A Cry For Justice

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

Matt Powell Does Not Understand Abuse and Ends up Adding to Victim’s Suffering

Pastor Matt Powell maintains a blog titled Wheat and Chaff over at medwardpowell.com. He is the pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Casper, Wyoming, which is a member church of the Reformed Church in the U.S. denomination. Matt has been quite critical of A Cry for Justice and continues to write articles which criticize us and our work, articles that are very harmful to victims of abuse and very enabling to abusers. Matt might believe he is right, that he is helping the church stand firmly in Christ’s truth, but Matt — you are very wrong when it comes to this field of ministry.

I am going to quote from Matt’s recent articles to demonstrate what I mean. I am sure that our readers will easily see his errors, that they are serious errors, and are the kind of teaching that typically has enabled abusers to remain in the church and hold their victims in bondage.

Here is part of his March 22, 2016 article:

What disturbs me about this is that a lot of people, in sympathy with the terrible problem of domestic abuse, treat abuse as if it is a whole different situation, to be dealt with by completely different rules, than any other situation, and there is no Biblical evidence that this is so.  In fact, the definition of abuse in the linked article is so broad that practically any sinful behavior of one person toward another can be defined as abuse, thus justifying divorce.

My issue with the way that this problem often gets discussed these days is that the term “abuse” gets used to cover a wide variety of types and severities of sins, which wouldn’t be such an issue except that all who are guilty of such sins are labeled “abusers” which then get treated as unique kinds of monsters to which the normal rules don’t apply.  I’ve written about Jeff Crippen and his website “Crying Out for Justice” as a particularly egregious example of this tendency before…, and the articles by Justin Holcomb which Andy Webb links to make a lot of the same tendencies- labeling a wide variety of behavior as abuse, and then treating those guilty of these sins as if they all shared particular characteristics.  Crippen’s solution to the problem is to always believe the woman when she claims to be a victim, not to listen to the accused at all, to treat him as incapable of change, and to throw him out of the church with no due process.  Holcomb’s articles quote Lundy Bancroft several times, one of Crippen’s major influences as well.

Here is Holcomb’s definition of abuse:

“Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner.”

Now the behavior which Holcomb describes is abusive, certainly.  But the problem is, according to this, as soon as someone uses hurtful words or silence to try to control someone else’s behavior, they are an abuser, and all these other statements about abuse come into play.  But this description is incredibly broad and vague.  How many marriages are there where the spouses haven’t used hurtful words toward each other?  And why do people do that?  Because they want their spouse to behave differently than they are.  But this is Holcomb’s definition of domestic abuse.  It’s so broad as to be useless.

End of quote.

Matt, did you read the Holcomb’s definition of abuse? And have you read our definition of abuse on our blog at ACFJ? Did you notice the word “pattern” in both of those definitions?

From the top of our sidebar here at ACFJ:

The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.

The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.

* Sometimes the genders are reversed.

This is certainly not a broad definition that applies to every single act of hurtful behavior. The abuse we deal with is indeed very different than that. We say that the abuser does what he (or she) does habitually, by nature, out of a mindset of entitlement to power and control. Every day. Ongoing. Even when the abuser appears to be charming, nice, caring, that is just part of the abusive tactics, aimed to entice the target closer, to soften her up so she is more vulnerable, more open, more easily subjected to the abuser’s control.

Nowhere in our books or in any of the hundreds of blog posts we have written do we ever even come close to defining abuse in a way that would permit someone who one time or on occasion hurts their spouse to be labeled an abuser. How is it that you, Matt Powell, claim our definition of abuse is “incredibly broad and vague”? You dismiss with a sweep of your pen this whole ministry of exposing the evil of abuse as “useless.”

It is plain that Matt has never truly and honestly studied the sociopath, the narcissist, the psychopath, or the abuser or he would never, ever lump all sinners into the same category together. Scripture in more than one place tells us that some sin is far more evil and thus deserving of more judgment than Sodom. See a discussion of this in Barbara Roberts’ article Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?  There are wicked men who creep into the church who are reprobate, destined for destruction (see Jude on that one).

Matt ends his article with these words which are difficult for anyone in the know about abuse to even fathom. In fact, Matt, what you say here will be plain evidence to abuse victims that your church is no place for them, that it is the typical place where abusers are enabled and where victims are loaded down with more condemnation and suffering. I am sure our readers will have plenty of comments about, especially, these following paragraphs from Matt’s pen: [Trigger warnings flashing here by the way]

In Holcomb’s articles, I did not see the same level of bad advice that I have in Crippen’s.  I have not seen Holcomb say that accusations should not be investigated, that the accuser should always be believed, or that the accused should be excommunicated without any recourse.  But there is still the broad overgeneralization, where a very wide variety of behavior, that pretty much everyone is guilty of at some time or another, is described as domestic abuse, and all domestic abusers are described in overbroad generalizations, with the net effect that pretty much any sinful behavior can be described as domestic abuse and the abuser can then be treated any way one likes.  It’s classic scapegoating behavior.  There is sound Biblical wisdom to follow, and the current fad about domestic abuse I fear is encouraging a lot of reckless, unbiblical scapegoating.  Anyone who is unhappy in their marriage can find plenty of material in Holcomb’s article, or from Jeff Crippen’s books or websites, to make their spouses out to be abusers, and leave in haste without proper Biblical process or reasonings, and anyone who encourages them to slow down and seek out advice will be treated as an “abuse enabler and apologist.”

The last thing we need to be doing is encouraging more divorce.  These are real people’s lives. Divorce is shattering to the people getting divorced, to the children, to society at large.  It causes multigenerational dysfuntion.  Yes, it’s sometimes necessary.  But encouraging people to get divorced with these vague, overbroad descriptions is reckless, foolish, and unbiblical.  We need to take domestic abuse seriously, and that means being much more careful in what we’re willing to describe as domestic abuse, and sweeping language we use about people.  Everyone sins against other people, and sinful behavior towards others is always abusive.  The remedy provided by the Scriptures for abusive behavior is the cross of Christ, and forgiveness and repentance.  Abusers are not in some different category than the rest of us.

If someone is abusing their spouse in a way that is a civil offense, such as violence, the cops should be called.  Physical violence is grounds for divorce.  Other kinds of abuse should be matters of church discipline, and if a person will not submit to the discipline of the church, then that too becomes grounds for divorce.  This should be the way these things are handled – in the courts of the church, by mature believers, very carefully, and not with sweeping generalizations.  This is why it is so important and so valuable to be part of churches that have robust systems of church government with accountability and oversight.

Whew! A church not to go to for help for sure. This is the fertile church ground abusers find so welcoming.

I will do a second post on another article that Matt wrote. It is just as bad.

 ***

Note from Barbara Roberts to Matt Powell:

We do NOT say that accusations of abuse need not be investigated. You have misrepresented us by claiming that. We say that the victim’s report should in the first instance be believed and the victim should be thoroughly supported. We say that abusers characteristically lie, distort the facts, minimize and excuse their evildoing, and twist scripture. We state that abusers are shrewd at manipulating bystanders and those who might hold them accountable. So we warn leaders and other bystanders to beware of being snowed by abusers. And we say that evidence for abuse need not be confined to direct eye-witnessing of abusive behavior. We point out that the Bible and common sense and the principles of law all say that evidence can take the form of:

  • documentary material such as text messages, emails, bank statements, credit card statements, internet search records, photos, etc.  — see Jeff Crippen’s article God’s Rules of Evidence are Often Misapplied, to the Harm of Abuse Victims,
  • symptoms of trauma in the abused such as hyper-vigilance, health issues arising from longterm stress — see our tag PTSD
  •  the responses the victim makes to the abuse — the behaviors the victim adopts to try to mitigate the harms and dangers of the abuse — see our tag Victims’ Resistance.

We also provide advice for how to discern phoney victims from genuine victims. See these articles of ours:

The language of abusers who portray themselves as victims

Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim

How to Spot an Abuser Who Claims to be the Victim

***

Follow up post:    Matt Powell is at it Again to Keep Abuse Victims in Bondage

****

If you’ve never commented on this blog before it is important to read our New Users’ Info page because it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. And if you’re new to this blog we encourage you look at our FAQs.  The New Users Info page and the FAQs can also be found on the top menu bar.

