A Cry For Justice

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

The Nouthetic Counseling (and Peacemaker’s) version of Psalm 54

The Lord Upholds My Life

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “Is not David hiding among us?”

O God, save me by your name,

and vindicate me correct my sinful attitudes by your might.

O God, hear my prayer;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

For strangers have risen against me;

ruthless men flawed, imperfect people who need to be shown compassion and forgivenesss seek my life;

they do not set God before themselves, but I must try to communicate better with them. Selah

Behold, God is my helper;

the Lord is the upholder of my life.

He will return the evil to my enemies teach me that I must examine myself, rather than focus on the sins of others;

in your faithfulness put an end to them the sinful attitudes I have held in my heart.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;

I will give thanks to your name, O Lordfor it is good.

For he has delivered me from every trouble,

and my eye has looked in triumph with tolerant non-judgement on my enemies those who abuse me. Oops; I meant those who I sinfully perceived to have abused me, but now I know better. They did not abuse me. I confess I was sinning when I called it ‘abuse’. Please forgive me God. Amen.

* * *

Counselor: “Very good. Let us end this session with a prayer. . . .  Now, do you want me to bill your health insurance provider, or will you pay by credit card?”

______________________________________________________

Notes:

It may be that there are some Nouthetic or Biblical Counselors who do not take this approach. My satire is meant to provoke all victim-blaming counselors to reconsider their approach.  I call upon all truly Biblical counselors to educate and influence the counselors whose methods are effectively laying false guilt on victims of abuse.

Peacemaker Ministries (maybe that should that be PeacemakeR™ —there is a little thing in their logo that might be an asterisk but might be a TM symbol . . . ) promotes the same kind of thing as nouthetic counseling with the additional thumbscrew of Hebrews 13:17 (submit to your elders) on the assumption that all elders are keeping true watch over the souls of their flocks and never let their flocks be led away by snakes, devoured by wolves and  trampled on by swine. See Peacemaker’s advice for victims of domestic abuse.

31 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This topic – “TRIGGER” … Spent years on the Peacemaking and Nouthetic Counseling rollercoaster. The Peacemakers site, “As God enables you to change things you may be doing that aggravate conflict in your marriage, it may be easier for your husband to submit to counseling and make lasting progress in controlling his anger.” — Now, what does a wife do in order to not to aggravate a lying, deceitful husband?? Oh yes, just remain quiet and leave him alone.
    With one counselor, I expressed that I was changing; I felt like such a ‘nag’ for wanting to discuss some very serious issues. I was politely told that I had better change; that I chose to be a ‘nag’. I was once again silenced.

  2. MeganC

    Exactly! Good stuff, Barb. This REALLY clarifies the twistedness.

  3. Ellie

    Chortle

  4. Jeff Crippen

    This is a sarcastic take on the Psalm but the fact is that it very accurately describes the very kind of “counsel” that you will hear in the world of the nouthetic. Sin, sin, sin – and namely, YOUR sin. This is why we reject this school of counseling as, at the very least, a half truth. Sure, much genuine counseling needs to help us see our own sin. But if we leave out the other part of the story, how the sin of OTHERS traumatizes us, then much damage can be done. Jay Adams and his school is simply too simplistic, too “one size fits all” in his approach.

  5. Now Barbara, I notice you did not deal with vs. 7 which speaks of deliverance from trouble. Leaving it as it is could be construed as sinfully desiring to be…delivered from trouble. I mean like, well, trouble. You know. Hardship and the like.

    I do hope the reason you did not deal with this is not because you have a sinful idol of safety or comfort in your heart. Those heart idols must be rooted out and dealt with, you know. Hem hem….

  6. Thanks Chris!
    Readers, this is the Chris Moles who did a webinar with Leslie Vernick earlier this year.

  7. IamMyBeloved's

    The words of my Christian counselor: “The second abuse occurs in the marriage, the covenant is broken and the marriage no longer exists.”

    The words of the cult leaders who previously counseled me: “Well, you have your own sin and you are just as much a sinner as he is. Let’s focus on your sin and focus on the fact that he said he was sorry, although he has never admitted to any abuse”. Exactly. So what IS he sorry for. They endangered our lives repeatedly and did not care. The misuse of Scripture was horrendous and was what eventually led me to know I was in a cult, not a Church.

    This “Let’s focus on your own sin”, is used in addiction treatment and I saw this in a documentary about the Wilson’s who began AA. Once I saw that in the film, I realized that this theory did not come from the Bible, but rather from this establishment. Women who are married to alcoholics, were trained to focus on their own life and sin, in order to be able to dumb-down the alcoholic’s behavior and learn to live with it. I do not think we should be applying standards for addiction treatment, to abusers. I also have my own thoughts about using that in any form of treatment, for any form of evil behavior.

  8. Anonymous

    Great work, Barbara!! That’s what they do, massage the Scriptures to fit in with their framework of counseling. Leave the Scriptures alone!

  9. Happy2bHere

    Another reason I’m thankful for this site. I remember how awful and hopeless i felt during marriage counseling a few years back. It should have been a red flag to the counslor when my husband said, “she only wants me to come so she can get permission to leave”. I was [supposedly] the miserable one who’s never satisfied and trying to just throw away my marriage. This counselor claimed to counsel only on marriage not divorce, so what do I expect. I wish I knew then what I do now.

    It’s also depressing and unnerving trying to explain why I don’t want to find a church to attend while still married/living with my husband. A dear friend of mine told me the other day I need to come to her church again, and God won’t solve all my problems, but will meet me more than halfway. I told her that doesn’t make sense and its a bit pompous to say given that I still believe I just don’t wish to be open to even more criticism when my husband does his victim act trying to save our marriage. She means well, but just doesn’t get it because she fortunately has never experienced this type of situation.

  10. Suzanne

    I just don’t get it. Why is the first instinct, the first thought of people who have been asked for help by victims of abuse, to blame the abuse on the victim? Where does this lunacy come from? Are we just not graphic enough in discussing what our abusers have done? Or are these “helpers” simply heartless? Do they go into counseling to enjoy the pain of others? Do they deliberately seek to perpetuate the abuse when they convince the victims to stay with their abusers? Abuse is evil. Abusers are sinners. Victims should be protected and helped to heal. They should not be pressured to endure more abuse for any reason or any length of time.

    • Suzanne, partly it is because people believe the myths about domestic abuse, myths such as
      “It takes two to tango.”
      “She must be doing something to cause him to treat her that way.” (in Christian circles this is often couched as “She is not submissive enough”)
      “People make up accusations of abuse just to seek attention.”
      “It’s not his fault; he is a victim of his troubled past/substance abuse/mental illness.”
      “She’s not being hit/beaten, so it’s not abuse.”

  11. Brenda R

    Barbara, I think I will send my former counselor flowers. She didn’t fall into this rose colored glasses sentiment and misinterpretation of the Bible. She understood abuse first hand and called sin what it is. When I tried to take blame for X’s bahavior with this type of misinterpetation she brought out her Bible and said this is what the book actually says. God bless her and you for your work.

  12. thepersistentwidow

    When I came to the church for help, I was at the absolute lowest point of my life. I could not bear with the craziness of the abuse, the threats, or damage done to children any longer. I was totally trusting in my church authorities that their counseling would help us and that my husband would bear the responsibility of his sin. Not so. Barb’s post is accurate and exactly what to expect in church counseling.

    This type of counseling is so irrational that it causes another round of crazymaking for someone who desperately needs validation and direction. I felt like I was losing my sanity and the stress of the counseling was as bad as the abuse. I expected that the church would specialize in truth, but I was presented with a pack of lies (He looks sorry, awwww…you don’t have it so bad, you’re no saint, either). How is that going to benefit someone who is subjected to an unregeneratate, vindictive, threatening person?

    There is nothing biblical about this. Because the counselor had a degree from PCA Covenant Seminary, I expected that she was someone I could trust. Shortly into the first session, It became obvious to me that the counselor was misapplying Scripture and was theologicaly inept. I also perceived that she had an agenda to cause me self doubt and question my Christianity. It seems they cause confusion to further weaken the abused
    leaving them unable to think for themselves. Forced “reconciliation” with the abuser seems to be the goal. They had me down, but thankfully the Lord shored up my spirit enough that I was able to tell them that what they were doing was unbiblical. I left because I perceived how wicked the whole thing was, because of the tremendous costs and potental danger of playing these games with a violent man. Of course, that meant that the church would not support me and implied that I would be disciplined. I am thankful now that the Lord used this event to lead me out of that denomination to a church body where I am encouraged, strengthened, and divorce for abuse is not a stigma.

    These counselors are self deceived to think that they are doing the Lord’s work or that their counseling is a ministry. They are the accusers of the bretheran and God will avenge.

    • Brenda R

      Widow,

      I counseled with the pastor of my church when I first started attending there. I was only told that we needed to get X saved and marriage is only for a little while and then we would go on to our true home. Well maybe his marriage was for a little while because he has a more biblical marriage, but mine seemed never ending day after day. X would even tell me that we were going to Heaven together and I was so glad that their is no marriage in Heaven. I found sound biblical counsel outside of the church and have remained a thorn often sending articles, invitations to webinars and truths about abuse to the pastor and rebuttles of things he has said in sermons.

