A Cry For Justice

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

Only a Church that Loves Truth Will Validate and Help an Abuse Victim

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

One of the characteristics of a true Christian and a true church is a love for truth. God’s Word is received like honeycomb even if it announces judgment on the wicked or coming suffering for the righteous. It is truth and it is life-giving and a real child of God hungers and thirsts for it.

Not so with the counterfeit.

Jeremiah was called to announce God’s Word to an apostate “church” in a time when corruption reached right through the prophets and priests of the day. And the people, unregenerate as they were, loved to hear these guys preach. They did not want truth, they wanted lies that all would be well with them in spite of their rebellion against the Lord. Jeremiah had a hard road to travel.

A professing Christian’s response today to truth is very telling about the real state of his or her soul. Does a local church receive truth or stop its ears to it? There is the telling thing. I don’t just mean the data of the facts of the gospel. True, a real Christian confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, crucified, buried, risen, and coming again. But he also loves truth in general.

One of the truths that Christians must face today is that domestic abusers are hiding among them in disguise. How do they respond? What is their reaction when an abuse victim comes out and tells them who her abuser really is and what he really does when no one is looking? Do they want to know, or do they stop their ears?

Truth, you see. Even if that truth involves the revealing of evil hiding like a snake in the grass, the real Christian who yearns for Christ’s truth and justice, who thirsts to see victims delivered will receive that news and crave to shine further light upon it. The phony? We all know too well what his reaction is. Silence it. Cover it. Deny it. This is the thing that opens a person’s soul to view. Are they a mere whitewash job full of stinking rot inside?

The world is often like this. How many of you, like myself, have ever worked in a place where serious wrongs were taking place out of sight? You tried to set things straight. You told a supervisor perhaps what was going on. You thought they would be thankful. You were wrong. They wanted you to shut up about it and did nothing to the negligent or the perpetrator. You were the one, it seems, who had done the wrong by saying anything. Fantasy, you see, is the preferred mindset of so many people.

But the church. The church is to be different. When it is not, when the church mirrors the world and is really rather indiscernible from it, we must conclude that it is no longer the church, if it ever was. So let’s end by asking and considering this question:

What does the typical, widespread rejection of an abuse victim’s claim that she is being abused by her “christian” husband tell us about the real state of the visible church today? What does the common infliction of injustice upon the victim say about what so often is claiming to be the church of Jesus Christ?

For him who has ears to hear and eyes to see, the answer to those questions is not difficult to sort out.

17 Comments

  1. Herjourney

    Not only have I been in an abusive marriage. ( No more! ( He still has financial control through a court order. Alimony. And he chooses what days to control me. Haha tho. He has no idea how God has provided my needs. Praise God!!
    God allowed me into an abusive church with abusive leadership.
    I finally blocked the pastor from my FB.
    I was stalked like an animal on the first day of hunting season.
    Still am.
    God has protected me where He sent me.
    I am currently an employee of [deleted].
    God lead me there also.
    Boy
    I should write a book about the corruption I see… and how God’s hands have protected me in places not fit for a carnal Christian to walk.

    [my experience is this:] Where God leads. He will use you. Be willing to speak!
    He will open doors. Then without any notice, slam it behind you.
    I used to argue with God about it.
    Not any more!
    I just thank Him for He knows what He’s doing.
    Waiting on God is not easy!
    But it is essential!

    Psalm 37:7
    Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

  2. healinginhim

    Thank you so much for this post. I wish I could pin it on every ‘c’hurch door.

  3. standsfortruth

    This message is exactly why this church at ACFJ is my only church.
    Thank you pastor Jeff for preaching the truth.
    I look foward to listening to your messages always for you tell it like it is, pretty or not, it is true.
    All the other churches seem to cringe at the truth and cannot take it.
    They want to view everything with rose colored glasses, while supporting the abuser to keep the peaceful appearance.
    I think these church allies are fearful of what the abuser may do to them if they go against him, and that could be why they end up scapegoating the true victim; to protect their own hides.
    So in the end we have what looks like
    “fearful allies” protecting an “unbelieving” abuser.