93 Comments

  1. Wow, God looks at the heart. He is so kind, Jesus spoke constantly of God seeing and knowing the intent of the heart, the intent of a man. We are advised to resist the devil and he will flee from us, that means deliberately choosing Christ’s way and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit!
    We read stories of abuse and they do truly all seem to read from the same playbook and have the same characteristics. I am thankful you have so clearly outlined that for us!
    Jeff, we know you have God’s heart to be a voice for the voiceless in the spirit of Christ written about in Isaiah to release the prisoner and set the captive free, loose the chains of bondage and let God’s people be delivered from evil and to remind us of our freedom in Christ instead of hitting us on the head with “God hates divorce”!
    Most who preach the God hates divorce forget that the passage where that is found is actually about how God hates treachery against your spouse. And Moses law provided for divorce so that vistims don’t have to live with those who have a heart of stone and only intend evil toward their mates in their hearts and to use and abuse them instead of nurture them.
    It is odd that this pastor seems to be against truth and has time to dwell on and vocally oppose your ministry, it makes me wonder what’s going on with him. I appreciate Barbara’s clarity in the rebuttal too! Thanks for all your hard work and amazing ministry and for pointing out wolves in sheep’s clothing, funny how the fangs still show as he stands against your ministry. How can anyone, especially a pastor stand against truth and righteousness and freedom in Christ?

  2. Lea

    “Anyone who is unhappy in their marriage can find plenty of material in Holcomb’s article, or from Jeff Crippen’s books or websites, to make their spouses out to be abusers, and leave in haste ”

    Here is the thing. In this day and age, anyone who wants to get divorced for any reason can. Period. Full Stop. If people in these situations were so blasé about divorce as he seems to think, they would already be gone! So I hate this argument. Anyone who is considering the churches advice is not someone who is just trying to pretend their spouse is an abuser so they can leave. It is so ridiculous to act like that is what is going on.

    So much else wrong with this article!

    • joepote01

      Exactly, Lea!

      This sort of pontificating as though the pastor is the sole guardian of the institution of marriage is so ridiculous. Anyone who wants a divorce can get one through the civil courts. A pastor can neither prevent someone from divorcing nor grant a divorce.

      Therefore, it is reasonable to assume most people seeking a pastor’s input are concerned about more than whether or not they can divorce.

      Also, this whole major concern about somebody potentially charging their spouse with abuse so they can justify a divorce is laughable, in my opinion. Is it possible for that to happen? Sure it is. Might such a person go thru their pastor to seek allies even though could get a divorce without their pastor’s support? Sure they might. But, so what? If they want a divorce bad enough to lie about their spouse and bring false accusations of abuse, then they are going to get a divorce one way or the other, anyway. And you know what? If that’s the case then the innocent, falsely accused spouse is much better off being divorced from them anyway. Who would want to be married to someone so mean-spirited as to bring such heinous false accusations against their spouse?

      The very real concern of abuse and the need to protect the innocent far outweighs the risk of someone falsely reporting abuse…at least in regard to our first response.

      Yes, wisdom and discernment must come into play. We cannot categorically say everyone claiming to be a victim is truthful nor that every reported abuser is guilty. However, our first inclination when someone reports abuse should be to offer help and support.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Joe- You said,

        “A pastor can neither prevent someone from divorcing nor grant a divorce.”

        Very true. And lately I have been thinking and would add to that, “a pastor cannot effect a marriage either.” I have done away with saying at weddings “by the authority invested in me by the State of Oregon and as a minister of the gospel I pronounce you man and wife.” Nope. I do not do the State’s job as far as effecting a legal contract of marriage. The state does that. And nope, I do not make a marriage because I am a pastor. It is the vows, the covenant uttered by husband and wife that make the marriage, vowed before God and witnesses.

        This whole notion that pastors “perform the marriage” leads into many of the common errors and troubles we see when a spouse is victimized by an abuser and ends up thinking that he/she needs to go to the pastor to get his permission to divorce. No, he didn’t effect the marriage and he cannot give permission for a divorce to be filed. That is the Lord’s work, and the State’s in regard to the civil and legal matters of divorce.

      • joepote01

        Jeff-

        Very good point! I hadn’t though of that.

        You’re right, the pastor may officiate the wedding, but he cannot effect the marriage.

      • Joe said
        “This whole major concern about somebody potentially charging their spouse with abuse so they can justify a divorce is laughable, in my opinion. Is it possible for that to happen? Sure it is. Might such a person go thru their pastor to seek allies even though could get a divorce without their pastor’s support? Sure they might. But, so what? If they want a divorce bad enough to lie about their spouse and bring false accusations of abuse, then they are going to get a divorce one way or the other, anyway. And you know what? If that’s the case then the innocent, falsely accused spouse is much better off being divorced from them anyway. Who would want to be married to someone so mean-spirited as to bring such heinous false accusations against their spouse?’

        And I say AMEN and AMEN!

  3. MaxGrace

    It seems to me that Mat Powell is the one making sweeping generalizations. I don’t have time or space for it here, but even within my own family, your web site and sermons, articles, books, loving presentation, have brought a clarity to the scriptures.

    In exchange for heartache, cruelty, hopelessness, degradation of women and children, you have been concerned and have (through the scriptures), and the compassionate love of God, brought peace, consolation, hope, and a future, and set captives free. . With this comes a renewed love of God’s truth, and revived sense of true worship for Who He is. (As presented in the Holy Scriptures). You are breaking chains of (at least) many decades of lies and the Pharisaical Patriarchal approach of keeping people in bondage to predators. As Jesus said, “go and consider this. I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” I applaud you for your love of God and His people that keep you not only in the forefront of the enemy’s sites, but on the front lies of God’s courageous warriors. You are heroes in my eyes, because when anyone stands against evil, it is costly. There will always be those who will use any excuse to do what they know they should not do. We all know that.

    The testimonies and stories that I have read here have been heart wrenching stores of people who have suffered sometimes for decades, trying to ‘do right” and sacrifice themselves because they thought it was scriptural, and pleasing to God that they be so mistreated in God’s holiest of covenants on earth. Their suffering is often ignored, even by the professing “church”. This is a reality that folks don’t want to deal with.

    I thank God for your ministry. You represent a God who is compassionate, and merciful, who loves the widow and fatherless, and expects true shepherds to bind up their wounds and heal the sick. (Ezekiel 37?”) These marvelous truths are OT and NT and you use them with wisdom, clarity, acknowledging your accountability to God and His truth.
    I realize I get to rambling – edit as desired.

    • Hi MaxGrace
      I didn’t edit by removing any of your comment, but I did add paragraph breaks.
      (tip: hit enter twice to get a full empty line between paragraph).

  4. Valerie

    I am amazed that so many Christians withhold mercy to victims until they have proof that their allegations are true. This is bizarre. Proof is a standard for punishing evildoers, not for loving and showing mercy to hurting people.

    Too many of those churches also want to investigate and tell women whether they are allowed to divorce their abusive husbands. But if they would apply their thinking about proof to HER as well as to HIM, they would presumed her innocence in suing for divorce unless guilt is apparent and could be proved.

    Yes, some people sinfully abandon their spouses and some may seem to get away with it, but sometimes life is like that. This decision should never be left to committees of people who think that nothing is real unless it is proved. Rather, the person who will live with the gravest potential consequences is the one who has the responsibility to decide what to do.

    It’s all just a double standard where the abuser is presumed innocent of abuse, but the victim is immediately presumed guilty of lying, guilty of divorcing, guilty at every point in the process of escaping.

    • joepote01

      Well stated, Valerie!

      When the pastor is more concerned about preserving the marriage than about the safety and welfare of the individuals, this is where we end up.

      Concern for the safety and welfare of the individual combined with common sense dictates that when someone reports domestic abuse, the first thing to do is offer help and support.

      What if the reported behavior is maybe not as bad as described? Not likely…most abuse victims downplay the abuse rather than magnifying it. However, for argument’s sake, let’s assume it really is not as bad as described. So what? She is the one living with it, not the pastor and not a church committee. If she says it is more than she can bear, then help her escape. It is just common sense combined with godly compassion.

