A Cry For Justice

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

Idolatry Will Never Produce Love for Others

You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

The sum of the Law of God is the two greatest commandments: love God, love your neighbor. Jesus said so. No doubt about it.

Now, this is a rather strange thing. This means then that when we give our entire being, heart, mind, and soul, to the Lord, we are enabled to do the same to our neighbor. Love God. Love others. It is strange, I say, because it would seem that logically if you give all of yourself to the Lord there will be nothing left to give to your neighbor. But it isn’t so. The more we love the God of the Bible, the living and true God, the more love flows from us to others.

This dynamic does not work with any other “god” (idol). The idolater is a Gollum lusting for and craving his precious no matter what the cost to other people in his life. Idolaters are, it turns out, very heartless and selfish people who worship a god created in their own image in order to give them what they want.

The shameful way that so many abuse victims are being treated in local churches today is a litmus test indicator that reveals the presence of false gods, false christs, and idols. The thing is necessarily true. Idols demand and take, but never give. Idols are dead beings that leave their worshipers’ hearts dead, cold, hard, and untouched by the Spirit of God. So, for example, if the “institution” of marriage becomes an idol so that marriage and all its trappings become the focus of the church at the expenses of most all else, then that marriage cult is going to produce inward focused, self-serving people who are white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. And we know how such people treat the downtrodden, oppressed, and abused.

You shall know them by their fruits. Any church, any church leader, any professing Christian, who mistreats the weak and injured, who puts burdens on them that no one can bear, is an idol worshiper. The Jesus such a person professes is a Jesus re-created by man. He is an idol.

What then does this say about how much idolatry is parading as Christianity today?

25 Comments

  1. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for calling this out! What a powerful observation and freeing for those oppressed by marriage idol worshipers. This statement in particular is so explanatory about why the emphasis on marriage worship creates such hardness to those whose marriages fall apart from abuse.

    Idols are dead beings that leave their worshipers’ hearts dead, cold, hard, and untouched by the Spirit of God. So, for example, if the “institution” of marriage becomes an idol so that marriage and all its trappings become the focus of the church at the expenses of most all else, then that marriage cult is going to produce inward focused, self-serving people who are white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. And we know how such people treat the downtrodden, oppressed, and abused.

    Your statements coincides with my bible reading this morning about “testing the Spirits to see if they are from God because there are many false prophets in the world” John 4:1-7
    You just gave an example of testing the spirits in asking “what fruit does marriage worship create,” and observed that it is anti-christ in its application because love does not come out of this narcissistic focus on marriage as the end all be all of a Christians life.

    That process of how to “test the Spirits” might seem mysterious, but it is not and it should be Christianity 101, something we continually practice. Comparing the words and actions of the teacher with those of Jesus and the scriptures, looking at the attitude and the point of what is being taught should be a routinely applied to anyone claiming to represent God. Ellie in her decoding posts gives an example of someone looking behind fluffy true sounding words to what is actually being said.

    We do have an in resident teacher that can help us discern whether a teaching be the liberating truth or a lie that creates deadness. I think often we ignore that small voice in our hearts that says “I don’t know about this” . Where I came from women were told that they were easily deceived by Satan and our doubts were like witchcraft. In fact, that teacing was the work of the enemy to get us to doubt that God was powerfully present in our life to help us understand what we needed to know to live effectively for Him. I believe it is the Spirit of God that causes battered people to come here and breathe a sigh of relief recognizing truth when they hear it. But even at that, even in safe places we are to constantly “test” what we hear comparing it with scriptures.

    John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

  2. healinginhim

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for stating the truth. I continue to be plagued with, “Oh, we feel so badly for what has happened. We’re friends with both of you …”
    It is evident that I must show adequate physical scars in order for anyone to believe that anything is amiss?
    I’m finding myself, once again, not wanting to venture out because of whom I might meet. This man who never used to like to socialize is suddenly quite friendly with others obviously making me look like “the crazy one”.

    • “…We’re friends with both of you…”

      Didn’t they read that verse about God and mammon?

      • healinginhim

        Maybe I’ll have a necklace or brooch made with that verse engraved on it.

      • tamtam

        That was my thought too

    • Rachel

      Healinginhim, I relate to this completely, the endless platitudes, people even saying, “we don’t want to get involved”!
      Makes me think of those who passed by the injured man before the Good Samaritan got to him. In a picture book of this story we had as children, the first passer by is a priest who is piously saying his prayers, hands together, and he looks at the poor man with one eye open! Can’t bear to get “involved” . I don’t think God likes this very much!
      Regards, Rachel

      • Hi Rachel,

        Welcome to the blog and thank you for your comment! May I suggest you read the New User’s page. It gives tips for staying safe when commenting. After reading it, if you feel your screen name is too identifying and want to change it feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com and I can change it.

