A Cry For Justice

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

Why “Finding Normal” is Dangerous to Abuse Victims

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.

***

I recently watched the movie Finding Normal. I wish I could find out more about the people who produced it, particularly in regard to their religious beliefs. The movie puts itself off as Christian and allegedly tells the story of a woman’s “redemption” from the evils of materialistic society. The storyline is pretty shallow. A little ways into the movie I told my wife, “oh rats! This is going to turn out to be a Christian movie!” Ha! I mean, I just don’t like Christian movies.

Why is this movie and the mentality it promotes dangerous to abuse victims? It is dangerous because, under the guise of a wonderful, loving, kind Christian culture and church and pastor, it presents a world that will most certainly enable abusers and oppress victims. Let me explain in more detail:

1. While the movie purports to present Christians in daily life and in their church, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is NEVER mentioned. (Hmmm…isn’t there something in the Bible about “no other name by which we must be saved”?)

2. The leading character, a benevolent looking, big Afro-American doctor  is also the pastor of the small (almost entirely white) local church. He is loved by everyone. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a single abnormal (ie wicked) person in the whole town of Normal. No racism. Just good ol’ country folk.

3. This beloved pastor has wisdom for every situation, and a “faith” that excels that of everyone else. He preaches a sermon that everyone just loves (only takes 5 minutes or less) and then delivers his punch line: “we do our part and God does His.” Once again no mention at all of Christ. This is pure and simply salvation by works.

4. Normal then, is heaven on earth. The young woman falls for it all, dumps her greedy city doctor fiancé and embraces the country boy Christian who woo’d her to…Christ…no…to God.  Christ, you remember, is never mentioned.

Now, once more, why is this movie dangerous to abuse victims.  I shall tell you. It is dangerous because these elements I have just listed are what create a church environment where false Christianity and false Christians thrive. It would have been better had the movie named Jesus Christ, but even if it had, it would still not be set right. In Normal, you see, everyone is normal. There are no abnormal people — that is to say — there are no wicked people. And if an occasional one blows into town, well, the good folks and their good pastor will win them over to God.

Finding Normal, in other words, minimizes sin. It maximizes man’s supposed innate goodness. And as so many of you, our readers, have found out in very hard ways, such environments do not listen to victims and they “love” abusers.

If you have seen this movie, let me know what you think here in your comments. Let me throw in one more reality-check question for those of you who have seen it:— How much would you bet that, in real life, the country boy she married in the end turned out to be an abuser IN REAL LIFE?  Because, you see, this is one of the key problems victims of evil face in this world. People don’t want to live in real life.

19 Comments

  1. Suzanne

    Battling evil is hard work and most people don’t want to do it. So, instead of facing the reality of abuse in their midst they look away, make excuses for the evil-doer, blame and neglect the victims, and forgive those who haven’t repented. It’s bad enough when this happens in the secular world, but when it goes on in our churches it’s heart breaking. We need Christian warriors in the pulpit and the pews who will stand against evil and evil doers just as the Word instructs us.

  2. Valerie

    I have always found it perplexing that people are so into “reality tv”. Is there not enough drama, tension, manipulation in real life that they feel a need to add some via a remote?

    Yes, Jeff, I agree that this Walton mentality, while ideal, is just that. Not reality. I personally know people who press to change the subject when anything negative comes up. Not negativity for negativity’s sake but real life issues of reality. They just can’t deal with it and want to wish it all away. If only we don’t think about it then it doesn’t exist. While I think we should focus more on Christ’s victory than the devil’s scheming, we must be aware that scheming and deception exists. How else will we guard and protect ourselves with the Truth of scripture if we don’t think there’s anything to be protected from?

    I am frequently amazed at how I can spend time in “Christian” circles yet in many cases God and his Word rarely, if ever, come up in conversation other than in platitudes.

    • When I was still serving as a missionary in South America, I counseled victims of domestic abuse and mental illness, among others. One well intentioned fellow missionary listened to me share that several of my counseling clients had come to know Christ and were now members of our church. He replied “Won’t you end up with a church full of people with hangups and all sorts of issues? Are you sure that’s what you want?”

      I was flabbergasted and at a loss for words at the moment…Any real church is full of real people with real problems, and they face those problems head on, offering the services needed for recovery and extending grace to the unlovable, the downcast and the weak. Jesus came to minister to the sick.

      Perhaps my missionary friend wanted a church such as the one portrayed in “Finding Normal”.

      • Anonymous

        To your friend who asks, “Won’t you end up with a church full of people with hangups and all sorts of issues? Are you sure that’s what you want?”

        I would reply: “Oh, should I rather have a church full of people who either condone evil because they ignore it, or perpetrate evil because the church doesn’t call them out, and thereby create issues for victims, who are then re-victimized by being labelled “people with hangups”, even though they didn’t cause the hangups?”

        Then again, he probably wouldn’t comprehend that.

