A “Gauntlet Down” Challenge to James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Other Christian Ministries of Fame

One of the most common characteristics of an abuser is — you all know it well — he never admits when he is wrong. Never admits fault. Never takes blame. Unless of course it is done just for show, to dupe others into thinking he is “humble.”

Now, here is a question for all of us.  When is the last time you heard a notable Christian ministry, organization, or celeb personality, admit they have been wrong, that they have taught something falsely, and they are confessing it and doing so publicly?  When have you heard them say something like this: “I have always taught that God does not permit divorce for abuse. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I repent of that and I want everyone to know it.”

We know of some celebs who actually have softened on this point, but will they come out publicly and say so, admitting their errors and asking for forgiveness from those they harmed? Nope. Too costly.

On our Facebook page (link) we recently highlighted James Dobson’s teaching on how to deal with a violent spouse.  He teaches that: “divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.”

He advises that the abused wife use a weird version of his ‘tough love’ approach. We say weird because if Dobson’s advice were followed, the woman would be at risk of being killed or permanently maimed by her violent husband. No kidding. His advice shows how little he understands (a) the dynamics of abuse, and (b) the responses that abused wives usually receive from the church when they seek support. He greatly underestimates the naivety of the church when it comes to abusers. And he gives no longterm advice for what a woman is to do if her abusive husband chooses not to genuinely repent and reform.

Dobson’s “tough love” advice is false. It is unbiblical. It is disgusting and dangerous.

Focus on the Family has undergone changes. Dobson is no longer there.  Here is the scoop from Wikipedia-

He is no longer affiliated with Focus on the Family. Dobson founded Family Talk as a non-profit organization in 2010 and launched a new radio broadcast, “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson”, that began on May 3, 2010 on over 300 stations nationwide.[4][5] As part of his former role in the organization,[5] he produced Focus on the Family, a daily radio program which according to the organization was broadcast in more than a dozen languages and on over 7,000 stations worldwide, and reportedly heard daily by more than 220 million people in 164 countries.[6][7] Focus on the Family was also carried by about sixty U.S. television stations daily.[6] He founded the Family Research Council in 1981.[8]

Ok, so there are some indications that Focus on the Family does not hold to all that Dobson taught and continues to teach. FOF says that they are reaching out to victims of domestic violence. So here is the gauntlet we throw down to them:

To Focus on the Family: let’s hear you come out publicly, renouncing the damaging, enslaving errors that Dobson taught for so many years at Focus on the Family, specifically in regard to situations of domestic abuse. Let’s hear you confess these things. Confess that as an organization FOF participated in grievous errors which you now renounce. Be specific about what errors you are renouncing: what wrong things you taught or condoned in the past, and what you now teach instead.  Let’s hear you stand up and say for all to hear that you do not accept Dobson’s teachings on these matters. Because FOF really needs to be the leader in correcting these harmful things.

And to James Dobson: let’s hear you publicly renounce all your teaching that has loaded countless victims of abuse with burdens hard to bear, when you yourself wouldn’t touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

You see, it is one thing for Christian celebrities and ministries of notoriety to say things behind the scenes. But it is quite another for them to be willing to pay the price and take a public stand for all to hear. And there will be a price.  That is the main reason these public confessions are so rare. There is a price. Here is our estimation of the price:

  • Some big time donors will be all kinds of upset and take their checkbooks and go home.
  • There will be a barrage of angry shouts from old school loyalists.
  • Your website and blogs will be deluged with comments from abusers attempting to perpetuate the myths about domestic abuse.
  • These abusers will cleverly and subtly use language to
    1. conceal abuse, violence and oppression
    2. obfuscate perpetrators’ responsibility
    3. conceal victims’ resistance to abuse
    4. blame and pathologize victims.
  • If you want to keep your website and ministry safe for victims of abuse, you will have to learn how use language to do the opposite of what abusers do. Your written and spoken language will need to
    1. reveal abuse, violence and oppression
    2. clarify perpetrators’ responsibility
    3. elucidate victims’ responses and resistance
    4. contest the blaming and pathologizing of victims.
  • And you will find that it is is necessary to moderate all comments on your blogs. You’ll need to be able to detect and block comments from abusers, plus be careful with comments from naive people who unwittingly say things that will trigger the abused and prolong their bondage to oppressors.

But if you are prepared to pay the price and do all that hard work, something else will happen. Something good. The reputation, integrity, and trustworthiness of your ministry will increase exponentially in the eyes of God’s true people. The same applies to all other celebs and ministries in the Christian realm. (Note: When this post is published, we will be emailing both Focus on the Family and James Dobson at his current ministry, to invite them to read it.)

At present, myriads of abuse victims who have been dealt rank injustice at the hands of these kinds of ministries, are waiting. Waiting for a word of confession. Their wait is really quite similar to that other crowd of saints calling out for validation and justice:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10)


Acknowledgements and thanks to Dr Allan Wade for his ideas on the four operations of language which we have nested in the bullet points of this post. For further reading see Allan Wade’s article Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations of Language.

Related Post at Spiritual Sounding Board:  Three Pastors Challenge Dr. James Dobson’s Advice on Domestic Violence Which Could Put Victims in Harm’s Way

Related post at Homeschoolers Anonymous: James Dobson on Domestic Violence: Women “Deliberately Bait” their husbands


UPDATE  Sept 2021:  Barbara Roberts has 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.

