A Cry For Justice

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

A True Account of How a Christian College is an Abuser Factory

The following account is a real story from one of our readers. We considered publishing it in two parts but decided it is best to keep it together for full impact. As you read, consider that a college like this is actually turning out young men who will in some cases pastor a church, and women who have been brainwashed, all “in the name of Christ” of course, into serving them. Many, many thanks to this young lady for sharing her story. And by the way, this college is not Bob Jones University, but still another place where abuse is covered up as you will see, even enabled and promoted in many ways.

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I am 24 years old and I recently graduated from a small conservative Christian college. I came from a very strict Christian background and my parents were abusive. My dad more than my mom. My mom and I were both victims but my mom decided at some point to enable my dad’s bad behavior. I was homeschooled from pre-k to my senior year of high school except for a year I spent in private school.

My dad made it clear he didn’t want me to go to college. He believed that debt was a sin and that college was just a scam in order for schools to make money. He said he knew a lot of kids who couldn’t get a job with their expensive degrees after college and was trying to “protect” me from the system. I was told I was going to live with them forever. Obviously, I couldn’t imagine a life living with my parents until they died and I was then forced to find a way to care for myself as a middle aged women who never had her own job or a degree.

Because my dad put so many limitations on what college I would be allowed to apply to, I was starting to believe it was hopeless. He wouldn’t allow me to go to a college that had a meal plan because he believed that college food was overpriced and would make me gain weight. He also wanted me to find a school with an unreasonably low tuition. I believe he did this knowing that no such school existed — until we found that one. It was a very small college, only 150 students or so, and it didn’t have a meal plan. You had your own apartment where you would live with three other people and cook your own meals. It was a very conservative Christian college that boasted about being theologically correct. I went there in fall and I started to get a bad feeling right away.

The boys treated girls like they were fresh meat

The first thing I noticed is that when I got on campus the boys there literally treated me like I was fresh meat. When I would leave my apartment boys would whistle at me from across the courtyard and then wave at me. When I made it clear I didn’t like it (usually by looking down and walking in the opposite direction) they would act disappointed and then annoyed. Whenever I would tell my roommates that it bothered me they would get mad at me and explain that if I was going to be so skinny I had to get use to being treated that way.

Most conversations in my room became about my body very quickly. Men would make “random” comments about how “women shouldn’t bother to wear makeup because it made them shallow” when they saw me wearing eyeshadow. One day a girl invited a guy she liked into our room. She took him to her bedroom and, for whatever reason, showed him her underwear drawer. He told me that he wanted to see mine. When I refused he told me that I was just a boring introvert. (He recently married one of my friends and he still calls me the boring introvert to this day.)

There was an general apathy on that campus when it came to how women were being treated. The general indifference didn’t stop in our dorm rooms. It was also shown in class.

They took a hard line on divorce, and shamed those who asked questions

One day our professor was talking about the biblical reasons for divorce. He mentioned two reasons: sexual immorality, which was chalked up to physical cheating; and abandonment by a non-Christian spouse, making it clear that the non-Christian spouse had to be the one who decided to leave. He spoke about how those were the only two ways out of the marriage other than death.

After class was over and all the other students left but one, I asked him about abuse. My mom was in an abusive relationship with my father and I always secretly wanted her to leave. It was something I felt considerable guilt about because of my Christian upbringing. The other student who had remained was at the front of the classroom with my professor, doodling on the whiteboard. I figured he wasn’t going to leave and made the mistake of asking in front of him. As soon as the question about abuse left my mouth the professor turned to the other student and said, “See? This is why I asked you to stay after class. I always get one of these people in every class at the beginning of the semester. There is always one person who asks this every year and this time its this girl.” I was mortified. He then turned back to me and explained that he didn’t know about abuse. That some people made up stories about how they were being abused and that if confronted with a situation of abuse it would be something the elders would have to look into to make sure it was first real, and then to determine how serious the abuse really was. He said then they would have to decide on the best course of action only after the household was inspected by the elders. I was dismissed after that. I was completely humiliated and didn’t share that experience with even my own husband until a few days ago. I never wanted to be “that girl” ever again.

Some time later, that professor again talked about divorce and relationships in his class. Apparently he didn’t think we got it the first time. I don’t remember the context of this personal story but I remember the story because I found it frightening. There was a women who wanted to leave her husband. And her husband called our professor and asked him to come over and “minister” to his wife so she would change her mind. When our professor got there he found out that she was going to leave anyway and that the husband was going to allow it. He became angry that this man would be so “apathetic” and allow his wife to leave him. He complained that he was just letting her walk out on him without even fighting for her. “Real men fight for their wives”. Now, I never asked what he meant by “fighting for her”… I still don’t know what he meant because he didn’t elaborate. But I got scared and wondered if he would object to holding someone against their will. I don’t want to believe anything bad of him but I was too scared to ask since I got chewed up the first time I asked him a question. No one else asked and the class moved on to another topic. I know that he didn’t actually say that violence was okay but he didn’t not say it either, and that’s always bothered me.

