A Cry For Justice

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

ACFJ is Five Years Old Today — Here is Our First Post from 2012

Today is the 5th anniversary of A Cry for Justice and this post was the very first one we published – Diotrephes and The Evangelical Church. Originally the blog was started simply for the purpose of letting people know that the book, A Cry for Justice – How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church– had been written and was available. Then you all began to comment and ask questions…and we just kept publishing articles. And now over 1700 articles and 43,000 comments later — here we are. There is no question that the Lord has done this because none of us planned it, that’s for certain!

May the Lord bless and guide and protect each one of you in this coming new year, leading the oppressed into freedom and dealing out His justice to the wicked, especially those evil ones hiding in local churches.

*****

Diotrephes and the Evangelical Church

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 1: 9-10

Our book, A Cry for Justice [*affiliate link], was written because the evangelical, Bible-believing church has a problem — a big problem.  Diotrephes is hiding in our pews.  Or rather, he is hiding in plain view.  He (or she) is the person who wears a mask of eminent saintliness, having convinced most everyone in the church of his godliness, but whose real motive is a craving to be first.  Diotrephes likes to put himself first.  He sees himself as entitled to power and control and regards himself as fully justified in using whatever tactics are necessary to ensure that he lords this power over the people of Christ.  Perhaps you have known him?

Diotrephes, and people like him, are abusers.  Some abuse the flock of Christ — all certainly deceive the sheep — while others exercise their diabolical tactics in their marriage and home. They are perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, and their target of choice is their wife and children.  If you want to learn about sin – how it thinks, what methods it uses — study this subject of domestic violence and abuse. You will probably find that you won’t have to go far to find it.  There are few local churches that are untouched by it, though even fewer who realize what is happening.

Christ has a particular care for the helpless and defenseless – the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the land.  Today, such people are often among us as victims of abuse.  Most frequently they are women and their abuser is their husband.  Don’t limit your thinking about abuse to physical assaults only.  Abuse is a mentality — a worldview.  The abuser is a person whose conscience is largely dysfunctional, or even inoperative.  He sees himself as superior — as the center of the universe.  He is, in his thinking, entitled to have power over and to control his wife and his children.  His arsenal of weapons to effect and maintain this control is quite large. The abusive person does not think like normal people do.  One of our biggest mistakes in dealing with this sin is to assume that he does think like us, and this becomes one of his biggest weapons to deceive us.

Who are the victims in your world — in your church?  Don’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility that they are there.  It is not a possibility, but a probability!  The statistics are that one in four women are victims of domestic violence.  And there are some male victims as well — they have an even greater shame that keeps them from asking for help.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning of our book that may serve to introduce you further to what we are speaking of here. In future posts, we will work to educate you to the thinking and tactics of the abuser, helping you to recognize him and to render justice and aid to his victims who are among us.  Please understand that we have a problem.  The evangelical church has not been doing well in coming to the aid of these victims.  In fact, we have been discounting them and harming them instead.  A Cry for Justice is seeking to remedy this injustice.

From the book, A Cry for Justice:

Pastor Andrews was continuing with his sermon series on marriage.  And the congregation was listening, mostly with smiles and knowing, nodding of heads as the Pastor struck upon some of the common difficulties in the home.  It was quite a pleasant atmosphere; Pastor Andrews was so good at giving light and  humorous illustrations.  “You know, Sunday mornings can be really difficult for families, can’t they? All the rushing about to get ready and get to church on time. How many of you had some conflicts this morning at home or in the car on your way to church?”  Husbands and wives looked at one another, smiled and chuckled.  It was all so foolish – but funny too.  Yes, they were just human beings with all of their glitches.  The Lord knows all about it.

