A Cry For Justice

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

All Power and Control Regimes Share the Same Basic Characteristics

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. (26) It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, (27) and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, (28) even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

My wife is getting used to it. We just settle down for the night, my brain starts working, and I say “I have to get up and write this idea down or I will lose it.” That is what happened tonight. So here I am, writing.

Here is the big idea: all structures that rule by power and control, whether they be monarchies or the Third Reich, or ruthless corporations (not all corporations are ruthless), or churches gone wrong or families gone wrong, are characterized by some very similar if not identical attitudes and tactics. What Hitler did to enslave a nation, an abuser does to enslave his victims. Not all power and control are evil. A government without any power or control is no good to anyone and becomes nothing but anarchy. Within the limits and for the purposes that God has granted individuals and institutions power and control, they are a blessing. The civil magistrate (Romans 13) when operating as the Lord ordains, becomes a source of fear for evil doers and a blessing for our good. But malevolent power and control is what we are speaking of here.  And it always is characterized by certain basic, common attitudes and tactics. It is not to be so in the kingdom of God.  It is not to be so in the Christian church. Jesus said so, “It shall not be so among you.”

If you are an abuse victim, you know these all too well. Let’s see if I can name some here and then you can no doubt add some more through your comments:

1) The Power is always, always right. It must never be questioned.

2) If what the Power says does not sound right, it is still right and you are wrong.

3) By virtue of the fact that the Power says or does something, that word or action is necessarily true and right.

4) The Power uses threats and force to ensure compliance to its directives.

5) All resistance to and questioning of the Power must be squelched.

6) The Power uses propaganda and mind-games to instill confusion and self-doubt in those it controls.

7) The Power claims God as its ally and thus insists that it is divinely established.

8) If a target persists in refusing to be controlled, the Power will kill the targeted person.

9) The Power wears a kind, benevolent face in public to gain the naive as allies.

10) The Power must have worship. All must bow before it or be cast into the fiery furnace.

It is NOT to be so among Christ’s people. Never, never, never. Our churches are to be places where the least is the greatest – only no one in the church knows it! That is just how it is. In a real church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in other words, a power broker will know he just doesn’t fit in, and he is not going to get what he wants.

Dan 3:4-6 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, (5) that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (6) And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

29 Comments

  1. Katy

    Or – the Power claims there is no other God but him. (He may swing between using “Godly” authority, to maintaining that there is no other God but him.)

    I am having flashbacks of being told “You have no right to question me” and “I dont have to explain myself to you

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – well, of course. How dare you question him. After all, Scripture says, “who are you O man to answer back to God?”

  2. BeginHealing

    Ok I haven’t even read this post yet but I am having another moment where I feel like I was led here by my loving heavenly Father. Just this morning I found a book in my husbands room called Influence, The Power of Persuasion. I have prayed all morning that God strengthen my mind, heart, spirit, and intuition to protect me. Then I open my email and find this post. My God is truly amazing and loving. Now, I am going to read the post. 🙂

  3. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    Today I am so worn out from the power. I want to be free of him but underage kids does not allow it. I have to read every stupid email to make sure he doesn’t think I am agreeing to something. Today I am exhausted. Today I discover an obvious lie, point it out to him and suddenly I am the bad guy for wanting to protect myself. Weariness!

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    And the power IS this way, because the power is the devil’s. It is an unrighteous, wicked force that comes from hell itself. There is nothing of God in it – at all. Hence, it is every form of wickedness, while it laughs, mocks and revels in it’s power and control. This is why it demands worship! Because that is what satan really wants to get from us – our worship. He wants us to bow to it and fear under it and quiver at the sound of our abusers’ voice. How many of us felt that we were being forced to worship our abuser, because we knew the consequences, if we did not. How many of us are still dealing with that forced form of worship, when it comes to dealing with our abusers in the Courtroom? Yep – we are really dealing with the devil here.

