A Cry For Justice

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

Christian Today needs to learn how to report about domestic abuse. San Bernardino killer Cedric Anderson was NOT a ‘deeply religious’ pastor.

According to Christian Today, the San Bernardino killer Cedric Anderson was a ‘deeply religious’ pastor. This article by Mark Woods is a classic example of really bad reporting of domestic violence by journalists. Mark Woods is Managing Editor of Christian Today and a Baptist Minister.

Here is the full text of the article.

San Bernardino killer Cedric Anderson was ‘deeply religious’ pastor

Cedric Anderson, who shot and killed his estranged wife Karen Smith and an eight-year-old pupil at the San Bernardino school where she worked, was a pastor who often posted about his Christian faith on Facebook. [That link takes you to Cedric Anderson’s FB page]

Anderson, 53 and a navy veteran, turned the gun on himself after killing his wife and Jonathan Martinez, 8. He also shot a nine-year-old student who is expected to recover. He had signed in at the school’s office and opened fire in the classroom without saying anything, witnesses said.

Anderson had a history of domestic violence and gun arrests and according to Karen Smith’s mother ‘came out with a different personality’ when she decided to leave him.

He appeared as a ‘guest pastor’ on a local radio show and wrote on Facebook about leading Bible study groups. He wrote of his wife: ‘Her strength is not in worldly wisdom, head games and manipulation. Her strength is in the essence of her purity,’ he said. ‘Her anchor is that she sees God. It is a joy to have a conversation with her. I praise God for such a wonderful Lady!’

According to the LA Times, a neighbour reported the couple were overheard praying together. It also quotes Najee Ali, a community activist in Los Angeles and executive director of Project Islamic Hope, who said he knew Anderson as a pastor who attended community meetings.

‘He was a deeply religious man,’ Ali said. ‘There was never any signs of this kind of violence … on his Facebook he even criticized a man for attacking a woman.’

Now I’ll explain to Mark Woods why I think his article is bad and what I think he could have done to make it better. And I’m giving Mark a head-up about this, in the hope that he is willing to learn from my feedback.

My message to Mark Woods and any to journalist who wants to learn from this

Hello Mark, I’m deeply disturbed by your article in CT. Apart from the second and third paragraphs which were recounting the basic facts about the shooting, everything you said was using sources that showed the shooter in a good light.

Don’t you realise that domestic abusers have two faces: the public Nice Guy face, and the private Domestic Terrorist face which he usually only shows to his victim. You consulted the killer’s own FB page and you scrolled down a long way there to find and report what he’d said about how much he ‘loved his wife’ (link) and how some people called him a ‘pastor’ (link) — even though he appears to have been only a maintenance man in a factory. And you cherry picked what you’d found on his FB page and reported it as if it was the truth about his real character … but on an abuser’s FB page they usually show their Nice Guy face which is only their mask. Their real character, their real heart, is evil — how else could they do such horrible things to their victims?

It makes no sense to say that the killer was a ‘deeply religious pastor’. The killer was masquerading as a deeply religious pastor. That’s all.

Furthermore, you re-quote the LA Times article’s report that

Najee Ali, a community activist in Los Angeles and executive director of Project Islamic Hope, said he knew Anderson as a pastor who attended community meetings.

Don’t you realise that Cedric Anderson would have pulled the wool over Najee Ali’s eyes? All abusive men go to great efforts to do snow jobs on bystanders. And the ones who do snow jobs on church leaders are the worst!

Way too many church leaders accept the abusive man’s public presentation at face value. Do you want to continue being one of those leaders, or will you be a man who will lead the church into a better understanding of domestic abuse, so that abusers are recognized and held fully accountable by the church?

I urge you to learn more about domestic abuse and how it manifests in Christian circles. Please check out our blog

Here is how I think you could have made the article better, Mark.

It would have been fine to report what Cedric Anderson wrote on his FB page so long as you told your readers that men who abuse their wives often say things like this on FB because it enhances their public ‘nice guy’ image. By getting most people to think that he’s a devout Christian man, the abuser can intensify his wife’s suffering and her sense of isolation because she will probably think: “Everyone else thinks my husband is so lovely, how can I be starting to think that he’s being mean to me? … there must be something wrong with me to be thinking that my husband’s being mean to me. My perception and my feelings must be wrong. And who would believe me if I told them how he’s treating me at home?” 

