A Cry For Justice

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

11 Chris Moles discredits and mislabels victims of domestic abuse

Chris Moles, Bethlehem Baptist Church 2017

Chris disapproves of survivors having a victim identity or victim-hood status.

He conveys the idea that victims are somehow wrong to be so aware of their victim-hood.

It’s an interesting thing in the victim-care work, that many victims’ identity will be so tied to their victim-hood status.

And one of the things biblical counselors have done is we don’t like victim status. Right? So we dismiss it, rightfully so, 90% of the time. But this percent of the time we might need to walk with them graciously to get them out of that, because we don’t want to drive them further into it – we want them to have victory right?— not be a victim.

And yet, if you’ve been a victim for 25-30 years, it’s kind of ingrained in you, isn’t it? Do you think you’re going to trust easily if you’ve been under that weight for a long time? Maybe not. We can’t guarantee because everybody’s different. But it is important to remember that victim care is a very delicate issue… you probably won’t have much control over it – you’re going to be managing it. There is no perfect intervention. (F* 15:00-15:55)

This approach pathologizes victims. It suggests that victims have actively and sinfully ‘tied’ themselves to this status. What an unjust way of perceiving the victims!

I don’t exactly know what Chris means by “victim-hood status” but I think he probably needs to stop being so negative about it. It is not a “status” that we nestle in because we want to nurse self pity or grumbling resentment. We are victims because abusers and their allies have victimized us. And because so many people in the church continue to dismiss our cries for justice.

When Chris thinks a victim is “tied to a victim identity,” he admonishes her. He urges counselors and pastors to remind victims:

This [the suffering, the victim-hood] is not who you are! …There is provision in the pain. I know you’ve been a victim.  I know you’ve been hurt and we’re going to stand with you in the gap. We’re going to address this to the best of our ability. We’re going to lovingly care for you but the reality of it is God has given you more than enough to stand strong in the face of what you’ve had happen to you. In the mean time we’re going to hold your arms up. We’re going to be part of your process because we love you. And part of the provision God has given you is us. (F 32:05)  

This teaching is unjust because it obscures the systemic abuse that victims are experiencing. It brushes off and minimizes the injustice and stigma that victims are put through not only from their abusive husbands but from their churches, their fellow Christians, and society at large.

Chris recognizes the injustice to some extent. He tells counselors, “…as you’re dealing with victims it’s important to remember the type of pressure that they are under.” (F 18:24-18:30) But it is disturbing that Chris doesn’t comprehend how pervasive this systemic abuse is for victims, even though Christian victims have told him about the systemic abuse they experience in the church (see Part 4 of this series). 

We shouldn’t be all that surprised Chris doesn’t recognize the extent of the systemic injustice. After all, he and his buddy Jim Newheiser are contributing to the systemic abuse by casting suspicions on victims who ask good questions like “What does the Bible say about abuse and divorce?” (see part 10 in this series)

I don’t know any genuine Christian victims who self-indulgently focus on their victim-hood status or who habitually embrace their victim-hood status at the expense of their relationship with God and their love for God’s people.

But I know countless victims who are painfully aware of their victim-hood because the abusers and the churches keep on abusing and re-traumatizing them! 

If Chris really wants victims to have victory and “not be a victim,” he needs to do a lot more to expose and denounce the institutionalized and systemic abuse.

This must start with renouncing and confronting all the false doctrines and practices in churches which are contributing to the suffering of victims. And then it requires Christians to lobby their governments to bring about changes in legislation and policies so that victims will get better protection from the secular justice system and the welfare system. For example, changes which would enable victims to get protection orders for all types of domestic abuse not just physical violence, with police properly enforcing those orders. And changes in the Family Courts so that victims will not have to hand over their children to abusers for visitation or ‘shared parenting’, or (even worse) the protective parent loses custody to the abuser! And changes in the Child Support system so that it becomes harder for abusers to avoid paying proper child support.

Chris wrongly judges what constitutes ‘sinful resistance’ from the victim

Chris claims that many victims are resisting the abuse in sinful ways, repaying evil for evil. He talks quite a lot about the victim’s temptation to turn the tables and abuse the perpetrator in reaction and revenge. Here is what Chris teaches counselors:

We are permitted to resist we just aren’t allowed to resist the way the world resists.  And I think that many cases victims that we counsel are resisting in kind, rather than learning how to be kind in their resistance. Make sense? This is not killing [the abuser] with kindness. This is drawing attention to how I’m being sinned against appropriately, and prayerfully ask for repentance from that party.
If you violate me physically, if you hit me and I hit you back, we got a fight – don’t we? But if you hit me and I resist appropriately we don’t have a fight any more. Now all the onus is on you. All the weight is on you. I don’t think we do a very good job of teaching resistance in the church nowadays. (F* 39:06)

Belief and support can be incredibly empowering to victims, as it should be, but you [counselors] need to be aware that this may be the first time she’s felt powerful or in control and the temptation may be to seek revenge, hold hostage, or rely on this new found power for her safety and security rather than God. (F 40:17)

Resistance is acceptable, revenge is not. Revenge belongs to God – He will repay. Resistance is acceptable: [e.g., saying to the abuser:] “I’m not comfortable with that. This is ungodly. I’m being sinned against.” (F 40:35)

For non-violent resistance to coercive force, Chris recommends the examples Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount: turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, leave the courtroom naked [that’s his phrasing, not mine!] (F: 37:28). He also points to Romans 12 which recommends responding to enemies this way:

(Rom. 12:17-21) Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

But none of those responses by a victim would mitigate domestic abuse or overcome the abuser’s evil, because they rely on the oppressor being shamed…and in domestic abuse that seldom if ever happens. In public, the abuser usually succeeds in doing a snow job on bystanders so they never show him the contempt that he deserves. And the abuser is impervious to being shamed by his victim in private.

