The following two paragraphs are taken from Steven Tracy’s book, Mending the Soul [Affiliate link]. I am re-reading that book now and was struck once again by these statements. Notice especially Tracy’s story of the pastor who was living in denial. This denial is sooooo typical:
I [Steven Tracy], like many who were blessed to have grown up in a loving home, have had a very difficult time accepting the reality of abuse, particularly in Christian homes. Years ago, when I was a young pastor in a vibrant church, I was deeply offended when the women’s ministry invited a special speaker to address the topic of domestic violence. Little did I (or anyone else) realize that one of our elders had been beating his wife for years, having put her in the hospital several times, and that at that very time one of our ministers was about to be arrested for felony child abuse. I’ve come to realize that abuse is not the odd exception but is rampant both in the church and in secular society. The evidence for this tragic assertion is overwhelming.
It is exceedingly difficult for us to accept the fact that abuse is rampant. I have vivid memories of a pastor who was highly offended when I gave him a Christian book about sexual abuse. He dogmatically asserted that the book’s author (a noted evangelical authority on sexual abuse) didn’t know what he was talking about when he wrote that abuse is prevalent in the church. This pastor reasoned that he had been a shepherd in a large church for several years, and of the several thousand individuals in his congregation, he only knew of a couple individuals who had been sexually abused. Furthermore, he contended that the book’s discussion of sexual abuse put impure thoughts into people’s minds. It apparently hadn’t occurred to him that, given his mind-set, it was unlikely anyone would disclose sexual abuse to him. Ironically, my wife and I knew of several dozen individuals in his church who had been sexually abused. [Emphasis original]
Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-19). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle locations 169-218). Zondervan. Kindle edition.
[March 29, 2023: Editors’ notes:
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16 thoughts on “Abuse is Rampant in Our Churches — Quotes by Steven Tracy”
There are many well known pastors, church leaders that have spoken about abuse that have this mindset. Too many claim they understand the dynamics, and yet their words do not show it. Sadly, they lack humility in so many areas — and the looking to blame shift. It’s mind boggling. DV isn’t hard to understand if they just honestly gave it a try. It’s hard — on the other hand — to know how to handle it on a case-by-case basis.
They tend to take the humanistic approach of if they don’t know what to do they do nothing.
Hannah – thank you for your observation. It is true, isn’t it? People simply don’t want to admit that this is happening among us. And I suppose it is harder even for pastors and church leaders to admit it because they / we are supposed to “have it all together”. I think that it is going to be getting harder and harder to deny however. At least I hope so.
I hope so as well – I pray for this. Things have got better within the last couple of years, because people are finally talking. The denial is still strong, and I pray the truth wins over this.
I’m reposting, Jeff, as once again you kindly share truth where you find it. Bless you!
Thanks, Morven. You know, every time I post or comment on things that indicate how pervasive abuse is in our churches, I feel a twinge of, what? Fear? Guilt? Betrayal? Shame? And yet, there it is and it is true. Who can deny it after we read all of these accounts of victims of the thing? After a point, continued denial becomes criminal and moral negligence for which we shall give an account to Christ unless we repent.
I remember going to Dachau, one of the concentration camps where millions of Jews were murdered. What struck me most, even more than the horror of the camp and everything that happened in it, was how very close — literally just down the road from the camps — were lovely little houses, clean crisp curtains in the windows, lovely flowers in the window boxes, just German families living their lovely clean perfect little lives. No one can tell me they didn’t see the monstrosity of a death factory down the road, that they didn’t hear the screams, that they didn’t smell the burning of flesh….they chose to ignore it, and they EACH will be held accountable for not speaking up.
Jeff, when you blog truth, you speak TRUTH, and those who choose to turn their backs on what is only too obvious to anyone with eyes to see, will also be held accountable. Don’t concern yourself with them, Jeff. Just keep speaking truth, take care of yourself in the process as any caregiver can burn out, and know you have done nothing wrong to feel guilty for. You are feeling shame, and that, my brother, is what others have said or done to you to make you feel like YOU are bad. Shame = lies.
As a Christian it may be one of the hardest things to say “abuse is rampant in the church” but until we can acknowledge the truth we can’t fix the problem or deal with the sin.
Thanks for the encouragement, all of you. I just preached a sermon today on Malachi chapter 1 in which the Lord is rebuking the priests for their obvious detesting of the Lord and His worship. What should have been obvious, they refused to acknowledge and even answered back to the Lord with “What? No way! You are wrongly accusing us!” That is the same thing we get when we tell Christians, and I think especially pastors, about the abuse, both sexual and domestic, that is indeed rampant in the churches today. And yes, Morven, I see your point. People who refuse to see it and admit it, work to shame us into shutting up about it.
Faith and I just back from a pastor’s conference where we set up our display and talked with most of the pastors and their wives about the issue of sexual abuse. They all seemed to have a fairly recent story of abuse in their church but are still reluctant to deal with it.
Also I wanted to ask you about “re-posting” the posts on your blog. You guys do such a great job of writing that my first instinct is to re-post them but I didn’t know if that is ok with you guys.
This is so very, very true for abuse overall, be it sexual, emotional, physical, verbal / psychological, spiritual, financial, etc.
—I don’t believe it. / I don’t believe you. And I don’t want to hear another word about it. Not another word. I don’t care what proof you have….I won’t look at it. I refuse to believe you. I refuse to sit here and listen to this crap!
—You don’t know what you are talking about.
—Enough already! I don’t want to hear about it. Silence!
—He wouldn’t do that. / They wouldn’t do that.
—Get over it already.
—You aren’t perfect either.
—You think everyone is evil….Look for the good in people and you’ll find it.
—And what did you do to cause it? Cause and effect! (You are to blame, you are the cause, their “abuse” is only the effect which you caused to happen.)
—Who are you to judge anyone else? Who are you to say whether or not what they did to you is wrong? You don’t get to go around judging others!
—If it was so bad, you would have left a long time ago.
—They were only trying to “help” you. (Pure lies and the proof of such being complete lies is not looked at or acknowledged.)
—You are ruining our lives (by being victimized and not flawlessly “taking it” without being harmed or affected by such abuse and being a downer / negative).
—You just have a bad attitude.
—You are just an eternal pessimist. You want to see the worst in everything and everyone!
I don’t know that this posting is acceptable and perhaps it is too revealing or too identifying….and / or maybe not relevant enough…. Your decision as to whether or not such makes the cut and all.
Hi, Anonymous, your comment was fully acceptable — we published it exactly as you submitted it. The things you listed are so very common that they would not identify you or the people who said them to you, because so many people say those things to so many different victims.
This post of mine lists many such sayings, and suggests possible ways the victim can answer. Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People — A Coaching Clinic
Welcome to the blog! 🙂 You might like to check out our New Users’ Info page.
True story that I read only today:
A pastor announced from the pulpit that he was going to attend a seminar on domestic violence. In the next week four people in his congregation (from four different families) contacted him to disclose that domestic abuse was happening in their own households. He was stunned. He thought there must be some weird epidemic of domestic abuse in his local church. But it wasn’t a inexplicable epidemic localised to his own church. All he was discovering was what had been there all along: the prevalence of domestic abuse that is going on all over the church and the wider community. The difference was, he had mentioned the magic words from the pulpit, so folk felt brave enough to disclose what they’d been keeping secret for years.
That’s better than my pastor, whose response to my light-handed suggestion to look into domestic violence, was: “Since you are so educated, you can look out for women with bruises or who look cowering in fear, then you tell me, and I’ll set things right for them!” I was too stunned to respond.
Hi, Anonymous, welcome to the blog. 🙂
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
I would have been stunned too, if a pastor had said that to me. The enormity of his wrong assumptions and false beliefs is gobsmacking.
[…] “…“It is exceedingly difficult for us to accept the fact that abuse is rampant. I have vivid memories of a pastor who was highly offended when I gave him a Christian book about sexual abuse. He dogmatically asserted that the book’s author (a noted evangelical authority on sexual abuse) didn’t know what he was talking about when he wrote that abuse is prevalent in the church. This pastor reasoned that he had been a shepherd in a large church for several years, and of the several thousand individuals in his congregation, he only knew of a couple individuals who had been sexually abused. Furthermore, he contended that the book’s discussion of sexual abuse put impure thoughts into people’s minds. It apparently hadn’t occurred to him that, given his mind-set, it was unlikely anyone would disclose sexual abuse to him. Ironically, my wife and I knew of several dozen individuals in his church who had been sexually abused.”…” […]