I suggest that quite early in your article you ought to have relayed the part of the LA Times article which pointed to Anderson’s having very serious character defects, viz:

At some point in the late 1990s or early 2000s, Anderson participated in an expose by an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas about housing fees at Nellis Air Force Base, according to a copy of the segment that Anderson appears to have published on YouTube. The report said Anderson had been in the Navy for eight years and was married to a 19-year Air Force veteran who had been deployed to Pakistan.

But a military spokesman said Tuesday that there was no record of someone with Anderson’s name serving in the Navy. …

Although [Karen] Smith’s mother declined to elaborate on what happened in the home, Anderson’s past may offer clues. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Anderson’s criminal history included allegations of domestic violence, weapons charges and possible drug charges.

Anderson lived in Torrance at least from 2012 to 2013, a period when Torrance police were called to his address on five occasions, according to Sgt. Ronald Harris. In 2012, he was arrested on suspicion of spousal battery, and the next year, he was arrested for allegedly brandishing a knife, Harris said.

In 2013, Anderson was charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with assault and battery, brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace. Court records, however, show that the charges were dismissed in May 2014.

Nearly two decades earlier in 1993, Anderson faced two misdemeanor counts of battery in Kern County Superior Court, but according to records, he was exonerated six months after the case was filed and both charges were dismissed.

Here’s another thing. You reproduced this section of the LA Times article:

According to the LA Times, a neighbour reported the couple were overheard praying together. It also quotes Najee Ali, a community activist in Los Angeles and executive director of Project Islamic Hope, who said he knew Anderson as a pastor who attended community meetings. ‘He was a deeply religious man,’ Ali said. ‘There was never any signs of this kind of violence … on his Facebook he even criticized a man for attacking a woman.’

So you recounted Positive Impressions of the shooter from bystanders. But those bystanders only knew Cedric Anderson’s public face, just like Karen Smith only knew Cedric Anderson’s public face before he married her (he only showed her his evil character once they’d married).

If you wanted to report those Positive Impressions from bystanders, you ought to have followed them with an educational message for your readers something like this:

We can learn a lesson from these positive images that bystanders had of the killer. Men who abuse their wives yet purport to be Christians often pull the wool over the eyes of church leaders so those leaders (and often the whole congregation) thinks the man is just a wonderful guy.

The abuser often wins over church leaders as allies. This makes the victim feel even more isolated. It means that church leaders are less likely to believe her if she discloses that her husband has been mistreating her. That same dynamic could easily have applied to Karen Smith, the woman Anderson shot. She may not have disclosed her plight to the school she worked at, out of a fear of being disbelieved. This would explain why Anderson was able to get into the school so easily: the school officials had never been told that Anderson had abused his wife and that she had good reason to fear him, so they hadn’t realised it would be wise for them not to allow him into the school.

And another thing, you article would have been MUCH better if it had included something like this:

Cedric Anderson presented as devout christian man in public, but in fact he intentionally and purposefully killed his wife. No genuine Christian man does that to his wife.  Men who present themselves as devout Christians yet premeditatedly kill their wives must have been simply masquerading a christian faith. With such men, when the wife bravely leaves the marriage, the man usually continues abusing the woman and he often escalates the abuse if he can. The abuser retaliates and take revenge because he thinks his wife had no right to leave him and he still has the right to control her — and the right to punish her for leaving him.

Here’s my take home message to Mark Woods and any Christian journalist:

If you are writing about domestic abuse cases, please write in a way that educates your readers about the real dynamics of domestic abuse. It’s very unhelpful to write about domestic abuse cases in a way which merely helps perpetuate the myths and lies that abusers disseminate, such as the lie that they are “deeply religious men”.

***

I sent a private twitter message to Mark Woods the day his article was published. It was a condensed version of my message to him above. Mark Wood’s twitter handle is @RevMarkWoods

36 Comments

  1. Anotheranon

    And of course this situation also makes it appear that the “Christian religion” (as some people see it) is hypocritical–that Christians are phonies and don’t really want peace; they don’t really love their neighbors as themselves.

    And worse, people may compare this to the religion of Islam, where Sharia law demands a woman’s death for infractions that are ridiculously benign.

    What a horrible tragedy.
    Come, Lord Jesus. Come soon.

    • Krisdee

      Very much agreed. “Christians” are turning others away by helping to hide the sins of abuse.

      • Hi Krisdee, welcome to the blog 🙂

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  2. Mindy

    “Deeply religious” could be a more telling description than first meets the eye. The longer I live and the more I experience, I tend to suspect that “religion” itself (not to be confused with an authentic relationship with the Savior) is of the Devil himself.

