A Cry For Justice

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

My pastor’s such a nice guy. But he refuses to do anything about my situation.

My pastor continues to utter nonsense from his mouth. This is what he said recently:

“When you run away from difficult a marriage you are running away from that which will make you like Christ. To please God you need to be like Christ.”

He mentioned “difficult marriage” along with other things like difficult people, difficult jobs, etc., but the blanket statement could be deadly for a victim of domestic abuse.

I don’t think he realizes what he is doing.  It’s so sad.  He’s such a nice guy.  But he’s not a nice guy in that he refuses to do anything about my situation.

There are marriages where people give up prematurely and they should stick it out and make an effort.  But when you have people in the congregation who are emotionally spent because of abuse, they will personalize it.

He’s so caught up into marriage as covenant (doesn’t see that abuse has broken the covenant) and the stupid marriage-as-idol thing.  It’s so annoying.  Sometimes I really want to scream.  He’s not going to get it until his daughter or someone close to him marries and abuser.

That is what someone emailed to us recently. And all the ACFJ team responded. It was the kind of conversation which I think many of our readers would like to join in on, so we are sharing it with you all. Or y’all, if you prefer!

Each paragraph below was contributed by a different member of the ACFJ team. I love how we all inject our little suggestions and we end up with a grab bag of empathy, humor, good ideas, respect for each others different situations, and hope.

When Christ walked stealthily away from the Pharisees who were trying to harm him, was He not being like Christ?

We are free to run away from all kinds of abuse and persecution.  We are not free to deny Christ. In fact, if the Lord provides a way out of a trial, and that way is one that does not involve sin or denial of Christ but is perfectly good for us to choose, then we have the freedom to take it.  I have the freedom to change jobs if my boss is a jerk and the possibility of leaving that job exists.  In addition, a wicked spouse or wicked employer is not the Holy Spirit – the one who really fashions us into the image of Christ.  Does the Lord use trials in our lives for our good and our sanctification?  Of course.  But nowhere are we told that we are required to stay in those situations if we don’t have to.  Let’s see — cancer.  There’s a trial I may well have no way to escape. But is seeking medical cure a lack of faith then?

Paul told slaves that if they could obtain emancipation, they were free to do so!

What this pastor is teaching is the company line that is man-made tradition passed down to us disguised as Bible. After a time, everyone thinks it is Scripture because they have heard it so often.

Nice guys are not our friends.  Not if you are oppressed by the wicked.

God will never put an institution above the people who make up the parts of that institution. He is too loving and merciful a God for that.

“If you are surrounded by clowns you must be in the circus.” A move out of a legalistic church never did anyone any harm.

Well, you could break all decorum and raise your hand and ask him pointed questions….. Nah…just kidding!

And our correspondent said, “I cannot leave this church yet.  My kids are firmly planted here and they need stability, especially since stability is lacking at home.  I will just sit in the pew, roll my eyes, and rant to my friends when he spouts off nonsense.”

66 Comments

  1. Why remain in a church that teaches your sons they are superior to women, and your daughters to submit to brutality? “My yoke is easy an my burden is light…” It might be that the first courageous step you take toward freedom it’s to leave that church and the bondage that calls itself holiness. Please listen to your indignation; its your Self, begging you for relief.

  2. Brenda R

    My Pastor is a nice guy, too, but he gives terrible marital advice. In his mind, verbal, spiritual and eotional advice are merely mocking and can be endured. If it sounds a lot like John Piper, it does to me too. I have started to wonder about some of his theology as well. I think I have listened closer to what is said and questioning what is said in the Sunday morning sermons.

    Y’all in the back had some great answers and I feel this woman’s pain. I have to agree, when Christ walked away from the Pharisees who would hard Him, He was indeed acting just like Christ.

    To the correspondent: I know you want to do what is best for your kids, so please play this back in your mind. “I will just sit in the pew, roll my eyes, and rant to my friends when he spouts off nonsense.” Would this be like Christ? Will your kids feel your intolerance of the speaker? Do you want them believing what is being preached in the long term? Stability is definately what children need. Is this the stability you want for them?

    You have a lot going on right now. It may be too soon for you to make major changes. Take it one day at a time. Above all, Don’t take your eyes off Jesus.

  3. Ps. Michael Lehman

    My assessment (as a pastor) of that pastor’s words: a kernel of truth spun into a horrible lie.

    Of the two sentences in the quote from the pastor, I could imagine myself counselling someone along the lines of the first sentence for a range of situations. But an abusive marriage would NOT be one of them. My mind goes to Matt 23:4, where Jesus condemns the religious leaders of his day for merely imposing religious burdens on people, in a way which is itself abusive. No one will grow like Christ from submitting to a law devoid of grace.

    The second sentence only worsens the error, taking the victim right back to salvation by works.

    Indeed – a kernel of truth spun into a horrible lie.

    • Brenda R

      Ps. Lehman,
      Thank you for your input. It helps so much to hear more Pastors pointing out the lies and getting at the truth. There is such a big difference in a difficult marriage and an abusive one. Adding a Pastor that increases to that abuse. His advice was we’ve just got to get him saived….3 years was added to my situation, I still had a husband who rejected Christ, yet sat in the seats every Sunday, was nice to everyone, made sure I had no time to get to know anyone or had anyone I could turn to, we got in the car and it started all over again. Finally I quietly rebelled from what I had been told and continued to hear in sermons and broke free.

      The kernel of truth didn’t have to be very big to sow into a huge err.

      • Ps Michael Lehman

        Yes absolutely, Brenda. And thank you for sharing that bit of your story. I’m so glad to hear you’ve been able to ‘quietly rebel’ and ‘break free’. (Those are powerful phrases, by the way, and a fine witness to the Holy Spirit’s work in you.) A lot’s been said elsewhere on ACFJ – in one form or another – about distinguishing true taking up of one’s cross from mere submission to human systems of control. It’s sad when pastors themselves fail to recognise that, especially in cases of abuse. But take heart – the veil is slowly lifting 🙂

      • joepote01

        “…we’ve just got to get him saved…”

        Another truth twisted into a lie. Yes, what all people need is to come to saving faith in Christ. However, recogizing this truth is not the answer to all of life’s problems. We must also establish and maintain healthy boundaries.

