A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and Christianity: Why the “Christian” Abuser is the Worst Kind

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. Acts 20:28-31 ESV

I think that Christians are faced with the worst kind of abuser — the “Christian” abuser.  The person who claims to be a Christian but who is nothing but a facade and who, in reality, is a power and control motivated, entitlement-thinking wolf in wool.  And it is important for us to realize this.  Not only are we often the most naive people when it comes to “getting it” about abuse, but we in the Christian church often have to face the most evil abusers.

Why do I suggest this?

Well, just consider what is required for a person to be an abuser and then in addition, play out his abuse in the charade of a Christian character.  Surely we must see that this kind of act requires a much harder heart and lack of conscience than doing the same thing “out there” in the world.   Notice that the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both called wicked, abusive people within the visible church “wolves.”  Does the Bible call any enemies of Christ who are outside the visible church by this same title?  Maybe I have missed such a Scripture passage, but I can’t think of one.  A wolf who dons a sheep’s disguise and sneaks in among the flock is a far greater danger and of a greater savagery than one that makes no pretense to be anything but what he is, a wolf.

So what does this mean for Christians?  It means that of all people on this planet, we are the ones who need to be and who should be the real experts on the nature, mentality, and tactics of evil.  We should know these things better than anyone else.  Because we are the ones who are going to have to face the greatest threat and the most cunning representatives of the enemy.  Right now, it does not seem to be so.  What we see over and over again is the most ill-prepared soldiers facing the most crafty agents of evil.  The result is that we are duped, victims suffer even more because of our ineptitude, and the enemy must be really enjoying himself watching all of it.

The fact that an abuser who is a professing Christian is the worst kind of abuser also has implications for victims and for those who would help those victims.  A woman, for example, whose husband is of this sort is actually facing an even more intensified degree of abuse.  Why?  Because, let me say it once more, being wicked and at the same time choosing to masquerade as a Christian requires a greater degree of evil.  The raging abuser whose violence is plain to see may look far worse than the nice, respectable, saintly fellow we know at church and yet who is a demon at home.  But think it through.  Which one of the two is actually called a “wolf” by Christ?

The Word of God very often points to evil people who sneak in among the church as particular dangers.  For example:

Jude 1:12-13 ESV (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; (13)  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.

Where in God’s Word do we find that level of intense condemnation for someone who is outside the visible church, making no claim of Christ at all?  It does seem that Scripture agrees with us then when we suggest that as Christians, we can expect to face the most evil kind of abuser.

And that fact alone should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice that maybe, just maybe, these victims who come to us for help just might be telling us the truth.

29 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Why is it that this article is so needed in churches, and yet I am nervous about sending it to any of my friends, let alone pastors?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Because when people refuse to acknowledge the message, they will turn their ire upon the messenger. I have told people things like this before and had them explode in anger that I would so “slander” the abusive man. In one case the person I told virtually covered their ears and said “keep it to yourself! I don’t want to hear that stuff!”

  2. Jeff, I thank you for having the courage to write this article – it’s a Truth-punch, for certain, in the face of “christian” abusers. Like the commenter above, I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for victims to speak out… or why, when they do, they are the ones getting blamed and shot down. It’s beyond understanding!

    Just today I published a similar article, written from the perspective of the psychopathic pastor. It’s a true story, my own story.

    Thank you so much for speaking up!!!!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      You are welcome, Susan. I will check out your article if it is on your site. There is a general attitude of refusal on the part of Christians and pastors to look at evil square on. It is a very selfish attitude at best and at worst even demonstrates that those sympathizing with the abuser are of the same ilk as he is. Inevitably, everything comes down to our theology and the terrible coverup of abuse in the church demonstrates a gross deficiency in what we call biblical doctrine. God’s Word never covers up evil. But many (most) professing Christians try to cover it up at the expense of the victim. The victim becomes not only a whistleblower in respect to the evil of her abuser, but she is announcing that there is something rotten in the church and that is something that our church-grower, success-driven, CEO visionary church leaders simply cannot permit to become public knowledge. We must keep the people happy, happy, happy. The neon sign-boards outside the church building have to keep flashing excitement: “Sonrise school registration tomorrow!” – “Sunshine all-church picnic next Sunday” – “Sundae social this evening.” The realization that evil lurks in the pews and has been there for a long time puts a real damper on all of this sunshine. Many local churches, in my opinion, are not true churches at all and if Christ wrote a letter to them, it would be much like His letter to the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3).

      • Well stated… I used to be part of the “seeker sensitive” movement… was a youth and children’s pastor… I’ve done pretty much everything church-related and have been a regional coordinator for an international ministry, covering 10 Midwestern states…. Everything you’ve written is “spot on” as the British say. I hope you will keep writing on this topic. I will explore other parts of your site today… just found your site, today, by the way!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Susan – my email does not want to accept your email address. Could you email me at swordtrowel@gmail.com and I will get the info to you that you need.

      • “Sundae social” – that’s brilliant! The cherries, nuts and chocolate chips and caramel sauce are gracing the top of the icecream, but the cone is melted at the bottom and the blood of the victims is dripping out…

  3. Hi Jeff, I apologize for a 2nd comment, but I cannot find a place on this site to contact you privately. I would like to invite you to post this article at my website: http://teamfamilyonline.com/anatomy-of-a-seduction-easy-prey/ to gain great visibility. I will also link to your site from the article mentioned above, as I believe that as we all lend our voices to this topic, this cry of justice, that we can make a better impact. I would love to include your bio at the bottom, as well.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Susan – I will email you.

    • Hi Susan and Jeff,
      I am really happy to find both of your websites and I am going to follow both of you on Twitter. I wish the three of us could sit and have a coffee because our passions seems to really overlap. I am a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in Canada but I have been out of congregational ministry for 10 years. I have been working for 16 years with women who have been abused by their husbands. One of the reasons I left congregational ministry was because the church chose to turn a blind eye when one of their pastors was abusing his wife. I hope you will both check out our website. whenlovehurts.ca. It is not explicitly for Christians as we want to reach as many woman as possible. My husband and I have our personal story up there (which is Christian) and Susan, I wonder if you might consider posting it at some point. There is a lot of information on our website for women so I hope you will both consider directing women there. A video series is do to be posted there in Oct. Thanks to both of you. Keep up the important work. @KarenMcAndless

      • Jeff Crippen

        Karen – great to connect with you. You saw the very thing we are talking about first hand. I will be glad to check out your website. My son-in-law and daughter live east of Vancouver. He was a pastor for 4 years but the all-too-common power/control people who don’t even know Christ “own” that church and he simply could not continue. Things have been pretty hard for them since that time. He is a great pastor and we pray that the Lord will lead him to the right church.

      • Karen, thanks for your comment and glad to have contact with you. I have actually had a link on my original site (notunderbondage.com) for years now, linking to the story of you and your husband and how you both woke up to his abuse, and he changed. So I’ve been aware of you for years, but I don’t think we’ve ever emailed each other directly. I believe you and your husband (correct me if I’m wrong) were also part of the RBC video series When Love Hurts which we link to on our resources page.

        We’ve now added a link to you book/website on our resources page.

  4. joepote01

    Very true, Jeff!

    I think there are a couple of addtional reasons why the so-called “Chrstian” abuser is the worst kind.

    Typically, they will twist the word of God to their purposes. For a believing spouse, this can have a devastating effect, as it (falsely) appears that God is on the side of the abuser.

    Also, all good lies have a grain of truth, and when the truth of God’s word is twisted to support a lie, that lie is more powerful and deceptive than it would otherwise be.

    We see several examples, in scripture, of Satan, the father of lies, using these same tactics of twisting the truth of God’s word to support his lies.

    • imsetfree

      I have always had great trouble relating to God as a loving father. Until this evening I thought that was because my father was an abuser. Now I’ve read this blog`s definition of abuser and it turns out my father wasn’t one because he really had a lot of empathy for people outside the family and his abuse happened only sometimes. What I want to know is, could what I experienced be spiritually damaging in terms of how I see God as the abuse experience by those hurt by really evil people? I seem to have all the same effects and symptoms as people who have been victims of actual abusers? So even though my dad wasn’t an abuser, just abusive, because of the bipolar he had (his religion forbade medication and secular counselling) is it possible the affect he has had on me is just as damaging? Because had great difficulty believing God cares about me as much as other people or that He is on my side?

      • joepote01

        Imsetfree –

        Most abusers keep a facade of ‘nice guy’ or even ‘godliness’ outside the home or around people other than the abuse targets.

        Also, most abusers do not continually abuse. Rather they follow a cycle of abuse, apology, make-up, tension, abuse…

        In fact, the cycle is part of the insidious nature of abuse…it is very deceptive to the abuse target, trying to discern the true nature of their abuser.

        If your father was abusive toward his family and if his abusive behavior was cyclic, then he was likely a classic abuser.

        And, yes, any abuse from someone we trust is damaging.

  5. Thanks for this, Jeff. You could write an article like this every day for your blog and it still would not be enough. So very needed!!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      You are welcome Diane. Yes, it is a message that needs to be shouted out!

