We All Begin in Naivete About Evil – But We Must Not Stay There
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.
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)
Recently Mary made the following excellent comment in response to our blog post A Theory: Many Abuser Allies are Not Duped, but are Abusers Themselves as Well. Listen to what Mary said:
I grew up very sheltered. I mean genuinely sheltered and protected in a godly Bible-believing home. And if someone had just walked up to me and started describing an abusive situation in a “nice Christian home”, I wouldn’t have been able to understand. I wouldn’t have accused the person of lying, but I wouldn’t have been able to grasp that level of evil and deceit hiding under the facade of Christianity. I would have looked for some other explanation, some way that there was some sort of misunderstanding or something.
I know now that that innocence and naivete on my part would have made me ripe for being manipulated into aiding the abuser, but it would have been genuine ignorance on my part, not evil. I didn’t even begin the process of really understanding that abuse as it really is even existed until I read A Cry for Justice a couple of years ago when I was 19, and things have been slowly filtering through my brain since then. I guess I’m just trying to say that though there are a lot of people whose lack of understanding hides the fact that they are themselves abusive, there are others like me who have just been so sheltered that they truly can’t comprehend such things in their most raw form.
So keep on going after the bad guys — especially the subtle ones — but please remember to give people like me a chance. (I’m not saying you haven’t been; I’m just sort of throwing the idea out there.)
Mary is the kind of genuine Christian who we want to help become wise in regard to evil. Like her, those of us who grew up in a Christian home, sheltered from evil, are (or were) largely clueless when it comes to the existence, the nature, and the tactics of wickedness especially when it parades as Christian and creeps into the church. We thought that our local church was a place where nice people come together and love one another and sing praises to the Lord and everyone is happy. Sometimes the pastor would mysteriously disappear and a new pastor would come, or at other times some people who used to be very active suddenly left to be seen no more. But those things were for the deacon board and such. We didn’t worry about it really.
But in fact, as we now know, evil lurked. It always does. Satan always comes into Eden. The moment Jesus entered this world Satan began his attacks to destroy him. The devil and his agents inevitably creep unnoticed into any place where the gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and lived. (However; he will never be able to come into the new heavens and new earth which God is preparing for those who come to faith in Christ.)
This is where we as the church have no excuse for this naivete. What I mean is that people like Mary, people who are genuine sheep, are in the local church so that the shepherds can protect them, teach them, and help them become wise. And that wisdom necessarily must include becoming wise about evil. The Bible is absolutely filled with such instruction. Teaching and preaching that fails to so equip the flock is like basic training that doesn’t teach soldiers how to shoot a rifle, or worse — that doesn’t teach them about the enemy!
Oh, sure, we had classes on the doctrine of Satan and demons. We heard about his origins and the various names Scripture gives him. But we weren’t taught about the actual hands-on tactics that he uses (the same kind that abusers use against us). We weren’t taught about what his agents look like. Sure, we were told that Satan can come as an angel of light and that his servants disguise themselves as sons of righteousness, but what we weren’t told is that this means that Mr. Smith, good old “godly” Mr. Smith that everyone believes is the pillar of the church, could very well be an emissary of darkness. We weren’t told that all of this deception Scripture identifies for us means that these things are happening in OUR church, and that the fellow up there reading the Scriptures each week from the podium is actually a most wicked abuser of his wife. We weren’t told that there are women in OUR church who are suffering horribly at the hands of an evil husband who parades under a cloak of saintliness each week.
Such things you see, are too unpleasant, too unbelievable. And there is the crux of the thing. Unbelievable. Unbelief. Lack of faith in the Word of God that reveals these things to us. Study theology and Bible doctrine all we want, memorize catechisms and be well-versed in our confessions of faith, we will remain absolutely ignorant of the enemy and his tactics and his agents in disguise among us. There is a bridge that must be crossed from the realm of systematic theology to the world of practical wisdom about what all that theology necessarily entails in real life and in our churches. Most Christians haven’t crossed that bridge. Many don’t want to.
All of this reveals, in my opinion, a widespread scarcity of truly wise shepherds to lead God’s people. I used to think that such wisdom could be obtained by going to seminary. I no longer believe that. In my seminary years I never came across one single, godly, wise professor who was battle-scarred and understood the wiles of the enemy. On top of that, there was a climate in the seminary that squelched real honest discussion of and instruction about such things. Happy talk. That’s what we want.