Ongoing Pastoral Counseling of an Abuser is a Formula for Trouble
Est 3:1-2 After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. (2) And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.
Joh 8:44-45 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. (45) But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
It has occurred to me lately that we are hearing about a very common pattern experienced by Christians who are abuse victims. They have gone to their pastor for help and the pastor decided to start meeting regularly with the abuser to counsel and “fix” the problem. Some time goes on – perhaps months or longer. Pastor and abuser meeting, talking, fixing. Then the inevitable day arrives. The victim receives a call or note from the pastor asking that she begin to meet with her husband and the pastor. It seems that great progress has been made and now it is time to get her involved. What should she do?
Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.
All that has happened is that over this period of time, the pastor is actually the one who has been “discipled.” He is now an ally of the abuser. They are buds. He “knows” now that the wife has her problems too and that she has contributed to the troubled state of the marriage. So now, hey, let’s call her in, sit down with her, and “counsel together.” Translation? “Let’s sit her down and both of us will tell her how she is at fault.”
Why does this scenario happen in churches over and over again? Let me suggest some reasons and I suspect our readers will be able to provide some more:
1. The pastor at best is naive about abuse. He like virtually all pastors has received NO training in the subject. He is oblivious to its tactics and mentality.
2. The pastor is a “guy.” Most often, the abuser is a guy. So the guys bond as they meet. The victim? Well, she’s a woman and as all guys know, women are just troublesome.
3. The abuser is often a pure sociopath, skilled and adept at duping others into being his ally. The pastor cannot comprehend that any such person in his church could possibly exist.
4. The pastor has been trained in the idolatry of marriage. Man is made for marriage. Marriage must be preserved at all costs. Divorce is the great evil. The family unit must be preserved no matter what, or America is going to hell.
5. The pastor has been taught false notions of repentance and reconciliation, though he thinks he holds to a biblical view on these subjects.
6. And pastors, like all people, can succumb to cowardice. To stand against the abuser is much more costly than standing with the victim.
The result? Haman is believed and Esther and Mordecai get hung. The abuser, a child of the father of lies, has succeeded. The pastor is on his side, and thus the church will be on his side. Too bad for Esther this time around.