Bad News for Victims from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Holly Elliff — by Katy
[July 26, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Katy (one of our readers) suggested we highlight the errors that Nancy Leigh DeMoss lays on abuse victims in her books and other media. We asked Katy if she would review a program that Katy pointed out to us from the website Revive Our Hearts. This website purports to have as its purpose, “….calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.” If this program is indicative of the teaching found there, it would be more appropriately worded, “….calling women to bondage, emptiness, and barrenness in the Enemy.” So, here is Katy. Her comments are interspersed with quotes from the program, and the boldfacing is Katy’s:
Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a popular Christian author of many books for women. She leads something she calls “True Woman” conferences and has a radio program. I was first introduced to her in a church Bible study for women. We studied her book Lies Women Believe, and I felt intimidated and scared as I read her views on parenting and marriage. I was new to this church, new to the women there, and I was very recently divorced from my abusive husband. After almost seven years of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse, I was looking for hope. Nancy’s book was probably the worst thing a woman like me could have been reading at that time. Her brief mention of domestic violence and her dangerous “Biblical” guidance on that topic made me toss the book.
I decided to search out her radio archives online to see if she had fleshed out her thoughts on domestic violence — which she had, in a sort of “John-Piper-clarification” way. She and Holly Elliff, a pastor’s wife in Arkansas and frequent visitor on Nancy’s program, discussed domestic violence in July of 2006. Below is a partial transcript (you can listen to the entire thing here, but it will probably disgust you if you are a survivor) :
Physical Abuse — Revive Our Hearts podcast
Maria brought up the issue of domestic violence, and what if you’re being abused in your marriage — you’re in an abusive marriage. I think that word is greatly misused in our society. So sometimes, maybe you’re in a tough marriage, like Shirley mentioned earlier, where for 29 years you’re experiencing verbal abuse. Maybe your husband is coming and going. There are tough issues.
Many times in our society that’s viewed as abuse. But you’re talking about literal, physical abuse where you’re in danger. I would say we need to first of all go to the Lord for wisdom in that circumstance because every situation is different. So there’s no way that Nancy and I could say, “Okay, this is what you do if you’re in that circumstance.”
Note well here: Nancy and Holly say that the only treatment that qualifies as “abuse” is when he is making a move to kill you. So when my husband punished me for sloppy housekeeping by not taking me to the hospital when I was in labor, and I had to give birth in my car, that does NOT qualify as “abuse” in these ladies’ world. It is easy to say heartless things like this to other women when you’ve never suffered them yourself. Also note that 29 years of being verbally ripped to shreds only qualifies as a “tough issue” for Holly. Not abuse. Why does it seem like it’s always these Pharisees that get a platform and a microphone?
I would say we need to first of all go to the Lord for wisdom in that circumstance because every situation is different. So there’s no way that Nancy and I could say, “Okay, this is what you do if you’re in that circumstance.” I would encourage that woman to draw godly counselors around her who know her, who know her husband, who know her circumstance on a firsthand level. Go to those godly counselors — I’m not talking about just somebody in the business of counseling. I’m talking about maybe a pastor or another couple that you know has a godly marriage.
Here is the common church response. With no knowledge of the tactics used by abusers, these women shun “professional” counselors, insist that “every situation is different” because they have NO idea what the appropriate responses are, and imply that the Biblical response is to surround yourself with laypeople in the church — as if the normal couples in “Godly” marriages will have any clue what to do in this circumstance! While surrounding yourself with supportive people is essential, it doesn’t appear that this is for the purpose of saving the woman. The purpose is only to save the marriage:
You go to him first and confront him with the truth. Then, if he doesn’t listen, you go back to him with two or three others, and you confront him with the truth. If he doesn’t respond, then you widen that circle and you draw more people into that group of folks who are helping you to face that issue.
I think if she literally is in physical danger, then with those godly friends she confronts her husband with that truth. Then I do think, at that point, there are times when she may need to separate herself — not for the purpose of severing that marriage, but for the purpose of protecting herself or her children.
The bottom line is what her heart is toward that marriage, because God’s heart is going to be redemption of that marriage. So if her desire is not just to separate — just to seek her own way, as Proverbs says — but if her desire is to separate for the purpose of physical protection, then I believe she can do that.
And here we have it. Nancy and Holly make some incredible and dangerous assumptions:
1) A woman should continue to confront a dangerous and violent man with maybe 1 or 2 untrained people from her church, repeating the process with more people if it doesn’t work. These ladies assume that this man will not kill his wife in this process before they get to “round two or three”. They also display their lack of understanding of abuse, because they seem to think he will respond to this.
2) The burdens are clearly laid on the victim, to withstand this abuse and “keep her heart right”. It is astounding that Nancy and Holly pronounce to know the will of God in these situations — that God would always desire the wife to reconcile. It is amazing to me that while Holly and Nancy have absolutely no idea what steps a woman should take in this situation, and have zero experience or wisdom to impart to women facing violence, they nevertheless know without a shadow of a doubt that God’s will is for your marriage to continue.
After I went to the women’s ministry leader and confessed what my husband was doing, my pastor took my husband to lunch. That was it. Whatever lies my husband told my pastor, once that lunch was over, my husband never returned to the church and the abuse became more violent. The pastor never once spoke to me about this, and never checked on the situation again. I have no idea what went on in that secret lunch meeting. The women’s ministry leader at my church would not help me pack my things, would not even pray with me for my imminent journey — she said she couldn’t pray for that because it was against God’s will. I had 3 babies, no job, no friends, 2,000 miles from my family, the church abandoned me, and my husband was prowling at my door threatening me with violence.
God alone rescued us. He hears the cries of the oppressed! It was clearly not God’s will for our marriage to continue, and this has been confirmed to me over and over since that time 4 years ago. I am now completely free. Being a single mom with 3 young children is a walk in the park compared to what we’ve been through, and God is doing amazing new things in our lives. To God alone be the Glory.
I think when it comes to church leaders like Nancy, Holly, John Piper and others — those without wisdom should not give counsel. These leaders simply do not have knowledge and wisdom on these issues, and it’s because they don’t care to educate themselves. What a detriment to the body of Christ!
Thank you, Katy! Excellent job giving us all a heads up on DeMoss and Elliff.
Update: November 2015 Nancy Leigh DeMoss married and now goes by the name Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.
[July 26, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 26, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 26, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 26, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 26, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]