89 thoughts on “A “Gauntlet Down” Challenge to James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Other Christian Ministries of Fame”

  1. ACFJ, thank you for boldness and courage, seeking justice and truth from sources that continue to oppress the downtrodden. I join with many others who are praying specifically for headway and repentance as this particular blog spreads to many, many readers.

  2. I would like to know how many of those abusive marriages where the husband repented of his abuse and went public on the air with Dr Dobson… are doing today?
    I deleted FOTF after doing research about James Dobson.

    After giving the book “Unholy Charade” to my pastor. He stated it takes him awhile to read books that are handed to him. As he is busy. And it might take sometime to let me know what he read.
    I pretty much got my answer from going back to Bible study this week. Publicly in front of the group that was there that night.
    His verbal stand is..
    One man one woman forever.
    No divorce.
    No further discussion to me about if he read the book. Red flag! For me.
    He then talked non stop to a distraught man who’s wife is threatening a divorce with keeping legal papers at her bedside.
    I went up to to this man and asked a few personal questions. Confusion, best described his reaction.
    After watching the pastor talk non stop to the hurting man. Was he really listening to this guys crys for help? From my vantage point. I would say, No!
    In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. Proverbs 13:16

  3. I would like to know how one can “minister” to a abuse victim when they really know nothing of the dynamics of abuse! This would be like having a plumber come over to fix an electrical problem! I personally think every minister should read and then re-read “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancroft. Then the minister could line up all of the ugly sin behaviors with scripture and show the abuser to his face what the Lord thinks of the tactics used. We all know the abuser sins over and over again without the smallest remorse. Yes, these Christian celebrities know their bible, but do not know and understand abuse and what it does to the victim. They need to educate themselves before they dish out deadly advice. Pride is a terrible thing!

  4. This is an FYI: I called FOF for counseling help because of my crazy making, verbally abusive husband. I spoke with a counselor and I told her that I knew I couldn’t get divorced. She told me that actually I could, and that verbal abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. The counselor recommended a book by Leslie Vernick- The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I read the book, and long story short, led me to Jeff’s book. I am thankful that now they are doing the right thing.

    1. Lynn – So if they have in fact changed, then it would be a great boost for them and for everyone for them to say so very publicly AND to publicly state that Dobson’s teaching is false and that they reject it. Very glad you found good help.

    2. Yes Lynn, we have heard some other accounts like yours in recent times. And we know that Focus on the Family have given Leslie Vernick a platform / microphone from time to time, for a while now ~ a couple of years?.

      But that makes our challenge to them even more pertinent: If they have now changed their minds on how to deal with domestic abuse, if they now fully believe that the victim of abuse is at liberty to divorce, and if they no longer hold to the stuff they condoned and disseminated when Dobson was leading them, they ought to publicly confess their former faults in no uncertain terms. Here are three reasons why they need to do this:

      1. To clear up the confusion in the minds of the Christian public.
      2. To make reparation to all the victims of abuse who suffered (and are still suffering) from that wonky teaching.
      3. Because bad teaching from the past is still out there and still linked to FOF because once a book is published, it can keep influencing people for years and years. ( That is why I go to great efforts to try to ensure that when anyone buys my book they will be made aware that I have changed my mind on one of the things I said in the book. see here)

      And while that particular phone counselor from FOF put you onto Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I am yet to be convinced that every FOF counselor would give that advice.

      Also, please note that while we do have The Emotionally Destructive Marriage on our Recommended Books list, we do so with this caveat:
      Recommended apart from the fact that this book does not state categorically that Scripture condones divorce for domestic abuse.

      And FOF have not as yet endorsed or recommended our books or blog at all. Not that we are seeking promotion for sales reasons, but we do think it’s significant that they ignore our books and our blog. And they do know about us: I’ve emailed them several times over the years to inform them about my work. They even expressed potential interest in publishing my book way back around 2006 when I was looking for a publisher — but when I sent them the synopsis and chapter outline, they were no longer interested.

  5. Amen and Amen. I reached out to a “counselor” at FOF years ago and was told to stay in my abusive marriage and work on myself – which enslaved me for years. I praise God that He did free me and my children from my abusive marriage, despite the wrong counsel I received. Thank you Jeff and Barbara for boldly speaking the truth.

  6. I am so happy that this point was made specifically to FOF, when things began to get really bad they were one of the sites I visited most often seeking Christian information. As things just kept getting worse, and I began to find other information, and I completely stopped visiting the FOF website. But in those early stages, when I was just starting to open my eyes to what was really happening, desperately looking for answers … it was one of the worst sites that I could of went to. Also many others that I’ve now come to see that did me so much more harm, led me in so many wrong directions.

    I do agree that before anyone professes to counsel those who are either the abuser or the target they need to truly learn what abuse really is. It isn’t just a matter of “oops, I advised someone in the wrong direction for their life” … it’s more like “oops, I advised someone with flesh eating disease, to go home, take an aspirin, patiently wait and pray … and oh yeah, ponder what you did that caused it.” Especially learning the subtle language of abusers and tactics of manipulation, needs to be the forefront … long before why they abuse or what possible tragedy did they have in their childhood. Abusers are so good at sounding like such a changed person, especially once they get help … I know the abuser in my life became especially good at using victim terminology to lead people to think he is the victim … it even worked on me for a while. It’s so subtle, but if you know what to listen for, pick up and focus on the little contradictions rather than disregard them, and especially take note of the exaggerated body language and expressions … they can be spotted.

    1. Surviving freedom, your screen name is perfect – you are a survivor and you are moving towards freedom. Replaying the tapes over and over in our minds will keep us in the pit. Something helpful to me is when those thoughts come, and the nightmares awaken me, I immediately get into prayer and offer them up to the Lord. And I ask Him to dwell in my heart and to keep my eyes focused on Him and not my circumstances. And He does! We must NOT allow the misplaced guilt that we feel rule over us. Precisely what Satan wants. We have been abused and we have been deceived and that is not the life God wants for us. The shortest verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” And I believe when He sees his children being abused He again weeps. But He promises to wipe away our tears and truly joy does come in the morning. Sometimes moving forward into the unknown is harder than going back. But we can’t go back and in my case I have no doubt if I did, I’s come back home in a box. Keep moving forward to an abuse-free environment. It will begin to empower you. And you will look back one day and realize you are now breathing fresh new air and you are worthy to be loved, not abused. I would like to encourage you to be good to yourself and God will honor the plans he has for you.

  7. The quote “divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.” shows a major false doctrine.

    A.) The marriage was already murdered…broken…by the abuser. “Sexual fidelity” is only ONE of the promises husband and wife each vowed.

    B.) Nowhere does the Bible command us to be ANYONE’S “Holy Spirit”! It is not our job to change anyone, not our counselees, parishioners, friends, children NOR husbands. Influence by our conduct? Yes. Counsel. Yes. But change them? We have neither the ability nor the authority under God to do so. Even our prayers cannot change a person nor save them, but are a conduit for God to work through. However the subject of our prayers (whether the neighbor down the street for their salvation, or our spouse for any reason) must also be willing to be changed by God. God gives each person agency. That means He will not override our will, or in this case the abusive husband’s will. It is God’s job to change the willing heart and to influence the heart to become willing. He has never given any of us the responsibility or ability to change another person, unless it’s their diaper.

    The Psalms quite clearly indicate His disapproval upon abusers… and there is no indication His wrath revealed in the scriptures toward those who abuse the downtrodden or His concern for the oppressed flippantly reverses in cases of marital abuse! “Oh, you are married to the abuser? Right. Well, suck it up, Daughter. Your husband’s wicked, unscriptural desire to abuse you and his perpetration of abuse on you supersedes My commands to love and honor you. Pity. He broke the covenant but I require YOU to be responsible for pretending the covenant is unbroken and it is your job to glue the pieces back together each time he reshatters the public illusion of a whole, healthy covenant. Sucks to be you.” Said no part of the Godhead ever.

    Thank you for throwing down the gauntlet. I will be totally surprised if it is picked up, though. Besides the points you made about the price it will cost Dobson and FotF, it would take major humility and willingness to suffer the financial loss of pulling off the shelves any books still for sale that teach his wonky theology on marriage.

    1. Yes to your second paragraph! One of my in laws gave me a link to FOTF marriage program. I told her it was dangerous to do marriage counsel with an abuser. She said that she was hoping that this could change her brother’s life, bring him to Christ. I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion that God can bring him to Christ at any point if my stbx is amenable to doing so. But so far, he considers God an a-hole and has no desire for Christ. There are so many messages out there that tell us we have to fix the relationship and the spouse, and it is so hard to not feel guilt.

      I never tried to do counseling because of the obvious abusiveness. But I DID try to confront him about individual episodes that happened, told him stuff hurt me, but he blame-shifts and doesn’t even apologize, and the few times he did, I got the distinct impression he didn’t do it for any other reason than to appease me.

      1. Minagelina, well done you for resisting the many messages that lay the burden on victims to fix the relationship and fix the abusive spouse. ((hugs))

        Your discernment is good. I encourage you keep listening to it!

  8. James Dobson probably holds the same views as he did in the past (divorce is not allowed for abuse) so there’s probably no point asking him to confess.

  9. He (James Dobson) teaches that: “divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.”

    No human has the power to change another, only God can do that.

    I’m sure there are many who took his advice because he was looked at as an authority on family issues. It would be great if some of these people would come forward and expose the effects of such teaching. That would be powerful.

    Thanks for the article. I’m sure it’s not easy to disagree with influential people.

    1. Actually, I find it a lot easier to disagree with influential people than to live with the fire in my bones.

      If I say, “I will not mention Him [God and His precepts]
      or speak any more in His name,”
      there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
      shut up in my bones,
      and I am weary with holding it in,
      and I cannot.
      (Jeremiah 20:9)

      1. Unfortunately, the reality is many professing Christians would rather not get involved and keep silent.

    2. Curious, I agree with you and your comment, it’s not easy to disagree with influential people. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. All the more reason that we MUST speak out against domestic violence. Even if it only makes a difference to one person, we must do the right thing. We are called to pull the cover off of evil. God will do the rest in his timing.

      1. The reason why pastors can get away with advising abused spouses to stay in an abusive marriage is because they can get away with it. They are not held accountable. What if a woman who took that advice, ended up getting hurt and almost killed. Doesn’t she have a case against the pastor who encouraged her to stay?

      2. Yes I think she does. And it would be great to see a case like that go to court. Not great for a woman to be almost killed, but great in the galvanizing effect it would have on the blinkered pastors.

