A Cry For Justice

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

“To every man an answer,” but if it’s an abused woman, let’s lance her!

“My husband is cruel and says mean things quite often and still thinks I should be sexually available. What do I do about this?”  This was the question that a woman called Erin asked on a Christian radio call-in show, To Every Man an Answer, where callers can phone with any kind of spiritual question.

On the day when Erin phoned in, there were three hosts: Mike Kestler, Mike Fabarez and Leo Giovinetti. A link to the full broadcast is here. [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] Erin’s call begins at 3:56 and ends at 16:24.  She talked for 3:23 of the those 12 ½ minutes; the rest of the time the male panel were talking.

Many thanks to our reader Valerie for this post.



I came across this program after listening to countless sermons by Mike Fabarez of Focal Point Ministries. I have found his exegetical teaching to be biblically accurate, so when I heard his response to this caller I was dumbfounded and disappointed on many levels. In all the messages from Mike Fabarez that I’d heard previously, he was quick to make the distinction between those truly saved and those who aren’t saved, and would support that distinction from scripture without shying away from those truths.

When I looked into Mike Kestler and Leo Giovinetti, whom I had not heard of prior to this program, I found some disturbing information. I found additional troubling information regarding Mike Kestler’s recent return to the public airways since the 2007 scandal.

As I listened to the call from Erin I was horrified at the responses by the trio of pastors. The abuse Erin described sounds similar to what I would imagine pastors are hearing on a regular basis from those who are seeking help for abuse. I thought transcribing this and discussing it as a group would be beneficial for us as well as for those who are currently in Erin’s position. I wanted Erin and others like her to have a voice — for us to stand up and say how deplorable this “counsel” was. The transcription is in black and my comments (with a few additions from Barb) are in blue.

Trigger Warning: spiritual abuse and awful counseling in what the radio panel say to Erin.

The Call

Mike Kestler:  How may we help?

Erin:  My husband and I are both Christian and we are having a problem sexually that I’d like some guidance in. Basically to put it in a nutshell my husband is very mean to me sometimes. He says very cruel things at times (quivering voice) — often actually.  A lot of the silent treatment, a lot of ignoring and the things that comes out of his mouth sometimes just amaze me. Yet he feels I should be always available to him sexually, without an apology, without any kind of conversation about what he has said or done to hurt me. And if I am hurt and I don’t feel like being sexual at the time, it just is fuel for the fire.

We have gone to counseling but he’s left after about three sessions and wouldn’t do any of the assignments and he just refuses to go to counseling. So, counseling I have to assume at this point is not an option.   I understand what the scriptures say about each partner being available to one another sexually and that we only get to take a time to not have sex and then come back together.  I understand all that, but I need to know how to think about this because it is very difficult to have sex with someone who hurts you so much.

Erin is showing that abiding by God is important to her. She calls to a Christian radio station for help and shows that she wants to abide by scripture. The behavior she recounts is quite pernicious. Her husband shows obvious malevolence toward her. What she is describing is a pattern and not isolated incidents. She also indicates that if she says she would prefer not to have sex because she feels upset, he punishes her for not giving him the response he desires. His hard-heartedness seems to be even more straightforward when she states that he refuses to go to counseling AND wouldn’t even do the homework!

She shows what I believe to be a sign of emotional abuse from the marriage when she says she needs to know “how to think” about the issue. She doesn’t ask for their opinion or doesn’t say she’s confused about that verse. She literally asks them “how” to think. She does, however, show awareness that it is abuse in calling his words “cruel” and by indicating this happens often (not just sometimes). She doesn’t make excuses for him either. 

She doesn’t say she won’t or can’t have sex with him because of his cruelty but rather that it is difficult. Her words do not indicate any hard-heartedness. She doesn’t even ask how she can get him to treat her more kindly! She’s in essence just saying “help” and that she’s open to feedback.

Mike Kestler: Well, dear, we are sorry to hear that you’re going through this.  It’s always a heartbreak. Mike, your thoughts?

Always a heartbreak? So this situation is just garden variety and these guys hear stories like it all the time?

We don’t know if he is referring to Erin or her husband also when he says “you’re going through this.” The second person pronoun could be singular or plural. And Kestler obscures the husband’s wicked conduct (the cause of Erin’s distress), airbrushing the husband out of the picture by referring vaguely to it’s— “It’s always a heartbreak.”

Mike Fabarez: Well, it’s hard and it’s difficult for us because we always, when we’re hurt, we want to hurt back — that’s our tendency. But the Bible tries to constantly get us to remember that we cannot repay evil for evil or insult for insult. And it’s interesting, I’m quoting 1st Peter chapter 3 verse 9, just preceding that it speaks of wives who have husbands that are disobedient, and I’m sure that would include all kinds of things that are hurtful or insulting. And the way to win them, that text says — and I’m sure you’re familiar with it; you sound like you know your Bible — is to make sure that we don’t fall into retaliation with our behavior or action, but really try to win them over by our kindness, our respectful behavior, our purity.  All the things that I know are very difficult as Jesus did trying to overcome evil with good, as it says in Romans chapter 12.

Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the feelings and we don’t struggle with a difficulty, but what we do need to recognize is that the kind of help that your husband needs is going to be found as you pray and intercede for him and get him in contact with the right kind of the disciplers and leaders and pastors in your church to get involved in his life.

But we need to remember as you’re honest in relaying your concern and your hurt that we don’t get into the behavior of insult and retaliation and saying “I’m going to withhold intimacy because I’m mad at him.”  You can be honest, you can have those conversations, but just remember how easy that gets to escalate the problem. We can’t escalate the problem by continuing to say “Well I’m just going to keep him from what he may want here in this situation because he’s not giving me what I want.” Overcome evil with good.  Extra time, extra generous, extra loving, extra — all of those things. And recognize that while you may feel like a doormat that whole 2nd book of Peter, not just 1st Peter but 1st and 2nd Peter, constantly remind us that God has a way of overcoming evil and disrespect and anger with good.

Now I’m not talking about anything criminal. I’m not talking being abused or beaten by your husband. I’m just talking about those arguments that I think every couple has and remembering that there’s so much you can do with your kindness and your generosity — as hard as that is.

Wow. I hardly know where to begin. Mike Fabarez starts in with accusatory statements, presumptuously inferring that Erin’s chief temptation is to retaliate against her husband. He censoriously implies that if she were to resist complying with her husband’s selfish and callous demands, she would be ‘repaying evil with evil’. To launch on that offensive without even speaking to her pain is unconscionable!  It boggles the mind as to where he’s reading into her words to think that she is paying her husband back or retaliating in any way. I don’t hear anger in Erin’s words, only pain and confusion.

Fabarez minimizes the husband’s conduct by calling it “hurtful or insulting” when he ought to have used words like self-centred, wicked, domineering, cruel.  Erin herself used the word “cruel”; Fabarez ought to have picked up on that and reiterated that the husband was being cruel, in order to help Erin feel validated.

Further, he ought to have clearly stated that Erin’s husband’s conduct falls within the definition of Domestic Abuse/Family Violence/Intimate Partner Violence.

In his use of 1 Peter 3, he showed unfair bias by citing verse 9 and alluding to verses 1-6, but skipping verse 7 where it states that husbands who do not treat their wives honourably and with understanding will have their prayers hindered.

He borders on accusing her of actually escalating the problem! When he tells Erin, “We can’t escalate the problem by continuing to say “Well I’m just going to keep him from what he may want here in this situation because he’s not giving me what I want,” he is wickedly putting words into Erin’s mouth. She didn’t say she ever withheld sex from her husband, she simply said how hard she found it to comply with his expectation of sex in the context of his frequent cruelty towards her. He makes an unfounded claim that she is already spitefully and willfully withholding sex from her husband when he uses the word “continuing”. While it is true that Christians should not pay insult for insult, Fabarez is insulting Erin when he insinuates negative traits in Erin that are speculative and without basis. 

He then whams her again in saying her issue is that she’s not getting what she wants. Hang on! She’s not complaining because they aren’t vacationing enough, she’s asking how to deal with a situation where her husband is treating her cruelly!

Fabarez also fails to consider the abuser’s ultimate good. He says that giving time, love and generosity is what is good for the abuser — but he makes no mention of what good it may actually do for the abuser to be held accountable. Holding him accountable would be respectful and kind; and if done with the right motive, pure. (I find this disconnect so ironic because I have heard many of Mike F’s teachings in which he talks about why it is loving to discipline children. What kind of a society would we have if we applied his reasoning to rearing children?) He also doesn’t acknowledge that what he wants Erin to give extra of, her husband is not willing to give her a little of.

Erin had already told the panel that her husband has dug in his heels over professional counseling. But Fabarez discounts what she said. He advises Erin to “get him in contact with the right kind of the disciplers and leaders and pastors in your church to get involved in his life.” AARRH!  Why would this husband comply with discipleship from leaders and pastors in the church? Not only is Fabarez living in la la land, he is ignoring Erin’s testimony and patronizingly insulting her good common sense.

The only reason a responsibility-resistant husband would ‘comply’ with discipleship is if he gauged that the disciplers were so clueless about abusers that he could do a snow job on them.

It is quite disturbing that Fabarez thinks of abuse as only restricted to acts that are criminal (“I’m not talking about anything criminal. I’m not talking being abused or beaten by your husband.”) He does sin-levelling and mutualizing when he refers to her abuse as “arguments every couple has”. Hey, do all married people give the silent treatment as punishment and regularly talk cruelly to each other? Pastors, is that taking place in YOUR marriages? There’s “so much” she can do with kindness and generosity? How far has that gotten her? How far did it get Jesus? 

Mike Kestler then carries on the la la land theme—

Mike Kestler: Erin, have you consulted your pastor at your church about this?

Erin:  I have.  My husband did not want me to.

Ding, ding, ding! Do they not hear the sirens screaming at that statement? Her husband doesn’t want the church involved. Keep in mind that he also has refused professional counseling. To recap: Erin was proactive with both professional and pastoral counseling and her husband’s response was refusal to both.

Mike Kestler: Well, because I think that you know, there’s probably some type of accountability of the way he treats you I think probably needs to be addressed. Leo, any last thoughts?

Ya think? Kestler dances around the idea of accountability. He doesn’t give her guidance in what accountability might look like — no practical suggestions. It’s almost like Kestler knows that the word ‘accountability’ is a catch word to throw out for its fairy-dust effect, so that listeners think he knows what he’s talking about. 