        Again, welcome!

  3. Still Reforming

    To answer your question, Pastor Jeff, they are false prophets. With the spirit of anti-Christ.

    How timely that just this morning I heard (on-line) the following preached. It may have been spoken to Israel, but I believe it is a comfort to His people today as well. From Jeremiah 23:

    “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

  4. sara

    This post goes hand-n-hand with the post ““Christian” Enabling of the Abuser Increases His Attacks on the Victim.” “Save the marriage at all costs” becomes the cry of the church, regardless the price the victims must pay. The institution of marriage becomes the god and everyone in the church will close ranks to keep it on the pedestal, which is what happened to me.

    After being married over two decades years, I literally drug my husband to marriage counseling which exploded the abuse even further. While in counseling, I read “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft and realized why the abuse was getting worse and how much danger I was in. I told the counselor I was done and he advised me to contact a woman’s shelter and have a safety plan and be very careful because my husband is very unpredictable. Incredulously, he also said that it was too bad we couldn’t save the marriage because there is just something about my husband that he really liked. I think it is his manipulative charismatic charm which suckers everyone in.

    Long story short, I finally found the courage to tell my husband I was leaving and he cried and begged for another chance. I told him what he did was abuse. He was apologetic and couldn’t believe I thought of him that way. I agreed to give him more time and he found a counselor. I actually thought that there was some hope and Lundy Bancroft was wrong–someone could change and I could have happily-ever-after.

    Things were improving until my husband began counseling with the minister and elders at our church too. The abuse came back with a sadistic vengeance. What was sadistic about it was that it changed from being in-my-face mean to manipulative “nice” and unnervingly frightening. I began getting emails and phone calls from “friends” from church who told me that I needed to pray for my marriage and I was sinning because I refused to go to one of the marriage counselors from our church. I asked if they knew we had gone to counseling with a counselor who has a PHD and 30 years of experience. No, they didn’t know that but it was still a sin not to go to a Christian counselor. It went on and on… I was sinning and destroying my family. So, I stayed for the sake of my high school children. Fearful of what damage our marriage had created in them; I gave them Lundy Bancroft and Patricia Evan’s books to read. I fought back against the abuse in whatever little way I could. My children did an intervention and told me to leave him or they would go without me.

    After a lifetime, I left my church. After over two decades, I left my marriage. It is finally over—I am starting over. I sacrificed everything for my marriage. I became what another human wanted. I lost the person I was meant to be in an abusive marriage. I don’t believe God ever intended me to become a person without a spirit and not be the person He created me to be. As a consequence of leaving my marriage, I lost my church family and all the relationships my ex-husband had created for me.

    I read a quote about marriage that said, “One should not automatically applaud the fifty-year marriage without knowing what happened to the souls of those in the relationship.” The church expected me to protect the institution of marriage at the sake of my life and consequently my children’s lives too. The cycle of abuse must be stopped—I don’t want my children to have abusive marriages too. I prayed for my marriage and I believe God heard my cries and gave me the courage to leave.

    (editor’s note: comment slightly edited to protect commenter’s identity.)

    • Thank you, Sara. This is so poignant, especially the words ‘a person without a spirit’.

      After a lifetime, I left my church. After over two decades, I left my marriage. It is finally over — I am starting over. I sacrificed everything for my marriage. I became what another human wanted. I lost the person I was meant to be in an abusive marriage. I don’t believe God ever intended me to become a person without a spirit and not be the person He created me to be. As a consequence of leaving my marriage, I lost my church family and all the relationships my ex-husband had created for me.

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      Sara, your story moved me to tears. “I lost the person I was meant to be” resonated. It is such a loss, with staggering consequences to health, well-being and so many areas of life. Maybe this doesn’t fit your situation, I grieve the decades I lost but today I realized I am also ashamed of them. I rarely go to church, it is far too triggering for me, but I went today as a visitor. A couple stood up for their anniversary of 50 years and everyone clapped. At that moment I realized I felt an inexplicable sadness, like a second-hand person that came there as “damaged goods”. Ashamed of my marriage, ashamed of my divorce, ashamed of the abuse, ashamed for staying so long, ashamed I wasn’t like the “others” as a single abuse survivor.
      Between that moment of my realization of the shame that hangs like a shadow and communion, God began to minister to my soul that His Son died on the cross to free me from shame. I perceived, in fact, a life of value wasn’t over despite wasted decades and that those decades weren’t wasted in His economy at all. He saw and knew my heart, thus, no matter my own blindness, or the false teaching or the years of contorting myself to make a manipulative abuser happy, God never stopped loving me and wanting to rescue me.