      3. If that were to happen, I wonder if pastors would hold on to their belief that divorce is not allowed for abuse.

  10. “Our purpose should be to change the husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage” says Dobson. Mr. Dobson, the husband by his wicked and evil abuse without any desire to truly repent and change his wicked ways IS the killer of the marriage. He has broken the marriage covenant. Amazing to me is how very little so many know about what it’s like to be a victim at the hands of these evildoers, but even more amazing is how much of it comes from noted celebrities that have a forum able to make a difference, and don’t.

  11. Oh, my goodness…I had to read this twice. James Dobson has long been a source of irritation in my home. I was referred to his teachings 15 years ago and I have had major issues with his ‘advice.’ Had I stayed with my abuser, I would be DEAD. Plain and simple. EVERY PERSON in my community who knew of my abuse (which consisted of 3 people) kept telling me he would ‘change’ and ‘repent.’ And I did what I thought a Christian wife should do and that was to pray harder. And the harder I prayed, the more I was abused. I was the person who was at fault, of course, not my abuser. Ugh.

    Abusers are control freaks. They DO NOT want to change; instead, the more you try and help them the worse they get, as they see your kindness as weakness. Abusers want and seek control of the weak which is the exact opposite of being a Christian. Christians are humans who know they aren’t perfect and are willing to do most anything to help out another ‘Christian’. What I like to call the ‘God mask’ is in play here and it’s like a contagious disease in Christian communities. I know it is with my ex-husband. His ‘leadership’ in his new church family makes me ill. If these people only knew what he continues to do behind close doors, it would scare them to half to death.

    1. Dear sister, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog 🙂

      I changed your screen name to Anonymous, just as a precaution for your safety. I strongly urge you to read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      I am so glad you got away from your abuser and got safe!

  12. I just went to FOF’s USA website and found this under their ‘About’ tab:
    Our Founder – James Dobson [Internet Archive link]

    On that page it says (emphasis added by me):

    In May of 2003, Dr. Dobson resigned as President of Focus on the Family (although he retained his position as Chairman of the Board). Dr. Dobson stepped down as Chairman of the Board in February of 2009, and a year later, he released his radio and newsletter responsibilities when he resigned from Focus. This brought the ministry’s leadership transition process to a definitive conclusion – clearly, however, Dr. Dobson’s passion for families and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to inform Focus on the Family’s ministry efforts. The current leadership team shares Dr. Dobson’s conviction that the organization is not a monument to any one person, but rather a vehicle for ministering to families in Jesus’ name.

    1. I have emailed and tweeted and written private messages to the Facebook pages of all the following places, informing them about this post and inviting them to read it: —

      James Dobson at Family Life; Focus on the Family USA; Focus on the Family Australia; Focus on the Family Canada; Focus on the Family Ireland.

  13. I can’t imagine how healing it would be to hear a ministry/group like FOF acknowledge abuse for what it is.

    I encountered Dobson’s tough love advice over and over again. It’s still what my friends and old church are pushing.

    Well, actually at this point that’s the advice they are now giving my ex because after all he has repented and is now living life the right way and I am the one living in sin. My x reminds me frequently that I’m the one who walked away from God’s best and that I’m the one keeping our children from receiving the blessings God wanted them to experience.

    Of course the crummy part of all that is that I grew up fully saturated with the fundamental evangelical theology and I can’t escape the core belief that I’ve committed the unpardonable sin by divorcing.

    It’s hard to figure out how to function now just day-to-day when it feels like I’ve tossed everything out the window because I was scared.

    1. Wow BrokenKaleidescope, I LOVE your screen name. In fact I am almost envious of it — it is so brilliant.

      Welcome to the blog and thanks for sharing. 🙂

      I don’t know how long you’ve been following the blog or what you’ve read of older posts, but just in case you haven’t read these ones yet I’m giving some links that deal with (a) divorce, and (b) the unpardonable sin.

      The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse

      Biblical Divorce for Abuse explained in a nutshell

      Isn’t adultery the only ground for divorce?

      God hates divorce? Not always.

      John Piper’s Divorce Doctrine: Opinion Turned Into God’s Law

      John Piper’s Erroneous Teaching on the Unpardonable Sin

      Marriage, Divorce, and an Ox in a Well

      1. BrokenK. I can so relate, and it makes it so much harder when you don’t have a church family to support you. I was in my marriage for 25 years, trying to be the godly wife. When I would seek Christian support, it didn’t seem to matter what it was, they made an excuse for him and told me what I needed to be doing differently (always with a piece of Scripture to back it up). I’ve always been one to believe that when we read Scripture according to the whole nature of God, so reading this site has really helped me.

        I’ve known for 2 years that the only thing I could do was break free from the abusive “husband” in my life, and then it took me another year and a half to finally do it. I know in my heart that I am following God’s will for my life now. But I still have days of doubt, of guilt … it is hard to get rid of those old messages playing around my head, both from the church and the ones from the abuser. It is a hard burden to carry, that’s why I recently started commenting on this blog, I realized that there are other believers who will reaffirm me rather than condemn me.

        For me, whenever I start to feel burdened or guilt that’s not really mine to have, I visit this site. I remind myself who the abuser really is. And I read posts that encourage me to stay on the path I am on because it is God’s path. It really helps me when I’m seeking out Scripture to replace the word “abuser” with “deceiver.” If you have left the deceiver in your life, you are doing what God instructs us to do with such people.

