A Cry For Justice

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

Dealing with a spiritual stronghold

We’ve been talking recently about Why Are Pastors Afraid to Permit Divorce for Abuse?

So far, we’ve come up with this list of reasons why pastors are afraid:

  • Pharisaical religion uses fear to keep people in bondage. Pharisaical religion teaches that the first is first; the last must remain last, and the first can oppress the last. The company line is abusive: it is power and control and it reigns through fear.
  • Fear. . . .  of  loss of reputation, loss of power, loss of friends, loss of colleagues, loss of stalwart givers in the congregation, loss of tithes, loss of pastoral career, loss of one’s own family. And I’ll add another one here: fear of having one’s own abuse memories brought to the surface so one has to deal with them.
  • The brainwashing of tradition.
  • Ignorance.
  • Plain, unregenerate evil that seeks to eradicate truth.
  • It’s a spiritual stronghold

Jeff Crippen brought up the idea of a spiritual stonghold,  saying:

There is a spiritual element here — one of the strongholds that the Apostle Paul talked about.  And the only way it is going to come down is by the use of spiritual weapons. Prayer, and especially God’s truth as given us in God’s Word. We have to take that Word and bring it to bear on this issue of domestic abuse in the evangelical church. And that means first exposing the issue to these people. Telling them exactly what these abusers do to their victims in all the ugly terms necessary. And any person who doesn’t want to get themselves soiled by hearing about these ugly things, well, all I can say is that they are the Levite and the Priest who walked by the beat up guy that the Good Samaritan rescued.

It is a darkness. A blindness. It has been a stronghold among us for far, far too long and it is time the spotlight be put on it. Over and over and over until eyes start opening. Books need to be written and distributed. We need to speak on this issue even if our congregations don’t want to hear about it. And we need to confront people.

I like to describe a horrific case of abuse in which a mother and her two daughters were blasted with a shotgun and killed in a restaurant last year. I tell people, “so if the mother had survived and her husband had too, are you telling me that you are going to counsel that woman that God forbids her from divorcing him? You say divorce for adultery is ok but not for murder? Don’t you think that says that either you are….well, crazy…or you have gone horribly wrong in your application of Scripture?” People really don’t have much at all to say at that point.

Spiritual strongholds are energized and maintained by Satan. They are based on lies: complex architectural structures of tightly engineered lies, dovetailed, bolted and jointed together. They have stood for centuries.  We are often so used to them that we hardly notice them: they are just part of the landscape, the wallpaper, the air we breathe.

We can learn much from 2 Cor. 10:4-6.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (ESV)

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (KJV)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (NIV)

Many people think of spiritual warfare as prayer warfare because this is how the charismatic church has portrayed it for decades.
Yes, we pray. Certainly we pray.
But the warfare Paul is describing here is a warfare involving argument, ideas, thoughts, beliefs.  We are to demolish false beliefs. Destroy arguments. Cast down imaginations and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.  That’s how we demolish a stronghold. That’s how we cast down a tightly jointed fortress of lies.

When I was a kid, Whelan the Wrecker was the demolition firm in my town. When Whelan the Wrecker was working on a building, they used various techniques and strategies. They would start off climbing around and inside the building removing various pieces of it by hand. The workers probably unscrewed lots of screws, undid lots of bolts, and removed lots of panels, fittings, and elements of the structure piece by piece – perhaps for salvage and resale, perhaps because it would be easier to convey them to the dump if you got them off in one piece.

But there would come a time when they had taken out all they could or needed to take out, and then they would swing an enormous metal ball at what remained of the building to crack its structural beams and the whole thing would collapse. It was very impressive: swing, ###crack###, crumble, collapse. . . . and the dust rises.

Mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds Pulling down may be the part where we undo bolts, unscrew screws, knock apart dovetail joints and remove various elements of the building piece by piece.

We take the false doctrine of regeneration (“you can be saved without having to obey Christ as your Lord; so however much you sin, you are still called a Christian”) and we unbolt this ugly thing from the front entrance of this giant building. We send it in a big dump truck straight the to tip where it is buried under masses of household garbage.

We take the misunderstood and confused ideas about forgiveness and explain that forgiveness has three different aspects  (judicial, psychological, and relational) and we must not confuse them. This is like taking off the marble panels and flooring, polishing them up and recycling them at high quality building materials stores.