The modesty police

The first night on campus we had to have a meeting with our Room Attendants. (Room Attendants made sure the room was clean and that we were respecting the nightly curfew.) The first conversation was on modesty and how we weren’t allowed to wear bikinis or other revealing clothes because it would make our brothers-in-Christ stumble. I had already heard this speech before since I grew up in the church and so I’ll admit I just rolled my eyes and tuned them out.

Later on a girl was enrolling for the next semester. One of the women who worked in admissions noticed that her shorts were “unusually short” and made a whole Facebook rant about how women shouldn’t dress like that because it sends the wrong message to men and how “There is nothing attractive about a desperate buttcheek girl.” Everyone on campus “liked” it and shared it. The message was clear: step out of line, even if you don’t officially attend school yet, and you’re an automatic target for ridicule.

Keeping up appearances went past just modest clothing.The handbook said that even if you had an “offensive haircut” the dean could demand you change it. Women were encourage to have longer hair (although one girl who attends there now has a short pixie cut and no one bothers her). I’ve always wondered if that rule was just there so they could have the power to make you change your hair if they wanted.

We were made to feel bad about the way we dressed and for making men “stumble”. In truth those men saw us only as sex objects. They had been addicted to pornography from a young age and the church environment did nothing to address it other than to install programs that blocked pornographic websites, which is a good first step. But they didn’t seem to address what the porn already taught men. I believe that any guy in IT could have gotten through the barriers if he tried hard enough. We could have dressed in long johns and parkas every single day and those men would still have impure thoughts about us. That’s what porn had taught them. Modest clothing wasn’t going to fix it.

The gossip mill… and pressure to get married

When you did get into a relationship it wasn’t your own. Everyone knew about it because they all gossiped. If you told your roommates they would tell their friends and then it would get to the admissions office, the biggest gossips of all, and everyone would know. When I first started dating my now-husband one woman on campus wanted me to do weekly devotionals with her and to keep her updated on my relationship. It seemed weird from the start so I found a way out of it.

I felt the pressure of marriage from the beginning. Once I made the mistake of telling a professor I didn’t think I wanted to get married right away. He told me that a lot of people decide not to get married and that God uses them in different ways. Perhaps I was destined to be a martyr and just didn’t know it? He even offered to give me a video about a girl who decided not to get married, ran away to Israel to fight against Palestine where she heroically but tragically died as an example..I politely declined watching the video and left. I was 19. And all I said was that I wasn’t sure about getting married at that point in my life! Not that I NEVER wanted to get married. I then believed that the message was “get married ASAP or NOT EVER”.

I was lucky enough to be in a healthy relationship with my now-husband. He was getting bullied for not being “man enough” — i.e., he didn’t have a truck and wear cowboy boots. (The men gossiped worse than the girls but of course, no one noticed.) Even though I was lucky to be with a man who respected me not all of my friends were.

Men stalking women

My best friend was stalked, twice, by different men she rejected. One man had the nerve to tell her that he was told by God that she would marry him. She was a Calvinist and believed heavily in God choosing your spouse so she seemed to believe him. Just a little after when he made it clear how obsessed with her he was she decided to break it off. They were never officially dating but he would come to our room and demand to see her. Once we didn’t know where she was, so he got his dad to drive him around campus as he asked around for her and demanded that people tell him where she was. He was completely angry when she got back and told him she was at a party with other students..He told her that she wasn’t allowed to go to a party without him knowing. That’s when she broke it off. He kept on sending her nasty Facebook messages about how she was “prideful” to reject not only him but “God’s clear plan for her life.” His mom was even mad at her for not dating her son. My friend had to switch churches and block him on Facebook. Mercifully, he didn’t live on campus but he always seemed to find a way back to our room or one of us would just find him in odd spots waiting for her.

A year later in our Sophomore year she had attracted one of the older men. She was 21 and he was in his late 30’s. He went to the school on their second-chance program for older students. He said that she was more godly than most women her age and decided he wanted to court her. She went out on ONE date with him. When she got back from her date she told me that he said that she was the one God has made him wait for and that his mission was to run away to Israel to minister to God’s people and that he was excited for her to join him. (The people in this place had a bit of an obsession with Israel.) Apparently, he came to the school to find the women that God promised him. And it was her lucky day because she was it! We were so freaked out.

