A Cry For Justice

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

How Our Wish for Happily Ever After Can Enable Abusers

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.   (1 Peter 3:18-20)

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.   (Genesis 6:3-5)

All of us love fairy tale endings. Movies that end with “and they all died and the bad guys took over the world, THE END — don’t leave us with a good taste in our mouth.  For those who are in Christ, the Bible promises a happily ever after.  But in this present life, in the fallen world in which we live, happily ever after with audiences cheering because the evil empire has been defeated forever are not very common.

I believe that one of the reasons abuse victims are so frequently rendered injustice by their family, friends, and churches, is because in the minds of most people “happily ever after” is something like everyone saying they are sorry, hugging and shedding tears, and living in perfect peace. And that scenario, I suggest to you, is so rare in abuse cases as to be almost fiction. Rather, happily ever after is getting free of that non-marriage to the abuser and getting him completely out of one’s life. That is happily ever after, but somehow most people just don’t get that, especially in the Christian church.

We forget just how evil and hard the heart of the wicked can be. Consider Noah. There he was, building an ark and thereby preaching a sermon for 120 years. God’s patience waited all that time. Did man repent? No. One hundred and twenty years the Word of righteousness went out, but to no avail. There was no happily ever after, at least in the Hollywood sense of the phrase. Man’s heart was only evil continually, and violence filled the earth. That is the heart, and violence is the fruit, of the heart of the abuser — particularly the kind who wears a “Christian” disguise.

We are very selfish and self-seeking if we insist that an abuse victim remain in bondage to the wicked. Why do we do that? Because we want to write the script. We want a happily ever after. It warms our hearts. And that, I believe, is one reason the church can be so cold to a victim who comes forward, reports the abuse, and takes steps to get free. We want these scenarios to end with the Hallelujah Chorus. The reality is that we can sing that chorus when we see that real justice is effected upon the wicked and for the oppressed. We will sing it as well on that Day of the resurrection when the wicked are judged once and for all and the righteous stand in glory in the New Earth and Heavens. And we won’t be singing because every marriage was preserved. We will be singing praises to the Lord because justice was brought once and for all upon the evil ones, who we will never see again.

18 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    That makes sense. I figured it was naivete on the part of my (former) church for thinking it perfectly acceptable that I left the church while the abusive husband stayed. That way, it’s my fault for not staying at that church. It was my discomfort and no one else’s and therefore perfectly acceptable.

    When I called the pastor to explain why I wasn’t coming back (because I was entrenched in several ministries there and I didn’t like dropping them suddenly because my husband returned there after a self-imposed several-month absence). The pastor was perfectly okay with it, saying, “Well, that’s to be expected in a divorce situation.”

    I still scratch my head sometimes because I worked alongside that church family for close to a decade. Why didn’t they know me well enough to know that I was telling the truth? Why didn’t they want to DISCERN truth? Perhaps that’s the biggest question for me. Why won’t they get INVOLVED?

    Divorce is leprosy in the church. No one wants to touch it. No one. It’s MUCH easier to stand at a distance and say, “We’re praying for you. (Now begone with you.)”

    • Scarlett

      It would seem that church reaped what they sowed….your husband.
      It hurts, but just be glad you are out of both of them.

    • Daisy

      Still Reforming said,
      “Divorce is leprosy in the church. No one wants to touch it. No one. It’s MUCH easier to stand at a distance and say, “We’re praying for you. (Now begone with you.)”

      Yes!! Very true. So many Christians do this with all manner of suffering, and other issues, like Christians who are undergoing mourning, depression, or singles who want to get married but can’t find someone.

      They will offer to pray for you (some will actually scold you if you confide in them about a problem you’re having), but not many will take steps to actually meet with you once a week or month over a cup of coffee to console you and just listen.

  2. Greater Glory

    This is good and true not just for other people looking in from the outside, but for the abused. The first counselor I went to said to me one day in response to something I had said about my marriage, “But we live in a fallen world.” With that statement I came out of that fairy tale mind set that my marriage was supposed to eventually be one in which I would live out my “happily ever after.” It never dawned on me that it wouldn’t because I believed that if God was all about marriage mine would have to turn around and since it wasn’t it was because I hadn’t done something right yet. It stunned me in a good way because it woke me up to the reality that all doesn’t end the way we think or want. It also began a healing in my mind regarding my humanness. And, what I really wanted was out anyway but, I never thought that would be ok with the Lord. That statement really helped me to take a new look on my own stinking thinking and eventually I no longer felt powerless and followed HIM out.

    • Scarlett

      Just because an abused woman does everything right, it doesn’t necessarily follow that her abuser will repent and turn around and stop abusing her. For all the emphasis by the churches on the wife winning her husband by her quiet and gentle spirit, the bible still says this:
      “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”1 Cor 7: 16
      The fact is….you don’t.

  3. MeganC

    Wow! Yes! Amazing! Sharing on our Give Her Wings page.