    • Free

      Good point. No love and mercy here from the church. They lectured me for seven hours one time. After the attack they have actually treated me like a lunatic and even a criminal even tho he viscously attacked me and even though they’ve heard of all of the abuse before that. Yet the evil doer is protected. It’s his flesh they say. Wait on The Lord they say. Submit they say. Go (hide in our) to church they say. Read your bible. Go to bible studies. Fellowship. Miracles- you have to believe they say. BLIND FAKE women and God hating phonies. I hope your churches burn down.

      I hope God strikes these unrepentant abusive slimy snakes dead and that he punishes all who enable them. Oh Wait…He will. they don’t think He will because they love that grace covers every sin so they do as they please. And how very proud they are of themselves. They even lay guilt trips on the pulpit. They’ve worked so hard for you you know.

      Disgusting.

      • Hi Free
        could you please email me? Don’t worry you haven’t done anything wrong 🙂 I just want a small chat about a comment you recently submitted. Thanks. 🙂

        barbara@notunderbondage.com

    • It’s all just a double standard where the abuser is presumed innocent of abuse, but the victim is immediately presumed guilty of lying, guilty of divorcing, guilty at every point in the process of escaping.

      ^ that. exactly that.

    • For Too Long

      Yes, the heavy burden of proof was placed on me and to add to that, I was told right away that even if I could prove it, the elders may not “allow” me to divorce. …That was a pretty heavy burden to bear!

      And you are so spot on – I was guilty no matter what I did; the ridiculous sin-leveling (and this is not to say that I’m perfect) and authoritarian tone while trying to share my heart were so debilitating that I turned elsewhere for support. I’ve never looked back.

  5. Kim

    I would like to comment, and say, Most abused do not use this as an excuse to divorce. So his reasoning is all out the door.

    99.9% of women take it internally, and believe they deserve it. They believe they have something wrong with them, usually [or often] abused as a child already, sexually and other forms, and believe this is how life is, until one day something snaps within them, if they are ever to find a way out, and I believe it is of God and the Holy Spirit. When they do realize what this is, and not a good thing, in a relationship, they still work and work hard to help and fix the relationship, maybe even to the point they are enabling.

    Once they reach out, which for most would be 20 years or more in the marriage, invested, with children, stay at home mom, who has given her everything to the family, only to realize there was no foundation built on love and trust. There was only sinking sand for the spouse to lay hands on you, threaten you, control you and manipulate you to think his ways are the only way and even using Biblical reasonings to coerce you to believe this is what God says. Finally when a person reaches out and seeks advice, help, it’s then pointed to them and they are accused of not trying, not going the Biblical route, etc.

    I haven’t read anything from this man, but to make all of us out to be using these tactics to be quick with divorce is very abusive too. Trying to pour on guilt and shame when we already feel so much of that already. I thank Cry For Justice and others like this site. It has given me so much more confidence to believe in myself and not the lies from the abuser. It has taught me boundaries and taught me to Trust in God to deliver me. I would still be living in a very abusive marriage and yet, even though married, and married for over 24 years, hence not divorced, I have a better foundation that I am standing on and better able to teach my children what is right and wrong behaviors and have overcome so many things.

    If it ever came to divorce, the Good Lord knows I’ve tried and never used it as a way or means to get rid of a marriage so easily, and I am offended that it would be so easily said by a teacher, who should use the Bible to quote, rather than man’s quotes.

    • Anthea

      This is exactly the story of my life also, exactly.

      • For Too Long

        Strangely, me, too. It’s been 24 years; the only difference is that I am in the hellish process of divorce from my abuser.

  6. Charis

    Anyone who is unhappy in their marriage can find plenty of material in Holcomb’s article, or from Jeff Crippen’s books or websites, to make their spouses out to be abusers, and leave in haste without proper Biblical process or reasonings, and anyone who encourages them to slow down and seek out advice will be treated as an “abuse enabler and apologist.”

    That was the most triggering piece for me. I recall doubting myself and my integrity and the Holy Spirit as I was educating myself, seeking wise counsel, reading books, praying, going to therapy, making careful observations of behavior. My BIGGEST fear during this time was that I was making mountains out of molehills and seeking out justification to divorce. I checked everything with my Safe Friends. “Is this true? Am I reading this right? Do you come to the same conclusion about my h’s behavior? Does this line up with how you understand God’s Word and what my next step should be?”

    It was a scary and confusing time. Eventually, freeing, yes…and scary.

    To read those words today – 2yrs post separation and 7mos post divorce, knowing I made the right choice for freedom, sanity, safety, clarity, peace and because God LED me step by step through the process – nearly sucked me back into fear. I almost found myself back where it all began: in the thick fog of confusion and doubt. Almost.

    “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7

    • For Too Long

      Thank you, Charis. Your words were very encouraging to me today.

  7. Un-Tangled

    I have so many thoughts about this that I don’t even know where to begin or how to express them.

    At sites dealing with abuse, I hear survivors speak with a clearer understanding of what Biblical truths such as good and evil, repentance, forgiveness, love, reconciliation really mean than the church does. The Bible is filled with descriptions of evil people, their behaviors, and how to deal with it (which many times includes, “avoid, don’t walk with, stay away from…”). Yet, the church is so unwilling to see or offend or judge evil that it has become blind, gullible, and naive. It makes me angry because the church ought to have the deeper understanding.

    Sometimes it seems to me that the church has blinders on, seeing only what they want to see. A little wisdom and common sense would go a long way. Their teaching is so contrary to what the Bible actually says, that I wonder if they actually read it. It’s like they put the Bible’s book cover on their own opinions. No, it’s like they are grooming victims to accept abuse.

    Abusers groom their victims to accept abuse. The Bible warns about false teachers who pretend to be righteous infiltrating the church. I believe that many wicked people have gained leadership in the church where they teach a message to teach the congregation to accept their abuse. If we can’t ever call evil by its name, if we can’t ever judge between the righteous and the wicked–or the abusers and his victim–if we must always unconditionally forgive and unreservedly accept, if no true repentance is necessary, if we must submit no matter what the other person does, then we have been groomed to accept abuse.

  8. standingfirm

    The things that Matt writes really angers me! He is willfully ignorant of the abuser mindset. He is assuming this is a mutual loving and respectful relationship (not!) He does not understand that in a “normal” marriage when one spouse hurts the other they are truly remorseful and do whatever they can to not repeat the offense in the future. Because the non abusive spouse truly loves.

    The abuser also says he loves, but the behavior that is shown comes from the twisted mindset of power and control and feels more like “hate”, as in “you are really my enemy so I will do what I can to hurt you and control you”! The ongoing cycle of mean followed by nice, followed by mean followed by nice, and on and on it goes with a glib “I’m sorry” thrown in until the next time.

    I was battered by a alcoholic father growing up and can personally testify that emotional/mental abuse is far worse. We are dealing with someone who claims to love, looking sweetly into your eyes professing his undying commitment and then turns around and completely does something on PURPOSE to hurt you! Yes, these men are all controlled by the same spirit that is why the behavior is basically the same. Matt needs to understand that abusers don’t want to repent. They cling to their “control” like it is the air they breathe! That is why you rarely see a abusive man repent and want to change. They are cut out of a totally different cloth and just preaching the gospel to them will fall on deaf ears.

    I have been with the abuser for three decades so I know what I speak of. Matt needs to read “Why does he do that”? by Lundy Bancroft and educate himself in the mindset and tactics these men use to torment their wives. Even though it is a secular book, God put the book in my hands many years ago to pull me the rest of the way out of the “Fog” and to help me emotionally un-attach from the abuser.

    I wish Pastor Matt would humbly apologize to Pastor Crippen and educate himself on this very evil mindset. Knowledge is power to not be sucked in by the evil cunning ploys these (controllers) abusers use. We do not possess all knowledge in this life and should be humble enough that when someone else comes along to show us something, to at least take a look at whatever it may be and investigate the issue for ourselves.

    I would also like to say that I know a lot of Christians who have been sucked into the apostasy because they refused to even look at the truth about the practices they were engaged in. Loads of blessings to Pastor Crippen and everyone at ACFJ, a much, much needed ministry.

    • Free

      I agree and relate completely, Standingfirm. Well said. Thank you.

    • lonelywife

      YES totally agree with you, Standingfirm! !! I told my emotionally abusive, twice-cheating husband that I want to separate, this after my children, mid teens and older, sat down with him to ask him to go back to counseling and stay with it this time, until we as a family can see he is changing…he said, “NO! That counseling is not an option!” But hey, he’s willing to have a family “bible study” with us! No thanks!

