A Cry For Justice

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

Challenging the No Divorce for Abuse Fortress Which Has Been Raised Up Against the Knowledge of God

I continue to hammer on this business of abuse as grounds for divorce because frankly I see it as the non-negotiable issue in this battle against abuse and abusers hiding in the church and being enabled by pastors and Christians.  As long as anyone refuses to acknowledge that a victim of abuse has a right before God to divorce their abuser, then injustice is still going to be effected by them against victims.  They will keep right on insisting that victims remain in cruel bondage in Egypt.

Exodus 21:7-11 ESV (7)  “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. (8)  If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. (9)  If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. (10)  If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. (11)  And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

1 Corinthians 7:15 ESV (15)  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

A Christian woman was married to a wicked man for 25 years.  Although the husband had vowed to love and cherish her until death parted them, he never did.  His abuse of his wife might be called mere passivity.  He just did not care.  He was not available for a real relationship, focused himself on his own pleasures, ate the meals she cooked with unthankfulness and assumed he was as good as the next guy.

Is this abuse?  “Well, yes.”  Does this man’s wife have biblical grounds to divorce him?  “Well, no,” you say? “No adultery.  No desertion = no divorce.  It’s that simple.”

Then let me complicate it for you.

A Christian woman was married to a wicked man for 25 years.  He too had vowed to love and cherish her until death parted them, but neither did he.  He was more active in the abuse of his beloved.  He regularly used cutting words until her sense of self had almost died.  He mocked her efforts to beautify the home and told her she was a pathetic mother (though he never lifted a hand to help with either the house or the children).  Well, at least with the unpleasant aspects of child-rearing, like discipline or helping with schooling.  He was not a drunk.  He went to work regularly, but he controlled and begrudged every dollar she spent.  And sometimes he would rage.  Throw things.  Smash a wall.  Scream and yell about how stupid she was to do….whatever.

Is this abuse?  “Well, yes, of course it is!”  Does this man’s wife have biblical grounds to divorce him?  “Hmmmm….no.  No adultery.  No desertion.  No divorce.  Still pretty simple.”  And would you be willing to explain that to her?  That GOD has bound her to this man and that if she divorces him she will be guilty of a most heinous sin?  “Boy, that wouldn’t be easy, but I would have to do it.  What God says about all of this is really very plain.”

Let me muddy up the waters for you some more then.

A Christian woman was married to a wicked man for 12 years.  He turned from his vows to love and cherish her just about the time they left the church after the wedding ceremony.  The honeymoon was actually a crime of rape.  Three months later he choked her almost unconcious in a rage over, what was it now – his beer being warm.  He told her that if she ever called the police on him he would kill her.  You could write the script of the next 11+ years of hell, after which this woman barely knew who she was and she wondered – how can God let this happen to me and my children?  Why doesn’t He send someone – a rescuer?  But, of course, her Christian friends all reminded her many times that God hates divorce and that since all of us are sinners, she needed to look closely at herself to see where her faults were that contributed to the marriage “problems.”

It was in the 12th year of this marriage that final events occurred.  Having realized that she just could not permit her children to be exposed to this evil man any longer, she resolved to leave.  She developed a plan that would involve telling her husband in a public place that she was taking the children and leaving him that day.  And so she did.  She picked a restaurant.  She and the two girls and their father ate a meal first – it had been a normal “walk on eggshells” day – after which this brave lady told him of her decision.  After staring at her with those familiar cold eyes for what seemed like forever, he got up, went outside, and she thought it was over.

It wasn’t.  He returned with a shotgun – right there in the restaurant – and without saying a word or making a sound, pumped a shotgun blast into each one of them.  Just as cooly, it seemed, he turned and walked out.  He was arrested and put in jail later that same day.  The wife alone survived, though it was months before she recovered from her physical wounds.  The other wounds, well – that is another story.

Is this abuse?  “But of course!  And of the most devilish kind!”  Does this poor lady have grounds to divorce this beast called her husband?  That is to say, what does God command her?  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you very clearly.  Could you speak up?  Does this lady have biblical grounds to divorce this ‘man?’  Didn’t God say that the slave wife could go free from the marriage if her husband failed to provide food, clothing, and marital rights?  Is murdering children and nearly killing their mother not a rather clear example of failing to provide life?  So what do you say?  What are you going to tell this lady?  Does she have a right to divorce this murderer?  And if your answer is no, then are you going to be the one to tell her so?  Are you going to tell her that if she divorces the murderer of her children that she is guilty before God and that you will be forced to announce her sin to her church?

Luke 14:3-6 ESV (3)  And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (4)  But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. (5)  And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (6)  And they could not reply to these things.

84 Comments

  1. Barnabasintraining

    I was thinking of the hole in their theory. The spiritual authorities I know of are against a woman being abused (or a man but that wasn’t the issue here) but are equally opposed to divorce as an option. The victim I know encountered a situation where she had to sign some forms indicating next of kin. She had separated at this point but the divorce was not final. Therefore, she was required to list her abuser as her next of kin which, should something have happened to her, would give him full authority over her life and well being. Thankfully nothing did happen, but what if it had?

    This, I think, is the real sticking point. It is inadequate in the real world to say you are against domestic abuse and want to do everything possible to protect the victim, except give her legal protection. As far as I’m concerned, this pops their balloon.

    I am aware of the theological process they use to come to their conclusions. The problem is, it doesn’t work in the real world. God is a realist. He gives us real solutions to real problems. He is not yes and no. When He gives a solution, it will cover all the bases.

    I know this is part of their problem, psychologically speaking. They’ll get in the water but don’t want to leave the protective edge of the pool. What kind of life guard does that make them?

  2. Bethany

    When you are in your study or debating the finer points of theology it is easy to make a blanket statement of “no divorce except for adultery or desertion” and even that divorce is a stain of shame that even the blood of Christ can’t seem to clean…but that’s another story…but when you actually get dirty with the real lives of real people its not so easy anymore. A doctrine that can’t be translated into real life without violating the aspects of the nature of God such as Justice, Mercy, Love, and Righteousness then there has to be something wrong with your doctrine!

    • Martin

      Thanks, Bethany! This sums it all up in my humble opinion and is so easy to verify Biblically (Matt. 9:13, 12:7, 23:23, Micah 6:6-8, Hosea 6:6). Too bad so many church leaders today can’t see this plain truth. After all, the instruction appears three times in Matthew alone.

    • Healinginprocess

      Bethany, your point is so well taken. I have just been asked to leave my church because I divorced my husband on the grounds of abuse. They are of the narrow minded thinking that God Hates divorce and only allows divorce in cases of adulterly. Because I would not reconcile with my husband I was told by my pastor he could no longer be my pastor. If I would be willing to reconcile with my now exhusband I would be welcome back. The irony is now my abusive exhusband is welcome in the church because I left and since I am not willing to reconcile they will welcome him back with open arms. He is the sinless one because he did not want the divorce and wants to restore the marriage. He has not yet taken responcibility for his actions and says “all I look at is the bad and not at how much he loved me and continues to love me.” They believe that if the pastor and his wife would counsel us and I would be obedient to God to allow for resoration of my marriage God would bless that and restore our marriage. It is very simplistic thinking and solution for something so much mor complex. I wish they would look to God’s character. Abuse is so much more complex that God hates divorce except for adultery…It entangles soooo many more issue that God, Christ and the disciples speak against in the Bible…and none of God’s mercy is being shown. Thank you for comments like yours that make it easier to continue to go through being put out as a sinner whose sin seems unforgivable.

      • Martin

        There’s a lot to be healing from there, for sure. Betrayed by an abusive spouse, betrayed by friends, and betrayed by church leaders. It’s an all too common tragic story for victims. Too many churches hold their idea of marriage and family even above the revealed truth of the Bible. In the process, people get mercilessly hurt. Thanks for sharing this troubling time. We all wish that people would change, but I know for sure God will not leave you nor forsake you and we’re praying for you!

      • MeganC

        Agreeing with Martin, friend. You have had blow after blow. It is so frustrating that we get hurt by our spouses and then have the wind knocked out of us by the church, friends and family. You are not alone and you are not unforgivable. And remember John 9 . . . a man betrayed by his family and “church” yet embraced by His Jesus. Hugs.

      • Jeff Crippen

        HIP- No pastor or church has the authority to insist upon the things they are trying to make you do. By your own conviction and for reasons of plain abuse you chose to leave and divorce a man who destroyed your marriage by (I assume) ongoing, hard-hearted violation of the marriage vows. For anyone to put themselves off as a “counselor,” and pressure you (with threat of being cast out of the church) to return to that bondage is malpractice.

      • Bethany

        Hip- thank you for your kind words. I have said them to myself over and over again because like you and a lot of other people on this blog I was also abandoned by my church and my abuser now lives with the pastor of that church!! It is so hard to be labeled as a sinner when you are an innocent victim I will be praying for you my deer sweet sister.

      • Anonymous

        “Because I would not reconcile with my husband I was told by my pastor he could no longer be my pastor.”

        Then perhaps HE should leave. I mean, he does not own the Church, Christ does! He is not the head of the Church! He is to lead you and help guide you and support you with the truth of Scriptures. If he cannot do that, HE needs to leave or at the very least, step down, because he is not operating under God’s authority any longer, but his own fleshly authority.

        You know, I could have written your post, and I was in fact, just excommunicated because I told my abusive husband that he could not come back home until things changed and he repented. Their idea of repentance was him saying, “I’m sorry” for the hundred millionth time, with no change. I did not divorce him, just told him I and the children would not take anymore of it. I will soon be finishing my story on this whole matter and will share it here, when I am done writing it.

        Some Pastors and elders behave as if they believe they paid the price for the Church, (something I never knew!) so they think they own it and the sheep; and can force the sheep to do whatever their desires are for them to do. That is a very scary thought for those of us who are not Pharisees and are true believers in Christ Jesus, and believe that He purchased us with His blood and the Church belongs to Him!

        I understand a pastor saying he isn’t certain someone is doing the right thing and being willing to listen to an explanation of in depth study of the Scriptures regarding divorce. But to say outloud or by their actions, that they believe they are perfect in their interpretation and understanding, and without fault or error, is above what God calls any man to say of himself.

  3. An incredible post~! I ‘ve always maintained that in order for a point to be valid, it must still be valid at it’s most extreme – you have proved that to be true. Of course, you will have church folk trying to decided how severe the abuse must be before the abused can get a divorce.

    • Jeff S

      “An incredible post~! I ‘ve always maintained that in order for a point to be valid, it must still be valid at it’s most extreme – you have proved that to be true.”

      Exactly. I think people get confused because in this post modern world with so much human philosophy out there (not necessarily saying it’s all bad) there are so many incomplete or partial truths. But this isn’t human stuff we’re talking about. If we believe that this is God’s truth, it has to work in every single instance. It can’t be an incomplete truth or a truth in progress. You have to be able to take it to the extreme and it still makes sense- no one left behind.

      Granted there is a lot of partial understanding of God’s truth and we are still figuring things out. But in these cases we should exercise humility, not presume that our understanding is divine. If it fails in even one case, it isn’t God’s unvarnished truth.

  4. Sherry

    This is an incredible post! Thank you for fighting for us! My marriage is very similar to your first example except for husband having an occasional red faced rage (about 2 times per month). I grew up never seeing a healthy marriage and just thought what we had was normal, but I was so deeply depressed and started seeing a Christian therapist who helped me see what was really going on. He called my husband’s treatment the most extreme emotional abandonment in marriage he had ever seen. I’m still hanging on because I don’t feel it’s time to leave yet. Your posts are life-saving to me!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sweeet! Thanks, Sherry. Very, very glad you are being helped and encouraged. Even “just” the twice-monthly red-faced raging is absolutely enough to destroy a marriage. Keep us updated and we pray that the Lord will direct you in days ahead.

  5. MeganC

    And incredibly powerful, truth-filled post. Thank you, Jeff.

  6. Now Free (after 43 years)

    Very timely post Jeff. There are so many victims still wondering if they are doing the right thing by even considering divorce from an abusive spouse. I felt that way until very recently when I was reading Chapter 15 of your and Anna’s great book “A Cry for Justice”. I don’t think you will mind if I reprint a part of my letter I had sent you yesterday:

    Dear Jeff,

    I’ve finished reading your book….

    Chapter 2: To See the Abuser, You Must Admit He Exists: I was in denial for over 40 years. I finally did see my husband as the abuser. Very early in our marriage, when I spoke to him about his being oblivious to being communicative, and of living in his own little world, his answer was to very seriously physically assault me. I dared not go out of the house for almost 2 weeks, the bruises and cuts were so severe. I could have called the police, could have told someone, but didn’t for decades. My own mother just learned of the abuse after I left him a little over a year ago, and of the physical abuse a few months back.

    Upon starting to read Anna’s story, a strong picture formed in my mind of you taking a few steps back and listening intently and fondly as dear Anna spoke about her life and the Lord.

    I have to add Chapter 15: Last night, when reading this chapter, I felt a tremendous sense of peace and relief about divorce. Even though I previously read that God would not hold me to sin if I did divorce, I still had a feeling of unease. Your simple statements such as of God holding the abuser to sin because of his breaking of the vows to love, honour and cherish, that he the abuser is to blame, gave me an enormous sense of peace and validation.

    I truly loved my husband, before and throughout our marriage.

    My husband never did truly love or cherish me. I never felt a sense of protection with him. I never felt that he was ever on my side, that he wanted to see me do well in life; in fact, it was very much the opposite.

    Please do yourself a favour and get this great book, “A Cry for Justice” by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood.

  7. Barnabasintraining

    Jeff S,

    Regarding Healinginprocess’ comment above, that brings to mind a question a computer programmer might be able to answer. I’m thinking of a situation (maybe this is science fiction?) where a computer is supposed to, say, identify a person or something and has a list of commands or identifying marks it is supposed to look for. But say the program can be fooled by something that meets all the criteria, but isn’t that thing at all. Does that have a term, or is it actually possible in real programming? Maybe that’s a science fiction movie theme? Or maybe a 007 movie?

    Because I’m thinking of how these abusers give an appearance of being in a state they are not in –repentance — and get through all the protocols but are not in the least actually repentant. In the meanwhile, everyone is off chasing the innocent person as though they are the real criminal. And it really is surreal how this happens. Only here it’s not science fiction but real life. :(

    • Bethany

      I don’t know about programs but I know that there is a term called “Phishing” which is when someone creates a fake website (for example a bank) that looks exactly like the original website so that they can trick you into giving them your information. There is no way to tell the difference with the naked eye and they can do a whole lot of damage before you figure out that there not the real thing. And even after you discover them for who they really are they still have you info and can keep doing damage.

      • Barnabasintraining

        That’s pretty similar.

    • Jeff S

      BIT, other than the “spoofing” or “phishing” example Bethany mentined I cannot think of any terms. However, it’s a constant concept we deal with: data integrity. How do we make sure something is what it appears to be? When data becomes corrupted it can really muck up the system if it does not have lots of “defensive code” in place. Good programmers constantly check their assumptions to make sure the objects they are working with really are the real thing. I work on a banking app, so we take security and data corruption very seriously. We have many, many measures in place to verify we are always working with the data we think we are.

      Another idea in programming is something called “polymorphism” which includes a lot of different practices, but the basic idea is objects that can take on multiple “natures” at once. Very often code using an object is ignorant as to the real nature of the object it is working on- it only has a partial understanding. You could completely replace the base nature of some objects and the other objects would still work just fine- except if the base nature is corrupt now the entire system comes to a halt. Of course that kind of thing only happens when we programmers make mistakes- there’s no evil going on to create those situations. But that’s why we have testers constantly making sure we don’t foul that stuff up.

      There are a lot of great anaolgies between faith and programming.

      • Barnabasintraining

        So what we’re really dealing with is something like a polymorph but the programmers here don’t recognize that’s what it is? I guess?

      • Jeff S

        We are dealing with an object whose base nature is corrupt, but we cannot see it because we only have a view into the external trappings. In programming language we call this an “interface”. We can see what people look like, hear the words they speak, and all manner of things, but their internal being is hidden to us. If that internal being is corrupted and we interact with them assuming that their nature is good, then we risk being handed stuff that can really hurt us.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Ah!

      • Jeff S, you just stretched my mind wider than it can go, but I’m glad people like you get this programming stuff and the rest of us can apprehend the metaphor enough to use it forums like this!
        Maybe I should have just said “Ah” like BIT … :)

      • Hang on, I can’t let this go.

        We are dealing with an object whose base nature is corrupt, but we cannot see it because we only have a view into the external trappings.

        You explained that sentence as if you meant *the abuser* is the object whose base nature is corrupt. I get that – and agree. But what about if the object whose base nature is corrupt is the misunderstood doctrine about divorce? I’m trying to toy with the idea of us looking at the traditional divorce doctrine but seeing it only through an interface, so we only have a view into its external trappings…
        How is the traditional divorce doctrine like polymorphism?

        Don’t even know if I’m asking two questions or one.
        Am I getting lost here? help me out if you can

      • Jeff S

        “Jeff S, you just stretched my mind wider than it can go, but I’m glad people like you get this programming stuff and the rest of us can apprehend the metaphor enough to use it forums like this!”

        Don’t get me started– I might try to show you how polymorphism can allow you to model the Trinity (one in essence, three in identity, all identities distinct and able to co-exist and interact between themselves)! So when people go all “the trinity doesn’t make any sense” to me, I just smile and think if I can conceive of it in my tools, surely God is much more complex and powerful that my limited toolset.

      • Wow!

      • Jeff S

        “How is the traditional divorce doctrine like polymorphism?”

        Polymorphism really isn’t a good metaphore for misunderstood and abused doctrines. Misapplied “modularization” is. To explain: there’s an expression we talk about in software called DRY, which means “Don’t Repeat Yourself”. This is important because duplication of logics leads to difficult to maintain code when that logic must change at a later point. You have to change it in all of the duplicated locations and make those same changes every time without missing anything. This is extremely brittle and leads to bugs. So good developers will always look in the code when they have a task and try reuse existing code instead of writing new code. The better the developer the more reusable his or her code will be. We call this “modularization” because a developer should build code as many small reusable blocks of code (or “modules”) as possible.

        The problem comes (and this is not an infrequent occurrence) when a developer *thinks* an existing module applies, but it really doesn’t. For example say he has a requirement to prevent the bank from putting itself at risk by sending out large transactions, so he applies the existing module that blocks transactions under certain conditions, and he sets the conditions to be $8 million, the value specified by the user. However, what the user finds is this doesn’t really address their needs. They do have to be careful about sending out large transactions, but some are legitimate. They need the ability to approve or reject transactions that are very large. By using the existing module to “block” translations, the developer with good intention missed the mark for what was necessary.

        Often once this kind of issue is uncovered it is natural for the developer to push back because they have something that works, is clean, and doesn’t require a bunch of work or added complexity. Of course it ALSO does not meet the need, but when people become obsessed with consistency and efficiency (which is the very definition of a good software developer personality type) sometimes they can overlook that the practice needs aren’t being met.

        This is like the doctrine of divorce because we take an area that requires a complex decision and applies a simple module to it. This misuse of the module has been done for so long we are reluctant to remove it, fearing that the result will be a result in which money just flies out of the bank willy nilly. But as long as we continue to take the clean and efficient route we have prevented imoortant customers with legitimate large transactions from conducting their business.

      • Great! So I can use the phrase ‘misapplied modularization’ when explaining the faults of the traditional doctrine of divorce to a software developer. Excellent. And I think even some non-geek people might get what I meant, just from hearing the term. Thank you Jeff.

      • Barnabasintraining

        That modular analogy makes a lot of sense, Jeff.

  8. Jeff Crippen

    I want to add this comment that will make abuser allies scream “foul!” while they point to 1 Corinthians 6 and not going to court against a brother. Go ahead and scream. They misuse that Scripture.

    What I want to reiterate here is that I am encouraging victims of abuse who have been “counseled and coerced” by their pastors and churches to return to their abuser to consult an attorney, or at least look into filing a complaint with whatever state agency licenses counselors and therapists. I realize that pastors don’t have to be licensed – I don’t know why, but they don’t. People would scream separation of church and state I suppose, and there certainly would be some valid concerns there, but the quickest way for Christians to get the state involved is to keep acting with gross negligence and harming these victims.

    The principle regarding authority is that when anyone exceeds the boundaries of the authority God has delegated to them, they have lost that authority. A pastor, for example, who claims the Bible instructs him to whip a counselee for some sin is liable to criminal charges and the victim has every right before God to file a complaint and prosecute. 1 Corinthians 6 doesn’t apply. It is the very same situation here in these abuse cases. WHEN ANYONE IS SO GROSSLY NEGLIGENT THAT THEY COUNSEL AND EVEN COERCE (UPON THREAT OF SOME SANCTIONS) A VICTIM TO GO BACK INTO THE ABUSE, THEY ARE LIABLE TO SANCTIONS THEMSELVES.

    “Ah, but the fellow has repented. She is no longer in danger.” Oh really. And we are so confident in our ability to look into his heart and mind that we are willing to send her back to him? Apparently so, because over and over and over again we are hearing directly from victims who are being put through this very thing. “Go back to him, reconcile, or be put out of the church and pronounced an adulteress.”

    Boromir: What is this new devilry?
    Gandalf: A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!

    • Jeff S

      “Boromir: What is this new devilry?
      Gandalf: A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!”

      Love It!

    • Anonymous

      “Oh really. And we are so confident in our ability to look into his heart and mind….”

      Now that statement there, just opened my eyes to something! They continually told me that I could not look into his heart and determine whether he was repentant or not, because I could not know his heart, and YET, they continually told me that THEY knew he was repentant and even changed(!) when he most definitely was not. So, what is that, that the “leaders” or “counselors” can look into the abuser’s heart, but the victim? — not so fast! That makes no sense. On the other hand, the victim should be the first to know. Who else is as close to the situation as they are? Good point!

      • That is a really good point. I too was told so many times that “”I cannot judge this persons heart”” yet somehow everyone else possesed the ability?????? And when you are in the midst of abuse you are not in the business of judging his heart, your just looking for him to stop.
        My forgiveness, or lack there of has little affect on wether or not his repentance is REAL….. ………this time.
        Oh my goodness how many times i was told by others how “his countenance had changed”” like “”they”” could see it, and I just needed to look a little closer. As if I was some far off person he met years before his transformaion……like when your at the zoo and the kids are yelling “”Mom you gotta come look at this amazing thing!”” and you drop everything to rush right over expecting something you have NEVER seen before,….. and its just like a monkey with a banana.

      • “just like a monkey with a banana”
        hahahaha :)

      • Song

        I agree, Anon, it really is nonsensical. The responses and reasons from the Christian Psychologist and pastors we saw for marriage counseling were that they believed my perspective about my husband was tainted by the pain I had experienced from him, my lack of knowledge about how men need respect from a wife to be able to love their wife, and that they were the professionals, therefore they were better able to determine when he had changed. Here are a few of the responses when I asked them how they were going to be able to know he had changed when I was the one that lives with him and experiences his behavior, “As a professional, I have a clearer perspective than you do because you are too close to the situation and can’t see what is happening as clearly. Your perception may be skewed by you being unforgiving.” And this one, said very sternly, “I can tell when he has changed because I’m the one with the degree and twenty years of working with people.” And, “Have you ever considered the fact that your perception about what is happening is wrong? You have incurred so much hurt over time in this marriage, it has clouded the way you look at your husband. Once you get some healing from that, you’ll be able to see him through clearer lenses.” (Crazy-making statements!! I did get some help from another counselor and I am able to see things clearer! I see more clearly his abusive, manipulative nature.) Not once in my presence did they ever question my husbands perception when he talked about his “pain”. (I put pain in quotes because he was repeating, verbatim, what I had told him I was experiencing in our relationship! He was telling them my experience as if it was his experience. One counselor said, “You two are saying and experiencing the same thing.” But they took whatever he said as fact and truth, and mine as if I was some emotional, ignorant, blow-things-out-of- proportion, silly woman, even though we were “saying the same thing.” It was mind boggling! I realized that, for some unknown reason, they believed my husband’s perspective was accurate and mine was not accurate because I had experienced pain in our relationship, and therefore that pain caused me to not know what was really happening. And this one, “You just don’t understand how a man thinks. Once you know how much a man needs to be respected and learn how respond to him with respect, he can give you the love you want. You need to read the book “Love and Respect” and attend the seminar we are having on it.” They tried to put the responsibility for how he behaved on me. If he said or did this or if he didn’t say or do something, it was my fault, I caused him to do it because I didn’t respect him.

  9. Pippa

    This is very interesting. I can look back and see the instances of phishing in my so-called-marriage. Pretended intimate times of communicating deep feelings were later used by the ex to mock, diminish. control. It took me a long time to learn not to trust; it all seemed so real.

    • Yes, and no wonder we feel our trust meter is broken by the time the relationship ends. The abuser did their darndest to break it.

  10. Crossing over into our lovely family courts systems it is the same “”What do you want your getting the divorce!! IF he was abusing you then its over!”” Then when you stand in front of the court in front of your abuser and say “”Even if that were true, my kids need protection!”” and they just look at you as if you have a third eye! Their thinking is the victom should be punished for staying with him and subjecting the children to such behavior, then when the victom is trying to leave for good they are punished for even insinuating he could be an un safe father.!!! The monster i had dealt with was so entrenched in his rights to control me, reflect his bad behaviors by using our children as pawns for sympathy, when the truth was he took no responsibility for them……

    My point being is I believe it is gross negligence!!! the monster was so good, that in a very short time, maybe a matter of a week he could infiltrate the entire congregation, he started with the mens groups, then joined any marriage groups to appear like he was this sad and lonely man who “Only wanted his family back”” and of course the kids and I were immediatley shut out. They listen to all his crying, even showed up at court with him for moral support for restraining order hearings THEN when he gets thrown out in front of them, I show up at their offices to ask them why they would support such a man, but not a woman and her children?………I sat for hours, waiting for them to come out, when finally some woman comes out and says “”They cannot get involved in my situation any longer,”” and she ask ME to leave!!!? Im like “”What exactly is my situation? I have NEVER even told them anything about my spouses abuse?””…….So here you have church leaders AGAIN who witness his actions AFTER they were so convinced of his innocence that they went to court with him to stand against me *my spouse got so much power and thrill out of showing me, in his mind how even GOD himself was against the kids and I!!!! That day in his mind he had proof!!!!! Well like I said it went badly for him, when the deacon got on the stand and admitted he never spoke with me before, and his testimony was of his “”impression”” of what a salty stand up christian this guy was………my spouse was escorted out by security along with his posey of allies because he got enraged when his demands were denied and the order stood including the order for my kids! So as far as the church went? Not only did they support him, but even after they saw the truth, rather than admitting any wrong doing, they chose to stick to their story. I never expected an apology, rather perhaps ackowledgment that their time was not well spent. We did the church counseling for the first 6 years he abused us. Then when we seperated the kids and I always tried to find a home church in our new community, but he would always find out and start his work behind the scenes!!! EVERY single time he was awarded attention and sympathy for his abuse. So Sad. Obvioiusly as a divorced single mom I am certainly not inclined to ever go back!

    We sure could of used a friend like Sam for the last ten years!!!

    I honestly cannot say how I survived that, I had many temporary victorys in civil court. The marriage arena though the ten years of restraint orders meant nothing as far as changing his parenting time, I cannot put into words the despair you feel when the person who wants to harm you is handed over your biggest fear…..It is just so tragic on all aspects. The church especially was like being married, for awhile you do not even understand what is happening to you, you only feel defeated,, beaten down farther than at home. Its like YOU ARE the white elephant in pink polka dotted underwear in the middle of the room, EXCEPT you are not aware its YOU!!! You just keep wondering why people look through you, or your presence at mid day worship seems so awkward for them???? The most painful and defeating thing an abuse victom can endure is Judgement, when you feel defenseless the weight of that is crushing!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Memphis – I cannot but conclude, the more and more of these accounts we hear, that we are all surrounded by “churches” that are not churches. This has to be the case. Initially, as in our church years ago, there can be ignorance. But we figured it out. We aren’t any group of unusually gifted or different people. We are just Christians. But God tells us that EVERY Christian is indwelt with the Spirit of truth that can discern the spirit of truth vs the spirit of error. We are enabled by Christ to recognize His voice and a stranger’s voice we will NOT follow. So why is it that so many victims are experiencing what you did?

      I think that the answer to that question is the elephant in the room, and Dumbo’s name is this: many if not most evangelical churches have so compromised the gospel for so long that tares have overrun their ranks. Most of those church members do not know Christ. And we should not be shocked at this:

      (Mat 7:22-23 ESV) 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

      And that is why, increasingly, Christians are having to go outside the camp to find Christ and His people.

      • Song

        Jeff, I think you’ve brought up a good point when you said, “many if not most evangelical churches have so compromised the gospel for so long that tares have overrun their ranks. Most of those church members do not know Christ. ” And I would add to that many other church congregations who claim to be Christian.

        I think it would be helpful to know what are the healthy traits of a church community and what are the red flags, the tares, in an unhealthy church community. Do you have any ideas of what to look for in a church if and when someone decided to attend or look for a community of believers with which to associate?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Song- that should be an easy question to answer, but it is not. Yes, you can begin by looking at the written doctrinal statement to see if it is orthodox. But I have found that a bad church can have a great sounding doctrinal statement, so you don’t want to stop there. I can make some suggestions:

        1. The tone of the preaching. Not just the content, which is surely important, but is there a humbleness in the preacher along with the firm authority of God’s Word? Any attitude of lording it over or bullying and you want to be outta there.
        2. Watch out for personality cults. Is the church centered around one or a few people? One church I looked at once had, on their web page, a photo of a guy and his bio and how many years he had been at the the church, how he was the church organist and the chairman of the elder board. His wife was the chair of the deacon board and in her blurb on the web page she praised her husband. They flunked the test.
        3. How is the Word of God handled in the preaching, teaching, and application? Look out for a woodenly literal, Pharisaical hermeneutic that lacks mercy. Hard, fast rules that bind the individual’s conscience instead of leaving such matters to the individual.
        4. What do they say about divorce and remarriage? Give them a scenario of abuse and ask how they would handle it.
        5. Fakey phoniness. Are there people running the show who just seem perfect and too good to be true?
        6. The holiness or lack thereof evident in the congregation. Are they people who are serious about obeying Christ?
        7. How is authority exercised in the church? Is there grace and freedom or an atmosphere that is oppressive?
        8. Does the church know suffering for the gospel? Frankly, I cannot conceive of how a church today can have large congregation, large, expensive buildings, and still be faithful to Christ. It isn’t impossible, but those things are a warning sign.
        9. Hard and fast positions on things such as the doctrine of last things (eschatology). A church that insists that its position on the chronology of events connected with the return of Christ is the only true position is not a place I would want to be. Sure, we know Christ is coming, literally. He is going to judge everyone. There is a New Heavens and New Earth. Denial of those things is a denial of the gospel itself. But a pre, post, or a- millennial scenario? Yes, I think my choice of the amillennial is right. But could I be wrong? Yes.

        I am sure I have missed some important things. How, for instance, do you determine if the pastor and leaders are humble and teachable? Perhaps broach the abuse topic, offer some resources, and see if they will listen.

      • Song

        Jeff,
        Thank you. That is a really good list with which to start.
        And you started off with tone… that is one of the first things I notice when listening to a someone who speaks, and the very thing that distracts from what they have to say. I think ignoring the tone and trying to focus on the content is why I have stayed in situations too long, giving them the benefit of the doubt and seeing it as they were passionate instead of seeing it as being unhealthy. I have jokingly said in the past few years that something strange happens to some people when they are given a microphone and a pulpit. A person who seems quite, gentle and meek, becomes angry, forceful, shouting and belittling. I know now that if I find myself becoming tense, fidgety or trying to sit further back in my chair when listening to someone, it’s because I’m reacting to their tone.
        Thank you, again, for the list. It’s very helpful.

      • Here is a good article about red flags to identify an abusive church, and what to look for when looking for a safe church.
        When You Are Ready To Try Again: Going Back to Church
        by Jeff VanVonderen

      • Song

        Thank you, Barbara. I will take a look at it.

    • Jeff S

      Mempthis- I’m so sorry you had to go through that with the courts. I was very fortunate that my ex did not fight me in court at all for custody. My lawyer was certain I would have won if she had, but they advised me to divorce sooner rather than later, because if I waited another six months then it would look like the situation wasn’t that bad. Now it could be that they were just blowing smoke to get me moving (and line their pockets with cash), but it does seem the courts might indeed look unfavorably on parents who don’t get out quick enough.

      What a mind job that is!

      • Back to Jeff’s point earlier about how to know if a pastor is humble… I have found (especially if you are a woman) the best way so far is to disagree with him or question something he said in a sermon. So far I have not met a pastor who passed this humility test-tho when I would question, it wasn’t a test, but their response sure told me a lot about them and their attitude toward women. If my STBE questioned them, they behaved completely differently.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Jodi – That is a very good test, for sure. I thought of another. Recently I was at a community event at which a pastor was asked to open things with a couple of announcements and a prayer. He had on a flashy, ornamented, Christmas-tree like tie. And then he “put it on.” What I mean by that is that he was acting. Performing. He wasn’t being real. A public persona swept across him. One that acted and spoke in a way that would bring approval to him from the masses. Even his “prayer” was designed to do the same – two short politically correct lines and an Amen with no mention of Christ. I leaned over to my wife and said in her ear “I don’t like that guy.”

        He got his chuckles and acceptance from the crowd, as I am sure he gets it from his congregation.

        But for a victim of abuse and injustice? Go to such a guy as this for help? Good luck with that. He will only be concerned with preserving his own hide.

        I told my wife after that I don’t belong at these events. She is afraid I might one day stand up and start yelling something.

        Maybe the day has come when someone needs to do just that.

      • Just wanted to mention, I left long before i divorced, I knew being seperated was the safer bet for all of us. I was able to have control over wether or not my kids were protected, he could see them anytime as long as it was a public setting, and i was always in ear shot…of course he did not want to be bothered except at church when people were watching….he spent all his time stalking us with really bizarre cryptic, then overt behavior patterns. Seperated he still had control, we were on eggshells all the time, whenever we were out we always spotted him lurking somewhere….rather than spend valuable time with his family these are the behaviors he chose….he was always waitng somewhere in the background regardless of what we were doing. He even cause scenes in the local grocery store, church parking lots, one time even ran us off the road with his car, pinned us in a parking space once, would pull out of nowhere and race along beside us shouting at me to pull over!!!! Many, many times he endangered us with driving recklessly, when I refuse to ever get in the car with him again he would always threaten taking the kids….major reason why they NEVER were alone with him!!! I had been assaulted by this man, my children too more times than I can explain….overt threats, veiled threats, STALKING which was “”Acknowledged”” by the judge and SEEN by church counselors. Deeply disturbing behavior. What it boiled down to in court was “”The judge although calling him a lier and stalker, beleved that he really did want to see the kids, therefore he got visitation regardless, unsupervised and she ordered it for a two week period because my kids and I moved to a different state to protect ourselves!!! If I knew that she was going to do that I would of just stayed close by and continued being threatened and STALKED!!!! What it really boiled down to for him was to maintain some sort of control over me, that was handed right back over to him. So sad, also he was at church one night waiting for us in the parking lot, and he took his car and chased us, when we fled back to church he trapped us in a parking space, I told the kids to get out and run, and he started yelling at them to “”Come Here!!!!”” they ran inside, he came and pulled me out of the car window by my hair….a pastor came out and walked him over to his car and sat to talk with him, the result was…..according to this guy, that my spouse only wanted to see the kids. so I am saying to him “”Well why didnt he come to dinner at church tonight then like normal people!!!!”…the pastor said “” he is calm now, you go home and he will leave you alone””..even when I was called filthy names in front of a pastor they still listen to him rant about as to WHY he was doing it, and they always allowed for him to jointly blame me!!!!..at this time we were seperated and my spouse had been doing his late night drive bys EVERY night. Later that night, I lay awake, just listening to myself blink, afraid to go to sleep….and that was one of the nights he came back and threw garbage at my front door, and paced up and down the side walk, he pounded on the door screaming “”open up!!”” it was like 3 in the morning, I just held the door to my back and prayed the kids would not wake up to this. He as always refuse to leave!!!! so of course I call the police, and he tells them I locked him out and wont let him see the children!!!! THEY were the only ones to finally get him to leave, yet it was only for that night because like i have mention this kind of irradict abuse went on for years, i do not think anybody in a right mind would consider this guy a healthy safe parent….no matter how he behaved, he always got out of it by people awarding him with sympathy, it all boiled down to the un sympathetic woman, and if I would just submitt to reconciliation he would be “”better””. Its beyond my understanding how they came up with that theory. God certainly was not going to honor anything he put us through!!! Of course abusers do not make the change once they get what they want, they only make the change temporarily to acquire all the rewards, like sympathy and understanding, and control over their spouse. I look back and its all just so hard to believe, how mind numbing the church handled abuse? i mean I so desperately needed to be finacially out from under this guy, and they did the same thing he did to me….they never made him feel like it was his job to support us!!! It was like I was the evil woman asking too much of my poor man!!! They actually instead making him responsible for witholding our finances, they told me to get a JOB!!! In fact instead of telling him he needed to quite blocking us from our own bank account, they gave me a job cleaning their houses!!! I made 300 a month, and was suppose to rely on my husband to get me there, and watch the kids while I worked!!!!!! Its like they did not see him as a bad ANYTHING even after many times witnessing his outburst against the kids and I. Interestingly enough, the couples were suppose to sign up for working in the childrens ministries together, soooo….I sign up my husband and myself!!! Guess what!!! They without even coming to ME, without one word they removed us from that list. Seems they did not want this guy around there own kids but I was suppose to rely on him for child care!!! i actually pressed forward and asked why we were not included??? I just got the “dear in headlights routine” and stammering to the affect of its all filled up!!! Goes to show that my kids did not matter to them either, much less me. But if they were the ones enduring it, then they would do an about face! This was a small church, an off shoot of a VERY large church. BOY I did question alot in my mind the standards they set for me, and why they were so different than the ones they set for my spouse? I even came into that church after my spouse was already there attending, they were not very smooth as to hiding there judgement of me as a wife and mother! They never question one thing he said about us, or the situation….there mission in their minds was a godly mission to get this reckless mess of a woman to reconcile with her sad and lonely husband, and by gosh they were going to make it happen!!!

    • Not many churches apologise, but here is one church network that did.

      http://www.notunderbondage.com/apology.html

    • Song

      Memphis,
      Oh this, just, well, I’m so sorry you had this experience!! When you said “my spouse got so much power and thrill out of showing me, in his mind how even GOD himself was against the kids and I!!!! That day in his mind he had proof!!!!!”…I think you have stated very clearly what so many of us have experienced! The thrill these abusers get by making it look like God is on their side is truly perverted and disgusting. And the people in the churches who appear to be too proud to admit when they’ve made a mistake is equally as disgusting. I appreciate your ability to accurately and candidly express your thoughts and observations of your experience, and I’m also very sorry for what you have gone through.

      And your last sentence about enduring judgement when defenseless… so true.

  11. Healinginprocess

    Thank you Jeff your post it has been very helpful especially as you second guess yourself especially when your pastor is telling you to reconcile. It helps to be reminded that I did make the right decision divorcing my abuser and protecting my children from him. Everyone’s comments helped especially the different visuals from programing and banking terminology making it easier and clearer in my mind, helped in stepping back from the emotional side of abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      HIP – And indeed you DID make the correct decision!

    • HIP, a little late here, but welcome to our blog. :) we love having new people and hearing what they have to say.

  12. Pepe

    Just thought of these verses and place it here for comfort and support…

    Pro 21:3 To do justice and judgment [is] more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

    Ecc 5:8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for [he that is] higher than the highest regardeth; and [there be] higher than they.

    Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

    Luk 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

    The only place I know to go for the things of GOD is to the LORD HIMSELF….He provides though man fails….

  13. Rebecca

    AMEN. Thank you for articulating these truths so well.
    The Court system is horrific at times, and I’ve felt like giving up time and again. But when I read what you wrote here Jeff, ” WHEN ANYONE IS SO GROSSLY NEGLIGENT THAT THEY COUNSEL AND EVEN COERCE (UPON THREAT OF SOME SANCTIONS) A VICTIM TO GO BACK INTO THE ABUSE, THEY ARE LIABLE TO SANCTIONS THEMSELVES.”

    That gives me pause and then cause to keep up the fight. I cannot still believe that a Pastor told me that he knew for SURE that ex would not harm my children because he had what he claimed to be the ‘gift of discernment’. I’ve shared this here before. So was I in fact coerced and shamed? Letting my children see their dad alone once a week for 4 hrs in a public setting only…and how this has harmed them, and come back to bite me in the Court system has not only been painful but sickening. ex still attends that church, I do not.

    I know what is shared here is the Truth, what to do with this and how to move forward is where I struggle…move forward as in, what type of action do I take now, if any.
    Rebecca

    • Jeff Crippen

      Rebecca – I of course am not a lawyer, so I really don’t know what would constitute a civil case against pastor/counselors who endanger a victim’s life and welfare. But it seems to me that it is worth looking into with a legal expert. YES, you were coerced! Your faith was used against you by this supposed pastor who purported to be an authority, and a divine one at that. Gift of discernment? That is a false claim. It isn’t any different than someone showing you a diploma that is fraudulent.

      With all of that said, nothing here is meant to imply you were foolish. With a good heart you trusted people who claimed they were looking out for you in the name of God. They lied. And these kinds of spiritual abuse are so widespread in the church that they need to be taken on whenever we can. If the correct venue is a civil suit, then I say go for it and sue the socks off of them.

  14. Rebecca

    Jeff, thank you for the affirmation…I don’t feel crazy anymore. I’ve beaten myself up so many times for going along with that, while ‘the church’ also stood by and knew of the threats I was receiving (from ex) if I didn’t go along with that plan….and did nothing. ( And, give him more time with the children. I didn’t do that. )

    I have considered a civil suit. I am still considering it….there are some events coming up that may make this and other issues come into the light very soon. I would appreciate the prayers, for strength, guidance and clarity on who to seek out and what to do.

  15. Rebecca

    ….and for courage to take the leap.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You got it!!

    • And you got it from me, too. The stress and pain and fear you have had boggles my mind knowing what that man does. I will pray for the right path to be made clear, and the doors opened for it. And for your stamina.

      • Rebecca

        Thank you both! Will keep you updated.

  16. Song

    Once again, Jeff, great article!! It’s hammer time!

  17. Anonymous

    Can anyone here tell me, in reference to a comment made above, where the Bible even talks about us being responsible for another person’s sin? I know it cautions us to be careful not to make another person stumble, but where does it say, that a man has the right to abuse his wife (or vice-versa) if she does not fulfill her role as the wife, or that she does not give him the “respect” he somehow deserves? That seems very silly to even say that, unless you are double-minded, because that is like the wife saying, “Well, he didn’t love me, so I purposely mistreated and disrespected him”, and the pastor/elders/counselors saying the wife had the right to do that, because her husband sinned against her! You won’t ever hear them say that, by the way. But it is just an example of the double-mindedness when it comes to the woman reporting the abuse. It seems it is always somehow her fault, that her man abuses her; she is causing his sin; but he has no responsibility for her sin against him!?!? I hate it when the pastor/elders/counselors distort the victim’s perception of God, by sharing their own perverted perception of Him, with them.

    • Amen, sister!
      Yes, the victim is condemned either way, every which way, just like you said.

      Condemned for staying as long as she/he did with the abuser. (Why did you put up with it? I wouldn’t have!)
      Condemned for leaving the abuser. (“You abandoned a spouse who loves you and wants you back! You convenant breaker!”)
      Condemned for allowing visitation. (“You allowed visitation, but now you’re saying you won’t accept it? You must be lying when you claim he is dangerous!”)
      Condemned for resisting visitation. (“The kids need to see their father! How can you stop him seeing them! You cold-hearted, vindictive _____.”)
      etcetera.

      • and the way I got muddled when trying to write that comment shows how muddling and confusing and illogical all their condemnations are…

      • This is perfect Barb! I remember being in court and the abuser getting his attorney all riled up over “she didnt work!”” then in the same arguement they are trying to prove I had income so I was not a dependant, or deserving of any of our finances to sustain us during the seperation!!! Same with the kids, the abusers thinking is SOOO freakin muddled, if he is not getting his way one direction, then he will flip the other direction!!! Finally I was just well “What exactly do you want to prove here, it has to be one way or the other!!”……the messeges are the same to an abuse victom, through the court system and church, the echo is always trying to find the hitch that makes YOU to blame in some fashion. Thast why I get so upset over the whole alienation theory, because abusers inately want to “”Divide and Conquer”” that is the direct effect of their own behavior! That is THEIR purpose in life, if everyone is confused and guessing then they have got exactly what they want. For a victom of abuse there only has to exist a small shadow of a doubt, or somebody to imply its a “he said. she said”” and WHAM the abuser feels a victory!!!! Silence and any shred of doubt is enough for them to keep perpetrating their misery onto their own familys!!!

        Trying to flee from this person with my kids in tact was a virtual impossibility no matter which direction I took, we were damned. At least now I know I am not alone, and that at all costs we chose to be free of his misery.

        If I were to explain the process through court and the church, it would be parellel to a 2×4 slammed into my head from every side I turned, regardless of which direction I took. Then they somehow removed my vocal cords and pushed me into a free fall while hitting every branch on the way down. Then Before I could actually feel the blow of the bottom, I was pushed beyond the concrete into the abyss of non existence!!! It is like to save yourself you cannot process anything more than: “Wake up, remind yourself to breathe in and out!”

        Ok. that may sound dramatic but ask somebody that is in the midst of the battle and the despair is so deep, you really live in a free fall state. The majority of that despair comes from the isolation that comes from the abusers many tactics.

      • Yes Memphis. And it doesn’t sound dramatic, in fact, I think you described the experience really well, and many of our readers will relate to it.

      • Still scared

        Yes, the opposite of everything. My abuser loved the counselors that my kids were going to until they said the kids should decide if they saw him or not. Now, according to him he has ALWAYS disagreed with them. ( and I have emails to back up the contradiction but that doesn’t matter, I obviously can’t read english because that is not what he meant! )

    • Song

      Anon, Yes! Double-mindedness! You said it! And the double standard, Catch 22, two sets of rules, contradictions, double speak…. all from people who claim to know and hear God!

  18. Irish

    I didn’t finish reading through all the comments so maybe someone already mentioned this.
    Abandonment encompasses more than watching his/her taillights disappear down the road. That husband abandoned his marriage and wife with his negligent, foul behaviour. She was quite deserted in that marriage and quite qualified for divorce.

    People who tell you to go back into an unstable environment are, in my opinion, no different than Lot’s wife who looked back.
    Get out, and don’t look back.

    • You are quite right, Irish. And welcome to our blog! We are so pleased when when we hear from new people. Hope you find much help and support here. And yes, we have many times on this blog discussed how abandonment is not just ‘walking out’. In an abusive marriage, the perpetrator of the abuse is the one who is abandoning all his covenant vows to love and to cherish. That’s the core argument of my book and why I say that 1 Corinthians 7:15 is The Key New Testament Text that allows divorce for domestic abuse.

  19. Jeff Crippen

    The next time anyone here has a pastor or church leader pressure them to reconcile with their abuser, quote the following Scripture to them:

    (Mat 21:23-27 ESV) 23 ¶ And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

    The point being this: tell them that you need them to show you where they are given authority from God to bind your conscience in a decision about being married or divorcing your abuser. Require them to answer definitively Exodus 21 and 1 Cor 7 which obviously grant freedom to a victim of abandonment, neglect, cruelty, and other hard-hearted, willful violation of marriage vows. Tell them flat out then, “I am not comfortable discussing this subject with you. This is a matter of conscience between me and the Lord and I have made my decision.”

    I really think that we need to use this kind of firm confidence that lays down boundaries with these people. They aren’t used to it, but they need to get used to it. Pastors have no authority to invade the inner sanctums of our lives and homes and tell us what or what not to do in most of the arenas of our lives. Is there obvious, open, gross sin that I am guilty of and not repentant for? Fine, let the church confront me on this – as they should. Even put me out of the church if I won’t repent. But one’s decision to divorce an abuser is a private decision made before the Lord.

    And we just aren’t going to take it anymore!

    • Yes in hind sight, I had enough to deal with without the added complications of the senseless, useless involvement of this church….they were there for him, and him alone….and it felt that way all along, I just was defenseless against what was happening to us. Just like my abuser, I was frightened at the reaction I got for questioning them in any way…..my kids and I were NEVER going back once we left, but combined with him and the coehercion of the constent calls from pastors we moved into the same city, attended the same church, I agreed to ongoing counseling, BUT refused to live with him….I knew he was not going to honor ANY agreements he made, and told them so. Within the second week of counseling he like did a flip, and in front of both pastors become like this seething, disgusted, volitale person at me…. you could tell they were schocked!!! Because when I was not there it was so easy for my spouse to put on a show, but once I was there and allowed to speak on my kids and my behalf, he spewed out all his venom in an attempt to silence me….they STILL after that correlated it to “”Well it must be her, because he was not like that when she wasnt around!!”” So they stood there course and forced us into counseling with him, and not even making sure he left the house before they did!!! So i was force to NOT call him out again on his stalking and abuses of us, because I was the one paying the price for it after they left me alone there with him!!! Foolish, foolish people!! After about 8mnths of that nonesense i wasnt budging of course my spouse became increasingly worse, and paranoid people would see him in a different light, he became desperate and got us evicted from our home there in an attempt to force us to live with him……that church was like “”well we tried, now he is your problem”” on the flip side they were more than willing to help us move again, which we did to yet another zip code….

      • Jeff Crippen

        Memphis – “Yet Another Zip Code.” I see a book title there! You have stood really strong against a lot of unjust pressure. I’m glad I’m on your side! Thanks for telling us more of your experience and how you saw through your abuser’s facade.

      • Barnabasintraining

        .they STILL after that correlated it to “”Well it must be her, because he was not like that when she wasnt around!!””

        So much for the Spirit of a sound mind.

      • Memphis, you were bashing your head up against a brick wall. They were so biased, so prejudiced (pre-judging the situation is prejudice). But I’m not blaming you, sister, for keeping on trying for so long with the church before you gave up and realised it was only going to serve you toxic stuff. In a much lesser way, I had a similar experience: when my first marriage ended I tried for nine months to get the elders to apologise to me for publicly condemning me for applying for a protection order. They stonewalled all that time and eventually told me in the ‘nicest’ (nastiest) way “We have decided there is no place in the church for you any longer.”

        How come we don’t have permanent brain damage from bashing our heads against all those brick walls? It’s only God. He has enabled us to endure and guided us out to (relative) freedom.

      • Still scared

        Barbara, I wonder why we want that. i can tolerate that my abuser will never get it, he is so caught in his need for power and control, it’s not that I excuse his addictive behavior, but I don’t expect change. What I do want is an apology from his pastor who thought it was a “he said, she said ” situation and quoted me things like “perfect love casts out fear” and when confronted with things like your blog said that ” Of course” he “does not agree with domestic violence” and “it’s a real problem in the church”…and… and , sir, are your neurons not connecting, remember me telling you it was abuse and you not believing me. ( You see I want an apology from him because he should know better!!)

      • It’s a good question, Sill Scared. I have pondered that myself. The best answer I can come up with so far is that vindication is amazingly healing. If we are vindicated – if we are told “you were right, you were not to blame in any way, your abuser was wrong and we as leaders were wrong to be neutral and/or take the abuser’s side – then that slakes some deep thirst in our souls. When that thirst is slaked, the rest of the healing process is so much easier. Quantum leaps easier.

        I think I’ve mentioned this before on this blog. I had a powerful revelation one night that the system of capital punishment in the Old Testament was designed by God that way because God KNOWS how healing it is for the victim to see the whole community agreeing and concurring that the criminal was indeed guilty of that crime, and that crime deserves the death penalty. They all have to throw stones. The whole community was to be involved.

        The victim was to throw the first stone, which was God’s way of saying “Yes, I recognize you as the injured party, the primary victim of the crime, and as such I recognise that you feel anger at one who abused you and I’m giving you a legitimate way to express that anger.”

        The rest of the community then joined in the stone throwing, which was God’s way of showing the victim “See, they all agree, the court has assessed the evidence in a sober manner, the criminal has been found guilty, and now the whole community is supporting the judgement and the penalty.

        And notice that if only the victim were to throw stones, some doubters (maybe the criminal’s buddies or family) might later spread rumours that the victim had ‘murdered’ the criminal. But when the whole community throw stones, there is no one individual who could be said to be responsible for the resulting death. It is a collective act. And there’s no better vindication than that, in my opinion.

        I’m not arguing for the death penalty or stoning today (don’t want to get into politics here) but I am saying that God recognizes and honors the victim’s need to feel vindicated.

    • “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

      The truth we are presenting is that Abuse IS Grounds for Divorce.
      The first stage, ridicule, is happening a lot: the truth is being ignored or dismissed by most of the church, and many folk in the church are not even aware of the battle’s existence yet, because they are in their blinkered little ruts and not paying attention to wider debates.

      But when a victim-survivor opposes the malpractice of her pastoral leaders, when she declares “I am divorcing my abusive husband and I have every right to do so. Stop shoulding on me, Pastor!” she is often violently opposed.

      Yes – we just aren’t going to take it anymore!

      • Yes! i forgot about the “”perfect love cast out fear”” again, pointing the finger at the victom who hasnt lost the ability to love, quite the opposite. Now I understand how come he always said things like “”So much for your love Memphis!!” Because he REALLY believed my love was faulty for trying to protect my own family from him!!! Or that was just one of the many ways he blameshifted it all onto me so people wouldnt look closer at him!!!! Truth was, of course I loved this person with everything Christ gave me, and then whatever else was beyond that was Christ showing me what perfect love was, and it wasnt the crappola he was dishing out!!

        I was newly saved when I got married, he saw light in me and took it for himself as a test towards if I was REALLY saved or not. Those were “his” words to me as I crawled on my hands and knees to the bathroom in tears…. There is a word for that but its hard for me to use.

        I entered into my marriage feeling a deep void, I literally felt heartbroken that God was not my only one anymore….the rest, needless to say wether I felt God or not HE was the one wising me up and pushing me through!!! I am glad HE is on my side!!!! A part of me wants to go in, kick butt and take names!!! I truly believe my kids and I will see Gods justice on this matter, of course its natural to want them to be ashamed and to see it in my life time, …..I want justice, not vengeance. My kids could of easily been ones of the many who lost their lives to an abusive spouse!!! Its just so sick and wrong!!! I do want justice, They can stick their apologies, especially if they just are continuing with the same practices within their congregation, unless they reform and change the thinking involved, an apology is pretty useless…..

        I think I just share one of the deepest sickest moments in my life….over my ALIVE body he wil not ever touch my children or me again!!! I am glad to be on your side too JC and everyone else fighting for justice here……still searching for that final zip code.

  20. Memphis, your abuser sounds horrific and that’s a big understatement because there are perhaps no words to describe that extent of evil. He took everything good in you, every photon of light that Jesus had given to your soul, and passed it through his black mirror to hurt you.

    • Those words would of never came to my mind and out my mouth, yet they are EXACTLY what happened! It such a relief to see in writing what REALLY happen. Thank you so very much for the truth here ….””He took everything good in me, every photon of light that Jesus had given to my soul, and passed it through his black mirror to hurt me.”” That is so liberating, you have know idea. I will never question my stand, either in my heart or in my head again!!!!

      • Great to hear, Memphis. Sometimes I compose an answer to a comment and it just doesn’t feel right, and then an image or a phrase comes to mind and feels right. That was one such occasion. So glad you felt blessed.

  21. A

    Some of these scenarios reminded me of my marriage, I still get anxiety when I think about it…I’m going through a divorce right now and I am greatful that I was led to read you blogs. Thank you.

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