  4. Innoscent

    “.. the common infliction of injustice upon the victim…” (by Jeff)

    This is the very thing that offends the Lord the most! He calls it an abomination. Justice for the innocent is of the uttermost price to God, and by adopting an apathetic stance on it, churches side with darkness and Satan’s lie. Why an abomination? Because their ease and their reputation have become their idols and they’d rather sacrifice innocent souls.

    Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. Exodus 23:7

    He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 17:15

    To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness. Proverbs 17:26

    It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice. Proverbs 18.5

    These also are sayings of the wise. Partiality in judging is not good. Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24:23-25

    They [the wicked rulers] band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death [innocent blood]. Psalms 90:21

    ..who [the ruthless and the scoffer] by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right. Isaiah 29:21

  5. MarkQ

    I want to agree with some reservations. A church that loves the truth will not silence people, and will listen with open ears. A church that loves the truth will treat people with respect whether they are the pastor or someone walking in off the street in rags.

    However, I’ve been struggling with the guilt/conviction of not reaching out to those who have been abused. I have connections to a few people who have been spiritually abused, but partly, I don’t know how best to approach those people, some of whom have joined new churches that aren’t AS abusive, but still have authoritarian views of leadership. The other problem is that being a victim of spiritual abuse, I don’t necessarily have the energy to stand up against it in any material way.

    My last church was not AS abusive as the church before. I was on somewhat of a path to healing. About a year after we joined, I learned about a horribly abusive situation at the previous church. I spent a lot of time and energy encouraging my friend and giving him the tools to confront the abuse, but ultimately he lost his appeals. So, I tried to get my church involved, and they refused. I realized at that point that I was nowhere near healed, and that I really didn’t have the energy to deal with it. I also lost my respect for my church leaders, who trumpeted the Presbyterian church’s ability to correct these very kinds of abusive situations, and yet, when one came up, they washed their hands of it.

    My new church seems to have the same problem, but for opposite reasons, more like mine. I think members recognize that there are a lot of hurting people coming through the doors, and while they are not trying to get those people to put on a holy facade, they aren’t taking the time/energy to reach out, or even put themselves out there (e.g. joining/creating small groups) to encourage each other. I’m still trying to get the feel for how I can encourage change in a way that is gracious and not legalistic.

    • Mark, I hope I can offer you something in response to your comment.

      You are not alone in feeling conviction for not doing enough to help abuse victims. I have a similar sense of conviction. I know that I do reach out to abuse victims via this blog, but I feel I often am falling short of of what I could do. So I relate to your prickings of conscience.

      You said:

      I have connections to a few people who have been spiritually abused, but partly, I don’t know how best to approach those people, some of whom have joined new churches that aren’t AS abusive, but still have authoritarian views of leadership. The other problem is that being a victim of spiritual abuse, I don’t necessarily have the energy to stand up against it in any material way.

      I believe that having awareness of one’s own limits — one’s energy, time, triggers, etc. — is a really important capacity for all supporters of abuse victims to have. We are better helpers when we know our limits: when we can recognise our own early warning signs of too much stress, triggering, etc.

      Those whom we may be attempting to help will respect us more if we can speak up when we are finding stuff too hard, too personally triggering, etc. By speaking up about our felt limitations, we are in fact modelling things that most survivors can benefit from: self-awareness, self-care, humility, the capacity to live with uncertainty, respect for the individuality and uniqueness of every other person.

      I believe that words spoken from this place of experiential humility, this place where we are acutely aware of our own limitations, are indeed often the best balm we can offer to victims of abuse. Victim of abuse are so accustomed to hearing the patronising know-it-all advice from people who haven’t been there, that the scent of truth comes through to them in our offered words —— even if they may not be able to process it for some time.

      So I encourage you to let yourself off the hook of having to meet the need of each spiritually-abused believer that you personally know. I encourage you to just let God lead and point you to what you can (and what you can’t) do at this point in time.

      After all, this post was about churches, not individual Christians. 🙂 🙂

      If you want help in thinking through how best to open up a potentially helpful conversation with someone who has been abused, these posts may give you some ideas:

      Converting statements into questions – a skill for bystanders who want to help victims of abuse

      Respecting & Listening to Victims of Violence — a handbook from Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter

      • MarkQ

        Thanks. My mom has a unique gift to be able to talk with anyone about anything. None of us inherited that. I think those questions are great once the conversation is started, but for me, starting the conversation is hard in the first place.