When the victim appropriately draws the abuser’s attention to how he is sinning against her, prayerfully asking him to repent, he will never respond positively to her appeals. But he will pay attention to what she is telling him and file it away as extra information which he can use to hone his abuse and draw the noose even tighter around her. Now he knows that tactic X is really hurting her, he might do more of tactic X. Or he might accuse her of using tactic X.  Or he might spread rumors to the church that she is using tactic X against him. Or he might diminish his use of tactic X for a while to give her the impression he is improving, while quietly escalating some of his other tactics of abuse. And he knows he can resort to tactic X again when it suits him…which he knows will be very effective because she will be really triggered when he does.

So when a victim judiciously employs non-violent resistance tactics with her abuser, the abuser typically takes whatever she does or says and turns it into bullets or landmines that he can use against her. He takes advantage of everything she does to non-violently resist him. He takes advantage of every kindness she shows him. The victim eventually finds out that the only safe non-violent resistance is taking steps outside the abuser’s knowledge, whilst validating and cultivating the secret, dignity-preserving thoughts of her heart which the abuser cannot destroy. And she finds that the best contact with an abuser is NO contact.

Here is another example of how Chris wrongly judges what constitutes “sinful resistance”. He correctly states that the abuser is probably lying; but he also asserts that the victim is probably lying:

One of the dangers for us as biblical counselors is this ‘Proverbs 18:17 trap’ — that we can play so much of our time playing private investigator [trying to work out the truth of what is happening by listening to one party then the other] till we realize both parties are probably lying to us, and there’s probably something else happening that we aren’t being told, that we can’t wait till we get every piece of information. (E 05:50–06:20)

By asserting that the victim is probably lying, Chris is contradicting himself. For Chris has observed that victims own every wrong thing they have done:

My experience with women’s groups has been that when women come into our group or when women come into counseling who have been victims, they own everything they’ve every done. “Yeah, I hit him. Yeah, I slashed his tires. Yeah, I did this.” (B 50:06)

Chris gives an example of a wife’s resistance (E 32:07–40:30). He describes how a man isolated his wife to the point of forbidding her from visiting her mother and threatening her if she disobeyed his order. Chris rightly notes that the wife might resist by deceiving her husband and making secret visits to her mother. But here’s the problem: Chris calls that sinful resistance by the wife! For all his high-sounding teaching that the church needs to balance its theology of suffering with a theology of oppression (C 18:32), Chris clearly hasn’t considered applying to domestic abuse the biblical stories of righteous deception of the wicked — the Hebrew midwives’ deception of Pharaoh for example, or Rahab’s deception of the leaders of Jericho. (For more on what the Bible says about telling untruths and deceiving oppressors, see here.)

I do not deny that some victims, sometimes, have resisted the abuse by using sinful behavior themselves. For example, if a victim seeks solace in the romantic arms of another man to whom she is not legally married, that is sin on her part. If she takes out her anger on her children, that is sinful. A Christian victim/survivor will know that those things are sins, and will confess and repent of them and seek to make whatever reparation is possible. But I am very troubled by Chris actually describing a victim’s sinful resistance as “abuse” which he does here:

Does sinful resistance need to be addressed? Yes. Not in the context of his violence but in the context of her abuse, but it doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to what he is doing. (E 38:47, emphasis added)

Chris is wrong to label sinful resistance by the victim as “abuse”. Whatever the victim does, even if she sometimes uses sinful actions in resisting the abuse, it is wrong to imply – as Chris has done here – that she is abusive to the perpetrator. I shall use Chris’s definition of domestic abuse to prove my point. Chris defines domestic abuse as:

An abuse of power manifested through selfishly motivated patterns of behavior to exercise or maintain control. (C 24:40, 37:38, 55:09) 

And his longer definition is: 

A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, injure or wound someone. (B 19:00)

Victims do not evince an abuse of power manifested by selfishly motivated patterns of behavior to exercise or maintain control over their parter. Victims do not employ an ongoing pattern of coercive and controlling actions targeted at their abuser. It is not selfish to protect one’s dignity as a person made in the image of God. It is not selfish to protect one’s safety or the safety of one’s children. It is not selfish to resist evil.

We could also consider the definition of domestic abuse we use at A Cry For Justice. We define domestic abuse as a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, they keep their parter subordinated and under their control. That is the mentality and tactics of abusers; it is not the mentality and tactics of victims.

Why have I made such a big deal of Chris referring to a victim’s sinful responses to her oppressor as “abuse”? Because the abusers usually accuses his victim of being the abuser. So this is a very sore point for victims.

Chris disparages the moral integrity of victims

Chris thinks the victim needs to be held accountable to truth and called to repentance and christlike conformity:

We want to confront the abuser and comfort the victim. Does that mean the victim is sinless? No – there’s plenty of work to do there. Does that mean the abuser is an evil monster? No. But we are calling oppressors to repentance; we are calling victims back to Christlike conformity. (F 41:55)

You should not be surprised to see anger and resentment. And certainly we want to help victims move from this to Christlike conformity. But understand you are going to probably experience some of this. This will manifest itself in different ways, but certainly the weight of abuse can contribute to that. (F 22:30, emphasis added) 

Don’t pretend to be or think you’re the victim’s messiah. …They need you as a partner and an advocate. [Victims need] somebody [who] holds them accountable to truth, draws them to repentance, and then also works with the perpetrator and pulls him into repentance. (C 1:06:56)
(emphasis added)

So Chris assumes that victims are doing things wrong and they need to repent. He tells counselors they have to “pull victims back to truth”:

Jesus – how loving he was with the woman at the well.  Still calling her to truth, but doing it in a winsome way.  What about the woman caught in adultery?  (Which is a crazy story, by the way – this just goes back to that male privilege category, doesn’t it? – where was the dude?  –she was in adultery by herself?)

And yet Jesus was so patient and winsome. Really articulating and following the Law without giving to its aggression and violence. Because He says, “Yeah, the penalty is stoning and the person without sin can throw the first rock.”  Him being the only one there without sin chooses instead to show mercy.  … So when you are dealing with victims who have been isolated or hurt, labeled, conditioned, it’s important be patient but always on the side of truth. We still pull them back to truth.(F 28:00–29:11, emphasis added)   

That phrase “we pull the victims back to truth” is not in itself all that bad. On this blog, some of our work involves teaching biblical precepts for how to deal with abuse. But Chris and other biblical counselors don’t seem able rightly to divide the Word of truth, especially when it comes to the complexities of abuse. So when Chris utters that phrase, it comes across to me as haughty and arrogant.

News flash: if genuine Christians who’ve suffered domestic abuse are not walking well with Christ, it is most likely because the church has taught them so many unbiblical (untruthful) things. The victims are either trying to obey all that unbiblical teaching – which causes them to disregard the voice of their conscience / intuition / the Holy Spirit. Or they’ve given up trying to obey because the unbiblical teaching only gave them options which put them in ongoing danger from their abusers.

Chris rightly notes that victims often feel helpless, hopeless, lost and exhausted. But what does he do with that observation? He tells counselors: “we may have to be a little sparse on [giving the victims] homework” (F 26:00). How patronizing for counselors to think they can give victims homework at all! Victims of domestic abuse are usually stretched to the limit dealing with practical safety matters, housing, parenting, finances, legal stuff, etc. It is horrible to think of biblical counselors prescribing any homework to victims that might add to their burden. 

Chris allows ‘lamentation’ but he disallows ‘venting’ 

Chris encourages victims to lament along the lines of Ps 55, Ps 10 & Ps 22, but he makes a point of saying that “the goal is for the victim to lament properly” —

Lament not vent. Venting is a secular category that invites exaggeration accusation and justification, but it doesn’t invite repentance and it doesn’t invite the Holy Spirit. Venting not a scriptural principal. (L 40:15–40:58).

(source of video: L 40:14–41:58)

I agree that it is helpful to encourage victims to use the psalms for lamentation. The psalms have many examples of victims of oppression grieving, lamenting and crying out to God. But we also see the psalmists being angry at injustice, naming the evil conduct of their oppressors, rejecting their oppressors’ false accusations, and asking God to bring shame on the oppressors. It is helpful to advise victims that there is nothing wrong with praying in the style of the imprecatory psalms. Chris never mentions that, which is another ethical shortfall on his part.

What is more, Chris maligns victims when he says that “venting invites exaggeration and self-justification”. And his claim that venting is not a scriptural principal is simply ridiculous. Consider the book of Job. Rather than rebuking Job for all his venting, God gave Job a glimpse into His awesome creative and majestic power. To rebuke someone for venting is a mean-minded act.

Chris sometimes says negative things about victim advocates. And the advocates he praises are dodgy.

Certainly, Chris respects the victim-advocate who is his colleague at the county probation department (F 1:10). But he often says negative things about victim-advocates. I’ve got the impression that when Chris says negative things about victim-advocates he is mostly referring to non-Christian advocates who have secular feminist viewpoints (e.g., E: 45:45, 01:01:44). But he also says that he has received some strong opposition from Christians. (I wonder if he mean us?) 

He endorses more than one victim-advocate website run by Christians — sites which we do not endorse at ACFJ because we think some of what they say is unbiblical or inaccurate in regards to domestic abuse.

In one instance where Chris does praise victim-advocates, he seems to be unaware that the advocates he is praising have been shown to mistreat at least one victim. Allow me to explain. Chris praises and quotes from the Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse (F 56:35). And as an example of empowering female leadership, Chris cites BBC’s Domestic Abuse Response team (DART) which has many female volunteers on it (F 57:25). Then he says:

I want to encourage you to empower female leadership. Key leaders to assembly team response female voices have to be a part of this.  If you’re doing victim care and 85% of victims are going to be female… Female leadership is key here. We’ve got to have females at the table. (F 57:32 -58:11)

But the fact is, there has been some poor fruit from the training Chris has given to BBC and the DART team has not helped all victims who have disclosed. In fact, BBC has publicly persecuted a victim. Here is the evidence: My Defense Against the Public Attack by Bethlehem Baptist Church — a reblog from Natalie.

Chris sometimes mutualizes the blame (sin levelling)

Here is an example of how Chris mutualizes the blame and engages in “sin levelling”. He says:

… we embrace the reality that not only did Jesus die for violent men, he hung on a cross designed for a violent man, and by a sermon on the mount type of theology, each of us have that heart of violence potential within us and so if we have no hope for the abuser then there’s little hope for us… (A, emphasis added) 

Here’s another example of sin levelling:

Domestic violence has at its very heart desires for control and sinful abuses of power which constrict a relationship to the point of little or no meaning. Purpose is swept aside for conformity and truth is replaced with manipulative communication both from the offender who controls and the victim who resists, or plays along to avoid abuse. (P, emphasis added)

Chris called the victim’s behavior manipulative. Ouch! That example illustrates how Chris fails to honor the victim’s resistance.

Hint from Barb to counselors and pastors: When you elucidate and honor the victim’s resistance, you will help her come out of the fog and recover. Biblical counselors and church leaders who want to learn how to do this can check out this pdf.

Here is one more example of Chris using language that is “sin levelling”. Many of our readers report that the words I’ve put in bold are the similar to what they’ve been told by church leaders who are pressuring the victim to take some responsibility for the problem. Chris appears to be talking about total depravity, but he doesn’t use that phrase because he doesn’t have Reformed Theology:

We live in a sin-cursed world. … The biggest difference between me and the men I have worked with is what side of the room I’m on. No; I haven’t been abusive; but my heart’s just a wicked, just as fallen, as anybody I’ve worked with. (L 6:13, emphasis added)

Chris, is your heart as wicked as an abuser’s? Really? Are you born again, Chris?

Certainly we are all born with a sin nature, but abusers have progressively and intentionally corrupted and hardened themselves, relishing and perfecting the wickedness in their hearts much more than most of us have (see here). And if someone is born again, their heart and spirit is made new in Christ; they still battle against the flesh, but are not in bondage to sin the way unsaved people are.

Given that Chris has been trained in how to run Batterer Intervention Programs, I’m astounded that he talks about abusers “losing control”:

We teach a technique known as taking a “proper time-out.” The purpose of this is to give a man a tool to use when he believes he may lose control and endanger himself and others. (M 115)

One of the myths that abusive men love to disseminate is that domestic abuse happens when the guy “loses control”. Chris ought to know this is a myth. He should not be recycling that myth.

Chris’s notions about suffering will hurt many victims

Chris talks about “couples suffering in the midst of family violence” (M 13). How misleading! In domestic abuse, “the couple” does not suffer. The victim suffers.

The abuser will most certainly suffer in eternity if he does repent unto saving faith before he dies. But in this temporal life, the abuser doesn’t suffer much for choosing to abuse the victim…so long as he can maintain control. Rather, he enjoys the perks he gets from keeping his victim under control. And even if she escapes from his control, he takes delight from being able to retaliate on her through manipulating the visible church and the secular legal system.

Here is an example of how Chris “draws the victim back to conformity with Christ”.

There is power found in enduring pain… consider it pure joy when you face trials of different kinds (James 1). We should be experiencing joy when pressure comes on us.  … There’s tons of hope here, but PLEASE PLEASE  balance the theology of suffering with confrontation of the perpetrator. Theology of suffering on its own can prove dangerous. (F 32:34 )

There are promises in our pain.(F 33:20)

Here’s another place where Chris talks about suffering:

If we’re going to talk about abuse we have to balance a theology of suffering with a theology of oppression. And what we tend to do is we tend to take 1st and 2nd Peter and we lob that onto the victim of abuse and tell her to “Suffer well. Conform to the image of Christ.” And we forget God’s call for the church to stand in the gap for the oppressed. So we put all the burden on the victims of abuse and none of the burden on the church to stand in the gap and say “Enough!”

So James 1:27 is a very culturally significant verse. “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God is this: that we care for the widows and orphans in their distress, and remain unpolluted by the world.” We no longer think like the world, and that new thought process – that Christlike thought process – calls us into mediating positions, reconciling positions that stand between the oppressor and the oppressed.

So yes; victims will suffer and that suffering can produce conformity to Christ – but not unnecessary suffering, and not suffering isolated from or removed from the intervention of the church. (L 15:45 – 17:00)

But who does he recommend as giving good teaching on the benefits suffering? Wait for it! John Piper, Justin Taylor and biblical counselors who’ve been key figures at CCEF (David Powlison, Ed Welch & Paul Tripp). We have published multiple posts warning people about Piper and CCEF.

Lastly, and most sickening of all, is what Chris says to counselors who work extensively with abusive men (in violation of the Bible’s precepts). He flatters these counselors by conveying the notion that they’re martyrs for the gospel:

Now again I’ve told you and I’ll tell you this again – I don’t have the greatest batting average.  But I don’t think any of us do.  This is not all-star weekend. Especially if it’s gone up that escalatory arrow. Don’t expect to be batting a thousand. Expect disappointment. Right? I’m not say you go in without hope. You go in with hope-guns loaded, double full barrel hope machine. But understand you’re going to experience some disappointment. And you might lose some friends. And you might suffer some heartache. But isn’t that really the call of the gospel? to identify with the suffering? So I’m not saying put yourself in harm’s way. I’m not saying make yourself a victim. I’m just saying be prepared to have some successes and rejoice in them, but don’t rely on them…. (E 57:57, emphasis added)

***

*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.

Further reading

Abuse victims are perceived as ‘unclean’; yet they reach for the fringe of Christ’s garment

Is ACFJ Guilty of Promoting a “Victim Mentality”?

The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse

30 Comments

  1. NG

    Oh my. Venting is not OK?! Victims are usually lying? This is horrible. This man should not be in any supposed victim-advocate position. He has no idea of reality. Lord help, if such men are seen as examples!

  2. sheisovercoming

    I have not read past his first statements (time limited at the moment), but this is so wrong and controlling of someone else’s pain and healing journey. To label it biblical counseling to do so I also find offensive. God made us with emotions and feelings. We as humans can hold our victimization by an abuser and our healing together. Would we ever tell someone who has experienced great loss and it’s pain they cannot feel the pain and have a pleasant day at the same time? No! David in the Psalms wrote about the pain of victimhood and the blessing of God’s care TOGETHER. In the Bible.

  3. sheisovercoming

    Biblical: Elijah cries out wanting to die. He is worn down from the abuse of Jezebel. God sends an angel to comfort him and feed him for weeks. The Lord encourages him that he is not alone. Not once does he tell him he is stuck in his victimhood.

    • Helovesme

      Jeremiah is one of my favorites in the Word for so many reasons. He wished he had never been born and even cursed the day he came into the world.

      He went back and forth in Jeremiah 20—praising God and then spiraling downward. Seems the Lord just let him “vent,” but somehow kept giving him courage to keep going.

      There are times in his life that the Lord spoke in return (Jeremiah 12) when he poured out his complaints and fears.

