A Cry For Justice

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

3. Chris Moles gets the gender issues right in domestic abuse & Christianity

Chris Moles

I honour Chris Moles for how he deals with the gender issues in domestic abuse. Here are five good things he says on gender and gender differences.

1. He says that men are much less likely than women to live in fear.

He rightly points out that a man can do certain behaviors to his wife and she will feel afraid, intimidated, diminished in her personhood; but if a wife does those same behaviors to her husband he will probably not feel afraid. The husband might get annoyed, frustrated or angry, but he won’t feel fearful. (F 16:50)*

2. He says that domestic abuse is a men’s issue.

This is a men’s issue; men need to be talking about it. “Silence is approval, is it not?” (C 23:25)

The vast majority of abusers are men – and he gives reliable statistics to back that up (C 22:57)

85% of victims are going to be female – it’s higher in intimate relationships than sexual assault, but actually the greatest number of male victims are victims by other men [by] childhood sexual assault. So if you want to talk about male victims I’d be happy to do that but where 70% of them are victims of other men. That’s why I keep saying it’s a men’s issue. (F 57:32 -58:11)

He calls on men to not remain silent about the issue, and to not collude with the abusive men.

I believe if 20-25% of men in our churches are perpetrating violence then the other 75-80% ought to stand up and say “Stop it!” And one of the reasons why the church doesn’t differ from the world is that we, the men who do not use abuse and violence, are quiet. Or we collude. (L 19:19, and he says pretty much the same thing at N 39:17–40:14)

But I do wonder why Chris didn’t say that in his book. His book would have been much better if it had included the above paragraph. Video (L) was uploaded to YouTube in April 2014. Chris’s book was published in 2015. So why Chris didn’t include that paragraph in his book is beyond me. I do wonder if he was ‘walking the fence’ to not get male readers off side. If so, I think that was cowardly of him, because he let victims down by not directly confronting the generality of men in the visible church.

3. He says men ought to use their power to uphold women, rather than lord it over them.

This is one of Chris’s best points. He affirms Jesus’s teaching that power should be used to serve, not to dominate. And he shows that Paul conveyed the same thing when teaching about how husbands should treat their wives. (C 26:54)

Even better, he spells out how some complementarians have conveyed a false idea of complementarianism:

Complementarians inadvertently or deliberately have presented a view of hierarchy that is more consistent with the world than with scripture. … We haven’t accurately shown the world that the Jesus actually turned that on its head and that complementarianism is not about top-down power over, it’s about bottom-up power under. Our hierarchy is not about power, it’s about responsibility. … So that when Jesus talked about headship he is not talking about oppression he is talking about freedom. And freedom come when those with power sacrifice, not when those in power press down… (C 20:50)

Complementarity is not necessarily the problem, but our practical theology is. (Q 50:09)

Chris uses Greg Boyd’s phrase “Power Over vv Power Under”. He says “power over” is self-promotion and self-uplifting at the expense of another, whereas “power under” seeks the wellbeing of others at the expense of self. (M 63) He teaches abusive men that Ephesians 5 calls husbands to Christ-centred obedience, so they demonstrate “power under” in their marriages not “power over”. (M 65) Much of (C) is an explanation of the abuse of power by men in marriage.

Some have argued that violence in the home is just as damaging no matter who the perpetrator is. Yes violence in the home is unacceptable, but I do feel that men should be held to a higher standard in part because of the potential damage they can inflict. No matter how much we wish to be gender neutral in our culture, the fact remains that men are stronger than women.

Coming from a complementarian perspective, I do believe that certain roles are fulfilled on the basis of gender. God has given a certain level of responsibility – and for that matter – power to the husband. We should not shy away from these realities but view them through the lens of Scripture, especially the words of Jesus. “… Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant… ” (Matt 20:25-28) …

The heart of pride longs for power over, but the heart of Christ calls for power under. … we husbands are to use our power to support, protect and communicate that we too are dependable and responsible with the power we have been given. (M 72-3)

It amazes me that we within the complementarian world really dismiss this issue. It’s almost as if domestic violence is the only issue where we demand mutuality. It drives me nuts. The idea that we want distinct roles and distinct functions, until there’s an accusation of domestic violence then all of a sudden “well, everybody’s angry and everybody’s violent, women are this and men are that.” Well that is totally inconsistent with our theology! Why is this all about mutuality, when in the scripture it’s all about responsibility? (A)

When abusive men quote “wives submit to your husbands,” Chris asks them why they are reading their wife’s mail, rather than reading the parts of Ephesians 5 that are directed at husbands. (M 70)

4. He talks about male privilege, and the way society is prejudiced against women who report being abused.

The conscience of our culture is in such a way that I think it is – the culture likes to call it privilege – I think it lacks some weight to it. But I do think there are blind spots that people of tend to be in positions of power. So if you are accustomed to getting things a certain way or you are accustomed to being this homogenous group where everyone who looks like you gets what they want, you kind of become blind to the areas in where it’s less then advantageous for a minority. And this happens with men and women quite a bit. Where I don’t really see the perpetrator. And if the victim acts crazy, throws a fit, or is sinful, our response – our response as men in particular, and culturally as a whole – tends to be to focus our attention on victim. ‘Look at her,’ ‘Look what she’s doing.’ When it [what she is doing] may very well be resistance. …And I think that has happened a lot. (E 37:15-39:00)

5. He describes how women usually take responsibility, while men usually resist taking responsibility.

Chris has a part time job working for his state / county government. In this job he facilitates Domestic Violence Intervention Groups. Most of these groups are for men who have abused their female partners, but some of the groups are for women who have used violence against their male partners. All the participants in the state-run groups are mandated to attend by the justice system. So Chris has experience of both genders in these groups: men who abuse their wives, and women who use violence against their husbands.

Chris says the women typically assume guilt for the things they have done wrong in the relationship and even for things which are not their fault, whereas men typically resist confessing their guilt and instead shift the blame.

My experience with women’s groups has been that when women come into our group, or when women come into [private] counseling who have been victims, they own everything they’ve every done. “Yeah, I hit him. Yeah, I slashed his tires. Yeah, I did this.” All sinful. All things that need to be addressed.

I don’t what it is about us guys. Men’s group–it’s like pulling teeth. The first things, generally, not always, out of my guys’ mouths is: “She hit me. She slashed my tires.”

It’s amazing how many victims will assume guilt for everything. Do they need to own their sin? Yes, don’t hear me say that women don’t sin. You all know better, hopefully. But it is amazing how often victims have been associated with guilt for so long in their homes that they just naturally gravitate towards it. (B 50:06–50:54)


Our Chris Moles Digest has links to all the posts in this series, and a legend for the cited items.

Further Reading

A third way on gender stuff in a messed up world: complementarian, egalitarian, or the cross by Ps Nathan Campbell


  1. Anewanon

    I tend to think that it was God who said that – in Genesis chapter 3, thru Moses. 😉

  2. Finding Answers

    Thank you for including the link to Pastor Nathan Campbell’s article. His use of graphics provides a concise visual to demonstrate his points.

    I am following the Chris Moles series with interest, learning where subtleties can slip under the door, misleading under the guise of speaking “truth”.

  3. Moving Forward

    I found point number 5 interesting. I didn’t realize that, at least in his experience, women, even women who use violence themselves, will own up to what they did, but men dig in their heels. I wonder if there is further research out there to back this up.

    • Hi Moving Forward, I have just listened to this podcast titled Counseling in the Brambles, in which Chris Moles talks with Darby Strickland. Darby is a counselor at CCEF. She has counseled many oppressed / abused women. She describes to Chris one of the characteristics of abused women: “They own things that aren’t sin and they apologise for their preferences.” (about 9 or 10 mins into the podcast).

      She is not quite saying that women who use violence take responsibility for doing so, but I think it follows from what Darby said that abused women who use violence to resist the abuser will indeed own, admit to and take responsibility for using violence.

  4. Denise

    As a life-long Christian, I wanted to commend authors of this site and associated blogs / posts for the insightful information and guidance you publish. After working with many families and victims of partner violence, emotional abuse, and other forms of coercive control in both the law enforcement and mental health fields, the information on this site has been most helpful, particularly when dealing with spiritual abuse.

