A Cry For Justice

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

Dealing with domestic abuse (advice for pastors, Part 1, by Ps Jeff Crippen)

The abusive mentality is that of a profound sense of entitlement to power and control over others, and of a conscienceless justification for utilizing tactics to gain and maintain that power and control.  Pastors, in the course of their ministries, will certainly come up against such abusers because a common, if not innate, quality of abuse is that of deception, facade, and camouflage — the wolf in sheep’s clothing if you will.  And that means abusers will take on the guise of being a Christian, very frequently of being an eminent Christian in a local church.  He may be a pastor or elder himself.  How can pastors effectively deal with these “hidden reefs” who creep in among us in the church?

Jude 1:12  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;

First, and without doubt most importantly, pastors must take steps to correct their ignorance concerning the nature, mentality, tactics, and characteristics of this category of evil.  The persistent, nagging deficit that is plaguing our churches is the pervasive lack of understanding of abuse.  Great harm and injustice are being effected upon victims of abuse at the hands of the very church families that should be the chief protector of the widow, the orphan, and the weak.  Abusers are masters at using all kinds of deceptive means to gain allies to their side in their oppression of the victim and we have many documented case histories to support this conclusion.  Pastors become the ally of evil, all the while thinking they are standing for righteousness.  Abusers are embraced as brethren in Christ while their victims are falsely accused and rejected.  No true shepherd of Christ’s flock wants such travesty to continue.  He will be willing to take steps to familiarize himself with the psychology and methods of abuse.  As a start, and a very good one at that, we highly recommend the following resources:

  1. Why Does He Do That? [*affiiate link] by Lundy Bancroft.  This is the classic primer on abuse and it will take the reader very far in understanding how abusers think, what they are motivated by, the tactics they use, and the effects their wickedness has on victims.  Pastors will also, incidentally, come to realize in their reading that abusers often practice their tactics within the church in a quest for power and control there.
  2. Not Under Bondage [*affiliate link ] by Barbara Roberts.  This book will give a basic introduction to the nature of abuse, but then moves on to educate the reader in regard to numbers of common distortions of Scripture that typically increase the abuse victim’s suffering.  Roberts shows that divorce is indeed permissible in cases of abuse.
  3. My book,  A Cry for Justice [*affiliate link]  specifically examines abuse in the setting of the church, giving the reader insights into how abusers work their dark trade in the body of Christ.
  4. This A Cry for Justice blog is another resource that provides an ever-increasing depository of articles on all aspects of abuse.  It is proving to be a very effective resource for abuse victims and for anyone who desires to educate themselves in this field.  This blog also has a resources page that lists other excellent tools for study.
Should any pastor think that this subject is one that belongs to the field of psychology and counseling, and that pastors should devote all of their time to the study of Scripture alone, let me encourage you in this regard.  When you study abuse, you are studying the very psychology of sin.  All sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  Lawlessness is rebellion against the only One who is entitled to power and control, God Himself.  It has been my conclusion from studying this subject of abuse that in it we see sin in one of its purest and most diabolic forms.  And therefore I say to all pastors — if you would come to know the nature and mentality and tactics of the evil one, study abuse.  The wisdom you will gain will be of huge benefit to you and you will find yourself suddenly able to connect the Scriptures with real life like never before.  The Scripture is all sufficient. The thinking and tactics of abuse are set forth for us in God’s Word, but we so often lack wisdom and experience to grasp the full import and significance of what the Lord is telling us in His Word.
This, then is the start.  Admit that we have much to learn.  Recognize that there is a potent, seductive, subtle evil operating in our midst under the radar of our detection, and that we desperately need, as shepherds of Christ’s people, to effect a full systems upgrade that will enable us to detect it, expose it, confront it, and set its captives free.  We did not learn of these things in seminary.  Before we can counsel anyone, we must first know and identify the problem or we will be like doctors prescribing potent medications without even trying to understand the affliction.
* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

 

Read part two of this series
~

19 Comments

  1. If you know of a really good resource on dealing with repentance practically, I would recommend it as well. I sort of ‘backed in’ to this thing of abuse through dealing with repentance in marital difficulties. I have been studying repentance for a long time but decided to make application of my studies in a ‘quagmire’ relationship in which the ground kept shifting when dealing with abusive behavior.

    • cindy burrell

      I can suggest a couple of pieces that are available on my website, http://www.hurtbylove.com, in the “Cindy’s Articles” section: one is entitled “False Repentance,” and the other is authored by a pastor and reprinted with his permission entitled, Six Signs of Genuine Repentance, that includes his worksheet on the subject. I hope you find them helpful.

      Cindy

    • I don’t know whether you would count these as ‘practical’ enough Larry, but I do have two resources on my site that might help.
      Checklist for Repentance (When being sorry is genuine)
      Domestic Abuse Training for Busy Pastors
      I’d be interested to hear from you, Larry, whether either of them are practical enough for what you had in mind.And if they aren’t, can you explain to us in more detail what kind of thing might fit the bill?

  2. cindy burrell

    Also, Jeff, I wanted to make note that this piece is particularly timely. I will be meeting with a pastor at our church probably next week (our second meeting on the subjects of abuse and biblical divorce, as he recently finished my book, God Is My Witness: Making a Case for Biblical Divorce” and he is now prepared to discuss it.) I think he may find what you offer here compelling, and I need all the help I can get. Our position on this subject still seems to be a tough sell. I have to believe that, armed with God’s truth, change is imminent.

    Thank you.

    Cindy

    • Anonymous

      Cindy, I agree with you that it is a tough sell. Every time I broach it with pastors, and I don’t badger them, I do it after months of letting them get to know me so they can “read” my motives and sincerity in the faith, I get stony reactions. I am in a new church after a long time of trying to find a safe place, and finally gathered the courage to bring it up with my pastor. He has stonewalled me.

      It makes me wonder what survivors are supposed to do. We don’t want to give up fellowship and try our hardest to find a church where we can safely worship, and when we finally settle somewhere, we want them to know our journey or our fellowship will be superficial. I want my family (in Christ) to know where I am, where I’ve been and who I am as a result of what God has done. But I can’t do that meaningfully without engaging in a discussion about abuse. And if I don’t engage meaningfully, what’s the use of being in a fellowship, unless you just want to be a Sunday pew-warmer?

      • Anonymous

        Oh, and one other thing. Sometimes I find that leaders in general (I don’t want to just target pastors) tend to want to show sympathy to victims of violence, but often it comes out as a condescending, “poor woman!” sort of approach where all you are seen is a victim. Not a whole person, but a broken person who is probably bereft of judgement, good sense, depth of thought, spiritual insight, etc.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Anon- this seems to be one of those fortresses raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10). Therefore, we must use divinely powerful weaponry to deal with it. God’s Word and prayer. I recommend that if you are in a church that is not actively harming you (as can happen when an abuse victim is being given bad counsel and her abuser is being enabled by the church), that you stay in it for the long haul and diligently pray that the Lord would provide you with openings to educate people about this evil. One thing is certain, we ourselves will never be able to turn on the lights in anyone’s mind. But the Spirit of Christ certainly can.

      • Ellie

        I think this blog is useful in that regard. I am starting to let people know what’s going on with us. I email folks who check in with a “what’s up?” email and tell them that husband and I are separated and then I hyperlink to this blog and tell them how it’s helped me. The reader fills in the gaps – if they want to bother. I feel this blog is shielding me from having to explain or defend myself to others. If they want to know what’s going on and how to help me, they read it. If they don’t, they don’t. And I think letting others see the info on the blog communicates that I’ve gotten a thoroughly Christian perspective on abuse and what to do about it and that ACFJ is answering their objections for me through this blog. If they want to argue and if they know me and my learning style at all, they know I’ll be using the info I gained here so cut out the middleman and argue with ACFJ. So far, I’ve been very blessed and folks have been supportive and offered prayers and asked if I needed anything. Very blessed.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Ellie- What a great idea! And we are very glad to function as that go-between.

