A Cry For Justice

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

How complementarianism can magnify the entitlement mentality of men, making them worse

This is a case study of how the promotion of Male Headship can exacerbate a not-so-good man’s attitude of entitlement, making him even worse in his marriage than he might otherwise have been. It also touches on the foolishness and harm that can be done in a botched deliverance ministry.

The proponents of complementarianism claim that the teaching of male headship leads to men treating their wives with greater respect, more lovingly, as Christ loved the church, yada yada; and that this teaching is essential in saving the culture from its headlong rush into paganism and depravity.

Matthew Paul Turner’s interview with ‘Amy’ (not her real name) was published in June 2012. Titled Exorcism at Mars Hill: One Woman’s story of sex, demons and Mark Driscoll, the interview covers a lot of ground. I’m reproducing here (with Matthew’s permission) the parts of the interview that illustrate how emphasizing the doctrine of male headship can lead to men treating their wives with less respect, rather than more respect: how it blows up the bubble of male entitlement and inures selfish men from seeing their faults, let alone confessing and repenting of them.

When Matthew asks Amy a question, it is shown in purple. Bolding has been added by me at points where I think the story illustrates my thesis most clearly.

Mark [Driscoll]’s sermons played a pretty major factor in the breakdown of their marriage. Amy says that Mark’s preaching, both stylistically and thematically, changed significantly during her time there. Mark began sermonizing more and more about the roles of men and women in the home, using his words to empower men to rule over their households, and encouraging women to remain quiet, submissive, and above all, serve their husbands.

“My husband was always pretty stubborn,” says Amy, “but Mark’s preaching made that part of his personality worse. He most definitely felt empowered by Mark to rule over me. I experienced that more and more the longer we were married. The church encouraged it. And my resentment toward that grew over the years.”

Amy says that she and her husband felt a great deal of pressure to be that couple that Mark preached about. Much of that pressure came after they began going to Mars Hill’s marriage counseling.

“About a year after we joined Mars Hill, we began meeting with elders and sometimes deacons about our marriage problems. Usually that involved dinner with a member of church leadership and then after eating, we moved into the living room for ‘the talk’.”

During those talks Amy often felt invisible. “Mostly because I was the wife,” she says, “a woman, the ‘weaker vessel.’ Because I was a woman, my opinions and complaints fell on deaf ears. But my husband’s opinions and complaints, however, were always heard. Any complaint he’d make, I was told that I needed to repent. Often I’d leave those sessions feeling depressed and angry, feeling like a child because I’d been reprimanded for not being an obedient wife.”

Mark also counseled the couple. During one of those sessions, Amy remembers Mark saying, “Hey guys, tough shit. It’s too late now. You made a choice to get married. Get it together.” That “tough it out” sentiment, Amy says, was often the advice they received from many members of church leadership, not just Mark.

“Once, when I shared with Mark that I felt neglected in my marriage, he told that I was being a nagging wife and that I needed to suck it up. That was something Mark preached about a lot — the nagging wife.

Not living up to Mars Hill’s marital standards had emotional consequences, at least for Amy. “I felt a lot of guilt and fear, fear of disappointing the leadership or failing our other married friends. Sometimes I’d go through long periods of deep depression.”

One of the bigger obstacles to their marriage working, at least within the confines of Mars Hill’s standards, was Amy and her inability to become like the other wives at Mars Hill. “The longer I was there, the more I realized that I didn’t share the same ideals as those leading the church. I didn’t fit into their ‘wife mold’.”

What was it about your personality that didn’t fit Mars Hill’s so-called “wife mold”?

I spoke up too much. I wasn’t, according to them, “obedient”. I had opinions. Listen, I tried all the time to fit into that mold — you have no idea — but it wasn’t me. I couldn’t do it and I didn’t. I couldn’t just put my head down and remain silent. I was called “fiery” and “feisty” all the time, and I’ll admit, I am fiery and feisty. But that’s just me, a hot blooded Italian, I guess.

But I’m sure you weren’t the only married woman at Mars Hill who spoke up?

I was the only woman I knew who spoke up. All of the wives I knew followed along. They didn’t dare speak out. But that wasn’t me. I’ve always had a little dark streak–not a “mean spirited” streak–I’ve just always had a darker sense of humor. I like a little shock value here and there. I have tattoos and dark features. I’m also a fairly accomplished artist (she’s a painter of abstract and modern types of work on canvas. And today, she’s internationally known) and have always had a tendency to be more free-thinking.

And that was considered wrong?

Yes. I was often made to feel that, because I am different, I was living in sin and not conforming, that I wasn’t being obedient in my role as a wife. Over and over again, I was told that I was the problem, that I needed to submit, and “get my shit together”.

DEMONS

Amy and her husband’s marital unhappiness went on for years (the couple was married for eight-and-a-half years). At the time, leaving Mars Hill wasn’t an option. Her husband wouldn’t give it a second thought. And Amy’s unhappiness grew.

“I felt trapped,” says Amy, “And the guilt from our circle of friends at Mars Hill was unreal, sometimes oppressive.”

Amy says that she and her husband discussed the possibility of leaving each other on several occasions throughout the years.

“We hashed over getting a divorce for years,” Amy says, “but then the fear, guilt, and pressure would take over and we’d end up staying together.”

On one occasion in 2001, during a time when Amy struggled to become pregnant, she confesses that she’d almost conjured up the courage to ask her husband for a divorce. “I knew it would be better to do it before I got pregnant.”

But then, out of the blue, Amy found out that she was already two months pregnant.

“I’ll never forget what my husband said when I told him. He was standing in the bathroom doorway. I said, ‘I’m pregnant’. He hung his head and said, ‘Well, I guess we better try and make it work.’”

Just about twelve months later, Amy became pregnant again.

Amy adores being a mother, but she also admits that those first years of motherhood were some of the most difficult days of her life.