    Penetrating the veil of silence and confusion with Christian women is often the most challenging of tasks. Many Christian women do not understand that what the church has taught them about “Godly submission” and forgiveness contributes to their plight and compounds their entrapment. When narcissistic partners exert “power” which they and other professing Christians maintain is endowed by God, the target-woman has been conditioned by the church to be blind to what is really going on. That all plays a role in perpetual patterns.

    The combination of a sense of entitlement that many abusers think they have a right to impose, and the willingness or “duty” to accept it, plays a crucial role in life-long patterns of abuse.

    Also important is the concept of forgiveness when there is no evidence of sustained change in behavior.

    Helping victims to recognize and acknowledge how they have been taught to accept emotional manipulation or faulty belief systems is an ongoing challenge even for fully licensed counselors, because so many women first seek help from their church or Christian counselors who reinforce the unhealthy belief systems.

    It is so encouraging to find a resource that addresses this issue thoroughly by speaking truth where it is so often distorted. The comprehensive exploration of Biblical concepts found on this site is truly a blessing. Please continue this good work!

    • Thank you so much, Denise K. 🙂

      We really appreciate your comment. We hope you keep commenting on the blog.

      By the way, in case you are not yet aware of this, we have a Frequently Asked Questions page and a Resources page that you and your clients might find helpful.

      And if you are directing any Christian victims to our site, I suggest you also point them to our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how guard their safety while commenting on the blog.

  5. Helovesme

    I sure did appreciate some of the ways he does impart some real wisdom and common sense thinking. It really shows he worked hard in some respects.

    He says “power over” is self-promotion and self-uplifting at the expense of another, whereas “power under” seeks the wellbeing of others at the expense of self.

    This is an area that still needs some untangling, IMO.

    In the Christian circle I used to be around, it was never said or implied that women weren’t equal to men, but actions and other things proved otherwise. It was the norm that if you have power, you need to use it to serve, bless, give, etc. As a leader or a husband, or both.

    There were three separate instances with the same male leader that to me, demonstrates that this “power” issue is tricky.

    The first one involved him asking me to fold and stuff envelopes for his newsletter. I said yes at first, wanting to help. But it was a bigger job than I could handle. He suggested getting some people to help. I tried, but no one wanted to help. I told him this, and tried to explain that I simply didn’t have the time for it. He seemed to believe that I just needed to keep asking more people—and I finally put my foot down. That was hard for me. I wanted to be a team player, but it was like he wasn’t even listening to me when I said “no.”

    The second time was when he tried to mediate between myself and a young girl who had gone around reviling me to others. At the sit down, she really let me have it and I was in tears. This leader emailed me later and said she wanted to apologize to me with him. I said I didn’t want to. He said that he knew she had hurt me badly, but that this would be a good thing to do, to let her apologize. I gave in. I thought her apology was fake and phony, but he probably considered the whole matter taken care of.

    The last one involved my wedding. My dad was my abuser, which this leader knew. This same leader was going to marry my husband and I. I didn’t want my dad to walk my down the aisle. This leader said that I should ask him, or else I would probably regret it later. I gave in.

    In all those three situations, I think he thought he was sincere and servant minded. Trying to help and trying to do the right thing (or get me to do the right thing). Many people might agree.

    I don’t agree. I think he should have kept his trap shut and understood that “no” is a full sentence. I believe manipulation can be subtle, and power can be used in subtle ways to control others under the guise of “what’s best for him, her, the church, or whatever.”

    • In all those three situations, I think he thought he was sincere and servant minded. Trying to help and trying to do the right thing (or get me to do the right thing). Many people might agree.

      I don’t agree. I think he should have kept his trap shut and understand that “no” is a full sentence. I believe manipulation can be subtle, and power can be used in subtle ways to control others under the guise of “what’s best for him, her, the church, or whatever.”

      This ^

      • Helovesme

        Thank you. I do believe Chris might have a grasp on the subtlety and cunning nature of the use of “power.”

        And it’s not always under the guise of leadership and / or marriage. And it’s not always with men (although Chris points out how men tend to be abusers more so than women).

        I had a female friend who wanted me to drive to her house and watch her two small children while she worked part time.

        I wanted to say “no.” I would have to get up really early, drive over there and not get paid much for it. It was during a time where I was emotionally and physically exhausted as well, and needed to take better care of myself.