        And you were not the one who tossed everything out the window, the abuser did by abusing you. Stand firm when he tries to bring your children into it to accuse and blame you, I came to realize that the abuser in my life has / is used the children to attempt to control, accuse and judge me since they were born. If someone’s willing to still “use” the children to abuse their mother, do they really care about them at all. It seems to me if your ex was concerned about the children’s well-being he would be making sure their mother was not being harassed if he’s “repented” he would carry godly sorrow for what he did to you and them and be making this time as easy for you as possible,

      2. Thanks Barbara – my name definitely fits me on many levels.

        I used to read here a couple years ago but quit because I was so invested in working things out with my husband. It didn’t work and experience of the past two years has left me more confused then ever. I really didn’t expect to end up divorced; this wasn’t supposed to happen.

        Now I’m feeling lost and really it feels like I’m having to find a way to reframe everything in my life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t accept that being treated bad, I guess I should call it abused, as just being what God plannend for my life. If I only had to worry about me I would still be with my husband. Accepting that I was supposed to watch my children be hurt was harder to accept.

        I appreciate the links you shared. I’m looking forward to reading through the posts.

  14. Many years ago I was a local advocate for FOF. I was a young believer and truly embraced that I could do much to “change our marriage”. Changes came but much came at my expense as FOF also had resources alluding to the “wife being very enticing and creative in the bedroom”. Of course, any husband would love that!! However, what has been the result is that many women have been led to believe “that anything is permissible if it pleases the husband”.
    I am a victim of such teaching … that my body belongs to the my husband and yet his body seemed to not be mine as I was made to feel guilty if I objected to certain requests.
    Eventually, there were other questionable teachings and policies that caused me to cancel my volunteer status with FOF. I couldn’t see Christ but a para-church ministry with a Christian banner but very much organized with secular overtones.

  15. Dobson is quoted, “divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.” I thought that trying to change someone is manipulation and control. Is not witchcraft defined as controlling and changing someone against their will?

    Thank you for speaking out about FOF. While there are many positives from their teachings, it has also been a source of teaching that encouraged me to give it more time (my abusive marriage). I am thankful for this site, Leslie Vernick, George Simon and Lundy Bancroft to help me understand what I’ve been through. I love reading other survivor’s perspectives (love that train wreck word picture) and getting to write some of my thoughts. This is a place of healing.

    BTW–my divorce papers are turned in to be finalized by the judge. While, I cannot go no contact because of minor children, I have learned that making life seem like a win/win I can avoid some yuckiness. We will see what happens in years to come, but I know God has me and the kids under his protection and with the marriage covenant severed (legally) I feel a new season of life coming.

  16. I also would challenge any “celebrity,” pastor, or therapist who attempt to give advice on direction concerning marriage in general to truly study the nature of abuse. Oftentimes (myself included) the target will not even be aware that abuse is the problem, I just knew my marriage was in shambles, so I would desperately follow the advice given … yet things started to get worse. So I would add to the idea that not only does the true nature of abuse and the tactics of abusers (deceivers) be studied by those attempting to counsel about abuse, but also by those who think they can give marital advice at all.

    1. Not only do those attempting to counsel about abuse need to study the true nature of abuse and the tactics of abusers (deceivers), those who think they can give ANY marital advice need to study it as well.

      Agreed! Thanks for addding that important point, SF.

      1. Barbara, I strongly agree with you. There have been many times I’ve sat in church listening to my pastor preaching about marriage and thought about the harm that is done to abuse victims that take his advice. Pastors need to be aware that there are most likely some women in the audience who are being abused and at least mention that certain principles that can be used in healthy marriages do not apply in abusive situations.

  17. Dr Allen Wade’s article: “The Interactional and Discursive View of Violence and Resistance” is exceptional. Worth the read. Thank you for posting the link.

    1. Thank you Charis! I really appreciate you saying that. I know that Allan Wade’s articles are written for professionals rather than victims / survivors, but I believe a victim-survivor who makes the effort to read his work can gain much understanding. Thanks for seconding my opinion that his work is very worth reading. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  18. Thank you for issuing this challenge, though I’m not very optimistic about the response… after my mom left my abusive dad, he sent an email for some Focus on the Family marriage seminar (to my email, since he didn’t have hers). It was full of very generic advice that is very damaging if applied to abusive relationships rather than a relationship where both people are real Christians.

    They have made an idol of marriage and since it’s one of their key wedges in the ‘culture wars,’ I’m even more doubtful that they’d be willing to admit that abusive spouses (mostly ‘husbands’) are as prevalent a problem as we all unfortunately know it is.

    Though unrelated, Focus on the Family is also a big promoter of contemplative mysticism, and their sister organization, the Family Research Council, is a major player in the Dominionist movement. They actually frighten me…

    Thank you for standing up for the truth!

    1. Though unrelated, Focus on the Family is also a big promoter of contemplative mysticism, and their sister organization, the Family Research Council, is a major player in the Dominionist movement. They actually frighten me…

      I don’t see that as unrelated at all! It is very much related. Contemplative mysticism is pagan practices that have slithered over the wall into the sheepfold, rather than coming in through the door which is Jesus Christ. For those who want to study this more, I recommend the website Lighthouse Trails.

    2. Anne, what do you mean by “contemplative mysticism”? And what publications from FOF evidence “contemplative mysticism”.

      Ditto for “the Dominionist movement.”

      Thank you.

      [Note from Barb Roberts: I have altered the phrasing of this comment, but the questions have the same basic meaning.]

    1. That detailed explanation of how women bait their husbands demonstrates exactly the same vicious contempt for victims that abusers display.

    2. As ludicrous as that sounds, let’s say it does happen (the woman baits her husband into hitting her), isn’t the husband responsible for his actions? This goes against Adam and Eve being held responsible for their sin by God.

    3. This would be then a pretty accurate and revealing indication of what Dobson thinks of women. This is an subject we have not given adequate thought to. Just how does James Dobson see women in his mind?

      1. Many public “c”hristian ministries need to be asked this question. Although I’ve appreciated verse-by-verse teachings from John MacArthur there is a deep chasm in which many who adhere to this ministry will consistently refute that someone like me would have grounds for divorce. Even after I have offered the link to ACFJ; they don’t agree with your stance. (I guess I just have to suck it up) These people say they feel deeply for my circumstances and can’t imagine how terrible it must be, however they feel it is a compromise of Scripture to condone divorce.

      2. Yes, healinginhim, we are well aware we haven’t written enough critique of John MacArthur and his Grace To You ministry … what a misnomer that is for victim of domestic abuse! It’ more like grace to the perpetrator, thumbscrews to the victim.

        Sigh. So much to write about and never enough time!

      3. Barb – I’m always amazed at how much ACFJ does. All I can do is point others to the ACFJ website and leave “the choice” as to whether they want to take the time to study and be informed. I have been under the impression that many “c”hristians feel victims are seeking sympathy. I have told many, “I don’t want sympathy; I would desire that “sin” be dealt.” — sigh … Then, the typical invitation to come to “our church” is handed out. That’s their answer, “just come to church and everything will be just fine…” etc.

    4. I’m sure I read Dobson’s “advice” and subsequent qualification before but I had forgotten about it. Reading it now leaves me feeling sick. My husband used some of that exact wording to explain his behavior and accused me of baiting him – he said it was an example of how I manipulated everything in our marriage. According to his account everything that happened, 20 years of abuse, it all happened because I frustrated him.

  19. I can only speak from personal experience and my journey out of the fog. I had been praying, asking, searching…..and when I was directed to call FOF – I did. I received a call 24 hours or so after I had left a message, I was driving but, pulled over. When I explained my marriage situation to the pastor on the other end of the phone, he said I was married to a domestic abuse perpetrator and they rarely if ever change. What? Was I dreaming this? He said it wasn’t about me being ‘happy’ it was about being safe. There was a lot of silence on my end of the phone as I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I grappled for words and he could tell I either wasn’t understanding him or something. Then he said, let me ask you this, how do you pet a snake? I knew the answer, but again, my head was spinning. Is he really telling me that ‘he’ (h) wasn’t going to change and the conclusion was that I could actually leave – legitimately? Without guilt, shame, blame or regret and truly be free? I could barely dare to think it – needing, wanting it to be true so badly. I finally answered him and said, well, you don’t! He said, exactly! He reiterated that I needed to do whatever I could to be safe, whether it was down the street, across town or out of state. But, I had to get out, as soon as possible, to be safe. I told him there wasn’t physical abuse, which there wasn’t, so I knew what kind of ‘safe’ he meant. However, he did say that my h could become very violent without any warning. He did not use the word narcissist, but gave many of the characteristics of one, as I listened intently. It was the first time I had had someone know specifics of what I had lived, without me describing it first, and usually being met with disrespect and disbelief and ultimately being dismissed. He listened, he cared, he took the time (we also had one more conversation) and was adamant for my safety and that this situation most likely wasn’t going to change. This pastor from FOF was my hero and I am forever grateful for his words to me in due season.

      1. NJ I agree! I neglected to put this in my initial account above, but that FOF pastor said that they (abusers) actually purposely calculate evil to perpetrate on their (wife) target!!! I was shocked, but quickly realized that he was devastatingly correct! I still remember his name, maybe I will be able to thank him someday.

    1. survivorthrivor2 — I initially had the same experience with FOF many, many years ago, however, they then decided to “cutback” on ministry and one of them was the elderly pastor who was very, very good. THIS was just the start of what I eventually saw as a ‘change’ in the way FOF was going to operate. You may be from the USA; I’m from another country but can’t say where for safety reasons.
      Praise God for those “who get it” … and hopefully, you are now safe?

      1. Healinginhim, my ex and I were separated for the first time 21 years ago, and FOF was who I called for advice then, too. What they told me set my life on a course I probably would not have even be able to think of at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. If I explained it, perhaps others would question it, and even disagree. But, I don’t live for others and I heard from heaven that day. I live for Jesus and He has carried me through it all. I am safe now, and I have the peace that passes all understanding, Glory to God. I have certainly met with a lot of others in the ministry who have disregarded my claims and left me in an abusive situation, but all of them knew my h and he had them all fooled, as per usual for Covert Narcissists. I believe God used FOF for me in both instances because they did not know my h and were able to take me at my word. I thank God for His ways! I hope that you are also safe, God bless…..