But in this congregation of some 150 people, there were two women who didn’t seem to be sharing in the joviality.  Oh, there were some strained smiles from them at this point or that but for Rose Jansen and Elizabeth Bettson these words hit a little too close to home.  Both were distraught and distracted.  Rose avoided looking at her husband and fiddled with the pages in her Bible.  Elizabeth rolled up the corner of her jacket, unrolled it, then rolled it again as she stared straight ahead.  Unlike them, their husbands “got it”.  Laughing and nodding their heads, they seemed to appreciate the Pastor’s point. “It really is funny, you know – isn’t it?,” Pastor Andrews continued, “how we argue on Sunday mornings and then put on a happy face  and come into the church building all smiles.”  Preparing to wrap up, he smiled at his congregation. “But God understands.  Jesus knows we are all fallible and frail.  That is why He went to the cross.  May He bless each one of you this week. Let’s pray.” Heads were bowed as the prayer was offered. The amens were said, the closing hymn was sung and people stood to leave.  On the way out a happy atmosphere prevailed: hands were shaken, the Lord was praised repeatedly and the people headed home to their roasts or to meet friends at the Sizzler.

For Rose and Elizabeth it was different. As they left with their husbands, they did so to return to a world that no one in the church knew about nor could even imagine.  They left with husbands whom everyone thought they knew, but didn’t. Welcome to Rose and Elizabeth’s world.  It is the world of abuse.  It is a foreign land to most of us but one that exists right within the church, often in the pew just next to us.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

20 Comments

  1. Anotheranon

    Thank you for re-posting this Pastor Jeff. It makes so much more sense now that I’ve been following this blog for a few years. The description of an abuser fits my stbx husband to a T.

    I remember oftentimes at church during prayer or certain emotional hymns I could not help but cry as the pain would come out. I always tried to hide it since it would have been embarrassing to admit my home life was so awful.

    Fast forward 25 or so years and the church members have been so supportive of me. I think they understood all along but I was in a heavy fog that didn’t allow me to figure it out.

    Thanks to all the administrators of and contributors to this blog! I feel the comfort and love of our Lord Jesus through all of you.

  2. Very thankful for ACFJ! Reminiscing here . . . I first discovered you in November of 2012, because Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, where I live, was putting on a sexual abuse seminar, and I wanted to find out about it, but (because of certain problems with BJU) I didn’t want to actually attend. Hmmm, could there be someone who was live blogging the conference, by any chance? Well, what do you know, here is this man Jeff Crippen from Oregon doing exactly that. Fascinating commentary!

    Then a year later a domestic abuse survivor friend of mine gave me a copy of “A Cry for Justice.” Ah yes, I know that author’s name, I said. Much-needed book.

    Then . . . through an interesting series of events, I ended up working with you in Justice Keepers Publishing. Will wonders never cease! I’m very grateful to be able to be involved in a small way in such an important ministry.

  3. Sunflower

    Our pastor is a former missionary. He likes to insult his wife from the pulpit……all in fun, right? Like, he actually allowed her to share for 10 minutes recently, during which he ruffled his Bible pages, got up and found his mike, etc., then he went up to the pulpit and said, “See what I have to put up with every day? hahaha” If I wasn’t the pianist, I don’t think I’d go back. It’s a tiny church in a tiny community and a piano player is hard to find. It’s the only church around, and I think every town needs a light, but this?

    Also, on a different blog, is a ‘pastor’ who reminds me so much of my xn. I think the only women they tolerate are the “You are SO amazing!” ones. Women who are strong in spirit seem to be a huge threat to them and have to be put down at all costs, and these men will not stop twisting everything that is said and going on and on until those women somehow ‘break’ (Apologize, cry, get angry)…..and of course using ‘scripture’ to beat them over the head with. People think that legalism is ‘making up rules’ but I would add that it is more like ‘leaders using the Bible to oppress the already oppressed for their own ego boosting’. On the positive side, I’m impressed with how few on that blog are falling for it. Thanks to blogs and books like this, and the authour of the other one.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Good words, Sunflower. I have seen that business from the pulpit many times too – the pastor putting down his wife. In the stories that kind tell the wife always comes out looking stupid. A pastor who does this should be fired. I don’t mean warned, I mean fired. Because doing that is indicative of a deeper sin that pervades his mind and it will most certainly spill over into all other areas of his “ministry” and harm others. Wouldn’t it be cool if his wife stood up right there in church when he did it and told him she was drawing a boundary and she was not going to ever permit him to ridicule her again??

