A Cry For Justice

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

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I am mostly numb to Scriptures that talk about God’s protection. There, I said it. I wrestle with God on this every day, so I might as well say it out loud too. I don’t want to be numb to them and I do believe in and love God. I do believe there has to be a reason for the pain we are allowed to go through and a reason why God doesn’t always rescue or rescues much later than He could have. But I don’t understand that reason.

I used to beg and plead and beg again, over and over and over and over, over many, many years for God to either change my husband, change me or release me. For 17 years, none of that happened. All that did happen was a growing hatred of myself and belief in the lies my abuser fed me about myself. Lies that would cling to my soul and tear at my heart and mind for years and years to come. Lies that would cripple my ability to trust another human being again. Lies that jaded me to the life of joy in the Lord I thought I was supposed to have, as a wife and a Christian.

Abuse shatters many of the false assumptions that give us security (for example, bad things do not happen to good people; God will never let evil people harm me; if I pray, the abuse will stop; most people are basically good). Abuse causes people to feel unsafe and powerless. The world is increasingly viewed as hostile and dangerous. Hence, abuse survivors feel safer and more powerful if they avoid the vulnerability that comes from trusting others. Furthermore, shattered assumptions about the world often cause abuse survivors to become disillusioned, which in turn fractures trust and intimacy.  (Mending The Soul: Understanding And Healing Abuse,  Steven R. Tracy)

As Mr. Tracy rightly points out, many of the assumptions that people have, which comfort and help them through life, are simply no longer there for victims of abuse. We don’t look at Scripture or life the same way as someone who has not been abused. Many of us feel a disconnect when we read about God’s protection, especially those who still are or were trapped in the abuse for many years, with no understanding of why God did not come and rescue them. The sense of trust that God loves us enough to keep us safe was lost in the years of abuse we couldn’t escape from.

Judith Herman. author of Trauma and Recovery, explains it this way:

Traumatized people feel utterly abandoned, utterly alone, cast out of the human and divine systems of care and protection that sustain life. Thereafter, a sense of alienation, of disconnection, pervades every relationship, from the most intimate family bonds to the most abstract affirmations of community and religion. When trust is lost, traumatized people feel they belong more to the dead than to the living.

For me, I have been a believer in Christ and a Christ follower for many years, so I know intellectually that by God’s nature, there somehow was protection, even during the years of abuse. But I can’t see how. I can’t really connect with those promises anymore. 
I started to lose the ability to do that when I was ten, because that’s how old I was when I escaped an attempted kidnapping. Later, the abuse from my ex cemented my inability to believe in safety anymore, to the point where now I instinctively throw up my walls, any time those verses on protection are brought out. Numb. Disconnected from them.

The bottom line is that I know God intends and has plans to give me a future and a hope. But a man who had evil, selfish desires decided to attempt to destroy those plans and replace them with his own for nearly half of my life. I believe God can bring beauty from these ashes and in some ways, I am already seeing that he has and is doing that. I know Him as my redeemer, my savior. He opened my eyes to the abuse, He helped me leave it. He gave me courage to defy the culturally ruled ‘church’ and trust His Word and merciful character, so I could get out of the hell that was killing me. He is healing me now and will be, I am sure, for years to come.

I can see Him so clearly as my redeemer, my savior for all of these things and more, but I’m still trying hard to understand Him as my protector. That one is much harder for me today. And so I wrestle, because I want to understand that part of Him and justify it with the ugly hopelessness I experienced for so long, justify it with why other women die at the hands of their abusers, thinking they were honoring God in doing so, because their church or pastor told them they must stay. Where was their “wake up” from the fog? Where was that promise of protection for them?

In the end, I may never get the answer. In the end, I think I have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and God thinks so much bigger than I can, and then I must wait on Him to help me learn to trust Him again. In the end, He must know far better than I can understand, how He has and will continue to protect me.

So while I may not feel the comfort of those verses right now, I can choose to believe that they are real, and I guess that’s what trust really is to begin with anyway. Trust is an action, not a feeling. Just because you fear, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to trust. Trust means you look past your fear and hold to God.

And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m holding on and asking Him to fix me. For now, all I know is that I’m not letting go and I think for now, that’s all He needs me to do.

 

Psalm 23 in my words:

The Lord is my protector.

I have all I need in Him.

He lets my hurting heart,

rest in His Grace.

He walks with me,

through my pain

And helps me find peace.

He strengthens my heart.

He shows me the way He has for me.

A way that honors Him.

Even in my darkest times,

I don’t have to be afraid

Because you are right beside me.

You haven’t left me.

I am not alone.