“I was knee-deep in diapers for 3-4 years at home alone. I totally lost my identity and grew even more depressed. I lost myself and felt, not only stifled, but undeniably trapped in my circumstances and surroundings. It was my only reality and I literally feared I couldn’t survive much longer because mentally I was downtrodden and unheard, it was unbearable and I knew I couldn’t go anymore. I felt like such a chronic failure compared to the ‘wives’ [at Mars Hill] and what Mark would preach I was supposed to do or be. I just couldn’t hit the marks he taught. And honestly, I started to see that I didn’t even want to.”

On numerous occasions, throughout their rocky marriage, Amy’s husband would confide to Mark about what was happening at home. On many of those occasions, Mark would summon them to his office for a talk. Amy admits that, toward the end, at a time when she describes her marriage as “in absolute shreds,” the whole “getting dragged into Mark’s office” routine was getting old. It happened so often that Amy began referring to Mark’s office as the principal’s office. “I felt like a ‘problem child’,” she says.

But Amy was wrong. She wasn’t a “problem child”, at least, not according to Mark Driscoll.

Amy learned what Mark really thought about her during one of those visits to the “principal’s office”.

This meeting took place in a private room at Mars Hill’s Earl Building**. It was only the three of them: Amy, her husband, and Mark. Amy was sitting beside her husband on a leather couch. They were facing Mark.

“Mark started the meeting by telling us he was convinced that I had demons,” says Amy, “and then he went on to add that my demons were ‘sexual demons’.”

Amy describes Mark’s demeanor toward her as a “fiery tirade”. During this encounter, Mark told Amy he believed that every one of her sins were “sex based.” He said that the demons inside her were out to destroy every one of the marriages in their circle of friends.

“At one point,” says Amy, “he asked me which one of my husband’s friends I had imagined sleeping with.”

Amy was dumbfounded by Mark’s questions and accusations. But she also admits, because she no longer trusted Mark, she was also slightly terrified of what was about to happen. 

“A part of me didn’t give a damn what Mark was saying or what he proclaimed as ‘truth,’” says Amy, “because by that time I was already one foot out the door and I wasn’t buying what Mark was selling. But then there was a part of me that was also pretty spooked.”

Mark then announced that he would be performing an exorcism. Amy says that was the word he used.

“Mark began the exorcism by praying a prayer of protection against Satan and anything else that was not of God. And he asked for a ‘shield’ to cover us.”

Right before he started the exorcism, Mark told Amy that he would be asking the demons very specific pointed questions. “He told me that it would feel like a normal conversation.”

Mark stared hard at Amy and began yelling questions at her “sex demons”. His fierce glare seemed to look past her as he screamed his questions at her face. He asked the demons what their names were. He asked them about sex. He asked them about Amy’s past sexual sins. He asked them about Amy’s current lustful thoughts. He asked them if they were planning to destroy marriages in his church. And then he asked whose marriages were they planning to destroy and how.

And then, according to Amy, Mark cast the demons out.

So, was Mark right? Did it feel like a normal conversation?

No. Not at all.

Why do you think Mark claimed that your “demons” were “sexual”?

It’s always his go-to topic. Ironically, my husband had more “demons” than one could imagine. But his demons were of no consequence and unimportant to the church. It was somehow my fault because “maybe I wasn’t the godly, providing wife” I was supposed to be.

That said, Mark was also aware that my husband and I had sexual troubles from day one. And regarding our sex life — because I was essentially grinning and bearing it most of the time — Mark concluded that I was a terrible wife to my husband. Even when my husband looked at porn, Mark blamed me because I wasn’t doing my “wifely duty”. I felt violated when sex was expected of me. I was intensely miserable and neglected throughout my marriage, but Mark deemed that irrelevant because I was the wife and my duty was to serve my husband sexually.

Of course, I had my own “sin” just like anyone else and I was open about it. I was frank and transparent about it. But my sin had nothing to do with sex and did not have anything to do with why I didn’t want to stay in my situation. Mark didn’t have a clue about what was in my head or in my heart.

Do you think Mark just made that part up?

I think Mark obsesses about sex. I know that many have debated whether or not Mark has an underlying issue related to sex and lust. I think that debate is valid because it is absolutely one of his core focuses. In my opinion, Mark projected his issues onto me when he told me that I had sex demons. I think he has a problem. Even when I called Mark my friend, I always found it odd how he would force sexual topics into sermons and into all of our counseling sessions.

How did your husband respond to the “exorcism”?

He was sold — hook, line and sinker. I think he felt exonerated. It was like his sins had been wiped clean because Mark Driscoll said that his wife was just chock full of demons.

How did you feel afterward?

I just wanted to hightail it out of that room as fast as I could. I was emotionally drained. I felt like I’d experienced psychological torture. I felt like an experiment.

**UPDATE — According to Mars Hill, Mark performed a “Spiritual Warfare Trial” (a definition and instructions for a Spiritual Warfare Trial can be found here, toward the bottom of the page). They also deny using the word “exorcism”.**

A few weeks after that experience in 2005, Amy told her husband she wanted a divorce. This led to Mark Driscoll telling her she was no longer welcome at the church and she was shunned by the church, including by the woman who had been her best friend. Her husband remarried nine months later and in 2012 was still a member at Mars Hill. The interview ends with this:

What are your thoughts regarding God now? Do you still consider yourself to be a Christian?

I consider myself agnostic, I suppose. I don’t think about it too often. I definitely do not consider myself a Christian/believer. And, in fact, I’m not certain whether I truly ever did. My experience with Jesus was, in my mind, really not even a true one. It was born out of guilt and forcing myself to fit into the Christian mold that, for many years, I tried desperately to fit into. I had no other life outside of the church life and no other options or escape so I felt compelled to cling onto it as long as I could. I had a hard time fitting in that pretty little Mars Hill box and I had a hard time swallowing the pill of Christianity.

[end of excerpts from Matthew’s post]

We must conclude from this that Amy was very likely not a regenerate Christian when she was supposedly ‘exorcised’ by Mark Driscoll. And yet Driscoll teaches that before performing a ‘spiritual warfare trial’, one needs to be certain that the person who is being subjected to the trial is a Christian. Screen shot from the link just given:

Mars Hill Spiritual Warfare Trial, Step 1

A slight matter of failed duty of care, perhaps? (understatement)

But of course, we should not expect that someone like Mark Driscoll, who has such a bad record as a sex-obsessed preacher, a plagiarist, a man who unethically promoted his books, and a bully, would be able to sensibly discern whether someone is a Christian.