        When our country is threatened with war is our only response to pray for the salvation of the enemy troops and leaders? Or should we also arm ourselves for defense?

        When murderers and rapists roam our streets should we arrest and prosecute them, or should we just pray for their salvation?

        That’s such a preposterous response to violence and/or abuse!

        Not to mention…WE don’t GET anyone saved! Only the Holy Spirit can do that…and He will only do that to the extent that He is invited to.

      • Brenda R

        Joe,
        I am completely in agreement with everything you said. I think my chin probably dropped to the floor when I got his response. I never asked him for advice again. One of the other tidbits I got from this pastor was. “This life is so short in comparison to eternity, marriage is only for a little while.” Mine was for a lot longer than it should have been.

      • You said it all, Joe!

      • joepote01

        “This life is so short in comparison to eternity, marriage is only for a little while.”

        A true statement! Which begs the question…then why would anyone recognizing this truth act as though the eternal state of our souls depend on staying in a bad marriage no matter what?

        Marriage is impermanent…never intended to be eternal. So stop giving eternal significance to a temporary relationship.

        I’m glad you’re out of that situation, Brenda…glad you quietly rebelled and broke free!

      • Brenda R

        I like that answer for that statement, Joe. I hope you don’t mind that I will be using it in the future. I am glad that you found your freedom, as well.

      • joepote01

        Brenda – I don’t mind in the least. Glad you found it useful! 🙂

        Blessings to you!

    • How nice to hear from you again, Ps Lehman!

  4. christine

    find another church. your kids will be fine. find a happy, healthy way to have them say “goodbye” to the church. you can work with a therapist that specializes in abuse to help. contact local dv shelters if you need help finding one. the problem with staying in that church is that your children will be shaped by the pastor’s thoughts and preaching and will think that if they end up in abusive relationships/marriages that it is fine and acceptable.

    • Not Too Late

      Most churches are that way, though. To uproot the kids, yet again, will lead to other undesirable outcomes, like the father convincing them that they are not settled with me, the law agreeing with him, Christian friends believing him that I am the problem, to begin with. If I lived in a vacuum, none of this would bother me. In theory, I don’t need the approval of friends who don’t understand, but in reality, living in a small town means that you can’t get away from the influence of large groups of people.

      I agree that staying in a church like that means the children will be shaped by the pastor’s thoughts and preaching. I just don’t see how they can get away from that sort of thinking anywhere, either in church or in society.

  5. Barnabasintraining

    I saw a movie once with an army tank barreling around a battle zone in the middle of a war, and it had a smiley face on it. Kinda makes you wonder why I thought of that just now….

  6. The Bluest Eyes in Texas

    I have to say something here, and hold on to your hats, I may be long-winded, y’all!

    My husband and I are members of an LCMS church, but I don’t think my pastor got the LCMS memo on dealing with abusive marriages. When I decided to move out of the marital home, I did not consult with pastor. I did spend over 5 years consulting with a variety of individuals who displayed various levels of understanding and wisdom, including my father, a Christian counselor, the local DV shelter, an attorney, and godly Christian women including my sister and a couple of trusted friends from church and Bible study. I finally concluded that for my safety and sanity, and also for the good of my adult children, I needed to get out. (It helped that I believe I clearly heard the spirit of God tell me that I did not have to stay in the marriage any longer.)

    I did not consult with my pastor because of a previous experience when we sought his help and counsel regarding our son – pastor was spectacularly insensitive to our son’s plight (he’d attempted suicide twice in the course of 5 months) and took my husband’s version of the incidents as gospel truth. The pastor did not ask me anything about my take on the situation and agreed with my husband that we should throw out son out of our home. I lost all respect for his ability to counsel that day. In addition, I have two friends who were in abusive marriages and sought this man’s counsel and support; in both cases he urged them to stay in the marriages and did not confront their husbands.

    When my husband returned home and found that I wasn’t there – I took all my personal items and left him a letter, but did not tell him where I had gone – he of course called the pastor. Over the next few days, he visited with the pastor several times, confessing his “sins”, taking all the blame for driving me away, and receiving a pronouncement of absolution. I spoke with the pastor briefly by phone during that time and when he offered his support, I told him that I would meet with him to share my perspective BUT that my husband was not to be invited. Also, I asked that pastor’s wife sit in on our meeting; I wanted a witness but not one of the male elders of the congregation.

    Pastor was just too busy that week to meet with me, but promised that we would get together soon.

    There are more layers to my story (as all of you have experienced yourselves), but the upshot is that 8 months after I moved out, I have yet to meet with the pastor. He called and left a message on my voicemail once, saying that he had a list of counselors available for my husband, but as far as I know he has never approached my husband one-on-one to inquire as to whether he has pursued counseling (he hasn’t, of course.) I did not take it upon myself to call pastor back to obtain that list, either – if my husband is going to see a counselor, he needs to be responsible for locating one, scheduling, etc.

    I suppose I am partly at fault in this as I do attend church on Sunday mornings with my husband. To a casual observer it would appear that all is well in my marriage. I guess, in my mind, I would hope that a pastor would serve as more than a “casual observer” of my and my husband’s life.

    I do sit in church on Sunday mornings and wonder why, exactly, I stay in that congregation. Our kids no longer attend with us. Part of it is knowing that if I don’t go to church there, my husband will likely stop attending as well. (I actually dreamed several weeks ago that I was joining the church where I’m involved in a women’s Bible study – was that a message of some sort?)

    • Wow, Susan, your story is interesting. And unusual — in that I have not heard of a woman who has left her husband but continues to attend church with him (and I presume sits next to him in the church?)

      I do not mean to imply you are crazy, or derogate you in any way; not at all. I just happen not to have heard of a situation like that, but I can understand your reasons for attending church with your husband: you want him to continue to go to church so he will HEAR the gospel not just with his ears but with his conscience and his heart, and you are probably quite right in anticipating that if you don’t attend with him, he will stop going to church. It’s like a victim who keeps staying with her abuser in the hope that her example will help him get saved. Or a victim who keeps praying for her abuser. . . . not that there is anything wrong with such persistent prayer, either, but some of us have stopped praying for our now-very-much-ex partners. So please don’t hear me as criticizing you; quite the reverse — I’m glad to hear of a new twist to an old story, as that enlarges my mind and my understanding.

      I don’t think you are at fault for your pastor’s perception and his manner of dealing with your case. I think he is at fault (negligent) for not listening to the words you have explicitly told him, and for taking the lazy road by not meeting with you privately to hear your story.

      When I separated from my first husband I continued to attend the church we’d been in together, with him attending too. We sat in different places, not next to each other. And guess what? The elders didn’t like that! They rang me and suggested I attend another church because “the congregation would wonder why we were both in church but not sitting together.” Talk about appearance management! Needless to say, I eventually had a big falling out with those elders. Sadly, because I had friends in the congregation; it was only the elders I had problems with. But that’s my little story, not yours, and each of us have slightly different stories.

      • joepote01

        A few months after divorce, during morning prayer, the Holy Spirit so clearly told me it was time to stop praying for her. “That’s no longer your burden to carry or pray for Joe…no longer your relationship or your responsibility. Leave her concerns to Me, and you focus on your children’s needs.”

      • Ellie

        The first time I left X we still attended church together and sat together. That was 20+ years ago and I went back to him within weeks. The second time we began attending a different church together after a few months of separation. We sat together. I was also hoping that he would hear the gospel. I didn’t understand that if he were truly changed, he would be going to church with or without me. At the same time that we began attending that church, I found Jeff C’s sermons on sermon audio. I learned more about abuse and what I was really dealing with. And I found the church I am in now. There are probably lots of us who have attended church with our abusers post separation. Once I realized that only God can change a sinner’s heart, that X couldn’t and wouldn’t change FOR ME or because I went to church with him, I gained freedom.

    • Brenda R

      Susan,
      For a time before the divorce, X and I attended the same church, but different time frames. We have 2 services on Sunday mornings. I understand your desire for your husband to continue going to church and applaud the lengths that you have taken. Just as you are not responsible for your husband finding a counselor and making an appointment, you are not responsible for him going or not going to church. Perhaps in the sense that it pleases him to sit with you although only for a short time, but it doesn’t mean his relationship with God is improving by sitting in the pew next to you or ever will.

      What do you think? Do you feel God’s leading you to a different church? Friends in your current church will still be your friends if they are true friends even if you don’t attend there.

      Your pastor should receive the memo from LCMS. Perhaps receiving their statement of how abuse should be handled would give him a jolt and he would see the error in his ways. I’m sure there must be a way to make that happen. Your sitting with you husband during service could be giving not only the congregation the feeling of lace curtains in the house, but your pastor as well and in your husbands mind false hope. You know he needs counsel and I’m assuming that you have no intentions of going back under the present circumstances.

      Your pastor saying that he is absolved from his sins didn’t make it right with God or you. I’m sure it made your husband feel ok though. It won’t make him changed or your relationship better. My X says to one person that it was all his fault, but then says to me that I am to blame. I made him do all of those things and continues to do. So it depends on which personality appears at the time. Fortunately, I found a way to get rid of the last email address that he had access. He can still text or leave voice mail, but I don’t respond. The next step will be to change my phone number. I’ve not wanted to do that in case there truly is something important that I should know.

      You are trying to do what pleases God. I don’t believe there is a person here who doesn’t want that. What pleases God most is that we put on his Yoke and his Yoke is easy. He wants us to Love HIM with all our heart, mind and soul. Where can you do that best?

    • Valerie

      Wow, Susan, I resonated with what you said about your concern that if you stop attending, your husband could likely stop attending also.

      When I wanted to join church years ago neither my husband nor I had made profession of faith at that point. He dragged his feet on wanting to join with me and I was deeply concerned about joining without him for fear he never would join. Since I was further in my walk spiritually (I was in denial about my husband’s actually lack of relationship whatsoever) I felt it was my responsibility to slow down enough for him to catch up. Long story short- we joined together and my husband actually became a deacon in our church. All the while he was abusing me emotionally on a daily basis.

      When I recognized it was abuse I went to the new pastor who gave my husband absolution even after he filed for divorce, allowing my husband to continue his role as a “leader of the church” (in name only). When things hit their breaking point he chose to not sit by me in church (as a way of snubbing me). Anyway, I’ve gone on too long here but my point is that throughout this I have felt God speak to my heart that I can not save my husband or feel responsible for his choices. As it stands, my husband continues his deaconship in my old church while actually attending another church!!!! I don’t know if my old church is aware of it…I presume not or he would not dare to continue having an affair on the church. I know he continues to go to this other church because he is writing offering checks to the other church (how’s that for irony in being a deacon?).

      In the end the best thing that could happen for my stbx husband is for me to step back enough (I believe I have) for the truth to be revealed and God’s law of sowing and reaping to be allowed to transpire. While I don’t believe God has called me to shout from the rooftops, He has also not called me to cover for him by not allowing the natural consequences of his bad choices.

  7. thepersistentwidow

    Just for clarification, there is not a LCMS domestic abuse memo that has been distributed to the chuches that I am aware of. There is a very impressive program that is in the works planned to be completed at the end of the year as a church wide educational program. The LCMS placement program at ACFJ was implemented to help victims of domestic abuse get situated into churches during the interim. Anyone interested in the program is given a choice of local LCMS churches in their area. After they select one, the pastor is directly contacted by the synod with the information needed to counsel abuse victims properly. I was given a peek at what is in the program and it is all very good.

    • Brenda R

      Thank you Widow for clarifying. I could have swore they already had some kind of written policy.