Your guidance and protection

Comfort me and keep me safe.

You give me treasure,

In the midst of pain.

I learn and understand.

I seek less of me and more of you.

You give me wisdom and discernment,

More than I deserve.

Your incredible and faithful love

Will hold me and sustain me

Every day of my life,

And I will seek your face,

Forever. Amen.

 

Wising Up to the Abuser’s “Christian” Facade

2Th 3:1-2  Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

Wicked and evil men. We need to be delivered from them. But who are they? What do they look like? Who did Paul have in mind here?

He was thinking of wicked and evil people who claim to be Christians.

Today (Sunday) just before the worship service, I was talking with our elders and we were recounting some of the many battles we have had over the years with wicked and evil men (and women) who crept in among the flock of Christ, wearing a disguise of wool. Their evil deeds opposed the ministry of Christ in many devious ways. That is what Paul speaks of here – pray that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, but we know that it is going to be opposed by wicked and evil men.

How do we know that these enemies Paul speaks of were professing Christians? Well, because of that little phrase at the end of verse 2 – “For not all have faith.” Think about it. It’s a no-brainer that unsaved people do not have faith. No one expects them to. If Paul’s phrase here was just him saying “by the way, not all human beings have faith, you know,” it would elicit a kind of “duh, no kidding” response from us.  The Apostle surely did not mean that. What he does mean is, these wicked and evil men who oppose the progress of the gospel claim to be believers in Christ, but they are not. We must recognize, he is telling us, that not all Christians are. Not everyone in our churches is a Christian. Not everyone who looks like such an eminent saint of God really is.

And the frightening thing about this is that what seems to be the prevailing climate in most churches today is that it is an unpardonable sin to ever question someone’s claim of belonging to Christ. The order of the day appears to be – “if someone says they are a Christian then we are bound to assume they are and never question the reality of their profession.” Where does that thinking come from? Not from the Bible, that’s for sure.

Notice also what Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for in his regard. Deliverance. That Paul and his comrades would be delivered from these wicked, evil men who are parading as Christians, infiltrating the churches, duping people with their flattery and false doctrine. We all need deliverance from these kinds of people.

Do you think that there are no wicked, evil men parading as Christians in your church? Think again. Pull out your Bible, go the the New Testament for starters, and start skimming along through it beginning at Matthew 1. Every time you come to a verse or section that is addressing wicked, evil people under the disguise of religion, opposing the gospel and creeping into churches to mislead and enslave, use a highlighter on those verses. When you are done, sit back and look at what you see. Virtually every page of the New Testament will have your highlighter yellow on it.

Which leaves us with a sobering and searching question: why are most professing Christians ignorant of such a prevalent warning in God’s Word? Why is it that wicked, evil people like abusers can hide so easily in and be enabled by local churches? This question always leaves me shaking my head in amazement. I can only think it is because

  1. Many local churches are filled with unregenerate people who do not have faith and thus lack the discernment of the Holy Spirit
  2. Many professing Christians don’t want to get into the battle with evil because it will cost them too much
  3. God’s Word has been so dumbed down in our pulpits that the people of Christ are dangerously naive about the enemy and his tactics.

You might be able to suggest more reasons.

Not all “Christians” have faith. Not all “Christians” are Christians, but are in fact wicked, evil people come in among us with the purpose of opposing the gospel of Christ and the freedom that Jesus has won for us. We need deliverance from them, and that deliverance begins with prayer and the recognition that not all have faith. Let’s wise up to the abuser’s facade.

Thursday Thought

Another gem from the GEMS page…

Forgiveness means turning over to God any supposed right for making the perpetrator pay for his crime or other wrongdoing, releasing us from anger and a vengeful spirit.  It does not require trust or the reestablishment of a relationship, which are separate issues.  Neither does it absolve a perpetrator from having to face the criminal justice system and paying a civil penalty. [from a reader of our ACFJ Facebook page]

Philippians 4:8 used to get you to shut up?

phil filter

 

Have a peek into the backroom of ACFJ. Here’s a discussion we had the other day:

Me: Anyone else encountered this?

One of the responses I’ve gotten when I express concern about potential abuse situations is:

“As I was considering your concerns, Ellie, I thought of Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

to which I’d like to respond:

Acts 17:11-12 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

It seems that Philippians 4:8 is being misapplied to abuse victims and used to tell us to suck it up and pollyanna our way through life. Thoughts? Has this happened to anyone else?

Jeff: 1 Corinthians 13 could also be misused in this manner — verse 7 says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  But the verse right before this says, “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

And gee, it seems like Paul had lots of moments when he didn’t take his own “advice” about thinking of true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable things ?????? Or just maybeee Philippians 4:8 doesn’t mean what the present day abuse-enabling knuckleheads claim it does.

Here are some of the dishonorable, unlovely, unjust, un-commendable things that Paul thought about and wrote about in his letter to the Philippians:

. . . and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. (1:28)

For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  (2:20-21)

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. (3:2)

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (3:18-19)

Wendell: That comment from your ‘friend’ Ellie, is proof texting at its finest! Paul was talking mental attitudes here. The whole context of the book is the attitude Christians should have in general!

I haven’t had Philippians 4:8 pulled on me, but 1st Corinthians 13 has been.

Me: Could you explain proof texting and elaborate on how this passage is meant to be applied?

Wendell: Ellie, to proof text is to pick and choose a verse or verses to support your point without considering the original intent of the verse or the context. In some cases, even fragments of verses are used. For example, Romans 10:10 has been used to justify Word Of Faith teaching, but by completely taking it out of context.

“For it is with your heart you believe….and it is with your mouth you confess…”

Here is the whole verse:

“For it is with your heart you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved.”

The former is used to try to convince people that all you have to do is confess something and it will happen while the context shows that the verse is referring to salvation and not confessing to get things. It is even more clear when you add Romans 10:9 to the mix!

There are several levels of context to consider. First are the verses immediately around the verse in question. What do they say? Do they support the premise of the person quoting a verse to you? Are they opposed or indeterminate? Then go to the chapter level and then the book level, keeping in mind there are no verse/chapter divisions in the original. Ask the same questions. Ask how that verse fits in with the author’s obvious intent in the book.

Now look at Philippians. What are some of the common themes you see? In chapter one you see Paul rejoicing in his imprisonment. He is looking expectantly to the next life, while acknowledging that there is a tension between his desire to be with Christ and to be with them. He encourages them to have no fear in the face of coming persecution and to stand firm.

In the second chapter, he encourages them to have the same attitude as Christ, who gave up the prerogatives of being God in order to humble himself by becoming human and dying on a cross. He encourages unity, love and humility. He exhorts them to not complain and grumble. In other words, let joy reign. All these are attitudes.

In Chapter three he begins by telling them to rejoice, and then warns them to watch out for those who do evil and those who “mutilate the flesh” (probably judaizers). He encourages them to keep looking forward to Christ, understanding they have not attained perfection but that some day they will and again warns them about those who live for selfish means.

Chapter four seems to be a wrap up. Final exhortations and summarizing what he has told them earlier; verse 8 specifically seems to be a good summary of the whole book. In other words, don’t live the Christian life as a series of negatives, thinking bad about everything. Don’t focus on the evil in the world, but focus on the positive things in Christ. He is telling them to not be thinking about evil all the time as it will drag them down. Verse 9 basically seems to be saying that all of these attitudes that I have shown you here are ones you should have.

It is not a verse saying that one should not confront evil and only think positive thoughts. It is more geared toward a general life attitude. Paul himself decries those who are evil in this book. In others, he confronts evil all the time and doesn’t just ignore it for the sake of peace.

Postscript added by Barb:

no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17 ESV)

Extra note from Barb for logophiles: my 2002 hard copy ESV has ‘confute’ in this verse, but the online ESV has ‘refute’.
I looked up the difference between the two words. It seems that confute is more formal and less well known.

  • ‘confute’ means (1) To overwhelm in argument : refute conclusively; (2) (obsolete) To confound.
  • ‘refute’ means (1) To prove wrong by argument or evidence : show to be false or erroneous; (2) To deny the truth or accuracy of  (usage 2 is more recent but pedants rightly object to it).

Dear reader, how have well meaning (or not) believers misapplied scriptures in their efforts to silence you? How have you responded?

Good men: please denounce the Permanence View of Marriage that denies any reason for divorce.

The Permanence View (PV) of marriage is the view that divorce is not allowed for any reason whatsoever and that no matter what happens in a marriage, marriage vows are a commitment for as long as you both shall live. We have critiqued this notion often on this blog, because we believe it

  1. is deeply unbiblical
  2. has led the church astray on the doctrine of divorce
  3. has muddied the waters of the doctrine of divorce so much that it’s hard for good Christians to figure out what on earth to believe about divorce and remarriage
  4. and all this causes immense harm to victims of abuse.

John Piper, Voddie Baucham and some (many?) in the Quiverful and Family Integrated Church movements hold to the Permanence View, but those camps do not have a monopoly on it. You can also find the PV in other Christian circles and subgroups. Some Permanence View folk permit separation, or permanent separation, and suffer (tolerate) Christians obtaining civil divorce, but they say that it’s possibly/probably/certainly sinful for a Christian to engage in those things and that remarriage after divorce is certainly sinful, although, if confessed as sin, it can probably/certainly be forgiven.

The very fact that my previous paragraph is hard to read shows how muddied these waters are. To avoid the charge of misrepresenting any of the PV teachers, I have to allude to all the variants. The possibly/probably/certainly variants can be found in different Permanence View teachers, and often they can be found within the output of a single teacher of the PV, in different sermons and teachings he has published, which can make it hard to tell exactly where that teacher stands on the spectrum. And how does a victim of abuse, exhausted, stigmatized, at the end of her tether, get through all that hair splitting? She doesn’t. She just gives up. And that makes her even more vulnerable to the hurtful offhand remarks that other Christians make about divorce.

Trigger warning. If you are a victim/survivor, thicken your skin for moment and let’s hear from a teacher of the Permanence View. This is Pastor Voddie Baucham. If you go to his church you will not only have the Permance View poured down your throat, you will find it laced with a heavy dose of victim blaming, crass humor, and sarcastic mockery.

When it comes to marriage, we’re in it to win it, amen? [59:30]

Those of you who know me, you know that just about every place I go when I talk about divorce and remarriage so that my kids get sick of hearing, and I’m glad they get sick of hearing it that means I’m almost saying it enough.

I tell my wife all the time: “If you leave me, I’m going with you.”  (laughs from the audience).

It’s not an option, people.

Here’s the other thing you need to understand. Marriage is not difficult because of the person you happen to be married to. Let me let you in on a little secret– “You’re the problem!”

Can you say, Amen?  You wanna say ‘Ouch.’

You’re the problem.

“Yeah well you don’t know my spouse.”

So? You’re the problem. You are!

“But they have problems too!”

Yeah they do; but that’s irrelevant! (Baucham chuckles). You are the problem!

And if you leave this marriage and go and get into another one, guess what you take with you? You! Who happen to be – the problem!”

There’s not some green pasture out there called ‘a marriage beyond difficulty and without conflict.’ If you could be a fly on the wall in every home in this church, you would discover things in every home represented in this church that at one moment or another apart from the grace of God, could lead to splits-ville.

And if you’ve never got that frustrated in marriage, you’re not doing it right (loud male laughs from the audience). . .

It is a very serious matter that the Permanence View continues to muddy the waters so badly.  The Christian community has many divorced people in it. And only God knows how many married people are remaining with abusive spouses because they have been told that divorce is ginormously sinful and remarriage is totally forbidden.

These people are not living in a vacuum; they are living in the miasma of confusing and contradictory ideas about divorce. They are the canary in the coal mine. And I submit that by and large they have been abandoned and neglected by theologians, academics, and big name teachers. These leaders are largely pussy-footing around the issue, not stepping up to the plate and denouncing the Permanence View with outrage on behalf of the victims of domestic abuse, many of whom do not have a voice, or, if they have one, it only reaches as far as other survivors of abuse and a few wonderful men who ‘get it’ such as Rev Chris Moles, Boz TjividjianSteve Tracy, Phil Monroe, Peter Grant, Joe Pote, Tony (a police officer), David Instone-BrewerDale Ingraham, Ps Sam PowellDave Orrison, Forrest, Gary W [and here too], Michael Lehman, Tim FallJackson Katz, David Dykstra and others. And of course our own Jeff Crippen and Wendell G. :)

Dead canary on coal

Paul publicly pointed the finger at Peter when he was going off in a wrong doctrine that would hurt many believers and muddy the purity of the divine doctrines. Why are there so few Christian leaders speaking out in outrage and denouncing the Permanence View and naming its most famous proponents, showing them they must repent. The canons of niceness in which leaders never criticize other leaders by name have to stop. Would Martin Luther have been able to catalyse the Reformation if he had not named names? No way.

Men who are seen to be eminent need to denounce the Permanance View and its advocates, and if the PV preachers fail to repent, the good men should remove them from pulpits and platforms. Where is the outrage from leaders who should be protecting the wounded sheep?

And why do I call for men to do this? Women can do it as well, but as we know, women have much less clout in the church (women bloggers and tweeters on social media being the wonderful exception).

If we are to clear up the doctrinal mess on divorce, it is vital to get rid of the Permanence View. Until male leaders take a much more decisive stand on this, the canaries in the coal mine will continue to keel over and faint in the miasma, the muddled mixture of contradictory divorce notions. If we could expunge and scrub out the Permanence View (which after all was first taught by Roman Catholicism, the enemy of Protestantism) then we would have a less confusing atmosphere in which to argue our view that abuse is a valid a ground for divorce and is on an equal  footing with the other two grounds: adultery and simple desertion by an unbeliever.

