

    Thought I would look up “appeasement” in an online dictionary after posting-I knew the word meant to “satisfy”, but further information on this word is SO relevant:

    ap·pease (-pz)
    tr.v. ap·peased, ap·peas·ing, ap·peas·es
    1. To bring peace, quiet, or calm to; soothe. (Can’t do that…well not for long).
    2. To satisfy or relieve: appease one’s thirst. (The thirst for power and control is never slaked).
    3. To pacify or attempt to pacify (an enemy) by granting concessions, often at the expense of principle. (Never gonna happen).

  3. Oh Jeff…I am so happy I read this entry today. I need to be reminded of God’s goodness so often and his love. Thank you.

  4. Yes, magical thinking is one of those little critters that hides under the pews and pops up in many and various disguises, such as:
    If we pray hard enough and long enough, we can force God to act, just like hydraulic pressure in a pump causes the liquid to flow through the pipes.
    If we haven’t received the answer to our prayer, it must be because we have unconfessed sin.
    If we criticise the pastor, God cannot bless this church.
    If we don’t give 10% of our income in tithes, then we will never prosper.
    If we speak about our fears, they will come to pass, because words have power.
    If we are sad or in distress, we mustn’t have enough faith.

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