6. How Chris Moles works with abusers
Chris Moles says he works with men who abuse their wives/girlfriends because he believes that “The most effective means of reducing violence against women is addressing the hearts of men.” (C 22:45*)
But he didn’t get into working in this field because he believed that. His initial motivation was much more worldly.
He often tells the story of how in his early days as a church planter he was praying for something to do, because he needed help connecting with the community. And soon after that a local police officer asked him if he would work with kids who were under the juvenile crime board (F 01:57; H 02:07). Chris accepted the invitation. After a few years he was asked if he would work in Batterer Intervention Programs for the county parole board. He said no… until he was told how much they would pay him (N 36:00; C 3:22-5:35, B 4:45 to 5:36). He admits he has embroidered the story slightly and giggles because the story is self-deprecating… but it’s obvious that he enjoys getting his audience to laugh.
(Side question: Is it right for a Christian to embroider the truth in order to ‘get a laugh’?)
When Chris agreed to work in batterer intervention, the county sent him to training where he learned how to facilitate a Duluth Model Batterer Intervention Program. In these programs, two facilitators meet weekly with a group of abusive men. The facilitators put a lot of energy into confronting and drawing out the abusive men to admit to the specifics of what they have done wrong, and then to acknowledge their mindset of entitlement, i.e., their belief that they are entitled to maintain power and control over their wives/partners. It is a combination of confrontation and education. The goal of these programs is to get the men to renounce their overblown entitlement and their misuse of power and to respect women – especially any intimate partner they might have.
Chris and his co-facilitator Kim have developed a christianized version of the Duluth program and they use this in the groups they run for their county’s probation department. The abusive men are mandated to attend for eight months; they have either been convicted of domestic violence crimes or are subject to protection orders (H* 0:58).
Since he began doing this work for the government, Chris has also started running private programs for men who are willing to pay, which includes doing individual counseling with abusive men.
How Chris Moles works with abusive men
When working with men who engage in domestic abuse, Chris gathers data from whatever sources are available in order to get a picture of the abuser’s behavior and attitudes. He sources data from the man’s pastor (if there is one), from police or court reports, the victim’s advocate / counselor, and the answers the abusive man gives to Chris’s questions.
In his book, Chris gives a case study of Patrick. Patrick had come home late intoxicated and when his wife questioned him about where he had been and his intoxicated state he flew into a rage, screamed, accused her of adultery, demanded dinner, restrained her and slapped her. According to Chris:
“I will ask [Patrick] questions and apply truth in order to help him identify the problem. …Patrick may be struggling to see that he has done anything wrong other than restrain his wife. I’m not merely reprimanding him, I’m attempting to equip him to see, and acknowledge his sinful behavior. Self reflection is necessary at this point. I’m not merely trying to punish him but give him the resources to see and then respond to his guilt.” (M 31-32)
Chris then does even more work with (for?) the abuser to educate/confront him about his prideful heart and mentality of entitlement, in the hope of getting the abuser to change.
Chris talks about three possible stages (Z 1:35:12) in dealing with the abusive man. Here is my understanding of what Chris teaches about the three stages. Each bullet point is something which Chris teaches —
The Information Stage: Address the abuser’s gross violation of the marriage covenant by bringing to the light his abuse tactics, coercive control and sinful use of power.
- Use Proverbs 6:16-19 (things that God hates) to uncover and get the abusers to admit to the ways they have done all those things God hates. (C 52:33)
- Address the heart. Approach each abusive behavior with a ‘what’-based question. “When you called her that name, what did you want to accomplish? What did you want to happen?” (C 56:45)
- Teach the abusive men a principle from James 4: “We do what we do because we want what we want. And we want what we want because we think what we think.” (C 44:25.)
- Tell abusive men that their wrong thinking comes from the pride in their hearts, and the consequences and fruits of pride are:
- it distorts our view of authority, it inflates our own importance (C 45:30)
- it leads us to make demands of others
- it leads us to have unfair expectations in which the price tags are always changing (C 48:00)
- it allows us to justify inappropriate behavior, it takes us to places that we normally wouldn’t go (C 49:10)
- it pushes aside responsibility and quickly makes excuses
- and it quickly voices concerns and opinions.
- Work to “promote biblical confession” – get the abuser to acknowledge it was wrong and the impact it had on the victim. (C 56:45)
The Transformation Stage: Chris calls this the pivot point (H 17:00). And Chris recognizes that no one can force the abuser to repentance because that is between the abusive man and God. But Chris believes that biblical counselors can play a secondary part in this.
- We can lead a horse to water but we can’t make him drink…but we can feed him crackers [so he gets thirsty]. (H 17:30)
- Offer hope – that’s the gospel. The only solution for this awful behavior and the guilt shame and pain that it has caused, is Jesus Christ. (C 56:45)
- Look to see the abuser turning from sin. Look for the abuser to say, ‘I’ve done wrong. I want to commit to being God’s type of person.’ (C 01:02:25)
The Reformation Stage: The abusive man’s admission of sin is not enough, we then need to see evidence of the man’s repentance: we need to look for good fruit on the tree.
- For assessing evidentiary repentance, use Ephesians 4: “When do we know a thief is no longer a thief? When he is generous. When do we know an abuser is no longer an abuser? When he becomes an encourager.” (M 92-3)
- Set concrete goals for the man and share them with the elders, so the elders and any others who are part of the accountability-net can really measure the man’s change over the next six months. This is not just hoops to jump through, but looking for new heart, new motives, new attitude, gentleness.
- Church discipline and restoration can be part of this (~C 1:03).
- Two errors elders often make in carrying out church discipline:
- When using Matthew 18, the elders often ignore the fact that the wife has already confronted the abuser, so they start the Matthew 18 process from step one. By disregarding the fact that the wife has already confronted her husband, they show no respect for her as a believer in Christ (C 1:04:55).
- The elders require the parties do something as part of church discipline which would violate a court order like a no-contact order (C 1:06:15).
You may be asking: “What is wrong with this? If abusive men change and become non-abusive men, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what we long for?”
Yes it is…but Chris is working from some fundamental presuppositions that, as a Bible-believing Christian, I must to call into question.
Chris Moles works from faulty premises
- He assumes that addressing the hearts of abusive men is the most effective means of reducing violence against women.
- He teaches that when biblical counselors work with abusive men they should devote a lot of time getting the abusive men to “see their sins” and “have insight into their sins”.
- He disregards the Bible’s instructions about how Christians are to respond to abusers.
In the next posts in this series, I will explain why I find those points so troubling. Stay tuned!
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Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter. Our Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.