We take the idea that abuse isn’t grounds for divorce, and show how illogical, unscriptural and morally ludicrous it is. This is like taking out the antiquated plumbing in the old building, all the ancient rusty twisted pipes, and while we could just throw them on the dump, or turn them into scrap metal, some artistic person had an idea and turns them into a piece of public artwork: a gigantic, twisted, tortured pipework sculpture that is mounted like a tangled monster in a courtyard at the city museum, as an ever-present reminder of how ludicrous this doctrine was. Passers by will look at it and laugh, and cry, over this crazy doctrine that locked so many people into staying married to abusive spouses.

And there are many other distorted doctrines and misunderstandings that can be taken out too, but I’m going to make this post too long if I go into them all.

So we’ll jump to the swinging ball part. Perhaps the most exciting part, and the most scary part. The final demolition. This is, I think, what God does. After all, who among us has what it takes to swing that giant ball? Or even has a device to hold the ball up, in order to swing it? Prayer has been important all along, but I suspect that this is where prayer becomes the preeminent thing.  Like Moses holding his staff up all night praying, while God blew that wind to part the waters of the Red Sea.

We are at the stage, I think, where we are pulling down and taking out pieces of the building one by one. And I am trusting that God will show us what to do next, and He will swing that ball when the time is right.

I’ll leave it to readers to suggest what might be meant by the last part of the passage: and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 

19 Comments

  1. Lynette D

    I have seen those scriptures used to keep people in bondage. They say things like ‘don’t blame the person, blame evil’ etc. Thanks for stated it this way, maybe it will open some blind eyes.

    • So true, Lynette. They are happy to blame the abuse on Satan, and think (sing-song voice) “Well what can we do? All we can do is pray against Satan.”
      … which very conveniently leaves all the lies, false doctrines and tangled misunderstandings of belief lodged like rocks in the minds of the pastors, the general Christian bystanders, the abuse victims, and of course the perpetrators.
      And it also leaves the perpetrator unpenalized for his misbehavior and criminal acts.

      • Ya, I get nauesous when I think of all the times scripture was thrown in my face after he abused us!! Abusers can so easily justify their actions with the manipulation of scripture, like every every time he abuse us, he could easily quote something from the bible that in his mind justified the abuse.

        You can totally tell when a person has head knowlede of the word, as oppossed to the living and breathing word that is not part of our intellect but so much deeper than our voice can utter. Abusers cannot be Christian, and I 100% believe that is the absolute truth! I am thankful to know that I am not alone in knowing that..

        I had too at some point agree with my own experiences, instead of dwelling on the lack of experience of others,

        True I have had many people tell me, I cannot make that judgement call. I am not all knowing, but GOD is and HE sees EVERYHING HE reveals the truths, He would not stand for HIS word to be used as evil, or twisted to justify murder? I mean if there is not ONE truth, then truth in itself would not even exist! MY humble experiences speak volumes to the application of the word by a mans intellect. Swirls around, never lands, only to become this big clanging noise that causes pain in the lives of others. Nope! That is not truth, and i for one believe that the word of God is alive, the Holy spirit breathes life into the word.

        The Holy Spirit, and the living word cannot exist on the same plane as abuse….I am not so eduecated in these matters. I was saved at a very late stage of my life, but I do remember one minute I was reading WORDS, then the next minute I was reading Gods voice flying off the pages…..when they became alive, it was REAL, it was like words that meant nothing became a personal love letter for just me.

        I never felt comfort from him, I never saw a light in him, I never saw true repentance, or remorse, and when he spoke the word, even when he was weeping, it had no life.

      • Amen! Voices like yours, Memphis, are so important in this battle. My experience of being born again is similar to yours, a few word off a page made me realise Jesus is alive and really, personally, loves me.
        And while I’ve seen some people (abusers) go through an experience that seems at the time to be regeneration, in the long run, it became clear they were never regenerate but were just seeds that sprang up quickly but died when the hot sun started to burn on them because they had no root.

      • The sturggle is between believing that we cannot see anothers heart,(although we experience the actions*…..so we hope the transformation means something. Then the second snare is the Forgiveness factor, because after all as a christian this is our duty to forgive over and over…..then you have all the re-enforcements in place, all the voices that seem to be applying “lip service” instead looking at the abuse.

        You know when you run into somebody and they say somthing they “HEARD” rather than something they “KNOW”….like we have all done it, we say stuff because it sounds like the right thing to say or we heard somebody else say it therefore it becomes part of our thinking without even REALLY understanding what it means or wether there is any truth in it……

        Like pastorial counseling follows a standard script……””If she says this, then you block her nonesense with such and such scripture”” “”If he says he did not do it, then apply the pat on the back and pray for your brother!”” Repeat steps one and two until they stop with there silly nonesense!

        Stock christianity is a feeding ground for abusers..

  2. Bethany

    “We take the idea that abuse isn’t grounds for divorce, and show how illogical, unscriptural and morally ludicrous it is. This is like taking out the antiquated plumbing in the old building, all the ancient rusty twisted pipes, and while we could just throw them on the dump, or turn them into scrap metal, some artistic person had an idea and turns them into a piece of public artwork: a gigantic, twisted, tortured pipework sculpture that is mounted like a tangled monster in a courtyard at the city museum, as an ever-present reminder of how ludicrous this doctrine was. Passers by will look at it and laugh, and cry, over this crazy doctrine that locked so many people into staying married to abusive spouses.”

    I love this word picture Barbara and I can’t wait to see it take place in reality! Oh what a glorious day that will be. There are so many things that people have held to as fact in the past that we now look back on and laugh. I think of the flat earth being carried on the back of a giant turtle though space. Or the things we look back on and cry like the many people who died because of the practice of blood letting. I look forward to you statue being erected soon.

  3. Still scared

    Wonderful! Can you point me or expound on the three aspects of forgiveness?

    • Sure. Here are the best ones I know:
      Steven Tracy talks a lot about the three aspects of forgiveness in his book “Mending the Soul”.
      Bob Kerrey’s sermon on forgiveness. The link takes you to a place where you can download it as a PDF from my solo website (www.notunderbondage.com).

      There are another I also strongly recommend, but I can’t remember if it separates the three aspects of forgiveness in the way the above two authors do.
      David Augsberger’s article The F-Word: forgiveness and it’s imitations. A while ago we wrote a post on this blog called The F Word about Augsberber’s article.

  4. MeganC

    Oh, BARB. This is brilliant. These words, right here, blessed me:

    “Spiritual strongholds are energized and maintained by Satan. They are based on lies: complex architectural structures of tightly engineered lies, dovetailed, bolted and jointed together. They have stood for centuries. We are often so used to them that we hardly notice them: they are just part of the landscape, the wallpaper, the air we breathe.”

    And the way you describe the demolition process . . . . it fills my heart with joy over the pending destruction of all of these lies, when God sees fit! And inspires me to keep on pecking away at those little bolts in the corners. Thank you for this!

  5. Jeff S

    As I’ve said before, I have a lot of hope that we are indeed tearing down and God’s demolition ball is about to swing. Honestly, I’d rather not be the ones fighting for this- I’d rather not have the problem at all. But it is not for us to decide, but to do the task we have been given, knowing the God destroys all strongholds.

    And if I may quote outside of the Bible, I always loved this part of LOTR:

    Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
    Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

    • Yes. It seems to me that that’s one of the places in LOTR where Tolkein virtually shouts “Christianity!”

      • Jeff S

        I actually count it as his thesis, if he consciously had one (which I don’t think he did).

  6. ahhh! I loved LOTR unfortunately the churches we attended all had the same thinking, that it somehow was ungodly????? weird???? Who could not like little Frodo? Anyways no none of us asked for it, nonetheless we have to put on our armour and fight for the truth, and the responsability is on us NOT to remain silent, even if it hurts, even if we face judgement from our adversaries………I for one am willing to go the distance, even though somedays I question myself, like I rather just walk away into like a movie mist, but I cannot let this go on, nor can I move forward knowing how badly people need to be free from abuse. For my kids, my attitude is “”The Buck Stops Here”” Because of the pressing forward of people like on this website, generations of children, wont have to face the life of despair, and confusion, and chaos that is inevitable when abuse is present!!!!

    • Jeff S

      “I loved LOTR unfortunately the churches we attended all had the same thinking, that it somehow was ungodly????? weird???? Who could not like little Frodo?”

      Wow, that’s pretty hard core. I’ve rarely met a Christian who wasn’t a fan, and many have almost adopted it as Christian literature (which it isn’t, but it has some great Christain themes). But I guess there are all types out there.

      For my money, Sam is the true hero of LOTR. We all need a Sam behind us, carrying our burdens when we can’t go any further, and never, ever, ever letting us go. It just struck me as I was typing this that if there has ever been an example in literature of 1 Cor 13 in action, Sam is it.

      What I really love about the story is that Frodo ultimately is unable to be victorious in and of himself. He does what he does because he is called to it, but in the end it takes the providence of goodness to win the fight. I hated that aspect when I was younger, but now that I’m older it really reasonates with me. We persevere because we know good will win in the end and we have our part to play. It does not matter if we are the ones to toss the ring in at the end, or even if we have the strengh within us. It matters that move foward when there is foward to go.