And we have to ask ourselves: How many other teachers of complementarianism & male headship are not actually born-again Christians? And we could also ask ourselves: How many people in churches of whatever stripe are not actually born-again Christians?

Regenerate Christians may not always be able to discern whether someone is a genuine Christian or not, for a number of reasons, including the fact that

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Tim. 5:24)

But when a person is not regenerate yet thinks he is, he is much less likely to be able to discern believers from unbelievers, since he does not have the Spirit of Christ himself.

. . . they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Matt. 15:14)

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts (Mal. 2:8)

His watchmen are blind;
they are all without knowledge;
they are all silent dogs;
they cannot bark,
dreaming, lying down,
loving to slumber.  (Is. 56:10)

* * *

Here is two more examples that supports my thesis.

The first example may be simply a person trolling to get a reaction; but even as trolling, it has to rank as one of the most highly entitled abuser language I have ever seen on the web. It was a comment made on the Christian Husband’s Marriage Catechism over at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog. (link) And it is noteworthy that not one of the catechism-defenders on that thread denounced it or made any remark about it.

TRIGGER WARNING

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 2.17.26 PM

 

Second example —
Mike Anderson, a former right-hand man for Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill, affirms that Mars Hill promotes misogyny. He says:

During this time [the years I spent at Mars Hill] I made some huge mistakes. I pressured my brilliant and hard-working wife to give up her dream of law school and have a baby and be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with kiddos (I love my daughter) and staying home with kids is great if you want to. What isn’t great is that I allowed others to take verses from the Bible out of context and put a law on my wife and rob her of a dream. I only added pressure on her. It was wrong, and I’m terribly sorry.  . . .

I want to apologize to women everywhere for being part of a culture that didn’t value you as equal to men.

Third example —
this comment from Lindsay on one of Jeff’s posts about Voddie Baucham, the hyper-patriarch, and his Permanence View of marriage:

I listened to Voddie Baucham’s sermon online not long ago, it was painful, but more painful than the sermon were the accolades in the comments below, one of which was from my very own ex husband! He commented that he was very relieved to know that he was right about my sin of divorcing him, that it was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders to know what God wanted, and he thanked Baucham for speaking the truth so succinctly. Ugh.

* * *

Readers, do you have other examples of how the teaching of male headship made a male abuser worse? Or brought out abuse in a man who had not shown signs of it before?

39 Comments

  1. Ugh. Let’s rip up this weed by the roots before the next generation feeds off its deadly fruit! That said, one of the clues of ‘bad teaching coming’ is the misapplication of the woman as the ‘weaker vessel.’ It should be read as ‘more delicate, more fragile [than a heavy clay pot], more precious, highly prized.’ Instead, it sounds as though men like Mark D use it to mean ‘less worthy, less intelligent, less able to have faith . . . ‘ Give me a break–there’s your demons speaking up, twisting Scripture again.

  2. Chris

    I am currently going through a divorce after 21 years of marriage. For the past 9 years I have dealt with an enourmous amount of verbal and emotional abuse (although for the first few years of the abuse, I did not realize that was what it was). In my own little world, my marriage was good, we made a great team….we were partners. When my husband had more stress, he started taking it out on me, and threatening to divorce me if I did not agree with him or do what he demanded.

    The more he turned to the Bible, and focused on a wife’s submission to her husband, and clung to the idea that I was to serve him, and his word was final say in ALL matters, simply because he was a man and the Bible said so, the abuse got worse, In some ways I lost my identity, I gave up so much of who I was as a person, and let him control and manipulate me, walking on egg shells for years.

    As things escalated, and he turned to a friend who is deeply of the mindset wives are to submit in all things, my husband lashed out at me even more. Why was I so “resistant” to him being in charge, and why did I have to have my own opinions. I was too strong of a woman, and that made me selfish. I was to stand by him and support his every single decision, whether it be financial or parenting issues with the kids…because he was the MAN and therefore the boss.

    My husband stood on a public street on vacation and called our daughter a bitch for giving him the cold shoulder after he argued with her about something trivial….and he felt that he had the RIGHT to say that, and has never apologized to her or to me for that…and when I stepped in and said that it was out of line, his reaction was that I was to support him and back him up as his wife, and it did not matter if I thought it was wrong. , and he threatened to divorce me right on the street. The older my daughter got, I saw him turn on her more, become very superior to her in the way he was with me….the verbal and emotional abuse he did to her was one of the final straws.

    I watched him with our son, and while he was abusive at times with his words to him even, it was nothing compared to what he did to our daughter. When my teenage son started calling his sister a bitch, my husband did nothing about it…it was acceptable to him. The more we fought, the more I realized how much deeper it went, and that even during some of the years I thought were great, he was silently hating me and resenting me for not being a meek and submissive woman. I had NO IDEA that was his ideaology of marriage, there were no signs or indications of that in the beginning.

    Counseling was not an option at our Catholic Church, we were referred to Catholic Charities….one session and he did not like the therapist and things she asked him….and he was done. I sought counseling on my own twice over a 4 year period, trying to save my marriage and to learn how to be a better wife, tried to be more of what he said I was not. He refused counseling over and over again, because to him the only words that mattered, were the words he read in the Bible…words he would wake me up in the middle of the night to read to me as he demanded submission.

    I am a Christian woman, and while my Faith has been shaken, I have not lost my Faith…..but I do question those that preach that a woman is to submit at all cost, even in the case of abuse. When it turned physical, only two minor incidents within 5 years…the 2nd time was it for me. That is NOT what God wants in a marriage, and I would never have entered into a marriage willingly to be meek and quiet and agree to be a punching bag, whether verbal or physical. My husband used the Bible against me, to pile on the guilt….even now during the divorce, his sole focus is how God hates me for divorcing him, and how I just should have done more or been more, and lived my life by the words in the Bible the way HE interpreted them. I have been ostracized by some of his family, and by mutual friends, who share the same warped ideaology of what a marriage is, and shame me for breaking my vows…guilt me for letting God and my family down.

