A Cry For Justice

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

Resistance and backlash to social change

If you are working to promote social change, you can expect to meet resistance. Resistance may occur in any setting (e.g. a local church, or the Christian community at large). It may come from individuals or collectively, and from men or women.

When it comes to social change, people (and organisations) are on a continuum, from active resistance to active support.

Graphic by Rus Funk

Backlash is an inevitable consequence of social change. If backlash is occurring, it might be a sign of progress that the society is starting to adopt the social change.

For examples of how each of the forms of backlash are expressed in words, go to here.

Quite a few pastors are now declaring that their church intends to be a safe supportive place for victims of abuse.

This is as a result of things like –

  • #MeToo
  • #ChurchToo
  • Judge Aquilina giving a platform to Larry Nassar’s victims
  • “Jane” telling her story of how The Master’s College and John MacArthur and his staff mistreated her after she reported being drugged and raped
  • Jules Woodson going public about what Andy Savage did to her
  • the increasing calls for an independent investigation into Sovereign Grace Churches/SGM.

But in my view, many of these pastors (e.g. Chris Conlee of Highpoint Memphis) are doing appeasement or appropriation or co-option – which are all forms of resistance.

I’m sure we can all think of other examples of resistance and backlash from our own experience. Please share them in the comments thread so we can all learn from each other.

We’ve talked a great deal at this blog about the ways abusers resist changing. So perhaps it would be more helpful if we shared examples of churches and Christian leaders displaying resistance and backlash.


The graphics in this post were tweeted by Michael Flood. The concepts are based on a Queensland University of Technology evidence review on backlash to gender equality, by Michael Flood, Molly Dragiewicz and Bob Pease, commissioned by VicHealth in 2017. [Click here for a PDF of the evidence review. Editors.]

Related post

How society can prevent domestic abuse (Don Hennessy series part 11)


  1. Bev

    thanks for sharing this Barbara!

    yup!!! sigh… sabotage, which is appropriation in the list… I often am reminded of Psalm 55:21 words as smooth as butter, but war is in their heart; words as soothing as lotion, but they are drawn daggers…

    sin leveling… all sin is the same in God’s eyes; nobody’s perfect; you need to address your own sin; we all sin, etc…

    deception… the leaders will tell you what they think you want to hear so you believe the leaders are addressing it and you will go away and not bother them anymore, but when you follow up, they are not doing anything they said…

    • Dear Bev, can I ask you to PLEASE not give your full name in the “NAME” field of the comments box. We constantly have to leave your comments in pending till I get round to checking what to do with them to protect your safety.

      We have usually had to amend your screen name before we publish your comments. This is time consuming for us, and it might be frustrating for you since it means it is a while before your comments show up on the blog for others to see.

      Please if it’s safe to do so, could you tick the box on the comments form to be notified of follow up comments on the post you have commented at. Then you will see replies like this which I am making to you.

      You might find it helpful to read or re-read the New Users Info page as well.

      From your overworked and over-burdened friend — Barb.

    • Bev =)

      checking the notify box…

  2. Not Too Late

    I have noticed a lot of co-option lately. Church organizations are beginning to use words like “justice” or “equality”, to keep in step with trending movements in the world. But they’re just words. Even if churches start to develop formal policies, like many have to deal with child sexual abuse, things won’t change if they don’t uphold those policies. They just become another tool of discrediting the victim – “See! We’re making all these changes and taking this issue very seriously. You shouldn’t have any problems and if you do, there’s something wrong with you! Stop complaining!”

    I never saw it as resistance, but it’s helpful to see it for what it is.

  3. ruth8318

    [Note from Eds: this comment contained many many details that would identify the commenter to her abuser and her family, so we have removed most of the commenters’ story.]

    [Recently] I had to work with my husband (we are working on reconciliation). Working with him so NOT ideal but that’s a conversation for ‘nother Post.

    I made a remark about a case of domestic homicide.
    He replied very sarcastically to my remark, mocking me for thinking I had something worthwhile to say about domestic violence because I’ve read up about it.

    My husband has never been physically abusive or really given me reason to be fearful but this conversation made me sick on multiple levels. I know he’s prejudiced against believing women.