        To be fair, I have a hard time saying “no” in general (not sure how well she knew that). But when asking me, she let me know how hard it was to find part time daycare for two small children. I didn’t know if she was trying to guilt me, or explain her situation. I also felt like I was her only possible resource so she could work. There was no one else she considered asking, or no one that I could suggest, at least.

        So I said “yes.” She ended up paying me less than what she had said she would (I was too afraid to point that out), and would often be late without giving me any warning.

        One time, when I was sick, she pressured me to still come over and babysit. One time I had to work on our house (it was a big job we had planned with some outside help) and had to really put my foot down that I could not help her. One other time I had company staying here, and she wanted me to bring her with me to babysit.

        This is more under the guise of friendship, but you can see the manipulation and very difficult, awkward situation I was in.

        I take responsibility for letting her bully me. I had to finally tell her I was done. My marriage was struggling very badly and I needed counseling. I told her I was done at one point, and told her I needed to get professional help for reasons I couldn’t say—but that I was dealing with some trauma. I even tried to make it clear that this was how the Lord was leading, to seal the deal. She pressed me later on as to what the trauma was, but I didn’t tell her.

        Don Hennessy was a breath of fresh air. He understands being targeted. Wanting to help others, to be kind and loving and generous—-not to mention selfless—are open doors to someone who wants power and control.

        These instances I have described were NOT with intimate partners, but there is no doubt in my head that these two persons KNEW my weaknesses and exploited them.

        I was fairly open with both of them about my abusive past, my insecurities and my current struggles in general. They didn’t know me, again, as well as an intimate partner would, but in looking back—-I think they were both very subtle but direct in their bullying of me. They knew which buttons to push.

        How intentional they were in what they did is up for debate, but I do think it is a matter of the ends justify the means.

        Yes, I kept my mouth shut when I should have spoken up. That is on me. But when you know someone has no real family connections and has been abused—that person is very open to being abused by even more people, because they want so badly to fit in, to please and to belong.

    • To be fair to Chris, in his published material he does spell out many of the subtle tactics used by male abusers and he spells out more about what a husband’s ‘power under’ should look like in marriage. I summarized his stuff in this series, but I gave links to all my sources in the Chris Moles Digest.

      Unfortunately, he doesn’t spell it all out…he misses elements that Don Hennessy emphasises:

      —The sexual abuse which is so devastating to the female victim in intimate-partner abuse…and the skilled male offender’s core goal which is to get his sexual needs met without having to negotiate.

      —The abuser’s intentionality and cunning…even from day one when the abuser is first assessing the woman to see if she is a suitable target.

  6. letsgetreal2016

    First off, I want to say that I in NO WAY condone abuse of women, at all. I do not feel that they are in any way to blame for the abuse inflicted on them. I feel that there has been a major downfall of our society (I speak from the USA). I feel that there is rampant abuse in many different ways, from many different types of people.

    I myself have experienced major physical and mental abuse from both parents, emotional abuse from so-called friends, workplace bullying, and psychological abuse from a husband and his parents. Thankfully, this is no longer so. I conclude from my experience, and that of others, that our society is becoming, or has become, a very narcissistic, self-centered, and violent one.

    According to 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

    But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

    I believe that women in general are worse off than ever. I believe that with the sexual revolution, women are seen more as sex objects than before, both by themselves, and many men. … These are the times we live in now. I believe that with legalized abortions, women are taught that it is fine to rip out a baby forming in their wombs, when some women who’ve had abortions report that they have major emotional issues for many years afterwards. … The men get to go around having sex with various women, with few consequences, while the woman pays the higher price for promiscuity. … The woman is left with most of the emotional and physical consequences of sex outside of marriage, unlike the man. I’m not saying men have no consequences, they often do, but the women bear more.

    Biblical morals uphold women and children, and make the men accountable. Modern amoral relativism lets the guys off the hook (in many cases), and makes life much harder for women and children.

  7. letsgetreal2016

    I also wanted to say that I believe that many churches have become nothing more than social clubs and businesses with a cloak of Christianity. Perhaps this is why so few churches truly help and support abused women, which they should be doing. That is what the Bible says. I believe that many of our churches are apostate.

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