        But, yes I do understand that the article is written about churches not necessarily individual Christians, so that is a helpful reminder. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Barb, This could be its own post It’s a great confirmation and a healthy reminder for all of us. Thank you.

      • Misti

        Mark, if you’re able to speak up once the conversation is started, then you are “able to talk with anyone about anything.”

        Starting such a conversation is its own skill, and that’s generally learned via practice, experience, and choice. Some personalities are naturally inclined towards it than others, but — at least for me — at its root is an awareness and acknowledgement of the fact that broaching a particular topic can get me hurt. More likely emotionally, but sometimes physically.

        I am aware of that risk and accept it. My lack of fear about it has protected me from more than one bully, who got freaked out by my fearlessness and fled me. Of course, then they tend to pull a smear campaign, but they would’ve done that anyway.

        Not being able to start the conversation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually good for some personality types and situations. I actually get myself into some problems sometimes because I broach topics with personality types where silence would’ve been better.

    • Misti

      You can’t help others if you’re not taking care of yourself, too.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not meaning to be contentious but I don’t think I agree with this. Didn’t Jesus say we should lay our lives down for the brethren? That means even to the point of death, like He did, should He ask that of us. In other words, we are meant to pour our lives out for others, even at cost of sleep, energy, time, resources. I think the whole problem is that most of us are not doing this for abuse victims and have been infected with the me-ism from books like ‘Boundaries’ by Dr Cloud.

        Yes, still get away alone with God to be renewed, but I think we should stop making excuses for why we don’t help abuse victims enough. We should be opening our homes, giving our money, our comfort at all times of day or night, whatever they need. Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

        If you were stuck in an abusive situation or had left and the person you turned to just told you “go to a shelter” full stop and did not help with a place to stay, or a car, or money or emotional support, it would make you feel pretty alone and more worthless than before.
        I think the conviction we feel is real and should not be ignored or reasoned away.
        This is not directed at anyone in particular.

      • Dear Anonymous, since this is your first comment at the blog, I’m not sure how much you have read on this blog and what your experience is of domestic abuse (and btw, I’m not pressing you to have to tell us you personal experience).

        At this blog, we try not to tell anyone what they should or should not do. We have even coined as new word — ‘shoulding’ — meaning telling people how they should act, how they should feel, or how they should think. And we try to encourage all our readers and commenters to refrain from ‘shoulding’ on others.

        The reason we place a high importance on not ‘shoulding’ on others, is that victims of abuse (who are the majority of our readers) have been told ad infinitum how they *should* feel, think and behave. Their abusers tell them this, and the church often tells them this as well. We know that telling our readers what they *should* be like is probably going to trigger them…. it will probably make them feel ultra-anxious, fearful, self-doubting, unsure, disempowered, etc. And we don’t want to do that! Victims of abuse are under the pump enough already; we don’t want to make their situations any worse!

        We also realise that each person is in a different situation, and people have very different characters from one another. Some people are hard-hearted and take advantage of others with impunity. Some people are plain lazy and sluggardly — they are not actively abusing others but they are content enjoying their comfy lives and don’t want to go the extra mile for those who are suffering. Other people are suffering greatly and have little resources or energy to support others who are suffering.

        The Bible addresses all these different types of people in different ways. It severely reprimands and warns the abusers that if they do not repent they will face the wrath of God. It exhorts the sluggards to gird up their loins to help the afflicted. And it is gentle with the abused and oppressed — it reassures them that God does not break bruised reeds.

        I would like to encourage you to consider these things, and to phrase what you say with these things in mind.

        Yes indeed, there are many in the church who need to do more to help victims of abuse. But to lay that ‘should’ on everyone (especially the readers of this blog, who are mostly victims of abuse themselves) is neither wise nor fair, in my view.

        I hope you don’t mind me saying this to you. I’m glad you have commented on the blog, and I hope you stick around and we can get to know you more. And as we do for all new commmenters, I would like to encourage you to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. 🙂

      • MarkQ

        [Note from Eds — MarkQ is responding to the comment from Anonymous which began “I’m not meaning to be contentious but I don’t think I agree with this.”]

