A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and Politics: How Christians Have Created an Abuser-Friendly Social Context — From Judith Herman

Ok, everyone needs to stop what they are doing and order a copy of this book that I keep quoting from.  Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror [*Affiliate link]. This lady knows what she is talking about.  So listen to her again:

It is not only the patients but also the investigators of post-traumatic conditions whose credibility is repeatedly challenged. Clinicians who listen too long and too carefully to traumatized patients often become suspect among their colleagues, as though contaminated by contact. Investigators who pursue the field too far beyond the bounds of conventional belief are often subjected to a kind of professional isolation. To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and that joins victim and witness in a common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is created by relationships with friends, lovers, and family. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered. The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement. Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question.

The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war. The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children. Advances in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimate an alliance between investigators and patients and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial. In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting. Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness.

Judith Herman. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (p. 9). Kindle Edition.

Do you see what Herman is telling us?  She is saying that the reason A Cry for Justice is having such difficulty being heard, and why we are often distanced and ostracized by our fellow Christians, the reason abuse victims are not being heard, is because we have created, in the conservative Bible-believing church, a social context that will not give voice to the disempowered.  To be heard, we need the support of what Herman calls a “political movement.”  A groundswell.  No one heard the early women’s rights voices until a feminist movement began.  No one heard the early calls for civil rights until the civil rights movement gained a required momentum.  Herman says “the study of trauma in sexual and domestic life becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children.”

Can we see the implications of this?  Christians have created an social context, an atmosphere in their churches, which is not open to hearing from the oppressed.  And yet the Lord, in His Word, very clearly shows us what kind of context is to exist among us.  It is to be a Good Samaritan context.  It is to be a victim-friendly context.  A place where the abuser is uncomfortable.  It is to be a place where injustice is readily exposed and corrected.

And yet, believe me when I say this because I personally feel it all the time, abuse in the church (sexual, domestic, spiritual) is NOT a topic that is really open to discussion.  DIVORCE for abuse is not open for discussion.  Bring up these subjects and you can see it in their eyes and hear it in the change in their voice tone as they take a step back, or as a whole congregation goes silent.  What drives such a climate that so strongly resists even examining such subjects?  Why are we so afraid to hear that perhaps the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round?  Well, I just said it, didn’t I?  Afraid.  Fear. That silence, that change of voice, that distancing – it proceeds from fear.

How have we created, then, a fearful, unbiblical atmosphere which we are all breathing in our churches?  Well, we have idolized marriage and family and made them gods over the living and true God.  We have gone beyond the Scriptures and demonized all divorce.  We have distorted headship and submission, forgiveness and reconciliation, and other vital biblical truths that are given us by Christ for His glory and our good. And we have enacted penalties for anyone who strays from the company line.  We are like the North Koreans who, when asked, “what if your divine leader is wrong about something?”  They were stupified.  Their operating system didn’t even compute the possibility.  It was like someone was saying, “is the color that flower, sour?”  Huh?  What did you say?

All of this needs to change.  The body of Christ needs to repent and become user-friendly to the oppressed.  A place where A Cry for Justice is welcomed and injustice is sent packing out the door.  I am coming to the conclusion that this change is not going to happen primarily within local churches.  It is going to have to happen in forums such as this blog where victims are linked together and  a context in which justice, validation, and affirmation for victims is produced.  The body of Christ is found wherever genuine Christians are gathered together, hearing and heeding God’s Word.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link


  1. anewfreelife

    I dream of that in our churches! Oh, can you imagine? Wouldn’t it be wonderful?!

    I have been wanting to ask you for some time, and this seems like the perfect place…….in online articles I often notice two groups linked together–feminists and domestic violence advocates. They are usually stated almost as one cohesive group. Do you think this causes resistance among churches at large? The idea that freedom from violence for wives and children somehow is aligned with liberal feminism? I have noticed, since my husband left and I “came out of the closet,” that many Christian women in my home school group look at me suspiciously and make comments about (stress the word their) their husbands being the head of their households and/or (stress the word appropriate) appropriate biblical submission. I’ve felt paranoid sometimes because I’ve thought I was reading too much into it, but, as I read more and more articles and blogs and notice that nonChristian material on the subject often clumps the groups together, I wonder just how much weight that ideology bears on the resistance to empowering and protecting victims. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. Katy

    It will be easy to get labeled as a “crusader” who is over the top. Until one of those women in the congregation desperately need someone to listen to them
    This is partly why I stay. Also because I want my kids to have regular servings of the Word, and I am too busy as a single parent, and have so many daily worries and tasks that getting Bible time on a regular basis isn’t happening.
    Right now, in my church, there is ONE woman who is in a desperate situation with her husband. She’s separated for many years but of course he still terrorizes her and the children. It’s a difficult situation because the pastor speaks to her as if both of them share some blame in the mess.
    I’m hanging in there…sometimes I worry that I push her too hard, but then I want so much for her and the kids to be free. It’s exhausting. It’s a long haul. Not many are willing to travel this road.

    • Karen R.

      “Until one of those women in the congregation desperately need someone to listen to them” This statement gives me hope. Not that other women are abused but that I/we can be a listening ear because statistically I know that based on the size of my church there are many women who suffer.
      The courage of those of us who have chosen to leave may give hope to those who are currently in abusive situations. Hopefully they will see that we aren’t bra-burning feminists but daughters of the King who have realized that it is not His desire for any woman to be abused.

      Prayerfully may we extend grace and compassion even when it wasn’t extended to us.

    • lorenhaas

      Katy, this is a terrible dilemma to be in. My wife and I led a divorce recovery group a church that offered very poor teaching on divorce and would spiritually beat-up couples who sought counsel from them. So what do we do, stay in this church and offer what support we can or move on to another church where we did not have to apologize for their teaching? In our case, we chose to move on. We felt staying there effectively endorsed their teaching and counseling. We found another church that was far more enlightened and whose leaders actively support victims of DV with words and resources. We have three 3′ x 8′ banners facing the street and parking lot offering support for those going through divorce. (and 22 other groups for AA, Al-Anon and NA) In the old church we could help a few, in the new setting we could help more and offer our healthy church for their spiritual healing and growth.
      Just thoughts to consider.

      • I know you were just giving thoughts to consider, Loren, and I’m probably going to say something you already know and will agree with, so please don’t think I’m teaching you to suck eggs.
        It’s relatively easy for a man and wife couple to leave a church and go to a new church. It’s probably a more daunting task for a single parent or a single person who doesn’t fit into either the young adults bracket or the elderly widows and widowers.

        I’m so glad you and your wife have found a place where you can minister without hiding your light under a bushel, though!

      • lorenhaas

        You are right, and I am not properly considerate of that fact. Thanks for pointing that out. I must pay more attention to that, especially being around so many divorced singles.

      • Thanks, Loren. 🙂

  3. Jeff Crippen

    Anew- One of the reasons we try to make it very clear on this blog that we are Bible-believing, conservative Christians who hold to the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture is that which you mention. Because there does seem to be a link, a fear in conservative Christians’ minds between opposing domestic violence and non-Christian, even Bible-hating feminism. (PLEASE NOTE: I specify THAT kind of feminism here. There is a kind of feminism that is very, very good and I say even biblical. Just like there is good psychology and atheistic psychology. I am just trying to describe here what goes through the mind of conservative Christians when the subject of abuse comes up).

    Somehow we have been taught or we have come to think that if we tell an abuse victim that she need not take it anymore, that she has a right to divorce her abuser, then we are telling her she can cut off her hair, burn her bra, and wage war against mankind in general. And that would mean, we think, that we are agreeing with Bible-hating schools of feminism that the Bible is bunk, that Christianity is a tool of repression, and that marriage in general is an evil she can do with out.

    Why is this so? Where did this link in our thinking begin? Probably from the unbiblical traditions we were taught. And probably because, like all people, we think that NOTHING the opposition says has any truth or validity. Steven Tracy points out that we Christians need to listen to even radical feminists because not all they have to say is wrong. They DO have valid complaints about men oppressing women, and about how religion has been used by such men as an instrument for that purpose. Study history. Who can deny it? Wherever there is power, there will be instances of abuse of that power – in this fallen creation. Normally, men hold power over women in a society. Thus, normally, the abused are the women.

    So I think that it is vital that we make it very clear to the people we are trying to reach that we are Bible-believing Christians. Otherwise (and it may happen anyway) they will simply stuff us into the box labeled “liberal” and cease to listen.

  4. Katy

    YES, in the church’s eyes domestic violence advocates are lumped in with feminists. But some of those patriarchy-obsessed Christians also think women shouldn’t have the right to vote. So you may be peeing in the wind (excuse the expression) to try to talk sense to a group of women like that. Your very life & now freedom is a threat to their cloistered world.
    As Jeff says – I agree – the change is going to come from outside the church walls. It is all of us. In this age of the internet we can all connect together, affirm our worth in God’s eyes and His hatred of abuse against His daughters and sons!
    If that means we have to have “church” on a blog, then so be it. 🙂

    • Katy

      I should add that I grew up in a conservative church and still attend a conservative church. I definitely do not feel like I fit in, since the only other single women are the older widows. But I keep going. I show up to the “Bible studies for ladies” and I talk. I don’t want to be silent. I want to be a living witness, even if it makes people uncomfortable. How else can I have a voice?

      • Well done, Katy. If people feel uncomfortable with the truth of your experiences, that is their problem. Maybe some of them are victims themselves and have never admitted it. And others might be just Pharisee-minded. Whatever the case, you are allowed to take up space in this world, and your voice is just as important as anyone elses.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on, Katy. So be it.

    • Desley

      Amen, Katy!

  5. E Penney

    I am going to chime in because when I divorced my emotionally abusive husband (who had begun verbally abusing my 9 year old daughter), I left God for five years because of the conflict I felt in being a divorced Christian. I had to do it to save us but I knew the condemnation I would face among born-again peers. Before I left my ex, I told two close friends about the situation (very difficult to confess to) and they both told me “to pray.” That’s it. I’ve come to the same conclusions as many of you, that marriage is elevated into an idol. I don’t know why people shy away from standing against domestic abuse and supporting victims. I would venture a guess that those systems are abusive and domineering themselves. I’ve found that reasonable, loving people (like my new husband) have great distaste for bullying and abusive behavior.

    • Thank you for sharing, E Penney and welcome to our blog. I know a survivor of abuse who left the church when she divorced her abuser because she thought God had rejected her like the church had rejected her. For years she lived ‘backslidden’ – thought she had left God. She came back to God later, but not before a lot more painful years thinking God didn’t want anything to do with her. She’s come such a long way in her recover now, it’s a joy to see.

    • Jeff Crippen

      E Penney – Welcome! Abuse is ugly. It is also foreign to many Christians. Put those two things together, Ugly + Unknown = Fear There are probably plenty of other dynamics going on too. When I was a police officer we sometimes told one another that we felt like the garbage-men of society. We were the ones who had to “take out the trash” in the sense of dealing with aspects of humanity that no one else wants to see or hear about. So it seems in the church. If you are going to be a Good Samaritan, you have to stop, get off your horse, get down in the dirt with maybe a naked human being whose face has been beat to a pulp, and be stared at by others while you help the victim. The thing is just sooooo…..unpleasant. Easier to live in a fantasy land. Oh, unless you are the one beaten to a pulp laying naked in the road.

  6. Desley

    “And yet, believe me when I say this because I personally feel it all the time, abuse in the church (sexual, domestic, spiritual) is NOT a topic that is really open to discussion. DIVORCE for abuse is not open for discussion. Bring up these subjects and you can see it in their eyes and hear it in the change in their voice tone as they take a step back, or as a whole congregation goes silent.”

    This is so true! Just so you know, my pastor has agreed to read Lundy Bancroft’s book. After reading it though, I think I would much rather give him “A Cry For Justice” and avoid the foul language. I don’t want to risk discrediting the information because of the language. Anyhoo, I ordered the other book for him.
    Also, that woman I have been telling y’all about…she has decided to divorce her husband, seeing as how he continues to verbally assault her on the phone. She desires to get remarried in the future and does not want to be tied to someone who is going to abuse her for the rest of her life. All the information on this blog has been invaluable to me in coming alongside her to support her and build her up.

    Thank you!!

    @ anewfreelife:

    I think you are absolutely correct; in the evangelical church any one speaking of Woman Abuse is treated with suspicion. In fact, I have been noticing this trend as well. Every single time I try to point out the prevalence of Woman Abuse the people stir in their seats and then lash out, seemingly trying to defend themselves from an attack. Always the first thing I am told is that women abuse men just as much as men abuse women. When I point them to the latest statistics and studies, I am told that men just don’t report because of their egos. When I point out facts in the studies that would refute this, they continue to perpetuate the myth and then cut off the conversation.

    They are afraid. Terribly afraid. Even typing “Domestic Abuse” in Focus on the Family’s website turns up nothing but a list of books that lump in together with every day marital problems, to be dealt with the same.

    Is the reality of Domestic Violence really that much of a threat to their ideologies?

    • Is the reality of Domestic Violence really that much of a threat to their ideologies?

      Yes, it would seem that it is. 😦

      • Jeff S

        You know, I was thinking about what this “threat” is- I don’t know, but something struck me.

        There’s this really popular idea among popular Reformed folk to preach the idea that we are all evil and still very bad people. CJ Mahaney talks about being “the worst sinner I know” and Piper thought it was great when someone made a video “John Piper is bad” (using his words to a Michael Jackson video). Even more to the point was when the latest shooting occurred and you had some of these folks claiming they were as evil and guilty as the shooter.

        All of this amounts to a marginalization of real evil. We want to make these boastful claims about how bad we are with this idea of using that to exalt how great Jesus is for forgiving us, but then when real evil comes along and has to be dealt with, suddenly it all falls apart. We are already the worst sinners we know and guilty of all evil, and Jesus forgave us without it disrupting everyone’s lives, so domestic abuse just becomes another day at the office. And I guess it can be, if you are the pastor or counselor sitting in your nice leather chair smugly thinking about how evil we all are. But if you’re the person suffering, hearing that we all are just as guilty as a guy who goes into a school and shoots children is a hollow lesson- because you’ve seen the effects of real evil and you know there’s a difference.

        The threat isn’t that domestic violence exists. The threat is that real evil exists and it requires action beyond a clever, flowery sermon.

      • Desley

        “The threat isn’t that domestic violence exists. The threat is that real evil exists and it requires action beyond a clever, flowery sermon.”

        But they have no problem funding missions abroad to rescue victims of sex trafficking? And they certainly act when it comes to speaking up for unborn children.
        I really do think the lack of action comes from the fact that DV, while not only a woman’s issue, is predominantly a woman’s issue. The leadership of Reformed churches is most always made up of men. To ensure that the church is a safe place for victims of DV is to ruin that solidarity between the men. I think it’s just easier for them to believe the lies of the abuser and the myths of popular culture than it is to protect the victims. Couple that in with the mistrust of women in Reformed circles (and they do!) and you have an abuser-friendly church climate.

      • Jeff S

        Desley, they have no problem dealing with these issues from afar. They can send money abroad, offer support, or take political stands. But it when it takes personal involvement up close and personal, that’s when it gets messy. That’s when you have to actually encounter and deal with real evil.

        The same folks who decry abortion in kind of an abstract, not-personally-involved way are staying silent when it comes to SGM and the sexual abuse of children that has gone on in that family of churches.

      • Desley

        “The same folks who decry abortion in kind of an abstract, not-personally-involved way are staying silent when it comes to SGM and the sexual abuse of children that has gone on in that family of churches.”

        I see. Yeah, you are absolutely right! In fact, I remember months ago trying to have a conversation around Doug Wilson and the child sexual abuse scandal that his network of churches were involved in. I couldn’t believe the silence! This was a man who was invited to speak at the Desiring God conference on several occasions. And this is a man who not only failed to inform the rank of file of his church of the sexual abuse (I think there were 14 known cases), but then he wrote a letter to the judge asking him to go easy on the perpetrator.
        And then it gets worse, as I’m sure you know. He took advantage of his position of power and influence, as well as the patriarchal structure of his ideology to get a young woman’s father to convince her to marry the offender upon his release from prison. I think she was just out of her teens. It was an embarrassment to the whole church as “the outsiders” scrambled to stop this abuse of that woman and her future children (who the offender would not be allowed to be in contact with).
        When I brought this up other Christians jumped on it to defend Doug Wilson’s actions, although I still don’t see how they can be defended in any way, shape or form.

        So, yes. I think you are right.

      • Jeff S

        One more thing, I think we want to be very careful not to attribute this to Reformed churches. This stuff happens in any church where the leadership is failing. In fact, the Reformed churches I’ve been around have been the most sensitive and empathetic toward victims of abuse. Also note that Jeff C’s church is Reformed.

      • Katy

        JeffS – that’s a great insight!

      • Jeff S

        Thanks Katy.

        Just to be clear, when I said this idea is associated with some popular Reformed teachers, I wasn’t meaning to tie it with Reformed Theology. I think it is a weird perversion that some pastors seem to want to brag about how bad they think they are, and this is not solid Reformed doctrine. I think it is more about trying to be shocking, but I don’t know that people really buy it.

        I mean, if someone really believes he is “the worst sinner he knows” then a step of integrity would be to go to the police and turn himself in. Of course, maybe his great sin prevents him from doing this. And since Mahaney is now facing charges of covering up sexual abuse, maybe he was telling us all along and we just weren’t listening. Maybe we should have taken these words of his more literally too: “”We are enemies of God. We are God-ignoring. We are God-defying. We hate God.”

      • Desley

        “I mean, if someone really believes he is “the worst sinner he knows” then a step of integrity would be to go to the police and turn himself in.”

        Right on, Jeff!

      • Bingo Jeff S (what you said about Maheny)

  7. Yes. What makes a roomful of believers go quiet when someone mentions Domestic Abuse? It’s FEAR. And while a little bit of that may be fear of the abusers (or of abuser from the listeners’ own past, that they have buried), most of it is fear of what the consequences would be if, as bystanders, they were to side with the victims.

    I’ve also had many instances when I mention the words ‘domestic abuse’ and people automatically assume I’m talking about child sexual abuse. They auto-default to something they can ‘tut-tut’ about from a prim distance.

    When professionals who work closely with survivors of trauma are rejected by their peers, this in itself can be traumatizing for the professionals. The same can be said for friends, family and volunteers who support survivors.

    Those who work with trauma victims can suffer vicarious traumatization. This can arise from two sources: (1) the trauma of taking in and empathising with the victim’s account of the trauma; (2) the trauma of rejection and ridicule by peers who judge the support person as being ‘over the top with this abuse thing’.

    So hey, if you want to be a supporter of trauma victims but you don’t really have much understanding of what it feels like being traumatized, just speak up indefatigably on behalf of victims, and you’ll soon experience a bit of trauma for yourself! . . . Talk about learning on the job, eh?

    • Desley

      But praise the Lord that there are those who are willing to suffer with those who suffer. God bless them.

      • Memphis Rayne

        So true. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around why most churches will bold face deny the existence of such evil? I mean they are so black and white on everything else, and they must watch the news now and again, and if the Devil could only consume like a tree branch or a cloud he couldnt cause much damage? They always preach about how we are inherently evil? Yet they dont want to acknowledge the devil in their midst? They want to comfort and console him, make him pancakes?…….

    • Jeff Crippen

      Two statements in a church to guarantee a hushed silence: 1) Let us pray, and 2) I want to speak to you about domestic violence in Christian marriages. The second one works better than the first if absolute dead silence is what you are after.

    • Now Free

      “Yes. What makes a roomful of believers go quiet when someone mentions Domestic Abuse? It’s FEAR. And while a little bit of that may be fear of the abusers (or of abuser from the listeners’ own past, that they have buried), most of it is fear of what the consequences would be if, as bystanders, they were to side with the victims.”

      Exactly. And what makes the abused victim keep quiet about the abuse and the abuser? You guessed …Fear. So put Fear in the middle of the victim and the potential helper, and you get Fear hiding the abuser, instead of the abuser being put in the middle. The abuser loves Fear when it is to the advantage of hiding his/her abuse.

    • Here is a link to an article about Vicarious Trauma [Internet Archive link]. (we’ve had this link on our Resources page for some time, but I thought I’d add it here too.)

  8. Barnabasintraining

    The same can be said for friends, family and volunteers who support survivors.

    Uh yup!

  9. Karen R.

    Great post!! Thank you.
    I am finishing the book “THE HOLY LONGING” by Ronald Rolheiser. The reason I bring this up is because the book deals with Christian spirituality and two of the four foundations of a mature Christian spirituality are solidarity with the poor and a concern for justice (along with private and public morality and prayer).

    My desire is that the Church would see domestic violence and the movement to end it as part of nonnegotiable essentials that are a part of our relationship with Christ. According to the author “In the Christian scriptures, one out of every ten lines deals directly with the physically poor….in the gospel of Luke that becomes every sixth line and in the epistle of James, that commission is there, in one form or another, every fifth line.

    In addition, according to the author “…the Jewish prophets made one truth central to their teaching. They taught that the quality of faith in the people depends upon the character of justice in the land – and the character of justice in the land is to be judged by how we treat the most vulnerable groups in the society, namely, widow, orphans, and strangers.

    • Those statistics – one in ten, one in six, one in four – are amazing! Shows how much the church has not had ears to hear, doesn’t it.

    • Jeff S

      Karen, this is an important topic. This was also central to Tim Keller’s book “Generous Justice” which I’ve recommended here before. Somehow we’ve made caring for the oppressed optional when it is commanded over and over again in scripture.

  10. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    Okay, some I think lump it with wild eye man hating feminism, some out of fear, some have just been told it’s wrong…and others, maybe they were me, before..It’s so funny. I knew! Knew three families very well that went through divorce. All the other divorces I knew about were very casual acquaintances. In those three, one wife was mentally ill and refused treatment for years, one husband ran off, and the third the husband was so similar and emotionally abusive like mine. This one I was intimately involved because I watch her kids for her three nights a week while she worked for YEARS!! YEARS! I always felt she and the other two I knew about were so reasonable and of course God was not against these divorces, these were difficult tragic situations. God was for these survivors, but of course “God hates divorce” and most divorces MUST be the selfish kind where both are equally at fault, you read about that in all the christian magazines and hear that in sermons. Do you see my thinking?!!?! The ones I knew, I knew God well enough to know it wasn’t His heart for them to stay in bondage…but I never even thought to apply it to my situation until well, until I found the Hurt By Love web site and started to reread and re think all that I had just accepted.

    • Still Scared, that reminds me of my own story. I contracted the Hep C virus when I was 20, while I was a heroin addict. I had that virus for more than 30 years without knowing it. I had actually been hospitalised soon after I got it because I was one of the rare ones that came out in jaundice as a reaction against the initial infection. But in those days the Hep C virus had not been identified and they diagnosed it as ‘non-A/non-B hepatitis.’

      Fast forward 30 years to when I’m working as a nurse, sitting in a professional development class run by a nurse who was the statewide trainer for Hep C. She is saying “Anyone who has ever shared needles is at risk and might have Hep C.” And I’m jotting notes and taking it all in with my nurse’s hat on, not thinking about my personal history, only thinking about my patients.

      A year later, fortuitous circumstances led me to have a blood test and get diagnosed with active Hep C virus in my blood. Shock horror!

      Talk about not connecting the dots!

      By the way, I’ve had treatment and am now cleared of the virus, thanks be to God.

    • Jeff Crippen

      We are blindest to our own situations it seems. Like our sin – the log in our own eye. Maybe the same principle applies when we can’t see that we ourselves are being victimized?

      • Jeff S

        Jeff, I know that I hold myself to a higher standard than I hold others. I still emotionally whip myself for my divorce, when if I heard anyone else tell me the same stuff happened to them I’d be rejoicing that he or she was free.

        I don’t know why I do this 😦

    • Sarah

      exactly! We can’t forget the amount of brainwashing that goes on with all the church teachings..

  11. Now Free

    I’ve been attending a new church for 3 weeks. Many of the people there have known me and my to be ex going back 30 years and more. I did inform them that we are separated but have not as yet told them the reason why. I feel that it is not the time and place to speak about his abuse but do intend to soon. I also have felt that I might have PTSD but haven’t really sought help for it.

    I’m just thinking: Why in the heck am I still protecting him? Do I really need a special place…in a private special setting to reveal the ugly truth? I haven’t spoken to the pastor yet. I admit to being somewhat afraid of being judged. Comments anyone?

    • Jeff Crippen

      NF – Their reaction is beyond your control. On the other hand, it seems to me that we all need to trust people that we share such personal matters with. Just my opinion – but I wouldn’t hurry things along. It is all up to you of course. You will find out soon enough when people ask you about your marital status in coming months and you say “I am divorced.”

      It isn’t fun to be judged, but we can’t live in bondage to it. I wish someone would tell me “God hates divorce.” I am locked and loaded. “Say, could you please take your Bible and show me where it says that? Here, let me help you find the place where you thought it was. Now, let’s sit down and read through this chapter together. Just what is it that it is saying here that God hates? The victim filing the paperwork?” (Crickets chirp here).

      • Desley

        I just came across this and thought it fit the overall theme of this post 🙂

        What Do the SGM Lawsuit and Martin Luther King Jr Have in Common? [Internet Archive link]

      • Desley

        I got “what God has joined together let no man put asunder” at our Christmas banquet. Just out of the blue from one of my brothers as he was walking by. I was quite taken off guard and just laughed it off…but I am still angry about it. I wish I would have thought to ask him to read the entire chapter there too because Jesus wasn’t talking to abuse victims there either.

        Isn’t it funny how often evangelicals harp on about reading on context and then when it comes to DV they forget what that means? And don’t get me wrong…I am an evangelical too, only I don’t know exactly where I am standing with God currently either. When all these spiritual superiors like Piper, MacArthur, Powlison, etc., are claiming that God prioritizes an abusive marriage over the victim, it is not so easily dismissed…even if you do know deep down that it’s bunk. I often feel like I have wandered away from Jesus…and then other times I am angry at God because I can’t love or trust a God like theirs.

      • Desley, what your brother did: it’s like covert aggression. Stabbing you softly and silently so that no-one else would see the blade go in, at a venue where you would hide the fact that you were bleeding from the rest of the company. And I get that you laughed it off and now feel angry. Been there, done that laugh too, and regretted it later.
        And you haven’t wandered away from Jesus, the spiritual superiors have. If they don’t help the Samaritan on the road, who are they? Well I think we all know who the other characters in that parable are, and I’ll give you a hint: they’re not the innkeeper. 🙂

      • Isn’t it funny how often evangelicals harp on about reading on context and then when it comes to DV they forget what that means?

        Yep. They go straight to what other rabbis (‘scuse me, commentators) have said and rattle off their formulas: “Jesus was tightening up the Mosaic concession about divorce. He was saying that the ONLY ground for divorce is adultery.”

        Oh, cough cough, well we know Paul said there was another ground, but NO QUESTIONS PLEASE, we have to finish this lecture on time and I haven’t allowed time for questions!

      • Jeff Crippen

        I like to think of the blind man in John 9 that Jesus healed. He got thrown out of the synagogue (ie, his church) for confessing Jesus. Then Jesus found him off somewhere outside the temple. The religious establishment was inside the temple building. The now-seeing guy was with the true temple, the Son of God. Wherever Pharisaism takes over in Christianity, it is no longer of Christ. Therefore, to be outside the “church” is most likely to be with Jesus.

        If we are worshiping the “god” of marriage, family, and status-quo, then everyone who divorces for any reason at all has become a blasphemer. That is why this whole business of abuse in marriage, abuse hiding in the church, victims being able to divorce and so on is such a litmus test of the reality of our profession of Christ.

      • Jeff S

        You can reject the God of those folks without rejecting the true God. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I remember thinking “Well, if I can’t measure up, then I guess I’m sunk. Where do I go from here?”