Men, all good men, if you are reading this, why not add a comment? We would like to hear from you, even if it’s only you saying you read this blog or approve of our work. Maybe you have a story that can inspire other men to take a more active role in the cry for justice. Maybe you have a little anecdote of how you or someone else has tried to confront or resist the abuse-enabling mindsets that are so widespread in our culture and in many part of the Christian church.

Men:— you may not realize it, but women who have been abused are GREATLY encouraged when they hear of men who support and validate our cry for justice.  (And yes, we know that sometimes men are abused by women. Habitual evildoing is not something that is confined to only one sex.)

* * *

Jeff Crippen’s two posts critiquing this same sermon by Baucham:

Woe to you, celebrity pastors, big-name theologians and wanna be’s

A retelling of Luke 11:37-52.

While Jesus was speaking, a celebrity pastor asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The pastor was astonished to find out that Jesus did not have any letters after his name, had not been to seminary, and did not blog, or use twitter, or have a multi-channel website, or even a business card!

And the Lord said to him, “Now; you celebrity pastors acquire all those outward displays of theological eminence and influence, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness and a craven fear not to rock the boat of the boys club. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? You pick your spiritually-correct causes to lobby about: abortion, homosexuality, the ‘divorce epidemic’, feminism (which some of you deliberately misunderstand), the ‘erosion of family values’, male and female roles, and missions in other lands, and you talk incessantly about the gospel. You can’t make yourself spiritual with all that outward stuff. Give charity and mercy from your inmost selves, rather than from your presumptuous politico-spiritual-correctness, and behold, everything will be clean to you.

“But woe to you celebrity pastors and big-name theologians! For you cavil and debate about New versus Old Calvinism, the third use of the law in sanctification, Insider Movements, six-day versus long-age creation, intinction, and other such niceties, and you neglect justice and the love of God. You neglect the victims of abuse in your churches: victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, spiritual abuse. You wink at the leaders who cover up the abuses and resist reporting the crimes to the police. Some of you even pat those leaders on the back! And when a crime finally goes to the police you mincingly claim that you can’t say anything because ‘it’s in the hands of the secular courts’. You sit on your hands and assert that you’re unable to take a stand because you don’t know all the facts.

“And you ignore the cries of the abused who have suffered forms of horrendous abuse that society doesn’t (yet) define as criminal — forms of abuse like the pattern of incremental, subtle, coercive control that typifies domestic abuse.  You sidle out of publicly announcing that you’ve changed your mind and now believe that the Bible allows divorce for abuse. You fail to denounce men like Piper for teaching that all divorce is sin. And you sit there, not saying that divorce for abuse is biblical, while the victims of abuse are cast out of their churches for not reconciling with their abusers.

“These things — justice and mercy — you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

“Woe to you celebrity pastors! For you love the best seats in the conferences, and you banter jovially with your buddies on podcasts, while victims of spiritual abuse contemplate suicide, and devoutly Christian single mothers, victims of domestic abuse, are forced by court order to send their kids off to the abuser who will molest their spirits and perhaps their bodies also. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, imparting contamination and prejudice to people who come under your influence — and they don’t know it.”

One of the sycophants of a celebrity pastor answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you sycophant copycats also! For you load people with legalistic burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! You refuse to heed the whistle-blowers’ concerns and you admonish them with the weasel’s excuse that they should have gone to the celebrity pastor privately as per Matthew 18. Even though the celeb pastor wrote his books and his blog for all the world to read, you won’t let the whistle-blower critique his teaching publicly!

“Furthermore, you tell victims of domestic abuse that they aren’t allowed to disclose about their abuser’s wicked conduct, because that would be gossiping. You reluctantly engage in a Matthew 18 process if the victim presses you enough, but you quickly get hoodwinked by the abuser’s fake repentance, and you end up treating the poor victim as the unbeliever, while you allow the abuser to keep his ‘wonderful man of God’ status in the church.

“If you were subjected to the mean-spirited stiff-necked prejudice that you subject these victims to, you would crumple! You would loudly complain that the burden was too hard to bear. And would feel entitled to demand an immediate apology! You would slam those who unjustly treated you.

“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. You mouth phrases like semper reformanda (the church is always to be reformed) but you refuse to give the reformers a hearing. Your ‘canons of niceness’ condemn anyone who uses the type of strong language used by reformers five hundred years ago. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of William Tyndale, who was burnt at the stake. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you ivory tower seminarians! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

 

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