      Psalm 73 is one of my favorites. It allows a man to vent, yet concludes with such a hopeful note. This is someone who bemoans trying to live an honorable life, while the wicked prosper and have it so good. His journey of praying and crying out led him to His sanctuary, where he communed with the Lord and found comfort. And wisdom!

  4. LH

    If Chris wants to “identify with the suffering”, he needs to identify with the victims, NOT the perpetrators who are getting what they want from their abuse!!!

    • Helovesme

      I think it was the sin leveling part that hit particularly hard as I processed this post today.

      None of us are born again without a personal, divine and direct revelation from the Lord about our sins. We would not understand our desperate need of a Savior, or understand the necessity of being born again if the Lord did not convict us of sin!

      I did not come out of my abusive childhood smelling like a rose, if that makes sense! I was not responsible for the abuse (took me years to realize that), but it obviously did me no good.

      I would need a Savior with or without being abused, just to be clear. Everyone does.

      Being abused left me bitter, angry, prideful and very unhappy. Even after becoming born again, I found that I still had to work hard to shake off my dad’s very strong, abusive influence on me. Especially since it continued even after I was an adult. I struggled with a bad attitude, a bad temper and making bad judgments. Sometimes I even wondered if I was truly born again. I had so much baggage to deal with!

      I had to realize that my dad’s sins were his, but mine were my own. I had to deal with my sinfulness, regardless of his part in fostering some of it (not all of it! Remember, regardless of abuse, I needed a Savior.)

      But I had to admit that the abuse had done something to me, and within me. Ignoring that wasn’t going to help me grow in Him, and be more like Him.

      So when Chris says things like: “each of us have that heart of violence potential within us and so if we have no hope for the abuser then there’s little hope for us.” And then goes on to say that “I haven’t been abusive; but my heart’s just a wicked, just as fallen, as anybody I’ve worked with”

      I can’t tell you how much that messes with a person like me.

      I am NOT an abuser, but I have struggled badly with abusive ways—-because I grew up with an abuser, and that is all I had known. Only by abiding in Christ, over time, as He worked hard to soften my heart (and the work continues!)

      If you stop having false hope in an abuser—-I would say that you are now putting hope where it truly belongs—in the LIVING Hope that is our God.

      I have hope in the Lord that He will continue to change me, but as for hoping for others—-that is between them and the Lord on an individual basis.

      Despite my many, many sins (there’s not enough room to add the amount of “manys” I would need!) I am not like an abuser. I have NO interest in being or becoming one. The Lord that lives within me, because I am born again, isn’t an abuser in any way, shape or form. If I truly want to be more like Him, abuse or abusing isn’t in the picture one bit.

      Abusers will go on abusing because they choose to. I will not choose to abuse. It is a choice, and while it stems from a fallen nature—-it is a deliberate, conscious choice on their part. It is no accident that they choose to abuse.

      Why would Christ WANT to identify with abusers?? I personally do not. While I am in no way, shape or form wanting to look down on them with a superior sense of arrogance—-I also want nothing to do with them, and do not want their influence around me or anyone else I care about.

      • Thanks, HeLoveMe. I’m really appreciating your comments today. 🙂

      • Krikit

        When Chris claims that ‘[his] heart is just as wicked…’ he may be speaking truth, for all I know. But he sure isn’t speaking truth about me or any other true Christian, who’s heart has been regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit! Our nature is no longer one of a “heart of violence,” but our hearts are now being imbued with the nature of Christ Jesus.

        God makes plenty of identifiable! deliberate distinctions between those who belong to Him and the unregenerate sinner. Those who are His do still deal with sin, but we are not “sinners.” We are NEW creatures in Christ, Justified, through faith, by His blood. We are being Sanctified; promised by God that what He started in us, He will complete.

        The stuff that comes out of Moles mouth is just one of the plethora of putrid-theology platforms that I continually come up against in organized “church”, and a foundational reason why I haven’t been back inside a “brick and mortar” in 16 years. If congregational worship and learning and teaching were a place where one could raise their hand and ask pointed questions about bad theology being spoken as God-fact, and actually receive in return honest “as iron sharpens iron” answers (on a level playing field), then I might be persuaded on going back. But, as it stands, way more often than not, spiritually probing questions are never/rarely encouraged, never/rarely entertained, and never/rarely given direct and honest answers. All too often, instead, they are viewed and treated as inappropriate, making waves, disruptive, and a plethora of other negatives (designed to shut down the inquiry and put the ‘rabble rouser’ in their proper place) and even outright heretical.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you so much for those kind words, Barb, and for letting me “vent” (used that word on purpose!) on this site. It has blessed me so much to be able to do so.

        And thank you Krikit! The iron sharpening iron is a wonderful verse.

        I don’t recall if I tried to ask hard questions from pastors, but I do know what you mean about how it can be looked down upon to ask or say things that no one wants to really deal with! I have certainly received backlash for opening my mouth when others would have preferred it stayed shut.

  5. Moving Forward

    This comes across as word salad to me. There is no heart, no compassion for the victim. The way he refers to her (me) makes me feel like an object. He makes a lot of assumptions about her and thinks he has the answers and can tell her what to do and how to feel. Garbage! If he really cared for the abused he would get off his high horse and learn from those who truly know the reality of an abuser’s mentality and the effects it has on the victim, especially in the brain. This isn’t about helping others, its about having fame and fortune. I find his tone/condescension really grating on me this morning. Just my irritated thoughts.

    • Helovesme

      “. The way he refers to her (me) makes me feel like an object.”

      I just finished reading this, with a swirl of feelings and reactions! But your words put it so well.

      The assumptions, the condescension, the pride and ego coming across—made me feel so denigrated and defeated. Reduced to a puddle.

      When I am with the Lord, I certainly vent! AND I speak very openly and honestly about feeling like a puddle, feeling ashamed—feeling lost and angry and confused.

      I can lower my emotional “drawbridge” (is how I describe it) to Him in full. With everyone else, my guard is up in some way.

      This is a very hard way to live in this world, but I rejoice in that God is so loving and trustworthy. And He sees what I have been through, and He sees all of my pain. And He understands everything about me. He knows who I am, and He knows I am not as bad as I am made out to be.

      People can be very ignorant, which can easily lead to arrogance: making assumptions and drawing conclusions based on sheer speculation and very little discernment, if any.

      God’s not like that. And God is NOT speaking through Mr. Moles in these matters.

      When I am with Him, I am uplifted. It is NOT devoid of conviction of sin, but He is kind and gentle in doing so. We draw closer as I confide in Him. And I cry out to Him. I do my best to hold nothing back.

  6. Anewanon

    What about those imprecatory psalms? Was David stuck in victimhood? Was it a sin to be there? To write about it? To ask God to execute [gasp!] vengeance?

    Hmmm….

    I would venture to say that some soul searching on how to CARE FOR the lambs, and the sheep (the orphans and widows) that God calls him to care for is in order. Jesus didn’t go out of his way to try and heal sinners who did NOT WANT TO BE HEALED – i.e. the abusive Pharisees.

    The woman at the well … Jesus encourages her to draw her life (living water) from Him. Perhaps HE KNEW that she was abandoned five times by men who simply used her body then found reason to divorce her with their hard hearts. We don’t KNOW why she was married five times. She went from being embarrassed as a noon-time visitor, to being his FIRST evangelist. How did He do that? He simply encouraged her to come to Him, to draw life from Him.

  7. Krikit

    Personally, I loathe the term “victim” being used in the case of systematic abuse. A much more accurate term, that places the onus on the perpetrator, is target. Speaking as a previous target, the term “victim” implies in its very definition that I had something to do with being overtaken, that I was in some way ‘partnered’ with the victimizer. The term “target” on the other hand, is solely about being sought out, aimed at, and fired upon with the intent to pierce.

    I will never be anybody’s “victim” because I would never accept such a position without asserting whatever personal will I could muster to fight against such an injustice. I believe it to be a rare target who has never asserted their will (in any form) against their abuser, and simply layed down to accept it.

    Words have meaning. Change the terminology, and we change the conversation.

    • Thanks for your comment, Krikit.

      Yes, terminology is important. For me, the word ‘victim’ does not have the negative connotations it has for your, but that’s okay. 🙂 I also like the term ‘target’. And interestingly, Don Hennnessy uses the term ‘target’ a lot.

      When I first heard the term ‘target’ for the abused person it struck me as a bit strange. Almost depersonalised. But I’m much more used to it now.

      I think on this blog I will continue to use both ‘victim’ and ‘target’, so I hope you don’t mind. And because Chris Moles uses the term ‘victim’ I felt it was best to use that word when rebutting his arguments.

  8. MessyRecovery

    Please add a trigger warning to this article. It has stirred my emotions very negatively. I was in an emotionally, physically, financially, sexually abusive marriage for 40 years.

    I received free counseling from a senior CCEF trained counselor for 2 1/2 years. I do credit him with saving my life, but it was messy as could be along the way. I was told I have Stockholm Syndrome, it took him 6 months to stop trying to change my then husband, stop telling me steps to make my marriage better (run your husband a warm bath etc) and to see the violent physical attacks and rage against myself and two adult children for what it was.

    The whole victim blaming thing makes me so furious I can barely stand it. The abuse I endured did render me suicidally depressed, self harming, C-PTSD, disabling anxiety and paralyzing (literally) panic attacks. I had to be hospitalized at one point to keep me safe. BUT I WAS NOT CRAZY, SINFUL IN THIS SUFFERING OR REBELLIOUS. The whole attitude the churches take toward this crises of abuse is enough to make me want to run far from them.

    Thank you for your hard work to bring truth and justice to bear.

  9. Helovesme

    I’m going to spin a bit and thank Barb for how well written this post is. It offers so much compassion and truth—-as she rebuts such wrong teachings and harmful ideology.

    So I am mostly grateful, to be honest—-even as cringe and feel the sting of his teachings. The “bold faced” sentences resonated with me, as did so many other things!

    His description of a victim is ridiculous. Aka: if you label yourself as a victim, you are forfeiting the victory you can pursue and claim in Him. That is simply not true.

    Knowing that you were a victim can be a victory in itself! The truth sets us free from deception. I’ve heard so many victims blame themselves, and they were not at fault AT ALL. When they realized this, or someone took the time and trouble to assure them that they were blameless—it did something POSITIVE in them. They rid themselves of so much baggage that they were unjustly carrying around.

    No one has ever told me, ever, that my abuse was not my fault. I wore it like a stone around my neck for years.

    I am still working on getting rid of all that extra spiritual weight. But it’s hard. I DO NOT want to be labeled as a “victim for life!” I want to be set free in Him.

    But I also have NO SHAME in bearing some invisible, internal marks of my past. I hope they can be used to testify and demonstrate of God’s amazing love and strength.

    I also don’t know if I will ever be fully healed or fully recover from what I have been through. I honestly don’t care per say, as long as He is with me: every day, every moment. By the way, I will keep pursuing healing in Him. as long as I am alive.

    “Systemic abuse” as Barb describes struck a chord in me. Lately I have been having nightmares that are either anxiety driven, or reflect deep trauma in me. It is hard, because it re-victimizes me over and over again. I cannot explain further, but many Christians have hurt me in recent years—-and it just keeps coming back to haunt m. Some of those people are related to me. So they are not as easy to keep at a distance. It just goes from bad to worse.

    Barb, thank you so much for this: “I don’t know any genuine Christian victims who self-indulgently focus on their victim-hood status or who habitually embrace their victim-hood status at the expense of their relationship with God and their love for God’s people.”:

    It was like you were reading my mind. Do you know how many times I have pleaded with the Lord: I don’t want to hurt people. I want to help them. I don’t want to give up on giving and serving in whatever You enable me to do, despite how much I feel like checking out and checking into full isolation! Your kingdom doesn’t halt in time, while I am suffering!

    Oh gosh the “sinful resistance part” felt like a dagger in me. If I felt anything “contrary” to what was “best” for me or anyone else—-I was the problem. I felt like I had little to no freedom to feel anything that might be seen as “sinful.” All that meant was that I must feel nothing, go numb inside or just hold everything inside. That never works! I often felt like exploding because I felt boxed in or cornered into very tight spaces.

    His ideas of resistance are testy: “And I think that many cases victims that we counsel are resisting in kind, rather than learning how to be kind in their resistance.”

    So, taking real action, using secular resources such as the court system—means we are being worldly? Or being vengeful?

    “this may be the first time she’s felt powerful or in control and the temptation may be to seek revenge,”

    Okay—I’ll give that one may feel tempted to seek revenge. But the Bible says to be tempted is NOT a sin. And feeling “powerful or in control” is NOT a bad thing. Does he not understand how powerless and helpless a victim has felt for so long?

    Abuse strips you of dignity, of your intrinsic worth as a human being. One of the most precious things we have as humans (that separates us from animals) is our ability to make individual choices and use our personal sense of judgment.

    Animals are more driven by instinct and their sense of survival. This is what victims are often reduced to: just trying to survive, and instinctively making choices to do so. They feel like nothing but an object to be kicked around, and they try to minimize the kicking whenever possible.

    That is not a life at all! And if a victim DOES feel a sense of empowerment—-don’t squash it please! You may be be trying to teach “resistance,” but in reality you are quenching the Holy Spirit working in her—-trying to give her back a sense of identity and purpose in life.

    Barb so well described how this backfires and works in the abuser’s favor. It is so true that an abuser cares nothing for anyone else but himself. And it just gives him more ammunition to work with.

    “Both parties are probably lying to us.” Boy, I am beyond exhausted with that sort of thing. Either you believe me, or you don’t. But I am NOT lying, or minimizing, or stretching the truth.

    I cannot imagine any human being saying that they have not been guilty of lying at some point in their lives. So if Chris wants to acknowledge that YES, there is a possibility that a victim can lie—-of course that is true!

    But why assume that she is probably lying? What if she is “probably” telling the truth? And just because we have a sinful nature, it does NOT mean that we are incapable of telling the truth.

    A born again believer in the Lord loves truth. The Spirit in us rejoices in truth, and hates lies.

    Abusers are the ones incapable of telling the truth. And they are NOT born again believers. Stop lumping us together in the same group.

    “Her abuse.” This is how it’s described when you “out” lies, or bad beliefs and behaviors in others. YOU get called abusive, because they can’t handle the truth. They claim sensitivity, or insecurity and that they feel punished and judged. It is all about how bad they feel, and YOU are the one doing it to them. It is angering, frustrating and so wrong.

    I can’t tell you how badly it tends to go for a woman when she dares to stand up for herself. Certain men (Christian or not) can’t stand a woman asserting her rights as a human being, and (if the case may be) a believer as well. This is how we are lashed out at against. We are the abusers. We aren’t stroking the egos of men, so we are bad women. We’re not helpers, we are hurters! So I guess their extreme reactions are justified, due to their “righteous” anger?

    “We are calling victims back to Christlike conformity.” Note to Mr. Moles: zip the lip when it comes to this area. You really and seriously do not know what you are talking about.

    You also don’t know the full stories about the woman at the well and the one caught in adultery. The former woman [could have been] dumped by her previous spouses [or some of her former husbands could have died]. There was no “single woman” empowerment back then. Either you married, or begged, or went back to your father’s house (if they were still alive and if they’d let you come back). Or you could become a prostitute just to keep yourself fed.

    She chose to live with a man, who possibly refused to marry her because she was stigmatized for being divorced so many times. Or he knew her desperate need to be housed and fed—and took advantage of that. Or he simply didn’t want to get married but wanted the perks of having a woman in his house to serve his needs.

    What would you do, if that was your life? Jesus spoke of her situation for sure, but unlike us and everyone else back t hen—-He knew her story in full.

    She was most likely something of an outcast. Women tended to draw water at the well in a group, but she was all alone. It was not a happy life for her.

    The woman caught in adultery is widely speculated to have been “tricked” into adultery, so they could throw her in front of Jesus (alone) and try to trap Him. We don’t know that for sure, but I question how the Pharisees could claim that they caught her in the very act of adultery—unless they were aware of it or planned it beforehand-. Or, unless they just “stumbled” upon the act by coincidence, which I have my doubts about.

    Barb, again and again I thank you for this: “News flash: if genuine Christians who’ve suffered domestic abuse are not walking well with Christ, it is most likely because” (and the list goes from there).

    My walk has suffered indeed, but I’m determined to not give up. I backslid about 20 years ago because of deep trauma from a church experience, but thankfully He drew me back to Him. I had little to no support at that time, so that made things worse. I was too afraid of being judged or condemned by Christians, so I tried to tough it out—which made things worse. I couldn’t be honest or real with my emotions, because I was too afraid of being labeled as unforgiving or rebellious.

    “Lament properly” really triggered me. I am currently grieving the loss of a loved one, and by far Christians have been the WORST at showing me compassion. I feel punished and judged just because I loved someone, who left me when the pain became too much for him. Now I don’t exist, or no one wants to be around me because I dared to assert that I am in a lot of pain—as if I did something wrong.