        And my answer was that I still believed in God, but a different kind of God. A God who loves me and values me more than my marriage.

        I’m not saying those guys don’t believe in the real God, but in this aspect they are off. But we do not let them define who God is- God can do that for himself.

        Shortly after I left my old church I heard a sermon series on Ruth in which the preacher described the process of “Gleaning”. That is, field owners were required by God to leave portions of their crops for the poor to gather. This was an intentional thing and shows that God is about elevating the oppressed. This really spoke to me and I thought “How can I conceive of God being so merciful there, but hating me so much as to see me destroyed by the institution of marriage?”

        The truth is, I can’t. God is a defender of the weak. It’s nice that Piper and friends have their little theological puzzle worked out in a way that makes sense to them, but in the end it doesn’t “work” in the real world so they need to go back to the drawing board.

        I encourage you, Desley, don’t let your faith be defined by men. You can decide without them who your trust is in- who you are depending in to save you and who you are serving.

      • Now Free

        Jeff, ha! That’s very good. We can’t live in bondage to judgement. And your other remarks…priceless. 🙂

      • Barnabasintraining


        Who’s Powlison?

      • Dave Powlison, of CCEF (Christian Counseling Education Foundation).

      • Now Free

        Jeff, Even though I’ve never regretted in the least my decision to leave my abusive husband, and eventually divorce him, I always thought “divorce” was an ugly word. The past couple of days I discovered that it’s a BEAUTIFUL word. Really! I love the sound of it. D-i-v-o-r-c-e. It can’t come too soon!

      • hehe I can hear the wind passing through the trees, blowing away the cobwebs, refreshing the landscape…

    • Katy

      OK – about protecting the abuser. Sometimes you need to wait until you are sure you are in a safe place before you reveal the truth. When I left my husband finally, I escaped to my parents house (putting half the country between us!) and THEN I finally stopped hiding his abuse. I started talking to anyone in the family who would listen. His family members were shocked, to say the least. His uncle confronted him over it – thank goodness I was a long distance away.
      He called me at my parents house, absolutely livid that I was revealing his behavior. I think his exact words were “Why are you telling my private business!?” It felt really amazing, for the first time in our relationship, to yell into the phone “I don’t have to protect you anymore and starting right now I WON’T!!!” then I slammed the phone down. It was maybe the best day out of that whole period.
      But make sure you are safe first. That there are people that can protect you. I waited until I was in my dad’s house before I did that. 😉

      • Jeff Crippen

        Katy – Did he think he had dialed the wrong number then? 🙂

      • Katy

        I think I could feel the shock & rage all the way from Texas 🙂 But it couldn’t touch me. That was the first time I felt like I had any power whatsoever!

    • Now Free, I think listen to your gut is the first thing, and keep listening.

      But I’ll tell you how I broached the subject in the new church I went to after my marriage broke down for the final time. I told the pastor I’d like to have a talk with him. He suggested that he come round to my house with an older woman from the congregation, of my choosing. I chose the wife of the Principal at my daughter’s Christian school because i knew here a little and felt safe with her.
      When they came over, I started off by putting a hypothetical question to the pastor. “What would you say about a situation where a Christian woman had been abused and assaullted by her Christian husband and was considering leaving him?” (it was something like that, it’s a long time ago now).
      When his answer showed me he was trustworthy, I said “Well that’s me.” He looked unsurprised. But he didn’t say “I thought as much!” – he was very gracious and discreet.

      Mind you, as we talked more that morning, the older woman gave me some terrible advice that cut me. I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt me; she was just ignorant about abuse. She said, “When my husband says something that upsets me, I don’t say anything at the time but later I go back and talk to him about it.”
      Thank God I had words to answer her with – I think God put them into my head. I said, “Well your husband is not like my husband.”
      . . . breathing hard as I write this . . . haven’t visited that memory for a while.

      • Mama Martin

        “Well your husband is not like my husband.”
        That is so true! What a statement! Amazing response, Barbara.

      • Like I said, I think it came from God. At that stage it would have been beyond my power to think that up myself!

      • Now Free

        “Well, your husband is not like my husband.”

        A simple and profound statement. I’ll have to remember this Barbara as I may need to use it some day.

        Sounds like the older lady was there to learn and not support you. I hope she did learn, and I get that she was likely trying to be helpful. But people need to learn that when speaking to an abused victim, a special sensitivity is required. We have been verbally and emotionally assaulted, some of us physically. Many, many of us have tried to protect the abuser, not ourselves. When we finally have the courage to tell someone about the abuse, there has to be a special receptiveness and awareness of the victim’s plight.

      • Yes. I think it doesn’t take much to tweak a person’s comment for it to have the required sensitivity and awareness of the victim’s plight.
        For instance, that older lady could have said what she said about her and her husband, and then added in a tone of gentle inquiry, “What happens for you when you’ve tried that with your husband, Barb?” That would have meant she wasn’t pushing her experience down my throat; she would have been sharing her experience while being willing to learn about mine.

        I don’t know whether she was there to learn or to support me. I had the feeling she was there to ensure that the pastor would not have to be alone with a single woman. And I felt that was for the purpose of taking care of both me and the pastor – our reputations, our moral integrity, our safety. It seemed to me reasonable when the pastor set up the meeting as a three way rather than a two way thing. I had been in church settings for some time, by then, and knew the protocols about protecting male / female interactions. When I first started to attend churches that was all new to me, and very foreign, but I’d got used to it by then.

      • Barnabasintraining

        “Well your husband is not like my husband.”

        I haven’t personally been involved in conversations that went like this but have heard enough accounts of them to have come up with almost the same line. “Husband x is not husband y.” Or “man x is not man y.” Or “the difference between man x and man y is man x was repentant.” Or something like that.