      I have found supportive people in the body and am so glad that you have found a church that supports you. I have been blessed with friends who have survived abuse or recognized its potential and avoided the relationship. I believe that those who have abused us will be judged accordingly even if we do not see justice in this life. God does not find their rejection of what He intended marriage to be something that will be over looked or taken lightly.

  13. Carmen S.

    You have to deal with the dualist interpretation of reality of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. Everything is seen through either a growing awareness of God’s holiness or a growing awareness of my sinfulness.

    Jay Adams did not fuse justification and sanctification together as the “second generation” of biblical counseling movement does. He acknowledged a real new birth, not just a realm change. Please, don’t lump him with the second and third generation of the biblical counseling movement. They hate his guts.

  14. Barnabasintraining

    Hi Chris. It’s thoughtful (and maybe brave 🙂 ) of you to post.

  15. I am hypersensitive to anyone suggesting that I have to look at my sin.
    I am burnt out looking at my sin… I have developed a mentality where I have to take the brunt of the issues because I sin. I have been in a legalistic, strict church environment and this is the damage that has been done from wrong teaching.

    The minute a book, a counselor, a person tries to put any blame on me for the trauma I experience I react inside. I don’t speak out, I shut down, shut out and shut the book.

    The last counselor I had told me I cannot change my husband…. I realize that… she told me I had to look at myself, grow and see God do wonders in my home as this happened. I am the heart of the home and the blessings would permeate out to all. I just cannot and could not handle these thoughts she had. I am over it. Today I start counseling with a lady that specializes in Domestic Violence and she is a Christian. I have spoken to her face to face already and told her that I don’t need to be told where I’m going wrong. I just need someone to listen to me and believe me and walk me through it. She totally understood.
    So we will see how today goes.

    I am finding that I can only take things in bite sized pieces. This whole thing is affecting my health physically and mentally. Its like God opens my eyes bit by bit as I just wouldn’t cope with knowing it all at once.

    A question: Is a cynic a personality thing or is this a sinful attitude? my husband is a cynic and he gloats about it. I dislike a cynical attitude. Also he is critical, mocks, is cynical but thinks people should be like him his told me the other day… he said he is level headed and on an even keel…. REALLY?

    • Is a cynic a personality thing or is this a sinful attitude? my husband is a cynic and he gloats about it. I dislike a cynical attitude. Also he is critical, mocks, is cynical but thinks people should be like him his told me the other day… he said he is level headed and on an even keel…. REALLY?

      A person may be cynical about a certain group or a certain individual with good grounds because that individual or group has demonstrated a track record of immorality or irresponsibility. Eg, we are sensible to be cynical about the veracity of a person who is a chronic and habitual liar. We are sensible to be cynical about the claims of commercial advertising.

      But having a cynical stance about everything is not sensible or godly; rather, it more likely shows a character defect. When I think of a habitual cynic I think of an armchair critic who enjoys being negative about everything but does not bother trying to improve anything or encourage those who are doing the hard work at the coal face to keep things working in civilised society. Arm chair critics and cynics are a dime a dozen, and they are a drain on the hard-working folk who are trying to uphold righteousness and justice in the face of the human bias towards flesh, sin and selfishness.

  16. Brenda R

    Revchris, I was thankful for the webinar that you did with Leslie Vernick. I sent the invitation for my pastor to listen in. I haven’t had any feedback from him, but I’m not giving up. Thank you for your work.

  17. thepersistentwidow

    Loves6, There is nothing like a legalistic church environment coupled with domestic abuse to make a person physically sick. At the time I left my abusers (both church and spouse), my immune system was breaking down to the point that I was sick all of the time. Your church is obscuring the Gospel and laying a lot of unecessary works on you-works that are just impossible. There is no way that we can regenerate wicked people, that is the Holy Spirit’s job. You are in no way the reason for why he acts the way he does. He is responsible for his own behavior and he does indeed sound verbally and emotionally abusive.

    The Gospel is that Christ himself did all of the works that we need for salvation. When we hear that proclaimed, and we believe that he is our righteousness, we are saved. So many churches say that they believe this, yet how much of their preaching and teaching is devoted to this crucial doctrine? In actuality they spend more time focused on what we need to do and be than what Christ has done. To those who are perishing, the Gospel is foolishness. Could it be that such churches don’t focus on the Gospel because they don’t themselves believe it? Are they trusting more in man made teachings on morality and gender roles to bring about an appearance of godliness in their members? Are they laying heavy burdens on victims to change evil people? Something that can not be humanly done?

    I think that the best thing to do is remove ourselves from legalists. They are dangerous to us because if we continue to seek spiritual advise from such people (who deny the Gospel with their works righteousness) it is as if we assent to their false teaching. By God’s mercy, I finally found myself in a LCMS church hearing the Gospel as it was meant to be heard. The weight of the guilt lifted off of my tired spirit and I felt like I was brought back to life, like a wilted flower that was watered. Finally, I feel alive again. I suggest that you follow your instincts in dealing with all of this and do what is best to keep yourself safe. I have found that it does get better once you remove yourself from the abuse because the problems are not with you but with the abusers.

  18. Robbin

    Chris I was so thrilled to see you comment on this site. You were a speaker at my church last July for a Biblical Counseling Conference. Listening to your CDs and then hearing Leslie Vernick on the radio began my journey of realizing the verbal, emotional, and financial abuse going on in my marriage for over 10 years.

    I have been under Biblical counseling at my church all that time and never heard the word abuse. As things have escalated in my marriage my leaders have not really known what to do with my situation. I can’t tell you the agony I have gone thru as I have filed for Legal Separation. Agony because nobody in my circle knows how to deal with abuse other than physical.

    I have been counseled with all the words in this Psalm. I have learned so much about my own heart and my sin and not blaming my husband and letting God change me but If I had known a long time ago what I know now about abuse other than physical, things could be different in my family maybe. I have gone to the leaders over me and they are very slow, if at all,in acknowledging cases like mine. My situation is now divorce. It will be final in a week or so. My church is helping me financially and encouraging but I don’t know who to go to for counseling. Just to deal with the changes of going from being married for 25 years to a single Mom.
    I find it sad that I am looking at going to our shelter for counseling.

    Listening to you and Leslie has been a lifeline to me. I have experienced Gods grace from you. I hope to meet you as you will be speaking at my church in Montana again this summer at the same Biblical Counseling Conference.

    It is sad to me as well that my husband was not confronted with his behaviors. You have spoken a lot about the help needed for the abuser. At a meeting with one of my elders and 2 of my pastors after I spoke to them about what I was learning about emotional, verbal, and financial abuse, I was told that all I had done was talk about my husband, that the word abuse is not in the Bible and at least one of them did not agree with you. I have been very confused. By Gods grace I am not bitter but sad about the lack of help for women in my situation and the abuser. No man at my church ever confronted my husband about his behavior. Thank you for speaking out. I so wanted my pastor over counseling and the pastor over my case to listen to you and Leslie speak to people helpers but I don’t think they did. Maybe when you come you can have a session on abuse that doesn’t include physical. The elder I spoke with, his response to your sessions last summer was that you were talking about physical abuse.

    Sorry to be so wordy. I was just excited to see your response. Thank you and looking forward to hearing you this summer.

    • Robbin, so good to hear from you. First of all, I am so sorry to hear what you are experiencing. I’ll definitely make this a matter of prayer. I look forward to meeting you this summer. Are you attending the conference? I LOVE your church and the counseling team (I pray for them often). I’m excited to be back this summer. Obviously, something touched a nerve last year as I have received more feedback (mostly positive) from that conference than any other I’ve done 🙂 I’ve even heard of a couple of victim support groups possibly beginning in a neighboring state and in northern MT following that conference. PTL. Unfortunately, pastors in general, and biblical counselors in particular lack training in the dynamics of abuse. As much as we are encouraged each other to “get to the heart” we fail to see that all abuse (whether physical or otherwise) flows from a heart of entitlement bent on control.

      We have a long way to go but I believe we will see a shift in the coming years. I have already seen a tremendous amount of movement from Faith Church in Lafayette (where your church receives training). They now oversee the safe-haven house in their community and some of their counselors have worked alongside the local victim’s advocate in a couple of cases I’m aware of.

      I will be leading a case study this summer, and it does focus on physical violence. I will however be talking about escalation as well as sharing the power and control wheel and equality wheel. Generally when I walk through the intervention process I focus on abuse as a pattern of behavior including emotional, verbal, etc. Peace.

      • Ellie

        I know a couple of people who might be interested in those MT support groups. Please keep us posted!

  19. Amylisa C.

    Wow…it took me a minute to realize the direction of this post. To be honest, at first I really Was reading it the way the “Biblical counselor” would have edited the psalm. I began feeling guilty, since yesterday I did finally put my foot down and tell my husband we need to separate. But then as I grasped the intent of this post, it made me want to cry with relief. Wow…great way to get the point across! Recently I found in a book by Lundy Bancroft “Why Does He DO That?”, the truth that traditional counseling does not work with abusive people. I found this out by experience as well. When it came down to it, the counselor advised me to do something to make my husband feel special. What???
    Thank you for this post.

  20. thepersistentwidow

    Amylisa, You are right to find the counselor’s recommendation to do something to make him feel special ridiculous. This is a red flag that the counselor does not understand abuse and likely finds the purpose of counseling to “fix” the marriage by pushing you back into abuse. I experienced that kind of counseling firsthand. Keep alert, and if something doesn’t seem right, it very likely isn’t. Be prepared to walk away from the counseling (and possibly the church) if you feel that your boundaries are being violated or the situation unsafe. Praying for you.

    • Amylisa C.

      Thank you, Widow. I did tell my husband yesterday we are going to separate, and I refused to do any more talking or attempting to talk. I feel some relief of the fear and stress since at least now we are moving toward separating. He has not moved out yet, so this is not over. I am trying to be cautious…yes I did end the counseling after that. My husband said that our going to counseling didn’t help anyway, which is true. But he did go into it with the mindset of “What can they tell me that I don’t already know.” So yeah, that was helpful. >.<

  21. James

    As someone who takes a nouthetic approach, I find that blanket assumptions and satirical accusations are less than helpful in creating honest dialog. If you have a point to make, the fire, ready, aim approach rarely creates enough good will to make sure you point is heard.

    • James, from time to time we publish satirical posts on this blog. You came across one of them and have admonished us for using a tone that is not conducive to creating honest dialogue.

      I am more than happy to enter into honest dialogue with you if you are genuinely wishing to do so. I would encourage you to read more of the posts we have under our nouthetic counseling tag, and then respond to any of the points we make. We currently have eighteen posts under that tag, and this one, this post you have commented on here, is the only one which is satirical.

      Why did I write this satirical post? Several reasons:

      1. The Apostles and Prophets in the Bible often used satire to point out wrong beliefs and practices in the community of believers. God himself, through his prophets, sometimes uses satire invectively to rebuke the nation of Israel. So satire is a legitimate medium of critique and admonishment.

      2. Many readers of this blog are victim/survivors of both domestic abuse and appalling counseling from nouthetic-type counselors. They have suffered greatly as a result of the counsel they have been given. They are hurting. And they have a right to be angry at having been given bad counsel. Counsel that laid false guilt on them. Counsel that wrongly blamed them. Counsel that often kept them in bondage for YEARS more to the abuser. In the context of such pain and anger, it is sometimes helpful to exercise a bit of black humour. It relieves the emotions in a safe way. It validates the rightness and healthiness of the survivor’s pain and anger. It points out how ludicrous these distortions of scripture are that the nouthetic counseling movement has promoted.

      I make no apology for using satire in this post. If it stings you a bit, maybe you need to feel stung, so you will be galvanised into examining our reasonable arguments about the dangers of nouthetic counseling and the harms it has done to victims of abuse.

      I beg you to read the other post in the link I gave above.

      And, by the way, it strikes me as somewhat typical of a nouthetic counselor to embark right away, in a quiet but deliberate manner, on admonishing the complainant. That’s what you did. …. And it’s an exact parallel of what typically happens when a victim of abuse discloses the abuse to a nouthetic counselor: the counselor gently admonishes the victim for having use a wrong tone in making their complaint about the conduct of their spouse…

      • healinginhim

        Barbara –Thank you for your eloquent reply to “James”.

        James – I am one of the many victims of Nouthetic counseling. Believe me I truly tried. The man I married for many years even admitted that I was the one that gave more to the relationship. He doesn’t say that anymore. In fact he doesn’t even talk to me which is what he has wanted – to use me as a bedtime lover and someone to watch over the children that were often conceived during sexual abuse.

        James, your brief comment ‘triggered’ me with the arrogance of several counselors who felt they had all the answers by twisting Scriptures. I was so vulnerable and desperately wanting to please God that I attempted to live by ‘their rules’ and yet sensing that this just doesn’t seem like something Christ would condone.

        Forgive me for being long-winded, however the pain is still ongoing as I cautiously move forward. It’s difficult as I have developed physical ailments due to all the stress of keeping ‘the sins’ hidden for so very long. The church did not help.

        I am so very grateful that my loving Lord and Savior allowed me to finally discover ministries like ACFJ which offered resources and pastors “who get it”. My prayer is that the years of suffering are well worth it if my testimony helps others — of how I finally realized that the church and many so-called Biblical counselors were twisting Scripture to keep me bound, well, it is worth it so that the true Gospel is proclaimed.

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