A Cry For Justice

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

Wisdom in Dealing With an Abuser — Realize Everything he Says or Does is Evil

Frequently abuse victims will send me correspondence from their abuser and ask what I think of what the abuser said. My answer is always the same because the words are always the same. “This is evil. Every word, every phrase, every nuance is loaded with accusation, minimization, deception, threat, self-pity, and more.” And this is something that we all have difficulty understanding, yet it is vital that we must if we are going to get free and not keep getting victimized.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19)

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

Abusers are wicked and evil. From their heart. Their very psychological and spiritual DNA is that of their father the devil, as Jesus said above. Because their heart is completely corrupt, everything that comes out of their mouth is corrupt. And this is what we always see in these communiques from abusers. They do not have to sit down and think and plan long and hard, selecting their words with great care and cunning. No. The diabolic vocabulary is their language, their currency, and it comes to them as naturally as walking.

This does not excuse them in any way. In fact, it increases their guilt. They are culpable. Their intent and motivation behind the words is wicked. They are what the Bible calls ‘revilers.’ They ‘villify’ over and over again, accusing their target of being the ‘villain.’ Revilers end in hell. The Bible says so. They are murderers and they use their tongue to kill.

Jude 4, 10-19 (NASB)
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 

… these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;  wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,  that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”  These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 

I was talking to a federal penitentiary prison guard recently and I told him, “you know how to tell when one of the inmates is lying, right?” He immediately answered correctly, “whenever their mouth is open.” That is how it is with the sociopath, the narcissist, the abuser. When he is speaking, he is abusing and reviling. When he buys flowers and chocolates, he is abusing and reviling.

One time a wicked man who had finally been confronted told his long time victim, “but we did have a lot of good times over the years, didn’t we?” The answer to that manipulative question is of course, “No. We never had even one good moment together because even the apparent nice things you did were part of the cycle of your abuse that you were using to set me up for your next attack.”

So mark this down carefully and you will grow much wiser in dealing with the wicked. How do you know when an abuser is abusing? If his mouth is open, if he is thinking, if he is doing — he is abusing. Because abusers are what they are as surely as a leopard is a leopard.

 

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Further Reading

There Weren’t Really ANY “Good Times” With an Abuser

Mr. Charming and Miss Target

Mr. Charming and Miss Target are sitting together on the grass looking out at the starlit sky. Miss Target is a new Christian and Mr. Charming is an old hand at religion, so they’re not making out; instead they’re getting to know each other in a deep and intimate way through conversation.

They’re holding hands, and Miss Target sits with her head on Mr. Charming’s shoulder. Conversation lags a bit. Mr. Charming introduces a new topic, almost in a whisper.

“So, what are you afraid of?”

“Huh?” Miss Target raises her head. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well,” he replies, gently putting his arm around her, “we’re getting to know each other, you know, in a deep and intimate way through conversation. If you tell me what you’re afraid of, I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of.”

Reassured, Miss Target snuggles back into position on the shoulder. “Well,” she begins, “it’s going to sound sort of stupid, maybe childish.”

“That’s ok.” His head turns so that she can feel his stubble on her forehead, causing a thrill to go up and down her spine. “I won’t laugh at you.”

She hesitates, then begins. “I’m afraid of the dark. I told you it was going to sound stupid. I still need a nightlight.”

He murmurs a gentle sound of encouragement. She continues.

“And spiders. I know some of them are good and help farmers and all that, but all of them give me the creeps, especially the big ones.”

He says nothing, but strokes her hand with his large and gentle one.

“And . . . water. I mean, not like showers or washing my hands, but like swimming pools. My cousin almost drowned me when I was little, so now I just want to go in the shallow end. See, I sound like I’m five years old.”

“Listen,” he whispers urgently, taking her chin in his hand and gazing into her eyes. “I love you exactly the way you are.”

Her heart melts, and the intensity of his gaze makes her have to look away. She picks at a blade of grass. “So, you have to keep your promise. You said you were going to tell me what you’re afraid of.”

The pause is a long one, but she is learning not to interrupt him when he’s thinking.

He’s gazing up at the stars. Finally he speaks.

“I’m afraid of not reaching my potential,” he says. His voice sounds unnatural and she looks at him, startled. But then, in a flash, the strangeness is gone and he gazes at her with those mesmerizing eyes.

“Not really, though,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll reach my potential.”

“Sugarcakes,” she mutters, grabbing at the grass with tears in her eyes. “I sound like such a baby, and you sound like you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Not really.” He sighs with contentment and lies back on the grass. “Will you marry me? I think I’ve found the girl of my dreams.”

Darkness . . . spiders . . . water. How useful they all can be in persuading the girl of one’s dreams to cooperate when one is busy fulfilling one’s potential. How handy that Mr. Charming found out about them all ahead of time.

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Rebecca Davis is an editor for Justice Keepers Publishing and the author of Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind. She blogs at Here’s the Joy.

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We have pasted below a few of the comments that came in on our FB page about this post, because we think they add helpfully to the discussion.

On our Facebook page, one of our readers, Kay, said:

I have a HUGE problem with this story because the victim is portrayed as very trusting and naive. It’s an assumption that far too many people make, and it’s not necessarily true. It leads on the one hand to the victim getting unfairly blamed, and on the other to people underestimating the abuser’s skills at deception. These predators are clever. Anyone can be fooled.