One day I got stuck pulling weeds out of the school’s front lawn with him (I didn’t do all of my Christian service hours and if I wanted to advance into my Junior year of college I had to make them up, which meant the school got free-labor) and he told me that he was upset that my friend was ignoring her call from God to join him in Israel! He would follow her around and she would find him in weird places like he was waiting for her. Her friends had to escort her to class. He was almost in his 40’s and no one ever stopped to think it strange that an almost 40-year-old-man wanted to court and bring a 21 year old women to Israel with him. We never told the school what was going on and eventually he lost interest in her.

The college didn’t warn us about bad people

I think I roomed with a sociopath of some sort. In addition to rooming with my best friend I roomed with three girls. One girl, who I will call Kate, liked to manipulate people. She liked causing chaos in the room and only wanted to get her way. Kate would tell me that my best friend was no longer my best friend anymore. That she was way better than me as a best friend and that I needed to find new friends. Kate would tell me that no one loved my now-husband and that he was a loser. And she explained that everyone only saw me as the pathetic toothpick-sized woman who needed her boyfriend for everything. She did this in such a passive, covert way no one noticed. And she was one of the most popular girls in school. She hated me.

They didn’t want to recognize people like Kate, who say one thing and do another. Or that people may have not-so-Christian motives for wanting to attend the school. We weren’t suppose to doubt our brothers and sisters in Christ. The school also never talked about singleness. It just wasn’t an option.

One day Kate was honest with me. We were alone in our room and she told me that she knew she was one of the smartest and most confident girls on campus. She said that she was so good at getting into people’s heads that if she wanted to she could convince someone to commit suicide. That was the last time she was ever honest with me again. She enjoyed that honesty because I knew her secret and couldn’t tell anyone because no one would believe me. Then she got lice and convinced everyone that I was the one who gave it to her. People wanted to avoid all of us and our room was almost banned from going to class. She got angry that her trick backfired on her. She was in the ‘counseling’ program..Lord have mercy on her patients. I don’t believe she actually finished the program. The last I heard she said the Lord had told her to become a mother and wife. She got married the next year, dropped out of school and has her first child. I saw her a few months ago. Now when she acts nice I don’t get the same warning in my gut like I use to. But I still decided it was best to cut off contact with her. I hope she changes..I believe that her husband has helped her because she started acting differently after her marriage. But again, I don’t know.

The school wasn’t all bad, which made it more confusing

There was a guy who asked a 15 year old girl for naked pictures of herself. The girl’s parents told the school and the school kicked him out. People on campus thought the school was being legalistic about it but they explained that they would not allow someone who was attracted to minors to be in their youth ministry program. Later he was arrested for rape but the parents refused to press charges. I don’t know all the details but it seemed like he was “dating” a girl from a very poor family and he was giving them food and giving the girl rides to school when the family couldn’t. It was creepy. We don’t have any contact with him either.

There was another boy who got kicked out because he was crazy. After our volleyball team won a big game he found one of the players and kissed her on the mouth in front of everyone. He was gone by the end of the week. The school said they wouldn’t tolerate such disrespect of women and that we were allowed to defend ourselves if we felt we needed to.

My point is that the school had no right to treat me and the other girls this way. Yes they did kick out two boys who acted up. And they tried to “teach men how to have respect” but honestly there was more bad than good.

I don’t ever want another girl to go through what I went through

I don’t hate the school but I don’t ever want another girl to go through what I went through. Please, trust yourself. If you asked me two years ago what was wrong with my school I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I just felt like something was “off” but it was such a “christian” environment with other Christians I didn’t want to think about it.

I ended up taking some classes at a community college and they discussed title nine with the students before we were even allowed to go to class. (Title nine is about rape on college campuses.) They explained that it doesn’t matter if you are drunk or wearing something revealing no one ever has the right to rape or molest you. I had never heard that before.

When I got married my husband and I moved off campus and I started to delete my “friends” on Facebook when the Josh Dugger controversy exploded. The school didn’t take an official stance on it but most of my friends were defending him. “Liberals are the real problem not Christians. Liberals are the ones who are the real hypocrites. Of course we have problems — nobody’s perfect but one bad act cannot erase all the good things he did” Honestly, I think it was because he was a christian celebrity with his own TV show. They adored him and couldn’t allow someone they looked up to so much to have any flaws. I found it ridiculous.

Please trust your gut, even if they don’t want you to

Most of them think I’m antisocial. I went back for graduation and they didn’t even try to hide how much they hate me and find my husband to be a loser. I ignored them. You have to, even if they complain about you not acting christian enough. You have the Holy Spirit too and they don’t get to make the final judgement on your soul because you won’t go along with their abuse quietly like everyone else.

I believed at the time that leaving the school for a secular state university would be abandoning my brothers and sisters in Christ. I felt incredible guilt for not getting along with everyone. For not being trusting enough. I second guessed myself. I started to think things like: Maybe Kate is really nice and I was the mean one. Maybe I did give her lice (even though I knew I didn’t). Maybe I was the problem. Or “If I had more faith in God I wouldn’t feel this way.”

These are lies. Please trust your gut even if they don’t want you to. You are all much more valuable than you know. And the labels the christian school wants to give you are not true. If anything like this has happened to you or if you notice a campus environment of general indifference or outright apathy towards women (or anyone really) please seriously consider transferring. Most non-Christian campuses have Christian Crusade for Christ (CREW) and other groups for Christians. Leaving a “christian” college doesn’t mean you are leaving God.

Thursday Thought — John Calvin: GEM of a quote

Recently Pastor Sam Powell posted a gem of a quote by John Calvin on his Facebook page.  In addition to adding the quote to our GEMS page, we wanted to highlight the quote in a stand-alone post along with the excellent conversation that ensued between Pastor Powell and Pastor Crippen.

John Calvin quote

…it would be better for robbers to remain in the wood and there to kill strangers, than to entice guests to their houses and to kill them there and to plunder them under the pretext of hospitality. This is the way in which you act; for ye destroy the bond of marriage, and ye afterwards deceive your miserable wives, and yet ye force them by your tyranny to continue at your houses, and thus ye torment your miserable wives, who might have enjoyed their freedom, if divorce had been granted them. (John Calvin on Mal. 2:16.)

Conversation between Pastors Powell and Crippen

Jeff Crippen:  Calvin sure gets a lot of undeserved accusations from people who have been taught to hate him and his theology. How many people would have guessed that it was Calvin who said this?

Sam Powell: Perfectly said! I always find it strange that those who claim total depravity have such a hard time applying it to their own circles. We are SHOCKED when men act exactly the way the bible says that they act. Weird.

Jeff Crippen: It may seem like the Calvinists are hiding this little treasure, but the real Calvinists are not hiding it. Yet many who claim to be reformed in their theology are, that’s for sure. Accurate, confessional, historic Calvinism recognizes the total depravity of the unregenerate man and acknowledges that there are people who are reprobate and destined for destruction — people who freely choose to hate and reject Christ rather than repent and believe. This is what we teach regarding the abuser who has faked his Christianity for decades, cruelly abusing his wife and children yet putting himself off as a pillar and holy saint in his church. In my opinion, accurate reformed theology gets it right when it comes to handling these kind and that therefore much of what is parading today as reformed theology simply is not.

Sam Powell: Yup. I don’t know when the verse got mangled out of recognition, but it’s taken on the opposite meaning lately. When did that happen?

I hold to the creeds of the reformation, but I don’t use the term “Calvinist” to describe myself anymore. Not because my theology concerning salvation has changed, but because the word has taken on many strange bedfellows. Usually when people say Calvinist, they mean that they hold to a pop-culture view of predestination that looks a bit more like fatalism than the Biblical doctrine.

The weird complementarianism that modern pop-Calvinists subscribe to wouldn’t have been even recognizable in the 16th century.

Jeff Crippen: That’s good advice. It does seem that “Calvinism” hits a hot button with so many people and in fact has almost become meaningless because it is usually used for a caricature of what historic reformed theology is.

Sam Powell: I sent a young woman a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism. She’d been hurt greatly by wicked men. She read #105: “What does God require in the sixth commandment? — That I do not revile, hate, insult or kill my neighbor in thought, word, gesture, much less in deed, whether by myself or by another…”  That’s when it occurred to her that domestic abuse is a violation of the sixth commandment.

This is a sixteenth century creed, used by reformed churches for centuries. I memorized it as a lad. Beautiful. And it has abuse pegged — just uses another term. Reviling, hating. It’s murder.

Jeff Crippen: And yet over and over again I hear of churches commonly allowing these murderers to remain in their pews, still maintaining that they are Christians. Recently a survivor of years of abuse told me that her abuser held a gun to her head and that her pastor knows full well that he did it. Yet the abuser is still in that church, even allowed to “serve” in a “ministry” there while the victim has had to leave that church. And this is no wild, liberal, church that denies the deity of Christ or anything. It professes to be a Bible-believing church. Guess what? It isn’t.

Sam Powell: Wow.

*****

Link to Sam Powell’s Facebook page where he posted this quote.

Link to John Calvin’s entire commentary on Malachi 2

The Loneliness of the Abuse Victim

I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. (Jeremiah 15:17)

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)

I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. (Psalm 102:6-8)

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2Timothy  4:16-17)

One of the most painful and damaging results of abuse is the isolation that its victims must endure. Aloneness. You look around and it seems that most everyone else is enjoying good company, fun times, and friendships. But you, you are alone. A lonely sparrow on the housetop.