      I’m scared to death, I’ll be honest! I’ve been a home schooling, stay at home mom for over 30 yrs…but living with his anger and cold indifference is more than I, and my children, can take!

      I can’t even go into what this Powell guy has said….I do feel sorry for the women in that church who are being abused….and there ARE women being abused in “his” church…that’s a fact! [Note from Eds: we agree; the very strong statistical likelihood is that there ARE women in Matt Powell’s church who are being abused.]

      He said,

      This should be the way these things are handled – in the courts of the church, by mature believers, very carefully, and not with sweeping generalizations.

      RIGHT!!! The MALE dominated “courts of the church” NO thanks, Matt! I’ve seen and experienced those “courts” and I’m not impressed!

      Here’s an idea Matt….why don’t you call Pastor Crippen and ask if you can interview some of us women who are living with these non-abusive sinners…and we can tell ya first hand what it’s like? Can you leave your comfy little life and do that?

      I can tell you about my teenage [disabled – details redacted] son who had to tell his dad tonight to not talk that way to his momma…that he was being mean, and it’s not nice to talk to me that way…or how he begged his dad to get help, so that we don’t have to get a divorce and don’t have to sell our home, and get rid of our animals and other pets…as tears filled his eyes!
      I can arrange for you to talk to him Matt….if you’re man enough?? Are you??

      Am I angry as I write this…you betcha! I’m mad as heck cuz I have a pastor who thinks like you do…and I know that on top of everything else that my son is going to have to deal with…we’re probably going to have to leave our church!

      BTW, my husband didn’t respond to my son…he sat there, hard hearted as ever, and blamed ME for the state of our marriage! But then…that’s just him…being a common sinner like everyone else!

      • well said, lonelywife! Your anger is fully justified and righteous. 🙂

        (hugs) in abundance, as many as you’d like. 🙂

      • lonelywife

        Thank you Barbara…I’ll take all the hugs I can get…it’s been a rough day(s)

      • healingInHim

        Lonelywife – I extend prayers and hugs to you, too.
        You are well loved and prayed for … Barb’s comments of affirmation are proof.

  9. Song of Joy

    Powell wrote:
    “Everyone sins against other people, and sinful behavior towards others is always abusive…Abusers are not in some different category than the rest of us.”

    That’s a ridiculous viewpoint. In the Bible God Himself identifies certain categories of people by calling out their specific, overarching wickedness (defiant, habitual, incorrigible state of being) and putting a name to it. I’m thinking of the many passages where the Lord puts egregious sinners into categories such as “fool”, “harlot”, “antichrist”, and many others.

    And that is the point that Powell seems to intentionally miss again and again.

    Abusers are a type of person that LIVE to exploit and control others through various harmful means. They gain satisfaction, gratification and delight from abusing and deceiving. This is not the same type of sinning as a normal, loving person who happens to be irritable or stubborn on a particular day, and then later feels bad and apologizes for it.

    • When Christ looks down at his church he doesn’t see with the lines that we see. His line is different, he sees where the spirit is and where the spirit is not. He sees into the heart of each man, not looking for certain denominations or buildings but those who live by the spirit or not – who show by the way they live to whom they belong.

    • Free

      Thank you, songofjoy. This is my battle cry daily.

      Abusers stand in their own very distinct category. I see people in two categories now. Born again believers/non-abusive and unbelievers/abusive. I think all boils down to who their father is. Eventually the answer leaks out no matter how sly or ignorant the abuser thinks he is.

      For example I know an unbeliever who willingly refuses to hold refuses to call even proven physical abuse (what largely the world readily considers as “proof” right?) what it is. However overall he is responsible, at most times very respectful and considerate and is a very generous person. So tell me what side is he on? I dare to boldly say he’s on the abuser’s side. And that indeed makes him a party to the abuse. 2 types of people. One side or the other. I do not believe this is a faulty sight of survivor. I believe it’s clearly seeing good vs evil.

      I think it’s like saying people who donate to Planned Parenthood or those who sit in silence about the agency and abortion are not supporting abortions. I believe that’s false. No answer is in fact an answer- That is a favorite tactic of the abuser I know. There is a side to choose and defend. It’s one or the other. No middle. Would you survivors agree? Thank you.

    • standsfortruth

      Exactly, song of Joy. This another one of Powells blatent errors.
      Abusers “DO” belong in a seperate catagory.

      These type of abuser wears sheeps clothing to fool the onlooking audience, while repeatedly terrorizing their targets with overt and covert aggression at home. How do they think this hypocrisy looks to the children growing up in it? Or do they even care about that?

      Abusers are deliberate and intentional in their covert evil, and enjoy what they do, otherwise they wouldnt find so many creative ways to do it. There is a twisted pay off in it for them.

      Either the churches at large are being duped by the deceiving act, or they are willfully complying with the abuser to silence the victim/victims. Both ways — it is very wrong, and churches like this are covering a problem that long ago should have been exposed, or it wouldnt have reached the epidemic proportions that we have today.

      • keeningforthedawn

        Standsfortruth — YES and AMEN.

  10. joepote01

    Jeff,

    I had a situation a few years ago where a couple with whom I was friends was having some marital issues. One night the wife called me at home and asked me to come over to help her. She said her husband was shoving her around and refused to leave. I did as she asked. I came over, addressed the situation, and told the husband he had to leave.

    Over the next few months some other things happened that caused me to question what happened that night. I won’t go into details…and don’t have hard facts, anyway. However, today, I believe there is a very real possibility the wife was not completely honest with me that night, and that she may have set him up and stretched the truth.

    The couple moved to another town and over the years I Iost contact with them. Last I heard, they had worked things out and were doing well.

    Here’s the thing. Never once have I regretted handling the situation that evening as I did. I acted based on what I knew to protect someone in need of help. Far better to be wrong on the side of protecting than to be wrong on the side of refusing protection.

    • Annie

      That makes so much sense to help someone until you know otherwise!

      People are so afraid they might enable someone who’s lying about abuse! But not too worried that the abused might end up dead.

      • Lea

        “People are so afraid they might enable someone who’s lying about abuse! But not too worried that the abused might end up dead.”

        Yes. I am sympathetic to people who have been lied about in these situations. I know that it happens. However, truth or not truth is not mine to determine. I have no reason to believe I have some magical ability to know the difference between the truth and a skilled liar. I can hope that the totality of circumstances/a persons character make things clear eventually, but I may still be fooled. Many people are fooled.

        My problem with these pastors is that they want to err on the side of caution in a way that preserves the marriage rather than in a way that best protects the people. Their priorities are skewed.

      • joepote01

        Lea-

        You said, “My problem with these pastors is that they want to err on the side of caution in a way that preserves the marriage rather than in a way that best protects the people. Their priorities are skewed.”

        Yes! That’s it in a nutshell.

        Thank you!

    • Jan

      Sooooooo true! Thank you!

    • Well said, Joe.

      I have been called to help in situations (not marital problems so much; other problems) where I helped the person who had asked for help … and later I came to think that maybe that person hadn’t been telling the whole truth, or maybe they had some deeper problem that they were unaware of themselves.

      However, I do not regret having helped the way I did at the time. I did what I did with the best light I had then; I may learn from the experience later, and revise my perceptions of what had gone on, but I still don’t regret anything. Better to act to protect if you think it may be needful, than to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

      • joepote01

        Exactly! Far better to help where it may not have been needed than to risk refusing help to someone in desperate need.

  11. Joe Godal

    Right on. Powell has the chaff. His problem lies in his rejection of general revelation and the truth that Bancroft & other scientists/counselors arrive at through observation and research. All men are not redeemable. His teaching is harmful in that it gets women second guessing their decision to divorce even when the church has excommunicated the abuser and approved her decision to divorce. His teaching is false & should be resisted. I’m sure abusers will latch onto it & use it. Jeff & Barbara, stay on the watch tower. Joe Godal, pastor.

    • standsfortruth

      Thank you for this concise statement Joe.
      “All men are not redeemable”.
      Until the church recognises that truth they will continue to peddle blind advice that causes more harm to Gods oppressed people, while overlooking the problem of abuse.
      The abuse victim has to go against the tide of her church and her oppressor to find the strength to release herself.
      With truth and Gods grace this is possible.
      Thank you Pastor Jeff for all you do.