      • Ellie, it really encourages me to hear that.

      • Anonymous

        Ellie, after this website started, I did the same, sending links to people whom I thought would be more open and didn’t mind being educated, since they were caring enough to ask and show support. So far, what I have found is that victims respond enthusiastically but I get a stony silence from bystanders who are not victims, not even an acknowledgement of receipt. I am not sure which part of their nose gets out of joint. Maybe it’s a bit like that scene in Les Miserables where those in the houses at the barricade shut their doors and windows when it came down to getting their hands dirty.

        I will still keep sending links until someone tells me to stop! Then I’ll ask why 😛

      • Jeff S

        I too have gotten very little positive feedback from sending links to non-survivors, though I’ve always felt like part of this has to do with people seeing me as biased because I write for the blog.

        I also struggle with the fear that people will just think I’m dwelling on the past too much and remaining in “victim mode”; that may be projection on my part, but I can’t help but feel like people judge me as not moved on if I talked about domestic violence. My problem is not that I haven’t moved on, but that I am not willing to see others left behind.

        In the end, I’ve posted links to this blog in paces where other survivors can find it, and those links have produced positive feedback. I’m really ok with that- as much as I wish the seekers would be attracted to this blog and see the truth we proclaim, it’s the victims and survivors I am most pleased to see find comfort here. If enough survivors become comfortable with themselves and the choices they’ve made, the seekers will have to listen and the Pharisees will be silenced.

      • To all who are sending out links and raising the subject of domestic abuse when opportunity presents itself, you are not in victim mode, you are in advocate mode. Victims may be advocates for themselves, but they often become advocates for other victims too. When the people we advocate to don’t like us banging on about this stuff, they often try to dismiss us by saying “Oh, she’s just wallowing in victim-mode.” “He’s just got a chip on his shoulder because he hasn’t moved on from that bad experience with his first wife.”

        Even if they don’t say this out loud to us, I suspect they often think it privately to themselves and say it behind our backs. So Jeff, I understand your fear of people thinking you are remaining in victim mode, it’s probably not unfounded.

        It’s like so many things in this abuse field:– we have to re-label what is going on. My ex was not a poor man at the mercy of his suspicious mind and volatile temper; he was a deliberate abuser. I am not doing this work because I am stuck in victim mode; I am doing it because I am an advocate for those who are still being abused.

      • good on ya, Anon! way to go!

      • Ellie

        A few people in ministry have acknowledged the links I’ve sent. I keep sending links to posts and I will until I’m told to buzz off. Good thought to ask why, but only if I’m up for a fight. Too stressful at this time. I know many ministers. One in particular lamented that he didn’t know more about DV and abuse and said he was looking forward to learning. An old friend is studying family violence and she was happy to have a Christian perspective/response to the problem for her studies. She knows many ministers and I am hopeful that she will refer others here too and many will be equipped to help survivors.

        But I am mostly thankful right now that ACFJ can fight this battle for me and I don’t have to answer too many questions.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks much Cindy. I plan to write part 2 in this series tomorrow morning and will probably be focusing on the need for pastors to know what real repentance looks like, and how false repentance can be identified. Both you and Larry pointed out the importance of this matter and I really appreciate it. Blessings on your meeting with the pastor. Yes, this subject is indeed a hard sell, probably for a number of reasons. One is that it is so incredibly evil that most Christians initially simply can’t believe such a thing exists, let alone in the church.

      • `Anonymous

        And maybe, Ps. Crippen you could address how much information is adequate to give to pastors and how much is just information they do not need to know!

  3. dimitra

    Can’t wait to read the book ( A Cry of Justice).

    • Hi Dimi, the book has been published. 🙂 Just click on the cover image in the sidebar. You can get it at all book retailers.

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