    Churches that preach this mentality, are failing the women who seek and desperately need help! I had no place to go for help, and stayed in an abusive marriage for much longer than I should have because of that…..an my children will forever be changed.

    • susan

      Dear Chris, Catholic Charities??? Yeah, I remember their “help!” Years ago, when my husband and i were going through a rough patch, i went over there for advice & was basically called a piece of trash. They can shove their legalism. I know I am a sinner, and it’s because of my premarital past that drove me to the Cross, and the Lord forgives yes. Yet the past I cannot undo and it will haunt me to my last day. Some churches have consigned my soul to eternal hell – for something I did 30 years ago (and NEVER EVER want to repeat.) Evidently, some churches fancy themselves more perfect than Christ.

    • anotheranon

      What a horrible situation! This is a reminder of how Satan can twist the Word of God to hurt, tear down and destroy families. No one should talk about a family member this way. Is it any wonder women end up divorcing cruel men such as this.

    • Brenda R

      Chris, Thank you for telling your story. I agree you would not have willingly gone into this marriage had you have known what was ahead. Plaise God you did not loose your strength or your Faith. A husband using the Bible to control and abuse his wife and daughter….well, I don’t believe that Jesus acted this way towards women and he showed a very loving spirit towards them. How man can twist that into being controlling and abusive, I really don’t know. I suppose I do know. They have allowed evil to become more powerful than the love of Christ.

  3. Seeing Clearly

    This article is a very graphic picture of reality. It seems that the accusation of ‘demonic activity’ in a woman is a Patriarchal Trump Card. I vividly recall a time when a loving couple was praying over me for demonic deliverance in regard to childhood sexual abuse. My husband sat quietly, in agreement with them. I wondered how they could miss the possibility of demonic activity in my husband who was oppressing me, quietly, at home. No, they did not find a demon in me. My depression was so great that I was willing to try anything that the church recommended. While my husband, the pastor, was not a vineyard pastor, his associations were Vineyard pastors. This was in the 90’s when John Wimber was very influential in my husband’s ever changing theology.

    The stories go on, me in deep depression, trying everything to get relief. When I told the male christian psychiatrist that I was filing for divorce, he advised that I should only get a separation, saying ‘lawyers recommend divorce because they get more money’. In 10+ yrs of prescribing meds, he never acknowledged that my husband could be a source of my depression. He told me over and over that if I would deal with my childhood issues, all would be well. I would tell him that I couldn’t deal with the past because the present took all my energy to simply exist.

    I continue in counseling to undo the poor patterns of relating I developed. I call the professional my life coach. Family and friends comment on how much I have changed and that I look and seem so much healthier.

    • Brenda R

      Seeing Clearly,
      What a crock. I also experience childhood sexual abuse. It did not affect how I felt about men in general until after I married someone who also abused me. What was done to you was horrific. They did not see the big picture and perhaps didn’t want to. You husband sat by and allowed additional abuse to be heaped on you so that he did not get questioned about his own sin towards you. I am so glad that you found good counsel that is helping you back to health.

  4. susan

    Dear Barbara, so sorry to hear how popularity is negatively affecting Mark Driscoll’s ministry. In the past, he has read the riot act to misogynist men – exhorting them to cease mooching and grow up. Of course, he had taken heat from other ministers because he was using some inappropriate language while behind the pulpit. This demon obsession he apparently has, is no good.

    • Susan, I think you and I may have somewhat different perceptions of Mark Driscoll.

      I know he has ‘read the riot act to men’ but I don’t believe he has denounced them for being misogynist. He may have admonished them for not loving their wives properly, but he is himself a misogynist and that bleeds through even when he admonishes men for not treating women well. In other words, I think that his words often don’t match his heart. And his heart is what counts.

      Telling men to cease mooching and to grow up is one thing — and it is fair enough to tell some men that. But his messages are also heavily laden with denigration of women.
      A

  5. HisEzer

    Coming through loud and clear is how Driscoll and others like him in limelight leadership positions (all the way down to influenced pastors on the local level… How do I know? -because I have experienced it firsthand and continue to see the common thread of it occurring through other women’s accounts…) –is how they continually demonstrate a mind-boggling level of double standards… Aside from the obvious ones — the distortions surrounding gender roles and the misunderstanding of what genuine loving headship looks like in practice — are these regular behaviors demonstrated:

    Favoritism.

    I hear about it over and over again, and as said, experienced it myself — the counseling session routinely involves the pastor/elder hearing and sympathizing with the husband all the while totally dismissing whatever the wife has to say — trivializing it, minimizing it, or quickly switching it altogether to another topic to avoid addressing her concerns… acting as though she could not possibly be speaking the truth or demonstrating the belief that anything said by a woman must certainly be exaggerated and blown out of proportion… Such a response only further enables the destructive self-deluded entitlement mindset of the husband. Then there’s the issue of…

    Refusing to Answer Important Questions…

    Questions which when explored fully would reveal root areas being avoided but which play key roles in the problem-solving process … questions which when answered honestly would expose the big picture and, thereby, get the couple on the path needed — the one which has the most potential of bringing about genuine healing to the broken relationship… Closing the door on exploration of the truth– What? How is that productive? How does that demonstrate godly problem-solving? Being a good listener and one open to questions leading to the truth is a key element of healthy relationship, but all the more critical to the characteristics of godly leadership. This refusal to consider or answer questions only reveals more prominently how sinful pride is what is governing the “counseling” process rather than the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the matter of…

    Coarse / Unbefitting Language

    like, “You need to get your sh*t together…” Wow, how Christlike of a pastor to say such a thing and to model a pointy finger judgmental spirit rather than showing understanding, empathy, and care toward the wife… What that reveals is the reality of psychological “projecting”… (i.e. It is the leader which needs to get it together…)
    Then there is the matter of …

    Twisting scripture

    Selecting certain verses at the expense of others … using them out of context and all for the purpose of propping up male-centered preferences…
    Then there is the matter of

    Gossip

    The inconsistency that when the leader has his little private “talks” with the husband this is all considered fine… In those talks, the husband’s word is automatically accepted as being truth… No questions… just believed (while the woman’s word is not?) — how sad it is that in reality grooming is occurring… the husband is practicing in that setting the sly action of “securing allies” through use of slander, misrepresentation, and all manner of manipulations regarding his wife. This little talk is all considered to be godly productive conversation, but if a wife in her despair (over what she is experiencing) even attempts to talk to someone outside church leadership or to seek help, support, advice, regarding her situation… and furthermore, if she should discuss her experience and observations on a message board with desire to help awaken and alarm other women to their own potential of spiritual abuse and hurtful behaviors — seeking to protect them from it and to provide love and support…, well… this is quickly labeled as the action of “sinful gossip.” —
    (My oh my…. Isaiah 5:20)

    Wow. All I can say is, there is going to be a heavy price to pay (and that is a nice way of putting it) in the future when these blind guides have to face the truth of what they are doing… Countless families in their path are being destroyed by their influences and attempts to “help.”

  6. anotheranon

    My husband is not a believer and doesn’t know what the Bible says about male headship. But years ago when I listened more to conservative Christian radio I thought I should be more submissive and just serve him hand and foot. I thought then he would be nicer to me. Just the opposite happened. He treated me much worse, and I was very, very close to getting a divorce because I couldn’t stand being yelled at all the time and being used. I started having panic attacks when I was driving and I couldn’t swallow food if I had to eat in public. I went to stay with my parents for two days, then my (grown) son asked me to come home so I did (this was 14 years ago). Things improved at first, but slowly settled into a pattern of verbal, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. Things are better now because I stand up for myself. This is hard to share, but I hope someone will read this and it will help them. (I read the book “Me, Obey Him? This was VERY damaging.)

    • Thank you, anotheranon. That is a powerful testimony!

      That book you referred to, we agree with you: it’s very damaging.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Maybe we should make a list of damaging books to read.

  7. ChozehEagle

    I am amazed and appalled of the obvious picking and choosing of which scriptures to follow by those who use the Word of God to mistreat and abuse women.

    Ephesians 5:22 NASB does say, Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. However, just a few scriptures down this same chapter addresses the behavior of husbands: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… And 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NASB defines exactly what this “love” is supposed to look like:

    Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…

    Furthermore, John 15:12,13 NASB goes on to say, This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. Which is supported by Ephesians 5:25 gave Himself up for her.

    I cannot see how the behavior of the men mentioned in this article and the comments that follow is adhering to laying down their lives for their wives. Certainly, they are not acting in love when they are not patient, are not kind, acting unbecomingly, seeking their own, being provoked, taking into account a wrong suffered, and not bearing, believing, hoping, or enduring all things. And 1 John 4:8 NASB states that The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. Evidently, these men and those who support their actions do NOT know God. No wonder that some of these mistreated women turn from God for if the husband is suppose to love as Christ did…well, what a terrifying image to have of Jesus.

    In addition, I am wondering why these men are not concerned with their own behavior and instead judging the behavior of their wives for Romans 14:4 stipulates, Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    Ephesians 5:33 says the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. It is the wife that is to see to her own behavior, not her husband and certainly not anyone else. God will judge and chastise her if she is not following God’s will.

    They would do well to remember that the wives they are mistreating do not “belong” to them but to God. And God is very clear and serious about how He wants these “weaker vessels” to be treated.

    You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NASB)

    Husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way and show them honor. The Greek word for honor is “time” which can be defined as “a value, i.e. money paid, or (concretely and collective) valuables; by analogy esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself: – honour, precious, price, some.” ** The consequence for not honoring or valuing their wives as precious is quite severe — hindered prayers.

    I am in a very difficult marriage to a man with several diagnosed mental illnesses. He loves me but has so many challenges, which requires my complete dependence on God and several mentors. My pastor told me that I was disrespectful to my husband for I yell at him if he raises his hand to hit me. I yell, “You BETTER not hit me!!!” It works. When I asked my pastor what should I do if he tries to hit me, his answer was “Well, the worst thing that can happen is that you would die. And then you would go to heaven.” When I said, “Then he would go to hell.” My pastor replied, “Not if he repents.” I was too shocked to go on any further.

    Apparently this man of God wants me to do absolutely nothing and let my husband beat me to death. Something is VERY wrong in paradise.

    **Easton, Matthew; Smith, William; Webster, Noah; Strong, James; Nave, Orville (2011-07-18). Ultimate Bible Study Suite; KJV Bible, Hebrew/Greek Strong’s Concordance, Easton’s & Smith’s Dictionaries, Nave’s Topical Guide, 1828 Dictionary

    [Eds: formatting and paragraphs added]

    • Thank you, ChozehEagle.

      And I love your screen name! 🙂

    • Brenda R

      ChozehEagle,
      I don’t understand the pastors response. How is standing up for yourself being disrespectful. Your husband is diagnosed with mental illness and I agree with you if what you are doing works, then you should do it. “the worst things that can happen is that you would die”. Anyone that would say this is warped in their thinking. Dying for the cause of Christ and being killed in your own home by your husband are not the same thing.

  8. IamMyBeloved's

    Most women seek out these false “c”hurches in an attempt to be better wives, and try to save their abusive marriages, because they believe they are doing the right thing in God’s eyes. They have no idea that they are about to be further abused.

    The other thing I would say here, is that anyone who is a true Christian, should steer completely clear of any “c”hurch that promotes headship/submission over the Gospel, or changes up the Gospel and makes it all about the husband/wife/family in general, making statements such as modesty is part of what determines whether you are a true Christian or not, or having lots of children proves that you are in God’s will, etc. They have forgotten that the Gospel is about Christ, not us.

    Take note of how the denomination or “c”hurch was started. For example, the CPC denomination which is hugely cultic in at least one prominent “c”hurch in that denomination, was started out of sheer rebellion. A bunch of guys thrown out of the RPCGA formed their own denomination, so they could translate God’s truths into what they wanted them to be and oppress women and children, without having to be held to account for any of their actions, by anyone else. Also, Scott Brown’s place was started by him and Horn and some others who basically destroyed the Church they were in previously, because the Church they were in, would not abide with their “men/women/headship/submission/family doctrines”. Remember what the Word says. “They went out from us because they were not of us”. Beware of any place that went out on its own and started a “new church or denomination”.
    Abuse victims need to know where they are at in a Church and where they may be headed and leave if necessary – even if it means leaving by themselves with their children.

    Getting excommunicated by a cult is better than being led astray by them. It is actually an honor in the end, because it means that God would not allow you to be taken in and deceived by a cult, because you are really His. I had left the cult I was in, but they came after me, dragged me back (although I did not physically return to their cult) and then excommunicated me, because I would not come back and suffer under their hands while they propounded a false gospel and endangered my family with their ignorance and lies.

    I spoke to at least four professional counselors to get their opinion regarding my experience in the CPC, and each one of them (3 were Christians) said that the place was a cult and that I was heinously spiritually abused and that they empowered my abuser, probably because they are deceived abusers themselves. It makes it even more difficult when you are dealing with blind leaders’ wives who cannot discern a thing spiritually and who are supportive of the entitlement, power and control of abusers and who endorse women remaining in abusive marriages. But, if they are there in the first place, they are just not people you should share your experience with, or trust in anyway. It is always dangerous when narcissists sit in the places of pastors and leadership. It is good to have enough info regarding what narcissism really is, in order to protect yourself from these type of leaders.

    We need to remember what defines a true Christian and while we as women, are called to submit to our godly husbands “AS UNTO THE LORD”, and be good wives to them, we also need to know that God never oppresses women in His Word or that His desire is ever for women to be oppressed and just submit to it. It is never God’s will for women to be sexually used and abused by their husbands. God never calls women to submit to abuse.

    I will end by saying I find it interesting, that Mark Driscoll seems to know so much about sexual demons. Hmm…

    • Brenda R

      Iam,
      “Getting excommunicated by a cult is better than being led astray by them.”

      So True.

  9. Anonymous100

    I never heard of Mark Driscoll before reading about him here, i consider that a good thing.

    The guy sounds obsessed with sex and oppressing women. I googled him to see what he looks like, angry was the first thing that jumped out at me. Driscoll did a simulcast called “Real Marriage” – ha! he can’t help but say what is foremost important to him –(notice the tag line) “sex, friendship, and life together.” He should have called it “Only Stepford Wives Accepted” – delusions of a sex obssessed pastor.

  10. Anonymous100

    I never heard of Mark Driscoll before reading about him here, i consider that a good thing.

    The guy sounds obsessed with sex and oppressing women. I googled him to see what he looks like, angry was the first thing that jumped out at me. Driscoll did a simulcast called “Real Marriage” – ha! he can’t help but say what is foremost important to him –(notice the tag line) “sex, friendship, and life together.” He should have called it “Only Stepford Wives Accepted” – delusions of a sex obsessed pastor. My heart goes out to his wife.

  11. Dria

    I made a friend at the YMCA the other day. She and I have been emailing back and forth. Today, she told me about being in an abusive marriage for many years because her pastor made her believe that “forgiveness” required her to remain. She said her church didn’t realize her situation was as brutal as it was because her husband seemed to be such a “good Christian”. A friend from church told me recently that her dad used to hurt her mom and no one ever guessed because he seemed like such a “good Christian”.

    I am amazed that sometimes the leaders we look to, in their effort to take both sides of the story into account, will dismiss or make light of the person saying they are being hurt in some way. There are so many women who have tolerated physical, sexual, and emotional abuse because they wanted to do the godly thing. I don’t believe that God expects anyone to remain in a situation like that. Each of us has the right to feel safe and to remove ourselves from situations that are not safe.

    My oldest son told me the other day, “Whatever you do, do not ever marry a Christian again.” He also told me that he thinks I am one of the nicest people he knows. It was not meant as a compliment. He challenged me saying that being nice has never gotten me anywhere. He said being nice never got him anywhere either. Thus, the reason he has decided to not care and not take crap from people. Remaining in an unsafe environment, especially with someone with claims to be a believer, confuses our children and hinders their own ability to see God as good and loving. My heart is broken that this is what my life has taught him.

    I used to think that I was to blame for the hurt I was experiencing. If I could just make all the changes he demanded the situation would change. A “good Christian wife” would do all the things her spouse asked. If he told me to try harder, I would try harder. If he told me that I was trying too hard, I would not try so hard. If I could change the way I walked, the way I talked, the way I sat, what I wore, tolerate the maltreatment from his family as well, pretend to enjoy the pain being inflicted on me in the name of love, not complain about not having access to money, if I could just do everything he wanted then he would stop hurting me. The only problem is that the abuse isn’t about making me into something else. It is about control. Thus, the laundry list of things that I needed to change would never end. I even tried to run ahead of my abuser and find everything that was wrong with me before he could and try to fix it. This just makes you crazy and in my life caused me to start experiencing a significant anxiety in the form of a social phobia. Isolation is the perfect environment for someone seeking to control you.

    When I first told someone, they didn’t believe that such things could be happening. What I claimed was too horrific and it would force them to do something about what I had said. It was so much easier to make me feel embarrassed and at fault. The abuse continued for another six months as a result of this “Christian” leader’s decision to not help me. I have permanent, documented, physical damage. The physical abuse has stopped for the most part because I run out into my front yard when I think it is about to happen again. Someone that seeks to control cares very much about public opinion. The control, however, is constant.

    It amazes me that people shame the person who dares “tell” and condone and excuse the behavior of the offender. I told a friend tonight that being in an abusive relationship has turned me into a real bi…. Fear, helplessness, secrecy, humiliation, isolation, and shame have turned into anger, bitterness, and wanting to make my abuser feel the things he made me feel. I have become as wicked as he at times, but my motive is to get the abuse to stop. Maybe if the abuser knows how it feels he will stop? This is never the case. Someone who seeks to control will only become more angry when he feels like he is losing the control. The truth is that no matter how hateful I try to be, I am not capable of inflicting the kind of physical damage that it would take to show him what it feels like to be on the receiving end. I wouldn’t even want to be that person! I don’t like the person that I have become in my attempt to defend myself. I am ashamed that I have not handled abuse in a godly way. The fact is that a godly way would have involved moving. It is impossible to just move when you face the amount of monthly medical expenses my babies incur. Still, God has showed me recently that my real obstacle is not praying and trusting that he will provide a way of escape. The reasons I ended up in an abusive situation is because I didn’t trust that God would provide for my children. So, I allowed myself to enter into an ungodly covenant. Ah, if I only knew then what I know now. Maybe I did know then, but like so many other women I thought I could be good enough to change things.

    Forgiveness and doing the right thing doesn’t mean that I continue to give chance after chance after chance to someone that sheds my blood for his own gratification. It also doesn’t mean that I retaliate and lower myself to give him a taste of his own medicine. Doing the right thing means that I am not embarrassed about what has been done to me. It wasn’t my fault. Doing the right thing also doesn’t mean that I protect my abuser or make excuses when the injuries done to me are obvious.

    I am learning that there are many women in abusive situations and they remain there because of religiosity and the ignorance of so-called “Christian” leaders. I hope that women in these situations will realize that this isn’t what God wants for them. Does it matter if someone doesn’t believe you? God sees all and in the end truth is always exposed. If you are in an abusive situation, look to God to provide a way of escape. Tell someone. If they do not believe you, they are not the one God has called to help you. Move on.

    • Driah, thanks for your comment. A lot of wisdom there.

      hugs from Barb

    • Brenda R

      Dria,
      You’ve got it. God will provide for you and your children. You need to put your faith in Him and Him alone. An abusive spouse will never be the person that you need to help you. (((((Hugs & Prayers))))) coming your way.

  12. wbgl0

    Dria, thank you for your story. I’ll be praying for you.

  13. Sunflower

    Religion definitely helped make both my husbands more abusive. They were not nice to begin with…….both were mean to their younger sisters (red flag)…….but the church teachings were bad for me and them. The Bill Gothard stuff, ‘Me? Obey Him?’, the pink book (Fascinating Womanhood), the Shepherding churches, Baptists, Marabel Morgan, Michael and Debbie Pearl (read the first chapter of her book, it’s horrid!), home-schooling magazines like Above Rubies………oh my, I read them all and all of them made the abuse get worse and worse.

    One pastor told my husband to spank me when I didn’t obey. My first husband was pretty easily influenced, so if we had gotten right teaching he may have been tolerable, but things just got really ugly. I ended up checking myself into the psych ward, which of course he loved because he can hang that over my head for the rest of my life. It was like a vacation (ha!) and the doctor told me he wouldn’t let me go home until I made arrangements to separate. The church leaders told him to go ahead and leave because when I got home I’d let him back in anyway, no sweat. I didn’t.
    Even though I realized that most of those teachings were wrong, I still thought that the basics of submission as I’d been taught were right, just not correctly interpreted. It has taken a second abusive marriage to wake up and smell the coffee. Thank you for this site. I’ve shared it with one pastor but the one who recently ‘counseled’ us, I’m still debating if it would just make things worse to share it. I’ve cut off the counseling with him as well as going to that church but he still works for my h and they are ‘buds’, if you know what I mean. (I’m sure you do).

  14. Sunflower

    It was part of the Shepherding movement, about 28 years ago. He never did spank me but I noticed a big change for the worse in his attitude toward me after that.
    Thank you for the post. I will look at it.

  15. Sunflower

    Many many times I wished he would have done more physical things so I’d have something that people would believe.

  16. Valued by God

    I praise God that in my case the people and clergy at my church finally believed me about the verbal/emotional/spiritual abuse cycles I have endured for 16 years. I began to get help 7 years ago via counseling and support groups to get stronger and say “no” to abuse, and now I’ve finally had enough. (Our Sunday School class is definitely Complementarian, sometimes quoting 1 Peter 3:1 and such verses, to unwittingly put the responsibility of the Christian husband’s behavior onto the wife’s shoulders.)

    Anyway, there was a Matthew 18 intervention with my husband and two witness couples, and the two Christian men were actually confronting my husband with the truth of his abusive treatment of the kids and me. My husband was told by me and those couples that the abuse had to stop or he would have to move out, which is the action my abuse counselor told me to take. My husband moved out 2 days later, considering himself the victim.

    The final nail in the marriage coffin was what my husband’s “Christian” psychologist told him (when he got a psych evaluation): “If your wife had indeed been abused by you as she claims, she would not be setting any ground rules with you now (like stop abuse or move out). She would instead run and hide from you. Abused people don’t fight back.” I was also accused by the psychologist of trying to maliciously control the results of my husband’s psych eval, since I had called and respectfully asked if I could tell my side of the story. The psychologist refused to speak to me.

    My husband found a lawyer who also reassured him that my boundaries “prove” I have not been abused, so he is now staunch in his belief that he has “professional proof” he never abused me or the kids. So my saying NO MORE “proves” his innocence? A logical fallacy for sure. Divorce is imminent, and I’m okay with that. I believe I have literally tried everything to help my marriage to become healthy, but I now accept that my husband will not change.

    Thankfully I have support from my church, and my husband is attending a different church where no one knows. Thankfully my teenagers are watching me saying “NO MORE”.

    • Hi, Valued By God 🙂 Welcome to the blog and thank you for sharing your story!

      Your abuser’s psychologist and lawyer (aarrggghhh!) — they have bought into the myth that ‘true’ victims of abuse have only certain characteristics: timidity, lack of confidence, ladylike submissiveness, or the deficit model of “battered woman syndrome”. This myth is widespread. It is believed by many counselors, psychologists, judges, lawyers etc.

      There is a whole boatload of money being devoted to ‘training programs’ on domestic abuse for professionals like psychologists and lawyers and mediators. Some (a lot?) of this training, esp in the USA, is simply reclying the myths about abuse.