  4. I cannot stress how much ACFJ has impacted my life! Your wisdom, SO different from the typical “Churchspeak” I had been trying to navigate for years, gave me clear direction, REAL resources and in my situation, helped me set strong, healthy boundaries and the courage to separate, and has ended in reconciliation and a completely different dynamic in our home. I know this is not how it turns out for many people, and i never want anyone to feel that if they “try harder” that this can be their result. It was only in learning what I COULD do, that helped me set the boundaries that my abusive spouse could not cross, and in doing this, he was basically forced to seek help and change or he would lose everything. He has shown sincere regret and has been making restitution for over a year now. If you are reading this, know that had he continued abuse in any form, at any level or degree, I would NOT have reconciled, and neither should you. Thank you, ACFJ, for your commitment to truth and being an island of refuge in a sea of doubt and confusion. Thank you for helping me come out of the F.O.G. and seeing myself as God sees me, whole and valuable.

    • Anonymous

      Since we know abusers do not change, what made the difference in your case? You set boundaries, separated and then reconciled. And he changed?

      • For 27 years, I took the daily, volatile, walking on eggshells, existence of “married” life. Lots of controlling behaviors, manipulation, coercion, anger, etc. I read every “marriage” book you can name and went to counseling as a life style, to no avail. Raised 3 kids in the midst of it all. Finally, as I was slowly starting to see that it just couldnt be “all me” and recognizing that I had many healthy relationships that didnt have all this drama and volatility. I was beginning to see myself as a person of worth. And one day, I sat down and typed in “domestic abuse.” And the world changed for me. a 3 year process of gaining knowledge, strength, value, understanding the dynamics of abuse, realizing that churches don’t have all the answers (even though they often act as if they do), seeing I wasnt alone, and beginning to read HELPFUL books (ACFJ, Hurtbylove.com, Changes that Heal) I began a journey of feeling everything I was not allowed to feel.

        I grieved for a YEAR, purged, and began to understand that healthy people see value in themselves and set healthy boundaries. My h fought me every step of the way, continuing to blame, use anger, guilt, scripture, threats, all the bag of tricks that had always worked. But I was onto him by then and they had NO impact at all. My h has never hit me so when I got strong enough to stand up for myself verbally, and he did not respond physically, I felt like I could continue to live in a separate room as I grew, learned and changed. I really didn’t care what he did at that point. He could leave. He could stay, but we were NOT married, I informed him. I was staying to take care of my boys (who were teens and totally “got it” what I was doing) and to disrupt my life as little as possible. That I would talk with him about anything that had to do with the home maintenance or the boys but would not “chat” or sit with him or “be there” for him in any way. If he didn’t like it, he could leave. If he made it hard on me, I would leave. I set the parameters and he complied.

        He began reading some of the info I was giving him (honestly, I didn’t care if he read it or not, I was just trying to give him info I thought would help him, whether I stayed or not.) Anyway, that went on and his behaviors began to change. I was able to recognize the short-term manipulative “sorrys” so I didn’t fall for that, but eventually, I began to see what I felt was REAL remorse, but he had so many bad habits and I was not going to deal with that. He was on his own. To find his own info, to seek his own healing for his own issues. Finally though I realized that if I was ever going to “see him differently” I needed space and my own place for a time.

        Over those 9 months, he did not once try to coerce, talk me in to, guilt me, or any of his other tricks. Somehow he seemed to “get it.” And I got to the point where I forgave him, I had been given time to heal at my own pace and with my own parameters and I decided I wanted to give us a chance to see if the changes were real. We have been reconciled for a few months so far and I have seen none of the old ways. Not even a little bit. He seems to have had a heart and attitude overhaul. I don’t think ACFJ is saying “abusers can NEVER change” but rather, its rare and that an abuse victim has NO responsibility to a relationship where abuse has been present. I am just telling my experience as it has happened. Had my h NOT changed, I would not be reconciled. If he ever shows any signs of his old ways, I will UNreconcile.

        How long would I have “waited?” I don’t believe I WAS “waiting.” I was healing. I was NOT looking for another relationship. So when I saw the changes that needed to happen and I had healed sufficiently to give us another try, I was “available.” If that makes sense. Had I moved ahead in another relationship, his changes simply would have come too late and that would be on him. But that is not what happened in my case.

        I am always careful to give a disclaimer whenever I share my story. It IS rare for an abuser to change and I don’t think anyone has an “obligation” to wait until that happens. I just wasn’t in any hurry to start another relationship because I had a lot of healing to do and needed to be independent to do that.

        I hope that answers your question. The decisions I made were 100% dependent on my h changing his behaviors and mindset and 0% based on some misplaced “loyalty” to my “vows.” If someone wants to say, “Well, he must have not been an abuser before.” Well, they can say what they want. I lived it. And if someone wants to say, “Well, he isn’t really changed.” They can say what they want. I’m living it. I know what to look for. I know the tricks. And I see one of it. I am very comfortable with who I am, my value, how God sees me, knows me and loves me. That is what I want for every person caught in the fog of abuse.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thank you Debbie. Actually I am still waiting to see an abuser who truly has changed. We tell victims to base their decisions on the two principles 1) abusers never change and 2) a marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.

        You have taken a wise course and I hope your husband truly has had a genuine change of heart effected by Christ. If not then eventually you will know it. And I am sure you will know what to do.

        I am convinced that in particular abusers who claim to be Christians are the hardest hearted and devoid of conscience. They have tasted of the Lord and yet like Essu have despised Christ.

        Blessings to you and may the Lord guide you and give you strength and wisdom.

      • Debby, thanks for your comment 🙂

        I really appreciate it. You sound strong and clear — as in not a wisp of fog round you.

      • ONLY free of fog thanks to you and Jeff! Speaking truth. A truth I knew in my heart but could not articulate WHY and wasnt strong enough to fight the battle against all the lies. I could NEVER have gained the strength I needed to live my life as ME, if it were not for ACFJ. I will forever be a proponent and have sent MANY others in your direction!

  5. grace551

    Jeff, I thank you and Barbara and the others so much for all your work. I am sure it is led by the Lord. It meant so much to me to find your blog and read your books.

    My husband has been working on changing his (covert aggressive) treatment of me for two years now. I have seen considerable change in him. I don’t know if he will give up emotional abuse completely (or as good as), but if he doesn’t I will divorce him. I think another year should be enough time to tell. If he does give it up, I don’t know if our relationship can be rebuilt. If it seems it can’t I will leave (and divorce). I have felt God wants me to persevere, but I could be wrong.

    We had to leave our church because the pastor first didn’t believe my husband was abusive, then when the associate pastor tried to persuade him he was, he said he accepted that but it didn’t change his view that I was far more manipulative than my husband. He said I was banned from all ministry in the church unless I would acknowledge this and seek help for myself. I couldn’t honestly do that, so we had to go. I really don’t think he has grounds to think I’m more manipulative than my husband. (The people I have talked to about it tell me I’m open and direct, not at all manipulative.)

    Thank you for showing me I’m not alone and for the support you give all of us.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Many, many blessings to you in Christ, grace551. You are a real encouragement to us. And you are wise and brave.

  6. Thank you ACFJ for bravely reaching out five years ago. I continue to be amazed how the Lord eventually led me to your ministry and from there to introduce me to a few select other ministries who care deeply for the oppressed.
    Praying for the Lord’s protection as you continue on.

  7. Congratulations on getting it right and being there for those of us who were suffering in our homes like Rose and Elizabeth, for opening our eyes to real truth (untwisting the rhetoric) and the relief from oppression that God desires for his own, showing us God’s heart and showing us what He thinks of evil!

  8. Anonymous

    Thank you, debby, for your response to my question with regard to your reconciliation to an abusive husband.

    You sound like a lovely woman, walking closely with the Lord and gaining strength, wisdom and understanding along the way.

    Be assured of my prayers. I wish you only the best! 🌹

  9. nowamfoundatlast

    really isn’t that a description of ALL christian men? isn’t it biblical that they keep their foot on the necks of all women? and people of color?

    • I presume you meant that tongue in cheek, nowamfoundatlast! 🙂

      Jeff Crippen, Sam Powell and Liam Goligher are all examples of Christian men who do not keep their foot on the necks of women or people of colour.

      • Anonymous

        Nailed it, Barbara!

  10. keeningforthedawn

    Happy Birthday, ACFJ! I’m so glad you’re a light to the world.

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