A Cry For Justice

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

They suppress the truth in unrighteousness

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18 NASB)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness (NIV)

This describes abusers so very very well. They do not want the truth to be uttered, to be seen, to be known, so they suppress it. They maintain their public mask of being nice godly people, reverent, generous, caring, charming, humble, courteous, supporting the elders, faithful worshipers, prayer warriors, good board members, supporters of missionaries . . . while simultaneously grooming, seducing, needling, squeezing, crushing and binding the souls of their targets, bit by tiny bit, so the targets are silenced, terrified to the point of almost paralysis.

When the Spanish Influenza was at its height in the final months of the First World War, ravaging its inexorable swathe around the world, killing more people than had died in battle during the four years of the war, and terrifying whole populations with its sudden onslaught and its ghastly symptoms (high fever, intense weakness, delirium, bleeding from bodily orifices, blackening of skin, lungs so soggy and swollen with inflammation they could not breathe, pneumonia opportunistically invading the sickened lungs and increasing the mortality), the American Government and newspapers were almost universally spreading lies about the epidemic — suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Listen to these quotes from the book The Great Influenza, by John M Barry, and think about the parallels between how authorities responded to the epidemic and how the so-called Bible Believing Christian Culture has responded to domestic abuse.

The book tells how Surgeon General Robert Blue, head of the US Public Health Service at the time, was not a strong leader. The leading medical researchers knew that an epidemic of influenza — incredibly lethal influenza — was about to hit the country and they knew they had no cure and no real way of preventing or slowing its spread other than isolating people and compounds and cities that already had the disease. But Blue took no preemptive measures until far too late. The Government said the war machine had to keep running — and honesty and good sense were casualties to the war machine.

[Surgeon General] Blue did, literally, less than nothing. He blocked relevant research. . . . He made no preparations whatsoever to try to contain [the disease]. … He made no effort to gather information about the disease. He made no effort to prepare the Public Health Service for a crisis. [At least two months after he first knew of the dangers of this virulent disease] he issued the first public warning:

  • Avoid needless overcrowding [but army compounds were horrifically overcrowded!]
  • smother coughs and sneezes
  • your nose not your mouth was made to breathe through
  • remember the three Cs — clean mouth, clean skin, clean clothes
  • food will win the war, choose and chew your food well
  • don’t let waste products of digestion accumulate
  • avoid tight clothing and footwear and gloves
  • when the air is pure, breathe deeply. (309-311)

The disease spread. It wreaked havoc wherever it went. The newspapers were not printing the truth about the epidemic. They repeatedly printed government officials’ false reassurances:

“There is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.” “The so-called Spanish Influenza is nothing more or less than old fashioned grippe.” These words ran in hundreds of newspapers. But people could smell death in them. Then they came to know that death. (335)

“Don’t Get Scared!” was the advice printed in virtually every newspaper in the country, in large blocked-off parts of pages labelled “Advice on How to Avoid Influenza.” . . . “Don’t Let Flu Frighten You to Death.” “Don’t Panic.” . . . “The camp medical authorities assert they have the epidemic under control.” (337)

One newspaper reported a local physician as having said

“Ten people sit in the same draught, are exposed to the same microbes. Some will suffer and perhaps die, while others go scot free. . . The people during an epidemic who are most fearful are usually, on the testimony of physicians the first ones to succumb to the disease.” (337)

How could one not get panicky? Even before people’s neighbours began to die, before bodies began to pile up in each community, every piece of information except the newspapers told the truth. Even while Blue recited his mantra —There is no cause for alarm if proper precautions are taken — he was calling upon local authorities to “close all public gathering places, if their community is threatened with the epidemic. This will do much towards checking the spread of the disease.”  (338)

You say your husband is abusive? It’s not that bad.There is no cause for alarm. You mustn’t over-react. You’re too sensitive. You’re too emotional. Fear and anxiety are sins; they show you don’t have enough faith in God. We are engaged in a war: we are battling the legalization of gay marriage, abortion on demand, the demise of the family. And because we are on a war footing, we have the authority to order you how to feel. We can tell you which emotions are best for you and which emotions you must suppress and resist. You must heed our orders. You must do as we say. Don’t panic. You’re spouse is not abusive, this is just the plain old fashioned ups and downs of marriage.