        Anonymous

        There has been a lot of discussion here about marriage help books. For healthy marriages with some bumps, these books are often insightful and helpful, but for unhealthy marriages, they can provide ammunition for the abuser.

        In somewhat the opposite way, books like Boundaries are written for people who have had their natural human defenses turned against them. My parents taught me that saying “NO” was rebellion, and they taught that it was better for me to keep quiet and let others walk all over me than to break the peace. So, perhaps someone with healthy boundaries reads that book and could end up getting the wrong understanding about it. But, I don’t think that’s what your saying. Instead it seems to me as if you’re taking one verse like a hammer and beating everyone with it.

        What I think the church has forgotten is that the critical piece in this is the Spirit. When the tabernacle was built, the Spirit led people to donate. In Acts, the Spirit led and directed. Yet, what we have today is leaders who won’t lift a finger to help someone’s burden while laying ever-increasing loads on the sheep. This is what you seem to be doing, in absence of the Spirit, and it’s what the church does too.

        [Here is an example:] I know two deacons that couldn’t say no. The churches were thrilled with all the work they could get done. They’d just tell these guys to take care of it and it got done. Within two years they both committed suicide, and I highly suspect it was because that was the only boundary they could enforce. Those churches preached the same thing – do whatever the church tells you to do and God will give you the ability to handle it. They [the two deacons] believed it, and when it tore them apart, they knew that if they said “NO”, the church’s response would be to belittle their faith and commitment. Isn’t that rather like what you said in your comment, Anonymous?

        … Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the temple, because God would protect him. In a similar way, you seem to be saying “Give more, even beyond what you think you’re capable of, and God will bless.” But Jesus didn’t say, “You’re right Satan, I’m not trusting God enough and I’m focused too much on me.” Rather, Jesus’ responded by saying “Do not put God to the test.”

        I think the Spirit may lead people to give sacrificially in the way you say, but I don’t think that the teaching should therefore be that ALL should give sacrificially. If that is your gift, that is an amazing gift, and by all means give thanks for the grace of God that gives you the desire and energy to do that. [But] that [kind of gift] is not my experience.

  6. KayE

    When it comes to abusers, many evangelical churches and leaders are far worse than the world.

    The world doesn’t generally have much sympathy for pedophiles, wife batterers, liars, deceivers and sociopaths. But in the evangelical church these people are tolerated, covered up for and enabled. It’s the norm, it’s what you can almost always expect to happen because most evangelical church members and leaders don’t believe that anyone willingly and intentionally chooses evil. Especially not someone who is part of their group.

    I often wonder if the reason is that most evangelicals have never had any real awareness of their own guilt. They just recited the pass phrase that let them into church club, but they always thought they were good people and still do. Their self-righteousness, entitlement and refusal to take responsibility for their own wrongdoing are different from an actual sociopath only in degree. The abuser really IS one of them.

  7. gratefullyfree

    The Conversation
    [Eds have put in line breaks, for ease of reading.]

    You’re hurting me –
    No I’m not
    Yes, I’m sure my feelings are hurt –
    Well if they are you hurt your own damn feelings
    Uh how am I doing that? –
    You’re too sensitive
    Okay I’m sorry –
    Fine

    You’re hurting me –
    Not that again – can’t I do anything right?
    I just want you to stop –
    How can I stop what I’m not doing?
    What? –
    I’m not doing anything wrong
    But it feels like you’re hurting me –
    Well I’m not

    I’m hurting –
    Take some meds
    Which ones? –
    Whatever works
    Meds make me feel bad –
    You have got to get your act together
    I know, I’m sorry –
    Good

    [Eds weren’t sure where the line breaks went in this one, so we have left it as submitted]
    I think we need some help – No we don’t – you do Ok – I’m gonna get some help – Whatever The man says it takes two and there are two sides and you aren’t that bad – Damn right Wait… – I’ve gotta get back to work

    I’m still hurting –
    You’ve got to be kidding me – what now?
    My heart is dying –
    Well that can’t POSSIBLY be my fault
    What can we do? –
    I have absolutely no idea but it’s certainly not MY fault
    Gulp –
    (Rolling of the eyes)

    I… –
    What is it?
    I just… –
    Well, what’s your problem this time?
    I don’t know how to say it –
    Then you probably shouldn’t
    But I… –
    When’s dinner?
    Soon

    I had to leave –
    What about me?
    To heal –
    But what about ME?
    I was hurting too much –
    I SAID what about ME?
    I couldn’t breathe anymore –
    You obviously aren’t listening – you are so DAMN selfish – and WHAT ABOUT ME?
    Sigh

    I’m ok –
    I didn’t ask
    But I’m getting stronger –
    I’m still right you know
    I’m healing and I can breathe better –
    But you’re selfish and I’m right
    Maybe not – maybe I’m not that selfish –
    But I have to be right
    Why? –
    I don’t know but I just HAVE TO BE RIGHT!

    I can’t come back yet –
    Why not? What’s wrong with you?
    I’m not sure there is anything wrong with me but I can’t come back yet –
    You’re crazy
    Maybe, maybe not, but I know I can’t come back right now –
    But I’m right
    I’m not sure about that, but I do feel safe now –
    What?
    I’m in a safe place –
    Don’t use that word
    What word? –
    Safe
    But that’s I what feel –
    So?
    I don’t like that word – you aren’t allowed to use that word – if you use that word I’m hanging up on you – Stop-
    I’m stronger now
    What?
    Safe is how I feel and safe is the word I will use and if you don’t want to hear the word safe, don’t call me –
    Oh

    – When are you coming back?
    I’m not –
    Why?
    Things haven’t changed – you still yell and I still cry –
    I don’t yell – you are just too sensitive
    That is not true –
    Yes it is and I’m still right
    Ok you can be right all by yourself cause I’m not coming back –
    Wait
    Yes? –
    Nothing –
    things just didn’t work out but I want to say you’re wrong and I’m right
    Ok bye

    From the wilds of [location deleted]

    • Dear gratefullyfree
      I changed your screen name just in case… for your safety.

      And I added line breaks into the conversation. If my line breaks are in the wrong place, email TWBTC and tell her how to fix them. She’ll be awake tomorrow before I am! Her email is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

    • Anonymous

      So glad at the end of this beautifully written letter the victim didn’t go back into the evil pit of hell known as “marriage.”

      Now insert in the wife’s place, a child’s voice. A child with TWO of these abusers for parents. Then add some teachers who reinforce the “be a good girl / boy and obey your parents and teachers.” And take this child, who is able to love others but is taught to blindly obey and behave every authority figure in their lives, and add a pedophile in the mix. What is the result? A child who is sexually abused and thinks it’s their fault just as this wife thought it was her fault and nearly died–but through God’s grace escaped.

      In 2 Tim 3 it describes the type of people we will be contending with in the end times.

      “But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days.For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!”

      The word “irreconcilable” means this: “implacable, not to be bound by truce. … that cannot be persuaded to enter into a covenant, implacable….a libation, which, as a kind of sacrifice, accompanied the making of treaties and compacts….. truceless — implacable, truce-breaker.”
      Did you see it? THESE ABUSERS ARE TRUCELESS—THEY BREAK TRUCES! But notice that the definition of the word truce from the dictionary, “an agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time.” This is so important because it identifies the very being / essence of these people — they are opposed to EVERYONE — they are an enemy (against) everyone. So, were we ever really bound to them in marriage in the first place since by their very nature they are not capable of forming a covenant and will in fact BREAK THE COVENANT BECAUSE IT IS THEIR NATURE TO DO SO? When the marriage vows were spoken, did GOD enter us into a covenant with these evil ones? God did not ordain or sanction this union because these people have never belonged to him — they belonged to their father the devil.

      Man-made covenants with the devil are what has been substituted for God sanctioned marriages and this evil has destroyed many TRUE Christians and given abusers the “right” to abuse us further. Thank you for this heart-rending letter with a truly happy and hopeful ending. Most everyone here can feel and relate to the horror you’ve endured and can rejoice in your escape from the evil one. Thank you!

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