  7. Jeff Crippen

    Barbara – your article here is a very good and timely reminder to me and to all of us that in the end it is the power of Christ in His Word by His Spirit that smashes the enemy strongholds and opens peoples’ eyes, not us. We are planters and waterers, but He gives the increase. And it is also a good reminder that we must take care not to be diverted from Christ and get off on some detour of some philosophy or even some moral “cause.” In the end we are called to proclaim Christ – His person, His word, and His word. We attack and expose abuse because it is a weapon of the prince of darkness, and the only weapon to use against darkness is Light.

    • we must take care not to be diverted from Christ and get off on some detour of some philosophy or even some moral “cause.”

      Yes indeed we must. The moral-cause-sidetracks are numerous indeed, and in my observation quite a few churches and para-church groups get diverted by them. It’s tricky. With an issue like the one we are dealing with on this blog, there is so much injustice and immorality in the way victims of abuse have been dealt with, and we rightly oppose that injustice, but we do have to be careful not to prioritize the moral cause ahead of the Christian message.

      • Maybe I should rephrase that: we need to be careful not to let the moral cause so overshadow the Christian message that the gospel is forgotten, and we portray Jesus as just ‘a good moral teacher’.

  8. I remember speaking with many friends past and present about “the church”, and hearing lots of complaints, but WE ARE THE CHURCH. This isn’t just about Pastors, this issue is about all of us, about how all of us deal with divorce, and domestic abuse and a thousand other real, important things. I realize that Pastors and Teachers have a huge responsibility, and then I realize – WE DO TOO, to pray for them. As we continue to learn from God’s Word, as we continue to learn what it means to follow Christ, let us do so with humility and compassion, not stopping even once to point a finger of blame lest the other four point back at us.

    • Dear Cpsoulsoul, I fully agree that we are all the church and can’t dump all the responsibility on pastors and leaders, and certainly we must pray for other believers, including those who are in leadership.

      But I’m not entirely comfortable with what you wrote here:

      As we continue to learn from God’s Word, as we continue to learn what it means to follow Christ, let us do so with humility and compassion, not stopping even once to point a finger of blame lest the other four point back at us.

      Pointing the finger of blame can be very much part of godliness. Look at the prophets denouncing all the corruption and false worship. Look at Jesus denouncing the Pharisees. Look at Paul denouncing Diotrepehes and Alexander the coppersmith. Look at how Paul told the Corinthians to put that fornicating man out of the church and hand him over to Satan. Those are only a few examples.
      I believe that many Christians are not paying enough heed to these principles of right judgement, right denunciation, right discipline, rightly warning others about wolves in the flock. If we don’t pay heed to these principles, we end up allowing wolves and Pharisees to lord it over real Christians. And in my personal opinion, this is happening in epidemic proportions, with victims of abuse being those who end up most wounded by ‘friendly fire’. When well-meaning Christians don’t take a stand against abusers and evil-doers who hide out in the church, it is a massive problem.

      Moreover, your phrase “not stopping even once to point a finger of blame lest the other four point back at us,” is a very unhelpful phrase to say to a victim of domestic abuse. I’m sure you don’t mean to hurt such victims, but just think for a moment about how a victim would hear that expression.
      Picture a woman who has been abused for 25 years by her husband. For most of that time she didn’t even identify the problem as “abuse” – she thought she just needed to try harder to be a better wife. He blamed her for the troubles in the marriage, and she blamed herself. She finally, painstakingly, wakes up to the fact the her husband has been and is abusing her. And with great trepidation, she tries to tell others about this reality so she can get help.
      Now, imagine that when she breaks the silence like this, someone says to her, “Whenever you point a finger of blame, there are four fingers pointing back at you.” What will she think? I can tell you: – she will think “Oh no! I am wrong to be pointing the finger at my husband! What a terrible woman I am….”
      It tosses her right back into the storm of self-blame and guilt that she has so painfully just woken out of. It throws her down into the mire all over again.

      I hope you will give thought to what I’ve said. I don’t want to push you away from this blog, but I couldn’t let your comment just slide. These are the very kinds of things we are hoping to educate the church about, and the fact you have come to our blog shows me that you are wanting to assist survivors and help make the church better place for victims of domestic abuse. :)
      You might like to look at this article I wrote:
      Unhelpful comments by well-meaning people: why they happen and how they might be answered.

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