Rebecca Davis kindly responded to Kay, saying:

I didn’t mean to imply that every story of abuse proceeds this way, only that this is one of the ways the trap is laid for a target. As Lundy Bancroft says, there are several kinds of abusers, and “Mr. Charming” is only one kind. Also, women have different strengths and weaknesses, and a sociopath will target whatever weaknesses he sees. In this case, the target is quite young, a Christian college student. I have several friends who were very new Christians when their “mature Christian” abusers ensnared them, and I think that can’t be a coincidence. Obviously not all stories are like this one, and yes, all kinds of people can be fooled, but this is one way the entrapment can proceed. That was all I wanted to convey.

Another reader, Anu, then responded:

I agree with you Kay; I see your point but also agree with the replies to boot. I read some of the stories from a link shared: “Shattering the Silence.” There were stories of smart, successful, ambitious women who got involved with abusers–and the abuser is just so darn slow, subtle, charming &/or manipulative that it’s like the victim was “bewitched.” (from Galatians 3:1). Paul asked the Galatians who had bewitched them into being lured away from the true Gospel. My Bible commentary said it’s like the Galatians were seduced by snake charmer, under a “spell” & the only solution was to look away & look to Jesus. So a victim must look away from the abuser’s lies & see truth for what it is thru Jesus.

Everyone has weaknesses & after careful study an abuser can exploit them. But I would ask if being trusting is now being seen as a weakness, when I do not think that’s necessarily so. Trusting someone always requires risk, and it’s the fault of an abuser for exploiting it for his/her gain. I wonder if abusers know how to take something that’s the best about us (being kind, giving, trusting, willing to help) & exploit it for their own evil purposes, while “framing” the victim as being weak.

Comments are not enabled on this post. Only our Monday posts have comments enabled.

Further Reading

Thursday Thought — Charm: A Red Flag

He is Just the Nicest Man I’ve Ever Met — Beware the Abuser’s Charm

Church Controversy with Domestic Abuse: an annotated bibliography

Australian Christian circles have been abuzz with the topic of domestic abuse in the church since the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) published about it in mid July 2017.

The controversy in a nutshell: Church leaders profess to abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates and victims say the church is not only failing to sufficiently address domestic abuse, it is enabling and concealing domestic abuse and telling women to endure domestic abuse in the name of God.

Before presenting my annotated bibliography of this debate, I want to make a few observations.

Features of the debate

1. The question of Male Headship

  • Many people have tried to frame the debate as if the doctrine of Male Headship is the problem. This has predictably bogged some of the debate down in the well-worn trenches of Comp versus Egal (Complementarian versus Egalitarian). Each side seems to think their particular view about gender roles will fix the problem of domestic abuse.
  • Some people have pointed to more widespread and complex systemic problems: doctrinal problems that go wider than Comp vv Egal, and attitudinal problems which are systemic in the non-Christian society as well.
  • Personally, I am convinced that the issue of domestic abuse in the church is FAR more complex than the Comp vv Egal debate. I think that complementarianism in the way it is typically taught is one contributor to the problem, but I don’t believe it is the core of the problem. I believe that complementarianism needs to rethink some of its presuppositions. (See here and here.)
  • I think that if men in the church had been servant-leading the church well, this controversy over domestic abuse in the church would not have arisen.

2. Defensive pushback

  • When child sexual abuse was exposed in Christian organisations, many organisations went into defensive mode, protecting the institution rather than supporting the abuse survivors. Some people are urging the church to learn from that experience and not repeat that defensive stance on the issue of domestic abuse in the church.
  • Some people have responded to the ABC stories by focusing on and quibbling with the statistics in the small amount of research which has been done on domestic abuse in the church.
  • The predictable cry “What about male victims” has been voiced. Raising this cry is a red herring. No-one denies that some men are victims of domestic abuse. We have some of their stories here. In the stories I’ve heard from male victims, the church more usually believed and supported the man when he disclosed his plight. But in the hundreds of stories I’ve heard from women, the church typically mistreated the woman when she disclosed.
  • Some have decried the ABC’s stories as anti-Christian. It is true that the ABC is one of mainstream secular media sources in Australia. But when the church has been wittingly or unwittingly enabling abusers to flourish in the church and failing to help many victims, and the secular media blows the whistle, the church leaders only have themselves to blame.
  • Some folk have responded to the ABC’s stories by pointing out the supposedly good things churches have been doing to address domestic abuse.

3. Prioritising the victims

  • Some people have focused on victims’ stories and the failure of many churches to believe and support victims when they sought help.
  • It is clear from the victims’ stories that some abusers are ordained clergy: priests and pastors, and some abusers hold leadership positions in churches but are not ordained. Scripture speaks to this:Micah 3; Ezekiel 34;  Jeremiah 22–23:2-2, Matthew 23:14; 1 Cor 5:11-13; 2 Tim 3:1-5; Ps 10; Rom 1:28-31.
  • Victims have not universally been reporting bad experiences in churches. Some are reporting that they had good experiences when they disclosed their plight to church leaders.
  • Some church leaders seem to have become more responsive to victims as a result of the discussion, more willing to listen to victims and ‘hear’ them.

4. Geographical distinctives

Australia is in many ways better placed to debate this topic than America is. Australian churches seldom treat their pastors as celebrities, but many American churches do. In Australia you would seldom or never see the kind of adulation of the senior pastor as you see in this video where Capitol Hill Baptist Church celebrates 15 years with Mark Dever.

