A Cry For Justice

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

Woe to you, celebrity pastors, big-name theologians and wanna be’s

A retelling of Luke 11:37-52.

While Jesus was speaking, a celebrity pastor asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The pastor was astonished to find out that Jesus did not have any letters after his name, had not been to seminary, and did not blog, or use twitter, or have a multi-channel website, or even a business card!

And the Lord said to him, “Now; you celebrity pastors acquire all those outward displays of theological eminence and influence, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness and a craven fear not to rock the boat of the boys club. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? You pick your spiritually-correct causes to lobby about: abortion, homosexuality, the ‘divorce epidemic’, feminism (which some of you deliberately misunderstand), the ‘erosion of family values’, male and female roles, and missions in other lands, and you talk incessantly about the gospel. You can’t make yourself spiritual with all that outward stuff. Give charity and mercy from your inmost selves, rather than from your presumptuous politico-spiritual-correctness, and behold, everything will be clean to you.

“But woe to you celebrity pastors and big-name theologians! For you cavil and debate about New versus Old Calvinism, the third use of the law in sanctification, Insider Movements, six-day versus long-age creation, intinction, and other such niceties, and you neglect justice and the love of God. You neglect the victims of abuse in your churches: victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, spiritual abuse. You wink at the leaders who cover up the abuses and resist reporting the crimes to the police. Some of you even pat those leaders on the back! And when a crime finally goes to the police you mincingly claim that you can’t say anything because ‘it’s in the hands of the secular courts’. You sit on your hands and assert that you’re unable to take a stand because you don’t know all the facts.

“And you ignore the cries of the abused who have suffered forms of horrendous abuse that society doesn’t (yet) define as criminal — forms of abuse like the pattern of incremental, subtle, coercive control that typifies domestic abuse.  You sidle out of publicly announcing that you’ve changed your mind and now believe that the Bible allows divorce for abuse. You fail to denounce men like Piper for teaching that all divorce is sin. And you sit there, not saying that divorce for abuse is biblical, while the victims of abuse are cast out of their churches for not reconciling with their abusers.

“These things — justice and mercy — you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

“Woe to you celebrity pastors! For you love the best seats in the conferences, and you banter jovially with your buddies on podcasts, while victims of spiritual abuse contemplate suicide, and devoutly Christian single mothers, victims of domestic abuse, are forced by court order to send their kids off to the abuser who will molest their spirits and perhaps their bodies also. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, imparting contamination and prejudice to people who come under your influence — and they don’t know it.”

One of the sycophants of a celebrity pastor answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you sycophant copycats also! For you load people with legalistic burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! You refuse to heed the whistle-blowers’ concerns and you admonish them with the weasel’s excuse that they should have gone to the celebrity pastor privately as per Matthew 18. Even though the celeb pastor wrote his books and his blog for all the world to read, you won’t let the whistle-blower critique his teaching publicly!

“Furthermore, you tell victims of domestic abuse that they aren’t allowed to disclose about their abuser’s wicked conduct, because that would be gossiping. You reluctantly engage in a Matthew 18 process if the victim presses you enough, but you quickly get hoodwinked by the abuser’s fake repentance, and you end up treating the poor victim as the unbeliever, while you allow the abuser to keep his ‘wonderful man of God’ status in the church.

“If you were subjected to the mean-spirited stiff-necked prejudice that you subject these victims to, you would crumple! You would loudly complain that the burden was too hard to bear. And would feel entitled to demand an immediate apology! You would slam those who unjustly treated you.

“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. You mouth phrases like semper reformanda (the church is always to be reformed) but you refuse to give the reformers a hearing. Your ‘canons of niceness’ condemn anyone who uses the type of strong language used by reformers five hundred years ago. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of William Tyndale, who was burnt at the stake. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you ivory tower seminarians! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

29 Comments

  1. This is brilliant. YES!!!

    • thanks JA, your praise means a lot to me.

    • Saved by Grace

      Julie Anne, I agree. Brilliant, insightful, spot on.

      AMEN and AMEN!!

  2. Ingrid

    This.is.excellent. Thank you.

  3. TLC

    I agree with Julie Anne: brilliant! I would add to the fourth paragraph:

    “And woe be unto you when divorced people enter your churches, seeking salvation and comfort and fellowship. You tell your married members not to associate with them because they are ‘temptations’ to your marriage. You allow them to worship, but you do not allow them to serve. Instead of finding acceptance and a place to grow, you wither them with your sneers of disdain until they leave, wondering what happened to the love you say you have.”

    • Gary W

      And it may be that the only reason they will allow you to worship is that they are hoping, even expecting, that you will give them at least 10% of your income.

    • Thanks TLC. Good addit!

  4. Seeing Clearly

    I can recall church leaders, who over the last 20 years, have sought to ‘put me in my place’ according to their perspective. You have correctly put words to their perspective. I am afraid to take this article to them. I know they are the ones who need the mirror held to their faces. But I am afraid.
    Secondly, this article is for us who have walked away from them, very confused and conflicted because their words resonate. They resonate with the words we have heard on a daily basis at home, just twisted or adjusted by 3 degrees, adding to the abuse. The Real Truth is tucked away safely in our souls. God put the Truth there while we were in the womb.
    For me, I have struggled to feel safe with God, to dare to rest with God in my soul. It is the very place that God created for me to hide, in safety. Church leaders never taught me this. Yes, to a certain extent. But they trumped it by exercising a false caring and teaching. They warned me about the falseness of giving myself credit to know that the answers were placed within me. They call that humanism and feminism in a negative context. They still have me convinced that I should not dare give them this article. Why is that?

    • Gary W

      Have you considered whether it may be the Spirit warning you against sharing this article with those who are in a position to do you harm? “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6 ESV).

      • Seeing Clearly

        Gary,
        Thank you for your thoughts. I had not thought about the possibility of the Holy Spirit talking with me about sharing this article with those who would reject the Truth. I need to live in expectancy of wisdom coming to me from above on this subject. It will be a new discipline to tune my heart, expecting the Holy Spirit to speak with me about this difficult matter.

    • cindy burrell

      Hello, Seeing Clearly.

      Do not be afraid. Be strong in the knowledge the Lord Himself reveals to you. Galatians 1, verses 11 and 12 says, “For i would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life.

      “Come to ME, all who are weary and heavy laden, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28

      He wants you to rest in Him. 🙂

      I wish you well.

      Cindy

    • thepersistentwidow

      Seeing Clearly, There are a lot of counterfeit churches and pastors out there. If you are not receiving comfort and peace from your church it is because they are not ministers of the gospel. They are not being driven by the Holy Spirit, but a different spirit and false gospel.

      Paul saw this clearly in his ministry:

      “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Cor. 11:12-15 ESV)

      Perhaps the Spirit is leading you to ponder these questions about your church leadership for very good reason.

  5. Gary W

    It will be the rare saint who can attain to the upper echelons of the religious elite without at the same time becoming a just target of the woes pronounced by Jesus in Luke 11:46-52. In the first place, the organizations and institutions they head tend to be founded on prestige, authority and power rather than on love. It may be that every man-made institution falls prey to the temptation to, as it were, build a city and a tower and a name for itself. Whether or not they set out to do so, and many do, those who gain access to the levers of power and control afforded by institutions fall under the influence of the evil that is inevitably associated with power.

    I suggest that it is always unwise to submit to the authority of a religious institution. If one chooses to participate in what goes by the name of church, it is best not to join. If one chooses to join, first make sure that the organization is built on a foundation of love, rather than on a foundation of authority and power–if one can be found. As a minimum, interview the leadership and read the covenant, constitution and by-laws, or other foundational documents to make sure you are unconditionally permitted to simply walk away, without institution approval, should you choose to do so.

  6. Anonymous

    So well written. Thank you ,Barb:-)

  7. Bent But Not Broken

    Jeremiah, as a prophet of God, also called a spade a spade & also spoke out against the religious “leaders” of his day. His words of warning are as much apropo today as back then:

    Jeremiah 23:1-3
    “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”

  8. Suzanne

    Excellent!