Follow proper precautions. Don’t marry an unbeliever (but we won’t help you discern wolves in wool, so good luck with that!). Don’t have too high expectations of marriage. Submit to your spouse. Find out how to please your spouse. Be more sexy when he comes home. Don’t gossip. Don’t complain. Pray more. We all have our cross to bear.

Isaiah 28  

(10) For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little…

(14-20) Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;

therefore thus says the Lord GOD —
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it. As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message. For the bed [of the liars] is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.

One last quote from The Great Influenza:

…whoever held power, whether a city government or some private gathering of  the locals, they generally failed to keep the community together. They failed because they lost trust. They lost trust because they lied. (San Francisco was a rare exception; its leaders told the truth, and the city responded heroically.) And they lied for the war effort, for the propaganda machine that [President] Wilson had created.

It is impossible to quantify how many deaths the lies cause. . . . But while those in authority were reassuring people that this was influenza, only influenza, nothing different from “la grippe,” at least some people must have believed them, at least some people must have exposed themselves to the virus in ways they would not otherwise, and at least some of these people must have died who would otherwise have lived. And fear really did kill people. It killed them because those who feared woud not care for the many of those who needed but could not find care, those who needed only hydrattion, food, and rest to survive. (p 396)

31 Comments

  1. a prodigal daughter returns

    It saddens me that those who aren’t experiencing the trauma of abuse minimize its impact for those who are. Rather like being run over by a truck and told “shake it off, its just a scratch” when in an internal hemorrhage is slowly killing its victim.

    The passage comes to mind “it is better a millstone be hung around the neck” of those who offend a little one. According to the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences ACE studies, children witnessing or experiencing abuse in childhood have life long health impacts. Cancer, depression, heart disease, all are tied into this. Its a public health disaster and literally costs billions of dollars in adverse health outcomes for ALL family members.

    They call it a “relationship problem”, its no more a relationship problem than then influenza is a relationship problem, its a public health problem. And, from everything I’ve experienced heard and seen, the church in a position to do much to help turns a blind eye or increases the problem by given covert approval with their silence.

    • Innoscent

      So well put APDR! The victim is left half dead and naked by the side of the road but the priest and the levite chose to avoid him (Lk 10). Today it’s worse, they give the abused victim another kick by minimising the seriousness of the damage done to her…and they see the whole thing as a relationship problem with the thief, aaggrh!

  2. Seeing Clearly

    ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ Very powerful words. It takes a description like you have given us to shake me into realty. Oh my, that is exactly what abusers are doing. Yes, victims are dying. Some are skeletons of themselves, going through the motions of daily life. They no longer know who they are because their abuser has lied until the precious victim can no longer remember the truth of who they truly are.

    It must be quite emotionally moving for you, Barbara, to pen these words. Thank you for loving us enough to go to these difficult places with us.

  3. Still Reforming

    This —> “You say your husband is abusive? It’s not that bad.There is no cause for alarm. You mustn’t over-react. You’re too sensitive. You’re too emotional. Fear and anxiety are sins; they show you don’t have enough faith in God. …Your spouse is not abusive, this is just the plain old fashioned ups and downs of marriage.
    “Don’t marry an unbeliever (but we won’t help you discern wolves in wool, so good luck with that!). Don’t have too high expectations of marriage. Submit to your spouse. Find out how to please your spouse. …Don’t complain. Pray more. We all have our cross to bear.”

    Utter perversion all, and I’d be surprised if there’s a single commenter here who hasn’t heard at least one of these things.

  4. healingInHim

    A valuable post because it does not suppress the Truth … Thank you ACFJ.

