A Cry For Justice

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

“Give us Barabbas!” — When the Wicked are Chosen and the Righteous Rejected

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

***

Matthew 27:21-23 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”  And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Barabbas was a notorious criminal. Jesus was perfectly righteous. Yet, in spite of the protests of the governor and the absence of charges, the Jews cried our for His death. “Let Him be crucified!” They chose a wicked man over a righteous Lamb.

We all know how deceptive abusers can be. Sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths – how they can charm! And we know that this is one of the reasons pastors and whole churches are taken in by these wicked ones. Naivete. Ignorance of abuse and its tactics. All of us were there at one time ourselves.

But there is another reason some pastors and elders and church members side with the wicked against his victim. Here it is — it is because they are wicked themselves. Just like that crowd of Jews calling for the notorious criminal Barrabas to be released and the perfect Lamb of God to be crucified, so it is today. The victim is crucified, the abuser is released. Why? Because evil loves darkness and hates the light.

What is this telling us then about the real state of so many churches and professing Christians today?

They rise and needs will have, my dear Lord made away; a murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay…

I say, what does this tell us about the hearts of so many church members today? That they will slay the innocent and choose the wicked? Naivete only goes so far as an excuse. No, I say that this is very often no less than the Barabbas dynamic. Wicked people choosing a wicked man and crucifying the innocent.

“Paranoia! The thing is preposterous! Surely the affairs of the church are not as bad as that!” But I say that indeed they are. I maintain that in far more cases than most people want to imagine, evil shepherds stand in pulpits, their disciples sit in the pews, and the few righteous ones suffer for lack of instruction in God’s Word. And the evidence of it all is that over and over and over again pastors and church members are joining the Jews in their cry – “Barabbas! Give us Barrabas!”It happened in Jeremiah’s day. It happened in Paul’s day. And it is happening in our day.

Jeremiah 2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

In such times evil is called good and good is called evil and the righteous suffer. Martin Luther knew it. Listen to this quote that our team member Wendell found:

The greatest and foremost of all troubles is this—if only I could write it in flames on your heart—that the clergy, above all, bring the Good News in its fullness. The earth is full to overflowing with all manner of filth and teaching; the people are loaded down with so many laws, so many opinions of people, of so many superstitions, that one cannot regard them as teaching at all so that the Word of Truth is hardly audible, and in many places is not the Word of Truth at all. And that which can be born is being brought forth by human wisdom and not by God’s Word. As the Word, so the birth and as the birth, so the people. We concern ourselves with wondering how it is that so much discord exists among the people of Christ: disagreement, envy, pride, disobedience, excess, gluttony, and their love grows cold, their faith weakens and their hope is exhausted. You can give up wondering now! It is not a mystery, but it is our fault—the fault of the prelates and clerics. Moreover, one can wonder how it is that they are so blind, so forgetful of their duty, that these people, who are supposed to help with the birth of the Word of Truth, are occupied with other things—with the cares of the present age—and entirely neglect the other. For the majority of clergy teach fables and popular stories. And we wonder why we get such a people from this kind of preaching!

Where is there today a clergyman who would not be of the opinion that it would be a greater sin if he failed to flagellate himself, or didn’t pray enough, or made a mistake in the Mass, rather than that he preached too much of the Word of Truth or didn’t explain it correctly! These men are mistaken, no matter how good and otherwise pious they may be. They think that it is impossible to be mistaken in the preaching of the Word of Truth and in that they cannot sin, while it is indeed in that alone that priests sin as priests. In the other things he errs as a human; but in the suppressing or falsifying of the Word he sins against his calling and as a clergyman, and that is more terrible than to sin as a mere mortal. How painful that is! The hard and insensitive priests these days go around in their haughtiness. Not only are they silent, but also the stuff that they blow out of their cheeks onto the people they call teaching and preaching. They don’t feel themselves accountable and are not moved by fear as to whether or not what they preach is the Word of Truth, ordained by God, or not. They are in the service of themselves only: priests and clerics. Indeed, for everything else one doesn’t need the clergy.

One can be so chaste, so kind, so learned, have such success and reputation in retiring from the Church; he may have built houses, expanded his influence, done wonders, raised the dead and driven out demons, but in this alone he is pastor and priest: that he has been a messenger of God among the heavenly hosts, that is, a messenger of God’s who preached it to the people and with that served his holy calling.