      • Now Free

        Barbara, when I first read your post, I felt the woman’s reaction was condescending, disdainful and smug. She was in all likelihood judging you. She might as well have said “What did you possibly do to incite him to treat you this way?” But then when you mentioned that she “didn’t mean to hurt” you, I thought I’d better stuff it.

        We who have been abused still try and excuse bad behaviour. I also thought that the pastor wanted to have another woman present for understandably ethical and legal reasons. I’ve planned to speak with my pastor in his office. I do think the lady should have remained quiet and fulfilled her role by simply showing up. Thank God you had the right answer for her. Probably made her think.

      • I do think the lady should have remained quiet and fulfilled her role by simply showing up.

        Yes, I agree. That would have been sufficient.
        I think she came in good faith seeing that as her role, but once she heard my story she just couldn’t help herself and followed her knee-jerk impulse to give me some advice.

        I said I don’t think she intended to hurt me because of all the rest I know about that lady. I developed a pretty good relationship with her in the course of time. She ended up being the only person from that church I told my whole life story to (seamy bits and all) from that church and she responded with positive praise and amazement and not one WHIFF of disdain or patronising for all the yucky qnd bizarre things I’d done and been through. She actually showed enthusiastic interest, she wasn’t listening with a dutiful mask on.

    • Mama Martin

      I’m not sure you are protecting him, Now Free, as much as protecting yourself. I’m sure you’ve experienced the wide-range of reactions to statements (hey, even hints) of abuse. I also have been told that I ‘protect my abuser’ but at the same time – there is my emotional response to deal with when I’ve told someone, never mind their reaction that I also deal with on an emotional level (no matter whether good, bad, or neutral, I have to deal with emotions). There is nothing wrong with not answering questions. You don’t have to explain to everyone who asks. It is wise to test people by seeing if their actions agree with their words before trusting them with such personal information.

      • Now Free

        MM, I’ve been protecting him for so many decades, and with the awareness I now have, I no longer feel this way. You are right. I am somewhat afraid of being judged and that is why I haven’t as yet told anyone the reason for the separation, not even my friends from long ago. No-one has asked yet, but I know many people are wondering. God will show me when the time is right. He’s very good at pulling me back and pushing me forward. 🙂

  12. Now Free

    You go SIster!!!

    • Desley

      I second that!

  13. Jeff Crippen

    Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

    Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

    Col 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
    Col 2:17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
    Col 2:18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
    Col 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

  14. thepersistentwidow

    Prior to having brought the abuse issues in my marriage to the church leadership, I assumed that there was a biblical and sensible procedure in dealing with such problems. My husband’s behavior was abusive and rageful, not only towards my family, but to the community at large. Since the church states that they adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I was confident that they
    would admonish my husband and discipline him in proper order. The pastor told me when I brought this forth, that three other members had complained about my husband’s behavior. Yet, the pastor went to, what I have now learned, is the church default setting of blaming two persons for the marriage problems, submission issues, etc.

    I think that the fear issue is based in the fact that if abuse is to be acknowledged as existing in the church, the church will have to discipline. They will have to accept that there are some in the pews who’s actions reveal that they will not inherit the kingdom of God, (Gal. 5:16-21), and need to be held accountable.

    “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”
    1 Timothy 5:8 Do they not see that abuse sets some of their members in this category? I think that they do.

    These leaders will have to step forward, do their job, and stop hiding behind Christian counselors. I don’t think that they want to discipline and have no idea of what to do. It is much easier to pretend that abuse doesn’t exist.

    Maybe what we interpret as fear in these Christian leaders is a guilty conscience.

    • Jeff S

      “Prior to having brought the abuse issues in my marriage to the church leadership, I assumed that there was a biblical and sensible procedure in dealing with such problems”

      Yes- I think a lot of people make this assumption and end up with a rude awakening. I know I did.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Plus it just messes with the program – all this unpleasantness. Seminary students are usually taught about how they are to go out there and show Jesus’ love and mercy and compassion and preach sermons and handle conflict with Peacemaker principles and love, love, love — and then Satan shows up. In the form of an evil person who has the mind of the evil one and who does the things the evil one does and who lies like the evil one lies as the father of lies and who destroys like the one who has been a murderer from the beginning. The thing is unbelievable to them. They don’t want to believe it so they don’t want to hear about it. And, as always, it is just easier for the weak and oppressed to be the ones to put up, shut up, and if that isn’t good enough, then they can just leave and let everyone in Wonderland get back to their fantasy.

      Thus the children who grew up playing various roles like doctor or fireman in their playrooms launch out as adults to play “church.” But church is not a game. Following Christ is no laughing matter. It is a battle and the enemy is real.

      • Memphis Rayne

        Yes! Sorry but that’s it in a nutshell!!! victims are to put up, shut up or just go away! The abusers are to be prayed for, lifted up, then invited to dinner! . Depending on what Wonderland they serve in that may also include a spot of tea and or crumpets.

        Seriously blows my mind, how after the fact it is so obvious why the church gets all glossy eyed over the “A” word. Sometimes it takes victims years to say it about their spouse!!!

        You know at first it sounds soooo harsh, and you do not want to appear judgmental by labeling a goose a goose. Because we all know it makes much more sense to call a goose a horse????

        At least I know I was not allowed to SAY he was an abuser because it was such a huge offense to their ears, plus the truth apparently made ME look bad?