  5. marriedwithouthusband

    They do not want the truth to be uttered, to be seen, to be known, so they suppress it. They maintain their public mask of being nice godly people, reverent, generous, caring, charming, humble, courteous,…

    This part of the post really resonates with me. Last weekend, I learned that my husband, who gradually withdrew from me and our daughters over the years and then, once the youngest was in college, abandoned all pretense of being a good spouse, told a family member that he wants to spend more time with me and that I’ve made him unwelcome. I’m not blameless in our marital problems, but my husband lied, to make himself look better. It makes me feel sick to think about this. I never lie to make other people look worse.

  6. grace551

    Very telling, Barbara.

  7. Anewanon

    “Oh, but I am not lying, this is MY truth, we ALL have different ‘perceptions’ of what is true. Much of our perception is rooted in our childhood woundings.” utters the abuser. But then i struggle with the fact that until educated with actual firsthand knowledge that sin is sin and we still do get to choose what to do with knowledge and perceptions, I too was blind to the real needs of the sheep. Hosea 4: 6 (KJV) My people perish from a lack of knowledge.

    It is still all so confusing to me. Still trying to unravel everything that has happened and still trying to find firm ground to stand upon.

  8. Ann

    “You say your husband is abusive? It’s not that bad.There is no cause for alarm. You mustn’t over-react. You’re too sensitive. You’re too emotional. Fear and anxiety are sins; they show you don’t have enough faith in God. We are engaged in a war: we are battling the legalization of gay marriage, abortion on demand, the demise of the family. And because we are on a war footing, we have the authority to order you how to feel. We can tell you which emotions are best for you and which emotions you must suppress and resist. You must heed our orders. You must do as we say. Don’t panic. You’re spouse is not abusive, this is just the plain old fashioned ups and downs of marriage.

    Follow proper precautions. Don’t marry an unbeliever (but we won’t help you discern wolves in wool, so good luck with that!). Don’t have too high expectations of marriage. Submit to your spouse. Find out how to please your spouse. Be more sexy when he comes home. Don’t gossip. Don’t complain. Pray more. We all have our cross to bear.”

    YES! YES! YES! to all of the above. One time I took a chance and opened up to a group of ladies at a Bible study who were sitting at my table that I was having panic attacks. One of them nearly came out of her seat yelling at me, “How can you have fear if you have Jesus?!!! You’re not trusting Him!!!” She was so angry. It took so much for me to speak up and admit I was having the panic attacks; I felt so humiliated by her. It led to any exploration for why I was having them shut down. Fast forward 20 years later I have virtually no interaction with anti-husband and learning through books and this website about abuse the daily onslaught of panic attacks are gone.

    I had a TON of “marriage books”; I tossed them all. They only put the burden on me to “fix” the marriage. There is no “marriage” with an abuser.

    • voicewilderness1

      Maybe I chose the wrong books, but almost all the christian self help books I’ve ever read were very legalistic. I think these authors primary motive for writing these is probably to make money. I don’t buy christian books anymore. I read the bible. If you read Romans, we are completely saved by grace from first to last.

  9. raswhiting

    Barbara, The epidemic details are fascinating. What was Australia’s experience with this Influenza epidemic? My paternal grandmother, in Maine, wore herself out being pregnant at that time, giving birth [in her 30’s], and caring for the sick. She passed away shortly after the epidemic. This left my grandfather widowed a second time, now with four young children from this second marriage, and also three older sons and a step-son. The four younger children, including my father, were eventually raised as orphans and foster children in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

    • I don’t know much about the Australian experience of the epidemic other than what it says in Barry’s book. Australia was most hit in the third wave of the epidemic which came after the war was over. Because the war was over, the propaganda machine was no longer suppressing the truth so much. Barry says that when it was rife in Australia many people called it the bubonic plague or just ‘the plague,’ rather than Spanish Influenza. Of course, it was ‘only’ influenza. The third wave was not quite so lethal as the second wave. The virus by that time had mutated slightly so it was somewhat less lethal.

      My grandfather caught it when he was in Perth, working there after having returned from Gallipoli with war wounds. He was very sick. He decided that he had to make the long train journey back to Melbourne to be nursed by his mother, otherwise he woud die. He made the journey, and survived the illness. But of course, who knows how many people he infected on that train journey . . . but I guess there were many like him spreading it at that time.

  10. Innoscent

    Barbara, that’s such a vivid parallel and yet so sad 😦 Good on John M Barry to uncover the lie and expose the truth.
    In those days when I was desperately (and pointlessly) trying to reason with my H, I presented to him the solution of redirecting all the massive effort and time he was putting into sustaining his life of lies to making things right instead. Imagine the massive change in the right direction! But NO, the abusive war machine was rolling and he would rather sacrifice his wife and his marriage on the altar of pride rather his pride on the altar!

    “Surgeon General Blue did, literally, less than nothing. He blocked relevant research. . . . He made no preparations whatsoever to try to contain [the disease]. … He made no effort to gather information about the disease. He made no effort to prepare the Public Health Service for a crisis.”
    Typical passive-aggressive behaviour. Sounds all too familiar…
    The abuse pestilence has become pandemic in churches because at all levels people close their eyes, haven’t got a clue or don’t want their comfortable lives to be disturbed, or their church’s reputation damaged, etc. How many casualties will there need to be before the leadership start getting their acts together???

  11. Sunflower

    “Get yourself some sexy nighties.” (she really thought that would fix everything)

    We were going on a short trip. She said, “Now have a good trip, and no fighting!” I said, “We don’t fight. What’s the point? I don’t dare disagree.” Well then, if we don’t fight, it can’t be bad, can it?

    “It’s never only one person’s fault. Never. None of us are perfect.”

    • Lynn

      Sunflower, I’m assuming this is your councilor telling you to do these things….little does she know about life with an abuser.
      You know I tried the sexy nightie,, and all he said with a smirk is ” oh, are you trying to be sexy.” that was many years ago when I even had a slim figure. There has been many more hurts in that room in our house over the years, we now sleep separately this past year. ewwww sorry too much information. Lol. But really,,, All those things she says to do, is eventually used against us,,, I think we try everything, to be a wife, to love, to communicate peacefully, to accept when we are at fault, these are biblical commands,, we want to be Christians. I did have a Christian Lady councilor who told me once that women are responders, we respond to our husbands. I feel we reflect what is going on inside of our husbands, if our husband is abusive ,, or is not sincere, in even the nice things he says it hurts us deeply, we stop trusting them. How I long for a sincere husband, who will let me be a helpmate to him, who would let me be free to reflect what is going on inside of him, so I could help him be a better man…

      • “Sunflower, I’m assuming this is your councilor telling you to do these things….little does she know about life with an abuser.”

        Oh, for the day that counseling programs required coursework and case work of actual abuse situations. I would love to see counselor trainees (and even counselors currently practicing) confronted by the reality of abuse, not just the sanitized, hypothetical stuff that has no basis in reality.

  12. StandsWithAFist

    Perhaps many of us have seen contemporary posters that parody one from World War II: “Keep Calm & Carry On”? The original poster was created in 1939 in Great Britain via the “Ministry of Information” supposedly to “raise the morale” of British citizens facing impending war, which included the realistic fear & probability of carpet bombing, poison gas, Nazi occupation & death camps. The government printed over 2 million posters, but hardly used any of them b/c they were criticized as offensive & patronizing.

    Today, many historians see it as a “misjudgement by upper-class civil servants [i.e: the government] of the mood of the people”. Gee, ya think???

    “Keep Calm & Carry On” was propaganda, not empowerment. Britons survived WW I, ‘the war to end all wars’, only to face it all over again. They were experienced in war, they recognized the enemy, they bore the scars, but they were given a cliche. Why?

    To prevent panic. To pretend the threat isn’t that bad. Go to work. Act normal. Nothing to see here. Move along, little lassie…..Carry On.