And the American Christian community contains more extreme examples of legalistic gender stereotyping than the Australian Christian community does. Australian Christians do read a lot of resources from American Christianity, but we haven’t have had the kinds of big-shot hyper-patriarchal types which America has had (Doug Wilson, Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll).

CBMW heavyweights like John Piper and Ligon Duncan have only visited Australia occasionally; they don’t live on Aussie soil or teach in Aussie seminaries. For all these reasons, Australia is a bit more moderate across the spectrum of its evangelical Christianity than America is. Hence, it’s a bit easier to have this kind of discussion in Australia.

Having said that, I hope that the church in America and other parts of the world will become engaged in this discussion and maybe even learn from it. I pray it will inspire similar discussions in other countries.

The Bibliography

The bibliography is in reverse chronological order, with the most recent item at the top. I will keep adding items as they come out.

The bibliography has been compiled by me, but I haven’t put in only items I approve of. If you know of an item which is not on this list and you believe it ought to be, please send me a link to the item. My email address is barbara@notunderbondage.com  The final decision as to whether to include an item rests with Ps Jeff Crippen and myself, as co-leaders of this blog.

I have annotated the list; annotations are in italics. I’ve indicated which items I recommended with the annotation Highly Recommended.  For a few of the items, I’ve quoted a short portion of the item and I show that with quotation marks.

This bibliography is intended to be an ongoing resource for Christians who are interested in the visible church’s responses to domestic abuse. So some items in the list come from the kinds of churches and organizations which we wouldn’t usually link to on this blog or recommend to our readers.

2017

The verdict on domestic violence data and the Church: Believe the women – Naomi Priest and Nicholas Biddle, ABCNews. “The research doesn’t show that men who go to church more often are less likely to abuse their wives.”

Walking Through It: A Family Violence Survivor’s Reflection – by Anonymous, at The Gospel Coalition Australia.  This is the same Anonymous who wrote Things I wish you understood: An open letter to ministers from a family violence survivor.

Shattering the silence: Australians tell their stories of surviving domestic violence in the church – as told to Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson. ABCnews. Highly Recommended. Stories from 18 women and 2 men.

Spousal Abuse, Pastoral Theology, and Pastoral Practice, The First Step.  – Dr Mark A Garcia, The Lydia Centre, Greystone Theological Institute. The mission of the Lydia Centre is to advancing reformed scholarship in the areas of gender, marital, and family ethics.  See Mark Garcia’s credentials here. Quotable quote:

In my first encounter with a form of domestic violence, I failed. Badly. And it has haunted me with alarming regularity ever since. …  I suggest that others learn from my mistake and consider the possibility that returning back to the site of the disaster, if there is one for you as there is for me, may be the most fitting first step in our quest for greater faithfulness in attending to these issues properly. … Instead of moving directly to the books and the important theoretical questions, perhaps we should first return to those human beings, those we may have already failed on this front, and telling them so, humbly and apologetically, assuring them that their suffering is bearing fruit through us to serve and protect others–and may our God make this so.

Letter To My Friend—A Domestic Abuse Survivor – by Bronwen Speedie, CBE International.

Domestic violence in church communities: the male clergy who are ready to listen – Julia Baird, Sydney Morning Herald. “This is no attack on Christianity; this is Christianity – responding to need, working to overcome ignorance, misunderstandings, blindness that might cause suffering, as well as modelling hope and compassion and love.”

Her Story of Domestic Violence  – at Fixing Her Eyes, a site for women who want to learn what it means to follow Jesus, by Australian Christian women. Highly Recommended. Ten Christian women and one Christian man tell their stories of being abused and how the church responded.

Chinese whispers at the ABC –  Dr Mark Durie, Anglican pastor, academic, human rights activist. Claims that the ABC stories distorted the research findings.
Note: one of our New Zealand readers (a survivor of abuse) has commented:

That “New Zealand study” which keeps coming up was published over 30 years ago from data collected 40 years ago. It was based on reports of physical assault. Incidentally the author, a respected although now retired academic, has more recently expressed the view that intimate partner violence is perpetrated equally by both partners.
In any case, New Zealand was a very, very different society 40 years ago. If that study was ever relevant to any discussions on abuse within the church, it certainly isn’t relevant now. The people who insist on using this particular study to justify their position seem to be grasping at straws.

A response to the ABC Report on domestic violence in churches – Graeme Cann, pastor in the Church of Christ, Clinical Counsellor. Graeme has been actively involved in raising awareness of domestic violence for more than a decade. Says that much of the ABC report was a reasonably fair appraisal of the situation. Suggests what churches and Christians can to effect significant changes in attitude and behaviour.

Graham Baly, a seasoned police officer, commented at Graeme Cann’s post:

Having experienced first hand more than six domestic violence murders over two decades of police service, I am appalled at the churches’ reluctance to assist people, mainly women, when they report DV.

Reports made on the ABC should be looked at with a view to learn from rather than pulling down the shutters on the issue and retreating back into our holy huddles.

There is much for the church to learn and enormous help needed in our communities.

Faith, family, violence and the ABC’s smears – Mark Powell, Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield, NSW, Australia. NOTE: I have asked Mark Powell to please not use the “Red Pill, Blue Pill” metaphor because it is used in evil ways on the Manosphere—the many sites on internet where abusive men urge each other on in their hyper-misogynist ideologies. Mark has not responded to my request.

Things I Wish You Understood: An Open Letter to Ministers From a Family Violence Survivor – written an anonymous woman. Published by The Gospel Coalition Australia. Highly Recommended.

Facts go missing in ABC report on ‘violent Christians’ (article is behind a paywall at The Australian) – W Bradford Wilcox, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies

Pastoral Statement on Domestic Violence – David Burke, Moderator of the General Assembly of New South Wales, Presbyterian Church of Australia, July 2017. The statement is also on the Gospel, Society and Culture Facebook page.  If I were a victim sitting in the pews next to my abusive husband and that statement were read, it wouldn’t give me much confidence that the church really would respond warmly and compassionately to me. And the statement makes the dangerous assumption that church leaders can help abusers change their ways. In my observation, leaders who make that assumption usually end up compounding the plight and prolonging the suffering of victims.

Sermon on Domestic Violence – Liam Miller, Uniting Church Chaplain at Macquarie University.

It is time to stop equivocating about domestic violence – Sean Lau, Eureka Street. Sean is a Rhodes Scholar researching for a DPhil in Theology at Trinity College, Oxford. Argues that regardless of whether the doctrine of headship does increase the prevalence of domestic violence, that violence is not just an individual problem, but a communal one. Suggests questions which the christian community needs to start asking itself. 

Domestic violence in the Australian church – Persis Lorenti, an American woman who blogs at TriedByFire

How to navigate the research on domestic violence and Christian churches: A few frequently asked questions – ABCNews, Julia Baird & Hayley Gleeson.

Asking Christians to do better by domestic violence victims is not an attack on Christianity – Steven Tracy, Professor, Theology and Ethics at Phoenix Seminary; co-founder of Mending the Soul. Tracy’s research was quoted in the ABC 7:30 Report and in Julia Baird’s initial essay on this topic at ABCNews.

Who’s in charge? How the church ought to speak about headship – David Ould, Anglican minister, Sydney Diocese.  Argues that respondents to the ABC’s stories who are focusing on statistics or focusing on what the church is doing well, are spinning the story away from the major point which is the victims’ experiences. Pushes back against George Browning’s article.

Is it anti-Christian to admit the church sometimes fails abuse victims? Is it anti-Christian to admit that abusers often misuse the Bible? – Steven R. Tracy, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Phoenix Seminary, co-founder of Mending The Soul.

Australian church leaders call for urgent response to domestic violence – ABCnews, Julia Baird & Hayley Gleeson.

How Churches Enable Domestic Violence – Joanna Cruickshank, ABC Religion & Ethics. This article is useful to present to Christians who are responding defensively.

A tale of two tables: Public Christianity, common conversations, and our place at the table – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian pastor, Brisbane.

Protesting too much: Christian Leaders on “alleged” abuse – Luke Arms. “Women deserve better than this. We must insist on it.”

Male headship and the modern world –  George Browning, former Anglican Bishop, The Melbourne Anglican. Argues against male headship.

What’s a hurting wife to do? – Barry York, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Dean of Faculty at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh; General Editor of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal. Barry York describes Julia Baird’s essay on domestic abuse in the church as a “hit piece”. York’s post is typical of how church leaders BADLY advise women whose husbands are abusive and/or indulging in porn. I submitted two comments on York’s post and in case my comments get scrubbed, I saved the entire thing on the WebArchive here.

How the domestic violence research can help the church: Lets get beyond the culture war – John Sandeman, Editor in Chief, Eternity News.

Domestic violence and Australian churches: why the current data have limitations – Naomi Priest, Mandy Truong, Nicholas Biddle, The Conversation.

Church & Domestic Violence. Love your statistics, sorry, neighbour as yourself  – Philippa Lowe

Sins of the father Part 1 &  Sins of the Father Part 2 – 60 Minutes, Channel 9 television, Australia. Trigger warning for women who have suffered marital rape and other forms of domestic abuse. Highly Recommended. Joy Harris was married to a ‘c’hristian pastor (Larry Harris) who repeatedly raped and abused her. Larry is now serving time in jail for raping Joy. Joy bravely tells her story. Kevin Harris, one of Joy’s adult sons, is also a pastor and he is siding with his father the rapist. Top marks to the superb interviewer from 60 Minutes who holds the feet of Kevin Harris to the fire. This program shows how much better the police are at addressing domestic violence than many so-called Christians are.

Women are secondary citizens in the Independent Baptist movement – 60 Minutes Extra speaks to Mel Thornton, who used to be in the Independent Baptist movement. Describes how controlling the movement is and the policies in the church which help keep abuse covered up.

The risk Joy Harris took in speaking out against her Independent Baptist church – 6o Minutes Extra speaks to Amanda Lee-Ross.

An apology to victims of domestic violence in the church – Graham Hill, Baptist minister and Provost of Morling College Sydney.

Churches hit back at ‘selective’ ABC show (article is behind a paywall at The Australian)– Ean Higgins, The Australian.

Churches Abhor Family Violence – Editorial behind a paywall at The Australian. Criticises the ABC for being biased against Christianity. Quibbles with the statistics given in Julia Baird’s essay and the 7:30 Report. Criticises the ABC for not showing any footage of Kara Hartley in the 7:30 Report and for ignoring information provided by Brisbane’s Catholic Archbishop.

We all unwittingly partner in the violence – Erica Hamence, Common Grace.

What victims of domestic abuse really need to hear – EternityNews, Barbara Roberts.

Light, Darkness & Domestic Violence  – Bronwen Speedie.

The Drum  – ABC TV panel discussion: Julia Baird, ABC reporter; David Ould, Anglican Minister Sydney Diocese; Phillip Frier, Anglican Archbishop Australia; Josie McSkimming psychologist; Georgina Dent ABC reporter. Highly recommended. Includes footage of Kara Hartley the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry in the Sydney Anglican Diocese, and excerpts from Mike Paget’s excellent sermon on domestic abuse. Fair discussion about both the statistical findings and the reports from the victims. A transcription of some of what Julia Baird said on The Drum can be found in this article by  Nathan Campbell.

Domestic violence in the name of God – Rt Rev Dr Matt Brain, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn. Proclaims that his diocese has “attempted to address some of the right concerns raised by Baird and Gleeson.”  Urges that pastors reflect on their practices and know the limits of their competence in helping the abused.

Does Christianity cause domestic violence? – Akos Balogh. Tells churches what to do. Critiques Julia Baird’s essay for leaving out some of the research findings.

Christianity and the Credibility of Women’s Testimony – Geoff Broughton, Anglican minister in the Sydney Diocese; research scholar for the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre; lecturer in Practical Theology at St Mark’s National Theological Centre.  Highly recommended quote from this article:   

The Church has a credibility problem due to its past failures to believe victims of sexual abuse and take the necessary action to protect vulnerable people. … The Churches’ credibility is further eroded when women victims of domestic violence are not believed. Overwhelmingly it is women’s testimony that is not believed. The lack of credibility within the Church is a consistent testimony of DV survivors and this must change. The credibility issues for the Church are inextricably tied together. Only as the Church’s culture changes so that a woman’s testimony is considered equal to a man’s can the church regain its public credibility.

The characteristics of spiritual abuse – Erica Hamence, Common Grace, Sydney.

Bradford Wilcox’s series of tweets (21 July 2017) in response to Julia Baird’s long essay . I have transcribed Bradford’s series of tweets and put them in one paragraph for the convenience of my readers. Bradford said: 

My research on religion & domestic violence has been picked up in Australia but article doesn’t fully convey 2 key pts: (a) It’s conservative men with nominal ties to religion who seem most likely to abuse. https://www.amazon.com/Soft-Patriarchs-New-Men-Christianity/dp/0226897095  . Perhaps because they use religion to legitimate their own dominance. But men who r engaged in religious community *less* likely to abuse.  (b) But not sure U.S. findings generalize to Australia. Better to see if Aussie analyses come up w similar pattern, @bairdjulia, cause High rates of domestic violence among nominal conservative Protestants in U.S. might also be tied to class & culture (Scotch Irish).

Once more on the domestic violence in church thing: answering some common objections to the ABC’s coverage  – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian pastor, Queensland. Pushes back against those who are missing the point and raising objections and red herrings.

Enough is Enough – Rev Paul Perini, Vice President of CBE Sydney. Argues the standard egalitarian line against male headship.

Archbishop Geoff’s Response to ABC Report on Domestic Violence – Geoffrey Smith, Anglican Archbishop, Adelaide Diocese.

Domestic Violence, the ABC, and the spirit of the Reformation – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian minister, Brisbane. Quotable quote: 

I get that people feel horrified by the idea that we blokes in leadership might be complicit in this problem (or that it might be as bad as the article suggests). I feel horrified. I get anger and denial as responses; that’s part of the grief cycle. It’s just important we don’t stay there, or we’ll repeat the mistakes of the ‘establishment’ in reformation history… we’ll try to shoot the messenger and that’ll only bolster the message (that churches led by blokes are more likely to be hostile and abusive to women).

We need Julia Bairds like we needed Martin Luther. We need to listen to the stories she is telling from real women in our churches about how our real theology has been used to create bad practice, but also to see how it is clear from her piece that bad practice ultimately comes (from the perpetrators) from wolves who twist the words of God to create their own bad theology to justify their insidious practice. Her point is that if we aren’t clear about our theology and practice we provide cover for wolves — ‘false teachers’ — the kinds of people the Bible warns us we should be looking out for.

Baird’s piece is certainly a result of her egalitarian convictions but it doesn’t require egalitarian convictions to agree with her in her observations of the problems, or to listen to the stories she tells and ponder how we might reform from within before a reformation movement happens without us.

What if we’d used this to clean our laundry rather than accusing Julia Baird of either airing the dirty laundry or throwing mud at our clean clothes?

Christian women told to endure domestic abuse – 7.30 Report, ABC TV. Julia Baird interviews Louise & Tabitha (survivors of domestic abuse abuse), Barbara Roberts (A Cry For Justice), Rev Andrew Sempell & Archbishop Glenn Davies (Anglicans in the Sydney Diocese). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VIEWING. Explores whether headship/submission teaching can fuel domestic abuse. Some of the abusers are pastors and priests. Marital rape as part of domestic abuse. Ways in which Christian women are particularly vulnerable. 

Pastoral Issues and Responses to Domestic Violence within the Church – Tim Harris, Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide. Highly Recommended. Tim quotes many things from this blog A Cry For Justice. 

I was raped and controlled by my husband for decades. He was a priest –  ABCnews, Anonymous

Domestic Violence and the Church: Our position; Jesus’ position – Creek Road Presbyterian Church, Brisbane.

Domestic Abuse and the Church – Daryl McCullough, Anglican Priest.  “As a priest in the Church of God, I am truly and deeply sorry if you or anyone you love has been the victim of abuse and found the church complicit in making that abuse worse.”

Evangelical Christians the most and least likely to abuse partners  – Michael Jensen (Anglican Priest Sydney Diocese) and Julia Baird, ABC TV.

Church enabling and concealing domestic violence  – Julia  Baird & Kylie Pidgeon, ABC Radio. Kylie is a psychologist who works with Christian survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence.

A properly Christian response to Julia Baird’s article on domestic violence –  Tamie Davis

‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God  — 18 July 2017. Julia Baird, ABC news. ESSENTIAL READING.  This is the 7000 word essay which was set alight the 2017 controversy about DV in the church

Domestic Violence: A starting point for answers – Kara Hartley, Australian Church Record.

Report on Domestic Violence – Presbyterian Church of Queensland’s Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence. Quotable quote: 

a further consideration as we seek to protect the vulnerable is that the Presbyterian Church of Queensland consider adoption of the position that domestic violence can be a form of the ‘desertion’ envisaged by the Westminster Confession of Faith 24.VI, even while a married couple live together, and thus might be considered legitimate grounds for separation and divorce.

A graphically expressed third way on gender stuff in a messed up world: Complementarian? Egalitarian? Or the Cross? – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian pastor, Brisbane. Uses graphics and expounds on scripture to compare and contrast Chauvinism, Patriarchy, Egalitarianism (equality), Complementarianism (‘equal but different’), and a new model (‘different and equal’).  This new model acknowledges gender differences and the curse. In marriage or church it would look like this:  the powerful (mostly men) utterly renouncing the use of strength and power for personal gain or comfort, and instead using it to enable the flourishing of others (women, children and the family of God). Husbands and church leaders raising others up, by lowering themselves. Without men first addressing inequality by cancelling it out (giving up power that is not really theirs to grasp) they actually double the ‘service burden’ on women. 

Reflecting on complementarianism and domestic violence – Erica Hamence, Common Grace

I didn’t leave my husband; I made the decision not to allow sin to take root in my home – by Anonymous, published at Fixing Her Eyes. A Christian wife shares the wisdom she’s learnt from living under abuse and finally getting free. 

Three other ways the church can counteract abuse by following Jesus – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian Pastor, Brisbane. Argues that gender equality alone won’t solve our problems. A properly ‘sacrificial’ relationship (husband to wife, church leader to congregation) involves a power differentiation; but that differentiation falls in favour of the powerless, not the powerful. Quotable quote:   

Equality is certainly better than abuse. But equality isn’t the opposite of abuse. It’s the absence of abuse. It’s the middle; the ‘mean’ between two extreme approaches to power. It’s certainly better than evil, but it’s not necessarily good. The most loving use of power is not simply to give excessive power that you’ve accumulated to others as an act of creating equality (which is important), but also to use whatever power you have left for the sake of others. 

2016

The Church and Family and Domestic Violence – St Barnabas Anglican Church, Sydney. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED SERMON 

So, what does the Australian Christian Lobby say about domestic violence? – Lyle Shelton, Australian Christian Lobby.

2015

Domestic and Family Violence – A Statement from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in New South Wales. A quote from this statement:

When a minister, elder or church leader is aware of domestic and family violence within a church family they should follow the guidelines in Section 11 & 12 of Breaking the Silence. The Conduct Protocol Unit is able to be contacted for advice and support.

When I tried to find Section 11 & 12 of Breaking the Silence, it was very difficult. I eventually found this and from there downloaded this PDF — but there is no Section 11 or 12 in that PDF!   The PDF says “Each pastoral charge has a copy of the document or you can obtain one from the Conduct Protocol Unit.” So it appears that the Breaking The Silence document which includes Section 11 & 12 is not online. In my view, that is not helpful for victims of abuse and their advocates who might not trust their local church or the Conduct Protocol Unit. And in my experience of dealing with Presbyterian churches, this is TYPICAL of the rabbit warren that Presbyterians send victims down. Why don’t they make it easier for victims and their advocates?

The church must confront domestic abuse – Natasha Moore and John Dickson, Centre for Public Christianity (CPX).

Abuse inside christian marriages a personal story – Isabella Young (her pseudonym)

Jesus does not abuse his bride: there is no place for domestic violence in the church – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian pastor, Brisbane.

Doctrine of Headship a distortion of the gospel message of mutual love and respect – Julia Baird, Sydney Morning Herald.

Submission is a fraught mixed message for the church  – Julia Baird, Sydney Morning Herald.

2013

Concepts of Gender and the Global Abuse of Women – Steven Tracy.

2011

Calling the Evangelical Church to Truth: Domestic Violence and the Gospel –  Steven Tracy.

Angela Ruth Strong interviews Barbara Roberts – Gives background on Barbara’s personal story and how she came to write her book “Not Under Bondage”. Make sure you also read this comment on the interview where Barbara gives an update about her personal situation since she did the interview with Angela.

2010

A Biblical Response to the Abused Wife – Renee M. Malina. Published: Phoenix Seminary, T 506, Contemporary Moral Issues, Spring 2010

2008

What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission – Steven Tracy.

The Culture Wars Over “Family Values”: Are Evangelicals Fighting the Wrong Battles in the Wrong Way and Losing? – Steven Tracy.

2007

Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions – Steven Tracy.

Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence – Steven Tracy.

2006

Domestic Violence in the Church and Redemptive Suffering in 1 Peter – Steven Tracy.

Understanding Domestic Violence – Steven Tracy. This article has no date so I’ve just guessed and put in 2006. 

 

Firsthand Witness to the Thinking of an Abusive Youth Pastor

ACFJ is regularly contacted by the wives of abusers who are pastors or missionaries. The thing is incredible, but true. Here stands a man in the pulpit or in some pastoral ministry in a church, admired by the flock, thought to be the holiest of the holy, a model husband and father. That is the public fiction. The truth is a private horror story. In most cases if the wife/victim exposed who or what her husband really is, the majority of the church members would not believe her and she would catch all kinds of blame.

Wake up, Christians. You who claim to know Christ are supposedly capable of hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice and refusing to follow a false one. You who claim to know Christ are said to have been taught by the Spirit so that you can discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. You are to test the spirits for MANY false prophets have gone out. You are supposed to know that the devil can appear as an angel of light and that his servants come in the garb of sons of righteousness.

So why aren’t you hearing? Why aren’t you discerning? Why aren’t you testing? Laziness? Ignorance? Or maybe, just maybe, you do not have the Spirit of Christ in you and therefore do not belong to him at all? One thing is certain. Something is gravely amiss.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

Want to hear from a firsthand witness what is really going on in the mind of a pastor (a youth pastor in this case) who later went on to be a full-blown pastor admired by the crowds? Well, let me take you right inside his mind and heart with the help of his ex-victim:

  • He used to imagine raping and killing young girls and how he would bury their bodies
  • He would say, when he saw girls as young as two years of age in bathing suits in the park that he was trying to prevent himself from stumbling in his lust for them
  • He would talk about how he found the young girls in the youth group sexually appealing, though they were no more than 14 or 15
  • He was into porn and would belittle me (his wife at that time) for my appearance

THIS was the youth pastor parents sent their kids to. THIS is the pastor now who the people still flock to.

Is this rare? Are we exaggerating the magnitude of this evil in the church? God’s Word doesn’t seem to think so:

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13)

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How to Stay Popular With the Church Establishment

If you want to avoid being persecuted in Christendom, all you have to do is throw in some work in addition to the gospel. If the Apostle Paul had wanted to remain popular, all he had to do was go along with the idea that guys had to get circumcised as well as trust in Jesus for their salvation. Circumcision was the thing to include in those days if you wanted to remain in good standing with the religious establishment. These days it is not circumcision. It is other works, other additions. If you want to remain popular  in the “church” all you have to do is teach a tidbit of the popular, oppressive traditions. A few false notions of repentance and salvation in regard to the wicked (we must “redeem” the abuser/marriage, etc). A tidbit of victim-blaming. A few works the oppressed person must do, to measure up.

It’s obvious that some individuals, authors and ministries who are speaking up about domestic abuse in the church are more widely popular than others. Popular, that is, with the movers and shakers in Christendom. The powers that be if you will. Others are more often than not spurned as being too harsh, too judgmental, too… you fill in the rest.

The Great Divide

We see this as the Great Divide. What is the difference between those who teach about domestic abuse and remain in the good books of the celebrities and the masses, and those who teach about it and get very little oxygen?

We have often been told that we need to mellow out, soften down, and stop giving offense to the “big names” in the church so as to win them as our allies.  This is how the admonishment goes:

There are many others besides you who are working to educate the church about domestic violence. You need to work to network with them. But because you are too critical of them, you turn them off and alienate them. If you would tone it down and not be so harsh then they would give you a hearing and eventually they would come around, admit their errors, and our work would be more effective.

The Apostle Paul came up against the very same kind of pressures:

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Galatians 5:11)

Paul’s denigrators were saying: “Come on Paul, don’t be so hard on these other fellows. After all, they are Christians too. They just have a bit different take on circumcision than you. Your message is offending the unconverted Jews. Look how much strife it’s causing you! Your message is offending the circumcision party of Christians. The circumcision party are the ones in the church who the Pharisees and unconverted Jews are most likely to listen to! You want all the Jews to be converted don’t you? Don’t be so hard on these brothers. Your hard line is bad for the cause of the gospel. You need to soften it down, Paul.”

Sound familiar? We all know Paul’s response to such criticism:

Galatians 5:12

I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. (NLT)

I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (ESV)

I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!  (HCSB)

The fact is, if we wanted to be accepted, endorsed by, and popular with the celebrity crowd in Christendom (who they are makes no difference to us — Gal 2:6), all we would have to do is “tweak” our message just an itty bitty bit. We would only need to

  • acknowledge that an abuser (as we define the abuser) can be a genuine Christian
  • teach that there is real hope for the abuser to come to repentance
  • imply that the victim is uniquely placed to influence her abuser to repentance
  • suggest that the victim needs to work on herself and her character in order to confront her abuser and set boundaries with him in a godly manner
  • talk about “separation” as boundary setting, but not mention divorce
  • or say that after all the work the victim has done on herself and after she’s confronted her abuser “well,” and set boundaries “well,” if all her efforts have proved fruitless then divorce may be appropriate and allowed— but leave the details unspecified, so that no victim can really be sure when she’s done enough.
  • always present divorce as second best, or imply that it is “the lesser of two evils.”
  • cool it in our declarations that God blesses divorce from an abuser
  • soften up on our criticism of pastors, local churches, Christian authors, parachurch ministries and so on.

We could keep adding to the list, but you get the point. “Just, just….a little change. That’s all.”

There are not “many” in the Christian world who are working to expose abuse in the church. That is a simple falsehood. There are hardly ANY, and that is what most of our readers have found in their hard experience. Oh, there are numbers who claim they are, but in the end most of them still

  • lay damaging advice or demands on victims
  • pathologize and subtly denigrate victims
  • make victim-blaming statements
  • only talk about divorce for abuse in veiled, vanilla-grey, fence-sitting statements like “divorce may sometimes be appropriate”
  • pressure all of us to “do more to redeem and reform the abuser”

We believe that the abusers in the church actually applaud the approach of the abuse activists who remain on the acceptable side of the Great Divide, because that approach puts a burden on the victim. It keeps the spotlight on the supposed inadequacies of victims, rather than on the evil mindset and tactics of abusers.

And as you listen carefully to the material put out by the abuse activists who have remained in the good graces of the Christian establishment, you will see there are quite a number of elephants in the room that they are simply ignoring. That makes everyone happy. No trouble.

Well, except for the victims of the abusers. But then, they just need to suck it up.

Church Leaders and Authors are Violating God’s Instruction About Matters of Conscience

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:1-13)

There are of course many issues in Scripture that are non-negotiables. The Ten Commandments are an example of such. They are not matters of conscience left to each person to decide. Murder is murder. Adultery is adultery.

But the Bible has quite a lot to say about other issues that do vary in our application of them. Back in New Testament times Paul dealt with things like whether a Christian should eat meat that had been purchased in the idol temple. We call these issues “matters of conscience” and the Bible shows us that these are things which are to be left up to the individual Christian’s conscience. One eats. Another doesn’t.

However, it is a serious error to limit ‘matters of conscience’ to the subjects the early Christians were facing. God would have us draw out the larger principles that are transferable to our own day. Don’t pass judgment on a brother if he _______, and you do not _______.  Going to movie theater. Having a television. Drinking alcohol. If you grew up in a church you were probably taught a list of ‘forbiddens’ that included way more things than what the apostles gave to believers —

abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:20 CSB)

But what I want to talk about here are subjects that I suspect almost none of us heard were matters of conscience to be left to the individual to decide and apply. I submit to you this list (which of course is not exhaustive) —

  • Whether to marry or not to marry (lots of churches give this one lip service as a matter of conscience but in practice they insist on marriage)
  • Whether to divorce — that’s right. You heard me correctly. The decision to divorce is up to the individual believer’s conscience before God as long as it is exercised without sin. The church’s authority to discipline (listen to this very carefully now) only concerns matters of sin, not matters of conscience. A church should certainly discipline an abuser, but has no authority to say yea or nay as to the victim’s right to divorce.
  • The specifics of how a husband is to carry out his husbanding role in his marriage
  • The specifics of how a wife is to carry out her role as a wife in her marriage
  • The specifics of how a father or a mother is to function. [Notice in these last three points I say “specifics.” Scripture gives us principles, but the Lord does not tell us “now wife and children you are to greet husband/father at the door when he comes home from work and you are to then _______ and then you ______, etc., etc.”  No.

We could go on and on, but you get the point? Churches and christian authors and pastors and conference speakers continue to go on and on in dictating binding laws in these areas and more that God has not given them authority to direct. This is the danger of the myriads of “how-to” books down at the Christian bookstore.

Let me give you a personal example of how this business plays out. Over the last say 45 years, I was made to feel very guilty by churches and pastors and speakers and books. I wanted to serve the Lord, and I did. I worked hard at a full time job and went to graduate school at the same time. I became a pastor and fought battle after battle.

But I rarely led my family in regular, nightly, formal, family “devotions.” I was told I should. But I just wasn’t moved to do it. I saw others doing so and I figured they were spiritually superior to me. So…guilt.

And then the years went by. Wanna know what happened?

Our children grew up loving Christ. They walk with Him today. They married genuine Christian spouses. And I realize that what happened all those years is that myself and my wife WERE teaching and discipling them every single day. Through our example of genuine Christianity. Through my preaching and teaching week after week in church. Through our real love for them and for one another. It was real, and they knew it.

Guess what else happened? Many of the children who grew up in the rigid homes under a patterned, scheduled devotional time, rebelled against the Lord. Some of their lives are just a mess. Not all. And I am not saying that some real Christians don’t carry out regular, formal family devotions to good effect because it is from their heart and the kids know it. But what I am saying is that much of what I was pressured with was mere outward shell, hollow religion, by people who were legalistic formalists who had the form of godliness but denied its power.

So let’s close by coming back to abuse. If anyone can honestly say before the Lord that the Spirit of God is leading them to freedom by divorcing a wicked abuser, no one has the authority to tell you otherwise. No one has the right — no pastor, no church, no church member — no one has the right to invade the specifics of your life as you walk with Christ and tell you to deny what the Spirit of Christ is telling you.

If you haven’t already, you may want to go peruse your library and have a book burning fueled by any volumes still lurking there that want to run the minutia of your life for you.

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