These are the kind who choose Barabbas over Christ.

25 Comments

  1. healingInHim

    Pastors, elders, church members being naïve and also wicked … yes, sadly this is why many victims flee from such gatherings. So often we have been reminded that ‘we’ are the ones forsaking the assembling together, thus how can we expect the Lord to hear our prayers? It’s interesting to note that when the abuser stops attending the ‘c’hurch, well, it’s because they are maybe depressed or ____. (fill in the blank with whatever reasoning; excuses)

  2. Brenda R

    So much truth! I hear more and more stories of why people choose not to attend organized churches. Clearly, the word “church” is not what is going on within its walls. God is love. We are to love one another, not oppress one another with laws. We can expect the Lord to hear our prayers, because that is who He is. He listens when we call out to Him no matter who is around. I do believe in being a part of a church, but you must choose wisely. As years go on you may have to change as the attenders change and wickedness creeps in. Those who chose Barabbas over Jesus and those who choose the abuser over the victim are either very naïve or very hard hearted. Being naïve is only an excuse for a short period of time. The naïve need to take it upon themselves to become educated so they do not repeat the offense.

  3. Andrew Reavis

    This is so true. Exactly what we experienced in our former church.
    Thank you for writing such needed articles.

  4. KayJay

    Great quote from Luther! Today in our teen Sunday School class, we were looking at the difference between wood, hay and straw-type works, which will be burned up and blown away, and the gold, silver and precious stones that really matter to God. Pastors and teachers these days, like in Luther’s, are going to have a lot to answer for. I’m printing this out and saving it!

  5. Gary W

    Those with power, whether legitimate or illegitimate, will, in the interest of protecting their elevated positions, side with the powerful against the oppressed. The motivation is more to hold down the oppressed than to elevate others who possess power. Others with power may in fact be threats, but they are not so large a threat as are the oppressed who would be lifted up, even daring, perhaps, to “speak truth to power.”

    Barabbas, though described as a notorious prisoner (Mt 27:16), a robber (Jn 18:40), and a murder (Lk 23:18), may have been an appealing figure to those who wielded religious power. The Luke passage informs us that Barabbas had led an insurrection. Mk 15:7 is to the same effect. Assuming the failed insurrection was directed at Roman power, the religious Jews likely were very supportive of Barabbas and his cause. An overthrow of Roman power would have been seen as enhancing their influence and power. And yet, the Gospels make it clear that the religious leaders were not so much supporting Barabbas as they were rejecting the Lamb of God who came (with whips) to set mankind free.

    Likewise with American slavery. Slave owners’ natural sympathies were doubtless with fellow slave owners, but I am given to suppose that the thing that would unite them before all else was the slightest hint of uprising—even the slightest hint of any plea for the lifting of oppression—by another man’s slaves.

    And so it is, alas, across those broad swaths of English speaking “Christianity” where men, whether as church members or as husbands, occupy the self-proclaimed positions of status, authority and power. Corrupt “Christian” men may side with other men because they see other men as more useful tools in the pursuit of un-Godly agendas. But mostly, corrupt “Christian” men will side with other corrupt “Christian” men simply because they cannot abide the thought of women threatening their privileged positions. It does not matter that the perpetrators may be wholly blind to—even unconscious of—the considerations that motivate them.

    Women married to such “Christian” men share their experience of oppression with all slaves of all times and places. They also share their experience of oppression with Jesus.

    • Assuming the failed insurrection was directed at Roman power, the religious Jews likely were very supportive of Barabbas and his cause. An overthrow of Roman power would have been seen as enhancing their influence and power.

      Very insightful, Gary. And if the freed Barabbas had been successful in mounting another insurrection against the Romans, the Chief Priests and Jewish leaders would have probably privately been smirking with glee. It would have boosted their power by destabilizing the Roman authorities, while at the same time it looked like they weren’t getting their hands dirty and the Romans couldn’t accuse them of the insurrection. Typical political manipulation — allowing and enabling other people to do the dirty work while remaining squeaky clean yourself.

  6. Gary W

    Just as an aside, it is interesting to note that, even as he rails against priestly error and omission, Luther is careful to protect priestly privilege. As to the preaching of “the Word of Truth,” Luther proclaims that, “for everything else one doesn’t need the clergy.”

    According to Luther, apparently, those of us who would dare to correct priestly/clergy preaching and teaching are out of line.

    • can you tell us the citations for those things that Luther said, Gary? Just curious.

      • Gary W

        I was mining from the last three sentences of Wendell’s Luther quote from today’s article:

        “They don’t feel themselves accountable and are not moved by fear as to whether or not what they preach is the Word of Truth, ordained by God, or not. They are in the service of themselves only: priests and clerics. Indeed, for everything else one doesn’t need the clergy.”

      • Gary W

        I mean next to last paragraph of the Luther quote.

    • Sorry Gary for my dumb or perhaps impertinent question. I had not read this thread fully yesterday, and so wasn’t seeing your comment in context, I was only looking at it in isolation, at the back of the blog.

      I find it hard to grasp what Luther means, sometimes. His language can be ambiguous. But I am guessing that when he said, as to the preaching of “the Word of Truth,” that, “for everything else one doesn’t need the clergy,” what Luther was meaning has to be seen in the context of his time where most people were barely literate and needed the Word preached and read to them, otherwise they had no way of being exposed to it.

      So (?) if Luther ‘privileged’ the clergy, it was only to hold them to higher account for their responsibility to preach the Word properly. . . . which so many clergy were so abysmally failing to do. Just my thoughts.

      I am not an expert on Luther and what he said. But I do know enough of that history to know that the battles he was fighting and the rank enemies in Romanism he had were so numerous and threatening, not to mention the other currents pulling and surging and threatening to rip the new-born and vulnerable evangelicalism to shreds, such as the extremism of the mystical (charismaniac) anabaptists, and the humanists trying to reach a syncretistic compromise between Rome and evangelicalism, and the disagreements between evangelicals over the presence of Christ in the communion elements, to mention only a few of the currents of Luther’s time. . . . so I tend to give Luther a lot of forgiveness for when his language may have been ambiguous. When you’re in the thick of a battle, you don’t always have the time to polish your speeches.

      Sorry to have run on there. I can ramble!

      • Gary W

        Perhaps Luther is simply speaking to the practical realities of his times, without so much intending to defend priestly privilege. The practical reality of the current age, however, is that the divide between clergy and laity is alive and well—and vigorously defended by many (most?) of those who claim the perquisites of ecclesiastical office. The Reformation’s recognition of the priesthood of all believers tends to be recognized in word only. The manner in which today’s “church” is conducted could hardly be better designed to prevent the laity from contributing according to their gifts, talents, training and experience.

        How does this relate to the discussion at hand? Clerical power is largely wrapped up in male privilege. Whether they do so consciously or unconsciously, corrupt clerics will be concerned primarily to protect and extend their power, which, it bears repeating, is very much wrapped up in attitudes of male privilege. All that would rise up in opposition to clerical/male privilege must be put down. When wives would petition for protection from their male abusers, these Clerics will by nature side with male privilege, that is, with abusive husbands. They will by nature stand in opposition to those women who would dare to cry out for justice. Power will stand with power in the continuing suppression of the oppressed.

        The dissolution of the clergy-laity divide would, I submit, go a long way toward eradicating ecclesiastical enablement of the abuse of wives by their husbands. Now, if I could only suggest how this might be accomplished.

      • I agree Gary.

  7. Anonymous

    This post was very much the topic of our sermon on Sunday. Not from the angle of abusers choosing wicked over the righteous, just in case I got your hope up! But the fact that a known murderer could have been favored and granted the “get out of jail” card over an innocent person (Jesus). It reminded me yet again that whenever we suffer injustice, we identify with Christ and in some ways, I almost don’t want to get any justice here and now, because I want to be reminded of how close Christ is to our hearts.

  8. Janey

    Jeff,

    I love your blog and refer people here all the time, but I do think you are being too harsh. I remember when I was naive; I knew nothing of the dynamics of abuse. Then I started listening to stories and meeting regularly with people who were victims and my eyes were opened. Those of us who never experienced abuse in childhood really are clueless.

    Was I evil before that? No, just well-meaning and uninformed. That’s a long way from being a Barabbas fan.

    Now I see my job as helping other Christians know the truth. A lot of abuse victims won’t speak up, so I speak up for them and tell their stories. That’s what A Cry for Justice does so well too. Keep up the good work.

    ~Janey

    • Jeff Crippen

      Janey – Nope, not being too harsh. Let me explain why. You are correct that lots of people are naive about abuse. SOME eventually listen and are teachable, mostly because they finally have abuse touch close to their own lives, either to themselves or to a loved one. Nevertheless, even if a person is out there in the crowd shouting with others “Give us Barabbas!” out of naivete, their selection of the righteous over the wicked is indeed evil. You said that you were well-meaning before, but just uninformed. But it is all of these “well-meaning and uninformed” Christians and pastors who are bringing so much grief and pain upon abuse victims. In the end, it really does not matter WHY a person sides with the abuser or WHY they give all the typical damaging and hurtful advice to a victim, the fact is that they do it and the end result is the same. What would we call a doctor who decided that he was capable of doing heart surgery, even though he was not trained as a surgeon? So he plunges right ahead and operates and the patient dies? The law would call him what…negligent, grossly negligent, guilty of manslaughter, etc? What he did was evil. And many, many “well-meaning and uninformed” Christians giving dangerous and damaging counsel to abuse victims are in fact bringing evil upon these victims and thus they need to repent of their sin such as arrogance, self-righteousness, and so on.

      • healingInHim

        Thank you Pastor Jeff. Very well stated.

      • Janey

        I think you paint it too black and white…too disparate extremes. At what point does a pastor or lay leader become good enough for you? That’s a serious question.

        • Have you ever given wrong advice? Were you evil when you did it?

        • Have you ever been conned by an abuser for more than an hour after meeting him/her? Were you evil to have been duped?

      • UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

        ***

        Janey, Jeff may reply to your questions to him, so this is not meant as me replying on his behalf. But here are my thoughts.

        The difficulty with where I think you are coming from is that it seems like it is the minimizing wrongdoing (evildoing) of the Barabbas crowd. Didn’t Christ say that if we are not for Him, we are against Him? Doesn’t that principle have an application with regard to abuse victims? As Judith Lewis Herman says (see our post here, and also here), if you just stand by, you are choosing for the evil.

        If you are arguing that there are bystanders who are simply naive and need to be educated and we shouldn’t be too harsh on them, what do you make of what Jesus said: that you either are or you aren’t?

        Furthermore, these naive types are often the ones who are telling abuse victims to go back to the abuser, submit, it’s God’s will, God hates divorce, etc. But. .. what does the Bible say about a person who steps forward and teaches others but mishandles the word of God and teaches the traditions of men as if they were the word of God? Does God say that they are just naive? I don’t think so. Rather, what comes to mind is what he said about the blind leading the blind and how they all fall into a ditch. But in the case of abuse, their teaching kicks the victim of abuse into the ditch.That is what makes it more than naive, but actually evil.

        Also, I hope you get a chance to read my other reply to you in this thread, and that you may let me know your response to it if you wish.

        At the same time, I want to commend you for having the courage to state your thoughts. 🙂 And I hope that if we continue to see things somewhat differently, we can all continue to do so courteously. 🙂 Bless you.

      • Of course, we all realise that many bystanders need to be educated. A LOT. And calling bystanders harsh names is unlikely to make them want to listen to us. At the same time, we can’t in all consience allow them to stay in their comfort zones while so many victims are still being oppressed and dealt massive injustice. Not to mention the incredible damage being done to children. So I think it is appropriate to wave the big red flag and call evil evil: call bystander passivity and naivety evil because it enables abusers.

        “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. There are no bystanders.”
        — David Morris, Chief of the Australian Army, speaking at a London summit on male violence against women. (link)

    • I remember when I was naive; I knew nothing of the dynamics of abuse. Then I started listening to stories and meeting regularly with people who were victims and my eyes were opened. Those of us who never experienced abuse in childhood really are clueless.

      Janey, to me that suggests you were naive but then recognised how naive you had been and you set about becoming educated.

      In the ‘give us Barrabbas’ event, were there people in that crowd that day who were who were not actually calling out for Barrabbas, just standing there in the midst of the crowd kind of dumbfounded and not knowing what to say or do? We can’t say for sure, as the Bible doesn’t go into that level of detail. But common sense would tell us that was so.
      Maybe some of the people yelled ‘Barrrabas’ a little bit just because of the power of group-think and the intensity of the crowd’s emotions sweeping them along, and maybe they were just assuming that the priests (or the crowd) must be right, but all that was fairly unconscious on their part. Their participation, even by silence, even by their failure to resist and question the group-think, meant that they were complicit with the evil. But they were not nearly so accountable for the evil as the priests who had set the rabble going.

      As I’ve said before in various places, The Westminster Larger Catechism [Internet Archive link] deals with this distinction well. Below are the two questions from the Larger Catechism (Qns 150 &151) which are most pertinent.

      Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
      A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others

      Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
      A. Sins receive their aggravations —

      1. From the persons offending if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.

      2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.

      3. From the nature and quality of the offense: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.

      4. From circumstances of time and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages; if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

      • Not Too Late

        Love your response, Barb. It is much more satisfactory than the stock-standard “If Jesus were to be crucified today, all of us would be like that crowd, screaming for His death.”

        Going back to Janey’s comment, I think I can identify with her, and I feel terrible now for not being more understanding of what it was like for victims of abuse. But as a survivor, I love Pastor Crippen’s response. I think I was always trained to see things from the other person’s point of view. Sure, self-absorbed, unempathetic people need to do that more, but what victims don’t tend to do is to recognize that it doesn’t matter WHY the abuse happened or WHY it was re-inforced through the ignorance of the Christian crowd, abuse is evil and the effects damaging. Period.

        “In the ‘give us Barrabbas’ event, were there people in that crowd that day who were who were not actually calling out for Barrabbas, just standing there in the midst of the crowd kind of dumbfounded and not knowing what to say or do? We can’t say for sure, as the Bible doesn’t go into that level of detail”

        In the past, I had the impression that the entire crowd was hostile and calling out for Jesus’ death. But recently, I wondered about Jesus’ mother and other women. Surely they were aggrieved. In fact, the Bible records that women lamented as He carried His cross. However, it is clear that these women had no power to change the behavior of the crowd or influence the higher powers. They were vulnerable and lacking in social status. So at the end of the day, nobody was able to stand up for Jesus, but not every individual would have been accountable to the same degree. And of course, the Father knew how Jesus would be treated on this earth, and knew that through His death, He would be the Redeemer of us all.

  9. Jacklyn

    WoW .. This hit me like a TON OF BRICKS… Pondering…”The Victim is crucified, the abuser is released.”

  10. Finding Answers

    (Re-reading from some time ago…writing through the fog…it contains part of the answer to something I’m trying to heal / resolve on another post.)

    I suspect the mob mentality was a part of the picture. People sometimes do / don’t do things in a crowd they might normally consider out of character for themselves. They are still held culpable.

    Those who get caught up in vandalism / theft / violence with the rest of the mob still face consequences. The penalty / fine may be less severe then the “ringleaders”, but there is a consequence. No matter how naive the individual, the damage has been done.

    If one looks at the crucified victim, the victim remains dead whether coming from evil intent or naivete.

    Perhaps a look at the original, unbiased intent and application of secular law is a reasonable facsimile of what Barb quoted from the Westminster Larger Catechism. In both cases, however, application depends on the veracity and integrity of those in power / authority.

    Not Too Late wrote: “In the past, I had the impression that the entire crowd was hostile and calling out for Jesus’ death. But recently, I wondered about Jesus’ mother and other women. Surely they were aggrieved. In fact, the Bible records that women lamented as He carried His cross. However, it is clear that these women had no power to change the behavior of the crowd or influence the higher powers. They were vulnerable and lacking in social status. So at the end of the day, nobody was able to stand up for Jesus, but not every individual would have been accountable to the same degree. And of course, the Father knew how Jesus would be treated on this earth, and knew that through His death, He would be the Redeemer of us all.”

    To extend this thought to the secular court of law, remember the victim’s supporters and how their voices have been gagged. (My apologies if my wording triggers anyone.)

    The vulnerable, the weak, those lacking in power / status lack the “voice” necessary to be heard over the throng.

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