    • JesusmyJoy

      I couldn’t agree more with what you have just said!

    • Anonymous

      Nailed it!

  3. Lea

    “He wrote of his wife: ‘Her strength is not in worldly wisdom, head games and manipulation. Her strength is in the essence of her purity,’”

    That’s so creepy to me. Head Games and manipulation? Ugh.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about red flags lately and I think this might qualify. I’m dating and trying to avoid errors but it’s hard to know what is overreaction and what is wisdom.

    • FD

      Yes and he wrote this, but behind closed doors, accused her of cheating. This man was never a Christian to begin with. The distortion, deception, lies, duplicitous and partitioned mind he exhibited are all demonic. I’d venture to say that this man did not believe in marriage but in bondage.

      • Welcome to the blog, FD 🙂

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  4. Song of Joy

    Yes, yes, yes Barbara to all you said. The Mark Woods article is unhelpful to say the least. He seems to quickly gloss over Cedric Anderson’s well documented and consistent past behavior (arrests, domestic violence history, weapons, etc.). Nothing to see here per Woods’ article. Nothing to gain from writing about the signs of danger in a person. No, let’s instead focus on the religiosity of said perpetrator.

    Let’s move on to, and dwell on, the *fabricated persona* that Cedric Anderson created for himself on Facebook and within the community. I am particularly galled over Woods calling Anderson a “pastor”, when this appears to be a completely phony vanity on the part of Anderson (no education, no ordination, no church position, as far as I can tell from the info available).

    Wouldn’t it have been more helpful to the reading public to point out that Anderson appeared to have lived a life of deception? That he hid his violent and criminal tendencies with an outward and shallow show of Christian motions and platitudes?

    I have the greatest sympathy for the victims and the loving, grieving families of this senseless tragedy.

    • Hope

      Thank you!

      For 29.5 years my husband “hid his violent and criminal tendencies with an outward and shallow show of Christian motions and platitudes.” I may be wrong, but I believe that all abusers do this. Like Barbara teaches in this article, abusers have two faces. I have always described my husband to friends and family as a Jekyll & Hyde personality. Too bad not a single one of them knew what that meant; too bad that I, in the midst of abuse, couldn’t see it either.

      Until I could.

      This particular truth, that not only does abuse thrive in Christian churches and marriages, but it is also ignored, refuted, glossed-over, and ultimately denied, is dangerous and deadly – obviously. If members and those in positions of authority such as pastors and elders fail to see this, they fail each and every member of their church. Furthermore, if those in charge turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, if they never teach or preach about abuse and how to recognize it, how will genuine Christians within the congregation ever learn how to discern this truth?

      We are to stand for truth and confront evil, in the world, in our churches, in our homes, in ourselves. If portions of scripture are ignored, how can this ever truly happen?

      Thank you Barbara, for this excellent article. Without this priceless site I would still be living under bondage – but praise God I no longer am, and never will again!

  5. HopeGlenn

    I thank you for having the courage to speak out about this traumatic topic. The world only sees the “show” and a show it is. I was married to a man who was an atheist when we first got together. He “reformed” and became a christian. It was all an act. Behind closed doors he broke my jaw, my wrists and beat my legs (I was a runner) till I had to have surgery and learn to walk again.

    Eventually he did not hide the abuse and upon divorce he stole my four sons from me, turning them against me. We all know that when the abuser no longer cares who sees the abuse, they are the most dangerous. As seen in this man. He looked so good on the outside. But reality was different. I ask questions such as this…if he was trying to rid the earth of a “dirty” woman would it not,( especially in this day and age) to live so he could proclaim how he had rid the earth of one more piece of garbage?

    He killed himself and an innocent child because he was the abuser. And he achieved the ultimate act..he silenced the victim. So now eyes will always be focused on him and what suffering was upon him so he had to do this act. Bravo.

    Yet I will turn my eyes upward and will remember this woman, who suffered so. And day after day after abuse she continued to love..a choice..even up till the final moment.

    • Hi HopeGlenn, welcome to the blog 🙂

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  6. JesusmyJoy

    I hope and pray that Mark Woods and other Christian pastors and leaders would wake-up and see the false charade of so many deeply religious “Christian” abusers.

  7. Joseph Carmen Horta

    Naji Ali is an Islamic Imam and community activist in LA. Even the black community have sorted questions about his theology and his activism. I find it curious that the LA Times would quote him concerning Anderson. He said Anderson would attend community events. Why would a supposed “Christian pastor” be attending events held by Project Islamic Hope? If there exists any real journalists anymore they would chase this connection down.

    • Hello Joseph Carmen Horta, can you provide evidence that Naji Ali is an Islamic Imam? I would be most interested to see it.

      And just a note: the LA Times wrote that man’s name as Najee Ali, whereas you’ve spelled it Naji Ali. Are we talking about the same man? And if so, what is the correct spelling of his first name?

    • Joseph C H, is this the guy you’re talking about? I’ve just dug into the web a bit and found this:
      Exclusive Q & A With Imam Najee Ali, Founder of Islamic H.O.P.E. Re: Islam, Activism, Leadership, and Politics
      An excerpt from this interview:

      Najee Ali: I doubt very seriously if I would even be alive today had it not been for my acceptance of Islam, while incarcerated at Tehachapi State prison in California on an armed robbery charge in 1992 . The two years I served were an eye opening and humbling experience.

      After reading the autobiography of Malcolm X, and in combination with my study of the Holy Quran and life of Prophet Muhammad while attending Islamic services, I embraced my new faith with tremendous vigor and energy.

    • also found this — http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-najee-ali-20160418-story.html
      Excerpt from that article:

      Over two decades of activism, Ali, 53, has been a familiar face not only in Los Angeles’ black community, but on TV after events such as a controversial police shooting and gang violence. His outspokenness over the years toward police, politicians and others —– including calling the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups “outdated” — have amassed him a collection of friends and foes.

      During an appearance on CNN, former L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton called Ali “one of the biggest nitwits in Los Angeles.” Bratton, now New York’s police commissioner, later apologized. …

      Ali’s personal history always made him vulnerable to criticism. He was a former gang member who used to be a crack addict on skid row. He served several stints in prison, including two years beginning in 2008 for bribing a witness in a criminal case involving his daughter.

      “People who speak for the community should be held to a high standard of principle and integrity,” Lisa Collins, publisher of the monthly religious magazine L.A. Focus, said in a statement. “In the case of Mr. Ali, the record is clear and it includes convictions for bribery, perjury, felony hit and run, charges of intimidation and numerous run-ins with high-profile community representatives.” …

      Before he became Najee Ali, he was Ronald Todd Eskew. He was born to a mother who worked as a prostitute and an abusive father.

      His mother died when he was age 12. Ali bounced from one relative to another until he went to live with his grandmother. Like many youngsters in his neighborhood, he joined a gang and dropped out of high school at 17. He was in and out of jail.

      In 1990, while in jail for robbery, he read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” The story of a former drug addict, ex-con who converted to Islam and fought for black people’s rights resonated with Ali.

      He converted to Islam, changed his name and founded Project Islamic Hope, short for Helping Oppressed People Everywhere.

    • So it looks like Najee Ali is in fact a converted Muslim and before he became a muslim his name was Ronald Todd Eskew.

      Why did the four LA Times journalists who wrote this article apparently accept without question that Cedric Anderson was a pastor on the word of a Muslim Imam activist? Why didn’t they check out that claim more?

      Would a Muslim Imam activist be likely to know for sure whether Cedric Anderson was really an ordained pastor and had a reputable qualification from a seminary? Would a Muslim Imam activist care less whether Anderson was really a pastor or not? Wouldn’t a Muslim Imam activist be more likely to simply enjoy the opportunity for political and religious tussle that someone like Cedric Anderson might give him? Wouldn’t a Muslim Imam activist be likely to enjoy crossing swords with any ‘self-proclaimed pastor’ who wanted to cross swords with him? It would serve the Muslim Imam activists agenda, if the Muslim Imam activist’s agenda was to keep the media spotlight on himself.

      • Joseph

        Barbara you found a lot more than I could. It does beg the question/s and creates even more.

      • Thanks Joseph. It only took a quick google search for me to find that stuff. 🙂 Using a laptop it’s much easier than using a phone.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Joseph!!

  8. Mary C

    I agree. He definitely was not a truly religious man. Also, the military was contacted. They have no record of Cedric being in the military. His second wife was in the military.

    • Thanks Mary C and welcome to the blog 🙂

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      I changed your screen name to Mary C as a precaution. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂 We discourage readers using their real name here unless they are really sure they are in no danger from an abuser.

  9. One of our readers has shared this with me and given me permission to publish it under my gravatar.

    In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

    Behind closed doors I would watch my abuser fool a lot of people! He was (and still is) a master at portraying himself as a godly man on social media. Photo ops are his favorite…takes every opportunity so that he can plaster and paper them all over the Internet/Facebook. He has a ‘following’ (slowly dwindling away now) who believe he loves, fears and serves the Lord; he does not! I must be careful here with details lest I be identified, but I will say this…

    He would work on the computer for hours all through the night and then come to me in the morning with letters he had written. He would instruct me to sign my name! Of course I would ask, “What is this?” He would get angry and say, “I am your husband, you need to trust me; I need to get letters up on the Internet for my ‘followers’, so just sign it.” When I would refuse to sign before reading them, worse yet refuse to sign after reading them, his rage would go in to high gear. He would accuse me of not loving and trusting him. You know the old ploy, where they seek to AFFLICT OUR CONSCIENCE for not loving them!

    So here’s what he would do: He wrote letters as if it were ME WRITING them. He had me saying this: “I awaken during the night to find my loving husband on his knees, in God’s word, studying, weeping and praying all through the night for you. He is troubled for so many lost souls. He is making plans to travel abroad to witness for Jesus and needs your support $$. You must see the privilege in giving for such a cause.”

    ALL lies and fabrications. He is a monster of abuse. I never signed my name to those letters, and I paid, behind closed doors.

    So people can be fooled by what they read and see on news reports and the like. And to all the lazy reporters who choose to “get a story” rather than dig for truth, give oxygen to EVIL.

  10. Listening Ear

    NBC news has a better understanding of the abuser Anderson than Chrisitian Today. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/accused-san-bernardino-shooter-s-facebook-fawning-disguised-homicidal-rage-n744991

    …Religious leaders please WAKE UP..in this case the blood of victims are crying out!!

  11. bright sunshinin' day

    Barb, thank you for this post.

    Wasn’t it the “religious” leaders who plotted to kill Jesus?

    In the Old and New Testaments, aren’t there ample warnings to beware of the false prophets and scribes and pharisees (religious leaders)? There’s nothing new under the sun…test the spirits, anyone who claims to be religious, to see IF they are of God.

    Wendy, you said it well here:

    ‘Deeply religious’ could be a more telling description than first meets the eye. The longer I live and the more I experience, I tend to suspect that “religion” itself (not to be confused with an authentic relationship with the Savior) is of the Devil himself.

  12. StandsWithAFist

    “Power & control”

    “Isolation & domination”

    THIS is what that looks like.

    May I add “death & destruction” as well?

    This man has now caused the death of innocents & the ripple effects have brought destruction to so many lives.

    Evil.

  13. jesusfollowingishard

    One of the most distasteful things I heard from him, soon to be exhusband was “If I was Islam I’d take care of my problem with you”. I don’t believe him to be dangerous exactly, note the word exactly. He has no record and is a bit passive etcetera so there is not a big comparison between him and Cedric Anderson. The other two things he would say was God is going to kill you and You are sick because God is punishing you, so every time I got a cold or flu etcetera or anxiety from all that, I tried to hide it so he wouldn’t have opportunity to say that. He repetitively said these things. No comparison but still some similarities.

  14. Here is an EXCELLENT article from NYMagazine about the San Bernadino shooter’s Facebook page:

    http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/04/san-bernardino-shooting-cedric-anderson-domestic-violence.html

    Thanks to the ACFJ reader who alerted me to it! 🙂

  15. Concerned Mom

    What does a mother do when she knows her adult daughter is married to a man who has the same tendencies as Anderson?

    Every time I read in the newspaper of a domestic violence death ( which is always the male abuser killing his female victim )…I read to see if he had the same personality traits etc…..and he does….

    I pray for protection over my daughter and her children and pray God will soon deliver her from him….yet in my humanness, I cannot help but worry and it makes me shudder knowing that her husband is so capable of doing what Anderson and too many like him have done …. it’s so tragic and sad…Lord have mercy…..

  16. Misti

    People can’t educate others about things they don’t or don’t want to know, themselves.

    Best-case scenario in misleading articles like that is the writer is ignorant or shortsighted, themselves. Worst-case, they’re misleading on purpose.

    Just last night, I was watching some true crime, and a female detective said that a lot of prostitutes come from stable/loving homes who are led astray by a bad boyfriend…and she was talking about a murder victim whose mother gave neon flashing signs of being emotionally abusive. (There were multiple major signals that I can remember off the top of my head before I turned the TV off–many of them from the mother herself–so the probability of it being just coincidence is superlatively low.)

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