  12. Un-Tangled

    I’ve continued to think about this article ever since I read it this morning. It upsets me. You quoted Matt Powell as writing:

    Other kinds of abuse should be matters of church discipline, and if a person will not submit to the discipline of the church, then that too becomes grounds for divorce. This should be the way these things are handled – in the courts of the church, by mature believers, very carefully, and not with sweeping generalizations. This is why it is so important and so valuable to be part of churches that have robust systems of church government with accountability and oversight.

    The problem with going to the church is that they engage in circular thinking. They don’t recognize or understand evil people or abuse, especially “other kinds of abuse.” If a woman goes to the church, she is assumed to be rebellious and unsubmissive to her husband and SHE is the one who experiences “church discipline.” How on earth can she ever get help if abuse is not recognized and she is assumed to be the one at fault? That is “sweeping generalization” if I ever heard it.

    • Lea

      “If a woman goes to the church, she is assumed to be rebellious and unsubmissive to her husband and SHE is the one who experiences “church discipline.”

      That certainly seems to be the way it goes in practice! The other thing apparently is that the spouse ‘apologizes’ and the church just assumes everything is now peachy.

    • joepote01

      Un-Tangled,

      I very much agree with you and strongly disagree with Matt Powell’s position.

      I notice that even in stating his position, Matt Powell found it hnecessary to add, “This is why it is so important and so valuable to be part of churches that have robust systems of church government with accountability and oversight.” Even assuming his general approach to be correct (which I don’t believe to be true) he himself realizes the limitations of being dependent on the wisdom of any given church leadership.

      This puts the individual in the position of being responsible for selecting an appropriate church, for having the wisdom to recognize whether a given church will appropriately handle their situation, for being aware when things start to go wrong with their church’s process, and for knowing when to take appropriate action on their own.

      In other words…ultimately each individual is responsible for their own decisions regarding the potential necessity of divorce…and for seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in those decisions.

      In his own arguments, Matt Powell discredits the ‘need’ for church involvement in such personal decisions as necessity of divorce, level of abuse, etc.

    • For Too Long

      Yep. Been there, done that.

  13. Oh my goodness…so many triggers here! I found myself clenching my fists as I read. Pastor Matt stated, “Physical violence is grounds for divorce. Other kinds of abuse should be matters of church discipline, and if a person will not submit to the discipline of the church, then that too becomes grounds for divorce.” As if an abuser would admit to the insidious things s/he does! And as if the abused would be able to prove anything in the “court of the church!!!” Just as in couple’s counseling, the finger would once again be pointed at the abused.
    Pastor Matt, please, please, please educate yourself before making such absurd statements!!!

  14. Anonymous

    When someone starts messing with the status quo–BOY do those who benefit from it get MAD! I have only read what was posted here so I don’t know all about this man’s beliefs or ministry but just from this alone we can see the HORROR of what has kept those of us with a heart for the Lord in bondage.

    Matt Powell wrote:

    There is sound Biblical wisdom to follow, and the current fad about domestic abuse I fear is encouraging a lot of reckless, unbiblical scapegoating.

    The problem is the “scapegoat” used to be those of us who bought the lie that we are to worship men as the superior sex and ended up bowing down to evil men. Or that marriage was more important than the individuals who were in it. The truth in God’s Word tells us to, “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” 1 John 4:1. Those of us who were the scapegoats were supposed to carry the responsibility and weight of all the sin and abuse for those who are incapable of feeling shame or guilt. But this was NEVER OUR responsibility as we are all–men and women–judged by our OWN HEART.

    For many centuries, women were made to believe that they were inferior and worthless unless they were a wife and a mother and even in this capacity they were often treated like a piece of property. How Jesus treated women was supposed to be the way men of God treated them all along. His treatment of women (he treated them the same way as the men — he judged them by their heart) was shocking because it was so out of the norm from the way the Jews were treating them. But the Jews were wrong-hearted about this and Jesus tried to SHOW them how they should treat woman as well as tell them. IT’S OUR HEART! Matthew 19:8, “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because YOUR HEARTS WERE HARD. But it was not this way from the beginning.” THE ISSUE, ONCE AGAIN, IS THE HEART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And divorce was actually provided by God as protection FOR THE WRONGED PARTY! (Protection for MEN AND WOMEN who were wronged by the spouse with the HARD HEART.) It wasn’t meant to be used against them as a guilt trip or as an implication that the one with a loving heart should have to fix the evil-hearted one. No. God was straight-forwardly stating that he knew some people were so selfish-hearted that he would allow divorce to help the innocent party. He was trying to wake them up / shake them up so that they could see their own sin and how it was an abomination to him.

    But then as now, people with a hardened heart cannot see the truth. Cannot see that those who are oppressed need help–and instead see them as people to manipulate or feed off of or use and then abandon.

    As you’ve stated Jeff, this man seems to be unaware of the personality disorders of sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists etc. We know that MRI’s can show if a person is unable to feel shame, guilt, fear, love, empathy, gratefulness (all the things that a person who is truly a Christian is able to feel), and when a person is missing these capabilities [Eds: and their upbringing has failed to mitigate these deficiencies — both nature and nurture are at play in the development of personality] they are “left” with the personality traits listed in 2 Tim 3:1-5 and Romans 1:29-31. Science, psychology and the Bible all back this up, so what’s the problem? Namely that he and others like him want to pretend this has to do with “marriage and divorce” instead of what the true problem is and that is some people are evil and if we ARE in the end times as described in 2 Tim 3 and other places in the Bible, there will be a lot of these types of people and a lot of them will be found IN THE CHURCH.

    Matt Powell wrote,

    The last thing we need to be doing is encouraging more divorce. These are real people’s lives. Divorce is shattering to the people getting divorced, to the children, to society at large. It causes multigenerational dysfuntion.

    The issue IS NOT MARRAIGE AND DIVORCE! THE ISSUE IS THE HEART!!!!! We KNOW from God’s Word that some people belong to their father the devil as stated in John 8:44 and also in 1 John 3:8-10, and the old testament has many examples of evil ones and how they operate and David in his Psalms shows how broken we are from them, yet this man denies us the right to GET AWAY FROM EVIL ONES! This is the OPPOSITE of what God tells us to do in His Word which is to have nothing to do with such people (2 Tim 3:5) and resisting the devil (and those who belong to him) so that he will flee. Once again, nothing is addressed about HOW TO IDENTIFY THESE EVIL PEOPLE BEFORE WE MARRY THEM! How about THIS as a ministry? How to identify a wolf in sheep’s clothing BEFORE we commit our lives to them.

    My parents’ divorce saved my life. Both of them were incapable of loving anyone else but when they were together they were so focused on each other and had such a system of invoking a response from the other that the children were completely forgotten, yet destroyed from the fighting.

    After the divorce things DID calm down and it’s only recently that God has shown me that this may have been what saved my sanity. When we finally got a home away from my mom, I was unable to fall asleep because of terror, a spiraling down that terrified me (I was six years old) and while reading the book by Judith Herman I now realize I was probably starting to disassociate from reality. (This terror was probably happening when they were still married but none of us kids had any time or the ability to think about ourselves — or lives revolved around fear and terror.) My dad actually handled it really well (through God’s grace I have no doubt) and would reassure me that I was safe and that it was okay. The terror and fear started to dissipate after several months but it took well over a year for me to feel safe.

    So for Matt Powell to say the problem is with divorce, again, he misses the entire point. Maybe if he was concerned about evil men slipping in among God’s flock or ensuring people were well aware of the personality disorders listed above and letting people know that people with these disorders didn’t belong to God and that those who do shouldn’t marry them–well, that would be a great place to start. As you stated Jeff, he clearly hasn’t read this websites definition of abuser or he is unable or unwilling to see it. It’s all so very, very SAD!

    • joepote01

      Matt Powell wrote, “The last thing we need to be doing is encouraging more divorce. These are real people’s lives. Divorce is shattering to the people getting divorced, to the children, to society at large. It causes multigenerational dysfuntion.”

      Yes…I picked up on the falseness of these statements, too, Anon. Thanks for pointing it out.

      ABUSE is shattering to people’s lives, to the children and to society at large. ABUSE too often leads to multigenerational dysfunction.