    While I understand that Chris is not applying that phrase to grief victims, abuse DOES create a form of grief, IMO. Grief for all that has been lost and all that one is going through—and the list would be so long to explain that.

    Where does he get off, telling US that we must lament but not vent? Why does he get to draw those lines? And where does he even place them? Who made him judge and jury over how we express our grief?

    His controlling attitude feels like abuse all over again, trying to box us into tight spaces and finding every negative thing possible to attack us with.

    I draw the line at being mindful of sin while we grieve, but it is NOT a sin to vent. And I love the Psalms for how honest and transparent they are as they too vented. And God is so wonderful at letting me vent. If I didn’t have Him to vent to, I would be lost. I lament AND vent with Him, and I am so comforted.

    I have never met with any victim advocates. I did see a Christian counselor for about six months, years ago—while he wasn’t a bad guy, he did more hurt and help in some ways. So at this point—I am wary and mistrustful of those that claim to be Christian experts or counselors or advocates—-big exception is this site and its people!

    • NG

      All I can write is that my heart goes out to you, and so much in your post is something I have been through myself. Being accused and condemned by Christians when I was in pain because of rejection – all too familiar. Praying that the Lord sends some genuine, kind and compassionate believers your way for real fellowship.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you so much NG! You said more than enough!

        And the prayers mean so very, very much.

        I am burned and broken for sure at how I’ve been treated, but also amazed and uplifted at how the Lord’s grace still manages to shine through the pain.

        The pain is not negated or even diminished, but when He sends a blessing—it’s like a ray of sunshine peeking through the storm.

        Example, I was talking a man who I’d met a few times. I didn’t speak or give away anything I was going through, but he told me that he was praying for me.

        I nearly cried. I needed all the prayers I could get during that time, and that meant so much to me, knowing that the Lord made sure I knew He had my back. He made sure someone I barely knew was praying for me!

        I have also been treated with gentle hands by a few non Christians, which has again blessed me so very much. I have been amazed at how the Lord can use anyone and everyone to help His hurting ones.

  10. notlongnow

    Thanks for this Chris Moles series. I have always had red flags about him, but your research has shown me he is even worse than I thought. Snake alert as far as I’m concerned. He reeks of arrogance.

  11. Some Anonymous Bloke

    Would Moles declare that the heart of Abel was every bit as corrupt, wicked and fallen as the heart of his brother Cain? One was a child of God and the other a child of the devil. A strict line of demarcation between the righteous and unrighteous is set forth in Scripture. Does Moles wish to have us believe that the martyr is little better than the murderer?

    In your recent series of posts, I believe that you have well exposed Moles to be a blind (or, at best, unreliable) guide, Barbara.

  12. Hello Sunshine

    It troubles me that he says Christians, in their responsibility to care for the vulnerable in their distress, are called to “mediating positions, reconciling positions that stand between the oppressor and the oppressed.” Mediating and reconciliation are great for equals of good will, but the church that wishes to care for the oppressed must have tools besides mediation aimed at reconciliation. Negotiation and reconciliation may be exactly what the oppressed could use help avoiding.

    It makes me so heavy hearted to hear Christians merrily claim to have hearts/minds as vile as those who commit the most heinous acts against others. I don’t believe the Bible teaches that view of sin and regeneration. If men claim to have wicked hearts, I’ll merrily believe them, though.

  13. Finding Answers

    First. My profoundest thanks, Barb, for this series on Chris Mioles, including all the associated documentation and links.

    Second. My profound thanks to all who commented.

    Adding my own comment, a direct response to Chris’ version of “victim-hood”.

    After over five decades of abuse, both personal and professional, my walls crumbled and I was led by the Holy Spirit to understand I was a victim of abuse. Yes, I was targeted and I appreciate the usage of the term. In my case, I am led to use the word victim, a term that took a long time to learn and even longer to accept in all its complexity

    Yes, I am a survivor. But I cannot bypass victim to reach survivor.

    Chris talks about abuse without any apparent understanding of the long term effects of complex trauma / C-PTSD. God knows how long I have taken to reach an understanding of how deeply and permanently this has affected my life.

    If I were to estimate, I would say I am 90 % fully and highly functional. The other 10% is what limits me in some dangerous ways.

    Last night, I decided to sell my car. There are certain conditions in which driving might place myself or others in jeopardy. I am not willing to take the risk. Nor am I going to cling to any false hope of driving sometime down the road. (Pardon the pun.)

    The sexual violation in infancy has left me with a permanently damaged emotional boundary. When I reach for certain words in a specific context, I find nothing. A blank spot.

    God gave me a gift of healing, a refinement of which the Holy Spirit is teaching me to use as an alternate form of communication, a way to grasp the missing words. I’m sure some have yet to be revealed, but here is my list so far:

    Trust
    Faith
    Grace
    Safety
    Rape
    Security

    So I would ask Chris if I am being manipulative, am lying, am in “victim-hood” status…or any other pejorative.

    I know I am not alone in being affected in the long term. Perhaps Chris needs to extend his research to increase his understanding of those he derides.

    • Helovesme

      Thank you so much for sharing Finding Answers. I will be praying for you (already have been!). Your story sounds so intense and unspeakable.

      I’m so grateful the Lord spoke to you and brought you out of what must have been horrific and has left you with C-PTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder in case anyone is like me and had to Google it!)

      Continuing to lift you and all others who commented. Such powerful stories and testimonies.

  14. Valkyrie

    His face, body language, and manner spells out braggart and belligerent to me.

    • ..and there’s more silly pics of him that I’ll be sharing in later posts.

    • Some Anonymous Bloke

      Good observation, Valkyrie. My impression is that there is something inescapably sly and dodgy about Moles’ demeanour. I would instinctually keep my distance from someone who behaves in a manner similar to him.

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