Leo Giovanetti: Well, honey, he’s not going to change until God changes his heart. And like Mike Fabarez says that takes prayer. And I’d get girlfriends together, put him on prayer chains. You know, don’t give out discrete details but just [say] ‘a wife is being verbally abused, she’s being hurt, she’s being smothered and crushed by lack of biblical love and biblical behavior from her husband. Would you please pray that God changes both of our hearts.’ Because without God changing his heart you could put him through a thousand courses and if, you know, he learns what the right behavior is, but doesn’t have the heart to do it, then you’re going to be stuck. And so this kind only comes out with fasting and prayer. This kind is something that you get your closest girlfriends together. You don’t give out details. You don’t talk demeaning about him and get your little group together and [start a] ‘we all hate my husband’ kind of thing. But you do need to really start praying and fasting for this man.

And then what Mike Fabarez says is true — part of Christianity is loving people who are impossible to love. It just is. It comes with the deal we made with Jesus. That we would pray for those who despitefully use us and that we would be gracious.

Honey? Isn’t that a bit belittling or overly familiar?

A dim light of truth finally erupts:  the abuser will not change until God changes his heart. But does God forcibly change hearts? The Spirit convicts sinners of their sin; but if the sinner fights against that conviction, does God crush and overthrow that person’s willful resistance? We are transformed when we submit to Him, but does God violate our free will? Leo takes the responsibility off her husband by indicating it is God who needs to act, and then drives home his main claim: that it’s Erin’s responsibility to get God to act. (BTW — War Room was promoted on this station’s FB page.)

Thumbs down when he encourages her emotional isolation by restricting what she shares. Thumbs up for acknowledging she’s being ABUSED!! I would have preferred he not take a detached position from this by referring to her as “a wife” but instead making his speech first person to validate her. Leo also rightly notes that the husband lacks biblical love, and even seems to correct himself by rephrasing it to behavior rather than love.

He negates all this validation, however, when he declares that BOTH of their hearts need to be changed. While no one is without sin or in need of growth, it would have been more accurate to say “Would you please pray that God changes the husband’s heart, and heals the wife’s trauma.”  All people are sinful, but there can still be an innocent spouse. Abuse is never mutual. There is the oppressor. And there is the oppressed. Period.

Two thumbs up for recognizing that without a heart transplant, no head-knowledge of what he should be doing will change her husband. But again he puts the responsibility on God. In previous episodes I’ve heard Leo affirm his continuationist position and his fasting and prayer statement seems to allude to that. (Note, the words and fasting are only in some manuscripts of Mark 9:29.)

However, when Jesus said, “this kind comes out only by prayer [and fasting],” he was talking about kind of spirit which he cast out of the boy. Here is question: is there anything in scripture telling us how or where we should apply the “only comes out by prayer” precept to other situations? I don’t believe there is.

And here is another point: While the boy was demonized by the mute and deaf spirit, his conduct wasn’t characterized by cruelty towards others. The boy’s behavior chiefly harmed himself, so there is little parallel between the boy’s behavior and the abusive husband’s behavior:

whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. … And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. (Mark 9:18-20)]

Leo simply drags in that scripture from Mark 9 to force the ‘pray harder’ dictum on Erin. Leo would probably shy away from saying on radio that Erin’s husband is demonized — that would be sticking his neck out too far and risking his reputation as a ‘wise counselor.’ Yet he’s happy to counsel a vulnerable abused wife to pray harder — that doesn’t put him at risk — and he throws in the ‘prayer and fasting’ reference to make it sound like he’s spiritually astute and has the authority of God’s Word backing up his advice.

Leo continues: Mike Kestler, I know in your lifetime you have gone through all kinds of things that have been unfair, and yet, to me, you always seem to bounce to the top again because you just take your eyes off that and get back on Jesus.

This makes me uncomfortable, especially given Kestler’s history (troubling information). Leo seems to imply that Erin’s situation would be improved by taking her eyes off the unfairness and getting her focus back on Christ. Hey, what makes Leo think her eyes aren’t focused on Christ? After all, she rang a ‘C’hristian station: her focus is on how to live as a follower of Christ! But Leo just tosses off the christianese aphorisms. His “christ” sounds more like a genie in a bottle — and she and her friends have to prayer-rub that bottle real hard so their prayer comes to pass. 

Mike Kestler: Well, I believe that again is where we have to go. Now Erin, is there something in particular that he says he wants you to do that you may be — and I’m not talking about the sexual thing. I’m  talking about day-to-day living — is there something he says, “Well, the reason I act this way is because. . .”  Does he ever bring up anything like that?

Inferentially blaming the victim. And making the foolish assumption that when an abuser explains why he acts the way he acts, he will tell the truth!  And making the foolish assumption that an abuser actually wants his marriage to have two-way transparent honest respectful mutual communication negotiation and problem solving, for the equal wellbeing of both parties. In fact, abusers want none of those things. They simply want power-over and services rendered.  

So, to sum up thus far: they are claiming or inferring that Erin is retaliating, that she’s not being loving enough, not praying enough — and now she is perhaps complicit in the abuse by failing to do things her husband wants her to do. What exactly could she be failing to do that would justify the silent treatment, refusal to communicate and speaking cruelly to her? Leo’s reading from the abuse 101 handbook: I abuse you because you…

Erin: He wants me to be more affectionate with him, which I do. I try to make physical contact. I just mean touching, holding, non-sexual contact —maybe playing with his cheeks or something being silly all the time.

Leo:  But it’s hard to hug a porcupine, huh?

Erin:  and he doesn’t receive it.  He walks away.  He doesn’t receive it.

Once again Erin tells them that she has consistently been making efforts toward her cruel husband. She has already stated how hard it is to want to be sexual with this cruel man; but despite that she has been attempting to be affectionate with him as a direct response to her husband’s request to be ‘more affectionate.’ So once again she shows a pattern of willingness to be kindhearted and to comply with her husband’s wishes, and once again the husband’s response shows a pattern of hardness of heart.

In this case she is specifically giving concrete evidence that he is sabotaging the marriage. He has expressly stated a need — then refuses to accept her positive response to that need. (I remember those days well). The trio does not give her any encouragement by recognizing that she is attempting to move toward her husband’s wishes in this regard. She indicates she does this “all the time” yet her persistent efforts aren’t acknowledged. 

Mike Kestler: So he complains you’re not being affectionate so when you try to be affectionate he rejects that.

If only Mike’s light bulb of seeming awareness would stay lit.

Erin: That’s right.

Mike Kestler:  Maybe ask him what he has in mind for affection then. See in other words, it sounds like he has some itches, but it’s not being scratched or you’re scratching it but you’re not scratching in the right spot. And the point is what I’m trying to make here is that he may have it in his mind what he feels he needs and what you’re trying to give to him is not meeting that need. So maybe I would suggest as well — going along with what Mike said and Leo — I think communication is always going to be an important part. And just ask him,  “What is your idea of the ideal?”  A find out what it is and then move in that direction a little bit because evidently, you know, there’s two languages here. There’s yours and his.

And it sounds like you’re not communicating. In that what he wants or expects is not what you’re giving, and probably you’re not unwilling to give that,  it’s just so often hard to understand or read somebody else’s thoughts or mind to come up with that.

So Erin, without knowing all the details it’s pretty hard for us to make a lot of comments on that but again I think prayer, as Leo said. I think, as Mike Fabarez says, the understanding part, and I believe also the communication part. It’s sitting down and talking. You know, sometimes a good date isn’t a fancy dinner in the finest restaurant in town. Sometimes a good date is just going and getting an ice cream cone and sitting down and talking. You know, get an ice cream cone, go to the park and eat it and talk! I think there’s a lot that can be communicated that way to work these things out.

Now if the person is unwilling to change or to do anything like that, then I think you’re going to have to take other means. But I really believe that again communication is always of real important part and to find out what is their ideal. What are they thinking. What is not coming across right to him and again understanding. How you work around it.  I think that’s an important thing.

Victim blaming again! I first thought Kestler was fleshing out her husband’s obvious sabotage but then Kestler begins a word salad monologue. A little of this, a little of that. Hopping from position to position, idea to idea, but leaving Erin with no practical solutions other than Ben and Jerry’s. 

There are so many issues with this section. He makes the claim that it is her duty to scratch his itches. While it’s good to try to scratch the itches of our partner in love, they are encouraging her to scratch his itches WHILE he is being abusive. Rewarding evil behavior. Beyond that, never mind if those itches are healthy or even biblical. Just find out what they are and start scratching. Don’t pull on the dog’s tail and don’t take his warm spot on the floor and maybe then he won’t bite you. Mike tells her that whatever her husband FEELS his needs are should be her goal to fulfill. Mike doesn’t ask if her husband ever inquires what HER needs are. He doesn’t suggest that she tell him either. Nice of him to offer her a bone in suggesting that she doesn’t seem to be unwilling to give him what he wants. 

They put it all on her to end the abuse. If she is kinder, move loving, scratching more itches and praying, communicating more with someone who refuses to communicate, then maybe she won’t be treated cruelly. Obviously they can’t give her a list of what he needs to do. He’s not there. But they could have helped affirm that the way he is acting IS unbiblical. Their overarching treatment method is to love the wickedness out of him. I don’t see a biblical model for that.  Overlooking an offense is not the same thing as overlooking persistent wickedness.

What kind of biblical or even secular reasoning says that it is a good idea to find out someone’s ideal and then work towards that? Definition of ideal: existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality. How about finding out what her husband considers to be a biblical marriage and then moving toward those points that align with scripture? How about asking him what he thinks a healthy marriage should be and weigh that against scripture to find out why he is so dissatisfied? Kestler is setting her up to fail. An ideal is just that — not attainable perfection. Yes, he says to move toward that but the husband’s ideal is not the biblical model for what the goal should be in marriage. Christ’s ideal — yes; fleshy husband’s ideal — no. 

Kestler talks about two languages and never even comes close to suggesting that her language be taken into consideration but rather that she should be speaking her husband’s language. And we all know where he got the ‘love languages’ jargon. More recycled aphorisms from the ‘c’hristian bookshop.

Fact: in domestic abuse, there may be two languages, but they are not both “love languages.” The abuser’s language is manipulative malignant covert-aggressive power and control and lies. The victim’s language seeks love, mutual respect, honesty and intimacy. 

What is the “understanding” part he’s referring to with Mike F? It is quite infuriating how he keeps referring to communication when she has expressly stated that her husband won’t talk either to her or to a counselor or their pastor.