  6. MAM

    Wow, thank you. I have been following your blog for a couple of months now. It has just been a bit longer than that that I have really been faced with the abuse in my own marriage. I didn’t see it to the degree that it has been. I have confronted my husband about his abusive behavior and he has decided to leave me stating it’s because I’m unsubmissive and disrespectful. But in the face of all that and having to raise 4 kids on my own with one on the way I am seeing God move in amazing ways. My church leadership too has turned a blind eye to what has gone on and now they don’t say anything… period. But I have hope for the first time in so many years. Hope that God will restore my heart and soul. Hope that my children and I will find a “normal” life of freedom and love. I know it’s going to be a long hard road but the truth has set me free in more ways than one.

    • Jeff Crippen

      MAM- Excellent. Keep reading and learning. If you haven’t read Bancroft’s book Why Does He do That? be sure to do so. It isn’t a Christian book, but it is the best. By now, as you have been reading the blog, you realize that your church’s silence and willful blindness is sadly to be expected. Don’t let it sway you from your course. Also, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of your local women’s resource center/shelter. They are friends, not enemies. Blessings on you and we look forward to hearing from you again for a progress report!

  7. movedbyfaith

    Reblogged this on Moved By Faith and commented:
    Unbelievable post for an unbelievable friend of mine. I am posting this specifically for you my love! Take the time to read this a few times, I think you will gather more each time you read it.

  8. this post just described my father. the church also needs to watch who they put in leadership. my father was a deacon, elder, S.S. teacher, and youth leader, and wicked narcissistic/sociopath abuser at home. he came across nice to everyone else. now i am spending a life time in recovery and struggle not to see God and the earthly monster i grew up with.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Buck- Exactly. We aren’t doing well at spotting the savage wolves that come in or arise from within. We don’t have an excuse for this ignorance because Christ has given us plenty of warning. But we seem to want to cling to fantasy thinking about “how many nice and good people there really are out there.” We pray that the Lord will enable you to sort out your heavenly Father from your earthly one. Thank you very much for sharing.

      • Thank you kindly. I think the leadership need to look into the lives of those being placed into these roles. Watch closely these people…There are visible signs. Blessing to you I’m so glad you are speaking up on this.

    • imsetfree

      Although my dad wasn’t a sociopath I understand your struggle. I didn’t get on with my dad much so I know what you going through. I see God the same way as you did. I think even when nice people like my dad get abusive sometimes (it was a pattern but not daily so no he wasn’t an abuser) it can distort their concept of God. In fact I’ve had a worse concept of Father God than many people I know whose fathers really were evil and abusive.

      • Dear Imsetfree, have you read the definition of abuse which we have in our sidebar? It says:
        The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.

        The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.

        * Sometimes the genders are reversed.

      • So,you might like to consider the idea that your dad could have been an abuser. Abusers do not necessarily show their nasty (true) side every day. The pattern of conduct is the key, and you say there was a pattern with your dad.

  9. G. F. Mom

    Sadly, my older brother is this kind to my SIL. He is not hopeless but he needs it exposed for what it is. He is very strict with religious looking rules with my SIL and nieces while having this us and them mentality. My brother with his family he doesn’t realize feels to those of us that have visited them is like a little cult. But my bro struggles with secret sins and it doesn’t help but makes it worse that he expects extream modesty to over compensate for his secret sins while making himself more sensitive to the outside world. It’s sad. I want to confront him but he just subtly mocks and brushes me off politely, when I inch towards it or beat around the bush, because I’m a woman and his younger sister. I pray someone, his wife, or FIL, etc. holds him accountable. His wife is sadly indoctrinated enough to be scared to boldly question and hold him accountable. She recently told me considering divorce is the devil’s whisperings and bitterness is sin. I feel sad I want to help her and I told her what I knew and that I validated her and told her its not her its my brother. She was thankful and told me some things but she doesn’t have access to her own private email or a computer at home. They live in another state. I’m praying though and trying to do what I can to help.

    Update about my husband he really is learning to be different to me and the girls. I know it’s barely been a month. My husband hardly has a religious hair on his head though he considers himself a Christian. His mom was a serious ‘c’hristian abuser and that’s why he is not religious.

  10. Sharon

    Thanks for this. My ex-husband is in a church (not mine ) & behaving quite poorly for a Christian (claimed). It’s only after our marriage ended I recognised the abuse & that he isn’t a true Christian (his affair ended our marriage). He is currently going through women at his church -seducing & they see through or if they are too needy he dumps them.

  11. A Bruised Reed

    Its funny (not really) that when my husband/abuser would “lead” devotions in our family, when we got to the point in John MacArthur’s book Drawing Near, he did NOT like the section on spiritual warfare. He knew we would be reading about how to recognize and expose him for the evil person that he really is.

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