      And guess why that would be? Hmm. Some of those trainers are abusers or if not, definitely allies of abusers who have bought into the abusers’ lies and misinformation. Some of it is simply due to the influence of people like psychologist Lenore Walker, who coined the term “battered woman syndrome”. Walker described the typical battered woman in deficit langugage. Her picture of the typical “battered woman” and her theory of “learned helplessness” has been very problematic. It has given rise to this myth that only some women who claim to be abuse victims are ‘true victims’ and the rest are just rather obnoxious ‘difficult’ women who do not deserve help from the community because they are only manipulators or crazy. The thinking goes: if a woman claims to be a victim of domestic abuse but is assertive or volatile, she can’t be a victim!

      What a handy catch 22 for the abusers to noose the victims with!

      This myth was also believed (in the past, hopefully not so much now) by some workers in women’s shelters. I have read that in the past, when women’s shelters moved from being run by grass roots feminist volunteers to being ‘mainstreamed’ and therefore funded by the government or private charities, it was not uncommon for the paid workers in those shelters to judge a victim who needed refuge, judging whether or not she was a ‘true’ victim. They would think that a woman who was docile, tearful (but not angry), fearful (but not expressing her fear with any aggression or hostility or too much assertiveness) was a “TRUE” victim. And they would judge as “NOT REAL VICTIMS” the women who were volatile, were expressing outrage and anger, fighting back, trying to impose boundaries against their abusers and against the ignorant/arrogant professionals who misjudged them.

      I learned this from the book Coercive Control by Evan Stark. Highly recommended. I am still reading it and will review it for this blog when I’m done. It’s taking a long time to read because it is written for professionals in the DV sector, not for victim/survivors.

    • Also, Valued By God, we always point new commenters to New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And here is a post I think you will like: Victims invariably resist violence and other forms of abuse

  17. Kay

    I’ll never forget the day our new pastor preached on headship and submission. Several years earlier, I had served a civil protective order on my husband. It was the catalyst that brought about change in my husband’s life, but it takes a lot of energy and courage on my part to continually hold him accountable. It also takes, on my part, practicing discernment so that I recognize abuse immediately. Change has been a slow and laborious process.

    My husband was sitting in the pew beside me when my pastor preached that sermon. The effect of the sermon was that his belief that he had a right to dominate and control me was now being endorsed by God himself and by the people who were supposed to be my support group. I very nearly walked out of church to never set foot in a church again. I called my pastor and tried to have a conversation with him, but he wouldn’t listen and dominated me with his voice. In fact, he ended up shouting over me. Over the next few weeks, my husband became increasingly controlling, and when I confronted him, I was physically threatened for the first time in six years. I felt like the pastor’s sermon had undone all that I had worked so hard for. Because there were other people in the church who disagreed with my pastor’s sermon, I had the support I needed to convince my husband that he had no right to control my life and that God did not, in fact, endorse that kind of behavior.

    My pastor preached several sermons which, in his mind, were designed to fix the culture, but he laid the blame at women’s feet, suggesting that feminine immodesty and a lack of submission were the cause of our cultural issues. He even said that men aren’t attracted to women who are smart; they marry them because of the way they look! My pastor’s own daughter has been in two abusive marriages, which I believe, are directly related to her father’s thinking regarding a woman’s place.

    I believe my pastor is genuinely a Christian, but his thinking was sadly awry. I have since had more conversations with him, but I have not told him about the abuse in my background because I don’t believe I can trust him with that information. I think he would do the “manly” thing and try to deal with my husband in an uniformed way. He recently read a book by Craig Keener in an attempt to understand my position (unfortunately, he refused to hear that from me). I think he is open to allowing God to change his thinking, but people don’t change their thinking overnight.

    I would have a hard time believing that this kind of stuff could actually happen except that it happened to me.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this story, Kay. What a good illustration of how complementarianism can empower abusers.

  18. Ettie

    Hello. Yes, sounds familiar. I should have heeded the warning signs before marrying my husband. I heard him making disparaging remarks about another woman we both knew ‘wearing the trousers’ in her marriage. After we were married he basically ignored me and our first year was awful. He acted loving when around other people though. He would never do anything I wanted to do and seemed to resent my expecting him to do things I asked him.

    Cut a long story short – we’ve been married for nearly 30 years and separated for over two. I am in the process of divorcing him but he is stalling at every turn. I am living in the same house as my assets are tied up with his.
    He has always claimed to be a Christian but has never been comfortable praying with me. He is extremely legalistic and does not understand the concept of grace.

    We attended an independent Calvinist church in recent years and I am sure my husband’s feeling of entitlement grew during that time, (though they supported married women staying at home and he always pressured me to work. I couldn’t win.) Feeling very unhappy, I once rang one of the elders because they preached that the husband should be the spiritual leader in the home and I was most definitely the one who tried to teach my children and pray with them. The elder’s reply was just something like ‘That is the father’s job’. He didn’t encourage me at all. I put the phone down in tears because I needed encouragement at the time.

    I’ve always been a thinker and not willing to accept things simply because a church leader says they are true. I now realise I am happier in a less conservative, less dogmatic church where people can be themselves and be pigeonholed into ‘roles’

  19. Debbie

    I was once told by my now ex, that i had to “earn” his love.

  20. Finding Answers

    Read the original post, researched the links, and then the comments generated.

    In some ways, a fascinating journey. On the one hand was a researcher’s curiosity. On the other hand was a spinning, overwhelmed mind – bits and pieces of my entire life playing as I read.

    Researching took time. Some of the links – and the links from links – are broken, but much of the information can be found elsewhere in various archives.

    Spending all but the last less-than-one-year in abusive relationships, both personal and professional, I could relate to the misapplication of a “headship” role.

    The comments generated provided additional insights and information.

    I can’t speak about misapplied complementariansim, but I can speak to misapplied “headship”.

    An entitlement mentality will make things worse.

  21. This is so sad. And unfortunately sounds a lot like my marriage story in the abusive misogyny church I was a part of for over 16 yrs.
    I am on my way to a divorce as well. I wish I could hug Amy. The pain is real.

    • Hi Brave and Free,
      welcome to the blog, and thanks for your comment 🙂

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

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