        One pastor got all squirmy and his face contorted and then he accused me of name calling. and or belittling my husbands role? I’m like, uh? Can you clarify for me as to what exactly you believe a husbands role is? Okay and now can you clarify for me what his role may be according to GOD?? Now do you believe God requires you personally to be a kind respectful protective supportive loving husband? If so THEN would not God also require these same things from MY husband? I’m not trying to gross anyone out but then the counselor would say something like this ” Of course I do, but it depends on the kind of support he gets at home!!! Marriage is a two person commitment and sounds to me like you want him to take all the blame?” I was MORE committed after that, committed to leaving!! Especially after all the fog years of wanting to just plain commit myself altogether! This was beyond me how the word “Marriage” and a scribbled on piece of paper was able to keep my kids and I in a hostage situation? ok. I wanna say AAAARGH!!! As for the MIW of course anything I said would make him look bad, therefore the church and the MIW had very similar takes on how to handle this pesky little “situation” of ours.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Memphis – “Seriously blows my mind, how after the fact it is so obvious why the church gets all glossy eyed over the “A” word. Sometimes it takes victoms years to say it about their spouse!!! You know at first it sounds soooo harsh, and you do not want to appear judgemental by labeling a goose a goose. Because we all know it makes much more sense to call a goose a horse????”

        The fact is that in many cases these churches are small. Average church size is what, about 150? That means that quite often the pastor and church leaders KNOW the abuser, and the victim. Paul told Timothy that he must be certain things are done in the church without bias or partiality. But what kind of judge will take a case in his courtroom when he has known the defendant for quite some time? Pastors and the people in the church think they know these abusers. To apply the title “abuse” to them therefore is going to meet with real hesitancy.

        And it is seen is victims too. For myself, I have hesitated to call church members who have obviously been abusive to me over the years as ABUSERS. And yet an outside, informed person would probably say to me – “Jeff, that is abuse, and that person is an abuser. It is as plain as the nose on your face.”

        The day we can finally come to the point of calling, as you say, the goose a goose, is a really good day.

    • Song

      “I assumed that there was a biblical and sensible procedure in dealing with such problems….Since the church states that they adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I was confident that they would admonish my husband and discipline him in proper order.”
      I, too, felt confident in asking the church my husband attended for help based on some of what they taught and what they believed. They also went to the “default setting of blaming two persons for the marriage problems, submission issues, etc.” They also told me that if my husband was truly evil, there was nothing they could do about it. So much for help or protection. They just kind of washed their hands of the situation.

    • Maybe what we interpret as fear in these Christian leaders is a guilty conscience.

      Thank you for saying that Persistent Widow.
      I agree, there must be some of that going on. Maybe not for all, but for some of them.
      . . . still waiting for their apologies. . . 😦

      (and by the way, I do like your name!)

  15. Anonymous

    Our sermon in church last week was from Amos, where we were reminded that God wants us to “establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15) and “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). As I was taking it in, I couldn’t help but wonder how most people would respond to the suggestion that we could not obey those verses while turning a blind eye to domestic abuse in our midst.

    Ps Jeff, you rightly drew our attention to the cause of the blindness: “Christians have created an social context, an atmosphere in their churches, which is not open to hearing from the oppressed.” This is obviously not God’s will, since He wants us to show mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). If this is not God wants, how do we effect change?

    • 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.


      this is not God wants, so how do we effect change?
      I think that’s a question I’m going to leave to Jeff C, but I know that this Blog is a growth point for some of the change. Empowering victims and survivors, helping them understand what they’ve been through, helping them feel less alone, enabling survivors and supporters to see the problems in doctrine and belief that have contributed to the gordian knot… all of this helps. It’s only a beginning, but it’s a start.

      I think peer pressure, group pressure from the grass roots of Christianity, is going to be the best way to effect change. We have the paradigms of how other kinds of social change were brought about: the abolition of slavery (mind you, slavery is still alive and well in many other forms); the civil rights struggle in the USA; and (I’m going to be dubbed with the F label but I’ll say it anyway) women’s suffrage. Each of those changes involved raising awareness gradually till enough people saw that change was necessary and it could not and should not be resisted.

      Now this change we are talking about is perhaps even more difficult than all the rest of them. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a jolly good go.

      And the way things are happening in the legal arena, with the SGM case for example, is probably going to bring conservative Christianinty to a massive re-think about some of its golden calves. As the SGM legal case is doing for the issue of child sexual abuse, the legal arena may advance our cause as well. There is justice involved, so the justice systems of the State can be invoked. After all, God gave them to us to protect the vulnerable and to punish and restrain wickedness (Romans 13).

  16. thepersistentwidow

    I think its time that we start warning the people of God about the distorted teaching of some of the prominent teachers through Amazon reviews. I just left, what I feel, is an appropriate review of John Piper’s, This Momentary Mariage.
    Would anyone be interested in voting my comment as helpful?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Done! I voted over there at Amazon and added a comment. Good job.

    • Song

      Yes. Great idea! Your review is well done! Voted it as helpful!

    • Diane

      Loved your review!! Voted.

    • Barnabasintraining

      I voted too.

      That is a good idea.

      • Desley

        Make sure to do Amazon.ca as well.

  17. thepersistentwidow

    Thanks for your comments and voting at Amazon on the Piper book. If anyone would take a look at Lou Priolo’s Divorce book there, they will see that any more ‘appropriate’ comments would probably result in a drastic rating change. I think that the author and the publisher/distributor would begin to take notice.

  18. Belle

    A Few Reasons King’s Vision for America Remains Unfulfilled [Internet Archive link]

    Gospel Coalition has an article about Martin Luther King Jr. today that might be worth commenting on as well. Here is a quote, “It won’t do for us to ‘celebrate’ his legacy while quietly lamenting his theology when our own theology has been and continues to be so inept at addressing justice.”

    • Thanks Belle, I changed the URL of the link you gave so it now goes to the original site where you can post comments. I’ve already posted a comment there. And I’ll make an informational post about this, suggesting our readers go to that blog and submit comments.


  1. Who is Going to Blast the Bullhorn on Abuse in Church? | Spiritual Sounding Board

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