    Isn’t this a parallel to the church today? Isn’t the church behaving like the “Ministry of Information”? Isn’t the church producing propaganda? Isn’t the church’s response to abuse designed to “prevent panic”? To minimize the truth? To pretend the threats are not real? To tell us to “just act normal”? The church acts like if they don’t admit abuse exists then “all is calm, all is bright”. It really isn’t all THAT bad. Calm down, go home, get over it.

    Forgive me, but can’t you just hear John Piper patronizing, “Keep calm & carry on, little lady”? Can’t you just see his smug little smile as he ponders the question, “what to do if there is a carpet bombing?” Perhaps Piper would tell that woman it’s okay to seek a bomb shelter “for a time”, but then, little missy, you need to return to your burned out, unsafe, ripped-to-shreds house, b/c even tho it has a hole in the roof and smoke rising from the ashes of your bed, by golly, God wants you to keep a stiff upper lip, go home & carry on.
    No matter if the Nazi SS are kicking in your door, your job is to “Keep Calm & Carry On”.
    Just wait on the Lord and eventually the bleeding will stop. “We” [the church] know what’s best. I can hear my own abuser saying, in her syrupy, religious voice: “We’re Christians and we need to be reallllllllly walking with the Lord”. “Keep Walking & Shut Up” is how THAT poster would read.

    Well maybe I don’t want to stay silent just so the church can stay comfortable.

    I’m tired of the platitudes and the cliches. Maybe I should make my own poster? “Speak Up & Rattle Cages”. Or, “Speak Out & Speak Often”. Or maybe even “Stand Tall & Speak Truth”.

    Sorry~needed to vent a little. Great post, Barbara. History seems to always tell the truth, eventually.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Right on, StandsWithAFist!

    • Still Reforming

      GREAT comment, StandsWithAFist., I want to copy and plaster it on social media. It’s an excellent comparison!

      I daresay when I read it, based on my own personal experience in my former church, I think the patronizing attitude was due to a couple of additional factors as well:

      (1) I think the leadership have a naive and superficial “love”-heavy fest going on, where forgiveness and mercy and prized and preached while judgment and protection of the targets of abuse are not only downplayed, but swept under the rug. It’s just plain EASIER to let the victim of abuse leave and the perpetrator stay. Therefore, there’s no more messy details to burden the leadership. It’s FAR easier to listen to the perpetrator and his little jokes or shrugs about the crazy wife who’s no longer there anyway. The “good ol’ boys” club can stay intact.

      (2) I think the leadership of the church are far more interested in self than the downtrodden or really hurt in the church. The leadership do not want to get their hands dirty, so they will cast aside anything brought to them or tuck it away in a drawer, if they read it at all (because some refuse to even read it), and therefore, they don’t need to get involved or be bothered with the messy task of discernment. That takes time. And it’s also easier to say (as I received via letter from the pastor) that they don’t have expertise in legal or psychological issues, but spiritual issues so the victim should seek help elsewhere. It also takes wisdom to learn about abusers and their tactics, but again – that takes time, and they’d rather sit and study the Bible than actually practice what they preach.

      (3) Abuse is ugly. The details are ugly. When one tries to learn the truth and sift through all the lies, it takes time and real true love to care enough to spend time learning about it. The leadership prefer to talk about love and encourage the victims of abuse to “love” their abusers more or “learn about forgiveness” (although when the victim tries to talk about it, she’s told she “thinks too much” – so there’s some fluid line where learning about forgiveness and practicing it makes sense, but you have to be one of the leadership to know just where that line is).

      (4) The leadership favor patriarchy over truth.

      • It also takes wisdom to learn about abusers and their tactics, but again – that takes time, and they’d rather sit and study the Bible than actually practice what they preach.

        And how ludicrous that is! The Bible is actually brimming over with descriptions of abusers and fools, and examples of abusers’ tactics of skullduggery, malice and hypocrisy . . . Once I became really aware of abuse and could identify and discern it, the Bible became so much more instructive to me, so much more edifying, so much more encouraging. Almost every time I read the Bible now (I usually read two OT books and one NT at the same time) I get at least one spark of an idea for a new post about the topics we deal with on this blog. Often multiple sparks. It exhausts me getting all these ideas and not having time to write them all down and flesh them out. An idea comes in a moment, the post from the idea takes hours to write, often.

