A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and Scripture: If a Church Believes This, Run From it!

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.

***

The following paragraph is taken from the doctrinal statement of a fundamentalist church.  This same church also requires members to acknowledge that the King James Version of the Bible is the divinely preserved Bible to be used by Christians.  It also requires members to believe that God created the universe in 6 literal 24-hour days.  I believe God did create the universe in that time frame, but do we actually make it a basis of who we consider to be a real Christian to be?

You can bet there will also be, in such a church, all kinds of unwritten “tradition” rules that are exalted to the level of, or even above, Scripture.  This kind of an environment creates an abuser-friendly culture in a church, and woe to the abuse victim who tries to get help in such a place.

Here is that church’s statement on divorce:

MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND REMARRIAGE

We believe that marriage was instituted by God to be a permanent union between a man and a woman and therefore we are opposed to same sex marriages. We further believe that God hates divorce and intends marriage to last until one of the spouses dies. Divorce and remarriage is regarded as adultery except on the grounds of fornication. Although divorced and remarried persons or divorced persons may hold positions of service in the Church and be greatly used of God for Christian service, they may not be considered for the offices of pastor or deacon (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14-17; Matthew 19:3-12; Romans 7:1-3; I Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).

This is a very large church in a large metro area.  It isn’t just some little oddity, and churches like this can be found rather easily around the country.

Anyone feel like making some comments on this?  What are your recommendations for anyone in such a church environment?

32 Comments

  1. It would be almost humorous if it weren’t so sad…

    Lots of legalistic blindness…probably a lot of really nice folks, too…

  2. Anonymous

    Well, I will say that before anyone becomes a member of a “church”, all the fine print should be read, and I am not talking about the Bible here. People are put into very precarious situations, because they do not know what the “church” believes and what they will do to you, when they find out you don’t believe what they believe. They cry that the Word of God is our standard and yet, when that Word does not support that “church’s” standards and rules, they throw the Bible out and keep their own standards and/or rules. Sad, but true. If you get caught in this, unless God truly delivers you, most likely you will be forced to accept their excommunication of you. There is a lot of catholicism carryover to other “churches” and you should know about that before you join. You should also, as indicated in this post, be very wary of any place that wants you to “vow” to them, things that are not in the Scriptures. Breaking free from anything like that is going to be very difficult.

    Any so called “church”, who wishes to re-write the Bible and hold to a permanence view of marriage, when God Himself doesn’t hold to that view, has placed their own theology above that of the Supreme God and are in fact, telling Him, that they know what is best. Basically they are saying, “You know God, You had a great idea, but ours is better.” Sickens me, because they hold people in bondage and tell them it is God, when it is not.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on, Anon!

    • Laurie

      You are spot on….

  3. Jeff S

    This view of marriage is similar to the church I had to leave except for the adultery clause (I was not excommunicated and they were pretty clear I would not be- but the continued call to repentance and getting fired from my ministry position was enough that I didn’t want to stay). They view that elders (and if they had deacons, this would also apply) may not be remarried folks, even if the remarriage was due to the death of a spouse (Ha, I just realized the pastor of the church I am planning to join soon would be excluded). Their reason is that the requirements for an elder included being a “one woman man”, which they interpreted to mean a man who is and only ever has been married to one person. They said they understand that interpretations vary (though they would never conceive of a divorced person being an elder due to their permanence view), but this was theirs. I would note that they didn’t necessarily say this had anything to do with the capabilities of a remarried individual to lead, but that it was how God demands his church be organized.

    I pretty much have assumed that the price of divorce in the current Christian culture includes never being an elder and the probable end of any worship leading ministry I might have in the future. I may have more hope in the latter since the church I am attending now has already opened the door for me to participate with the worship team with full knowledge of my divorced status. We will see though- in the past I’ve generally performed my music at a variety of different churches and I live in fear of putting myself out there only to be slapped down when someone finds out I am divorced. Especially if I perform any music inspired by the tragedy of it all.

    I do want to point out that the exclusion of divorced folks from the positions of elder or deacon only affects divorced men in most evangelical churches, as women are already excluded from those positions.

    Finally, it must be said that any KJV only church is automatically off my list as it is clear they have lost the plot and cannot be counted on for any rational thought.

