A Cry For Justice

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

Peer Pressure Among Pastors Tends toward Silence About Abuse

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2)

Nicodemus would, as you know, eventually embrace Christ as the Son of God. He came to Jesus “by night” in this now famous account in which the Lord told him, “you must be born again.” The Apostle John uses light and darkness frequently as images of Christ’s kingdom in contrast to the darkness of the kingdom of this world. But here we want to consider just why it was that Nicodemus sought Jesus out at night.

Darkness hates the light. The religious power brokers of the day hated Christ. He was a threat to their privilege base. They were being exposed by Him for what they were. And yet…Nicodemus saw something else here. He confessed that at minimum, Jesus was a teacher or prophet sent from God. Who could be honest and still deny it? The power of God was the only explanation for the signs Jesus did.

Yet Nicodemus came at night. Perhaps this statement in the account of Jesus’ healing the blind man in chapter 9 explains it —

His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22)

Nicodemus in other words, this leader in Israel, was fearful of his peers. There was intense pressure among “the clergy” to reject Christ and anyone who broke ranks with the established power structure would pay the price. Some decades later the Apostle Paul would find this out himself. These “holy ones” of Israel could be a nasty bunch if opposed and the same is quite true today.

Why do pastors and church leaders today so typically refuse to see evil and call it out? Why do they tell abuse victims they must remain in the abuse? Why do so many hand victims the same old lines that sound like they are quoting from some common source book? Largely it is because they have been taught the party policy in the churches they were raised in, in the seminaries they attended, in the books they read written by the big shots of the visible church, and in the denominational organizations they belong to. And they also know something else — that if they go against the party platform, there will be a huge price for them to pay. Power brokers in their own churches will come unglued. Career paths will be closed to them. Many websites will no longer publish or repost their articles. If they write books, sales will plummet. And perhaps even more frightening — they may find that (like Nicodemus) the very fabric of much of their so-called Christianity is going to unravel.

There is, among pastors, a very powerful undercurrent of pressure to conform. You see it at annual denominational gatherings. You hear it, and yet you don’t hear it, in the conversations in the hallways and at lunch. You see conformity to man-made tradition (parading as the Word of God) rewarded and any disagreement punished (if not through formal sanction then through unofficial shunning or gossip). And this pressure to be molded into the image of tradition works to the harm of abuse victims and to the empowerment of evildoers. It promotes a climate in which standing for the oppressed becomes very, very costly. For myself, I have become extremely wary of ecclesiastical organizations beyond that of the local church.

Nicodemus had to come to the Light. He began with a visit at night, but in the end he stepped into the glory of following the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That is what soooo many shepherds of the church today need to do as well.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:38-40)

 

10 Comments

  1. Seeing Clearly

    Thank you, Ps Jeff, for shedding light on this reality. Having been the wife in the parsonage, at first it was perplexing to observe the covert ‘big boy’ club. When I caught on, I felt unsafe and guarded in a group of ministerium. Today’s post explains why.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, Seeing Clearly, and I bet many pastors’ wives have felt that same unsettled, unsafe vibe. I know quite a number have because they write to us and some (more than you would think) even tell about the long years of flat out abuse at the hands of their husband. If we could be a fly on the wall and listen in on phone conversations, committee meetings at denominational levels, session and presbytery meetings, and so on, we would be privy to how the career ladder is climbed, how backs are scratched and personal agendas furthered. The Apostle Paul would be contemptuous toward all this self-promotion and sacrifice of the truth and so should we:

      And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
      (Gal 2:6)

  2. bright sunshinin' day

    You nailed it, Ps Jeff.

    Sadly, status, position power, and money are prized more than true religion which, as you said, is costly and includes taking care of the orphan and widow, many of whom found themselves in this broken and neglected condition by an abusive spouse, parent(s), and/or church leader(s).

    “…if they go against the party platform, there will be a huge price for them to pay. Power brokers in their own churches will come unglued. Career paths will be closed to them. Many websites will no longer publish or repost their articles. If they write books, sales will plummet.”

  3. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  4. We had this post of Jeff’s in the pipeline for a while. It seemed eminently suitable to run it soon after my posts on Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem and CBMW…

    And there’s more posts on Grudem still to come.