      Divorce is difficult, but not shattering in the sense that abuse is.

      For situations where enouraging divorce will help stop abuse, by all means, let’s encourage divorce!!!

      • Anonymous

        “ABUSE is shattering to people’s lives, to the children and to society at large. ABUSE too often leads to multigenerational dysfunction”

        This is so good Joe! ABUSE–which according to Matt Powell is mostly contrived in our heads and we are apparently looking for an easy way out of it. I can only imagine how God is viewing all of this right here–all of this discussion and all of our hearts–ACFJ–through God’s grace, you have created a thing of beauty and a place for it to be displayed!

    • standsfortruth

      Amen anonymous. The Issue has allways been about the heart.
      Not the institution, not the skin color, not the denomination, not the gender, but the heart.
      Once you realize this profound truth, and understand it, things become very clear for the follower of Christ.

    • braveandstandingstrong

      Anonymous,
      AMEN….it is a HEART issue. You nailed it!
      Good insight!

  15. Rosie

    Bravo! Reading this post about Matt Powell made me think I was stepping back into my former abuser-friendly “church.” Some people refuse to understand, others simply can’t because they haven’t been through it. I’m greatly encouraged by ACFJ website. Thank you for exposing wickedness that would otherwise remain hidden.

  16. Jan

    I just have one thing to say…
    What if this guy had a daughter and she came to him about abuse? What would his stance be then? Lately, I’ve been wondering if these specific ppl who want to retraumatize the victims would deal with it if it hit a little closer to home. Just saying.

    • Misti

      Personal experience: They would retraumatize.

      I suspect that more of these “clueless” folks are actual abusers themselves than we generally want to believe.

      I really hope that suspicion’s wrong. Unfortunately, whenever I’ve gone digging into something looking for evidence that X isn’t a pattern, I’ve been finding proof that it is.

      • Jan

        As have I!!!!!!!!

      • Free

        A “clueless” one said “we’re all abusers” after they were told undeniably horrid facts even in front of the abuser himself. They wouldn’t even let the abuser speak when asked specific questions about the horror that had gone on. They would interrupt him and say “he doesn’t know.”

    • Released!

      I asked the former pastor that question once. “What if your daughter came to you and told you she was being abused?” He said, “I would tell her what I’m telling you.” I was instantly sick to my stomach. Horrifying. When my daughter was in an abusive relationship for one year, and she came to me, you know what I told her? I told her to GET OUT. She did, and her reasoning? “Mom, I don’t want to end up living like you did.” I was OUT within two months of her leaving that abusive relationship.

      • Jan

        Wow! It’s disgusting! And congrats on being able to break away. It takes courage. I’ve been out 2 months now with NC.

    • braveandstandingstrong

      I actually point blank asked my pastor that question, “What if this was your daughter? ” No response.

  17. Jason Jones

    A long time ago, I brought up the subject of abuse with my divorce attorney, and he told me to not even bother thinking about bringing it up to the judge unless there was photographs of physical injuries or records of emergency room visits. He said that just about everyone (husbands and wives) seeking a divorce claims to be abused, and the judge will basically ignore it. The husband will give a litany of areas where he felt wronged, and the wife will do the same.

    Let me first say that for a true victim this site’s definition serves a positive purpose because it helps them to realize that what they experienced was truly wrong and not just in their head. Their instincts were correct, and they were right to remove themselves from this harmful behavior.

    For a lot of reasons this is a very tough issue for a pastor. Nobody wants to be encouraging someone to stay in a relationship that is harmful, and yet no one wants to see families dissolved either. I very much agree that a pastor should not place the institution of marriage above the well being of the ones that are married, and I am definitely concerned that to some degree this is happening. At the same time though, I really do believe many pastors are honestly struggling with this issue and trying to get it right.

    • Jason Jones

      I would also add that while it’s true that someone who is not truly a victim could use the definition of abuse as a justification for getting out of a marriage, it’s also true that they were going to get out no matter what anyway.

    • standsfortruth

      To disolve a marriage due to on ongoing abuse,( and as it has been said on this site before,- By the time the abuse is finally disclosed, it has been covertly going on for many years) First of all, should NOT be in the hands of the pastor to decide, or for him to pressure the victim in any way by his assumed power.
      He would be misusing his power by doing so.
      Disolving a marriage because of abuse can actually SAVE the family, because the children will no longer be forced to acclimate themselves within a toxic and abusive situation, and ultimatly become desensitized to abuse, or worse yet learn the tactics of abuse and grow up to repete this cycle.

  18. PEARL

    “In fact, the definition of abuse in the linked article is so broad that practically any sinful behavior of one person toward another can be defined as abuse, thus justifying divorce.” Well men used to find any excuse available to divorce their wives, now the shoe is on the other foot but somehow that is wrong.

  19. Matt Powell quotes the Holcomb’s definition of domestic abuse. I’m re-quoting it here but separating the two sentences:

    “Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship.

    This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner.”

    Powell virtually ignores the first sentence in that definition which contains the key words power and coercion.

    He totally ignores the strong words in the second sentence too: the words frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, humiliate, blame, injure, wound.

    His pompous argument relies solely on the word ‘hurt’ in the Holcomb’s definition. He claims that their definition is ‘incredibly broad and vague’ because

    …as soon as someone uses hurtful words or silence to try to control someone else’s behavior, they are an abuser, and all these other statements about abuse come into play.

    That is NOT what the Holcombs say. I have read their book thoroughly more than once, and they do not say anything remotely like that.

    Matt Powell’s argument is a splendid example of a straw man argument. You could use it as a case study in Logic 101.

    • joepote01

      Yes, a straw man, indeed. One could sit and shoot holes in ANY stance using such logic.

      The thing is, it’s not about, “How might one skew this person’s words to misuse what they said?”

      When one resorts to such illogical logic, further debate is useless. “Convince a man against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.”

  20. grannymom

    “But the problem is, according to this, as soon as someone uses hurtful words or silence to try to control someone else’s behavior, they are an abuser, and all these other statements about abuse come into play.”

    How on earth is it ever right and godly to strive to control someone’s behaviour?

    That statement boggles my mind. Marriage is never to be about control. Using hurtful words or silence to control a spouse’s behaviour is manipulative and cruel, not loving and godly. As a pastor, Matt Powell ought to know that when there is disagreement in any relationship, the two parties need to humbly examine their own hearts and motives, and seek to understand each other, not control each other. As soon as the motive is to control rather than to understand and love, it is abusive.

    • Anonymous

      Great point–it just may be a peek inside this man’s head / heart / marriage–that he thinks this is a normal way to think and that he really believes this is a good point to make. If you let them talk or write long enough, their hearts will be revealed.

      • grannymom

        Thanks, Anonymous. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is horrified by a pastor glibly talking about controlling a spouse.

      • Free

        Agreed! let them talk or write long enough- the truth of what’s in their hearts is revealed. Yes let them talk! The abuser was usually silent and that’s why no one would LET him speak when he rarely opened his mouth. In meetings about the abuse they would actually tell him to stop, speak FOR him, and say that “he doesn’t know why he did what he did.” Oh poor baby. Give me a break. What injustice. Instead they focused on how angry I was and shame me for now yielding to the Holy Spirit. One even asked me if I would go on tranquilizers. They’d walk out laughing basically snorting “Our wives don’t behave like this one and we’re all abusers so something’s wrong with this one. Amen God is good” Infuriating! But it is what happened.

    • I agree, grannymom, with the caveat that when one is dealing with a character-disordered person such as an abuser, one might, to set boundaries and protect oneself from their covert or overt aggression, respond to them with silence. Or one might confront them with their sins (e.g. by telling the abuser: “You are lying”). The abuser will typically counter-accuse with a false claim that you are ‘hurting’ them by that accusation.

      When we confront a wicked person about their wickedness, they very often claim we are ‘hurting’ them. And in a sense, we are: we are hurting the mindset of entitlement which that wicked person holds. And we are not wrong to confront such sin.

      • grannymom

        I agree, Barbara. I’m just saying that the motive of a godly person ought not to be to control his or her spouse, or anyone for that matter. Setting boundaries is good and necessary. Confrontation is also necessary at times (but takes wisdom and prayer). I’m just surprised at the quote, above…that Matt Powell didn’t seem to recognize that trying to control someone’s behaviour is not a great way to operate within a marriage.