I can’t imagine how painful it was for Erin to hear this depiction taken from a romance movie of parks and ice cream and talking. He wants her to think about going on a date with this man who is by Leo’s own admission verbally abusing her? How it had to sting to hear this kind of fairy tale she will never have with her husband while he is abusive! It seems actually cruel of Kestler to paint this picture as though it were possible when Erin has already described a calloused, unwilling husband. The whole ice cream scene is nauseating to me. He’s going to stop abusing her as a result of a good conversation over a waffle cone. He’s refusing to go to counseling but ice cream will melt his heart (no pun intended)? Kestler hasn’t heard a thing she has said when he implies that her husband’s problem is lack of knowledge of the issue (which she could enlighten him over that magical ice cream) and disregards the fact that her husband has shown a pattern of refusal to listen. Kestler is denying her reality that she has laid out quite plainly. He talks about communication in such an abstract way and then paints this completely unreal portrait straight out of a movie scene. It eerily reminds me of the abstract way my husband talked because he had no foundation for human emotion and only referenced sources that were presented to him. 

Kestler says if this doesn’t work she will have to “take other means” but doesn’t give any idea on what that looks like. She is already at the “take other means” stage — good grief, she’s rung a talk-back radio station, her voice may be recognised by people who know her, she is desperate enough to unveil her suffering to the world!—but Mike goes back to elementary principles as though she hasn’t tried anything concrete yet.

Leo:  Mike, that might be a very good prayer for her to start praying. He might not even know what he wants.

Mike Kestler:  Oh, that’s true.

Oh how clever they are! They just found another prayer request mantra for her to repeat while she’s rubbin’ that genie bottle! She can ask God to help her husband know what he really wants!

Leo: He might have issues going on that he’s just not being honest about. And I used to think, “Well, I’m not a mind reader. Talk to me.”  And yet, in reading the book of Daniel you can talk to God and God could reveal to you — the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had and what it means and maybe that’s a good place to start. “Lord, I don’t get what this guy is all about, I don’t get why he is like he is. Lord, would you show me things and show me things in your word as I read it…” And start praying there.

I want to believe that Leo is hinting at the fact that the deeper issues going on are the fact that Erin’s husband is controlling and has a hardened heart. I’d like to believe that Leo is asking her to pray to find out what we on this blog have come to find out and that this truth will set her free. But he may just be referring to what he thinks are male insecurity issues and not the truth about the husband’s character.

So here’s their prescription thus far. If she 

  • is kinder and more loving to her husband
  • steers him to pastoral care and discipleship — even though he’s been very angry when she tried that
  • prays harder
  • gets her friends to pray too — but without revealing details or getting into a man-hating club!
  • communicates more with someone who refuses to communicate
  • scratches more of his itches (regardless of how ungodly those itches may be)
  • tries to read her husband’s mind
  • asks God to give her supernatural revelation so she can read her husband’s mind — even though the husband himself may not know what he’s all about

… then her problem will clear up. And if God doesn’t give Erin the revelation about what her husband’s suffering from (poor little unaware kid that he is!) what a black mark from God will be stamped on Erin’s forehead!

Mike Kestler: And you know, Erin, it can be something else deeper, too, in his life. My dad had a great saying. He says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense.” And I ask him, “What does that mean?”  He said if it doesn’t make sense there’s more going on than you understand and that’s why you can’t figure it out. And I think a lot of times that might be it too. There might be something else going on in his life. And the thing is, Erin, depending what that is, no matter what you do, you may never satisfy him. So I think communication is an important part to find out. You know — where is he going, what does he want, what is his thinking. And then, you know, you may or may not be able to adapt to that. But I think you need to find out what makes him tick. Erin, I hope that helps dear.

A flicker of awareness before Kestler goes back to his previous monologue. He gets it right in steering her toward the idea that if it doesn’t make sense then there’s something else going on. He gets it right in acknowledging that her husband may NEVER be satisfied. Then uggghhh…back to the communication that she has already stated she can’t have. Kestler is suggesting she do what she’s already done, but hasn’t worked.

She may not be able to adapt to what he wants? Should she adapt to what he wants? Nowhere again do they give any indication that what he wants could be unbiblical and shouldn’t be adapted to!

Erin: It does. I just really fast want to say something to what Mike [Mike Fabarez] said. I am not aware — for spite — withholding sex from him because he’s been cruel. I’m not aware of that.

I was so proud of Erin when she stood up for herself here. Notice that she did this with incredible respect as well, despite the prosecution counsel. She also indicates a sense of resolve by reaffirming that her husband’s words are cruel.

Mike Kestler: Well, you know, the Bible says to know thyself and that’s interesting that there’s a compelling to know that. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know ourselves. And I believe only God can reveal who we are, and sometimes without God’s help showing us who we are when he reveals it to us it’s overwhelming. So, dear, I hope that helps and God bless ya. Again, communication, prayer. Those two things, you won’t lose.

Wow — kicking a woman when she’s down. It doesn’t sit well with me when Erin does stand up for herself and it seems Mike Kestler almost views her at this point as a threat who must be neutralized. Erin just said she wasn’t aware of any spitefulness in herself, and Kestler undermines her by urging her to doubt whether she knows herself well enough. Don’t go thinking well of yourself, Erin! Get back down where you belong! His comment and tone seem to drip with disdain. Erin’s comment was not even directed at him — it was directed at Mike Fabarez! But Kestler doesn’t give Fabarez the opportunity to respond to it. He accuses her then tells her that he hopes that helps. He also takes one last time to squeeze in that ‘communication’ that Erin has already said isn’t possible. 

Final Thoughts

Beyond what’s been discussed, here is what wasn’t mentioned but should have been (assuming this was a difficult marriage and not the destructive one that it is). They don’t mention compromise. Every instruction given is for her to change and conform to what her husband wants.

Never once do the trio really honor Erin’s responses to the abuse. At no time do they give her any positive reinforcement for what she is doing right. (“Right” in the pastors’ eyes, that is. We recognize her right efforts are not bringing about change.) There are numerous examples of her husband’s unwillingness and hard heartedness yet they persist in advising her what SHE needs to do differently. Just because she’s the one who called the radio station, doesn’t mean she’s the one who is the problem. 

This dialog reminds me of Job. Erin laments of her troubling circumstances and she is accused and given a list of things she has done wrong or needs to do in order to stop the affliction. 


For further reading

Conversation and the Sexes: Why Men Interrupt, and engage in ‘Mansplaining’


  1. freeing hope

    The responses of these men are horrible!! Unfortunately they are also the usual responses by (C)hristian “counselors”. When I tried to find help for my marriage, these are the kind of responses I received, from several different sources over 15 years. No wonder I stayed in an abusive marriage for over 2 decades. Thank you for all you do to combat the devastating errors these people force on victims of abuse.

  2. Dale Ingraham @ Speaking Truth In Love Ministries

    Jesus said that God allowed divorce under the law because of the hardness of ‘your ‘ hearts. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees so His reference to ‘your’ hearts would be to the men or the husbands in Moses’ day. It is hard to conceive that there is less grace for the abused wife in the age grace than there was under the law.

  3. Wendell G

    This just proves that to men like these, there are two rules.

    Rule 1. The man can do no wrong and must be worshiped unconditionally.
    Rule 2. If the woman feels abused, see Rule 1.

    Beyond what has already been said, I have serious problems with this whole idea of radio talk shows allowing for this kind of thing. Here we have three self proclaimed spiritual experts, trying to “counsel” a woman they don’t know, concerning a situation they are not privy to, and making all sorts of wild assumptions leading to pat answers and generalizations that fit into their theological paradigm.

    Here, she was genuinely hurting, desperately reaching out for help and all they can give her is their normal misogynistic formula to appease her husband. They are condescending and laying all the responsibility on her while her husband will simply lap up all the attention and laugh off any attempt to get him to recognize he is the problem, much less change.

    These men are so full of spiritual pride, they are a stench to God’s nostrils!

  4. LorenHaas

    When I met my wife (second marriage for both) she was attending a Calvary Chapel church. (Mike Kestler’s background) I attended with her and enjoyed the “verse by verse” teaching, wonderful music and the congregants. I also listened to Calvary Satellite network. When we decided to marry the pastor there graciously traveled 1 1/2 hours to perform the ceremony. After a year we moved back to the area of that church and began attending again. Soon we got more involved and started a DivorceCare ministry.

    Working with divorced people and interactions with the staff at this church really opened my eyes. It became quite clear that women’s roles were secondary and to be almost universally submissive. Counseling outside of the pastors, even with licensed Christian counselors was greatly discouraged. We both began to have doubts about this church and network of churches that pretty much all complied with orders from headquarters in Costa Mesa. Investigating more, I discovered a lot of skeletons and ungodly behavior, not the least of which was with Kestler. The only thing that kept us there was the divorce recovery ministry. Soon enough that was ruined when we realized that we were protecting our participants from interaction with our own pastors.

    We moved on to a church that is fully supportive of our divorce recovery ministry and fully incorporates women into every facet of the church. Night and day differences.

    It is distressing but not surprising to hear that Kestler is back on CSN after a long exile. He is not fit for ministry and his co-hosts show very poor judgement being on air with him. Read for yourself:
    Mike Kestler Back On CSN [Internet Archive link]

    Not all Calvary Chapel churches are the same, but they all come from the same root, I would be very cautious about them. Now that Chuck Smith has died some things will change, Some for better, some for worse, Considering how dysfunctional the Calvary Chapel “family” has been I would not be hopeful.

    [Link vetted and approved by ACFJ admins]

  5. freeatlast8

    Wow. This is an excellent article. Thank you for posting it and big thanks to the author who so thoroughly catches every nuance in this well-written expose. I could have been Erin, and I know the feelings she must have felt after hanging up the phone. “Try harder, honey. You can do better. Hang on, tomorrow is a new day.” Oh the hopelessness. God bless, Erin. May she find her way to this site.

    • Annie

      So scripture teaches that when a man treats his wife this way that God will not answer the man’s prayers….yet….Mike thinks that his wife should be nicer, etc? Where does that logic come from anyway? Holding a wife to a higher standard than God Himself?

  6. shepherdguardian

    Matthew 7:9-10 New American Standard Bible (NASB1995)

    (9) Or what man is there among you [a]who, when his son asks for a loaf, [b]will give him a stone? (10) Or [c]if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

    My heart aches for this woman and so many like her. They come seeking solace, justice, Godly counsel and are given psychobabble, cotton candy (in a patriarchal package).

    These men do NOT know their Bible.

    How terribly sad.

  7. joepote01

    Valerie, you have done a tremendous job in recognizing and countering the false, unwise, unbiblical counsel given by this trio of pastors on the talk radio show “To Every Man an Answer.”

    Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, but is all too common in today’s church, in congregations where marriage is falsely elevated to a position of idolatry and divorce is falsely treated as not only sin but an unpardonable sin. They sidestep the realities of evil in this fallen world, because it does not align with their fairy-tale mythology (as opposed to biblical theology).