      He has every intention of bring gold out of those wasted years and making them useful for the sake of His glory and my redemption. Your story matters, the truth you share matters, your survival matters. Bless you.

      • Still Reforming

        Yes, prodigal daughter, yes. You haven’t lost the person you were, but you are becoming the person God conforms to the image of His Son. As we all are in our individual ways, those who belong to Him. I thank God for the wisdom He gave you this morning. It’s not easy, but hanging on the cross was not easy.

        That’s not to minimize our pain or sweep it under the rug. God tells us to mourn with those who mourn – acknowledging that there is a time for mourning. And that time varies with each of us – as individual and unique as God created us to be.

        But…. He doesn’t leave us there. Praise God He doesn’t leave us there.

      • M&M

        Prodigal Daughter, your comment reminds me of Joel 2:25 “I will repay you for the years that the locust have eaten……” And the original blog post about marriage idolatry reminds me of Nancy Leigh DeMoss (not recommended) because even in her book about singleness she tells single people to voluntarily help married couples with childcare to honor God’s design of families. I felt like even single people are a slave to marriage!! Now if someone enjoys volunteering with kids that’s great, but if a single person wants to use their free time in a different way I’m not going to condemn that!!

      • sara

        Thank you for your words… it made me feel like I was not alone. I try not to dwell on everything I lost, but all I have gained. There is so much shaming from the church surrounding divorce, especially if you were the one to file – so your words struck a deep cord with me too. My problem is I feel like I have lost nearly everything – the church was such a huge part of my life. Actually, as a stay at home mom, it was pretty much my only social outlet and now that is gone. I could try to find another church, but right now I am so angry with how everyone took his side that I know this would come out at a new church. I think I need to work through my anger and find healing before I attempt to find a new church. I am trying to just give myself time.
        I am so glad I found this website, it has been so helpful to me.

      • and we are glad you found us, sara! It gives us a boost when new people find us. Everyone’s story is important, and so often one person’s comment sparks another person to comment. 🙂 You definitely are not alone.

      • Still Reforming

        Sara,
        I was (and still am) a stay-at-home mom, and I live waaaaay out in the country. Very agricultural area. There is not even a traffic light in our small town. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and because my ex-husband works in agriculture as does everyone else around here – he’s the one supported. So I totally understand what you’re going through – as do many here.

        My social life is pretty much all on-line. My few attempts at attending local and not-so-local churches have not been fruitful for various reasons. I am learning to be okay with that. Okay with not attending and serving at a local brick-and-mortar church. Okay with learning that His people are everywhere, including on-line. Jesus said the Father seeks those to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and that doesn’t require local attendance, desirable though that may be.

        I hate what the church establishment does to abuse victims, and it seems to be rampant and spread across the globe. Likewise, it seems that it varies little from the practices of established leaders of the faith in Jesus’ day.

        In some ways, I think we are blessed to have this revelation. Otherwise, we would still be stuck in those buildings with those who are sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones. As uncomfortable as it is (I go to bed and wake up with the same sadness usually), I’d rather be here than with people who don’t really care about truth. I’d rather meet and know you from afar than the hypocrites who are near.

      • I’d rather meet and know you from afar than the hypocrites who are near.

        and so say all of us!

  5. Desiring healing

    Such a fitting reminder. Not even an hour before I read this post I stated the same thing on another place on the web, praising God for His goodness to have churches that do support this exact thought.

    I am a single mom separated a few years from abusive and pastor husband of roughly two decades. Left for another state with his permission and the children, to enroll my children in a Christian school that then hired me as one of their staff members. I discovered within months that this institution was not healthy. Relying on God though I trudged forward… and God put some great people in my path to help me grow. To only be proven again in a few more months that I was in an abusive environment at work. Though they knew how to say the right lingo they could not carry it out in action. Instructing me that I needed to stop playing the victim (though I was going through legal abuse, financial abuse from STBX and my children were in the process of being deprogrammed of their holiday visit with dad). At that point I pulled out the mask again and went through the motions until I could move on.

    God had different plans for my family, but they did not happen as I had hoped. People within the school began to undermine my authority as mum to my daughter and tried to take legal guardianship from me through her dad and Child Protection. No cases were opened but as a protective mother I knew my job was in jeopardy, people I trusted turn their backs on me… My top priority was my children’s safety, … so I moved to a different area near better support.

    In this new area I found a church as a result of my Christian recovery program that helped me greatly. I visited this morning and I felt my anxiety as I realized the pastor was talking about families. At one point he told the congregation that one needs to look at spouse and say “I am not going anywhere”. My stomach lurched! Then he said “I must put a disclaimer here, if your spouse is physically abusing you then this does not apply you need to leave” (my heart began pounding for those not experiencing physical abuse but others) “or if you are being verbally and emotionally mistreated. These do not line up with the covenant agreement of marriage.” My heart soared! I thank God that not all people and institutions make an idol of man created institutions under the guise of God that do not behave like him. The message rang loud and clear today.

    Looking at the lineage of Jesus there were a whole lot of messy lives and people. But God did not shy away from using them for His glory so why should we shy away from their lives that God has shaped?

    [Eds: Comment edited to airbrush identifying details]

    • Hi Desiring Healing, thanks for your comment. I edited it a bit for you safety. I suggest you have a look at the text of your comment now it’s published, as that will give you an idea of what I thought needed airbrushing. 🙂 love from Barb

    • Still Reforming

      Desiring healing,
      I can’t tell you how very much your words are a comfort to me. I too was hired by a “Christian” school that turned out to be led by several wolves in sheeps’ clothing (headmaster, pastor, chairman of the board, and academic adviser). I won’t go into my testimony about that brief experience here and now, but suffice to say reading that you likewise had a similar experience comforts me.

      It is a great embarrassment to me that I actually lost my job there. I’d only told one other person in person who understood and recognized the wolves aspect of it all. Otherwise, everyone else thinks I must have done something terribly wrong to be let go by a “Christian” organization. I’ve never been let go from a job ever in my life, so to have this happen was quite jolting. (I daresay, however, that having lost my so-called marriage and my so-called church within the previous year, the jolt wasn’t as painful as it would have been otherwise; I’m learning to take these unexpected negative life events as part of God’s sovereignty – but that doesn’t mean that people need to stay in abuse as part of God’s plan).

      Anyway, I’m so glad you said that – because not only do people outside of this site (and a few others) not understand how abuse hides in churches; it hides in Christian schools too. I daresay abuse can easily hide in any large-scale Christian organization.

      I don’t know how God is patient for so long. I don’t know how He can stand to have His Name sullied so. Vengeance is His – and it will come. Evil is bad enough, but evil under the guise of His Son’s Name? That’s a particular kind of evil that seems especially heinous to me. There’s something very insidious about it.

  6. Anonymous

    Romans 13:8-10 “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:
    Do not commit adultery;
    do not murder;
    do not steal;
    do not covet;
    and whatever other commandment — ALL ARE SUMMED UP BY THIS: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”

    So Yummy! God’s Word! Bringing to mind the Bible verse about how it will be in the last days–2 Tim 3:1-2, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love ONLY themselves….”” (NLT), and knowing that God uses his word to teach us about ourselves as well as what to look for in others in order to identify a wolf, it’s comforting to read this post. The most fundamental way to show your heart and love for the Lord according to Romans 13 is to be able to love someone outside yourself. Look at what loving others does! It covers us! It fulfills the commandments! And as most of us here know–love can’t be faked.

    That famous cult family that has gone down in flames recently is a great example of not being able to fake who you are. They had a game called, “The Right Response Game” which trained their children to have the correct (according to their perceived version of what was right) response in given situations.( For people with a functioning conscience, we HAVE the right response to things, especially when we are young haven’t been indoctrinated with societal rules.)

    I realized as God was waking me up in my fourth decade of life that I had been trained to have the churches and society’s “right response” and have had to re-learn the soul response I had as a child of Jesus. Jesus hated fakery and it seems like one of the reasons he put his answers to people’s questions in the form of a question was to help us discern those who were seeking the truth vs. those who were actually pretending to seek but were really doing their father the devil’s work by accusing.

    The oldest son in that family ended up showing his true colors by ACTIVELY cheating on his wife via an adult website and as soon as each of the other children got married and moved out they each set up accounts featuring themselves with pictures and “sharing” every aspect of their daily life. This is who they really were, it just took the chance for them to get out there to reveal it. Training people who don’t have the capacity to love others to act like they do, and then demanding that those of us who CAN love others accept this charade (and even expecting us to praise them for pretending to love) is absolutely evil. God didn’t accept Cain’s offering because it was evil and we as God’s children should have no regard for the offering of evil set before us by children of the devil. (1 John 3:12 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”)

    Worship Me! Worship Me! Worship Me! This is the cry of every person who does not have a functioning conscience. (They actually worship themselves and try to get others to worship them as well.) When wrong teaching of scripture forces those who do belong to the Lord to worship their husband or family or the church, they are being stolen from (The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy John 10:10) and forced into idol worship.

    Jeff said:

    Idols demand and take, but never give. Idols are dead beings that leave their worshipers’ hearts dead, cold, hard, and untouched by the Spirit of God.

    Substitute “Satan” for the word “idol” and you can see clearly who is behind it all. (2 Thes 2:4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.) Thank you, thank you, thank you for pulling out another nugget of truth in order to magnify yet another area that evil uses to hide and to set itself up to be worshiped. Thank you!

  7. surviving freedom

    This post really brought up a lot for me. I do still think that marriage is sacred, it is a relationship that is to be the closest we are to have after God.
    However, the relationship I had with the abuser was not a marriage, it was closer to a master and slave (and even then it was not based on a biblical model of master/slave). And even the slaves in the Bible were released after six years and were given to liberally (Deuteronomy 15:12-18).
    Unfortunately, if these churches held marriage in a place of godly reverence, then they’d be driven to help marriages remain godly. In hindsight, I can see how the church worshiped the legal piece of paper, but even more worshiped “male headship.” Some of the things that have/are being taught in the church I had attended that this post reminded me of: “A wife is to submit to her husband even if by doing so she would knowingly be sinning against God, as not submitting to her husband’s leadership would be an even greater sin,” “If a husband is sinning, the wife is to remain quiet and not confront him,” but “If a wife is sinning , the husband MUST admonish her,” Wow, these teachings actually create entitled abusive attitudes, and they are a dream for the abusive husband.
    I do think as Christians we can and do need to hold BOTH people in the relationship accountable to living in the marriage in a godly way. If churches were really holding marriage in the light of God there would be far less hidden abuse. The church would also realize that an abusive man divorced his wife long before she may have decided to leave the marriage, that it wasn’t a marriage at all. Then their focus could be instructing him to release her from her slavery and to compensate her well, even if that just means leaving her in peace. And if he’s unwilling to do that, then the church could be there to support her and admonish him for not following God’s instructions, rather than the other way around.
    I don’t know, this is just what I’ve been thinking that we’d see in a church that truly regarded marriage in proper perspective under God, rather than actually holding the marriage (and even more so the husband) in a place of worship even above God.

    • Anonymous

      Letting go when we want to hang on is no easy task but, we can all praise God when he takes things out of our lives, to replace with things of greater and lasting value!! “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time” ( Abraham Lincoln ).

  8. imsetfree

    Love this post. Thank you

  9. under the waterfall

    What does that say about the idolatry in church? Only that it is there in spades and the church is in need of a cleaning out. How on earth did we get it this backwards? The bible says we are made in the IMAGE of God. Somehow, that`s gotten mistranslated, when it comes to marriage and church too, to mean `Look as if“ instead of “BE JUST LIKÈ“ or have the same attributes and characteristics of. I don`t get it. There is something about almost every church I have ever gone to that actually silences, and even punishes truth telling and vulnerable transparent honesty, because they only want certain kinds of Christians to be associated with their church. Respectable ones. Ones that don`t have marriage problems or other problems or if they do, they are the kind that are limited to a sick child, a broken bone, a need for a job, a workaholic bent or a wife who wishes her husband talked more. So they set up a false image and bow down to it, all the while thinking they are on the cutting edge of what it means to be a biblical church and not realizing that it is the image of themselves and their church they are functionally worshipping.

    As a result, they block people from obeying the scriptures that say `Confessl your faults to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. James 5:16. That sounds very close to “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither allow you them that are entering to go in.“ Matthew 23:12. God`s church should be the place where truth telling is met with humility and validation, not awkward discomfort and a kind of `We wish you hadn`t told us that“ sort of response, because now you`ve disrupted their perfect little bubble world and they need to find a sanctified way to tell themselves you aren`t really a Christian so they can justify avoiding you.. How on earth did we manage to get it this backwards? And I wonder, what will God do about it?

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