  8. His Banner Over Me Is Love

    I separated from my husband 5 months ago now, it was a complicated separation but we eventually agreed we would both still attend the church we had been going to for the last eight years. I was very active in the church and it was my husband who actually asked me if i minded him staying there – I didn’t because we live in a very rural area and the type of church we go to is the only one and a lot of people drive miles to get there.
    The Pastor knew all about our marriage, I’d told him all about the verbal, emotional,mental and spiritual abuse I’d experienced over the 21 years together. I knew he didn’t understand me. After the first time I went to see him, at the end of our time together the pastor read to me the scripture about submitting and respecting my husband. I said to him ‘Would you ask me to do that if I was covered in bruises?’ He said ‘No’. I said ‘Well, if you looked at my heart it’s covered in them.’
    To cut a long story short, the pastor totally took my husbands side. He supported my husband in every way possible – texted, went for lunch, prayed with him weekly, came round his house, bought him food etc. When I came back into the church he never even texted me to see if I was ok. Then he preached at me from the pulpit – that was the final straw. I went to see him about all this. He apologies for some of it, but not about the preaching – he said he had to speak ‘the way of Christ’. But when he referred to the abuse in my marriage he used speech marks with his fingers! EVEN though my husband had admitted to him he had treated me badly and had at last taken responsibility for the state our marriage was in. BUT my husband since our separation has had a personal revival so to the pastor everything is ok now. The pastor even said to me at the end of our conversation that he was finding it hard to spend time with my husband now because my husbands relationship with God was better than his! My pastor was finding it difficult because he felt his relationship with God was inferior to my husbands. I felt like he had kicked me in the stomach.
    In regard to his revival, I do believe he has come closer to God than he was before, and he has modified his behaviour to me somewhat – but again and again I still see the same old pattens of behaviour he has been using with me for all our married life.
    Anyway, the outcome was I left the church. The place that was my support system since moving to this country 8 years ago – I have no family here. I cried more for this end than I did for the end of my marriage ( I was all cried out by that stage).

    • thepersistentwidow

      His Banner Over Me is Love,

      Sadly, the lack of support that you received from your church is very common. Taking the abuser to lunch and preaching at you from the pulpit is exactly what happened to me. Seems like these pastors must be borrowing from the same playbook!

      I believe your leaving the church will eventually be found to be a blessing. I was so broken hearted over leaving my church, but in retrospect, it wasn’t as good as I thought. Maybe I felt like I was cast off from God at that point and frustrated that the church would not offer me any support or discipline the abuser. Maybe it was all of the crazy making that they put me through to keep me in the abusive marriage or how unspiritual and illogical their process was. Maybe I just expected more from the leadership than the unbiblical, indecisive, foolish actions they took. I finally realized that maybe God didn’t even want me there!

      I suggest you not cry any longer but begin a serious search to find a new church. God will reward your efforts to find a church where his Spirit dwells so keep seeking until you find that place. I am convinced that leaving the abusive church was a tremendous blessing as I am happier in this new church than I ever was in the previous one. The preaching, theology, fellowship, encouragement, and opportunities to serve are by far superior to the one I left.

      Should you be interested in this program, please contact me: https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2014/03/04/lutheran-church-missouri-synod-offers-real-help-to-victims-of-domestic-abuse/

      Sometimes it seems like things will never get better but they will. God is faithful and he will work this situation for your good. Praying that you will find a new church that will provide you with comfort and peace.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Then he preached at me from the pulpit – that was the final straw. I went to see him about all this. He apologies for some of it, but not about the preaching – he said he had to speak ‘the way of Christ’.

      That is not the way of Christ. It is an abuse of power. I have seen this done too and it is galling. I consider places where this is done to be profoundly dangerous. I am glad you are out of that place for that reason alone. Though that practice is rarely, if ever, alone….

    • BeginHealing

      I have gone through this exact same thing. Except that my former pastor does not fully believe my husbands sanctification and repentance. He see’s that he is a narcissist and is a little wary of him. But my husband still received support, lunches, and home visits because he wanted to reconcile the marriage that he had destroyed. I still question the truth of that though. I truly believe that his outward desire to reconcile was more for impression management and to manipulate others for sympathy because he did not really make true changes with regards to how he treated me.

      I have now come to believe that if God had wanted me in that church I would have felt safe and cared for there. I didn’t. You can not heal if you don’t feel safe there. I understand the pain of that loss but have faith that God will provide a new place for you.

  9. His Banner Over Me Is Love

    The Persistent Widow

    Thank you so much for your advice.
    I totally agree with you, I already see it as a blessing i am no longer under that unhealthy doctrine, I see my leaving as a positive thing now; and thankfully my closest friends from there have stood by me.
    Unfortunately finding an evangelical church here is difficult. The program you showed sounds brilliant, unfortunately I am not in the U.S, but a small European Catholic country. So think I may have a long drive before me when I finally do find a church, lol.

  10. Thank you for this. I struggled a lot with this. I left once, and returned after my “nice pastor” informed me I needed to (even after I told him that my husband had placed his hands around my neck and threatened to drop our then 1 year old down the stairs).

    I’m not yet divorced, but thinking through this all has me wanting to memorize a new affirmation to keep with me throughout the process “I did not break our marriage covenant when I filed for divorce. My husband broke it when he chose to abuse me.” Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Brenda R

      xmeriwetherx,
      I can’t comprehend anyone suggesting that you needed to return under those circumstances. You keep reminding yourself that you did not break the marriage covenant, he did. God bless you and your little one.

  11. Valerie

    “What this pastor is teaching is the company line that is man-made tradition passed down to us disguised as Bible. After a time, everyone thinks it is Scripture because they have heard it so often.”

    This really resonated with me. The thought that when something is repeated enough in “biblical” settings people begin to identify it as biblical truth. Similar to “God helps those who help themselves”…only with more severe consequences for those who believe the lie.

  12. No name please

    Although I have been married for a long time, I just recently realized that my H is an abuser. I’ve known something was wrong almost from the beginning but couldn’t put my finger on the problem. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred almost a year ago now and since then I have drastically changed my behavior toward H.

    Several months ago H started meeting with our pastor and after a couple of meetings told me pastor wanted to meet with both of us. I said that was fine but H would have to make arrangements. As always H dragged his feet and several more months went by before we went and the pastor allowed me to share what was bothering me. I started out by saying I felt I was in an emotionally abusive marriage and then gave several examples of H behavior, one of them being verbal abuse. Pastor then said that there were lots of couples in the church going through the same thing. He told H that he had to get an acct. partner and read the book “For Men Only” with him and suggested that I did the same thing with the women’s version but I told him I was not interested in reading any more books on marriage improvement. I went away from there feeling like the pastor really did not understand what I was trying to tell him.

    I returned several weeks later by myself to explain further but, before I could, pastor began giving advice and sharing how he and his wife resolved conflict. He told me that both H and I had buckets of stuff we needed to deal with, H bucket was just bigger. Also suggested I ask God to reveal what must change in me to allow H to see what he needs to change. There is a lot more to this and, as much as I hate to admit it I guess the pastor has NO CLUE. I hate the idea of leaving the church but can’t see myself continuing when the shepherd is not equipped to help those in his flock dealing with abuse.

    I see so much material meant to educate the pastor and church and am wondering if it is appropriate to print some of this and send it to the pastors and other leadership with the hope it may open their eyes. Almost two weeks ago H told me he would make arrangements for us to see pastor together. In the mean time I have learned that it is never a good idea for couples to go to counseling together. So once again I am left hanging (H current form of control).

    • Valerie

      NNP, a word of caution based on my experience. When my H first realized I was “on to him” he begrudgingly complied with some things to save face..basically so he could tell everyone he was “trying”. The word of caution comes in what you may need to prepare for. In my case my H used this time of waiting to systematically go to friends and people privately in the church to build his case against me. He did this not only by telling others outright lies about me (that some later told me about) but also by being really heavy on image protection. He spent his time carefully upgrading his public image…particularly in the church. He even went so far as to concoct a story whereby he rescued a woman on the street who was being verbally abused!!! (It was a fabricated story as I was aware of his whereabouts that did not line up with his story).

      Perhaps your husband is not working behind the scenes at all, but in vast majority of accounts I have heard about he may back off of you somewhat but its only as a rouse so he can regroup and strategize. Its a kind of shock and awe campaign to discredit you and take away your support when the abuser sees the truth may be uncovered. I was completely blindsided by the extent my husband was willing to go to do this. I underestimated his hatred of me.

      I had to know my truth against not only my husband, but also types like this pastor. He may seem somewhat indifferent but that may turn to aggression against you when you don’t comply and just do what you’re told. Your unwillingness to deny your truth may classify you as difficult, aggressive, rebellious or obstinate.

      It has been said many times here that if it takes two to make a relationship fail, then what failing did Jesus have when people turned against Him? In a difficult relationship two may perhaps contribute to the issue, but in a destructive relationship it only takes one. It sounds like you have a good handle on the truth. I will pray for you!

    • Do any of our readers have feedback about the For Men Only and For Women Only books?
      At present we dont’ have them on our Hall of Blind Guides, but I suspect they probably ought to be there.

    • NNP, you are right in thinking that it would be unsafe for you and your husband to jointly see the pastor. How do I know this? No only because couple counseling is generally not advisable in domestic abuse, but because your pastor has already betrayed that he has major misconceptions and misunderstanding of what is going on in your ‘marriage’:

      He told me that both H and I had buckets of stuff we needed to deal with, H bucket was just bigger.
      He also suggested I ask God to reveal what must change in me to allow H to see what he needs to change.

      So. Let me state the obvious ludicrousness of what you pastor said.
      He thinks your husband’s bucket of stuff (presumably character issues and sin patterns) is bigger than yours.
      But he thinks that the way for your husband to realise he needs to change, is that you need to change first and if you make the ‘right’ changes (the ones that God reveals to you) that will bring your husband to change. ******fairy dust sprinkles here ********

      So it all comes down to you: you are the one who has to show initiative in making changes, not your H, because (poor fellow) his bucket is so full that he is blind and his ability to think and to choose is deep underwater.

      Also, note how orthodoxly ‘spiritual’ this pastor is, and what a weasel he seems to be. If you continue to get counsel from him, I bet any money this pastor will actually start insinuating the things in you that you must change. But by initially having advised you to ask God to reveal what must change in you to allow H to see what he needs to change, he can always pass the buck to God if his insinuations turn out to be wildly wrong. And he can also pass the buck to you — for your failure to hear from God about what you need to change. No, I should say that more correctly: what you must change. The pastor use the word ‘must’.

      Give him a wide berth, is my suggestion. Tell him you don’t want to talk to him about this anymore unless he has read Jeff’s book.

      How I would like to grind these pastors down in the dust of their own musts. Mr Pastor: you must change; you must stop blaming victims and mutualising the sin of domestic abuse.

    • So, the pastor tells you to read a book, does he? Well maybe you might like to respond by telling him to read a book — A Cry For Justice by Ps Jeff Crippen.

      • No name please

        Thank you Valerie and Barbara for commenting. Ps Jeff’s book has been temporarily out of stock on amazon and CDB for several months, and I’m not sure where else to look for it. I would purchase two copies and send one to the pastor. I’m thinking about sending at least two articles, ‘Domestic Abuse Training for (busy) Pastors’ (very informative Barbara) and “The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages” by Amy Wildman White, to the pastor and asking him to read them and then tell me what he thinks. I would also like to send him an email explaining my disappointment in his failure to recognize the elephant in the room. The LCSW that I have been seeing for several years says that if I am really done there is no point in saying anything else to him other than that I am done. I feel a need, however, to be validated and want the pastor to recognize and name the abuse. Is this normal or am expecting too much? I don’t expect H to ever change or admit he is an abuser. I have an appt. this week with an attorney to see what my options are.

      • I feel a need, however, to be validated and want the pastor to recognize and name the abuse. Is this normal or am expecting too much?

        a) It is normal, in fact I’d say it almost 100% of survivor want the abuse to be validated by their original church (the one they were in when they disclosed the abuse).

        b) Is it expecting too much to want validation? No. Wanting validation is a big part of the desire for justice.
        See Jeff’s post The Healing Power of Validation, and my post Vengeance and Vindication — What is the Diffference? Vindication is a lot like validation.

        You are welcome to send the pastor any of our articles from this blog and any articles or from my other sites [ notunderbondage.com and notunderbondage.blogspot.com ]

        We can’t comment on whether you can reproduce the article by Amy Wildman White, as we didn’t write it.

      • If anyone is having trouble getting hold of Jeff Crippen’s book, I suggest you email Calvary Press calvarypress@gmail.com and ask them to please get it reprinted pronto, or, if it is not out of print, can they please re-supply it to Amazon asap as customers are urgently wanting it. You might also like to phone Calvary if you are in the USA. Their number is 1-855-222-5827.

        This supply of Jeff’s book seems to be a frequent/recurring problem and I have no idea why. It seems so strange: the book is in demand and selling well — when it’s available. And Calvary have it showing in the left-hand corner of the first row of books on their home page, so clearly they realise it is a good seller!

        Whether the problem of lack of supply is with Calvary or with Amazon (or with any other book retailer), I have no idea. But surely if enough of us put on enough pressure, the problem will be attended to and fixed (?)

        To me, it is bizarre that you can’t purchase it directly from Calvary Press, but they don’t seem to sell any of their titles direct to the public. Some publishers do sell direct to the public, but not Calvary it would appear.

  13. No name please

    I called Calvary Press and the person I spoke to said they were expecting more books soon but could not give me a date. I did a little more looking around and found the book under a new title (by same authors) ‘Exposing a Terrible Evil in the Church’ at Solid Ground Christian Books for $15.50. Guess I’ll be ordering a few copies from them.

    • Yes, on Solid Ground’s site it says Jeff’s book is being given a new title. Maybe Calvary have decided to change the title? This is the first I’ve heard about it. But as a trial I put it in the Shopping Cart at Solid Ground’s website and it does indeed look like Jeff’s book

      • Andrew Reavis

        I looked at the Solid Ground website also. In browsing some of the other books, I believe what that means is its a new title they have available, not a new title for the book.
        If that helps.

    • NNP, do let us know if they end up telling you that it’s on back order and so you’ll have to wait till they get more stock. Sometimes retailers show a book as available but they don’t have stock or ready supply of it.

  14. No name please

    I was able to order several copies of the book and the order confirmation didn’t mention anything about it being on back order. It also states that ‘A Cry For Justice’ has been given a new title, ‘Exposing A Terrible Evil in the Church.’ I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

    • twbtc

      I called Solid Ground to ask about the apparent new title for Pastor’s book. I was told the new title just means that Pastor’s book is a new title they have available, as another commenter suggested, and that the phrase “exposing a terrible evil in the church” is their way to describe the theme of the book. I explained that it is confusing and they agreed and said they would change it.

      Before hanging up I asked how many copies of the book they have and they said “none” and that they were trying to get more from the publisher. So, Pastor’s book has the same title, A Cry for Justice, but we still have the same dilemma – no copies available yet.

      No name please, looks like you got the last of their stash! 🙂

  15. No name please

    Although I ordered several copies of the book, I received one copy yesterday with no further explanation as to when other copies may be available. So glad I was able to receive the one copy. So far it is very interesting and educational.

  16. No name please

    I would like to add some additional thoughts here if that’s okay. I am very, very discouraged and am feeling very lonely, not really having anyone to talk to.

    Several posts back I described my pastor’s response to my feeble attempt at exposing my H abuse. I feel the need to finish my thoughts in a letter to the pastor and say what I was not allowed to say in that second meeting, realizing that it will not change his mind, but serve as documentation that there indeed has been abuse. Or maybe I need to send a letter to the church board and express my disappointment with the pastor’s lack of shepherding abilities My therapist told me that the chances are great that the pastor will serve as my H “safety net” and offer support once I move out. SAY WHAT? Those of you that are more knowledgeable than I will tell me this is usually the way things go. I have an apt. with an attorney tomorrow to learn what my options are, and I feel very nervous about this.

    I have been in a very bad mood lately and haven’t been happy in a long time. I am trying to be joyful in my salvation. I am not dealing with my elderly mom very well. She is very self-focused these days and has no idea what is going on with me. I am feeling disrespected by two of my adult children. All of this plus grieving the loss of a marriage just seems to be more than I can handle. Please pray for me!

    • I shall pray.

      Your therapist is right to warn you to expect that the pastor will probably end up supporting your H. I think the therapist was trying to prepare you for that eventuality so you are not knocked off your feet if and when it happens. The therapist is making a wise assessment here, because it seems like the evidence so far is that your pastor doesn’t get it about abuse, doesn’t really care enough about you to help you, and doesn’t believe that your husband is really an abuser. This, unfortunately, is quite common.

      Re your feeling alone, I know this is not much of a help, but I’m wondering whether you have subscribed to the blog? Once a person has subscribed, they get an email each time there is a new post. If you haven’t already subscribed I suggest you consider doing so; you may find that reading each post when it comes out and interacting with other commenters in the threads might take the edge off some of your loneliness. (look in the sidebar to the right for the place where it says “Subscribe” and enter your email address in the box)

    • standsfortruth

      Hang in there no name.
      I will be praying for you too.
      My adult children give me little respect also so i know what that feels like when you would like some support.
      But remember we are here for you too.
      A helpful suggestion for you is maybe to consider consulting with an aggressive attorney that is both proficient in “criminal, and family law,” as I think that could be advantageous when dealing with this kind.

  17. No name please

    I am subscribed to the blog. A couple of weeks ago I did send a copy of the article ‘The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages’ to the pastor and asked him, if he had time, to let me know what he thought of it. He responded by asking me to come to his office to discuss the article with him. The appt is tomorrow, I wish I knew what to expect, and I hope I am doing the right thing. The therapist I see used to work at the counseling center sponsored by the church so she knows the pastor and tells me he wants to keep the communication lines open. I feel like he is either going to tell me I am crazy to think there is any truth to the article or he’s going to tell me that the article makes sense and we may have a problem. There are so many things I would like to share with him but I guess I should stick to the points made in the article. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • Jeff Crippen

      No Name – I can just give you some general input. First, most pastors have been programmed to “save the marriage” at most any cost. The cost of course will be paid by the victim! If you happen to have a pastor who really gets it about abuse, that will be wonderful. But go in there realizing that you do not have to be bound by what he says. Christians do not have to, and in fact are commanded by Christ not to, allow others to put us under a yoke of bondage (Gal 5:1). Remember that nothing you have done causes the abuse and nothing you can do will “fix” the abuser. Also, let me add that there is one point I disagree with the article, Silent Killer. The author writes as if Christians can be abusers. I do not believe they can be. Oh sure, people who CLAIM to be Christians can be abusers, but Christ is in a real Christian and leads him/her and teaches us to love others. The closing portion of the article basically says that if we educate the church, abuse can be stopped. That is only partly true. What also has to be done is that abusers need to be put out of the church (see 1 Cor 5) and the church needs to stand with the victim. Yes, there are abusers in the visible church, but in Christ’s true flock the sheep are sheep, not wolves.

    • Ellie

      If possible, I suggest that you record the meeting with the voice recorder app on your phone. And letting him know that you’re recording it so that you can prayerfully consider his response might make him REALLY think about what he says. Any time people can and that they are sure they are legally clear to do so, I recommend recording such meetings.

    • You have asked the pastor to tell you what his thoughts are about the article.
      You might find it helpful to keep that in mind; and if the pastor starts telling you what his thoughts are about YOU — and his thoughts about you are critical, unfair, unjust, harsh, etc, you could remind him that you wanted the meeting to be about his thoughts on the article, not his thoughts on you.

      If you feel uncomfortable or hurt by anything he says, it’s okay to say, “I feel hurt by that.” Or, “I feel uncomfortable with that.” Or, “That doesn’t sit right with me.” Or “I don’t believe you understand.”

      And you are free to leave the meeting at any time, and can do so graciously if you find yourself getting so triggered that you don’t want to be in his presence any more. You can always say something like “I think I’d rather consider what’s been said here so far, and maybe we can schedule another meeting if both of us wish to.” Then leave. That way you are not committing yourself to telling him all your thoughts and responses, and are leaving the options open for you to ask for (or to refuse) another meeting, after you’ve processed the first one. 🙂

      So, give yourself room to be you, and remind yourself that you don’t have to be an insect on the microscope slide which he can poke and inspect at will.

  18. No name please

    Thank you so much for your responses, they have been very helpful. I’ll let you know how the meeting went.

  19. Annie

    Do pastors even know the difference between a difficult marriage and an abusive one? I think they’re different.

    • My sense is that most pastors don’t even consider there is a difference between a difficult marriage and an abusive one. Most of them have had little or no training in this, and those who have had some training may not have received what we would consider good training.

  20. No name please

    I met with my pastor to discuss the Silent Killer article, and he said he agreed with everything in the article. He focused in on the statement on the fourth page that the marriage must be brought to a crisis point. He said he is willing to do anything to help me with that. He said he could see the hurt as I sat there and balled. I said I really just wanted to be validated and really did not want to waste his or my time. He encouraged me to join a small group that will begin studying the book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. I said I am not interested in that, and he said he understood. I guess he’s thinking my pointing out my H abuse in a group setting would be helpful. I told him I have already been to see an attn. to learn of my options and was told I would get $1,600 from H while we were separated and that I cant live on that. Pastor believes H can change and is hopeful that we can have a happy marriage and I guess that’s what pastors are supposed to do. I told him I was not sure what to do next but I know that things have to change or I will take my life. He said I could come back to see him again to discuss this further and that he was willing to come with me to my next appt with my therapist if that would be of help to me. Looking back I should have given him the copy of A Cry for Justice that I had in my car. I am not thinking clearly these days and I think I either have dementia or am so stressed I can’t function properly.

    • Jeff Crippen

      It’s ok No name. These things are hard to sort out. I can tell you this with certainty – your pastor does not have a clue about abuse or how to handle it. In fact his goal is to “fix” the marriage. Whenever you talk to a pastor or anyone who has that as their goal, you know that the person is not going to help you but will only enable the abuser and add to your suffering. No matter how “nice” and “understanding” your pastor may seem, he is not qualified to help you as his statements prove. Frankly, I doubt that giving him a copy of ACFJ would help. In the end, as you stand firm in your convictions (which ARE correct, by the way), most of these kinds of pastors and their churches will turn on you and blame you. And one more thing – you aren’t crazy. In fact, you are thinking far more clearly that your pastor.

    • Thats sounds quite positive on the whole, NNP!

      Your pastor may well be willing to read Jeff C’s book. He seems to have fewer misconceptions about abuse than many pastors do. And that means he would be more likely to be open to further education.

      Well done. Don’t be hard on yourself for not thinking of everything at the time. You would have been keyed up to the hilt for that meeting and you can’t expect your brain to be perfect when you were so anxious about how the meeting might have gone a lot worse than it did.

      Breathe and let yourself process it. 🙂 (hugs)

    • It is very concerning that this pastor believes your husband can change and is hopeful that you can have a happy marriage.

      At ACFJ we do not say that it is impossible for abusers to change; we only say that very few do change, and that change takes a long time and a lot of work on the abuser’s part, and it really is a ‘keep doing it for the rest of your life’ project. What concerns me is that you pastor seems too optimistic about your husband’s likelihood of change. That is pretty typical of pastors because they have had so little training in this area.

      So I encourage you to keep trusting yourself and your gut feelings, and don’t be swayed by your pastor’s advice if you don’t think it’s right. You did well to refuse to go to that group which is studying “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggrichs. That book is listed as one of the BAD BOOKS in our Hall of Blind Guides.

      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/acfj-hall-of-blind-guides-resources-that-will-not-help-abuse-victims/books/

  21. No name please

    Its been more than three weeks since I talked with the pastor and there has been no further contact. You may remember that the pastor said I need to bring H to a crisis point as suggested in the Silent Killer article. I had an appt with my therapist today. She has also read the Silent Killer article so I told her i felt I have already presented some crisis situations ie no sex for almost a year, refusing to go anywhere in a car with him etc. I said the only other thing I knew to do was ask the church to put H out (not that I think that would happen). She said I shouldn’t go there, but that it was up to me to take the actions I need to take to change this situation I’m in. No one else can fix this for me. I know she is right but that is very scary to me. I know our marriage has absolutely no future and “I think” I want out. I keep asking myself if it’s that Im too lazy, too tired, too proud (that I’ve kept this whole situation a secret from everyone except my daughter who is still at home) or too stupid to take the next step. Sometimes I think God is punishing me for rushing into the marriage and not recognizing any warning signs there might have been. I have been to an attn and have been told H would have to give me a monthly $figure during our separation which is not much to live on. I have very good health insurance which would end once we are divorced. I have not worked in my profession for quite a few years so having to reenter the work force is also scary.

    (Eds details airbrushed for safety reasons)

    • I keep asking myself if it’s that Im too lazy, too tired, too proud or too stupid to take the next step.

      I would like to suggest that it’s very unlikely you are lazy or proud or stupid.
      But it IS likely that you are tired to the point of exhaustion from having tried to make it work for so long. Living in abuse for years wreaks havoc on the immune system. It gradually corrodes away at one’s confidence, one’s sense of agency and personal identity. It is like living in a cage in slavery, but the cage is invisible to outsiders and the labours of the slave are mostly unseen by others.

      And it is scary, making a big life change, and especially doing so without encouragement or support from one’s community (the ‘c’hurch).

      Rather than beating up on yourself for being afraid, unsure or ‘wrong’ in some way, I encourage you to praise yourself for having come this far and for being brave enough to face some very hard facts — that you have been abused and mistreated and deceived by a malignantly covert-aggressive man. . .

      It is not your fault. You are not to blame. You are not indefiniably ‘wrong’ or ‘pathological’ in some way.

      Even if you can only tread water rather than make baby strokes forward, I suggest you praise yourself for treading water! Bit by bit, you will probably find that you are able to take a little step here and another little move there, and progress forward incrementally at a pace you are able to manage. The less you beat up on yourself for feeling what you are feeling, the more energy you will have to work out what you want to do next, even if it’s only a tiny thing. ((hugs))

      • No name please

        Your encouraging words brought tears, Barbara. Thanks so much!

  22. Annie

    I, too, feel lazy or stupid sometimes. Then I focus on the feeling (oh, happy day!) when I realized I was a victim of abuse.

    (I’ve read the observations here about victim blaming but I spent years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong that made me a target of my husband so the word target is less friendly to me than victim which I don’t associate with blame although I know many people do.)

    It’s hard to explain how I felt that day when I realized my husband was an abuser. It was like the sun came out! And yet I do question myself as to why I’m not doing more. Then I think of Jeff or Barbara and I know they’d tell me to kind to myself because I’ve been through a lot.

    Some days it’s all I can do to make an appointment or clean the bathroom. I am exhausted–totally drained emotionally. My husband took all he could get and there’s not much left over. The way I look at it is I had only so much I could give each day–my husband took his share in the form of abusing me. And some days it was all I could to protect my wounded heart much less worry about whether things got done. (But thinking I was lazy still burdened me because I grew up with a mother who was nasty about anyone she thought was lazy.)

    Comments I’ve read at this site remind me that I’m in a process that will take awhile. So sometimes I say to myself “It’s a process. Be kind to yourself. You need to heal.” Then I think I did this or that today and give myself a mental hug.

    My husband went from working from home to a job away from home with tons of overtime. This means I’m no longer at the beck and call of his abuse. It’s confined to a few hours every week. So while I’m still with him I am trying to use this time to heal while recognizing it will take awhile.

    I was powerfully reminded this morning of how much I do need to process what has happened to me over the years (though I’d rather just skip it lol). This morning I was reminded of the accusation my husband has tossed at me for years–that I changed after my dad died (a few months after we married) and that was why we were having so many problems. It was me.

    For over 2 decades I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how I changed. What was I doing differently? Did his death affect me that much? I didn’t think so. I was sad for a few weeks since I missed him but never depressed. I would think I haven’t changed that I can see but then I’d feel bad that I couldn’t see it!

    Like a tons of bricks falling on me this morning I got it. Know what changed? I got pregnant with our first a few weeks after my dad’s funeral. That’s what changed. Where I thought pre-pregnancy it was all about us as a couple my husband was operating under the view it was all about him. Once I was pregnant I thought it was about us building a family. But what it was to him was a pregnant wife who often didn’t feel well and was getting ready for a baby. The focus was no longer on him. He never got over that.

    I grew up. He didn’t.

    Part of my continued growth now has been to recognized I’ve been damaged and need to heal. Unfortunately, I don’t expect to have much support which may mean it will be slower. But my family will be of no help and the one pastor I tried to reach out for help didn’t explore my complaints but rather suggested I contact the county’s free counseling services for marriage counseling.

    • Remedy

      “I grew up. He didn’t.” That sums up a lot.

    • Anotheranon

      Annie, I can relate to so much of this.
      We literally never had an argument for the first two years of marriage. Then our first child was born and husband wasn’t the center of the universe anymore. He resented me not doting on him. He expected me to “give up” my child to his mother to raise so I could be helping every second in the family business.
      I too have days, weeks, months, years, where I don’t seem to accomplish anything but the basics. My mind wanders and can’t settle on what needs to be done.
      Praise God for this site and everyone helping me come out of the fog! I’m planning for better things soon.

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