Neutrality is not neutral

With domestic abuse, it’s not okay for pastors to take a neutral stance vis a vis perpetrator and victim. The church ought to fully support victims while holding perpetrators accountable.

Pastors: if you take the neutral stance, you effectively become an ally of the abuser. It means you are taking the view that both parties are contributing to the marriage problem. Or you are effectively saying It’s not abuse; it’s not that serious. Abusers always seek to deny or downplay the seriousness of their bad behaviour. And they always try to blame the victim. So if you take a neutral stance, you are serving the abuser’s agenda….even though you probably do not mean to serve the abuser’s agenda. Even though you might think you are serving both spouses equally and ministering impartially to both of them, your neutral stance ends up serving the perpetrator’s abusive agenda.

When responding to domestic abuse, the only righteous stance is to fully support the victim, while holding the perpetrator accountable.

[August 11, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 11, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


Further reading

There is No Neutrality, No “Innocent” Bystander When We See Abuse

Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

Marks of a Pretend Victim Versus a True Victim

How Abusers Use (Mis-use) Matthew 18 to Escape Church Discipline

Church discipline and church permission for divorce — Showing that biblical discipline of abusers should be carried out according to 1 Corinthians 5 rather than Matthew 18.

31 thoughts on “Neutrality is not neutral”

  1. If only pastors, church leaders, therapists, psychiatrists, and friends thereof, had heeded the words you speak today, Barbara. If only, if only. What a different road in life I could have journeyed on. You are speaking the truth from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Indeed, speaking and acting the TRUTH of the Gospel is our only true hope. We who were silenced trying to live out the gospel, will spend the rest of our lives journeying a road of reaffirmation of who we truly were created to be. Abusers and their associates will meet the eternal God one day and answer to the Almighty for their heinous deeds.

    Thank you, ACFJ, for unrelenting proclamation of truth.

  2. Yes, this happened to me.
    My former pastor kept stating he had to remain neutral.
    I responded “Neutrality is fatality.”
    Previously, this same pastor told me “Your husband is an abuser”.
    I have since divorced him.
    The pastor took my x husband back into the church!
    I no longer attend that church.

  3. People are more likely to take a “neutral stance” when they are confused by the abuser as to who is actually the abuser and who is actually the victim. In one church, the whole church saw the abuser show himself, and they clearly sided with the wife, but as they tried to implement Matthew 18 and did not truly understand the nature of abuse, when the congregants spoke to the abuser individually, they ended up so confused that half left the church when he was put out.

  4. Have you actually known a situation where someone was kicked out for abuse?

    First of all if that had happened when I was a kid it would have made sorting Christianity out easier. They should have removed us from the household.

    But my husband and I went through laymen counsel. The guy orginally told me that if I was telling the truth he would help me move out. At the end of three years he told me that he was sorry nothing could be done and he couldn’t advise me to move and believes divorce is biblically wrong. He said I should continue to be open and pray and respect my husband. The group in no way banned my husband from coming.

    1. Have you actually known a situation where someone was kicked out for abuse?

      I have heard of a few. Occasionally a victim tells us that her church fully supports her and has held the abuser accountable, but I often wonder what exactly that means, and how long it lasts. I’ve also heard from a few pastors (not on this blog, on other parts of the internet) who say they ‘dealt firmly with a domestic abuser’ or words to that effect. Accounts like that don’t give me enough detail to be really confident that the abuser was dealt with by being disfellowshiped a la 1 Cor. 5:5, 11-13.

      I wish more pastors would comment on our blog and tell the stories of how they dealt properly with domestic abusers. But pastors are ‘missing in action’ on this blog, by and large. 😦

      1. My church DOES indeed hold abusers accountable. After the Matthew 18 process is adhered to, and in accordance with The Book of Church Order, the unrepentant member / abuser / wolf is excommunicated and this is announced publicly from the pulpit with very few details left unannounced. They are then put out of the church considered to be unbelievers, membership stricken, and are forbidden to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

        Any church the abuser attends thereafter is visited by our pastors making the excommunication known to that pastor. It IS a VERY sobering procedure. Additionally, ALL OTHER CHURCH MEMBERS are to see this process as a stern warning that God will NOT be mocked! And, ALL OTHER CHURCH MEMBERS are called to uphold the excommunication and to participate in the purity of the church, by NOT giving succor to the unrepentant excommunicated person.

        I have approached my pastor about writing an article for this blog. I will follow-up with you, Barbara, via private email.

      2. My experience has taught me that most pastors are easily manipulated by the abuser’s lies or they themselves are wolves in sheeps clothing.

        It is either blindness that refuses to be educated, or covert evil in the pulpit.

  5. Abusers who use a high profile pastor to drop the hammer on his wife… are highly passive aggressive types.
    Spiritual abuse has a numbing affect on the victim. Shaming and laying guilt on a woman is evil in God’s eyes.
    God is not in that pulpit. Satan is.
    How many churches are operating like this today?

  6. Elie Wiesel — We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

    People seem to forget that if abuse is occurring it isn’t a battle between equals but rather one side is laying to waste the other side who has already been deliberately rendered powerless and without options.

    And I think others see what is occurring and don’t want to have additional stress, turmoil, etc. in their otherwise pleasant lives and by taking the victim’s side, offering support, calling out the abuser for their violence, abuse, etc. that makes you into the abuser’s next focus and next target.

    1. …one side is laying to waste the other side who has already been deliberately rendered powerless and without options.

      Good description, Anon. That really resonates with the state of my mind and body. They have been laid waste.

  7. Even a neutral stance would be better than what we have today. When the abused goes to the church for help, the church immediately perceives anger and bitterness. It’s the anger that told the abused that she really needed to get help, which now becomes the focal point of the church’s effort to understand the situation. The church interprets that anger as SIN, and that anger is now the focal point of what is wrong in the marriage. It’s not the reason for the anger (the husband’s abusive behavior), but the anger itself.

    Thus, instead of a neutral stance, the church takes the side of the abuser in virtually all of these situations. The abuser takes a “cool, calculated” approach in this situation, and the church immediately looks on him as the victim. That is, the hot-headed wife and the saintly husband.

    If the church even took a neutral stance – by looking seriously at the sins the husband brought into the marriage instead of just focusing on the wife’s anger – that would be a quantum leap in how these things turn out.

  8. It’s particularly hard for one’s children to not be neutral. They want so badly to keep the love of both parents. If they stand up for the victim, the abuser will most likely reject them, but if they stay neutral, they feel like they have both. Mom will love them no matter what, so they can risk even supporting dad and dissing mom, and she will be there for them when they need her. Ask me how I know. It is sad.

    1. The pain of parental alienation rips the soul.
      Then, the knife twisting of the soul occurs when your child becomes allied with the abuser and the child begins to abuse you.
      Abuse in the family can continue through an alienator x spouse and the children of divorce.

      Praying Jeremiah 29:11 for the expected end with all my brothers and sisters who are experiencing the throes of continued family abuse and parental alienation.

    2. Mom will love them no matter what, so they can risk even supporting dad and dissing mom, and she will be there for them when they need her.

      This, Sunflower, is how the world goes round. Round and round, round and round. And another generation of women are abused and another generation of abusers hold the purse strings as well as hold the heart strings that bind everyone to himself. And the blind church endorses and encourages women to lay themselves out to be rugs on the floor while the abuser puffs up his chest and worships himself as god and head of the household. And because she is broken by the abuse, by the lies the church has fed her and insist she live by, and because she loves all these little ones in her life, she ends up laying her heart, mind and soul on the dirty floor taking the blame for the filth that clings to her. And we applaud this as a successful GODLY marriage. HOW DISGUSTING!

      I’m so grateful for your latest post Barb (Instone-Brewer’s Views on Divorce Compared to Mine: Part 1, Appreciations and Agreements) because it has already opened some creaky, rusted doors into the world that Jesus lived and testified in, and how he would not have needed to explain himself regarding things that those of his day knew — but that subsequent generations have lost and so came to erroneous conclusions about.

      And I’d like to add that men can be victims of this same wrong mentality that man-is-god-over-his-family and all the lies that come with that. I come from a family of many female abusers, and the men that have loved them are so heartbreakingly destroyed. The good ones tried so hard to fix and save ‘the family’ but in the end they had to leave in order to keep their sanity. I’m grateful to have had these few good men to look back on and know that there ARE some good ones left out there. (I have no contact with anyone in my family and was one of the younger children so when I was going through the muck and mire in my heart and mind while God was showing me His truth through His word, He made sure to let me see the good men and the good women I had known who’d suffered because of the lies that had kept me blind.)

      Shoving us into predetermined rigid roles are clear signs of the evil one. God created each of us with our own unique DNA so that we COULDN’T be the same as others. And part of this uniqueness is our free-will, which expresses itself in so many ways. And when one has the Holy Spirit in them there is a common love that identifies them as such and can be felt when fellowshipping with other believers. And in the same sense, there’s a common evil that identifies those who belong to the evil one, which produces alienation and controversies among themselves and others. It’s the trying to figure out one from the other that most of us need help with because most of us have been told that we’re all the same.

  9. I once got angry with some teaching in the church, and not only was what I said completely dismissed without any consideration, they went on to point out that simply responding out of anger was sinful.

  10. Sunflower,
    My heart aches for you as you said, “Ask me how I know. It is sad.”

    I know exactly how you feel. Exactly. And the adult children must stay in good graces with the abusive parent so their names are not eliminated from the inheritance. Meanwhile the wife / mom remains abused / neglected. I am not living the dream.

  11. The issue of neutrality applies to families as well. It becomes so difficult especially during this Christmas season. Rather than stand up for the abused and refuse to invite the abuser, all are included so that the appearance of “one happy family” continues.

    After having spent decades of holidays with an abusive sister, I have drawn the line myself. If she and her abusive adult children are coming, I simply don’t and have made it clear why. Sadly, for the most part, my family continues to remain neutral. The really sad part is that some are waiting for God to do something to heal our family. It is not just sad, it is sickening.

    1. Yes, Seeing Clearly. This has gone on in my family, also. It is sickening. Be prepared for them telling you that they have prayed to God to soften your heart, or they will say “May God forgive you for what you are doing.” The neutrals are totally betraying you, and truth. It’s all about image. It just has to look like you are a happy family, you don’t actually have to be one.

      1. Abby and Seeing Clearly, Your comments are so dead on!


        It just has to look like you are a happy family, you don’t actually have to be one” and this: “The really sad part is that some are waiting for God to do something to heal our family.

        Sigh. Although they claim to be “waiting on the Lord” they are actually participating in and perpetuating keeping the evil regime in play by denying that some people are evil (according to the Bible) and that these types of people need to be ousted from among you. There will be no growth or Godly wisdom given to those who actively deny reality so when they proclaim that they are waiting on the Lord as if they are close to Him and are listening to His voice, they are actually sinning against Him.

        Romans 7:9, “And David says, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.” (Romans 11 with this link just click on a word you want to learn about and it will send you to the meaning.)

        Yes. Let the Christmas feasts and holiday gatherings become what they [often] are–an orgy of evil ones pretending to be long-suffering folk but who are really only what is described in Proverbs 25:14, “[Like] clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.” Proverbs 25:14

        Luke 20:20, “They watched closely and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, so they could catch Him in what He said, to hand Him over to the governor’s rule and authority.” Luke 20:20 The word for “pretended” here is used ONLY ONCE in the Bible and means, “…to make answer (speak) on the stage, i.e. to personate anyone, play a part; to simulate, feign, pretend. 5271. hupokrinomai) And this is what those who only care about LOOKING like a happy family are made of. My husband and his kind would PREFER to have things LOOK a certain way rather than actually BE good. Why? Because they belong to their father the devil and they desire to deceive as many as possible and they also desire to mock goodness by ACTING good but in no way BEING good. Can we SEE how EVIL it is to hold those with a heart for the Lord responsible for those who belong to their father the devil?

    2. The worst I ever saw was this whole family rallied around the abuser and his abuse was so criminal and sickening and yet everyone treated him as the victim. They made him into the featured VIP guest of the family’s holiday gatherings and discarded and disowned the abused who wasn’t even invited, nor allowed to come to the family’s holiday gatherings. That abused victim did way more for that family and each member’s well-being than anyone else, especially in comparison to the abuser and yet when criminal charges were otherwise laid, the victim was shunned and the victimizing abuser was catered to and showered with attention, concern, etc. It blew me away. I didn’t know what to make of things at the time as I was fed a whole bunch of lies and kept in the dark about the reality of things, but it felt ‘off’, really, really ‘off’.

      Wish I had known then what I know now and acted differently and raised a ruckus back then. But I was deliberately kept in the dark and I, myself, was being so heavily victimized that just staying alive and continuing to breathe was a big deal for me. But still, it was so messed up.

      Abusers are evil. I don’t care what anyone says. They’re evil destroyers.

  12. I’ve been thinking over this post since I read it. Probably because I have just woken up to the fact that it is now beginning to happen amongst my older children and it is sickening to realise that he (separated husband) has been influencing them and I can see how it’s affecting them.

    The story of the Good Samaritan came to mind. The was the victim, the abuser/s and then the ‘neutral’ ones who walked by, and the supporter. Pretty clear picture, huh?!

  13. From the title of the post:

    Neutrality is not neutral

    If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. (Desmond Tutu)

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