    Note to MY kids- if H ends up killing me, please not display pics of us together. No funeral together. Do not post on FB pics of us together.

    I feel like God is speaking something to me, but I’m not sure what that is yet.

    • Dear Ruth, please have a look at how I have edited your comment. And please review our New Users page for guidelines about how to disidentify what you write in comment you submit to this blog.

    • XianJaneway

      Dear God in heaven, Ruth, can you get to safety? Do you have a domestic violence shelter in your area? THEY CAN HELP YOU WITH A SAFETY PLAN.

  4. Eagerlabs

    “Appeasement” catches me as the key word here, especially applicable to those who are charged with protecting the brethren but rather just pay lip service for a semblance of righteousness. Whether by Earl B. Morgan, Nicholas Klein or Gandhi, the jist of one of my favorite quotes is: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you and want to burn you, then you win” — and no doubt that’s true if you’re dealing with the truth of God’s word! But if it were me, I would preface it with just that: “First they appease you..then ignore..” as that is my decades long experience with numerous so called pastors especially on the topic of abuse.

    This latest fiasco would take a book but suffice it say, once again I was lied to, patted on the head, put in danger, demonized, falsely accused, gossiped about, usurped..hmm..guess in the “backtracking and hope I go away” stage at the moment but .. the Lord doesn’t go away and I already know who won;) I already left, but the wake exposed the numerous other wolves in their fold doing the exact same thing so, just like waves, another crest is in progress. Truth does that.lol

    I know that’s kinda cryptic but I seriously meant it would take a book, so just for one example: Third time seeing the so-called caring pastor who had been “counseling” the abuser and I alerted he’d been lied to, the response was “oh yeah yeah I’ll say something”(as if saying something would be enough). But anyway, his idea of saying something was yeap, going out to dinner and chit chatting it all up, while equivocating “stop arguing” because he “believes me”. Gag me with a fork. That’s another empty buzzphrase they’re all latching onto these days. The “I believe you” when a victim comes forward. What a dumbass thing to say and do. Not only means zero as far as intention of action and implementation of Biblical principles and instruction, but also shows what lack of discernment they possess. Or what spirit posseses them rather…:/

    • First they appease you, then they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you and want to burn you, then you win. And no doubt that’s true if you’re dealing with the truth of God’s word!

      BINGO ^

    • Moving Forward

      I so agree with you, Eagerlabs. My ex-pastor started with “I believe you.” That was to appease me. Then ex-husband talked to him. That led to completely ignoring that there was a problem. If I tried to bring it up it was brushed off; the ex was as welcome in the church as I was (he had quit attending at the time). In other words, the pastor did not believe me. Then my ex returned with his fiance who is now his wife (and as we are not divorced yet, that makes him a bigamist), and when I protested saying I can’t attend with my abuser, I was told to go find another church. That burned. My ex also ridiculed me about being “kicked out”. But, I am now at home, safe, listening to excellent preaching by Jeff Crippen, Sam Powell, and others, and I feel that having escaped from that oppressive system, I win. And praise God, the final victory will be His! No wolves in heaven, ever!

      • W

        “No wolves in heaven, ever!”

        Yes, won’t that be lovely?

  5. Seeing Clearly

    First it was lip service. If the registered sex offender was going to attend church, I told pastor a contract needed to be drawn up and signed. Pastor agreed, mainly due to insurance pressure and to appease me. At same time, a child protection plan was drawn up. Both of these were kept in the control of pastor. No one saw the contract, no supervisory committee was established for child protection.

    Each time I expressed concern about child protection implementation, I was silenced by pastor. He knew I was paying attention like no one else and that threatened him. When sex offender used gestures in my personal space, I notified pastor and church moderator. Pastor used intimidation tactics, belittling and bullying me. Twice, he tried to change my account of incident. Both times, I reaffirmed my account. When he wrote the report of our meeting, he documented and said he was quoting me, his version of incident.

    Moderator told me I could write my own accounting and it would go into file with pastor’s account. I refused to put anything in writing. I left the church, the registered sex offender remains.

  6. Seeing Clearly

    Reluctance by (a different church) pastor to meet with me when I expressed a serious concern. After working my way up chain of command, with blessing of worship leader, I was allowed a meeting with preaching minister. First he accused me of aligning with a ‘trouble maker’, which I said I was not. Then he avoided the matter at hand by reciting a non-relevant philosophy of church in regard to my concern. That served to invalidate my knowledge. When I stated that I was angry at how these people (at center of my complaint) were being treated, his response was that I have anger issues. (Turning the table and pointing finger at me). The last was his power play and silencing me. He said I could drop the matter, as he would take it to the board.

    After 3 months, I left messages with him, requesting an update. He never returned my calls.
    This was a church of thousands. (I was a divorced woman in this conservative church.)

    Having been married to a minister for quite a few years and then divorced, I know the inner workings of church leaderships. In traditional, conservative churches, women are considered a nuisance if they question leaders, expecting a response. As a minister’s wife, I said very little in the church. My husband kept a heavy, threatening ‘fist’ that I was not to get in the way of his ministry. He never said this in public for anyone else to know about his power play.

    • W

      The “you have anger issues” and “trouble maker” label are so painful. And it’s really not the case. Yet the one who speaks up about something is the one who is attacked with these types of accusations.

      Perhaps a list can be formulated with all sorts of comments, dismissals, labels, etc. put on us ladies so we can have it as a handy reference sheet when the pushback and backlash happens, in all its various ways, indexed or alphabetized.

      So we hear “you have anger issues” or we receive the label of “trouble maker” and it’ll be right there under ‘A’ “anger issues” and ‘T’ “troublemaker”. Because until a person sits there and listens to the catch phrases of abusers (such as calling the victim “crazy”, which I have yet to meet an abused woman who wasn’t told such over and over again by her abuser) for a good while, a person doesn’t see that there is a pattern.

      The question is: how to make a reference sheet out of the gold nuggets in so many comment fields?

      • We don’t have an alphabetical list, but we do have this page Pious Platitudes and their Paraphrases which you can find under our INSIGHTS tab in the top menu

        Using a laptop or tablet, the top menu is easy to see. But using a cell phone, it’s harder to find. We know this is problem but we are not sure how (or if) we can fix that problem. At the moment, if you look at our site via your phone you need to hit the drop-down arrow beside the word “Menu” if want to find all the things we have there.

        Pious Platitudes and their Paraphrases

      • W

        What an awesome list!!! This whole site is such a ministry. Oh my goodness. Thanks, Barb! Happy Sunday to you.

      • 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • W

        And the Gems page!

        “Counseling a woman to be a better wife when her husband is abusing her is like telling a sheep to be tastier when a wolf wants to bite it.” (an anonymous ACFJ FB reader)

        Good stuff!

  7. everydayBRAVE

    This great Barbara. Experienced many of those examples while confronting a toxic leader and church. They said that our concerns didn’t rise to the level of being confronted. The elder said that there was nothing they could do and that they would just have to put it in God’s hands. Lying, defamation, sexual assault, sexual harassment were all dismissed even with proof through emails and recordings.

    They held a meeting with church members and said they wanted people to bring concerns or goals for moving forward. They complete avoided any of the charges and hid it from the congregation.

    Friends told us that they were ending friendships with us and “moving forward to the TRUTH of Jesus Christ.” They ignored emails from people who left the church. They were in complete denial that there was any sin.

  8. Bev =)

    so, so sorry Barbara… thank you so much for helping protect everyone who comments here and going above and beyond the call of duty… you are amazing! stay strong sister!

  9. Finding Answers

    (Light airbrushing….)

    While most of my experience with resistance and backlash to social change is secular, I think I came across this in the last “c’hurch I attended. (I just never thought of it in this light.)

    The pastor would often comment on current political situations and say, “I’m not telling you how to vote, but….”

    The pastor would mock current social changes in progress, slapping it all under the label “tolerance”, in the sense of tolerating sin.

    The pastor would openly ridicule churches that followed Biblical principles, but were also open to evaluation of ministry policies.

    I continue to be amazed at those who would turn off their brains and blindly follow…

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