  4. a prodigal daughter returns

    Powerful and needed article, thank you for posting it. Those churches that represent the abuse enabling voice so many victims hear are naive, yet sometimes abuse victims that seek their help are naive about church as well We trust something with a dismal track record thinking they will get behind us, speak to the abuse with justice and help break the cycle while warmly keeping us in prayers and their heart.
    The typical ungodly response to abuse, the cowardly inability to take a powerful stand against it or blatantly enable the abuse is the reality for many of us. After I got over the shock of how consistently those I asked for help enabled abuse, I had the additional shock of the unwelcome I felt as a divorced woman and survivor.
    We create an anomaly in a sea of people parading the divinity of marriage as upholding it as Gods favorite institution. By revealing a dark side, we attack a sacred cow and the thing that a great many women in the church are devoting their life too. Rather like King Xerxes advisers that informed him if his wife got away with standing up to him all women would rise up and there would be hell to pay at home. (I’m paraphrasing) Queen Vashti took one for the team…. Perhaps minimizing the harm marriage can do to the unlucky keeps that sacred cow safe for those in the exploitative relationships that often define complementary relationships

    • KayE

      The family, friends and church of my ex believe they have got their happily ever after. Finally the poor man has got rid of his nasty, crazy wife who made outrageous claims that he was violent and he is getting married to someone better.
      These people claim to believe it’s a bad thing for marriages to break up- but all they really ever care about is that their own family member or friend is getting the benefits of being married. Their moralistic views on divorce only apply to other people.
      In my early years of captivity and torture in marriage I used to listen to people like that, because I thought they were Christians. It stopped me from getting out when I should have, before I became too entrapped and broken.The truth is, they are not Christians and what they are doing to victims of abuse is a great evil.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Exactly right!

  5. Daisy

    It seems to me that a lot of churches / Christians are like this in regards to so many subjects. They want a happy-clappy personality in people, don’t want to actually deal with anyone who is suffering from anything.

    You’ll see this thinking pop up in regards to so many things. After my mother died, other Christians around me (including family!!) expect me to repress the sad feelings, though I feel a need to talk about the death.

    I’m told to stuff it down and go volunteer at charities, that me thinking about mom’s passing is “self pity,” which I find a very insulting way of depicting my grief.

    With depression, too. I used to have depression and tons of anxiety and the faith alone approach did nothing to relieve me of either problem.

    Some Christians are against Christians seeking psychological help or taking medications for psychological problems.

    So many Christians want you to stay away from medications and so forth, partly, I suspect, so that you can get up at the next church meeting and give a happy clappy ending to your saga, where you proclaim that you were healed of your mental health problems from only prayer, Bible reading, and faith alone, and credit it all to Jesus.

    • Innoscent

      ‘Fairy tale endings’ … humm, didn’t someone in Eden tell in the most melodious voice the very first one to Eve ? ♪ ♪ ‘Imagine how you will have divine power too and … ♫ ♫ enjoy complete liberty for e-ter-ni-ty!!!’ [I’m paraphrasing.] Satan set up Hollywood and perpetuated The Lie, His Lie vs The Truth. The brainwashing and craziness the movie making, TV, video, publishing and music industries have us swallow from childhood on with their heroes and the princes charming coming to our rescue are a constant onslaught. Like the majority of us victims I was brainwashed for years with that junk and I bought into the stuff, argh!

      But now my eyes are opened, not like Satan said to Eve in Gen 3.5, but God delivered me from his spell and fairy tale and the scale of naivety dropped for good. Farewell prince charming and Valentine! Goodbye hubby’s lullaby and all his allies!

      Thank you Jeff for reminding us of the hope of the new song God’s redeemed will sing in that glorious day, and it won’t be a movie, it will be The Truth.

    • Still Reforming

      Daisy,

      You described perfectly the church I just left. I remember hearing many times in a Bible study or from the pulpit on a Sunday morning how we won’t attract people to the faith if we’re all mopey or sad. We need to show people how happy we are to be Christians. (Like we’re supposed to be giggly all the time or so delirious with joy that we laugh at nothing, like people do in the movies – saying something normal like “the sky is blue” and then laughing about it.)

      I recall standing in the back of a fellowship hall one evening at church, and there were a few folk scattered here and there. It was a Wednesday night, one that doesn’t draw many people, and everyone was singing a song. The pastor was at the head of the hall, when suddenly he pointed to me at the back and then waved his arms around. I leaned over to the woman next to me and asked, “Is he pointing to me? Does he want me to join in? Is that it?” They were all singing a song that goes “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord.” That’s pretty much all of the song, which just keeps repeating itself until finally ending in “Amen.” I didn’t feel like singing. I was depressed about my marriage, couldn’t really talk about it with church folk, and didn’t feel in a “yes” mode. She replied, “I think he does.” I didn’t join in.

      But it was always like that – prompting to get up and yell for the Lord. Often the pastor would chide the congregation on a Sunday morning saying, “You’re all looking at me strange.” (Which I thought odd coming from a man giving a sermon. We’re supposed to look at him.) It often felt to me like he thought he was at a comedy club performing and we were supposed to be reacting more.

      Anyway, it was the same experience for me. Unhappy accounts weren’t welcome, and yet, since you brought up your testimony of grieving and told to just “get on with it,” there us a Scripture that leaps to my mind: It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

      • it was always like that – prompting to get up and yell for the Lord.

        reminds me of the prophets of Baal in the showdown with Ezekiel:

        And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
        (1 Kings 18:26-29 ESV)

    • Friend of Target

      Daisy/Innoscent/Still Reforming,

      Your comments remind me of a chorus we used to often sing & clap our hands to in the church I grew up in. I’ve thought a lot about it in the last few years, what a farce /false gospel it is. I just googled it & am disappointed to see that it is a Gaither song. I like much of their work otherwise. I also discovered there are verses to go with the chorus that are just as bad. The chorus is, “I found happiness. I found peace of mind. I found the joy of living, perfect love sublime. I found real contentment happy living in accord. I found happiness all the time wonderful peace of mind since I found the Lord.”

      • Jeff Crippen

        Friend – I have thought about those choruses too. Numbers of the ones we kids sang in SS reflect the same notion. Yes, we do find peace and joy and love and contentment in Christ, but the unspoken taboo truth is that so many Christians have been put into the bondage of false teachings and man’s traditions that these ditties just become some kind of means to fool ourselves about how we really feel.

      • Still Reforming

        Friend of Target,
        That reminds me of something I heard once in a teaching by RC Sproul Sr. that I appreciated. He remarked something to the effect that his life only really got hard once he became a Christian. Anyone who is a Christian will likely understand that, I think. Although upon becoming a Christian my life got magnificently better and still is, it certainly isn’t easier. It was easier when I wasn’t so acutely aware of my own sin and flesh-Spirit struggles, yet ’tis far better to have them than not.

  6. loves6

    I have a question?
    After my official diagnosis of PTSD by a psychologist a few a days back. I’m realizing the key trigger to my constant anxiety is my husband. I have known it but now it is clearer than ever. It might just be is lack if words, his lack of smiling, his impatience, his sulking….there are countless things that have happened this week with him that cause anxiety to start up.

    My husband and family think I’m just having a melt down and I’m under Mental Health for my trauma as a child. I have not told them nor my husband that my husband’s ‘abuse’ is what has created the retriggering of my trauma. My kids know he is controlling. They have not heard my account of my appointment where I was told my husband is abusive in many ways and retriggering me everyday.

    The question: Do I come out and just tell my husband and my kids that he is abusive and he is the reason I am unwell? I have been so scared of just naming it. I have gone around the edges and if anyone was clever enough they would hear what I’m trying to say.

    The Health Crisis Team are wanting to get my anxiety sorted with anti anxiety meds so I can start making good decisions as the anxiety has crippled me and is crippling me. At the moment my husband wants to be around me … he hasn’t done anything the kids suggested such as moving out of the room, get counselling, get me somewhere to stay for respite … he is just going through the motions of everyday life hoping I will be my old self and give in. I’m not doing what he expects. I guess him not being proactive is all part of his abusive narcissistic ways…it’s all about him and he can handle it and he of course wants.the control of not losing me … hopefully very soon I will be strong enough to move out.

    • The question: Do I come out and just tell my husband and my kids that he is abusive and he is the reason I am unwell? I have been so scared of just naming it.

      Loves6, I think your fear of naming it to your husband and your kids is a healthy fear, a wise fear, to have. It is warning you that if do ‘come out and name it’, he will escalate and your kids may escalate against you too by being unfairly critical and judgemental of you (kids can easily be swept up into the abuser’s point of view, even if they have sometimes stood against the abuser, he can coerce them to take his side and defend him, if he plays his victim cards well enough.)

      So, I suggest to you that you don’t name it to him, or to your kids. There may be a suitable time to name it to your kids later on, but not now. I suggest to you that you continue to name it TO YOURSELF —— it IS abuse, he IS abusing you, he IS re-triggering all your PTSD —— and do that as often as you can in the privacy of your mind, so that you gain confidence in the truth of it, and that in turn may help you gain the courage to leave.

      At the moment my husband wants to be around me … he hasn’t done anything the kids suggested such as moving out of the room, get counselling, get me somewhere to stay for respite …

      of course he hasn’t done anything the kids suggested. He wants to stay in control of you, and keep you on the back foot in extreme anxiety. He will not take any action that will genuinely alleviate or reduce your anxiety level, and if it ‘looks’ like he’s taking any such action, it will only be to suck you back in and entice you to cling to the hope that maybe this time he is changing. . .

      If I were you, I would try to focus on keeping your wall up, not giving away your real thoughts and feelings to him, and making and executing your plans to leave.

      He LONG AGO lost the right to any ‘fair’ confrontation which challenges him to face up to his problem. Why? Because he has used every attempt you’ve made to ‘fairly’ confront him, as just another chance to slam and crush and scare you. You are not obliged to tell him the truth, since he has shown for so so long that he has contempt for the truth and just uses it against you.

      You have the right to remain silent and to make you plans in secret. . . .That is one way we excercise godly shrewdness when dealing with evil people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: