A Cry For Justice

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

Pagan King “Wisdom”

In the somewhat controversial post Barbara and I wrote The Failure of Ministry – Character Flaws Unique to Women, a reader brought up the possibility that pastors are fearful of permitting divorce in the case of abuse because then “everyone might claim abuse just so they can divorce and get out of an unhappy marriage.” And Barbara brought up Esther, saying that King Ahasuerus and his nobles were “motivated by the base desire to keep women under.”

For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.

“Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” (Esther 1:17-20,  NIV)

The great King of Persia, and the ‘wise men’ that surrounded him believed that if one woman in a public position is allowed to get away with disobeying her husband’s orders to display her beauty (oh . . . how COULD she not want to appear before her drunken husband so others could gawk at her? note sarcasm, please), then OTHER women will think it is okay to disrespect their husbands. This just will not do.

Jeff Crippen also once mentioned that it seems pastors are shy about allowing divorce for abuse because of a fear that all those who want out of their marriages for some willy-nilly reason, will shout “abuse!” – and divorce simply because they now have an excuse to do so. This ‘pastoral fear’ and the King’s fear, are very similar.  Both fears are rooted in the desire to maintain control.  I would like to point out two fallacies of this common pastoral fear.

First, if a person is truly unhappy in his or her marriage . . . and would go to such great lengths to ‘get out’ (claiming abuse where there is no abuse), well . . . wouldn’t there be an easier way to do it? Like . . . just leave? OR, if the abuse excuse is off the table, wouldn’t he or she just use something else?   –  Like claiming adultery, which is a more widely acceptable reason for leaving a marriage. If one is going to lie to excuse oneself from one’s marriage vows, one would surely prefer to cite a more acceptable excuse for divorce than a less acceptable excuse for divorce. A phoney excuse is more likely to be believed when it mimics a ground for divorce that is widely accepted in the Christian community . The bad individuals are going to be bad, whether we give them an excuse to go, or not. Taking abuse away as a viable reason for divorcing does not change a person’s heart. If  bad people want out of a marriage, they will find a way, with or without us.

Second, this entire line of thinking – don’t give those untrustworthy people an excuse to rebel –  is the same line of thinking that the King of Persia and his wise men had. And the King of Persia was . . . . a pagan king. He had women captured and placed in harems for beauty treatments so they could compulsorily audition for the role of his wife. Do we REALLY want to emulate this kind of thinking? Call me crazy, but I believe that if we (as a Church) find ourselves coming to the same conclusions as pagan kings . . . then we’ve strayed so far from the wisdom of God that I don’t know how we’ll find our way back without divine intervention.


  1. Desley

    “If one is going to lie to excuse oneself from one’s marriage vows, one would surely prefer to cite a more acceptable excuse for divorce than a less acceptable excuse for divorce.”

    Very good point. I’m sharing this.

  2. Wendell G

    Doesn’t this fall under the principle that we are responsible for speaking truth and we can’t be responsible for how any individual applies that truth? Just because people misuse teachings of the Bible does not mean we stop teaching the Bible. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the individual and if they are going to lie about abuse to get out of a marriage, there is something deeper going on in that person’s life!

    Another thing I have been told is that while a pastor may agree with divorce in cases of abuse, they are silent on it because their congregation, deacons or elders would not accept it. It is a defense mechanism to keep their job over what some of them consider a minor [sic] issue.

    • Wendell- this sentence “Doesn’t this fall under the principle that we are responsible for speaking truth and we can’t be responsible for how any individual applies that truth? Just because people misuse teachings of the Bible does not mean we stop teaching the Bible.” makes me think of the dark ages when the “Church” would not allow the common folk to read or interpret the Bible because they couldn’t be trusted to interpret it correctly. It’s all about control.

      • Wendell G

        Jodi, speaking of control, we visited a small church out here a couple of years ago that had the word, “Restoration” in its name, but the moment we stepped in the door (we were a few minutes late), it was clear that the pastor was totally and completely in control. His speech, mannerisms and the way he interacted with his congregation all smacked of a very heavy hand, cloaked in religious and sympathetic language.

        Supposedly, this congregation was made up of people who had been hurt deeply in life, but the way they hung on the pastor’s every word, while accepting his authoritarian style showed me that they were not receiving healing there, but becoming increasingly dependent on him.

        What really broke it for us was when he started to preach and his whole sermon was about how his wife had left him that week and that he was going to do everything he could to “make” her come back. Everything put together, we came to the conclusion that this man may very well be an abuser occupying a pulpit. I don’t know what the outcome of all this was as we never returned. I sure hope some of the people were able to find wholeness and healing in spite of him and that his wife is ok.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Wendell – Someplace there is a book by John Warwick Montgomery about spiritual warfare (Principalities and Powers). I think at the back of that book he includes a fiction short ghost story he wrote about a young intern pastor being sent out to do pulpit supply at a country church. If I remember right, while he was preaching, the real character of the “church” was revealed to him and he found himself staring at a whole congregation of fang-fitted vampire types. In your case it sounds like the fangs were up there in the pulpit. I had a very similar experience on vacation once when we stopped in a visited a small country church. Horrific abuser in the pulpit.

      • Good grief, Wendell. I’ve heard abusers in the pulpit (meaning men who were abusive to their wives) but I’ve never heard of one preaching a sermon about how his wife left him that very week! Makes me shudder to think about it. How many ways he could have spun that to make it look like a godly sermon from a righteous injured husband! The mind boggles.

  3. Jeff Crippen

    Driscoll is a punk. I mean by that this – he is a rebel. Rebels like to use shock value and often really aren’t that interested in truth. What they really want to do is promote themselves.

  4. Jeff S

    Heather, you are correct. He (or it may have been Grace) calls Vashti an unsubmissive wife for not obeying her husband, and Esther a whore for not defying him.

    So which is it? Apparently being a woman means you are bad if you do and bad if you don’t.

    • Desley

      “So which is it? Apparently being a woman means you are bad if you do and bad if you don’t.”

      Of course, cause that way men get to evade responsibility for their own sins. And if a woman thinks outside the box and recognizes this as unjust? She is “decieved”…just like Eve was and should take her place back under the foot of her husband.

    • Jeff S, you’ve put your finger on the mentality of sexism that is an undercurrent not just in the church but in the whole of society. Women are all too easily deemed ‘wrong’ (bad) whatever way they behave.

      If they rigidly comply with the dress and hair code of their particular church and stay within the behavioral code of what is acceptable for women (like Queen Vashti was expected to) AND if they keep up their seamless plastic masks of ‘happiness’ in conforming to the expectations, then they are not deemed ‘wrong’.
      . . . but they are always being scrutinized with eagle eyes, in case they step out of line.

      • And following up on my comment above, I believe we need to be careful not to fall into inverse sexism on this blog. We have so many more female survivors of abuse on this blog than male survivors, sometimes the males might be in danger of feeling marginalized or unfairly judged. I think we all have handled this pretty well, but it’s something we need to continue to be mindful of, myself included.

        I totally understand how some female survivors might be triggered by a man stating that he is a victim of abuse, because in the female survivors’ case, that’s exactly what her abuser claimed… and her abuser’s claim that he was the victim and she was the abuser was often believed by the church. It can be hard to hear from male victims (genuine male victims) without getting triggered like that, if you are a female victim. We all do our best to navigate this. And I think we manage it well, most of the time.
        I just wanted to say this to reassure the men on this blog that we understand that you may have felt a touch of inverse sexism here, on occasion. Sexism is something that hurts, and if anyone has felt at the butt end of it, you know how much it can throw you off balance and make you feel insecure.

        . . . just trying to be mindful of all our readers 🙂 I care about you all!

  5. Desley

    Mark Driscoll has an abuser’s mentality. And women can never win with him, as evidenced by his insults directed at both Vashti and Esther. For the life of me I can’t understand why Christians listen to that arrogant bully.

    • Now Free

      “So which is it? Apparently being a woman means you are bad if you do and bad if you don’t.”

      Both Queen Vashti and Esther were strong women; obviously a characteristic that Driscoll despises in women don’t you think?

    • Now Free

      “Both Queen Vashti and Esther were strong women; obviously a characteristic that Driscoll despises in women don’t you think?”

      Sorry…if I sounded rude…didn’t mean to be. 😦

      • Desley

        I didn’t think you were rude at all. I think you are spot on; Driscoll hates strong women because he is insecure in his own masculinity and expects women to pander to all men’s insecurities in general, and his more specifically. Weak women make him feel stronger and superior. And if you tell women they are easily decieved enough times it corrodes their self-confidence and makes them dependant on men. Driscoll is an abuser of women for doing this to them. Marriages are meant to be characterised by mutuality, not co-dependecy. Driscoll’s theology of gender and marriage spawns abusive and obsessive relationships. That’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  6. Jeff Crippen

    Heather – Yes, as if Seattle didn’t already have enough bad influence, along with Portland down our way. The only thing I can think about why Driscoll got such a mega following is because he took the rebel emergent stance (perhaps not as radically as others) and happens to be there in an area where there are a lot of others like him. I don’t know. But I do know that his demeanor and teaching plainly identify him as an abuser of power in leadership. Sooner or later, unfortunately it seems like most often later, the truth of such a person becomes evident and the kingdom comes falling down. Mars Hill, the name, was not selected without purpose.

  7. Now Free

    Can someone tell me why I am reluctant to tell people the reason for leaving my abusive husband to people of the new church I started attending recently? Many of these people knew us 30-40 years ago and I kept his abuse secret. Meanwhile he has been going around uttering and writing nasty letters to people and organizations saying that I am sick in mind and body, crazy, suicidal…all lies! He pretends he is so concerned about his poor, crazy wife (who dared to leave him after over 40 abusive years). He has even contacted my family with these lies.

    I have not told anyone lies about him. I did tell my family the truth, finally, about his abuse. I did not tell his family anything at all about the separation and his abuse. I must have been still so unwilling to tell people about his abuse that I hid for so long, that my first lawyer, upon receiving his document that required my stating why I left him, still wondered what my reasons were for leaving him!

    When we were together, there was a church that we attended long ago. A few women were obviously attracted to him and he to them. I pretended it didn’t hurt but it did. Now one of these women is attending the same church that I am presently attending. Her and her husband are pillars of the church. If they find out, and they will eventually, about his abuse, I’m quite sure they will be surprised, and might not believe me. My abuser had this persona of appearing so charming and compassionate to others.

    Abusers sure have it made sometimes. If they can fool their own spouses, it’s no wonder they can pull the wool over other peoples’ eyes!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Maybe because you don’t trust them enough. And that is fine. You shouldn’t trust people with such information until you have that confidence in them. And there won’t be many such people in our lives.

    • Anonymous

      Well no surprise here, Now Free! We here at this blog, either have or are experiencing much of what you describe and no one on this blog is “unfamiliar” with what you are experiencing. It is just typical abuser treatment you are receiving from him and perhaps your Church, when they find out. I think you are wise not to share too much, especially with those you don’t know or that you believe will be against you. You will find much help here and comfort, as well as confidence to know you are not crazy! Jeff Crippen gives excellent pastoral and Scriptural encouragement. The other writers, Barb, Jeff S. and Megan are all excellent and can answer your questions as well. There are lots of articles here that will help you and don’t forget to check out the resources page as well.

      Over 40 years! You may one of the longest sticker-outters here!

      • Now Free

        Anon, Thanks so much for the welcome. I had been on the blog previously but was off it for while. I’m so glad to be here again. 🙂

    • joepote01

      Frankly, until you choose to share it, your reasons for divorce are none of their business.

      You’re right to be hesitant…abusers tend to be good liars…and people tend to want to believe good things about them…

  8. Now Free

    Thanks Jeff. Like Barbara says, I should trust my gut feelings.

  9. coco

    Great points! And also, divorce is *hard* and painful and I doubt that any man or woman on this blog would disagree with me. Even when leaving an abusive spouse that you are so thankful to get away from. I really love the logic behind, if they are going to lie to get out of their divorce why would they choose abuse to lie about. It’s really true! But unfortunately a trap that some people are probably in thinking “noone will beleive me”. I know I thought that for awhile.

  10. Heather, I cannot imagine what it is like being a woman in this climate. I hope things change, because what’s been going on is so hurtful and damaging, not just to women, but to the cause of Christ and the lost and dying word we are not being salt and light in.

    I will pass on reading Driscoll- I put him in a different category from Piper, even though Piper’s teaching was specifically used in a very hurtful way toward me. Piper, I think, means well and has lost his way on some very important issues. In some ways, I fear maybe he’s started believing his own press and has fallen victim to being the pastor who has an answer for everything. I believe he needs to repent of his teaching about divorce and domestic violence, but I don’t think he is a false teacher.

    Driscoll, on the other hand, scares me. He is openly abusive from the pulpit. He speaks of wanting to breaks his elders noses if they disagree with him. He tells his congregation to “shut up and drink your juicebox”. He claims to have visions of people committing sexual acts of sin in their past. He preaches that he is an example of loving his wife the way a man should when he physically threatened men living on the same floor as her in college and when he drove five hours to check on her when she did not pick up the phone.

    Driscoll lives out abusive behavior in front of the cameras and people love and respect him for it. It is sick and needs to stop. I don’t care if he is solid on the five points of Calvinism and can properly explain Penal Subtitutionary Attonement: the minute he explained his desire to physically assault his elders for disagreeing with him is the minute he revealed his true nature, in my opinion.

    • Desley

      I respect that, Barbara. I hope I didn’t come across as being sexist. I was speaking to a twisted and, unfortunately, pervasive problem in the church but in no way did I intend to suggest all men were guilty of this. I find sexism wrong no matter which way it is directed. And Driscoll certainly harms just as many men as women with his bullying, just in different ways. I mean, is it really fair that a man be lambasted and accused of making his wife “shoulder his half of the curse” because his she has a career? The pressure he puts on men is unbelievably harsh.

      • Desley, I didn’t not think you were being at all sexist. Don’t worry! 🙂

      • Desley


    • Katy

      Jeff Driscoll scares me too, ever since I read his ravings about Esther being a whore. There is something seriously wrong with that man, and the reason it’s scary is because he seems to have a large following. What is WRONG with Christians ?? We are so blind!

    • coco

      I went to Mars Hill once, when I was searching for a church that I could call home. I didn’t like the vibe at all, sounds like I dodged a bullet! I don’t know anything about Driscoll, beyond what I’ve read in secular press, but I definitely won’t be reading his materials. Ow!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Nice save, Coco! A bullet dodged indeed.

  11. Pepe

    Dear NOW FREE ..

    How my heart goes out to you ! I agree with all here that it may take time for you to be known in truth in terms of others being worthy to know the reality you have had to live with is a real thing.

    I am so sorry that you have had this experience. I am thankful for finding this site as I see others have also been seeking some clarity on things they have had to deal with alone ….

    May your heart find some peace in the process of healing that is available through truth .


    • Now Free

      Thanks Pepe.
      Hugs to you too.

  12. Pepe

    PS….I m loving listening to the teaching series online recommended about the Leaven of the Pharisees….it is so great to hear someone speaking up about this ! Thank you again!

  13. joepote01

    I already know I’m going to take some heat over this comment…but I’m going to put it out there anyway…

    If someone wants out of a marriage bad enough to lie to provide an excuse for divorce, then divorce is probably the best course of action, anyway.

    Who would want to stay in a marriage with someone that didn’t want to be married to them? That is a horrible situation to be in!!!

    And if someone has already decided they want out of the marriage so badly that they are willing to lie to excuse the divorce, while their spouse has faithfully honored the covenant vows, then the person seeking to leave has already violated the covenant vows by taking such a position against their innocent spouse.

    By the time things have progressed to that point, the discussion should be less about whether or not to divorce than about ensuring justice in the divorce.


    • Barnabasintraining

      I’m inclined to agree with you, Joe. I think the idea that people must be made to stay in their marriages by denying them grounds for divorce misses the point of marriage to begin with. What kind of message does it send about marriage to say we can’t let them out or they’ll stampede the door trying to escape?

      There could be a million and five biblical grounds for divorce and it wouldn’t matter one whit to either my husband or me. We like our marriage and want to keep it. We tend it well because it is valuable to us. We don’t need anyone to lock us into it or force us to stay in it.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Which would, in fact, be the outcome of a marriage between two Christians who love one another and desire to please Christ. Grace is dangerous, it seems. All that freedom. If we don’t legislate, people will be divorcing willy-nilly. That is the temptation for us, isn’t it?

      • joepote01

        Exactly! If our heart is the pursuit of godliness in the wholehearted keeping of covenant vows in loving faithful relationship with our spouse, then we need not fear potential license granted by grace.

        For those who may have already decided godliness is not a goal, who have already violated covenant vows in their heart, who have already chosen to pursue treachery and false witness against their spouse, it hardly matters what license grace may permit, because they have already chosen the path of unrighteousness.

        We really need never fear consistently proclaiming the truth of God’s word and the glory of His grace extended toward us!

      • Jeff S

        The thing is, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard it: “Everyone wants a divorce at one point or another.” So if you believe that to be true, them you have to save people from themselves.

      • That word ‘everyone’ is a giveaway. Making sweeping generalizations, of any kind, is dangerous, but especially dangerous when it comes to marriage and divorce.

      • joepote01

        “Everyone wants a divorce at one point or another.”

        See, that is simply not true. In fact, I am living testimony of the falseness of that statement. Seventeen years in a very abusive marriage with multiple and repeated gross violations of covenant vows, yet not once did I “want” divorce. Yes, there were many times I wondered if divorce might be a necessity, and in the end the marriage did end in divorce. But divorce was never what I “wanted”…rather it was a necessary reality I had to face.

        I would agree that all marriages have difficult patches. I would agree that all marriages have some level of issues related to differences in goals and expectations. I would agree that all marriages have some level of miscommunication issues leading to very frustrating situations. And I would agree that every marriage, at times, requires a high level of commitment to each other and to the covenant vows, in order to persevere thru the hard times and endure the hard work required to work things out.

        But their is a huge difference between facing difficult hurdles versus actively pursuing an unnecessary or unjust escape from covenant obligations.

        And there is a huge difference between commitment to each other and to covenant vows versus violating covenant vows while refusing to divorce.

        If one person in the marriage has already decided they will not be bound by their vows, then divorce is the best course of action…much better than remaining in covenant with someone who willfully violates their vows while holding their covenant partner in bondage to the same vows they so willfully violate themselves.

    • anon

      I agree with your point Joe. If they really don’t want to be with the faithful spouse then do them a favor and divorce. Enoough already. I was always threatened with divorce and ”going our seperate ways.” This discussion would always be brought up when he was caught cheating and then him trying to contact his mistress yet again. His threat’s were basically his getting me to keep my mouth shout. As well as, keeping me fearful and insecure of the thought of divorce. Well he got the divorce all right…i’m the one who asked for it. The marriage was one of blackmail.

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