  21. shepherdguardian

    I put this scenario to a meeting of a group of pastors and elders of two well-known churches in Central Texas, USA. They all hold the “rigorist-view” (permanence-view) of marriage. They all had children and some of them had young female children. I asked, “If you and your family were Yazidi Christians and your 7 year old daughter was kidnapped by Muslim invaders and your daughter was forced to marry one of them and he did unspeakably abusive things to her physically and psychologically, would you now turn a blind eye because she is now married? Would you tell her she needs to be a better Christian example to her abuser? Would you tell her to stop making him angry? Or would you tell her to GET OUT?”
    Sadly, as in Mark 3, they were silent. And after three months of waiting for an answer, they are still silent.
    S/G

    • Jeff Crippen

      Their twisted theology has painted them into a corner, the only escape from which is to undo the tangled knots of their skewed handling of Scripture. Most in such a corner won’t leave it. To do so would require admitting their grievous errors, being required to repent of the sin of distorting God’s Word and hurting people, and smashing the icon of their pride. So they sit. In the corner. Silent. Painted in, pretending the wet paint around them doesn’t exist.

      • Anonymous

        Jeff, thank you for this response. Any pastors out there who are reading this: if God is opening your eyes, start praying that he shows you the truth through His word and in your lives, and that through Him you become brave enough to start speaking the truth. It may seem too costly at first–to go back on things you’ve preached in the past–but you will come to find that what you’ve lost was of no value and what you’ve gained is so much more precious and lasting. Most of us here didn’t make the choice to have our eyes opened to God’s truth so widely–it was God himself who intervened on our behalf. What I’ve lost was worthless and what I’ve gained is priceless. And for those (seemingly) relatively few of us who see this stark truth–we, through Jesus–are able to truly reach those that Jesus talks about in the Bible who desperately need him–the oppressed.

    • Free

      Yes, exactly. No struggle. You’re against it or silent (for it). Someone here once said something like this and I agree: Victims don’t fake being abused. But abusers fake being a victim.

      I’ve never heard of a false victim except for that person that is the abuser. I believe all abusers fake being a victim in some way. Anyway if someone is making false allegations about abuse and lying and wanting to divorce then let them go. That is wrong and the one abandoned is free to remarry.

      However BEWARE. I can be sure that the abuser I know is using this argument so that he can justify marrying again, further solicit sympathy from others esp the church, and to further publicly condemn me if I do remarry.

      So if there is a fake victim is playing this role that means they’re deceiving and conniving and evil and one must let them go. I don’t see this happening though. I don’t see people “making up abuse” to justify leaving for their personal gain. I see abusers confusing pastors and the public and families and everyone of those people sitting in that corner with the abuser instead.

      I have experienced 3 different pastor’s reactions. One agreed the abuser was acting evil but that was it. He never called it abuse. Another called me a child when I first told him what was happening and he shunned me (wouldn’t talk to me again, openly said he sorry for his wife that she had to deal with me, stayed in their bedroom until I had a ride to leave their place) This guy has abused his wife, is obviously arrogant about his position in running a bible center, and allows abusers to continue to come to the church he pastors. He admonishes the women to take in the joy of The Lord and get over it. Very cruel and very fake IMO.

      The last one is buddies with the abuser. He defends him and boils everything down to what he’d call “stupid man behavior.” This one is the abuser’s favorite. The one he gets his daily support from. The one that agrees with him that I’m at fault.

      And so what we have is NONE of these stand for the truth. All different churches. Perhaps they too err on the side of caution but what they are really doing is siding with the abuser.

      That is what we fight for here. A victim must be believed. And the abuser must be held accountable. The survivor must be free from the abuser. The truth always comes out but we all MUST be harmless as doves and wise as serpents. Don’t play the diplomat. Fight for the truth and you’ll see the reactions. Abusers will manipulate you, guilt trip and hate you. Victims will be safe and heal! People are DYING everyday at the hands of abusers. They are mostly men. Believe it and help or deny it and be part of the abuse. That’s it in a nutshell.

      Jeff C’s book Unholy Charade has a list of questions at the back as examples of what to ask the abuser that the victim has named. Do justice- ask them. Now. Don’t make any excuses- see what they are saying and guard yourself from what you hope to hear from them. Live for God not man. Thank you

    • your anecdote, shepherdguardian, reminds me of the men who all walked away (slunk away) when Jesus confronted them here:

      The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
      (John 8:3-9 ESV)

      • shepherdguardian

        Yes, Barbara, you are correct. And just like those men in the time of Jesus’ life, these men left with their tails between their legs – but with no repentance, no remorse and no empathy for the victims. Their hearts were hardened toward the victim because of their idolatry of mis-applied Scripture that puts marriage above mercy.

        Blessings,
        S/G

      • Sister

        And where was the man whom she was committing adultery with? And how did they conveniently just so happen to “catch” her in adultery? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I like the plausible theory that it was one or more of the men standing there and that was what Jesus was writing about.

  22. Misti

    We do NOT say that accusations of abuse need not be investigated. You have misrepresented us by claiming that.

    That misrepresentation is itself an abuse tactic, for anyone who hasn’t picked up on that yet. It’s been my experience to date that folks who do this will engage in other abuse tactics, including gaslighting and psychological projection.

    • Hi Misti
      may I gently say something about the psychological term “projection”?

      Dr George Simon Jr’s books have taught me that projection is a defence mechanism used by some neurotic people. (NB: he uses the term neurotic to refer to personalities who listen to and heed their conscience and strive to be pro-social and morally responsible in their behaviour, in other words, the basically healthy person.)

      He says that in contrast to neurotic people, character disordered people do NOT use projection.
      He says that character disordered people know what they are doing and that it is wrong.

      The term projection stems from psychodynamic psychology and refers to one of the automatic mental behaviours conceptualized by traditional theorists as ego defence mechanisms. The rationale behind that notion is that sometimes individuals ‘project’ onto others motivations, intentions or actions that they actually harbor themselves but which they would feel far too unnerved or guilty about to acknowledge as their own.

      Neurotic individuals do indeed engage in projection defences. But disordered characters know what they are doing. They are fully conscious about what they know others would see as the wrongfulness of their behavior, despite the fact that they might be perfectly comfortable with their course of action themselves. They don’t have enough guilt or shame about what they are doing to change course. Nor are they so consumed with emotional pain that they must ascribe to others the motivations they can’t tolerate in themselves. Rather, when they blame others for their wrongful acts, its simply an attempt to justify themselves as being in a position where they had no choice but to respond the way they did. In this way, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate and manage the impressions of others. The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as as victim. It’s typically an effective tactic to get others to pay to everyone or everything else except the disordered character and his wrongful behavior as the source of the problem.

      — “How Did We End Up Here?” George K Simon Jr Ph.D., with M Kathryn Armistead, Ph.D. pp 111-112.

      • Misti

        I actually agree entirely with that delineation, and it’s a relief to hear someone else saying that these folks know what they’re doing. (They’re far too calculated and too adept at the double-face to not know what they’re doing.)

        I’ve seen “projection” defined as “accusing someone of doing what you yourself are doing,” which can happen wittingly or unwittingly—which fits American Heritage, the dictionary used in that field.

        But there is definitely a difference in the application, motive, and even effects between someone accusing another person as a defense mechanism and someone accusing another person in order to tear them down.

      • I agree Misti, that was a huge part of what my exhusband did to me. He was always deciding that I had evil motives toward him. He was always wrong and I would say that he has no clue how I think. I was completely mystified how he could come up with this stuff and I wondered where this decision that I am evil was coming from, I was constantly “proving to him” that is not how I thought. But slowly God showed me that it was from him and the way he thinks so actually he has these motives – out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Even now after our separation it continues.

      • standsfortruth

        I’ve seen “projection” defined as “accusing someone of doing what you yourself are doing,” which can happen wittingly or unwittingly—which fits American Heritage, the dictionary used in that field.

        This is the definition that I am familiar with also…perhaps there are two different applications for this term?

      • Standsfortruth, Dr George Simon says that many psychological terms are misused and misunderstood, even by mental health professionals!

        You might like to check out his blog on this. Here is one of his posts on the topic, but he has many more.
        Misunderstood and Misused Psychology Terms – Part 1

      • Misti

        Starlight, from what I’ve seen, insisting that someone’s “really” thinking/feeling/etc. is a psychological torture technique used in interrogation and brainwashing. Not kidding.

        Bullies have good reason for their tendency to either cave or snap if you calmly hold your ground and ignore their warping of facts or context: they need to distract or frighten you to make you easier to gaslight. Which is why they tend to respond really poorly when you outmaneuver them.

        Standsfortruth, it’s normal for terms to have a few possible meanings based on context. (Case in point: “depression” has a layman definition, a biological definition, a psychological definition, and a colloquial definition.)

        Barbara was careful to point out her reference and context for the definition she was using. That is quite pertinent, since you know how abusers will warp definitions—changing which they’re using mid-argument yet insisting that anything you’ve confronted them on is invalid due to…details that often have nothing to do with the actual thing you confronted them on, in my experience.

        Y’all have an e-hug. 🙂

  23. Free

    To Pastors

    I am a survivor. What I will share with you is what has changed my life. I suffered for years and I cried out for help in many times and many ways to many people of many different positions and NO ONE helped. They did in fact make it worse. The following is how I saw and heard the truth. This is how I stay strong and free. It does not matter who is standing in front of me or what they say- If they do not walk in line with this following information then i must not consider them able or willing to help. I am a survivor. My voice and the voice of survivors and those who fight for them is what matters not the opinions of men or women. It does not matter what position they hold I the church or outside of it.

    May I strongly suggest to you to buy these books and resources:

    (This order was very helpful to me. My thoughts are asterisked under each resource.)

    1.Give them cryingoutforjustice.com right away. They need to hear the truth from other survivors.
    *gives testimonies and gives posts on various branches of the nasty rotting tree of abuse and provides definitions

    2. Unholy Charade by Jeff Crippen
    *addresses the entire problem

    3. Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft
    *reveals the abuser’s mind and actions

    4. When Dad Hurts Mom by Lundy Bancroft
    *explains the victim’s resistance and harm done to the children by witnessing the abuse

    5. Not Under Bondage by Barbara Roberts
    *explains how the victim is free to leave and correct false interpretations in scripture that prevent the victim’s freedom

    I urge you immediately to read these resources entirely and give a copy to the victim who came to you to read. Discuss with them without the alleged abuser present. Listen. You will hear the truth. The victim will hear their own life experiences in those pages. They will be able to point to the truth with that information.

    Pastors, I charge you to lead and feed God’s sheep! Keep them safe! Protect the flock. Thank you.

    [Editor’s note: Comment was restructured for clarity.]

  24. cindy burrell

    I found myself gasping as I read Mr. Powell’s comments (I cannot call him “Pastor…”) . What I do not see in his comments is any role between the suffering spouse and the Holy Spirit, our Intercessor, Counselor and Guide. Mr. Powell seems to think God has no relational role in this process. Mr. Powell seems to think he possesses the authority to determine whether one’s motives are wrong. That is not his job. That is the Holy Spirit’s job.

    As opposed Mr. Powell’s assertions, in my experience, as followers of Christ, our tendency is to go to great lengths to save and redeem our broken marriages, not to seek loopholes to accommodate what Mr. Powell asserts are loose excuses to divorce. Furthermore, he seems inclined to support the notion that it is better to remain in ungodly marriages than to divorce, that divorce is always “shattering” to children and families. That is untrue.

    I was a poster child for the belief system he espouses and remained with my abuser for 20 years, certain that God would heal our broken marriage. Looking back, I wish someone in the church had told me that my kids and I didn’t have to live that way. I have to presume I would not have heard any such assurances from Mr. Powell.

    Only recently, I was horrified to discover that when my eldest daughter was 14, her father forced her to stand with her face against a wall, then proceeded to pretend that he was going to beat her with a wrench. She was obviously traumatized but never spoke a word of it to me. After the episode, my then-husband laughed and told her it was a joke. Some joke. Is this the kind of acceptable degree of sin to which Mr. Powell refers? After all, her father didn’t strike her… Another time my husband made it a point to cruelly humiliate me in the presence of our four children and then forced me to have sex with him afterward, even as I wept. I wonder if Mr. Powell would even blush to know some of the things my former husband said and did to me, for the “Christian” man never left any visible wounds.

    Or was that just sin?

  25. Anonymous

    Once again, ACFJ exposes overbearing leaders who would cause victims to doubt whether they are truly victims or not.
    Considering the way Matt Powell has presented his so-called Biblical views I remain very skeptical that he would carry out proper church discipline according to the Word. How can he considering he is twisting Scripture to insinuate that many victims are not whom they claim to be?
    I’m grateful that ACFJ is exposing such ‘leaders’ as Matt Powell. For those of us who are still weary from battling many abusers; we need to be warned.

  26. The Wary Witness

    Everyone sins against other people, and sinful behavior towards others is always abusive. The remedy provided by the Scriptures for abusive behavior is the cross of Christ, and forgiveness and repentance. Abusers are not in some different category than the rest of us.

    This was the most triggering part for me. No Matt, we are not all abusers, and abusers are in a category of their own. I’m not saying that it is impossible for abusers to be saved, but they have reached a level of evil and deception of self and others that most of us will never reach. They have reached such a level of evil that they have seared their consciences.

    I grew up with a severely abuse father. Like most children, I wanted to believe that both my parents loved me. I used to tell myself that maybe when I was born, he started out wanting/intending to be a good parent, and then “fell” into sin because of a lack of self-control. But looking back I understand that his evil behavior was very intentional, controlled, and carefully planned. People don’t commit these types of sins by accident.

    Years later, when I confronted him about his past behavior towards me, he was totally outraged. I was the bad one for having exposed him. For a moment he seemed to express some remorse that I had been hurt, but in the next sentence, I was the bad one because I had ruined his weekend. Apparently in his mind, ruining someone’s weekend by exposing them as a child abuser is a worse deed than years of abuse towards a young child. No kidding. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Oh, and about divorce being so “shattering” to children and families? I sure wish my parents had gotten a divorce years sooner than they actually did.

  27. KayE

    The last thing we need to be doing is encouraging more divorce.

    I’ve heard that kind of sentiment often, but I no longer have any respect for the people who say it. I’ve repeatedly found that when it’s one of their own who wants to get a divorce, these same people find all kinds of justification for divorce being right and good.

    Far from “leaving in haste”, I endured 16 years of increasing abuse. Even then I wasn’t the one who left and I wasn’t the one who filed for divorce. But to the church leaders and Christians who know my ex, somehow I’m still the one who’s evil. The exact same people who have shamed me for being divorced are the ones who supported and encouraged my ex in getting that divorce.
    I don’t think this is about discouraging divorce at all. It’s about refusing to acknowledge the true nature of abusers.

  28. Sister

    I believe the reason Matt Powell is critical of ACFJ is because you have helped open the eyes either of his wife or the wife (wives) of his friend(s) or relative(s). I do not know him/have special knowledge of the situation. It just stands to reason.

    No offense to ACFJ, but as much as I would like you to be universally well known, I think your audience is fairly limited to victims and their friends/loved ones who found you via Internet search (or subsequent word of mouth), i. e. Those looking for real help/answers from Christians who actually understand abuse – people you are helping immensely/validating/liberating. Conversely, your critics are abusers themselves or their allies whose victims found you. The fact that he is vehemently criticizing you tells me you have helped open the eyes of someone he knows and he is trying to keep a lid on it/trying to obstruct Christian victims from finding the freedom/validation you offer. i.e. He is actively trying to keep victims/targets in the fog.

    If he didn’t know someone benefiting from your site, why would he know you at all?

    • Yes, Sister. I think your speculation is very likely correct.

    • On the other hand, Sister, there may be different reasons why Matt Powell has become alerted to our blog.
      He could have found it via another blog that he might have been reading, for example.

  29. IamMyBeloved's

    “…need to be handled in the courts of the church”

    Nothing else even needs to be said. Courts in Christ’s church where “you know who’s” sit in judgment of the sheep thinking they have been given all authority – instead of Jesus Christ! Unbelievably unbiblical beyond description! He has so wrongly twisted the Scriptures, by this single statement, that there is nothing left to say to this guy except this. Repent you Pharisee! Repent!

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: