A Cry For Justice

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

“Christian” Enabling of the Abuser Increases His Attacks on the Victim

Recently an abuse survivor made a very insightful comment. She said that she could always tell when her abuser (a professing Christian) was receiving support from a Christian. How? He stepped up the intensity of his abuse. She said that while non-Christian support for him would certainly encourage him in his wickedness, her suffering at his hands increased the most when professing Christians sided with him. This is very sobering.

First, let’s ask “why?” Why does an abuser particularly feel empowered in his wickedness when he receives support from duped (or worse) Christians? I suggest that the answer simply comes down to this: “Christian” support/enabling of the abuser makes him conclude that God is on his side. That he is in the right. It makes him out to be a holy jihadist, zealous for the Lord, ready and willing to wipe out any opposition. Christians who enable abusers actually hand over the keys to a new and improved torture chamber to the evil man, and they do so in the name of the Lord! That is blasphemy. It is using the Lord’s name in vain.

… they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 29:23b)

A second question: “What does this say about the culpability of Christians who enable the abuser?” It says that they share in the guilt for this wickedness. They participate in the oppression of the victim. They have blood on their hands.

You see, while we are errant human beings, falling quite short of perfection, nevertheless there are some things we simply must get right. A firearm, for example, must be handled wisely and safely. Because you just don’t get a second chance. I may intend to use fire to do good, perhaps burning up an ugly pile of debris in my yard, but I had better know about fire and follow the rules for its safe use. Because fire often doesn’t give us a second chance. So it is with evil. We have to get it right about the nature and methods of evil. If we don’t, then we become participants in its wickedness upon its victims.

So, Christian, remember this and mark it down well. The next time you preach things like “just go back to him and submit and pray for him more” to victims, the next time you preach a sermon about how husbands are to be masters and priests in their home and how wives are to submit to them in all things, you are a participant in the abuse being dished out to the victim and in fact you are increasing its severity because you have endorsed the wicked man’s thinking that he has God on his side.

God is most certainly not on the abuser’s side, and furthermore, He is not on yours either.

* * *

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

 

31 Comments

  1. As I was travling to church yesterday morning. I happened to see a a older woman with a picket sign walking back and forth in front of a church building.
    She was proclaiming the leadership of that paticular church were abusing their authority. And, that she was a victim.
    This visual was a confirmation to my situation.
    There were times when I would ask myself this question.
    Who is enabling his abuse against me?
    And still is.
    It’s not his co workers or his friends.
    He is a sociopath. A loner.
    He hides in a CULT and more than likely gets advise from another abuser. If not more than one.
    I am praying as David did in psalm 109.
    Against my enemies!
    This message confirms what many other women are experiencing.
    The Lord’s timing is ALWAYS PERFECT.

  2. freeatlast8

    I find it interesting how this is what my abuser thinks I am doing to him. He lumps all the “Christian” people together who have assisted me in my departing from him. He would appear to be the victim of my abuse against him as his wife, as well as any people who have come to my aid. I end up feeling like I am the one who did the wrong to him. I think he feels like one of us feels when the church sides with the abuser, except he feels this way because my family, his family, our adult kids, and my church have sided with me. I hate the confusion and twistedness of all this. I sometimes question whether or not I am the bad guy and end up feeling sorry/sympathizing with him because I know how badly I’d feel (alone, betrayed, abandoned) if my family left me and now wants nothing to do with me. I start to wonder if I am the abuser since everyone seems to be on my side and I have them all duped. Although, I don’t go around making trouble for him. I don’t even speak to him unless I have to. I would prefer not to have any dealings with him at all, except we have kids together. I am not abusing him, nor increasing my abuse of him, but I certainly do take comfort and feel built up from my Christian allies when I share with them his verbal attacks against me. I seek support from them and encouragement when he ramps up his assaults. He continues to harass me with threats of hell and damnation. Am I crazy for thinking like this???

    • Charis

      No. Not crazy. Normal. And it is the work of the Deceiver.

      Consider Job:

      And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

      So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

      Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive disaster?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips

      Satan is an accuser. Plug your ears to his poisonous plots.

      Revelation confirms:

      And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

      It is Satan who accuses you. Not Christ. Not the Spirit. You are covered by the blood. Like Job – we love not our life – even if it cost us death. Cast aside Satan’s false guilt. His day is coming…we are sealed by the Spirit. Walk in freedom!

    • cindy burrell

      Dear “Free”: No, you are not crazy at all. You are operating from a heart that genuinely cares while dealing with someone with a hardened heart. In his world, it’s all about him, so any who fail to accept his version of reality are his enemies. Furthermore, abusers are all about perception, so the fact that so many people have seen through that cracked facade of his is highly unnerving to him. And of course, he wants to blame you for that. He believed you would never expose him. And I must say, you are blessed to have a good number of people who are supporting you!

      I would encourage you to stand firm on the truth of your relationship, not the twisted version of truth he has put forth. Of course, you’re not abusing him. He has to demonize you in an effort to prop himself up and hopefully make people (even you) feel sorry for him and his plight – which he brought on himself. His threats of hell and damnation are foolishness and an act of both desperation and manipulation. He is not God. Furthermore, is that what love or repentance look like? Hmm. No.

      Removing yourself from an abusive environment has exposed the truth about his life, and he can choose whether to get right with God or not, but that is between him and God. You are wisely allowing him to reap what he has sown – for his good if he will receive it. Release him into God’s hands. The man is not your responsibility. You are in a place where you can allow God to heal you, and you can provide a safe haven for your kids and sow balance and love and grace into their lives now, too.

      Don’t doubt yourself and don’t carry a measure of guilt that does not belong to you. When all is said and done, our God is not a God of confusion. Stand on what you know to be true.

      All the best,

      Cindy

    • Freeatlast8 – I too affirm you are not crazy for thinking like this.
      You are the abused person. He is the abuser. Abusers always try to invert everything and depict black as white, yes as no, abuser as victim, victim as abuser.

      Rather than being ‘crazy’, you are actually resisting the abuse. Here are some of the ways I see you are resisting:

      You hate the confusion and twistedness he creates.
      You refuse to be content with twistedness.
      You resist agreeing with falsehood and lies.
      You resist complying with false versions of ‘what happened in the relationship’.
      You resist letting him mess with and twist and intimidate and bewitch the minds and souls of your kids.
      You resist giving into the potential temptation of retaliating and seeking vengeance off your own bat: you don’t go round making trouble for him.
      You seek support from people who believe and support you because you know that sometimes you need it — and a good parent needs help and support to keep being a good parent when she is under the pump, and esp when she is being attacked by an evildoer!
      You seek support from others who love and affirm you because you have a balanced, godly view of your intrinsic value as a creature created in God’s image and as a born-again Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
      You seek support from genuine Christians because you love the fellowship and edification that good Christian fellowship brings. And you love this because you love the Lord Jesus Christ and you hate every false way.

      Psalm 119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

  3. freeatlast8

    The sign carrying woman will likely be looked upon as the crazy one.

  4. freeatlast8

    If we can’t enlighten our spouses to the fact they are abusers, how can we enlighten church leadership about it? I think all of us women here should we be talking about abuse to our church leadership before an issue arises in the church itself. Especially women who have had to move on from a previous church that did not support her in her crisis. If we are vocal before the crisis, instead of them seeing us as the perpetual victim “complaining” of abuse in our family, then when/if it does happen to someone else, they will be prepared to give it more serious consideration, and not jump to conclusions about the woman being at fault.

    By the time there is an issue of abuse in a “Christian” family, and it is presented to church leaders for consideration, if the leadership is not educated, it appears from stories here that the general default is to fault, blame, accuse the woman; therefore, continuing the problem of divided camps of thought that split families and churches.

    I, fortunately, have an understanding senior pastor, and our newest pastor and his wife are both previously divorced. The newer pastor’s wife came out of an abusive situation, so there is some compassion and understanding about abuse on their parts.

    I may have a talk with them soon about offering some sort of ministry to abused women.

    On another note, there is a woman in my church who was living with a man. He was “spanking” her. She had bruises to prove it. She is a hot-head woman, though, who throws tantrums, fights back, cusses, hits, and throws things at her man when she gets mad. Both of these two people are out of control when they get mad. So I would say they are both abusive. She is recently converted to Christ but has a long way to go in her sanctification from a lifetime of wrong behavior. So how do you address this sort of dynamic where both parties are equally sinful, yet she might call him abusive toward her. No sin levelling here. They are both at fault.

    • Jeff Crippen

      freeatlast – Very good points. Talk about it before it happens when possible. As to the woman in your church – step one is for her to break off relationship with this man. If he treats her that way, it is not a healthy place for her to be. And with her own sins as well it would seem to me that turning away from that relationship is the healthiest, and in fact a must if he is not a Christian. You say she has been living with the fellow, so I assume that means they are not married and thus they have been sinning in that respect too. Repentance will require a walking away from all that sin.

    • Re the woman you described: I agree with what Jeff said.
      If she lacks self control, curses, etc, and if she is a genuinely born-again believer, she certainly has a lot of work to do on her sanctification. Sanctification would mean something like this:
      — recognising the defects in her character and her bad habits and working on changing her habits and her character with the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, prayer, self-discipline, and through being open to godly feedback from more mature believers.

      If she is a survivor of childhood abuse or trauma, it is possible that at some point the Holy Spirit may nudge her to start facing that stuff and processing it in a healthy way so she can better deal with the difficulties and challenges of life.

      I had some pretty big character defects when I was a baby Christian. When I tell people what I used to be like way back then, they sometimes express disbelief because I am so different now. Sanctification is an ongoing process. Watching the grass you don’t see it grow, but come back a while later and boy has it grown!

    • nicolesassy123

      Actually thy are NOT out of control. Abuse is a choice, just like all of our behavior.

  5. lonelywife

    This happened to a friend of mine…she went to our Pastor and he told her to pray more, and gave her husband a free pass…he even refused to listen to recordings that my friend has of her husband verbally abusing her.
    I want to take my friend and the recordings to our pastor and confront him in love…but I’m afraid to.
    Years ago, I had to leave a church and friends that I loved, because I confronted the pastor and the pastor took it to the congregation and had me “church disciplined”…I can laugh about it now, because I now see how arrogant and wrong that pastor was…but at the time I was hurt, lost, and feeling very alone.
    I love my pastor, but he’s blinded by his ignorance of abuse within the church and how to deal with it. And to complicate things…my son is on staff at the same church. Please pray for me as I know I need to talk to my Pastor.

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      Praying for you for wisdom, power, insight and a powerful sense of the presence of God with you. It is generally in the best interest of church structures to remain in the dark about the truth of abuse in their churches. Should they actually respond there would be a housecleaning of epic proportions which would probably cut down on tithe considerably and threaten their existence.
      I believe most churches come to this cross- road (pun intended) eventually. The question are they going to follow the way of Christ and bring purity to a corrupted congregation or are they going to turn blind eye so they can continue life as they know it.

  6. Still Reforming

    Oh, amen and amen.

  7. a prodigal daughter returns

    I remember the escalation of violence after our first pastoral counseling session when the truth behind the doors of our house (my prison) was finally exposed. I remember the leering face of the uneducated, arrogant and youthful pastor stating: “if she was my wife I’d hit her too”. Thus, the big dark secret at last exposed received a handclap.

    At age 22 at the time, I was socially awkward, extremely shy and very quiet, so I don’t understand my threat to the man’s ministry. He passed sentence on my life and my children’s lives. His church (not God’s church) endorsed the little lord of the house explosions of violence as countless powerless and godless churches across this country do. The next 17 years resulted in increasing injury to myself with an understanding this didn’t matter to anyone especially not those in supposed ministry to the Lord.

    I contrast that experience with what I read today in my devotions Luke 4:18–19

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

    As I considered the Spirit of God that rested on Christ, to this day gives evidence of His presence in the lives of Christ-followers I ask what spirit are these oppressors operating under? That they side with evil, endorse it, support it, help it prosper, what spirit is that? In fact, I suspect it is the spirit of anti-Christ because by their actions they deny Him.

    Worse, they rob the knowledge of an identity as a beloved child of God imbued with power and wisdom from God’s children that are being victimized. Victims shouldn’t be taught how Omnipotent their husbands and male authority in their lives is, but what their identity is in Christ. This is their worst wickedness the robbery of a knowledge of God and His power in lives which He resides in. As 1 Peter explains not only are these blind leaders of the blind lacking in God’s power they are useless, unfruitful, ungodly. Their fate will include a millstone wrapped around their neck while they sink into the consequences of their withholding justice. These patriarchal rulers in love with their own power are powerless to do anything in line with the will of God. The fruit of their lives in helping to enslave others is a witness that they are enslaved themselves to darkness.
    I renounce them, their teaching, their lives and any darkness I accepted that they propagated as truth.

    1 Peter 1:2-9
    Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
    seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
    For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
    Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
    and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
    and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
    For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

  8. surviving freedom

    Sometimes I wonder if the abuser truly knows he’s not a true follower of Christ, as long as he can convince others that he is, than that’s enough for him. As long as he could claim that God is on his side, it doesn’t seem to matter to him one way or the other if it’s true or not. It just gives him greater freedom to continue doing things his way, facing very little earthly consequences for his sin,ensuring that it’s other people experiencing those consequences.

    Sometimes I’ve pondered this too: If an abuser (deceiver) can manipulate or find others to follow his word, the whole time leading them to believe they’re following God’s Word or doing God’s will … how much more he’s won.

    I have been praying Psalm 55 on a regular basis, especially on the days I feel very alone. I think it is a very fitting prayer for someone who has experienced the way an abuser enlists allies. I find comfort in it to know that, even as the abuser may become more powerful and “righteous” in his abuse… this prayer reminds me that God is truly the only one who is powerful and righteous no matter how many allies the abuser enlists through his smooth talk and lies, no matter how many people he’s convinced that I’m the one being un-Christ-like, he hasn’t convinced God, and God’s the only true ally that can always be counted on.

    • Anonymous

      And Psalm 10 is a passionate expression of David’s grief and suffering. I find myself going to this Psalm when I need to lament. While there God shows me, do not dwell on the outward appearance…it may look like the wicked are getting away with evil but they are not! And I do not need to think for one moment that God is afar from me or not seeing my pain; I need only to remember that HE sees all things and His timing is not a minute early, not a minute late, but always right on time. How wonderful after being lied to and deceived by evildoers and terrorists and being awakened to the sheer horror of their betrayal, we can fall into and rest in the loving and safe arms of our Savior, One who will never betray us!

  9. This reminds me of Heads of Household meetings at Patriarchal churches. When men come back home from those meetings in which the topic had to do with “unsubmissive” or “unruly” wives, you can be sure that things would be much more difficult for wives.

    • nicolesassy123

      I was born standin up and talkin back. So glad!!

  10. KayE

    The abuser who thinks God is on his side is very dangerous. He has lost all fear of consequences for his actions and he feels justified in everything he does. He expects to be rewarded, and he is in fact rewarded by many church people.

    Our family stopped going to a church for several years. During this time my ex’s behavior slowly but steadily improved. It wasn’t that he’d changed on the inside, and I knew that. It’s just that I got better at resisting manipulation and better at setting boundaries. Then we went back to church. Big mistake. The abuse got dramatically worse, and kept on escalating. After I talked to the pastor, all hell broke out. In spite of the fact that my situation had now become life-threatening, the church supported and sympathized with the abuser and I was treated with visible contempt. The reason I didn’t appear at church any more was that my ex used physical violence to stop me from going. But no-one bothered to find that out, and if they had, they probably wouldn’t have believed me. Over the years since then, all the while that he has moved out, divorced me and immediately married someone from that same church, he has continued an extremely vindictive and destructive campaign against me. He has many church allies.

    These people really do think they are working for God. I’m sure they consider me an unbeliever. After all I stopped going to their church.
    They are completely ignorant about how to deal with a person of endless entitlement, no conscience and high levels of deception. What they have done is similar to throwing water on an electrical fire. It isn’t going to turn out as happily as they expect.

    • KayE I am astonished you are still alive!

      • KayE

        I’m grateful to be alive and I’m thankful to God for rescuing me. It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when I actually expected to die, sooner rather than later. It’s hard enough to escape from a situation like that when people are there to help you, but when you are not believed, your life really is in the hands of God. It’s a very serious thing for Christians to be aiding a dangerous abuser.

      • Still Reforming

        KayE, re: the time when you actually expected to die, I think that like others here, I presumed that because the church had such a hard line on divorce that the only way out of my marriage for me was that one of us would die. Because my view of God was increasingly wrong (keeping me in the marriage and abuse), I presumed it would not be him, but I who died first – perhaps after decades more of lies and manipulation. I was taught that it was all my having to lay down my life (what a perverted gospel!) and stay silent – as though maybe that would all bring my abuser to the Lord. Wow – is that ever sick! And blasphemous – placing the victim in the role of Savior. The church today is really messed up – harkening back to the earliest church days of heresy. I thank God for opening my eyes and heart to this.

      • nicolesassy123

        I thank God He gave me the common sense to know the church was twisted and I needed to get out after 31 years of abuse. I didn’t care what they thought; and I imagine I was the first woman to ever stand up to them.

      • KayE

        Still Reforming- It’s sick alright.

    • Anonymous

      When my abuser would “back off” for a day or two (which was rare) there was always an eerie sense in the air. I would describe it as the ‘calm’ (also part of the abuse ) before the storm. You know how it is right before a hurricane or tornado there is a real still calmness but a threatening sky, you just know ‘it’ is coming! You walk the land mines fearful while seeking shelter.

  11. Jane

    this is “red pill Christians” and “Biblical gender roles” all the way. I am still afraid to even step foot in a church because of this and find myself struggling to hear my Beloved Father through the veils of lies I believed.

  12. Anonymous

    Replying to KayE’s comment,

    “It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when I actually expected to die, sooner rather than later.”

    It’s amazing to have lived through this knowing that nobody would care. My child and I were not able to leave my husband even though we had known what he was for years (a person with no conscience). He convinced us to go on a trip with him (we really had no choice) and he ended up taking us through the mountains in bad weather with heavy snow falling and roads being closed. At the end of the trip my child and I both talked about how we thought he was going to kill us and dump us in the woods. It would have been easy to do as we had no other people who would be looking for us as we were completely isolated and dependent on him. (When I’d reached out for help several times I was told I had a good husband and should be grateful). Unbeknownst to the other, we had both decided that we would put up a fight and that if he tried to shoot us we would at least try to help the other even if we ended up killed ourselves. This was all going through our minds during the trip but we didn’t know it till the end when we compared notes. But here’s the real kicker….we knew that if we survived, we would have to play it off as a joke with him; act like we knew he was just goofing around and he should knock it off. This is the kind of sickness we force people to live with when we as a church and a society deny the truth that some people are evil. When we were finally on the crowded highway on the way home I started crying. My husband kept asking our child why I was crying and she came up with some excuse and entertained him with mindless chit-chat while his “crazy” wife cried all the way home. PTSD is real.

    KayE said:
    “It’s hard enough to escape from a situation like that when people are there to help you, but when you are not believed, your life really is in the hands of God.”

    We had no one to help or care and God alone kept us. It’s why the wisdom I have is hard-earned and it’s MINE. In the truths that God has taught me I am unshakeable–because God is unshakeable and he lives in me. It’s why I no longer care about pleasing people who cater to evil ones and demons and why I can write this here praying that God uses it to bless and encourage his children. You are not alone when you belong to the Lord and he will help you through everything. God is real and He loves to help his children.

    Thank you KayE for sharing your heart and life…..I’m grateful.

    • KayE

      Anonymous- I completely get everything you said. Even the part about having to pretend it was all a joke, knowing that next time it might be for real. Your story feels so familiar I can almost imagine myself being there. What you are saying is so very, very important and true.

  13. Still Reforming

    KayE,

    I was just discussing this with another Christian living with abuse. She and I agreed that we have no more interest in attending a church, even though it’s desirable if a true church, but we have yet to find one that is. I’d rather accept help from people I trust, who sadly aren’t those just warming pews. It’s a strange feeling to be a Christian delighting in the Lord and His provision but not trust those who claim to be His people (present company excluded).

    Your testimony about the abandonment is horrifying. I can relate to the walking on eggshells post-event after my (now ex-) husband spun the car around raging about my asking him to write himself a note. Our child was too young to recall, but his sudden anger over nothing left me far more careful about saying anything that he could possibly take offense to in the future. (Of course, since it was never really based on anything I said or did, two more explosions did occur, until I told him I’d take our child and leave if he ever did that again, so he just changed tactics.)

    “Christians” in churches don’t want to hear this, so they bury their heads and take the guy who won’t rock the boat (the perpetrator) in the pews over the victim of said abuse.

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