A Typical Letter from a Pastor to an Abuse Victim When She Leaves the Abuser
Most of our readers have either received letters or emails or phone calls or personal “counsel” from a pastor or other church leader when they resolved to leave their abuser. The abuser of course ends up being enabled by those he has won over as his allies, many of whom are in the church if he is a professing Christian. Here is one such letter. The names have been changed but the letter is very real. (trigger warning) Ready?
I would very much like to be able to sit down with you and John. You owe it to yourself. It is not even about what I have to say to you, but it is about you and John learning to understand one another.
The thing I have to say first is that if you will make Church and prayer a priority, it will make all the difference.
We here at First Church love you and John and want to help you both to learn to identify the problems that are damaging your marriage so that you can then grow together.
Let’s all meet together and talk.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now, keep in mind what has led up to this letter being sent. Linda has confronted her abuser husband. And the things she has called him out on are not trivial annoyances. They are full-fledged power-and-control-seeking abuse tactics. Regular humiliation in front of others. Cruelty to her animals. Vulgar sexual demands. Slapping her “in fun” and laughing about it. Demeaning and shaming her. Refusing to admit the wickedness of his own heart and rather regularly blaming other people and his circumstances, including blaming her.
Also keep in mind that at the time of writing this letter, the Pastor had not heard a single part of the victim’s story of the abuse. Yet, as you can see from the letter, he has already made his diagnosis. It is a 50-50 blame sharing communication breakdown. Let me translate that: “It is the victim’s fault mostly. Why, after all, her husband is completely willing to talk and to meet with the pastor and here, why, she won’t even answer his calls.”
And of course, all the while, this fellow is a fine member of the church and his relatives are key members as well.
We invite our readers to tell Pastor James exactly what you think of his letter and his skills as a pastor and counselor
I have withheld quite a few punches here to let you all have a shot at him. “But that’s being unkind and ungracious” do I hear someone say? Nope. It isn’t. People who set themselves up as God’s spokesman and claim to oversee Christ’s flock fully deserve some plain shots fired away at them for abusing the lambs.
How do we know? Because (for one example) God told Ezekiel to denounce the wicked tactics of false shepherds.
Ezekiel 34:2-27, NKJ Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
… I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.
No, I won’t be sending Pastor James copies of our books. I can assure you, he will never read them. Increasingly I am concluding that naivete and ignorance and lack of training on the part of pastors is not the fundamental problem.