A Cry For Justice

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

Because the church mishandles abuse, the name of God is blasphemed among unbelievers

Many people who boast in the Bible dishonor God by breaking Biblical precepts left, right and centre.

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
(Romans 2:17-29 ESV)

Kindly allow me to rephrase this for the church —

If persons call themselves Christians and rely on the Bible and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because they are instructed from the Bible; and if they are sure that they themselves are guides to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, instructors of the foolish (hem hem, are women more often foolish than men?), if they are teachers of children, having in the Bible the embodiment of knowledge and truth — those people who teach others, do they not teach themselves?

While they preach against stealing, do they steal?
Do they rob women, children and vulnerable individuals of their dignity? Do they unfairly besmirch the reputations of abuse victims? Do they rob them of their well-being? Do they tacitly enable abusers to shred the sense of identity of their victims — to shred their very souls? Do they allow them to steal the virginity and innocence of children?

Those who say that one must not commit adultery, do they commit adultery?
Do they watch porn? Do they sidle up to single or divorced women in the coffee time after church, to brush against their hips or breasts? Do they arrange rosters for church duty so they can conveniently be with a woman they are lusting over, on pretext of ‘doing church work’? Do they turn a blind eye to other men’s illicit or dubious behavior? Do they give the nod and wink to men’s ‘foibles and weaknesses’ while coming down hard on women’s weaknesses? Do they accuse people of sexual immorality when they are guilty of that themselves and are keeping it close to their chests? Do they have sex with children — or wish they could, and are keeping that secret? Do they groom their prospective victims (and the moral adults around those victims) so that no-one will suspect them of adulterery or pedophilia? Do they evade the arm of the law? Do they help others evade it? Do they go out of their way to witness for the ‘good character’ of an abuser in court, but not help the abuse victim who is trying to persuade the court to protect her kids?

Those who abhor idols, do they rob the temples (rob the church of God)?
Do they take tithes but fail to protect widows, the women bereft of husbands? — The women whose husbands masquerade as godly men on Sundays, but who abuse and mistreat and demean and degrade and slander and attack their wives under the mask of being husbands, and then get all hoity toity and take the moral high ground when their wives institute divorce proceedings.

Do they rob the church of evangelism opportunities? —  of the hearing it should be able to obtain from unbelievers, and would obtain if it were honouring justice and righteousness.

Do they rob the church of believers? Do they spurn the testimony of faithful believers who have suffered abuse? Do they shun them? Do they sideline them or make their lives in the pews so uncomfortable that they flee with their trauma wounds out into the wilderness?

Do they say they abhor idols, but idolize marriage and put it on a pedestal —at the expense of the individuals within it?

Do they seek those who have gone astray because the needs of victims have been ignored by the church?

Too many who boast in the Bible dishonor God by breaking Biblical precepts left, right and centre!

For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the unbelievers because of you.” This is a quote from the Septuagint of Isaiah 52:5b (link):

Thus saith the Lord, On account of you my name is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles.

How many secular domestic abuse professionals have a cynical view of Christianity because they’ve known pastors to advise their clients to reconcile with abusers who have only demonstrated wafer-thin repentance?  No one has researched this, but anecdotal evidence and my reading tells me that most DV professionals are highly suspicious of pastors and of Christianity and one of the reasons they have for their cynicism is because they see so-called Christians enabling abusers and misleading victims. The same can be said for journalists and for law enforcement professionals who have addressed sexual abuse scandals in the church.

Baptism and church membership indeed is of value if one obeys the law of Christ, but if one breaks the law of Christ, one’s church membership and one’s baptism become uncleannness.

Consider someone who is unbaptised or does not frequent church, but who keeps the precepts of the Bible: Will not his lack of the social markers of Christianity be regarded by conventional Christians as unbelief? Then he who is unbaptised and not a member of ‘c’hurch, but keeps the law, will condemn those who have the Bible but break the law of Christ.

For no one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is Christianity outward and physical. But a Christian is one inwardly, and Christianity is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. That person’s praise is not from man but from God.

13 Comments

  1. Mark

    Barbara, the zeal of the house of the
    Lord and His name consumes you! God bless the fire and fight that is in you.

  2. Anewanon

    > How many secular domestic abuse professionals have a cynical view of Christianity because they’ve known pastors to advise their clients to reconcile with abusers who have only demonstrated wafer-thin repentance? No one has researched this, but anecdotal evidence and my reading tells me that most DV professionals are highly suspicious of pastors and of Christianity and one of the reasons they have for their cynicism is because they see so-called Christians enabling abusers and misleading victims.<

    Thus the ABUSER CYCLE ensues and it leaves the victim more destitute each and every time they "forgive" and "give them another chance". I wonder if there is a book to help ladies understand what true repentance looks like vs wafer thin repentance. ANd can we get it into the hands of the pastors? Is there a chapter on this in ACFJ book?

  3. LH

    Wow, you nailed it!

    My ex-church was very strict on Reformed theology and “doing things correctly” and rather looked down on other types of churches who aren’t [and thinking other Christians should “convert” to how they believe], but it got a very bad name among my large circle of Christian homeschool friends who attend those ‘other type’ of churches because of how it treated me and my kids and would never consider changing to more “theological” church if that’s how they treat people there. And all the while the particular denomination I was in prided themselves on putting correct theology above love for others.

    In a letter I once sent to the pastor and elders, after telling them I was tired of being treated like a theology problem instead of a hurting person who needed help, I asked them about John 13:35 (“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”) and never ever got an answer of any of them. Looking back I don’t recall that pastor ever preaching on 1 John in all the years I was in that church, which makes sense since it is full of how we are to love each other!

    • Still Reforming

      LH,

      What a fantastic way to put it: “tired of being treated like a theology problem instead of a hurting person who needed help…”

      This is precisely the reason I have a problem listening to some Reformed teachers who I used to really love. It all comes across to me now as academic. Not unlike all the sermons I’ve heard over the years about “love” and “mercy” – without the preacher ever saying what that looks like, especially to those of us caught up in abusive cycles – those of us who have identified these cycles to the pastorate and leaders and others (especially the women in church – why of all people did THEY not get it?), and then merely being sent back into the fray to just repeat those cycles over and over again.Telling the pastorate again and being sent back. Telling others and being sent back…. Where is THEIR love and mercy for the downtrodden and abused?

      I used to love studying the Word. I’m treading back there slowly and gingerly. Listening to a little, but carefully and with no small degree of trepidation. I fear feeling more trod upon than lifted up.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Still Reforming – I have come to the point of reading fewer and fewer authors/books and primarily studying Scripture directly. I still believe we all need the input and balance of other believers when it comes to understanding God’s Word – I am a pastor and teacher myself! But like you I see that it is soooo easy to get sucked into man-made traditions and be robbed of the freedom of the Spirit of Christ that I am more comfortable just studying Scripture which I know is inerrant and infallible and will never lead me astray.

        I am not proposing that we do not need the body of Christ or the pastors and teachers (Eph 4) God has gifted to help us. But I am saying that we (myself included) need to be very careful that we don’t end up reading and studying, for example, volumes and volumes of the Puritans, or every new book that comes down the road written by some famous theologian or well-known Christian leader. That simply cannot and must not be our PRIMARY field of study or we will end up, once more, engulfed in the traditions of man instead of the Word of God. A very good practice, at least for me, is to study Scripture carefully, using tools like detailed study tools like Scripture cross references (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, now computerized for ease of use), and letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Then and only then do I check the results of commentators and other theologians.

        Press on in your study of the Word!

      • thepersistentwidow

        “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40

        I learned from the Lutherans that Christian theology is the study of what God has done through Christ for us. Christ and his work (the Gospel) is the central and primary message of the Scriptures as Christ fulfills the law for us. Difficult passages become clear when viewed through the lens of a clear distinction of law and Gospel.

        I am convinced that the legalistic churches’ theology is religious, but not Christ centered because it focuses on our works over and above Christ’s finished work. They give lip service to the Gospel, but essentially teach that we have to earn it through our works. Enough of that! Such a distorted theology will only weigh Christians down and should be recognized as the source of the problems that we deal with at ACFJ. Anyone can claim to have theology. The question is…is it true?

  4. Still Reforming

    THIS –>” No one has researched this, but anecdotal evidence and my reading tells me that most DV professionals are highly suspicious of pastors and of Christianity and one of the reasons they have for their cynicism is because they see so-called Christians enabling abusers and misleading victims. ”

    This is so true and for good reason. What a stain it is on the church today that real Christians would rather recommend secular women’s shelters and counselors and books than any by the professing church.

    It likewise gets my goat to hear from my own attorneys how they don’t like hearing clients talk about suspected mental disorders (like bipolar or narcissism) because these clients aren’t “professionals.” I refrained from stating to my attorneys that my husband is a narcissist, although when the word “abuse” escaped my lips it was met with correction by my attorneys, stating that “it’s just a country boy thing” or “some men don’t respect women as they should.” Even some of my husband’s raging fits were explained away as, “Well, it happens.”

    When I told women at my church of my troubles at home and said that I was researching sociopathy, I got a few quaint smiles and “we’ll pray for you” pats on the back, but never did anyone take it seriously. I gave example after example of lies and manipulation in quiet and infrequently both to my pastor and to other women, but no one really seemed to think it much a big deal.

    As I look back over all the times I’ve told people at church about what was happening in our home and also showed up on many a Sunday morning fragile and in tears at the drop of a hat, I now think that the prevailing attitude there was one of patriarchy, unbeknownst to me at the time. And they still go on now with my abusive husband in their midst, the pastor fully knowing that my husband dropped our child and me from his paycheck one day without so much as a word. It wouldn’t even surprise me if the same pastor was preaching on 1 Timothy 5:8 (“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”) without connecting the dots. It’s perfectly fine for my husband to show up there and “worship” with them every Sunday, while I remain elsewhere outside the fold.

    It is little wonder that the secular world shines by contrast against the church in this area of recognizing evil for what it is. What a blight on the church today.

    • SeeClearerNow (prev NotHeard)

      StillReforming, re your frustrating attorneys, their attitude of “it’s just a country boy thing” is exactly “some men don’t respect women as they should.”

  5. Lisa

    They—Just—Don’t—Care

    — to look beyond their preconceived ideas about abuse.

    — to hear out and accept for true what a woman is experiencing in her own home along with the children.

    — to research the nature of abuse through reading, listening to speakers, visiting domestic abuse shelters.

    — to see women as Jesus does.

    ***Because then they’d have to do something about it.***

  6. Joy Forrest

    Oh yes! I’ve seen this to be the case far too often. Recently, a couple at our local seminary separated because of domestic violence. She refused to go to counseling to work towards reconciliation with him, because he had been so violent, and the seminary kicked her out. She was working for a local business owner (an unbeliever) who had been witnessed to by multiple seminary students, and yet in this situation the unbeliever took in the victim while the believers turned their back on her. I can’t begin to tell you how much that tarnished the witness of the church in his eyes.

  7. Not Too Late

    Barbara, you said: Do they go out of their way to witness for the ‘good character’ of an abuser in court, but not help the abuse victim who is trying to persuade the court to protect her kids?
    I know of a couple of cases where a church provided “good character” references to abusers, and not surprisingly, both the victims now say they would never ever step into a church. People might put it down to bitterness, but in reality, they are trying to stay safe, because they never know if their abuser is lurking around there. And of course, they feel sick that organizations, churches no less, are prepared to protect dangerous perpetrators and help them further traumatize their victims.

    Yet churches don’t seem to put two and two together. All their efforts at evangelism don’t seem to amount to much. They don’t ask themselves why people are suspicious of churches.

    • Not Too Late

      I forgot to mention that the victims I referred to are not believers. Their abusers were not either, not until they “found God” and found support in the church.

  8. Debbie

    You hit the nail right on the head! Most churches blame the woman when abuse occurs in a marriage, or at least they hold her equally accountable for what is looked at as “normal” interactions between a husband and a wife that have gotten out of hand. Two days ago, a pastor’s wife literally threw a book at me when she realized it was written by the victim of an abusive situation. Both the pastor and his wife sided with the abuser because this man managed to look good publicly and because her behavior was at times erratic. It’s a long story, but basically her husband needed her to be “crazy” to make himself look good and feel good. He was the “good and longsuffering husband” and she was the “mentally ill wife.” This woman underwent intense therapy, has been divorced for two years, and is thriving for the first time in her life.

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