  20. My heart is so full right now and I am thanking God for His faithfulness. I had my third follow up appt with the pastor of the church I attend. After providing them with info on John Piper, abuse hiding in the church, the difference between a believer who sins and a person with an evil heart, and actual statistics on domestic abuse and fatalities nationwide – I am ecstatic to report that they are distancing themselves from John Piper’s ministry and are going to look into him more extensively, but for now all interactions with them in their church have ceased! Hallelujah!!! I could tell that he was having a hard time wrapping his head around the info that I was able to get so quickly and how thorough and well laid out it was, all thanks to Barbara & Jeff here at ACFJ blog. I wouldn’t have been able to present such scripture-based info without you both and I am very grateful you were here for me. He had absolutely no idea that domestic abuse was so widespread and horrific. I told him that as a pastor of God’s sheep, that was indefensible and it must change. I also told him that I truly believe God sent me here and the test was not for me – but for him and this church.

    He then asked if I would be willing to meet with two leaders and discuss a strategy to move forward in getting the message out and helping those who might be in an abusive situation! I just about fell out of the chair! Willing? That’s why I’m here! WOW! All God ever needs is a willing vessel to do His work. Glory to God! And then it sunk in and tears welled up in my eyes and I felt validated for the first time in 34 years by a pastor in a church……

    Thank you Barbara & Jeff and for those of you who prayed for me or cheered me on…..this is a victory I share with every other woman who has walked in the shoes of abuse of any kind…..God IS faithful!

    1. Oh my word! That is unbelievable! What evidence did you present about Piper? I ask because I am working on putting together info about him also to my church leaders who have an affinity toward him.

  21. Jeff Crippen, did you read my post about the miracle that happened in my meeting with the pastor in the church I attend?

      1. Hi Valerie, I was sitting in church about three months ago or so and the pastor was giving the sermon and all of a sudden I heard him quote John Piper – the hair stood up on the back of my neck! I don’t remember anything he said after that, it was so weird. But, it started the journey of trying to make him / them aware of the abuse that goes on in churches all the time, that is hidden. I used all the articles from this blog on John Piper, I gave him my own personal account, of course, and found a great article on domestic abuse statistics nationwide – which he was completely stunned with when he read it. I don’t know where these pastors ‘live’, because he is truly clueless. No wonder this evil hides so well, it is left to do whatever it wants with no knowledge it is even real by those in leadership. I can see with every meeting we’ve had, a chipping away of the naivete’, but it is a slow and painstaking process. I have written accounts on here of the meetings, but don’t know how they would be found. God has been so faithful, I am excited to see this next chapter. If I can be of any help to you, let me know!

      2. At the end of that productive meeting, I read the response / warning you wrote to me to prepare me, if things did not go well and the back peddling began. I told him no matter which way this went, I would have still read it! He didn’t really have much of a reaction, but I think it added a layer of accountability…..I hope! Thank you!

  22. I had to drop by and add a comment to this post about James Dobson.

    In the last few days as I do a lot of research on abusers, narcs, sociopaths, wicked people (all one and the same really whatever label you use), I came across again James Dobson’s famous interview with Ted Bundy.

    He gives this wicked abuser and murderer Ted Bundy, a final platform on the eve of his execution, to blame-shift, play the sad sausage, fake repentance and say how pornography ‘made him do it’.

    Of course James Dobson laps it up. It sickens me that this prominent supposedly Christian man would give a vile, evil man like that one last chance to play the pity and blame shift card. This is false Christianity at its finest! A macrocosm of what we victims of abuse face all the time from other Christian pretender leaders and pastors.

    1. Thank you, Trapped. Every little bit helps; every comment — no matter how old the thread is — helps somehow or other. Sometimes it helps by encouraging the ACFJ team who moderate comments on this blog. Sometimes it helps by giving a ray of recognition and comfort to another reader who is a survivor of abuse. Bless you for digging into the blog archives and commenting where you see fit!

    2. Thank you Trapped. I too saw this video years ago and thought the same thing. Once we’ve been awakened to the truth, it makes us feel so frustrated that evil ones were catered to even in their last moments–when we could’ve been doing a eulogy for those who were murdered by this monster–a eulogy based on how their kindness and willingness to help others without the knowledge that’s written about in God’s word about evil people–set them up to be killed. Yep. We definitely missed the boat when we failed to teach biblical wisdom about evil to our children. Being nice got these women killed–yet Ted Bundy had the chance to “be worshiped” on camera and in the courtroom, not to mention get married and have a daughter, all while some truly beautifully-souled women lay dead in their graves.

      And Bundy was smart enough to frame-up his story to match whatever agenda those who were interviewing him wanted. (The following are not actual quotes from Bundy–I’ve just created dialog based on his statements and personality.) “Oh, it’s PORN you’re trying to blame this on? Not a problem Mr. Dobson! Here’s a bunch of baloney about how “porn made me do it” but meanwhile I’m actually bragging about my escapades of rape and murder while staring at myself in the reflection of the camera lens. Ain’t I a good-looking fella? Handsome as the devil, I am! What was that now? Oh yeah, it was PORN that made me do it. Sure enough, if it hadn’t been for all that old porn, I would be a great fellow and a loving man.”

      “And pay no mind to those stories of when I was a mere 3-year old and gloried in terrorizing people with knives and such, that’s just heresy. I mean it’s true and all and I have always had a hankering for knives and blood and evil, but that’s just every little boys way, right?” (Psychopaths do this often–deny something but then go right on and admit to the crime while bragging about the details.)

      (Ted Bundy [Internet Archive link “Ted occasionally exhibited disturbing behavior, even at that early age. Julia recalled awakening one day from a nap to find herself surrounded by knives from the Cowell kitchen; her three-year-old nephew was standing by the bed, smiling”)

      Thank you for highlighting this topic, Trapped!

      1. Yes I agree with all you said. I was reading on an infidelity blog and someone mentioned how adulterers / abusers are like Ted Bundy. The lying and double lives. She was talking sardonically of course, but as I read about him (I have avoided reading about him for years), I was shocked to see how ‘normal’ he had appeared to those around him, how he went out of his way to portray that he was just a nice guy, and even more shocked at how many people were fooled by him, even AFTER he had been arrested.

        I just finished reading Liz Kendall’s book on her life with him (his 7 year girlfriend). I don’t recommend reading it. It has triggers galore. It was painful to read as she was the classic case of a woman manipulated by a psycopath abuser, but in her case she still was believing his false narrative that he really did love her, right up until the end. No he just used her to help create his false image of being just a normal family guy.

        Anyway, don’t want to make this all about him, but I was just wanting to highlight how he was the extreme example of how these wicked men manipulate all those around them, and how Christians are primed and conditioned to lap it all up, helped by people like James Dobson. You’re absolutely right that TB was an expert at changing his narrative to suit whoever he was talking to and whatever they wanted to hear. I think that’s one of the defining things about wicked abusers.

        I just read a quote his mother said to him on the phone moments before his execution: “you will always be my precious son”. I’m sorry but she was part of the problem, stroking his narcissist ego. He knew he could do the worst of the worst, there was absolutely nothing he could do and mommy would still be there for her precious son! She was a church-going Methodist too. Sorry but that is a sore point with me as I have a MIL who is the same to her wicked son and it’s a huge part of the problem.

        I’ve gone off track a bit, the whole case just brings up a lot of things for me as a victim of a sociopath.

      2. This thread is a real trigger point with me. My MIL was a faithful Episcopalian and held in high regard. Her sons could do no wrong except when they weren’t there for her and the family.
        Even when the man that I married had sins exposed she blamed the other women in his life for enticing him. I forgave and kept believing his promises that ‘things’ would get better.
        Eventually, when I thought I was crazy or missing something in God’s Word about how to be a better wife, I searched out various counselors. The best definition I could come up with as to the ‘appearance’ of my man was that he was a Ted Bundy type. He was well groomed, held a steady job, kept a neat yard.
        Even now the emotional abuse continues and extended family are a huge part of the issue because after all “family is so important”. I have finally been alienated and he has seen fit to no longer want to be my husband. He feels no qualms along with the adult children, SIL’s and others about gathering together without me. I feel like a used rag as for years I was faithful in helping to cook and clean up with these gatherings but was not allowed to comment when I saw blatant double standards in their lives.
        He is still seen as a respectful citizen as he alienates me and carries on with various jobs within the community. 😦

      3. I know somewhat what you are going through and I’m really sorry. It’s extra tough when the abuser’s ‘Christian’ family are his biggest supporters and he in turn acts like they are sacred, protects only them and his relationship with them, and they vice versa, and you get thrown under the bus.

        I am going through similar, and I am really coming to terms with the fact that his family are wicked like him. They just hide it better because they don’t feel the need to go out committing adultery or abusing their spouses, but they do not love the truth and they are more then willing to strengthen the hand of the wicked, because it serves them (keeps their happy family image intact). Total selfishness. People like that do not have the real love of God in their hearts.

  23. Someone please pray for me. My load has got heavier in the last year or so as now my abusive husband partners with my abusive oldest child. They both support each other in blaming me for any abuse, and they use the same excuses they both hear each other making. It has made me totally alone and isolated in my own home. My husband used to at least stop my adult child [from] physically and verbally abusing me, until one day it clicked that he would have so much more power over me by allying with that child, and the child realised the same thing.
    Thank you.

    1. Anonymous,
      Yes, I lived it for a time too and it reminds me of this Bible verse, “That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.” Luke 23:12. I’ve seen this often–two abusive people who want to be king of the hill in their respective districts, and eventually their world–but for a time, they ally together against those they wish to control. United in evil.

      I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and am praying. In my case my youngest daughter was my ally and she would stand up to the older children in a way that they listened to. Looking back, our entire lives, my youngest daughter and I lived on a battlefield. It never had to be this way if the church taught the truth about how to identify an abuser so that those who belong to Jesus didn’t marry them, and ensured that those who belonged to God were built up in the truth of God’s word instead of made to feel like worthless garbage who should lay down and be a doormat for the devil and his children.

    2. Will pray for wisdom also anonomous.
      I know the feeling. One of my adult children also turned against me and joined agendas with my abuser to invalidate and discourage me.. But I’ve come to realize that when you start to see truth they feel threatened because they dont live by truth..
      Non-associated people will be more help for you. I got more help from a distant neighbor durring this time..

    3. Anonymous —
      Many of us have been scarred by our children joining forces with our abusers.
      I state ‘abusers’ as it doesn’t always involve just a spouse. It grieves me when my adult children make excuses for others who are abusive towards me.
      You are stronger by sharing the truth with a praying community who “get it and care.” ((hugs)) I’m joining others in praying for you.

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