        Pastors who prefer to read and study their Bibles’ rather than learn about the abusive mindset and abuser tactics, are missing out on so much in their Bible study. They need to study the mentality of abuse (a good place to start is Jeff Crippen’s series of 21 sermons on The Pschology and Mentality of Sin) and then their Bible reading will transform. It is like going from black and white TV to colour TV.

      • Lynn

        Still reforming, I agree….

      • #2
        Our pastor cast out my friend because their marriage was just too much for him to deal with. After all, we live in a world of instant gratification.
        He decided to concentrate on a doctorate in leadership because counseling was just too difficult. His comment: “How can people hate each other so much?”
        The difficulty was not hate, it was the abused trying to get away from the abuser.
        On the other hand, the abuser loved the control!
        How can one become a good church leader if he cannot understand relationships?

      • Still Reforming (previously newlyanonymous)

        NoMoreTears,

        I like your question:

        How can one become a good church leader if he cannot understand relationships?

        better than your pastor’s question:

        How can people hate each other so much?

        (sin-leveling, equating the two parties’ culpability)

        Here’s another: “How can someone who is to shepherd Christ’s flock be so shallow and uncaring as to just slough two individuals off without really knowing the truth about them — or caring to know?”

    • Great words you’ve written here, StandswithaFist 🙂

      I didn’t know about that poster which the British printed in 1939 but barely used. What a great piece of information, and you’ve highlighted and applied the analogy perfectly. Your mockery of Piper was superb.

      • grace551

        I also really liked this analogy by StandsWithAFist.

        Just for for your interest, Barbara, this theme has been really popular in the UK for several years, e g there are aprons saying ‘Keep calm and bake cupcakes’, T-shirts saying ‘Keep calm and date an engineer’, mugs saying ‘Keep calm and drink tea’, and of course in the Christian bookshops signs, mugs, fridge magnets etc saying ‘Keep calm and read the Bible’ and ‘Keep calm and pray.’ My teenager has apps for generating Keep Calm posters. I’m surprised it hasn’t got over to Australia, really!

        Although Wikipedia says the poster was designed in 1939 at the start of the war and barely used, the story I have read in several places is that they were designed in 1940 to be used in the event of a German invasion, and weren’t used because the UK was never invaded. I prefer this version myself, but would be interested to know which one is true. The 1940 one shows the government in a better light.

      • Thanks for those interesting snippets, Grace551.

        No I don’t think the ‘keep calm’ motif has really hit Oz. Or maybe I’m just out of touch with popular culture. 🙂

        I like what the Brits have done with the motif. It benignly takes the mickey out of that war poster.

      • grace551

        On second thoughts, I guess you have seen the posters etc but just not heard the story? Sorry!

    • DaughteroftheKing

      StandswithaFist, you ROCK. Seriously. Great post. I’m borrowing all three of your final slogans!

    • standsfortruth

      Yes SWAF, You are so right.
      We need to stand up against the oppression that would otherwise slowly swallow us up.
      Our voices need to be heard.
      Before the worst of the holocaust, the jewish people were being slowly maligned, and slighted within the nation, and no one stood up for them for fear of the Germans at that time.
      Afterwards everyone began believeing the german propaganda against them, and willingly shunned them, making it easier for them to become vulnerable targets of abuse and hate that led to their mass extermination.
      And the rest is a history that we all would do well to learn from.
      Silence against oppression only leads to further destruction.

  13. anon

    I could not agree more. The organized church should hang its collective head in shame for its betrayal of the victims of abuse.

    • Hi anon, I changed your screen name for your safety. Welcome to the blog 🙂

      I suggest you read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for guarding your safety while commenting on this blog. You can find it in the main menu.

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