    I guess the thing is that the current Christian culture has a bad theology of divorce and remarriage, and it’s going to take while for this particular teaching to be redeemed. How we live with that, I don’t know. I almost despaired at finding a Bible believing church I could trust, but so far it appears I am doing good in that regard.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jeff: I appreciate all you have said here, but this line really hit – “Finally, it must be said that any KJV only church is automatically off my list as it is clear they have lost the plot and cannot be counted on for any rational thought.” No kidding. It is beyond me how these groups perpetuate the mythological arguments that they do to argue that the KJV was actually inspired by God (which is in essence their argument). Anyone with much knowledge at all of textual criticism, the transmission of ancient manuscripts, categorizing them, etc., realizes that the KJV, while a good translation, was made from a very limited number of manuscripts (at least the NT) and that modern translations have been made from a vastly improved knowledge of those manuscripts. I agree. Anyone holding to this notion has turned off their mind and swallowed the traditions of the elders.

      • If I walked into a church and found out it was KJV only, it would evoke the same response from me as if the said they believed the earth was flat. I know there are people out there who believe these things, but it strains my brain to understand why.

        On a humerous note, my dad (who is agnostic on his best days) always takes some measure of pride in telling me how modern he is for using “The New Jerusalem” version of the Bible and how he loves that it uses “every day language”. The Message would probably blow his mind 🙂

      • Laurie

        KJV…its the only English version that God preserved for us for hundreds of years–that’s the selling point. I love the KJV, if you read it right, you will find loads of love there . But, like Zac Poonen from India said, “Any version of the Bible will have all that you need to be saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ alone.”

        BTW, I am no longer a proponent of the KJV only doctrine. I actually was saved reading the “Good News” version.

  4. lydiasellerofpurple@yahoo.com

    I always get a kick out of the KJO legalism. Do these folks not know history? It was inspired by the need for ruling political power. It was to endear King James as a REAL Protestant king when his mama was Catholic.

    As to divorce, I am really tired of hearing the mantra from churches that people just get frivolous divorces for any reason.I hear this on pastor blogs all the time. Seriously? How many true believers do they know that get a divorce for no good reason?

    I spent many years organizing complementarian conferences and seminars. And I can tell you that backstage very few of the big names (not the patriarchy guys) live out a comp marriagve in real life. Backstage many of the comp wives were like General Patton. But on stage she was the submissive follower. I always thought it was a huge bait and switch. But one thing I learned over the years is that those with borderline personality disorders are very attracted to churches that make that doctrine primary. Some even go as far to make it salvic.

    The church as a whole is too focused on gender and not enough on the spiritual.The question I have asked of many who make this pink and blue Christianity primary doctrine is this: Who is my model in the scriptures? Jesus was male so who models my “roles” for me? How can I be Christlike since I am a female and gender is so important to Holiness?

    Being IN CHRIST transcends this legalistic gender focus.

    I love your blog and I loved your letter to pastors. God Bless you, brother.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lydia- thank you a bunch! I bet you have some pretty interesting stories alright. I was once backstage with a “big name” and he was full of self. Quite obvious. We need to find those who are last and stop celebrity worship.

    • Lydia, I love your insights. Pink and blue Christianity! Whoohooooo! I think that phrase will become a classic.
      Yes, the church is way too focused on gender. Even the egalitarians are focused on gender, just in the obverse way.

      So we have General Patton wives back-stage who act simperingly submissive on stage. And presumably we have slack and/or abusive husbands back-stage who act the strong noble servant-leader on stage.
      So the role playing and the dichotomy between public and private keeps everyone busy, and nobody grows in Christ. Sounds like the seed that was sown among thorns, where the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choked the word and it proved unfruitful.

    • Laurie

      General Patton wives…haha! We ran into a church controlled by such women, as they played the part of submission. Great analogy!

  5. LorenH

    Churches that focus on legalisms are missing so much, if not all of what Jesus is recorded doing and saying in their own KJB. They are really about asserting and maintaining authority for themselves. I have no tolerance for them.
    Textural criticism is something they would never even consider, It is pointless if you already have the God ordained version. Turning off you brain is pretty much a requirement.
    My wife and I have led divorce recovery groups in church for 6 years. A few weeks ago my pastor had me speak about what Jesus had to say about divorce and remarriage. A good number of people came up to me afterwards to tell me they finally felt free of the guilt they had been carrying for years. The narrow and wrong headed application of scripture in this area has been separating people from a fulfilled life with God. I would not waste a minute in a church as you described.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Good words, Loren, thank you. And many blessings in your ministry as you help people understand these things.

  6. One of the really weird dynamics to this whole thing even for churches that have a better understanding of divorce in the Bible is that there still is a judgement that takes place. Maybe it’s over membership or maybe it’s over remarriage, but it can easily comes up later that a pastor will want to know if the divorce was biblically valid. I had this question when I was looking to join a new church, and they do allow divorce for emotional abandonment (including abuse) but I had absolutely no desire to try and give evidence or make my case to them. I’m not about to sit in a hot seat trying to convince people that my emotional survival required me to divorce. There wasn’t anyone but me to help me figure this out as I was going through it- after the fact is not the time to try and make judgements or determine if there was another way.

    The thing is there is so much focus on the prohibition against remarriage it betrays a very wooden reading of the scripture. I’ve actually heard multiple times “Jesus didn’t say divorce was a sin, only remarriage”, and I think a lot of the church behaves that way. The focus is on the “punishment” for divorce, which clearly was not Jesus’ point. He wanted to illustrated that abandoning your wife for friviolous, selfish reasons is not sanctioned by God (as the Pharisees were practicing). But today’s church must prefers formulas of sin->consequences, black and white. No room for messy, gray areas; no room for connecting with people.

    One more thing- I can’t believe how many times it is said or preached that divorce is “too easy”. If you say that you haven’t done it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done by a wide margin.

    • cindy burrell

      Excellent points, Jeff. You stated the issues so well.

      The church script offered above is very common in churches we have visited. Although our church accepted my husband and I as remarried divorcees, when we met with an associate pastor and discussed our ministry, his primary issue of concern was whether I encourage people to get a divorce. “No,” I told him. “I urge people to seek the heart of God in the matter.” I then asked him if he would automatically discourage a person who was considering a divorce from seeking one. His response: “Absolutely.”

      A couple of months later, after reading my book, “God Is My Witness,” he admitted that he had softened on the subject. When I asked him how he might now respond to a person considering divorce, he said he would urge such a person facing that serious decision to “seek the heart of God in the matter.”

      It is possible to educate people on this difficult subject, but it is not an easy process, and it definitely goes against the grain.

      “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galations 6:9

      • Jeff Crippen

        Very encouraging Cindy. Good job!

    • I think the academics and scholars have a lot to answer for. They have been saying for some time that the ‘husband of one wife’ expression was simply an idiom for the kind of man who only has eyes for one woman, that is, a man who has exemplary sexual morality, whether he be single, married or divorce. It has nothing to do with the literal number of wives a man may or may not have had.

      I don’t think I’m wrong in guessing that many top class NT biblical scholars have realized and accepted this, or even if they have not accepted it, they are familiar with this argument about the phrase being idiomatic, not literal.
      But word hasn’t filtered down to the general Christian community. I think it is beholden on the scholars to think of more ways to educate the general Christian community about their findings. They are so bound up in the “publish or perish” imperative of academia. They publish their discoveries in the scholarly journals, but who takes the information to the masses?

      • LorenH

        I do not believe the fault lies with the academics. I think that the church establishment turns a deaf ear to what it does not want to hear. Rocking the boat in a church can get you fired.

      • “Rocking the boat can get you fired” – it sure can.

        And I agree with you Loren that “the church establishment turns a deaf ear to what it does not want to hear” and that is one of the main reasons why the established church isn’t listening.
        But I don’t think we should let the academics off the hook altogether. Top class academics and scholars are studying the background cultural context of Biblical times, and are able to tease out linguistic intricacies in more detail than ever before, thanks to software that enables them to do enormously wide searches on computer data bases about the use of any word or phrase in the extra-Biblical literature of the era, as well as how it was used by the various writers of the Bible.
        Sometimes these scholars are coming up with better explanations of puzzling verses as a result of research. If they are men and women of ethical integrity, and if they have enough breadth of vision to see how important their discoveries are to the average pastor and person in the pew (because of the new way we should understand something like “husband of one wife”, for example) then I think the academics have a moral duty to declaim the message from the rooftops.
        And they also have a lot more clout and influence to do so. They can convey their discoveries to magazines like Christianity Today, which will disseminate the news more widely. They can get article published in journals that other teachers will read, and will impart to their students in seminary. But all this is predicated on the leaders having the moral insight and ethical backbone to raise their voices and spread the word with enthusiasm and vigour. I don’t detect such vigour in most academics and scholars. I find that most of the ones I’ve met have fallen somewhat short in the passion department.
        David Instone-Brewer is a glowing exception. He is a scholar at Tyndale House, Cambridge, one of the most ‘ivory tower’ places in the world of biblical scholarship. But he has gone to great efforts to publicize his findings about the real meaning of divorce for “any matter” (Matthew 19). He has his own website, and he wrote not just a scholarly book but a companion volume lay-person’s book about his findings. He has even created a simple You-Tube video where the core of his teaching is explained by some friendly puppets. It CAN be done. What is lacking in others, I would suggest, is the moral will to do it.

        can imp

      • “It is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities are wrong”- Voltair

        So kudos to David Instone-Brewer- he’s really stuck himself out there against some very established “authorities”.