There are several reasons for this. Here are at least a few:

  1. Abusers, as we know, work to isolate their victim so that they can control them more easily. An abuser frequently moves his victim and family far away from her family and friends, distancing her from her most natural allies.
  2. Abusers often work to sabotage his victim’s work environment or career path. Success in the workplace is a threat to his control.
  3. Abusers alienate the victim’s friends and associates and relatives by telling them lies about her.
  4. The church, yes, even her church…the place where she should find the warmest fellowship and support ostracizes and abandons her when she leaves the abuser or even reports the abuse.

All of these dynamics, as you can see, produce profound aloneness and enhanced isolation. The victim finds that she is, literally, on her own.

But there is still another very powerful and common factor that isolates victims of abuse and in some ways this may be the most common and damaging of all. Let’s call it the “no one wants to be around a whiner” dynamic. Let me see if I can explain it.

I have been the target numbers of times of wicked abusers, sociopaths, and narcissists all parading as sons of righteousness in local churches. Sometimes, and for long protracted periods of time, the intensity of the abuse caused me to be downcast, depressed, traumatized, and . . . well, you can fill in more adjectives I am sure. Now when you are in the midst of such suffering, you think of little else. You can’t think of much else. You don’t even fully understand what is happening (the fog, you know) and that confusion adds to dwelling on the thing because you are trying to sort it out.

So you talk.

You talk to whoever you can — to whoever seems to be a friend. (This is when you often get accused of being a gossip, you know). But you talk. If you and your wife go out with another couple, for instance, you find yourself pouring your heart out, telling them about the whole mess. And it takes quite some time to tell it. The details of the evil. It’s intricacies and plots. Your fears and pain. You might even resolve that “next time you won’t talk about these things,” because you sense that people don’t want to keep hearing about them. Often they don’t. But sure enough, next time you talk again.

It has been years, in some cases over two decades, since the worst abusers I have been targeted by departed or were expelled from our church for their evil. But I still find myself recounting the wicked things they did. Not as often as I used to. With I suppose diminishing frequency. But I fully expect that I will tell these tales to some degree until the day I die. Such is the nature and depth of the trauma inflicted by deep evil.

But the isolation and loneliness. There are very few people among professing Christians who are willing to share one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Very few. Very few who are willing to weep with those who weep. Many have never experienced the pain of abuse themselves, so they are rather clueless. And often what happens is a distancing. “You know, he always has to talk about abuse. Why can’t she just let it go and get on with her life? It’s such a downer.” So such people draw back. They want to keep on the sunny side of life, just like they order their eggs. The result? Loneliness.

I remember one very good friend and a true Christian to whom I was doing my usual outpouring of the pain which the deceptions and crafty evil of an abuser had caused sometime before. I caught myself and said “Sorry, I will try not to talk all evening about this stuff.” His reply? “It’s ok. It’s therapeutic to talk about it.” Now there is a wise man and a true friend. It IS therapeutic to talk about the abuse to someone who truly believes and understands.

I still experience the loneliness caused by abuse, but nowadays as a result of a bit different reason. These past five, now going on six years, of ministry to abuse victims here at ACFJ, I have heard story after story after story from victims which really largely turns out to be one and the same story, doesn’t it? Abuser claimed to be a Christian. Victim eventually reported abuse to her pastor. Pastor….you all know what the pastor told her with very rare exceptions. We hear it over and over again. There is a huge body of witnesses to the thing. Abusers left in good standing as a church member. Abuser even the pastor or a missionary. “Famous” pastors and church leaders and counselors giving these poor victims absolutely horrid (should be criminal) commands and counsel.

And what do I do? What do all of us do here at ACFJ along with all of you? We talk about it. Often I suppose I even rage about it. I smash my fist down on my desk about it. And when we are out there in the social arena or hanging out with friends, what do we do? Well, I can tell you what I do. I talk about this stuff. I hate it. I despise it. I want to tell everyone about it and I want to name names. The result? A continuing degree of loneliness and isolation. Oh, I don’t really blame the people around me for it. For the most part they are right behind us here at ACFJ. It’s just that, well, here we are and guess what subject is going to come up?

But that is how it is. How can we keep silent when so many victims are suffering terribly? How can we keep silent when inept, naive shepherds of the church fail to protect the flock of Christ? How can we keep silent when we see abusers actually standing in pulpits in churches? We can’t. We won’t. And so while we do occasionally see the sunny side of life, more often than not it is the dark side that is on our minds. So when you want to help a victim, understand this — she has been and probably still is living in that dark side, probably for decades. Do you really expect that she is going to be able to talk about much else?

*****

Further Reading

Living with Trauma Memories — video presentation by Diane Langberg

Abuse Produces Loneliness

A Common Characteristic of an Abuser is Disrespect for Boundaries

Brooke Shields confronted her alleged stalker, John Rinaldi, 49, in court on Monday after years of fearing his obsessive behavior was being directed toward her young children. Shields alleges she was pushed to her breaking point when Rinaldi dropped off a stuffed animal for daughters Rowan, 13, and Grier, 10, at her home in West Village. Rinaldi allegedly left the stuffed animals at Shields’s home in 2013. In the following months he allegedly left a silver picture frame given out by Shields’s mother Teri, who died in 2012, at the actress’s 18th birthday party, Teri Shields and Rinaldi were friends when the actress was alive. The silver frame was addressed to 13-year-old Rowan. Finally, in May of 2015, Shields was fed up and reported Rinaldi to police. Shields is expected to return to court Tuesday. [Daily Mail Online, June 13, 2016]

People like this Rinaldi character demonstrate that they are abusers or sociopaths or well, just plain evil, in their total disregard for their victim’s boundaries. I suspect that just about every single one of our readers here at ACFJ could give many examples of this wicked behavior that so often masquerades as gift-giving or a thoughtful birthday card or showing up at a social event where the victim is.

I have experienced this personally as well. Wicked people who had targeted me and who had been sent off from the churches I have pastored, told not to return, nevertheless kept up various forms of contact. They would send me a birthday card or gift or an anniversary card or they would show up at a funeral service I officiated at. All of this, you see, done in the context of “plausible deniability.” “Oh, well, we just wanted to show you that we love you anyway.” Or, “yes, I know but surely we needed to attend this funeral out of love for the departed one’s family.” Yeah, right.

The real purpose of an abuser in violating boundaries (do not contact me again, do not come here again, etc) is an evil motivation to invade the personal life of the victim and continue to cause them trauma. These trespassing violations also evidence a desire to communicate to the victim and everyone that, “I will not be controlled by you. I am the one in control here.” All done with an ever so sweet smile and voice tone, you know. I have seen it. And I have called such people on it. “You need to leave. I am not going to have this conversation with you. There is the door. Go!” Their behavior, you see, is nothing less than harassment.

These boundary violations are often perceived by the naive as kindness. “Wasn’t that a nice thing for him/her to do.”  Ignorant people can be swayed by these evil tactics and start to accuse the victim of being too harsh and unkind. “So, they sent you a birthday card. What’s the harm in that?” The harm in that is that the card was sent to traumatize, to defy, and to hurt. That is why I never acknowledge such cards, never use any gift card sent by such a person, never say “thank you.” To do so is to be manipulated by evil.

Abusers very often do not truly love their children. Maybe none of them do. It does seem, does it not, that if a parent truly loves their children they would not abuse their other parent, right? But abusers frequently go all out to gain custody or equal visitation rights in prolonged court battles. Why? Because they demand power and control. They insist on forcing the victim to have to continue to include them in the victim’s life. They call on the phone. They sent a gift or a card. They show up at places they know the victim is at or where the children are. They trespass. They will not respect boundaries.

It is evil in action. We all must become wise to it or the wicked will dupe us and make us their ally.

*****

Further Reading

Gifts from pursuing abusers

The Backlash of Boundary Setting

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True Church Growth Often Means Getting Smaller

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1John 2:18-19)

Our church is quite small in number. We live in a small town that hasn’t seen numerical growth in over 20 years, but that is not the only reason we do not see many new people join us. We welcome visitors. We pray the Lord will send us 1) people He is drawing to Himself and need to hear the gospel, or 2) people who are His true sheep and who desire to be in fellowship with real Christians. Only those two categories.

When I was in seminary “church growth” was the craze. Pastors were supposed to “cast a vision” and “grow their church.” The thing was all bogus of course. It is Christ who grows His church. We plant. Another waters. But God gives the increase. Man can definitely implement his own gimmicks to get bodies in the pews, but no human can effect genuine conversion. What was never said in seminary was that “some of you are not going to see numerical growth in your churches. Some of you are going to be run out of town, falsely accused, hated and berated by Pharisees and wolves in wool. In fact, if you are a true shepherd of Christ, these things WILL happen to you.” Nope, no mention of that. None. Yet the Bible has much to say about such experiences. Christ says that these things are the NORM for those who follow Him.

