A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse Victims Falsely Portrayed as Witches

Matthew 12:22-25 (ESV) Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Recently I began reading the introduction to a book written long, long ago by Cotton Mather (born 1663) which is an account of the trials of several witches who had been tried in New England, some of whom were executed. Here is what I was reading when, as happens so often now when I read books, a parallel to the plight of abuse victims in the church jumped into my head. Please do not assume that I am claiming that the paragraphs which I quote here from the introduction to Cotton Mather’s book are completely accurate in all they say about the Puritans. My main point lies separately from those issues. These trials were however contrary to Scripture which plainly instructs Christians not to pull up the tares now, but leave that work to the angels of God on that great future day of judgment. To use force and effect some kind of inquisition now is inevitably going to end up destroying some of the wheat (genuine believers or the yet unconverted elect). See Matthew 13:24-30.

There was at this time in Boston a distinguished family of puritanical ministers of the name of Mather. Richard Mather, an English non-conformist divine, had emigrated to America in 1636, and settled at Dorchester, where, in 1639, he had a son born, who was named, in accordance with the peculiar nomenclature of the puritans, Increase Mather. This son distinguished himself much by his acquirements as a scholar and a theologian, became established as a minister in Boston, and in 1685 was elected president of Harvard College. His son, born at Boston in 1663, and called from the name of his mother’s family, Cotton Mather, became more remarkable than his father for his scholarship, gained also a distinguished position in Harvard College, and was also, at the time of which we are speaking, a minister of the gospel in Boston. Cotton Mather had adopted all the most extreme notions of the puritanical party with regard to witchcraft, and he had recently had an opportunity of displaying them.

In the summer of the year 1688, the children of a mason of Boston named John Goodwin were suddenly seized with fits and strange afflictions, which were at once ascribed to witchcraft, and an Irish washerwoman employed by the family, was suspected of being the witch. Cotton Mather was called in to witness the sufferings of Goodwin’s children; and he took home with him one of them, a little girl, who had first displayed these symptoms, in order to examine her with more care. The result was, that the Irish woman was brought to a trial, found guilty, and hanged; and Cotton Mather published next year an account of the case, under the title of “Late Memorable Providences, relating to Witchcraft and Possession,” which displays a very extraordinary amount of credulity, and an equally great want of anything like sound judgment. This work, no doubt, spread the alarm of witchcraft through the whole colony, and had some influence on the events which followed. It may be supposed that the panic which had now arisen in Salem was not likely to be appeased by the interference of Cotton Mather and his father.

The execution of the washerwoman, Bridget Bishop, had greatly increased the excitement; and people in a more respectable position began to be accused. On the 19th of July five more persons were executed, and five more experienced the same fate on the 19th of August. Among the latter was Mr. George Borroughs, a minister of the gospel, whose principal crime appears to have been a disbelief in witchcraft itself. His fate excited considerable sympathy, which, however, was checked by Cotton Mather, who was present at the place of execution on horseback, and addressed the crowd, assuring them that Borroughs was an impostor. Many people, however, had now become alarmed at the proceedings of the prosecutors, and among those executed with Borroughs was a man named John Willard, who had been employed to arrest the persons charged by the accusers, and who had been accused himself, because, from conscientious motives, he refused to arrest any more. He attempted to save himself by flight; but he was pursued and overtaken. Eight more of the unfortunate victims of this delusion were hanged on the 22nd of September, making in all nineteen who had thus suffered, besides one who, in accordance with the old criminal law practice, had been pressed to death for refusing to plead. The excitement had indeed risen to such a pitch that two dogs accused of witchcraft were put to death. A certain degree of reaction, however, appeared to be taking place, and the magistrates who had conducted the proceedings began to be alarmed, and to have some doubts of the wisdom of their proceedings. Cotton Mather was called upon by the governor to employ his pen in justifying what had been done; and the result was, the book which stands first in the present volume, “The Wonders of the Invisible World;” in which the author gives an account of seven of the trials at Salem, compares the doings of the witches in New England with those in other parts of the world, and adds an elaborate dissertation on witchcraft in general. This book was published at Boston, Massachusetts, in the month of October, 1692.

Mather, Increase; Mather, Cotton (2012-05-16). The Wonders of the Invisible World Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England, to which is added A Farther Account of the Tryals of the New-England Witches (Kindle Locations 18-47). . Kindle Edition.