    What is really wickedly sick is when it comes from leaders in the “c”hurch who disguise themselves as “real”, but are wickedly helping and aiding the abuser in his attempts to completely destroy children and anyone else who stands in his way of trying to gain complete power, control and abuse over his victims. I think we all know what happens in the end. Just look at all the wicked ones of the past, who have come before the wicked ones of today, and see how God deals with those people. What assurance and peace belong to us, when we see how God destroys the wicked. It is never God’s will for us to be under the abuser’s spell. Never. While we may be in that place awaiting God’s deliverance of us, He is right there with us, keeping tally of the wickedness being performed against us, by those who think that God doesn’t see – but oh how God does see. So, throw this one into the fire. I may have bent in fear toward that perversion of power, but no more. God kept me from worshipping the creature over the Creator. So please, cast me into the fire – where at least I will be free to love my Jesus and worship Him – every moment of every day – without fear of being abused or fear of falling prey to worshipping one who has set himself up in my life, in the place of God Himself.

  5. Ang

    I could go right down the list… check, check, check, check. And the sad part is we don’t realize it until it is too late and we have ‘been had.’ But the takers are charming and have everyone bamboozled into thinking they are what they portray themselves to be.

    When I finally called a halt to what they were doing to me, the pastor actually had the nerve to tell me “You are going to look bad to everyone in the church if you make them move out of the house.” What looked bad was my bank account. Oh, and I heard some of the lies that they told about me that were not very nice.

    Doesn’t the bible say something about widows? Oh, I guess the pastors at that church never read that because I never want to hear ‘we are going to take care of you’ from a pastor again.

    I love helping people; they saw that and took advantage of me. They sucked my soul out of me. Recovery takes a long time, personally and financially.

  6. Well said, JC. “Power broker” sums up the heart of the abuser, the very opposite of “the greatest among you is the servant of all”!

    “This is not Jesus” is what I tell my children about these “mini Hitlers” who crush spirits and pass by on the other side to avoid helping the oppressed left crippled in the road. And then the children and I read in John to see what Jesus REALLY looked like (and did) so we can become better followers ourselves and spot His followers around us …like those people who offer their homes for us to live in since we have to leave ours, well, those are Jesus’ followers!!! Jesus is with us and powerfully working in and through these servants of His!!!

    #1,5 and 9 of your post sadly sums up my “c”hurch experience when it comes to most (but thankfully, not all) pastors/elders. Ps 35 has helped guide my prayer life for these “power brokers” – God, get em, AND, like Meg said in one of her recent posts, may my children and I be there to help them when they are crippled in the road.

    SS (BGA), you are MORE VALUABLE than the birds (Matt 6:25ff) and I pray God will show Himself STRONG for YOU today!

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      🙂

    • Ang

      BSD, as you said, thankfully, not all pastors/elders are like the ones who are the abusers. I seem to focus on the ‘ending’ of my nine year *c*hurch experience. But what made that ending so traumatic for me was that for those nine years, I was one of the founding sixty members of the *c*hurch, I thought I was friends with the pastors/elders who deceived me. They were in my home and I was in their home for those nine years, one of the pastors was my next door neighbor before the church was started and knew my husband before he died. So these pastors/elders/etc. were more to me than just the pastor that I listened to every Sunday; they were my family. And then, right when my Mother died, when you desperately need your *c*hurch family to be there for you, that is when they let me know that it had all been a facade. And they did it to others too, not just me. So many wounded souls, and they were good people doing their best serving in their church to help others, only to have the rug pulled out from under them. I will never understand it.

  7. Brenda R

    “I will change for no one”. I assume that means that he is not changing for God and has indeed made himself God.

    This was a good post and I say yes, yes, yes to all line items. All are used at one time or another. Thank your wife for her understanding.

  8. Anon

    Jeff, I believe your point is also Judith Herman’s in Trauma and Recovery. She doesn’t differentiate between the different types of oppression, noting that the effects on the victims are similar. According to Herman, the Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, used by Amnesty International, has been adopted by many domestic violence organisations simply because the tactics of coercion and domination used by political tyrants and domestic abusers are strikingly similar.

    I agree that power itself is not the problem. Mothers have power over their babies, but most mothers don’t use that power to exercise malevolent control. If the possession of power by itself was an evil thing, then God must be an abuser (a concept that has been suggested by some non-believers). Instead, God is a paragon of good power, displaying strength under control, and using power to advance righteousness and destroy evil. I have often wondered, too, whether God’s power is most overtly displayed in His love, so that He uses His power mostly to love powerfully?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Excellent observations, Anon. And this has been my point ever since I came to understand abuse and preached my sermon series on it entitled The Psychology of Sin. The common denominator in all types of abuse is “I will be like the Most High.” Until we all understand that in our churches and as Christians and pastors, we are going to be sitting ducks for the evil one’s schemes. Abuse is the quest for self glory, a demand for worship that belongs to God alone.

  9. Anonymous

    I experienced this in my former marriage. I was never right, and he always had to be. I also watched as his own father did the same thing to his mother. I guess he learned what he saw growing up. Yet, when he became drunk, slammed me into a wall, and suffocated me, I was told to let it go “because he was drunk.” His mother refused to talk to me about the bruises or even look at them. She just turned her head and said, “No.” Yet, when I left, and subsequently found someone else who appreciated me and loved me with a selfless love, I was suddenly committing adultery, and I had suddenly been seeing this man prior to our separation (and I had NOT). More lies were spread. His parents sided with him of course, and I was nothing but trash. Everything I did became twisted so that he was the victim and I was the one in the wrong. His parents even just recently… popped in on my family unannounced, trying to bring gifts and act nice. The family ran them off and gave the gifts they brought away to other people. The only conclusion I can come to is that this could be image management for them. I would appreciate someone’s thoughts on this, please.

    • Brenda R

      Anon, Definitely, it is a cover up for them. X was always right in his mind and if he wasn’t and I could prove it I was calling him a liar. Last year, before my escape, we took a trip to FL. There is a fern like plant in trees for miles and miles and I was fascinated by it. He kept trying to tell me that it was tick nests, which I knew was untrue. I had lived in FL 30 years ago and I am not stupid. I can tell the difference between nests and plants. We went to a rest area, I walked right up to a tree and picked a piece of the plant off. You’d have thought I had beat him with a stick he put up such a fuss. I didn’t do what I was told, I didn’t believe him (which I didn’t), I need to listen to what he tells me. Bologna, I’m a grown woman. The vacation was horrible for the next 2 days.

      I have so many lies going around about me right now I shutter to think what is next. It is difficult but I have to tell myself, they aren’t worth it. I have been accused of having other men through my whole marriage. I was even accused of looking for one online because when I opened my Yahoo account a page full of men would pop up. You know the advertisements that come up. When he pulled up his account there would be a page full of women, but I wasn’t suppose to notice that. It was all reasons to abuse me, as if he needed any. His family is never going to say anything remotely negative about him, he is the pillar of the community. They don’t want to deal with it and won’t.

      Try as they will, his family is trying to do image management. They can do whatever they want. You know the truth and so does God. I am happy to hear that you have found someone who treats you well. Let people think what they want. Their opinions really don’t count.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Image management is a nasty, nasty thing. It is often quite willing to even sacrifice children to the abuser, i.e., sacrifice them to Baal.

  10. Brenda R

    Pastor Jeff, Your comment stopped me in my tracks and my mind is racing. Could you go into this further at some point. I don’t have young children, but would like to know what to look for.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Brenda R – what I mean is that family members or church members will often side with the abuser, especially when the victim starts to talk about separation. She wants to protect not only herself but is seeing finally what the abuse is doing to the children. She doesn’t want then to learn to be abusive themselves, or to be hurt, or traumatized. But that means the cat will be out of the bag. Everyone will “know” all is not well in the family and extended family or in the church family. So image becomes more important than even the children.

      You see this same thing in cases of child sexual abuse (incest). The victim, if say they are a teen, overcomes finally and “tells.” But to report the matter to the police, well – that has all kinds of fallout. The breadwinner will be in jail. He won’t be able to live at home. Others will know. So even in cases of incest, image so often becomes more important and the child victim is sacrificed as the thing is covered up.

      • Brenda R

        Thank you. My brain was going in a totally different direction or several. I was one of the child sexual abuse cases (stepfather). I didn’t tell until I was over 30. The church doesn’t want anything like that associated with their church. In my eyes, I would have more respect for a church that did something about it rather than cover it up.

  11. I am so sorry that happened to you, Brenda.
    But if it doesn’t sound too cynical, I can say “welcome to the club!” — so many of us, myself included, have suffered childhood sexual abuse (often from family members) as well as domestic abuse in our marriages.

    • Brenda R

      Barb, Now having been through abuse in childhood and as an adult, I wonder sometimes if I would have avoided the abusers as an adult if I wouldn’t have accepted abuse as normal as a child. I really don’t think that is always the case, but I sure repeated the process more than my fair share as an adult. No more, No more. My path has changed.

      • Brenda, some survivors whose stories I’ve read say that the childhood abuse did condition them to overlook abuse in adulthood. It was harder to identify because they didn’t realize it wasn’t normal behaviour. But anyone can be victimized, whether or not they have been abused in childhood. The research suggests that if a girl is abused in childhood she is somewhat more likely to be abused by an intimate partner in adulthood; but it’s by no means an immutable destiny.

        In a somewhat parallel fashion, boys who witnessed their father abusing their mother have a somewhat higher rate of becoming abusers in adulthood, when compared to boys who did not grow up in domestic abuse houses. But so far as I can recall from my reading, about 2/3 of boys who grew up in domestic abuse households do NOT abuse their wives or girlfriends in adulthood.

      • Brenda R

        It is right back to choice. We have a choice, but don’t always make good ones or see the distructive possibilities. Or think we have to continue on the path we were raised in. Some boys see their abusive fathers and think that is the way they should treat their own wives and others say hey my mom deserved better and I will not walk in that path. God gives us choice and reason. I have been easily decieved in my life. I have wanted to think all people are good–They aren’t.

    • Brenda R

      I’m sorry that this happened to you as well. I would love to be in a club with you, I just wish this wasn’t it.

  12. Anonymous

    For me, I was never abused as a child. My parents were amazing people. They loved me selflessly and gave so much. However, my biological father threw me away at birth, and my real Dad adopted me soon after. But I always felt unwanted because of it. My adoptive (real) Dad is a wonderful man. However, despite their efforts, I always had a low self-esteem and was made fun of in school, despite the fact that many people told me I was beautiful. I think that may be what led me to marry TWO abusive men at a young age – I didn’t think I deserved any better and feared no one else would want me. But now, I’m with someone who accepts me – flaws and all – and who thinks I’m amazing just the way I am. I’m still trying to get used to this, as I never experienced it before. He stands up for me and defends me, and he protects and provides for me in every way. It brings me to tears every time I think about what I have been through and that he loves me ANYWAY, and doesn’t see me as trash (because I sometimes still see trash – being divorced makes me feel that way). The Christian community so often frowns on divorce for any reason, and that is such a shame. It wasn’t until my ex husband broke into one of my email accounts and saw the beginnings of what was going to be a restraining order taken out by my very wise attorney that he stopped harrassing me and my family.

    I sometimes struggle with false guilt that was spoken of on this blog – my ex husband did not physically abuse me many times, but he verbally and emotionally abused me almost daily. The one time he shoved me and tried to suffocate me, though, I literally feared I would die. I cannot describe the panic I felt as my mouth and nose were totally sealed off.. I started gagging. He claimed afterwards that he was just trying to calm me down. I knew in my heart that it wasn’t true. I documented photos of the bruises and a domestic violence shelter in my hometown took the information and the photos, as did my lawyer. I just could NOT help but think that if he did it once, he would eventually do it again, no matter how many months or years could potentially pass with no physical abuse. And when I found porn on his computer, he said it was accidentally downloaded… and I knew too that was a lie. We had a lot of money, which he took most of in the divorce, and there was one simple thing I wanted… and he refused to let me have it, and then turned around and bought himself thousands of dollars worth of things which he said he “needed,” and told me if I “put my husband in the proper place” by giving him more attention, cleaning the house better, etc. then we could “talk” about it. He would monitor my time on facebook, counting the minutes on my activity log. He would go through my phone and count my text messages, and would make me account for any of them that were deleted (I began deleting some from my family members because I was discussing leaving him).

    Someone please tell me this man was a sociopath and that I’m not crazy. His parents even accused ME of being the one who looked at the porn sites when I found them on his computer. Anytime I questioned him, he would threaten, whether directly or indirectly, to divorce me. I constantly felt insecure in that marriage and never knew what he would do.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anonymous – He is a sociopath and you are not crazy. A sociopath is a person with no empathy and no conscience. You saw it correctly and you are most probably alive today because you did. As we have said many times here, it is my opinion that we run into the most wicked of all abusers in the local church. Why? Because they are so conscienceless that they can play Christian, all the while doing their evil behind the scenes. And then they can sleep at night. I mean, a full-blown bad guy who makes no profession to be a Christian, or to even be moral, can be an abuser as well. But I maintain that such a person won’t be as wicked as the kind your ex is because that kind doesn’t defy God with his facade of a profession of Christ.

      Nope you aren’t crazy. No way. You escaped from evil.

    • Anonymous, you were not crazy and you are still not crazy; you are sensible and wise and incredibly resilient. Your ex is an abuser. Strangling or semi-suffocating is one of the flags for HIGH RISK of a LETHAL OUTCOME in domestic abuse risk assessment and safety planning. (You can see more about this at our Safety Planning page under our Resources tab in the top menu). You were very wise to leave. Well done.

  13. Anonymous

    I also want to add that I TRIED in that marriage. We went to church. We went to numerous counselors, both secular and Christian. I cooked for him every day. I cleaned the house all the time, but somehow it was never clean enough. I wrote him encouraging notes with scripture. He said he struggled with depression and was on and off medication for it (and I was too by the end of the marriage). I tried so much to be the supportive, godly wife he needed. I read books on Christian marriages and how to pray for your husband. I did it all. But in the end, I was pouring water down a rat hole. This was in addition to my above comment about his continual emotional, mental and verbal abuse. And I have to be honest, when I left him, I felt cold. No emotion. I didn’t care that he was hurt. I knew in my heart he would never change, and I ran for my life.

  14. Anonymous

    Wow.. I read that section you suggested, Barbara R, and it was very eye-opening indeed to see that men who strangle their wives are more likely to kill them.

    I also wanted to say this – my ex husband did NOT see my leaving coming. See, we were about to embark on a completely new life and were about to relocate and he was going to start another occupation. But I snapped… I wasn’t able to see clearly how abusive he was until I took some time away to spend more time with my family. When I realized I was much happier when he was not around, I knew something was very wrong. Is it normal to just snap like this?? He told me I had some sort of mental disorder because I was telling him I loved him one day, and then leaving him the next, but see, I was just used to a routine. I might have told him I loved him, but the emotion wasn’t there at all. It had died a long time before. Maybe I wanted to believe the best about him and think that if I kept “loving” him, he would change. And I even kept being intimate with him until just before I left – but I remember, in my mind, thinking that if I didn’t, he would go and look at pornography and I didn’t want that. But having the security of a husband who made good money made a difference, and I was scared to be on my own.

    He mentally and emotionally abused me on a daily basis. And the weekend that I left him (before he realized I was leaving), I remember taking a nap. I woke up and he was staring at mee with a look in his eye that I will never forget. It scared the crap out of me! I can’t explain the look… but it was sinister.. evil. Usually, when I would want to take a nap, he
    would scold me for it and say he wanted to get a “good work day” out of me. He complained to me that he had only gotten a little bit of hard work out of me during our entire marriage. Sometimes, what he viewed was hard work would be rewarded by an outing somewhere, like going out to eat. He would say that the average woman cleans “x” amount of hours per week, and that I “didn’t even do that.” Mind you, I dusted twice a week (sometimes only once a week if I was busy), vacuumed once a week, cleaned the bathrooms once a week, and cooked every night. Packed his lunch for his job. He would “time” how long I spent doing certain things and then scold me if it wasn’t long enough.

    All that being said, is all of this normal, as far as me just snapping and realizing all of a sudden that I’m leaving and not coming back? Being intimate with him (and being disgusted by it) but doing it because I didn’t want him cheating on me with porn? Saying, “I love you” and going through the motions, but not really meaning it at all? This is some of what he brought up last year. This is how he explained that I was “crazy.” But again, I am the same “Anonymous” poster whose husband suffocated her.

    • Brenda R

      I think everyone is different. Everyone makes decisions in their own time frames. You do what you have to do to survive and keep doing it until you are safely away. You are not crazy. I’m not sure why you think you just snapped. You had time away and realized what a difference it made for him not to be around you. You realized his abusive nature.

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