And if you become wise about evil, if a pastor and His flock “get it” and teach about how wickedness hides in the church, church “growth” will be evidenced by the wicked leaving! No domestic abuser who has been hiding and disguised as a fine Christian church member should EVER be able to continue that facade comfortably. As the truth about evil, as the mentality and tactics of abuse are brought to light and exposed by the Word of God, suddenly the flatterer ceases his praise. He goes silent or he begins to criticize and accuse. What is really going on? He does not want his victim to hear these things. He is squirming. And eventually he leaves, claiming some injustice done to him or other such excuse.

If a church takes this path, there will probably be a diminishing number of people in the pews, but those who remain will have a much better chance to become mature believers. They will actually grow. They will grow in their faith, becoming more wise, more practised in discerning good from evil. They will be more able to devote themselves to the work of the Lord. And they will enjoy deeper fellowship, unity and love with one other. Because they will not have their time and energies taken up by hypocrites sowing discord and and false teaching into the mix. They will not have to be on guard with others in the pews. They will  not have to stuff their thoughts and intuitions/Holy Spirit promptings, because they do have to routinely share the church building with wicked people masquerading as sheep — people who delight in covertly maligning true believers and spreading false ideas that mislead immature believers.

In some cases the abuser is the one standing in the pulpit. I mean, what better occupation to select if you are a silver-tongued deceiver, than that of the pastorate! In that case it will be the real sheep who are oppressed and who, hopefully, will be able to depart from such abuse.

But do you see then that light and darkness simply cannot and will not co-exist? Someone is going to leave. And in either case, there is a reduction in the number of people coming on the Lord’s day, not an increase. Is this not the very pattern we see in the Scriptures?

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:63-71)

That is true preaching. That is genuine church growth. This is the kind of environment that an abuser simply cannot tolerate very long.

Getting “Gossip” Wrong Will Silence Voices Exposing Evil

Today I received a copy of a small book written by Pastor Marc J. Grimaldi entitled Gossip: The Church Killer. It included a letter from Pastor Grimaldi which indicated he had sent out a copy of his book to pastors such as myself. He said in the letter:

For the ten years that I have served in the gospel ministry, I have found gossip to be one of the deadliest sins, which eats away at the life of Christ’s church. It is amazing to see how a single conversation even, can bring a wave of disruption, with many hearts being infected by the spread of gossip, leading to major problems in the local church. Sadly, gossip is so underrated and precautions must be taken to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by inoculating our church members with a thorough understanding of the nature and danger of gossip….It is my hope that this short work will be a valuable tool for bringing the awareness of the danger of gossip to the local church, so that we might consciously seek to put this venomous asp to death, counteracting it with words that actually build up the body, rather than tear it down.

Now, I have no reason to believe that Pastor Grimaldi’s goal here is anything but what he has stated — to protect the church. However, most all of our readers here at ACFJ will agree that abusers absolutely love to accuse their victims of gossip if the victims tell anyone about the evils being done to them. And pastors and church members often do the same when an abuse victim comes forward to expose the evil and ask for help. “You are gossiping. Go home and respect your spouse.”

So my radar goes up when this topic of gossip comes up.  Listen now as Pastor Grimaldi writes on the subject –

Pastor Stewart arrived home and sat at the dining room table next to his wife. It was obvious to Mrs. Steward that something was wrong because the good reverend was clearly aloof and somewhat downcast. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Stewart knew that her husband was preparing to have a difficult meeting with a man who had never been overly supportive of his ministry. Well, apparently, something had happened at that meeting that had discouraged the pastor in some way. It was obvious that things did not go well, so Mrs. Stewart asked, ‘How’d it go?’ Then Pastor Stewart poured out his heart to his wife and explained all that had happened at the meeting. He had shared with her all of the horrible things that Mr. Evans (the man) had said to and about him at the meeting.

There are two very significant things related to this particular story. First, it closely resembles a very real life situation that has actually taken place. I know this because I am the pastor in this story….Second, I learned a very important lesson on that occasion: pastors have to be very careful when speaking to their wives about matters related to the church.

I wanted to begin this chapter addressing pastors first, so that all who read this book will clearly understand that gossip is a serious and dangerous matter against which all people must be on guard. This is not just for the layman. This is for all Christians….Well then, back to the story.

What is so bad about what this pastor has done in the above scenario? Doesn’t a pastor have the right to at least confide in his own wife with respect to the hardships he faces in the ministry? Furthermore, pastor or not, aren’t the two ‘one flesh’ if they are married, giving them the right to share these kinds of things with each other? Well, here’s the problem. By the grace of God, having watch over his own heart (which is hard enough), the pastor can wrestle through such pain and hurt on his own (or with the help of someone who does not know Mr. Evans) and come back to the place in Christ, where love and compassion can still be shown to Mr. Evans. The pastor has no choice but to work through this matter in love because he has been directly involved in the controversy. However, by speaking to his wife, he has now influenced another heart, a heart that would naturally (and especially) be sensitive to the pastor, who happens to be her husband.

What exactly has Pastor Stewart done by telling his wife all of the (true) details about what had happened during his meeting with Mr. Evans? He has created a battle within his own wife; a very selfish, careless, and inconsiderate thing to do (though perhaps unintentional). Even if Pastor Stewart works this all out and finds rest and grace in Christ, is it right to automatically assume that Mrs. Stewart will do the same? What will happen in the heart of Mrs. Stewart the next time she faces Mr. Evans at church and he swings by her with a smile and a ‘hello’? If Pastor Stewart had just worked this out on his own, he could have spared his wife such potential hardship, hurt, and possible bitterness. Also, what if Mrs. Stewart, out of her own hurt, opens up to someone else, perhaps a close friend or her parents? You see, the potential for a schism can be fostered by the lack of discretion used on the part of an ailing pastor.

What we have set before us here in his book is a formula that most surely will enable and empower evil in its deception and secrecy and keep the victims of evil in bondage indefinitely.

  • What message will certainly come across to any abuse victims in the pew when the pastor preaches these things from his pulpit? I can tell you. “If you are being abused at home by your husband, you need to rely on the grace of God and prayer to see you through it and you must not tell anyone about it. If you do, you are guilty of gossip.” Pastor Grimaldi may not intend that result, but I can tell you absolutely that is precisely what will be communicated to these victims.
  • Pastor Grimaldi fears “schism.” Church splits and divisions. His solution? Keep Mr. Evans’ evil (and that is most certainly what it is, evil) quiet. Zip your lip about what this wicked man has been doing for a long, long time. But schism needs to occur in such a church! Mr. Evans and his allies need to be expelled.
  • Victims of evil will certainly be falsely guilted by this concept of gossip. What will be communicated to them is “you are the real problem, not your abuser. Your attitude is the issue here. You must patiently and silently endure.” And the wickedness will continue as the abuser is strongly enabled by all this.
  • Pastor Grimaldi’s “no gossip” formula here is actually going to CAUSE schism. First of all, he is going to experience schism in his own marriage. “What’s wrong, dear? You seem so downcast?” “Nothing.” He becomes a husband keeping secrets from his wife, the very one who is given him by God to be his ezer – his warrior helper. And then the wrong kind of schism in the church will occur. The righteous will be eventually driven out.
  • Mr. Evans is a classic factious and divisive man. Such a person is to be warned, then put out of the church and the church INFORMED about his wickedness in detail with the scriptural instruction that we are not to have anything to do with such a man. See 1 Cor 5, plus these two overlooked verses in Titus:
    As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
  • This kind of  teaching is going to cause pastors (and Christians victimized by evil) to be suckered in by a classic tactic of the enemy’s agents. Isolation and secrecy. Notice that Mr. Evans wanted to meet with the pastor privately. The pastor foolishly agreed (as I have foolishly done so myself before), knowing that this man habitually worked to discourage him. The pastor allowed him to do it again and the pastor must tell no one? That is classic abuser enablement. It is not being wise as a serpent about evil.

There is a second thread of teaching in this book that is problematic as well. Not only will it enable abusers and cause further oppression of victims, but it really sets forth a false notion of just who a Christian is and what a real church is. Christians, says Pastor Grimaldi, must be admonished not to gossip. He says that if there is a church where gossip is rampant, then the church members need to be reminded that gossip is the product of a depraved mind. Yes, it is. But it is not the product of the Christian mind. The Christian is a new creation. The Christian’s mind is not depraved. If there is a “church” that claims to be the body of Christ and yet it is characterized by the sins of a depraved mind, then absolutely there is going to be gossip! But that gossip (reviling) is being done by the wicked who apparently either dominate that church or control it significantly. The solution? Certainly not to be silent about evil, but to announce it from the rooftops so that all will hear and all will know and the wicked will flee because the light of Christ’s truth is too much for them to bear.

Mr. Evans does not need silence. Mr. Evans needs to be called on the carpet before the entire church and short of genuine repentance, put out of the church so that there might be peace. Pastor Grimaldi, I know “Mr. Evans.” I have met people of his spirit many, many times. I have been duped by them and I have been sent into deep despair and discouragement by their evil workings. But I am free of them. I have grown wise about them. I hope the same for you, but I can assure you that the path you are recommending in this book is not the way of wisdom. It will only strengthen the Mr. Evans types in our churches and it will tell his victims that the Lord commands us to be silent about his evil.

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

*****

Further Reading

Don’t be Guilted by the “Gossip Card”

The false accusation of gossip

The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Secrecy

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