    Great job! Thank you!

  8. Jeff Crippen

    Honestly, even after many years of working in the ministry to abuse victims, I still cannot – I can not – listen to this kind of stuff (I was going to say, trash, filth, evil). These kind of men make me SO angry for so many reasons. There they sit on their self-appointed little pious, holy panel, ready to dispense “wisdom from above” to people. And they use pious platitudes and “nice talk” and “God-talk” when people like Erin call in. But it is all fake. The fact is, they don’t care at all about Erin. Erin is – a woman. Erin is – a lesser being than they. Erin is a means for them to get self-glory as they parade themselves publicly, just like the Pharisees standing on the street corner praying for all to see.

    I tell you, no, the Lord tells you: These men have their reward. Enjoy the glory now, boys, because when Christ comes there will be nothing for you.

    I told you this stuff makes me mad. Boiling mad.

    • Herjourney

      I think God approves of this site!
      Not speaking for Him.
      The truth will set you free.
      God said it!

    • LorenHaas

      This really is pretty standard treatment from the conservative evangelical crowd. Not all, but most in my experience. Thank you Jeff for calling this out. Very few pastors are willing to rock the boat in what has become the “good ole boys” club.

    • joepote01

      Did they respond in such an idiotic and judgmental manner because Erin is a woman? Maybe…it’s certainly possible that gender bias played a role in their response.

      However, in my experience, pastors, elders, counselors, and laymen are likely to give equally idiotic and judgmental counsel to an abused husband.

      I certainly do not want to minimize the potential for gender bias within the church…it certainly exists and certainly plays a role in these sorts of mindsets. However, much of this ties directly back to the unbiblical marriage / divorce mythology that falsely declares, “Divorce is sin. God hates divorce. Divorce is not an option for a Christian. A divorce is always the fault of both parties. Divorce is the worst thing that could happen to a family. Children are always better off in a home with both their parents than in a broken home. Divorce is always a preventable tragedy. All marital issues can always be resolved through more fervent prayer, deeper faith, and a true desire to better understand your partner.” Pastors who buy into these unbiblical myths cannot see past the myths…they are totally blind to the realities of true evil…and to any true understanding of free will.

      • Daisy


        I said something kind of similar in another post below.
        I do think a lot of this stuff is motivated by gender bias, but also other things. A lot of Christians, for some weird reason, feel compelled to favor abusers over victims, and I don’t just mean in cases of abusive marriages, but other types of abuse.

        I’ve seen countless stories of churches who side with child sex abusers over the victims, for instance. I think maybe this is because they have a warped understanding of justice / forgiveness / ability of Jesus to change people.

        I think they want the child molester, for example, to “come to Jesus” and be able to stand up in front of the church the following week and give a stellar testimony about how he once was a horrible person who preyed on children, but now, he’s a changed, new man, thanks to that church and to Jesus.

        Churches don’t want the victims to hang around or to speak up and keep insisting on getting justice, because the victims are a reminder of how the abuser was really bad and the church environment made it easy for the abuser to prey on kids, so they will shame or pressure the victims to leave.

        It’s the same dynamic with abusive work places. I did a ton of reading on that topic, where the authors explained it. (You can apply this to churches and how they treat abused people.)

        Human Resources departments and co-workers at a job will seldom defend the worker who is being bullied by a boss.

        When that worker has had enough of the abusive behavior from the boss and quits, the remaining co-workers rationalize to themselves that the victim must have “deserved” the abuse in the first place. It’s a way for them to cope with the senselessness of it all, and that they can deny to themselves that they could be chosen next by the boss to be the next victim.

        A lot of that sort of thing may be going on with churches who side with abusers and who either try to shut victims up, or who pressure them to leave, or to just put up with the abuse, like these radio pastors were basically doing with Erin the wife who phoned them.

      • joepote01

        Daisy –

        I saw something similar with some of my children as I was going thru divorce. Although I have a good relationship with all of them now, at the time it was extremely difficult dealing with sin-leveling and victim-blaming from my own children. Looking back, I think a lot of that had to do with what they were able to accept. It was much easier to see Dad as being a little weird and stubborn than to see Mom as an unrepentant malevolent abuser. Although it was the truth, it was a reality their minds simply weren’t prepared to accept.

        I suspect the same is often true of Christian friends. It’s much easier to accept a reality that says Sue can be a little difficult at times than to accept a reality that says Fred is pure evil.

    • DaughteroftheKing

      I had a hard time reading through this article, and found myself not only taking lots of cleansing breaths, but also praying for Erin. I hope God clears the fog and gives her true friends who will help her and validate the truth of her situation. I also had many triggers, and realize my need to forgive the “elders” who mistreated me and my daughters with similar advice.

      But praise be to God, that He sees, He knows, and He cares. He rescued us out of a terrible situation, and led us to a place of safety. I thank God that there is at least one man out there who gets it! Thank you, Jeff!

    • Brooklyn

      This is quite normal for what we hear in counseling, messages, conferences, blah, blah… I know that I loath the very touch of my husband if it is in an intimate way and he is initiating sex. I don’t hate intimacy. I long for it. Just not with him like he is. I’m just now discovering this site and it has been an eye opener for sure. Now I am finally learning, after 20 years, the problem isn’t me. And I am also just now learning I don’t have to take it. You have no idea how liberating that has been. I don’t know what I will end up doing. I want him to change and I still pray for that. But the emotional and verbal and financial abuse goes in cycles.

      Right now he is behaving and is upset that I won’t be intimate. I’m not ready to have a big talk with him as I am still processing all of this. What do I do? He is accusing me of alienation of affection and of never loving him. How do I tell him that its because of the way he has treated me? When I do say things like that he says he is trying and I am great at keeping a record and not letting things go, and that every time he tries to do better I keep bringing up the past. I am at a loss of how to handle this. Please respond when you can. This conversation just happened. Every time he starts to get the least bit frisky I get up or cause a diversion. He wants to know why I won’t kiss him. He honestly thinks the problem is ME. I’m so broken right now.

      • Hi Brooklyn, I’m going to respond to your comment later today. Briefly, I think you can just say to him at this stage something like, “I’m not wanting to talk about that right now.”

        —you have the right to decide when you want to talk to him, and when you are not comfortable talking to him. You don’t have to jump just because he says “Jump!” But if you feel it might be too risky to overtly refuse to comply with his demand(s), then you can keep creating diversions or whatever… You have the right to process this new info you are learning at your own pace, and in your own time. 🙂

      • He honestly thinks the problem is ME.

        Actually, I think he knows the problem is him, not you. But he pretends that the problem is you, not him. He claims that you are the problem. He will NOT accept the notion that he is the problem. This is what abusers do. They fight the truth. They fight against their wickedness being exposed and put into the light. They have practised this ‘responsibility-resistance’ for so many years that it is automatic behaviour for them. But that does not mean that they are victims of their own stupidity. They are perpetrators. And they choose to continue to perpetrate abuse … including lying by claiming “I don’t have a problem! My wife is the one with the problem!”

        Have you got Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? [*Affiliate link] If you haven’t got a copy yet, we are willing to give you one in a way that is safe for you. Click here for more info Gift Books offer

        *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
  9. K Ann

    Although I have just read this post in its entirety, when I read the caller’s first statement, particularly “…we are having a problem sexually…,” I realized that I would not need to read any further. But I did. And my initial pained gut reaction to her statement was confirmed in the whole of the exchange. The problem is not sexual. I have lived her story. I got out. I don’t live that kind of story any longer. Still, I do not forget how confused I was. And I also do not forget how much misguided “guidance” I received from men and women in Christian circles.

    The problem runs much, much deeper and is more insidious than marital sexual issues. The caller knows it. She knows that the truth lies buried somewhere underneath. She dared to bring up the subject, in a public forum, nonetheless. She seeks validation in that, but she doesn’t receive validation. Instead, the circumstances get turned back on her and she is burdened with increasing her efforts to “try harder.” Like any form of cyclical abuse, this type of handling of the caller’s situation is cyclical, too. And the abuse–and the confusion–continue unabated.

    I have not turned my back on God and my faith. However, as a result of, and in the aftermath of, my twenty-year relationship with my abusive ex-husband, I have had to dig deep into these types of questions for the truth of what God and His Word really say about marriage, marriage vows, and what the difference is between being a door mat and being long-suffering. I, too, sought help from the “church,” but it was as if the “church” had no idea what to do with me and my marital situation.

    I have only recently discovered this site. Thanks to the contributors who are making valiant and consistent efforts to apply scripture and shed light on pathways that will lead others like the caller and me out of confusion and darkness.

    • Daisy

      K Ann said,

      Although I have just read this post in its entirety, when I read the caller’s first statement, particularly “…we are having a problem sexually…,” I realized that I would not need to read any further. But I did.

      I felt the same way but reached a bit of a different conclusion about that (but I agree with all of your post, btw).

      What I mean is that the moment I saw this post start with the woman telling three male pastors that she was having sexual issues with the husband, that the husband was being a jerk, which made it difficult for her to want to have sex,

      I immediately knew that what would follow would be three male preachers shaming, scolding, and lecturing her that it’s her duty to give the husband sex, no matter what.

      Many preachers will always think that the woman’s needs in whatever area of life and marriage don’t matter, that the man’s preferences and desires are of first importance in a marriage, and especially concerning areas of sex.

      Male preachers (and even female ones who are sold on complementarian views) often lecture married women to always fulfill the husband’s sexual wishes, regardless of anything else, it does not matter how cruel or negligent the husband is being or if the wife is not getting her needs by the husband.

      I’ve honestly yet to hear or read a male preacher1 tell a woman her needs/rights are just as important as the husband’s and that her husband is not entitled to sex, especially not if he’s being cruel to her.
      1(Well, maybe ONE. I think Jeff C.-who works as a preacher?- from this blog did pop over to another preacher’s blog to say some of this?? That might be the lone time in my life.)

      • 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.


        Yes Daisy, Jeff Crippen does work as a preacher. He is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church, Tillamook, Oregon. You can access sermons from that church if you go to the “Sermons” tab of this blog.

  10. d. e. m.

    AHH! That is terrible. And reminiscent of my experience, not at the hands of a radio talk show, but at the hands of the church and of my husband.

    The only scripture my husband ever shared with me – that I can remember – is 1 Peter 3:1-6. Then he pointed out that it’s in the context of slaves and masters, and that Sarah was commended for submitting to her husband “even though he wasn’t a stand-up guy”. And then he asked me how I felt about that. The church told me that God could heal my marriage. Promised to pursue relationship with him (and didn’t). Wouldn’t let me join because he told them that it would “be better if we could join together” (he never even went to a membership class). And after he went to a strip club and posted a review about it online I told my pastor I was finished… and he said “maybe it’s time for me and [an elder] to meet with the two of you”. Too little, too late.

    I hope Erin continues to find her voice.

  11. Overcomer

    Ugh. I could not read through the whole thing. Too many triggers it was making me ill. If these guys would spend more time loving abuse victims, and less time studying theology, they might have a clue.

  12. surviving freedom

    Wow, I am unable to fully comment on this transcript. I was only able to get through Mike’s second response to Erin. I am in tears. It is too difficult to even finish reading. Just thinking of the way I was property of my husbands and the advice I was given desiring to fully follow God’s will for me as a wife. Even in situations where I had just had surgery.
    By Mike’s second reply I felt so much anger come up inside of me, towards him, but also towards the pastors and counselors who basically told me that no matter what my husband did to me, said to me, or did in general, if I “withheld” then I was be punishing or taking revenge. That somehow something was “wrong” with me for not wanting to have sexual intimacy with someone who was hurting me. I just really have a lot of anger right now, for me and other targets of this. It’s hard enough to come to realize that your husband is using what should be intimate and sacred as a means of abuse, power, control and to fulfill some kind of angry entitlement … no love. Which is abuse, and it hurts. But to remember how so many ‘c’hristians make excuses for it, but also condemn the wife or calling her unglodly, actually encouraging her to just accept and submit to sexual abuse … is horrifying. In this area. it’s very difficult, it’s like even though it was only one person who was sexually abusive, I feel like it was multiple people who perpetrated it.
    This is no better than if a man drags a woman into a bathroom to rape her, and his friend stands at the door to make sure no one comes in to stop it from happening. Then to make matters worse if she tries to break free, the “friend” just keeps pushing her back in. And then, if she ends up coming forward, the friend exclaims that “she’s making it up, that she consented, but because she’s angry at the perpetrator about something else, she’s out to punish him “for no reason.”
    That “friend” needs to be persecuted to the full extent of the law for an accessory to the crime … just as these pastors or christian counselors need to have happen to them!

    • surviving freedom

      Again, couldn’t read through the whole transcript. So my comments are only based of what I expect Erin was “guided” to do based on my own experience.
      I was thinking about my above comment and actually decided that these christian pastors and counselors are worse than the “friend” that I mentioned in the above example I gave. They are so much worse, they would be like a judge who not only reprimanded a victim of sexual abuse for coming forward, but then basically “orders” her on his authority that, if it should happen again, it is her duty to quietly submit and let it happen or she would be persecuted to the full extent of the law. These “pastors” (or unrighteous judges, in this case), need to be removed entirely from the bench.

      Also, I am thinking that Erin’s experiences were much worse than she stated. As a target of abuse, almost as an instinctual safety precaution, I know I would “test” the waters first with some of the less serious things going on, if those got shot down or turned around on me I knew to go no further.

      Also, a huge THANK YOU to the men who are responding to this post. I don’t know how many times, when seeking to understand if my reactions or feeling about what I was experiencing in this area of the marriage was ‘normal,’ I would hear so many people respond to me with “well, all men …..” (fill in the rest, since that was a very common response to anything concerning marital “intimacy”) So, I basically went away convinced that he was treating me how “all men” treat their wives, but the responses here are refreshing to know that not “all men…” view this topic the same.

      • Daisy

        Surviving Freedom, I am so sorry for what you went through.

        Your comment about other Christians telling you “well, all men…” sort of reminds me of my sister (who is a verbal abuser).

        When I began standing up to her, telling her that her name calling, screaming profanities at me, had to stop- she started yelling at me, “this is how adults talk to each other you better get used to it. This is how all adults speak!”

        Never mind that I myself am an adult, and I don’t yell at people like she does.

        I think people who engage in abuse themselves, or who want to turn a blind eye to it, try to normalize abuse by saying it’s how ‘many’ or ‘most’ or “all” people behave, and if you object to that thinking, you must just be too sensitive, they argue back.

  13. Still Reforming

    I stopped with the following:

    First guy: “Mike Kestler: Well, dear, we are sorry to hear that you’re going through this. It’s always a heartbreak. Mike, your thoughts?”

    Second guy: “Mike Fabarez: Well, it’s hard and it’s difficult for us because we always, when we’re hurt, we want to hurt back — that’s our tendency. But the Bible tries to constantly get us to remember that we cannot repay evil for evil or insult for insult….”

    First guy really got my goat with the condescending, “Well, dear…”

    Second guy annoys me because he derailed her concerns by making a leap to saying God’s Word tells us not to repay kind for kind, but that had NOTHING to do with her own line of thinking or questioning. If it were, she wouldn’t be calling the show!



    What makes me equally as mad is that there are countless other women listening to that show and taking what those two are dishing out as gospel when it’s NOT!

    • LH

      Thank you for this post even tho it was hard to read as it brought back so many awful memories. When I finally went to my pastor about the abuse I was going thru, I was told he was not abusive enough for me to have Biblical grounds (because it was “only” verbal and emotional abuse), but if I did not give him sex when he wanted it then he would have Biblical grounds for divorcing me!

      • cindy burrell

        Un-stinking-believable! Unfortunately, what you shared seems pretty consistent with the traditional church script. I trust you have found the truth and the freedom God would offer you.

  14. Savedbygrace

    OH I think the trigger warning should have been in LARGE font!
    it is instructive tho traumatising to read and reflect on the advice-rather than just listen to it… I imagine the radio hosts know they can get away with a lot because people are just listening so the radio hosts do not have to have the rigour or the accountability that authors need when they write on a topic.. they have used a lot of ‘spiritual’ ‘Christianese’ with a Bible verse or two thrown in for good measure.. all wrapped in patronising familiarity honey, dear – and of course – they have each others backs… it should all ‘sound good’- sadly Erin didn’t stand a chance 😦
    In addition to the myths that have been exposed already in comments, I am also appalled that the only prayer they want her and her friends to pray is that God change both their hearts (the sin levelling has been mentioned) but what about other prayers- prayers for Erin’s safety, prayers for wisdom and courage in how to respond to mistreatment, prayers for his repentance, prayers for justice, prayers for rescue…
    What would I have liked them to say? nothing -I think these comments show they are NOT suitable to be spiritual advisers to anyone. When you go to their website and click on the ‘About’ link the only thing they see fit to share is a photo. No bio, no credentials, no testimony-why have they been given this position of ‘trusted Christian advisers’? why should listeners accept their advice????

  15. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you for your diligence calling this out Valerie and for the work of Pastor Crippen, Barbara and other ACFJ staff to submit it to their readers. Something to remember about pastors when these blind counselors suggest she go to one is that there is no guarantee that the pastor isn’t doing exactly the same thing to his wife.

    The thing about this religious counseling is that it is a set up for passive helplessness in this statement “Well, honey, he’s not going to change until God changes his heart. And like Mike Fabarez says that takes prayer”. As if this woman isn’t completely bent on pleasing God already they suggest the thing she is probably doing 24 / 7 anyway. The glib response is not a commitment to pray for her themselves, but rather like “be warmed and filled” when she has no resources.

    After decades of praying for an abusive husband, thank God, the man left. I remember asking God why He didn’t answer my prayers those many years and hearing in my soul two phrases “I gave you 2 legs” meaning any rational reasonable human would have walked away from the nonsense and, “his hardened heart is grace to you, you are free of him”.

    If any of those men lived in similar circumstances I do not believe for 1 minute they would tolerate it. Secular women are able to just say “no” without layers of impossible rules loaded on their heads in addition to the abuse. I remembered hearing some sermon about the struggle of “submission” and thinking isn’t it fabulous I don’t have to engage with any of that ridiculous crushing and anti-life garbage any more.

    What is sad here is that it is 3 clueless men dispensing marriage advice instead of 3 abuse survivors that actually have some clue of the pain and suffering involved. It is not loving to enable abusive men to not at least encounter a speed bump of resistance on their way to hell. What is loving about enabling sin?

  16. Daisy

    I am really appalled by the radio preacher’s advice to this woman, and I’ve not yet ever finished reading the entire post yet!

    I was just saying on the previous thread I finally realized, after reading so much material about verbal abusers (my sister is one), that there is nothing you can do to change an abuser.

    In material about verbal abuse, as well as ones about physical abuse I’ve read, there is zero justification for a man to beat, emotionally withdraw, or verbally abuse his wife (or for anyone to do this to a friend, co-worker, or family member).

    It is not the wife’s responsibility to change how she behaves to get the husband to change how he treats her, which is what these radio host preachers keep coming back to over and over. The pastors on this radio show are advocating that the wife continue to enable the husband, essentially.

    One of the preachers name dropped the term “accountability,” but there is nobody to whom to hold the husband accountable, as he refuses to go to a counselor or preacher, she says.

    Also, the wife herself can hold the husband accountable, such as by separating from him, divorcing him, (or whatever she feels appropriate and safe doing), but the radio preachers never mention her being assertive on her own behalf.
    Which she can do. She does not necessarily have to rely on another man (such as a preacher or therapist) to get accountability.

    Also, based on books I’ve read, even if an abusive man gets dragged to a counselor or therapist, they will usually “wear a mask” and act compliant and nice in front of the therapist, but once again alone with their wife, they revert back to being abusive and cruel. So you can’t really count on having the husband be held accountable through that method.
    (end of part 1 of my post, I’ll do a part 2)

  17. Daisy

    (part 2)
    I don’t think prayer or prayer alone conquers these sorts of problems, and “pray more and pray harder” is one of the only suggestions these radio preacher guys gave Erin, the wife who phoned them.

    I’ve been bullied by many people over my life – as a kid and as an adult – and no amount of prayer, where I begged God for relief, or to remove the bully from my life, helped. The only thing that helped was me taking action for myself, which may have involved standing up the bully, quitting jobs where I had an abusive boss, etc.

    My experience is that when I prayed to God for help with these things, God did not supernaturally intervene on my behalf to remove a bully from my life, nor did God magically change the personality or nature of my bullies to make them treat me nice. So, I had to take matters into my own hands.

    Someone in the OP commented on Mike the radio preacher’s comments:

    Mike doesn’t ask if her husband ever inquires what HER needs are.

    …Obviously they [the radio preachers] can’t give her a list of what he needs to do. He’s not there.

    This is pretty common in some families but in Christian culture, especially. I was taught by both my Christian parents and Christian gender complementarian preaching and books I was exposed to, that it’s considered selfish or wrong for girls or women to have needs.

    It was communicated to me by my Christian parents, and by most Christian television shows and books I watched and read, that If you (a girl or woman) feel you have needs, it is selfish to want to get them met, or to try to get them met.

    As a woman, you are expected to meet only other people’s needs. I see that this thinking is still very prevalent among many Christians today, and it’s certainly there in the radio preachers’ dismal advice to Erin the wife.

    The radio host preachers only seem to care that the husband in this story is getting all the sex he wants and when he wants, no matter how horribly he treats the wife, and any possible, perfectly legitimate assertiveness on the wife’s part to resist that behavior to correct it is dismissed by the preachers as being un-biblical or wrong.

    (IMO, prayer over such a situation is passive, not assertive.)

    Even now, over the past couple years, some of my family members have been shaming me and scolding me if they find out I’ve been approaching yet other family members to get emotional support (that is, to get my emotional needs met).

    I am told by these family members to bury or ignore my needs and rather, go volunteer at soup kitchens and “help those less fortunate” and such – it is conveyed to me that it’s wrong for me to have needs, but it’s okay for other people to have needs.

    I see Mike and the other male preachers telling Erin the wife in this story much the same thing – it’s okay for her abusive husband to have needs and get them met, but not okay for her, a woman, to have needs and expect to have them met. This teaching only benefits the abuser and keeps the wife trapped.
    (end of part 2)

  18. Daisy

    (Part 3)
    The OP said,

    Kestler talks about two languages and never even comes close to suggesting that her language be taken into consideration but rather that she should be speaking her husband’s language.

    …They [the male pastors counseling Erin the wife] don’t mention compromise. Every instruction given is for her to change and conform to what her husband wants.

    Mm-hmm, yep. Because in a lot of Christian thinking (especially gender complementarian) what women want or need is not considered important.

    Women exists only to serve males, in that sort of doctrine. I really do suspect that is part of the reasoning / thinking behind some of this. The husband’s needs and wants are paramount.

    I also find this is true of victims in general. Anytime I read about someone who has been harmed by a church person – like an adult who sexually molests a child – many churches put the burden on the victim.

    Churches will rally the wagons of protection around the aggressor / abuser, but force and shame victims into forgiving the abuser quickly, or run the victim out of church but let the abuser stay, etc.

    From the OP:

    Overlooking an offense is not the same thing as overlooking persistent wickedness.

    Wonderful observation, very true!

    From the OP:

    It seems actually cruel of Kestler to paint this picture as though it were possible when Erin has already described a calloused, unwilling husband. The whole ice cream scene is nauseating to me

    I completely agree. The ice cream cone thing was a totally naive thing to say and think.

    The guy who said that is operating under the misconception that Erin has a normal marriage, when she’s already described an abusive situation. And he is totally ignoring Erin’s reality and how she’s explained everything.

    The OP said

    Kestler says if this doesn’t work she will have to “take other means” but doesn’t give any idea on what that looks like.

    I noticed that as well. Other than telling her to pray, the pastors did not give her concrete examples of what to do. They had to lay off the “take him to a counselor” thing when she said, he refuses to go.

    I think divorce is totally an option for Erin, but divorce is usually never permitted or cited as an option by most preachers.

    That Mike K. kept calling Erin “dear” seemed patronizing.

    Mike Kestler said to Erin:

    Again, communication, prayer. Those two things, you won’t lose.

    Yes, you can in fact lose using those methods. I tried prayer and communication with a verbally abusive sister and a bully boss, and neither one worked. I had to cut the sister from my life and quit the job. Try again, Mike.

    That was just horrible, horrible and ineffective advice from those preachers. I hope Erin was able to get better advice elsewhere.

    • Thank you so much Daisy for your detailed comments in this thread. 🙂 🙂

  19. Valerie

    Freeatlast, I also prayed this morning that God would lead Erin to this site. Even more so as I see the responses of outrage that I believe would be an encouragement for her. These men were not outraged for her as they ought to have been.

    When I first heard this I wept for Erin. I remember well receiving this kind of counsel that leaves you despairing for life at times. They are not giving words of life but words of man. I appreciate ACFJ allowing me to post this in hopes that others who come here who may not even have the ability to comment on this site will see people speaking out against such insidious evil and support the one who truly needs support- the victim. People need to hear this kind of cruelty is NOT normal and is NOT right.

    I also particularly appreciate the men who have commented as others have mentioned. It is good for others to see this is an abuse issue first and foremost.

    What really struck me about this conversation was the incidiousness of what she described. While abuse is sometimes physical, it isn’t always. Where do these victims turn? I was also triggered the night I heard this broadcast and sat for hours crying. It is hard to not feel helpless, defenseless, confused and bullied all over again. But it is my hope that now that we have been enlightened through God’s grace that we can now speak out for those who can not speak for themselves and in so doing we find that we are also speaking out against the abuse we endured first in our relationships and the further trauma inflicted through this kind of counsel. We are no longer there…Praise God!!!

  20. Savedbygrace

    OK so what would I have really liked Erin to hear?
    Something along these lines……..

    Erin thank you for phoning in- that takes a lot of courage especially in the face of what sounds like a truly difficult and painful situation.

    You say I need to know how to think about this because it is very difficult to have sex with someone who hurts you so much.
    You’re right to feel that it is difficult to have sex in your current circumstances because sex is meant to be an expression of mutual love in the context of safe intimacy in marriage.

    Your question centres around the Bible’s teaching of our responsibilities within marriage to be sexually available. The Bible speaks about having ongoing sexual relations in marriage because it is part of God’s good design – these verses in 1 Corinthians 7 were spoken to new believers who – in their zeal to be truly spiritual thought they needed to abstain from things of the flesh eg sex. These verse are commonly misused to say that you need to keep having sex no matter what – but that was never their purpose. Paul was affirming the goodness of healthy mutual sexual expression within a marriage – that God gave us bodies to enjoy and it is not ‘unspiritual’ to enjoy sex within marriage.
    In other passages – like Ephesians 5 – Paul emphasises mutual consideration- and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church, love their wives as they love their own bodies and that wives should respect their husbands.

    Clearly there has been a break down within your relationship to be able to relate in that Biblical way as a couple – it sounds like sex is no longer mutual and an expression of intimacy.

    There’s a few things I’d like you to take away with you today –
    This is a very serious situation which needs immediate attention. Are you safe? This kind of problem can be an indicator of very serious relationship issues which can escalate – you need to trust your gut instincts and prioritise your safety.
    No one should be forced to have sexual relations. Ever. There is no Biblical justification for that.
    The behaviour of your husband which you describe as cruel and demeaning whilst also his demands for sex are very anti Christian and give me grave concerns for his spiritual state.

    My suggestion to you is that you
    —get advice from someone skilled in the area of domestic abuse. Phone the local abuse hot line (we can provide the number in your area).
    —link in with a few Christian friends who understand your struggles and can pray with you and be there to support you.
    —continue to look to the Lord for your strength, help and comfort.

    Thank you for having the courage to voice your very real concerns today Erin and we will be praying that you are able to get some ongoing help close by – if any of our listeners are experiencing abuse in their relationships we encourage you to reach out and get help – we will be posting those hotline numbers on our website.

    • HisBannerOverMeIsLove

      Savedbygrace I cried when you wrote…You’re right to feel that it is difficult to have sex in your current circumstances because sex is meant to be an expression of mutual love in the context of safe intimacy in marriage.

      I like that you wrote this and I liked hearing what the response should have been to Erin.

      Mostly I’ve been intimate with detached feelings. How can I change this when there is a low view of my feelings. For weeks there has been no intimacy. I struggle with wanting to be intimate (need?)and NOT wanting to be at the same time (from bad verbal treatment?). Relieved when nothing is expected and yet troubled. I can’t seem to level it all out. I will go through the roller coaster of feelings. Angry and rejected and then avoiding and so on.

      The last verbal slam session just lingers in my memory. He acknowledges it was hurtful, but on purpose and he goes on to say it was deserved and he’s not sorry. He says I have to get over it and move on. I have to forgive him he says.

      Since then he hasn’t tried to be intimate with me but has only hinted or teased as if I should expect it’s coming. Like I have to have several weeks of expecting it to get ready…. I think this makes sense because I do NEED weeks to get over it and be ready. I see how this has been the case for years. I don’t know how to deal with this. In the past I felt desperate for any attention so no matter the time or circumstances I would do what he wanted. Now I don’t feel desperate for his attention. I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to finally having it or if I should be avoiding it. Ugh! So I feel content to not be sought out but I also desire to be loved. Since the counseling has ended with the pastor it has gradually gone back to this pattern, which is just like it has always been.

      I would like to hear someone speak on the difference between being a door mat and suffering for Christ.

      Also, any reference to 1 & 2 Peter I still can barely stomach. I have to take some long deep breaths, assure myself it is God’s word and okay to read.

      • twbtc

        I would like to hear someone speak on the difference between being a door mat and suffering for Christ.

        These are links to two posts that address the erroneous teaching that equates an abuse victim’s suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross. They may be helpful.

        Suffering, Abuse, and the Providence of God

        Does “Turn the Other Cheek” Mean We Must Submit to Abuse?

        You also said how difficult it is to stomach 1 & 2 Peter. You are not alone in this. There are many scriptures, including 1 & 2 Peter, that have been twisted beyond recognition and used to keep victims under bondage and we hear from many victims that they just can’t read those scriptures. And I would add, don’t feel you need to visit those scriptures till you feel ready. We have a post by MeganC, Untouchable Scriptures and she talks about how difficult it was for her to read certain scriptures.

        We do have some posts that help to untwist 1 & 2 Peter and give an accurate interpretation. You may find them helpful. I am providing the links below.

        Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters? (1 Peter 2&3)

        1 Peter 3 Does Not Command Victims to Remain in Abuse — Help from David deSilva

      • Savedbygrace

        Dear HisBanner, my heart goes out to you as I have been through decades of sex without intimacy and it is indeed soul destroying. Our theology must be livable – for me, when I am traumatised it helps me to go back to the basics- God loves me unconditionally, I see it most clearly in Jesus; I am his child, He is my loving Father who will always protect and never leave me, He wants good for me.. soon after I separated from my husband I read a devotional that said you can trust the man who died for you. I have hung onto that. God is good and I can trust Him. We do not have to have all the answers.
        I think the concept of ‘suffering for Christ’ has to do with aligning ourselves with Him and His gospel- the kind of suffering the non Christian may throw at you for being a believer- it has got nothing to do with being mistreated or abused in everyday life. I think ‘being a door mat’ is when you let people walk over the top of you without any regard for your basic human rights e.g. you have a right to feel safe in your own home. I have been a door mat, and I think it is hard to stand up for yourself when you are met with verbal abuse and repeatedly run down- you end up believing and taking on board how your abuser is defining you. They wear you down and demoralise you and count on that to keep their power over. I understand your sexual confusion- wondering how you could want to be close to someone who so mistreats you… as I have struggled with this as well. It is normal to crave kindness and intimacy and it should be available with our partner… I found it hard to face the reality that it was not going to happen. I encourage you to find a good counsellor (perhaps at womens centre, experienced in domestic abuse) to help you clear your mind and find your voice. What is happening is not OK- God does not want us to live in fear- the Truth will set you free. Praying for you today x

      • surviving freedom

        HisBanner, oh the confusion and pain of this situation. I read your account and I relate to it so well. I am in tears for you, but for myself as well. The games and manipulation are painful. I remember all too well, just wanting to be loved in some way, some sort of affection or indication of love. Even after realizing that it had nothing to do with love, that it was all just about lust and control, having moments of still wanting some sort of affection. And once I started confronting what was happening, once I had said that I was not going to be someone to be used, then things got even worse. His manipulation and silent punishments, playing the victim, it was all so confusing.
        Even now, with him 5 months gone, Sometimes I miss the affection, sometimes the loneliness is a difficult thing; and then I feel guilty for missing him.
        But I have come to learn that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, you, or anyone to want to be loved by the person who vowed to love and cherish us. There is nothing wrong with us for wanting a mutually loving, respectful intimate relationship, that is what God intended. It is his sin for taking that special part of a marital relationship and using it to fulfill his lustful desires for power, and control.
        As for being a “door mat.” I listened to the “door mat” theology from other Christians for many years. Then, after reading this site I realized how un-Biblical that is, Jesus was never a doormat.
        But, I also look back (and I do truly think this is true for many targets of abuse) and it may seem like I was a “door mat” but I also know how difficult it was those times I did attempt to stand up for myself. I think for many of us, we instinctively chose whatever route we would suffer the least. I think there may have been a time when the things done were in attempts to be loved, things overlooked or backed down from upon instruction to be a “good” Christian wife, due to years of manipulation, brain washing, and grooming by the abuser (with the aid of so many ‘c’hristian and societal views). But I think it was mostly done, not in attempt to love or cater to him, not in an attempt to be loved more, but in attempt to be abused less.

      • Still Reforming

        First of all, I want you to know that I empathize with your struggle re: intimacy and I feel for you. I wish I could give you a big hug and sit over coffee or tea and share.
        You wrote something to which I want to respond briefly and that is this: ” I have to forgive him he says.”
        I hope you know that if you choose to, you certainly may forgive him, but you don’t have to. God doesn’t forgive everyone. If He did, there would be no hell.
        Many “Christians” (so-called) use this forgiveness card every time they want someone ELSE to do the forgiving – even in the lack of repentance. I don’t buy that. I don’t think that God forgives without repentance. He doesn’t let people go on their merry way without changing and give them a blank check to do whatever they want with his blessing and forgiveness. Good golly, if we all believed that, Christianity would be chaotic and anarchist.
        When “Christians” demand that someone ELSE forgive and they ignore the justice side of that coin, they’re demanding mercy without justice. And yet, without justice, mercy cannot exist. If there is no justice, then how can there be any mercy? Mercy from what if there is no cost to pay for one’s actions or sins?
        I don’t understand forgiveness as fully as I ought, but the little that I do understand tells me that I don’t have to forgive the unrepentant. Even when I don’t forgive, I don’t hold anything against that person and don’t seek to return kind for kind. We know vengeance is not ours.
        With respect to intimacy, I and many others here lost that for years before the final dissolution of “marriage.” Many of us lived in separate bedrooms, not because we didn’t desire sex, but we didn’t desire it with an abusive man who happened to be called our husband(s). Don’t feel guilty or punish yourself because you (1) have a health sex drive and desire it and (2) don’t want to engage in relations with a mean individual who is your anti-husband.
        I never denied my husband when he wanted it, BUT…. my lack of interest in it made it stop. He didn’t pursue after a certain time, and … I was glad for it.
        Also, for what it’s worth, you don’t have to have sex with him just because you’re married to him. I thought long and hard about that verse that says you should have it and only abstain for reason of prayer and fasting. If he throws that one at you, ask him how long he’s been fasting and praying. It finally occurred to me after years of pondering that that it’s a mutual thing. The wife doesn’t have to be the only one fasting and praying, and if the husband isn’t doing the same, why should only the wife? (Also, if he starts fasting and praying just to get the sex, don’t fall for it. If it were genuine, he would have been the one to initiate the fasting and praying for himself without demanding the sex as payment for so doing.)

  21. cindy burrell

    I could not read the entire transcript either. I would just love to have the opportunity to rebuke those three ignoramuses and then wrap my arms around Erin and tell her that God never, ever condones abuse in marriage – including I Peter 3. Honor and respect in marriage is always expected to be mutual. Isn’t it strange how so many teachers infer that women are supposed to accept suffering in marriage? The word never says that, even in I Peter. It says a wife should submit to her unbelieving husband, not an abusive one. And a few verses later, it says that a husband should live with his wife in an understanding way, not as a tyrant. Yet she is the one who is expected to carry the entire burden for making the marriage work?

    Marriage is sacred, not merely a ring on one’s finger, but the relationship itself, the image of the love relationship between our Lord and His bride, the church. Does Jesus ever torment His bride? Absolutely not. He is our source of protection and affirmation and acceptance. When Jesus said, “What God has joined, let no man tear asunder,” Erin’s situation is precisely the kind of blatant failure He was referencing. The abuser rips the marriage covenant to shreds.

    And where is the contemporary church in all this? As we can see here, all too often the church is, in fact, the abuser’s most powerful ally.

  22. Kay

    First of all, I wouldn’t listen to anything Mike Kessler has to say. Second, “Honey” and “Dear” are condescending words, which just reveals how these guys think of women. This is the typical masculine response from the church. They are unable to provide insight or depth because they live in an unbalanced world where men are more spiritual than women, where men know best, and where there is very little insight from women who do their own thinking. Erin needs to be assured that it is perfectly acceptable to expect to be treated with dignity and respect and that turning her husband down for sex is the natural consequence of his behavior. This man is obviously bullying her, and I bet holding him accountable would bring on some really scary behavior. She would definitely need a support group, which is going to be hard to come by in the church. Funny how we can sit in Sunday school class and discuss the terrible plight of Muslim women, but no one recognize it as abuse when it happens right under our noses.

    • felix simon

      Spot on Kay!

  23. Better Equipped

    I sat under Mike Fabarez’s teaching – went to his church in Southern California, Compass Bible Church, for about a year and a half. I knew immediately that although he didn’t actually “teach legalism” per se, he and the whole genre of the church project legalism. They are the coldest church people I ever met, congregation and leaders alike. I would’ve left sooner but had the whole family to wait to “see the light” about the prevailing darkness at this church. I have since I left met so many others who left this church because of its legalistic spirit. As a matter of fact Mike F would announce on occasion from the pulpit how so many complaints about him and his church accused him of being legalistic, but he merely scoffed and dismissed them as unbiblical Christians. Want to know how alive and well the Christianity is in a pastor / Leader’s private life, just observe the expressions exuded in the wife. Legalistic teachers (and as this article bespoke even abusive mindsets) typically have very cold, distant, and harsh wives / women leading their women’s ministries. My experience there was absolutely awful, but the deep lessons I learned about what loving the flock of God should and shouldn’t look like was worth the time there. Everything Mike F said on this radio program is so in keeping with the heartless spirit with which he leads his church. Appalling!!

    • Valerie

      Better Equipped, I appreciate hearing from someone who has a firsthand account of Mike F’s teaching in particular. I had a lot of respect for him after hearing his online teaching but was mortified when I heard his callous response that I shared. I can’t help but wonder if his dad being cop led to legalistic thinking…and wasn’t his mom a judge? Then again our own Jeff C was also a cop and we see he is not legalistic!

      Do you recall some examples of Mikes legalistic teaching? I, too, have heard him say that he is accused of being legalistic but he described it in terms of those who do not think repentance is necessary as a halmark of salvation. After all the betrayal I encountered at my old church this broadcast was really devastating to me in terms of having trust in the organized church when I thought I had finally found someone who spoke the truth and nothing but the truth.

  24. Joel

    I’m so sad some people treat they wives like this. I hope Erin is able to get some support and help from some pastors with the stones to do the right things and hold her husband accountable. Also I pray she is kept safe. Jeff C, does your church in Tillamook have a website with your sermons? Couldn’t find it on Google

    • twbtc

      Yes, Ps Jeff’s sermons can be found at sermonaudio.com. Here is a link to sermonaudio.com Pastor’s sermons are also listed on our Resources page at the top menu bar. They are listed under Online Resources under the subheading Sermons.

  25. Searcher

    This is an excellent discussion. I have spent most of my life attending church.
    The poor advice given to women who are suffering is based on the belief that a man can do no wrong. This is patriarchy. The thinking that a woman is less than a man and needs to be controlled has ruined countless marriages.
    Sexual difficulties are a mere symptom of a general lack of intimacy in the relationship. My wife will not feel close to me if I am dismissive and condescending towards her. This applies to my relationship with everyone in our home.
    The husband was mentioned is emotionally abusive. It is impossible to love someone who is destroying us emotionally.
    Kestler has no business giving marriage advice.
    This type of poor advice is dangerous.
    Abusers will latch on to it and attempt to justify their actions.

  26. Searcher

    The scriptures should not be used to justify treating anyone poorly. The poor advice given by uncaring pastors may buy an abuser time but in the end a relationship that is not fed and nurtured will die.

    • healinginhim

      …. a relationship that is not fed and nurtured will die.

      Yes, I’m dealing with death. Can’t really say I’m grieving anymore. Still coping with the stench of living with a corpse and other corpses being dragged out of the closet.
      So grateful for a loving God who protects and has led me to a community of believers via the internet.

  27. Karen

    This was an extremely difficult post to read. Extremely difficult. My heart breaks for Erin and the words (I cannot even call it advice) given to Erin will lead her down the path of greater destruction, not reconciliation. Goodness does not reconcile with darkness for they are two polar opposites and I am shocked at how these men counseled this woman. Do they not value the soul of a broken woman?

  28. imsetfree

    My mum was in Erin`s situation. Never phoned a helpline but it shocks me that if she had this is the response that might have happened to her

    • twbtc

      Hi imsetfree,

      Welcome to the blog! You will notice I altered your screen name slightly to help protect your identity. May I suggest you visit our New User’s page? It gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      If you have a question about your screen name or would like to change it, feel free to email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com 🙂

  29. Stillblessed

    I used to listen to this radio show a lot. I listened to the excerpt before I read the article. Even though I’ve not sat under much personal counseling of this sort, I have read book after book, article after article, all saying much the same thing. As I listened and read today, I found my heart pounding, my head feeling full of pressure, my whole body tensing, weak, trembling. The healing work I have done has taught me to stop, feel, name the emotions, look for the beliefs that are under the emotions. I will share, in hopes of helping another reader.

    I’m feeling unheard, misunderstood, threatened, afraid, misjudged, condemned, burdened with responsibility that shouldn’t be mine, left without help or hope, betrayed by those from whom I’ve sought help, oppressed, patronized, angry, confused, and so much more. This has triggered a false belief that I carried for years: I’m responsible to ‘fix’ our marriage, to ‘fix’ him, and if it’s not getting ‘fixed’, it’s because of a lack of caring, trying, praying, or being a good-enough wife. This false belief was pounded into me by years of reading/hearing this kind of advice / preaching, and was strengthened by my own over-the-top respect of authority, fear of conflict, and feelings of never being ‘good enough’.

    Thankfully, in time I was blessed to receive counsel that placed the blame where it belonged – on my husband. I can now usually stand strong and not carry blame / responsibility that isn’t mine. It amazes me, though, how hearing something like this (even when it wasn’t directed to me) can bring back those old feelings, questions, self-doubts.

    How painful this must have been for Erin! It must have taken a huge amount of courage for her to make that call in the first place, and then to walk away with more burden of blame / responsibility than what she started with – how wrong that is!

    • Thank you, Stillblessed! Your testimony is powerful.

  30. Lost

    I’m like Erin in that I get this same kind of advice from the church and counseling. I feel like Job in that sense too. Been saying that for a while. Work on yourself, have boundaries, read scripture, according to your faith it will be done, etc But no one says a thing about the stonewalling, manipulation, coercion, etc etc. Everybody wants to be his friend.

    Even our marriage counselor (when we went together) would hug him excitedly and act like a friend and compliment him. I mean this is how it is. Nobody is catching on. Even the pastor’s wife talks to me in third person and tells me I need to do my work. She means well but no one is serious. Throwing around subtle guilt trips for all they’ve done for us. But I hear it. Seems she’s clearly taking out her anger that should be directed to my husband on me in conversation. She even told me that the years we were separated (in which I suffered immensely in many ways) was a huge blessing to her family and that I better not discount what The Lord did! She scolded me!

    I won’t even go back to that church now. I can’t. How do I find help like you guys give near me?

    • Many Christian women report that they have found better help from secular DV services than Christian churches and Christian counselors. In my early days, I attended two support groups for DV victims. They were both run by the secular agencies in my town. The first one I attended while I was still with my abuser (I told him I was going to a women’s group for Self Esteem.) The second one I attended after my final separation from him.

      Although none of the other women in the groups, or the facilitators, were Christians, I did not find that too hard. I didn’t talk about all the intricacies of doctrinal dilemmas that I had. But I had plenty in common with the other women in the group because we all knew what abuse and coercive control was like! And we all knew what it was like to be judged and stigmatized by bystanders.

      • KayE

        I agree that people shouldn’t be afraid to get help from secular DV services. I found it extremely hard to gather the courage to approach these groups, but they were lifesavers. And some of the facilitators and group members were Christians too, real Christians who cared and understood.

      • Yeah, I’ve found that too, KayE. Quite often Christians work in secular or semi-secular agencies. They usually can’t tell their clients about their faith. But I sensed it. And later on, as I got more into advocacy for other survivors, I found out that I was correct. (The town I was living in was only 100,000 people so the Christian network and welfare services network was rather small.)

  31. Mike Donohue

    Kessler is quite the charlatan, and his side-kick, Las Vegas-Leo, seems to aide and abet. His personal history as media minister was incomprehensible for me to really digest. Scoundrel.

  32. Glenn

    I just became acquainted with this site. In reading through the article regarding Erin, I agree that the Kestler call-in program does not have the “Answer” for people like Erin, but only brings more heart-ache.

    • Hi Glenn, welcome to the blog. You might like to look at our FAQ page.

      I edited your comment a bit as we don’t publish recommendations of other ministries unless we have checked them out thoroughly, and we don’t have time to check out that ministry you mentioned. We already have an extensive list of Resources on this blog. See here: Resources

  33. Finding Answers

    (Airbrushing…..led by the Holy Spirit…….Why?…….)

    I bunny-trailed to the link : Conversation and the Sexes: Why Men Interrupt, and engage in ‘Mansplaining’. Links within links….I stopped when I felt the warning dizziness of incipient dissociation if I continued the bunny-trail.

    I read the entire original post, the interspersed comments, and the comments generated. The callousness of the radio “panel” was beyond condescending. I would hate to be part of their family or ministry.

    The radio “panelists” were twisting words, not just Scripture.

    OP comment:

    Inferentially blaming the victim. And making the foolish assumption that when an abuser explains why he acts the way he acts, he will tell the truth! And making the foolish assumption that an abuser actually wants his marriage to have two-way transparent honest respectful mutual communication negotiation and problem solving, for the equal wellbeing of both parties. In fact, abusers want none of those things. They simply want power-over and services rendered.

    We had been “married” a few years when we attempted marriage counselling, my anti-x choosing a secular counsellor.

    The last session, I drove two hours after work to attend. The money spent was a waste….my anti-x “didn’t feel like talking.” The counsellor said nothing.

    The paragraph I copied from the original post accurately sums up the picture. Not just of my “marriage”, but of my life, both personally and professionally.

    Now I know why I have been led to this post….

    As I re-integrate memory fragments, I battle within myself, playing the roles of “Erin” and the radio “panelists.” I start to twist and discount my own experiences, minimizing them, ridiculing them.

    I need to hear myself.

    I need to hear my own words.

    I need to say, “That was wrong.”

    • Hi Finding Answers,

      On another post you said on you are feeling bewildered by the new person you are discovering…you feel like two people…like the before and after pictures of an extreme makeover project.

      And now in this comment you said,

      As I re-integrate memory fragments, I battle within myself, playing the roles of “Erin” and the radio “panelists.” I start to twist and discount my own experiences, minimizing them, ridiculing them.

      I need to hear myself.

      I need to hear my own words.

      I need to say, “That was wrong.”

      What struck me tonight (Aussie time) is that you are seeing and putting into words what Don Hennessy talked about: how the abusers colonise the mind of their targets.

      You have lived experience of this. You are aware of the abusers’ voices in your mind, and your own voice, the real you, the person you are just getting to know.

      I think my words are clumsy. I’m not putting this well. But I think you will understand.

      • Finding Answers

        (Heavy airbrushing…)

        You’re right, Barb. I do understand. And in the process, I am needing to let go of the places I thought God was taking me.

        One of the difficulties is knowing and understanding God has been grooming me for years…

        I write “difficulties”, not because “grooming” is in and of itself a “bad” word, but because of the negative / manipulative associations. Yet if a Christian is striving to follow Christ, to become Christ-like, “grooming” would be a positive association.

        Since I was a child, I have been a healer. Different aspects of my life have focused in this direction, but would then seem to stall. One of the last things I was told by someone in an ongoing conversation on future work was that “it sounded like I was being prepared for ministry.” I agreed, though I could not see where I was going…..shortly thereafter, my walls crumbled.

        Since I was a child, I have been a researcher, curious to know “Why?”. No matter my walk in life, this “need to know” has always applied.

        Since I was a child, I have been a writer, though the outlets available were usually mismatches. Keeping a journal was unsafe for me, partially due to privacy issues, and partially because the process usually spiralled me into really bad places.

        Since I was a child, I have resisted labelling people “misfits”, preferring to teach them alternate concepts to evaluate. In some instances the teaching was in a classroom, sometimes one-on-one. The “venue” itself mattered less than the opportunity to educate, to free, to provide choices.

        You wrote:

        What struck me tonight (Aussie time) is that you are seeing and putting into words what Don Hennessy talked about: how the abusers colonise the mind of their targets.

        I read the Don Hennessy posts as they were published, omitting the comments on the initial read. (The Holy Spirit usually, but not always, leads me through the original post prior to including the comments.)

        In another post, Jamie commented on the Don Hennessy series, writing words Don wrote were characteristic of the target. I have wanted to re-read the series, but the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction.

        I suspect He was leading me to the insights and understandings I needed before I could get the full benefit of the Don Hennessy series. I have the electronic version of his book, but like Lundy’s (and other) books, reading it will likely be a bit farther down the pike. (I am almost finished Lundy’s book!)

        You also wrote:

        You have lived experience of this. You are aware of the abusers’ voices in your mind, and your own voice, the real you, the person you are just getting to know.

        (Funny you use the term “lived experience”, given some of the associations I have with the term. 🙂 )

        For many years, I have identified the “not me” voices in my mind, trying to get at the root cause and running into brick walls. I was reaching the point of believing this set of circumstances would never change.

        “Colonise” is an apt word. I can “see” an image in my mind of an infestation of something nasty, something shadowy. A writhing mass of scorpions.

        Luke 10:19 New Matthew Bible (NMB)

        (19) Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all manner of power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.

        Where He leads, I will follow…

  34. Lisa

    Why do you think it is that these pastors, preachers, Elders can get so much of the gospel so right foundationally, like Mike Fabarez’s eulogy on suicide helped me have peace in my grief from losing my brother, but they get divorce especially from domestic violence / abuse so wrong?!

    • James

      Hi Lisa, I’ll chip in with my 2 cents worth. I think the answer to your question lies in asking another question.
      Does the particular issue threaten the Elders’ sense of power; power over others, especially women and children?

    • Hi Lisa, James’s reply to you is good. I’ll add my two cents.

      Misinterpretation of the divorce texts and the texts which relate to abuse are multifarious. The misinterpretations interlink to prop each other up. This tangle of misinterpretations has been going on since OT times. It is a bit like a Gordian knot.

      For church leaders to untangle all these misinterpretations they have to a) be of sufficiently high intelligence to be able to hold multiple variables in their minds simultaneously, b) be able to empathise with the abused, c) understand pretty deeply the dynamics of abuse, d) be able to discern the genuine victim from the abuser who is the phoney victim, e) be able to resist the abuser’s grooming, f) have the courage to face scorn and rejection from both their peers (other church leaders) and their congregants, and very possibly retaliation by the abuser, and g) be willing to stand for truth even if doing so causes them to lose their income. That’s a pretty tall order for most church leaders!

      • James


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