  9. Nicola Muir

    This is really excellent Barbara. I love reading this blog, it gives me strength to know that other Christians who ‘get it’ so entirely, are out there. Thank you and God bless you.

  10. A

    I’ve been on the end of domestic abuse…these have been some of my thoughts. I’m blessed to have a church that has not shunned me for my divorce. Thank you!

    • Hi A —— welcome to the blog! 🙂

      so nice to know that you are in a church which hasn’t shunned you for getting divorced. We talk so much on this blog about how churches get it wrong; it’s nice to hear about good church responses when they happen.

  11. Anonymous

    Yes, brilliant. It brought me comfort to read this and hear the compassion In the message. I haven’t wen able to hear compassion in Jesus’ message in a long time.

    I heard a quote today that said compassion was wisdom in action.

    I received an email today from the pastor of a local church. His words have given me hope I haven’t felt in a long time. I know it will be appreciated by those reading here so I’m going to share it even though it’s not the perfect thread for it.

    “As I said, abuse of any type is unacceptable. If you have been in an
    abusive relationship (and is seems you have) then you have a
    responsibility to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself and your
    children. I do not view you in a negative light because you’ve done the
    responsible thing to protect yourself. The New Testament lays the
    grounds for divorce as “marital unfaithfulness.” I propose that your
    spouse was “unfaithful” to his marriage vows by being abusive.”

    This email was a soothing balm to my soul. It gives me hope that maybe I’ll be able to walk into church again one day and not feel condemned.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Anon, that e-mail that you received is remarkable! Praying for the day that the response from the church will be what he wrote. How did you find this church?

      • Anonymous

        I am seeing a therapist and every week he encourages me to find a new church. This was a church he recommended.

      • Brenda R

        Anon,
        Now that is scary. Did he give reason to recommend the church or to rescind his recommendation?

  12. Brenda R

    Barb,
    This is fantastic. Well written and loaded with truth. May justice prevail.

    Seeing Clearly,
    Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

    I was afraid at first to take writings like this to my pastor (I was afraid of almost everything at the time), but as I did it more and more it seemed more like he was afraid to see me coming. It may not be sinking in as fast as I would like, but the Lord is still at work. I’m still a member of the church. They haven’t tried to throw me out. Not that it hasn’t happened in other churches, because it has. This is an honest rewrite of scripture and if leadership won’t take this stand on it, I will help them out just a little.

  13. Gary

    Well spoken. Truth is a caress to some and a slap to others, but the same truth to both.

  14. sandy

    Barbara, your words are such healing to my soul. thank you and God bless you.

  15. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  16. Seeing Clearly, I think Gary’s point is very good. You may be afraid of showing them this article because you intuitively sense that they will ‘trample you under their feet’ if you give it to them. We, and others who are ‘on our page’ about abuse like Dr George Simon, believe that our intuition is very worth listening to in these matters. Very often, more often than not, our gut feeling (intuition) about someone being ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ is very accurate.

    So if you end up choosing not to give this article to your church leaders, I encourage you not to label your choice as ‘cowardly’, but rather, to think of it as probably a wise decision, based on –

    — your experience of how they have behaved towards you in the past – e.g. labeling your ideas as humanist or feminist (I bet you are not a humanist, and are not what they conceive of as ‘feminist’)’
    — your knowledge of how you have been so discounted in the past, that you can’t or don’t wish to expose yourself to the possibility of your good intentions being discounted yet again;
    — your free choice to protect and guard your fragile, wounded spirit;
    — your wisdom in discernment of the likely outcomes of a situation.

    In other words, don’t question your fear and think your are defective for feeling afraid. Instead, pat yourself on the back for the being wisely afraid. You might like to read the book The Gift Of Fear. It explains this principle in depth, with lots of examples.

    The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence
    by Gavin de Becker [affiliate link]. That book helps you recognize early warning signs that someone may be dangerous. I found it very validating and it helped me learn to trust the wisdom of what I’m picking up in subtle / peripheral signals from someone who is dangerous.

    • Seeing Clearly

      Thank you, Barbara
      You have given me refreshing words for a Monday morning. I will read the book very soon.

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