      • Valerie

        Anonymous said: I would reply: “Oh, should I rather have a church full of people who either condone evil because they ignore it, or perpetrate evil because the church doesn’t call them out, and thereby create issues for victims, who are then re-victimized by being labelled “people with hangups”, even though they didn’t cause the hangups?”

        Here, here!!!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Dee Anne- Yep. A real church. We are being sanctified by the Lord, but we aren’t glorified yet. And until then, we all have problems. A big part of following Christ is coming to admit it to ourselves and to others. Thank you.

      • Brenda R

        Dee Anne,
        Would you mind if I use your story at my Women’s ministry meeting? I don’t have to use your name, but I feel it might be a good opening statement for a presentation that I will be giving soon.

  3. Lighting a Candle

    Here here!!!

  4. Lighting a Candle

    The idea that we can only speak about what is positive really goes against Jesus’ example and ministry- esp Matthew 23. He did not shy from exposing religious abuse and control but allowed his words to pierce right through the evil system.

    But we are taught to “preserve the unity of the church” and to not speak evil…even when gross evil, neglect, sin, are occurring. Yes, there is a cost. Once revealed…it must be addressed…and that takes courage. The evil ones will counter-attack and many people deep down, want to be liked and popular. Siding with the victim, puts you in an unpopular position and you are challenging the status quo…a place of comfort for many.

    Thank you to those brave encouragers who are willing to suffer reproach for Jesus’ name…giving a cup of cold water to victims…not crossing over to the other side of the street…but being good Samaritans- who nurse our wounds and help us heal.

    Following Christ’s example will never make us popular…ESPECIALLY in church.

    • Valerie

      Yes yes yes, LAC!!!! What people fail to understand is that the abuse is what is causing the disunity…not exposing it! Yes, who has that courage? I admit that I don’t even dare to write much on places like FB sites dealing with abuse for fear of retaliation (it getting back to him) before the divorce is over. 😦

      • I think you are very wise to be ultra cautious with what you write on sites like Facebook, Valerie. Some of the DV practitioners I know call Facebook “Stalkbook”. They have seen so often how abusers use it (or get their allies to use it) to track down the victim. In my area, when a woman is living in a high security refuge, one of the conditions she must agree to abide by is to not use FB while she is there. The location of the refuge houses has been too often discovered by perpetrators, so the refuge managers have had to impose this rule on refuge residents, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of other victims and refuge staff.

  5. wbgl0

    I saw part of the movie and enjoyed it. I thought it was cute. But of course, I’m not a victim or survivor, though I’m working on making my church safe.

  6. Brenda R

    I’m with you Ps Jeff. I really don’t much like Christian movies. Jesus is rarely mentioned in any of them, unless it is a movie specifically about Jesus. The feel good, unrealisitic movies aren’t worth watching. I’d rather watch an old western or Janette Oke’s Love’s Saga movies.

  7. Just looked this up on Internet Movie Database. The main actress is Kirk Cameron’s sister. Kirk Cameron has spoken at Vision Forum’s (now defunct) film festival and taught at Doug Phillips’ film academy (though unfortunately all the links to the documentation are dead now). So I’m not surprised.

    Phillips and company made this huge deal out of calling out all the sins of modern American culture, but then somehow managed to leave reality (which is filled with sin) out of their films. Because after all, if they included reality, it wouldn’t be “pure” and “holy” Christian art anymore.

    • Anonymous100

      The reality Phillips leaves out is own sin of sexually assaulting young women

  8. Anonymous

    “People don’t want to live in real life.”

    That’s it! They would rather live in un-reality. Un-truth. Falsehood. While quoting John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    • Your comment really struck a chord with me.

      My husband wanted to live a picture perfect life where personal problems never have to be faced because they cannot possibly exist. Needless to say, I was stonewalled frequently and felt worthless because I was viewed as the problem.

      Praise our God! By His Holy Spirit and the example of Christ’s obedience I was led to truth and freedom.

  9. If an individual has cancerous tumors growing in their organs, do we say “Oh, don’t tell me about that! Don’t intervene or treat it! That would be yucky! We don’t want to think about tumors growing in and around vital organs and robbing them of their nutrients and pressing on them so they can’t do their rightful jobs. We don’t want to think about pain or suffering or corruption!”

    But so many people do that in the church with the cancer of abuse!

  10. soldiergirl

    I was thinking about that the same type analogy Barbara.. Yes, Its like a infected wound that the church keeps putting a band aid over, trying to cover up the growing infection. How long can they stay in a state of denial? The outward appearance has become the emphasis, while the inward state of many believers is being neglected to their own demise.
    Are we at the whitewashed sepulcher stage?
    And what is the motive? Could it be that too much is at stake with many of the leaders to expose this?
    Do they fear the multitudes of abusers in their churches that are at ease abusing their spouses? Or could it be that they themselves are guilty of of the enjoyment of holding their own significant other in a position of control and subjugation? I agonize over this perplexity.

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