  7. Jeff Crippen

    I neve had the “privilege” of being in such a church but i have had enough of these folks try to convert me. Once i was antelope hunting with one of them in Montana and he was so caught up in his KJV only argument that he drove into a hole in the prairie. I went on hunting while he tried to dig out. I thought it a good metaphor:)

  8. Laurie

    I am separated from my husband, and have been for 2 years now. He left to go back to a church he never wanted to leave…and God opened the door for him to go through a job offer, just like He (God) promised me He would (long story). My husband’s church doesn’t allow women to speak until after the prayer for the noon meal…its a home church. No questions, no comments, no prayers. KJV only. The women wear veils (so did I) and long dresses, the men wear polo shirts and jeans. Now, after being gone I can see the double standard and Islamic/Judaizers influence. We joked once: “Look at the crazy veils that different groups wear. Its like the men are arguing,saying, “I am more right than you…look, I can make my women look weirder than yours.’ ” Then it hit me, what I looked like.

    Veiling, it doesn’t mean what it is supposed to. It is supposed to be a woman’s authority to SPEAK in church, not her subjection to men and the law of SILENCE. And I no longer veil, God showed me that I was hiding from Him behind it…another long story. (acceptance: God accepts women in pants who don’t wear veils, people who read different versions of the Bible, folks who don’t know everything God wants them to know[work in progress]; the Way is narrow, but the travelers thereon are diverse/eclectic.)

    Being separated, I have had people tell me that I cannot be of any use to God or His kingdom because I need to make things “right” with my husband first (by a counselor, by a friend, by church people). So since I have this black spot on my record, I am shelved. Husband abused me, abused kids, sexually harassed a daughter, sexually assaulted me, and I have the black spot on my spiritual record because I won’t “return” to him. Every thing that goes wrong in my life is “confirmation” of my sin. And my husband’s church holds him up as a “poor, mistreated man.” (A friend told me that someone told him how awful I am for what I am doing to my husband. He gave that person my number and told them to call me, because they only had one side of the story. They never called.)

    I don’t go to church anymore. What’s the point? They always tell me to leave. I’m glad Jesus loves me, no matter what mankind may say. But, folks, the pain is, at times, unbearable.

    One more little note: Just because bad things happen in your life, that is no indication that you are a worse sinner than anyone else. The tower of Siloam, the Galileans whose blood was mingled with their sacrifice, Jesus said those folks weren’t worse sinners than any other and that we need to “repent” or likewise perish. I always thought that meant “repent of your sins” but God showed me it really means “repent of thinking that God throws towers of Siloam down on people because of sin.”

    We are MORE than conquerors through JESUS!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Laurie, the veiling is a new one on me. I am really glad that you are out of that mess. Many other points of your story are quite parallel though to the experience of most Christian abuse victims when they try to get help from their church.

      Someday perhaps the Lord will direct you to His remnant, just as He told Elijah that there were 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal. He thought he alone was left. But the Lord always has His remnant. Blessings on you in Christ.

    • Dear Laurie, thanks for telling us the tip of the iceberg of your story (and well done for summarizing all that pain and trauma in so few words! I know there must be much more: there always is). Also thanks for the Tower of Siloam application. Preach it, sister!
      It sounds like you have thrown away a lot of that chaff you believed, and are clinging to the way the truth and the life: Christ Jesus. Praise God for drawing you out of that and rescuing you from your abusive ex.
      You will find fellowship on this blog. Cyber fellowship is better than no fellowship, is it not?
      And Jeff’s sermons can be listened to every week on Sermon Audio, if you want to hear some good word preached.

    • “I am more right than you…look, I can make my women look weirder than yours.”
      Yes indeed. While we are called to be in the world but not of it, we are not called to be weird.

    • “I don’t go to church anymore. What’s the point? They always tell me to leave.”

      I’ve been thinking a lot recently that there should be a directory of “safe” churches for people coming from abusive situations- ones that we can be assured both hold to the essentials of the faith and will not join in the abuse of the oppressed by treating those fleeing from abusive marriages as second class Christians. I know in my own church search this has been hard and I almost gave up.

      “One more little note: Just because bad things happen in your life, that is no indication that you are a worse sinner than anyone else.”

      This is a theology that should have died with the teaching of Jesus on the subject, but always seems to crop up. It is sad to note that the great hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” (which, in my opinion, is the greatest song ever written, in terms of both music and lyrical content) affirms perseverance through the most intense of trials, a defining quality of the Christian, and yet in the end Spafford, the writer, left his church over the issue of people thinking he was incurring the judgement of God because of all the evil that befell him. People often today talk about the backstory of the song to remark in how powerful a song it is (rightly so), but you don’t hear the part about how he was judged for it.

      • Laurie

        “So great a cloud of witnesses…” I feel in great company now, thank you soooooooo much. This is really encouraging!

  9. LorenH

    Laurie, I thank God he delivered you from this physical and spiritual abuse. It sickens me to hear stories of men twisting the scripture to serve their own selfish power drive. I feel your separation from your husband pleases God in the sense that it is the only path to your husbands repentance or in setting you free from a very sick person and church culture. Please stay in touch with the people and resources mentioned in this blog. They are God’s instrument for healing your heart.

    • Laurie

      Loren, you have no idea the depth of truth that you have stated here, these folks are God’s instrument for healing to me. I know that I am not alone, that there have been so many others that have gone through this same valley…and it is God’s plan–so that He may have more vessels for the ministry to others who will come behind me in this valley.

      I have been amazed at how God has handled everything. I got custody of the children from a Judge renowned for dual custody so as not to break the family unit. The Judge denied my husband visitation rights and told him to get serious help. A woman alone (but not alone) against a system, and I do not stand up for myself well at all. But I know God led me to that place (He let me know that I had to stand for my children in the gap or He would remove me and find someone who would). So when I went to court, I knew I was standing in the gap for them as God had told me to do; and the outcome was a miracle.

      Now for no-fault divorce, still praying on that one. I don’t think the court system of lawyers are going to be able to help me with this one, I think God wants to do it Himself. I contacted a lawyer, but she told me that we have been separated legally for so long now that I can get a no-fault divorce and he can do nothing to stop it. Its just the support issues that I am concerned about. But God wants me to stop worrying about that.

      “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and whatsoever you have need of (look at the lilies of the field, even Solomon wasn’t arrayed so beautifully. God cares for the lilies, how much more for you?) He will add to you.” If we who are evil (double minded) know how to give an egg to our children and not a scorpion when they ask for an egg, how much more will our Heavenly Father provide all we have need of, and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? This is my task, my current lesson to learn…along with a few others.

      Woke up with a song of Zion in my heart today, that hasn’t happened for awhile. Matt Redman: “Bless The Lord, O, My Soul.”

  10. Ann

    It was so good to read these comments. I was in a marriage with an abusive man (it also was a church where women wore the veil on their heads.) I finally divorced him out of fear that he or one of my boys would end up dead. In front of other people he was all smiles and niceness, but at home he would break things and hurt our children (he said he wished they were dead.)

    After I divorced him I was branded by the head covering churches as being a terrible person and he was the mistreated one. (They knew about the abuse) Yet, in those same churches a man sexually abused a mentally handicapped girl but he was instantly forgiven and accepted into fellowship as though nothing had happened. Another man beat his baby and almost killed it but no pity was shown for the mother or child only pity that the poor man had to go to jail. ??????

    These churches are truly patriarchal and though they preach holiness if they met an average Christian in public, if you say hi to them they will look at you as if you have a disease. This is not the mind of Christ. Jesus hugged the lepers! We are not to be self-righteous, this will not bring the lost to Christ.

    I hope to some day teach women in domestic violence situations self-defense and how to keep themselves and their children safe.

    I went through agony in trying to figure out what God would have me to do in my situation. God is a God of mercy, hope, peace and forgiveness. But those things are not only for men.

    • Hi Ann, welcome to the blog and thanks for sharing your story.

      We hear many stories of churches which welcome back so-called ‘repentant’ sinners, and the sins they have done are very wicked sins… while the same churches neglect or mistreat the victims of the sinner. This is the religion of the Pharisees.

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