  5. Suzanne

    Of course, and most obviously, the lack of knowledge of what the Word tells us about abuse is a driving factor in this scenario. But courage or its lack is also a factor. What a pastor does after he comes to understand the way that God tells His children to deal with abusers in the church is telling. Will he put the wolf out of the sheepfold, or will he allow him to remain to slaughter the flock? Will he endure the push-back of criticism or even the loss of his position to defend and protect women and children who are suffering? We need pastors who are not only steeped in the knowledge of the Bible but are also warriors courageous enough to stand between the wolves in their midst and the sheep who look to them for protection. May God give His church such men.

  6. For Too Long

    Why do pastors and church leaders today so typically refuse to see evil and call it out? Why do they tell abuse victims they must remain in the abuse? Why do so many hand victims the same old lines that sound like they are quoting from some common source book? Largely it is because they have been taught the party policy in the churches they were raised in, in the seminaries they attended, in the books they read written by the big shots of the visible church, and in the denominational organizations they belong to.

    And, quite frankly, because of all this “training,” I think a good number of pastors believe deep down that the wife may be responsible for the husband’s abuse. That if she were just more respectful, he wouldn’t do those things. That she definitely shares in the blame. This was my experience, anyway, from the pastor and elders of the church I attended.

  7. Lost

    I have suffered emotional abuse at the hand of my so called Christian husband for many years. I plucked up the courage to tell my pastor about this abuse recently. He was very understanding. However the church stand is that no one is sin free and we all have the duty to reach out to sinners (including sinners in the church) and to try and get them to repent so at least souls will be saved.

    I find this very offensive. Am I expected to reach out to my husband and try to save his soul when he is carrying on an affair with a woman and has refused to repent. I have forgiven him, in fact I have to forgive him on a daily basis as I discover the depth of his lies and deception. I have prayed to God that God will reach out to him and redeem his soul and that my husband will someday repent.

    Now I am made to feel bad for wanting to leave my husband. There is nothing left in my marriage to save. There has been serious manipulation in my marriage that I can no longer trust my husband. Does God expect me to stay just to show grace to my husband?

    Lost

    • Dear Lost,
      No, God does not expect you to stay just to show grace to your husband. Your pastor and church are wrong in teaching this. Very wrong. They are laying burdens on you that they would not be willing to lift up themselves. They are Pharisees.

      I encourage you to read this post:
      The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse
      Then you might want to read the posts which are linked at the bottom of that post.

      Welcome to the blog. You are not alone. There are many many readers here who have been through similar things to what you are going through.

      It is not your fault. You are not to blame. 🙂

      I also encourage you to read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  8. Anonymous

    A few years ago I met a preacher from the same affiliation as Pastor Crippen. We’d bought some furniture from a family that was in the process of moving, and their entire church was helping with the move. We were only stopping by to pick up the stuff we had purchased, but had become friendly with the family in the process, and they introduced us to everyone, showed us their new digs etc.

    The pastor was doing the customary trite talk that is what most of us do and I shared with him how I was grateful to be living in the bible belt after having lived in another state that hated the name of Jesus. He said that yes he agreed, but that many people who weren’t saved thought they were, simply because they attended church. I said that I agreed BUT I would still rather live in an area where I can say the name of Jesus without being attacked. He agreed. I asked him what church he preached at and he told me and then I asked him if he was familiar with Pastor Crippen and ACFJ. He stopped talking, looked at me with interest and said that, yes, he was. He then went on to invite me to his church, and to listen to his sermons. I assured him that I wouldn’t be doing this. He said that he understood and that he agreed with ACFJ’s stance, and he actually seemed burdened down by the weight of it all. Like he knew the truth yet so few others did and didn’t know how to deal with it.

    This church, you see, is highly esteemed with a great school that people drive to from miles around to attend. Many members are extremely wealthy (the people we were buying the furniture from) and as such he should be thrilled to be in this position. But, and I could be wrong about his motives as I didn’t truly know this man, he seemed to be at a loss as to how to have people realize the difference between acting like a Christian and truly being one.

    I don’t know if he thought I’d be easy pickins cuz I knew about this website or if he simply wanted another person who knew the truth, but at the time I had zero time to spend on anything but attending school and taking care of my daughter. I don’t even remember his name or church but have thought of this conversation many times. I have prayed for this man however and I hope God continues to help him see the truth. (If that’s what was taking place.)

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