Now, as I read these paragraphs I was compelled to think, first, of how the enemies of Christ accused Him of being a witch. Perhaps you have never heard it put quite that way before, but in fact (as in the Scripture quoted above) these enemies did accuse Him of being a practitioner of the black arts, a servant using the power of the prince of demons. Christ refuted that inane charge of course with the famous ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’ Second, I thought of how the very same tactic is used by the abuser against his victim, and often the abuser enjoys similar success in convincing others that the victim is the evil one.

Thus the victim is portrayed as a witch. Her accuser points to all of her devilish incantations by which she has alienated others from him. Her allegations against him are lies. She has charmed and deluded others with her spells. And so her burning is called for.

But it turns out that the so-called witch is no witch at all. Things are quite the other way round. And we Christians should know this. We have it in God’s Word that this is how our enemy operates. He accuses the righteous of being wicked. He calls light darkness and darkness light. His emissaries portray themselves as sons of Abraham, but our Lord pronounced the truth about them:

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Apparently many people in New England so long ago were drawn into the delusion and for a time called for the burning of witches. We look down upon them and wonder how they could have been so foolish. Yet how many victims of evil today are caricatured as practitioners of darkness and driven away from their churches by the mob? And all the while Satan’s angels remain in the pew behind their facade of angelic light.

13 Comments

  1. One of our readers, Finding Joy Again, put a comment on this post but her comment ended up on yesterday’s Amazon post, due to an error caused by us at the back end of the blog. So I’m putting her comment here. This is what Finding Joy Again wrote:

    Wow! Spot on. My abuser has more than once called me a witch and accused me of feeding others lies about him to make him look bad. Fortunately, the people that know me, know that he is the evil one.

    • Memphis Rayne

      wow? It seemed like the moment I was saved, the MIW was truly trying to annihilate what was in me. To put that in the proper perspective as stated above from John 8:44 is an overwhelming truth, recognizing that can be what gives us the power to overcome the true evil that these people are. If your flayling around grasping here, there looking for answers from false teachers, spending every waking moment of life tryiing to attach some sort of name to what you are enduring…it makes it IMPOSSIBLE to cling to the power of Christ in you…that HE that is truly in you IS in fact greater than the MIW is, The devil steals, lies, cheats, damns innocent people. I guess I am a testimony to the fact that Satan cannot steal from those of us that are really in Christ. The MIW lied, lied about lies, lied and still lies about us, uses scripture to manipulate people yet would openly confess to evil when he sensed it would get him attention, then in the exact same breath DENY what he just confessed too. He would repeatedly take communion in front of people, then stop for a period of time as to put us on “notice”” that God wouldnt even help us now. The MIW used scripture to draw attention to his “fallen states”, then lapped up the sympathy of others for his weakeness while at the same time spreading lies about his own family to better his appearances. If anybody stood up to him then he would say “”If your pointing the finger at ME???!!!!! Then there is THREE fingers pointed back at you!!!” He used Gods own words to slay and destroy other people,….because GOD said (i am the contentious dripping wife) and then GODS words were used in his case to justify evil, to twist and contort as he saw fit, Interesting? This MIW was elevated to “”he is only human”” status when he was openly abusive, then when the MIW switched to “”I am cleansed””(again) he was elevated again to “”wow look at how great God is”” mind tweaking? The MIW HATED the cleansed phase(wether it lasted a few hours or a few days) it was like sandpaper against sandpaper, he would roar and rage and contort, continually in a state of metamorphasis. All along he must of sensed the power of true light in me and my kids, and the devil KNOWS he has NO control over God, most likely what pissed him off, if he couldnt manipulate Gods words to his own cause he would of never bothered to show. If it werent for the “”whoa look at me I am a poor down trodden christian man”” routine, and the effectiveness of the routine there would be no point for him. The fact that baptisms were a public display of commitment was a very rewarding ploy, everybody would SEE then look at me as if NOW I am so lucky that he is so willing to put himself out there and be so committed. Im like ya? Thats what the church down the street said a week ago too.

      Thanks again for calling out the truth….Im still blown away when I think of how the Christian fellowship we went to was SO SO mislead, the numbers of women and children being abused in that area and all the affiliates of that church….well, just mind blowing? I clearly remember my fogged out days, but clearly remember wondering how does a CHRISTIAN feel so judged, and condemned, and put out, and suffocated and doomed in this sparkly, clean environment? Why are my kids and I condemned by these Christians? When did I become the harlot? Or the witch? Why ae they drinking in the MIW, why I am only welcome if I succumb to my spouses evil? Why are they lapping his lies up?

      Its my big AHA moment.

  2. KayE

    Memphis you put it so well,”why I am only welcome if I succumb to my spouses evil”. That’s one reason neither I nor my children have been part of a local “church” for years and years.Yeah they’ll take me in with open arms, just so long as I smile and be “nice” and cover up for what’s really happening at home.
    Your point about false teachers is really important too. I know from bitter experience that trusting in that garbage will only get you into deeper trouble.I’m not welcome at most churches round here for thinking that sort of thing either.

  3. Nicholas

    There have been some stories in the news recently of Pentecostalist groups in Africa and the UK making literal accusations of witchcraft against children, and then subsequently abusing those children.

  4. My ex the father of my daughter portrayed me as the wicked witch who had brainwashed our daughter to believe all sorts of lies about him and accuse him of crimes.

    Strange that he never took me back to court for breaching the visitation orders from when she was 11 to when she was 18. I guess his decision to not take me back to court might have had something to do with the fact that she had made a report to the police about his conduct.

    Call me witch if you like. It’s water off a duck’s back. I know who was telling the truth.

  5. Finding Answers

    (Writing through a pea-souper fog…airbrushing as I go)

    As a child, I remember watching a movie on the Salem witch trials in school. I was horrified…I still believed in witches. I would wake in the night, terrified at the “screams” I heard. No one told me the sound came from cats fighting in the next door neighbours yard. (Please refrain from laughing at me.)

    Keep in mind a few things…

    I had read the Bible – not a children’s version – when I was 5 years old. I also read voraciously through variations on fairy tales, sagas, and the ilk from around the world. Including the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

    Sleep was punctuated by nightmares, no comfort from any direction. One slightly older brother also had nightmares. He would get cuddled and tucked back into bed. The same brother was also one of my abusers.

    In my mind, everything became muddled together…the Bible (read, unknown by anyone else, in solitary with no instruction / clarification / explanation); a vast array of books containing horrific characters (these were not the sanitized, happily-ever-after pieces of pap spewed out in today’s mass market); a movie that, in my memory anyway, was not age appropriate.

    A light bulb moment. Many details omitted to airbrush…the area in which I lived when I saw the movie on the Salem witch trials prided itself on the surrounding history.

    Another light bulb moment. Pastor Jeff quoted from Matthew: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”. Due to circumstances noted elsewhere on ACFJ, I was already dissociating by this time. I would suggest dissociation might be an example of the “house divided against itself…”

    There was sorcery and witchcraft in the Bible. There was sorcery and witchcraft in the books I read. There were “manifestations” of sorcery and witchcraft in the movie I saw at school. I had unfettered access to ideas in which I had no context or instruction.

    I became bound to fear…

    • Dear Finding Answers, I honour you. You have written several times in the last several days about how much you are wanting light and affirmation from God – assurance of His love.

      And it seems to me that even while the fog swirls and descends and almost engulfs you, you are persistently courageous in seeking and receiving the truth. The truth which overcomes the fog. The truth which heals the dissociated and fractured and unspeakably wounded parts. And I know my words don’t put that perfectly, so please forgive me if I conveyed any wrong shades of meaning there.

      One thing I am sure of: you are in a spiritual battle and God is on your side. And He is the Wonderful Counselor.

  6. Finding Answers

    A profound thank you for your encouragement, Barb.

    I’m struggling with a reply and thinking something humorous might help start me off…

    You mention the Wonderful Counsellor. I have always loved Handel’s Messiah. Until I actually read the Biblical verses it contained, I thought Wonderful and Counsellor were separated by a comma – there is a pause between the words when sung. Entirely different meaning! 🙂

    When pursuing personal healing (physical,mental, emotional, spiritual), my determination has always between somewhat like a Rottweiler. Tenacious. Dogged.

    I want to know “Why?”

    Sometimes, I have had to accept I may never find the answer to the question at hand.

    My thinking? I would rather change than hang on to damaging false beliefs. Forgive me if I sound sanctimonious. Personal experience has consistently borne out the benefits of learning the truth, no matter how painful. Along the way, I been able to pass along the hard-won knowledge to other people.

    Less than two years ago, I completely re-integrated, though the vast majority of the memories remained unprocessed.

    Less than one year ago, shortly after the flashbacks started and the walls crumbled, the Holy Spirit presented me with a startling piece of information. Although I know the Triune God is one, I had dissociated Him into three in the way I had dissociated memory fragments.

    I don’t know when / how that happened…

    I suspect part of the answer lies in a confused and muddled image of God-as-abuser.

    The Holy Spirit has been my friend. My Helper. The relationship positive. He gently leads me.

    I am learning Who Jesus is on a personal Christian – not ‘c’hristian – basis. I am still missing the heart connection, trying to get past the non-stop force-feeding details of His suffering for my sake, so I better be grateful!! The sugary-sweet imagery of Easy Believism. Oh, yes. And He loves me and is my Friend. My co-heir. Can you see the dilemma?

    I am not trying to offend anyone with my words. If I do, please accept my heartfelt apology.

    I am desperately grasping at the truth of God. I can have all the book / Book learning in the world – the academics, if you will – but the heart connection is needed to complete the picture.

    If I have not Love…

    • I am learning Who Jesus is on a personal Christian – not ‘c’hristian – basis. I am still missing the heart connection, trying to get past the non-stop force-feeding details of His suffering for my sake, so I better be grateful!! The sugary-sweet imagery of Easy Believism. Oh, yes. And He loves me and is my Friend. My co-heir. Can you see the dilemma?

      I resonate a lot with this, Finding Answers. 🙂

      In my conversion, which happened in my twenties, I met Jesus .. which is to say, God revealed Jesus to me. I knew Jesus love me, I knew him like a brother, someone who loved me and knew me more than anyone else had (or ever could) know and love me.

      And when I started going to church and reading all sorts of Christian literature I underwent what you’ve describe: force-feeding of all the details of His suffering for my sake, so I better be grateful!!

      And it is so so hard to see beyond that, see through it, especially because the ‘c’hurch so habitually replicates what abusers do: it lays blame on the victims of abuse or it mutualises the blame between abuser and victim.

      Only yesterday or the day before did I see through it. And it came about from reading something Ruth Magnusson Davis had said to me. She and I are in email contact, and I am absolutely loving her work on the New Matthew Bible and all things related to that.

      Someone on twitter had said “We follow a Savior who faced Death…who actually became death.”
      It sounded ‘off’ to me, so I asked Ruth and Sam Powell whether they thought that was a correct statement. They both agreed is was not correct.

      Ruth said:
      “Yes, I think this is off. He died for us, that’s all. I wonder if it is related to the Hebraism ‘Became sin for us.’ Tyndale explained in his 1534 New Testament that this meant ‘became a sin offering.’ Augustine confirmed this. But I hear it mis-taught a lot (understandably), with people saying he actually ‘became sin’. I have decided to update it fully in the NMB to ‘sin offering’ to avoid confusion.”

      Sam said:
      “I am not quite sure what is meant be ‘he became death’ but it isn’t quite right. Death is an enemy to be destroyed. The person who wrote that on twitter might have meant that he truly died, but then she/he should have said that.”

      When I read what Ruth said about ‘sin offering,’ I started digging into what different Bible versions have said.

      Here are three renderings of 2 Corinthians 5:21:

      God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness. (CJB)

      For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.(NLT)

      He made him who knew no sin to be a sin-offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (MOUNCE)

      And here is Romans 8:3 in the NASB. The italics are original:

      “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”

      Think of how the priests and the faithful Israelites in the OT made sin offerings. They laid their hand on the animal to be sacrificed and confessed the sin they were confessing. They then sacrificed the animal on the altar.
      Jesus in his love for us, Jesus laid himself on the altar. He loves us; he doesn’t demand that we ‘better be grateful’ that he took the rap for us. He gave himself on our behalf because He loves us… and his love is so immense that words cannot express how warm and kind it is.

      For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.(NLT)

      • Jamie

        This needs to be its own blog post.

        *Please. 😉

      • Okay! Will do!
        Thanks Jamie 🙂

      • Finding Answers

        Again, my profound gratitude for your reply, Barb.

        (If you drink coffee, you may want to grab a mugful… 🙂 )

        I read this before bed last night and have been mulling it over ever since…even processing in my sleep.

        Something you wrote towards the end of your reply tickled a connection and the Holy Spirit leads me through to bring it to light.

        So here goes…including thinking and rhetorical questions to myself.

        You wrote: “I knew Jesus love me, I knew him like a brother, someone who loved me and knew me more than anyone else had (or ever could) know and love me.”

        I read your words and feel distant, like there is a plexiglass shield around my heart, a barrier preventing His love from making its presence felt. Could this stem from protecting myself from a lifetime of abuse and betrayal? Protecting myself from abusers who profess love, yet demonstrate the absolute antithesis?

        You wrote:: “And it is so so hard to see beyond that, see through it, especially because the ‘c’hurch so habitually replicates what abusers do: it lays blame on the victims of abuse or it mutualises the blame between abuser and victim.”

        There is something in what you write, though the source is less direct. Many ‘c’hurch sermons focus on sin. On what “bad” people we are simply by being born “into this sinful world” – I can almost hear those words (verbatim) in my head.

        I often felt I was “not good enough” to even sit in the pews. In the world of psychology, the “not good enough” is an injunction. I grew up with this one….

        You wrote: “Ruth said:
        “Yes, I think this is off. He died for us, that’s all. I wonder if it is related to the Hebraism ‘Became sin for us.’ Tyndale explained in his 1534 New Testament that this meant ‘became a sin offering.’ Augustine confirmed this. But I hear it mis-taught a lot (understandably), with people saying he actually ‘became sin’. I have decided to update it fully in the NMB to ‘sin offering’ to avoid confusion.”

        The “became sin for us” phrase rings a bell. I wonder if the memory / effect on me was subconscious? Logically speaking, if God became the sinless God-man, lived a sinless life, how could He “become” sin?

        We may sin (if we are believers), we may be sinners (if we are unbelievers), but we don’t “become” sin. We may look or act the sin, but do we actually “become” it? A murderer does not “become” murder, though he would definitely be labelled evil.

        Ruth’s and Pastor Sam’s quotes followed. These were helpful in clarifying where / how a slight twist in words could influence a bucket-load of false teaching, whether conscious or subconscious, whether intended / unintended to manipulate.

        You wrote: “Think of how the priests and the faithful Israelites in the OT made sin offerings. They laid their hand on the animal to be sacrificed and confessed the sin they were confessing. They then sacrificed the animal on the altar.”

        I have a gap somewhere in my understanding. In my past readings of the OT, I would become confused / overwhelmed with the who / what / when / where / why of the numerous offerings…the endless lists. (A vague memory of Leviticus?)

        Oh. Oh my. I would dissociate at this point. All I remember is the goat that has sin placed on it’s head and is sent / driven into the wilderness. (If the goat tried to return, it was driven away.)

        I was the family scapegoat. I was the workplace scapegoat. Was I relating to the feeling of abandonment?

        In ‘c’hurch, any teaching of Jesus sacrifice on the cross, I would have the same distant feeling I noted in the beginning of my reply / comment.

        Which leads me back to the beginning of your reply: “In my conversion, which happened in my twenties, I met Jesus .. which is to say, God revealed Jesus to me. I knew Jesus love me, I knew him like a brother, someone who loved me and knew me more than anyone else had (or ever could) know and love me.”

        I wonder if I felt distant for this reason? I was surrounded by people who “loved” me, told me what I thought / felt / believed – even when they had no idea, but were foisting off their garbage on me.

        How could I come near the cross?

        Oh. Oh my. I would, again, dissociate. Not from the empathy of physical pain, though that would make sense. I would dissociate from the feeling of abandonment!! While I never had the same parental relationship as Jesus, I can totally relate to a stream of people turning their backs on me. I know the feeling of abandonment so, so well from the (plexiglass) hospital isolette.

        You wrote: “Jesus in his love for us, Jesus laid himself on the altar. He loves us; he doesn’t demand that we ‘better be grateful’ that he took the rap for us. He gave himself on our behalf because He loves us… and his love is so immense that words cannot express how warm and kind it is.”

        I think you have helped me find a beginning… 🙂

        (I agree with Jamie about making your reply into a stand-alone post.)

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