A Cry For Justice

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

Theology of Niceness — Ps Sam Powell

The churches of today have replaced God’s love with a false god of niceness. He will never interfere with our free will. He never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. He doesn’t like it when we argue. He doesn’t really care about what we believe; He just wants us to play nice together. 

And so goes the theology of niceness.

But then something happens that niceness just can’t explain. A bomber sets off bombs in the middle of a huge crowd; a man goes to trial and the horrific details of his abomination of abortion comes to light. When those sort of things happen niceness just doesn’t cover it.

We tend to say mindless platitudes like “God hates sin, but loves the sinner,” or “repentance is when you final realize just how much God loves you.” That theology is nice, but it has no power in the face of great wickedness.

What power does it have when you have a mad man blowing up three year children? What power does it have when a man walks into a movie theater and opens fire? What power does it have when men fly airplanes into buildings?

How does niceness explain men like Kermit Gosnell and Adolf Hilter? Monsters so horrific that many of us can not even image it.

When the poor are oppressed, when children are abused and slaughtered; when sexual assault happens on five year old girls; when theft, torture, murder, pain, and suffering are common – there’s something within man that cries out for justice. There’s something in man that completely rejects the niceness of the hollow-headed spewers of lying vanity. And then the world asks us, “Where is your God?”

When we rejected imprecatory psalms, when we lied about the justice of God, we robbed also ourselves of the power of the gospel. And we gave up any hope of offering a meaningful answer to a world torn by hatred, and sin, and tremendous wickedness.

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The above quote is by Ps Sam Powell and is from his sermon Sanctification Through Suffering – 1 Peter 4:1-7.  Sam is the pastor of First Reformed Church, Yuba City, California.  His weekly sermons can be found on sermonaudio.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve featured things by Ps Sam Powell before on this blog and we value him as a colleague in the battle to expose and prevent domestic abuse in Christian circles.

Further Reading

Praying for God’s Justice

According to Many Pastors, the Saints in Heaven are Sinning

Abuse andAnger:  Is it a Sin to be Angry Toward Our Abuser?

Praying for God’s Justice

our Psalms tag

What Does the Devil Look Like? Getting Wise to the Abuser’s Victim-Playing Schemes

One of the most frequent tactics used by the worst abuser I have ever had to deal with was that of playing the victim. And it was more than that. He would put on a facial expression that had successfully “worked” for him all his life, gaining him people’s sympathy. At other times he would behave almost as if he was having a breakdown of some kind, leading observers to believe he must be under terrible and undeserved stress as a result of being horribly wronged. If he did suffer some pain in life, you can be sure that he would capitalize on it to maximum advantage.

This man’s chief skill in other words, as he constantly labored to gain allies against his targeted victim, was doing or saying anything that would gain him pity. This is what a sociopath craves. Pity. Because when he is pitied, he has you. You become his ally.

And it is long past time that we all wised up to this nastiness.

I personally know, as do many of you, abuse victims and other targets of these wicked ones, people who are seeing their friends, their close family members, fellow church members and others turned against them by their abuser. How? Pity. “Oh, oh, my. Poor, poor man. How you are suffering.” Hug, hug.

THIS is what the devil looks like very, very often. And when you pity him or his servants, you are joining forces with him against the innocent.

I have been accused more than once of not having enough empathy for people. Well, I can tell you that I do have empathy. The trick is to learn to have it for the right people and to withhold it from others. One of these characters showed up at our church one Sunday morning recently. “Oh, just look at how neatly this man was dressed and yet, how sad his demeanor. He must be suffering some distress. Let’s see if we can help him.”

Nope.

I called him to my office and in front of (and with the full support of) our elders, confronted him with information I knew about him from another source, opened the door and told him to leave and never come back. Look of hurt and confusion swept over his face. “Leave and never come back. You are not to be here again.”

The Lord Jesus showed deep empathy for many people. But He also withheld it from many more — the wicked. We must do the same.

Your abuser will seek to make you feel sorry for him. DON’T. HE isn’t sorry for you or anyone else. Abusers hiding in churches will approach us and through facial expressions, tone of voice, things they say or don’t say, work to make us pity them. STOP PITYING THEM! Stop listening to them. Stop helping them. Just stop!

“Oh, my. yes, he has done very wicked things. He has treated his wife in shameful ways. But…but…he was just diagnosed with cancer.” DO NOT PITY HIM! What you need to learn, what we all must learn, is that not even a diagnosis of terminal cancer is going to make such a person repent. He will STILL use his illness, or the death or illness of someone close to him, the same way he always uses such things. It may be inconceivable to us, but we must understand this clearly. Do not put yourself in his circumstances, think about how YOU would feel, and then extrapolate your feelings to him. Stop doing that. He is not you. He does not think like you do. He thinks and schemes like what he is — an evil man working to control and deceive you through your pity.

Here it is from the Lord’s own Word. We of course do not literally kill an evil man as Israel did under the Old Covenant. But the point is, we are to deal with such a person in a manner quite the opposite of pity. Pity his victim. But do not pity him.

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)

How many churches today are doing precisely what I have boldfaced in these verses? What do you suppose the Lord thinks of that?

  • You shall not yield to him
  • You shall not listen to him
  • You shall not pity him
  • You shall not spare him
  • You shall not conceal him

There it is. That is how we are to treat the devil. That is how we are to treat his wicked servants.

 

Further Reading

Do not Pity the Wicked:  Abusers Use Pity as a Snare

Christians Needs to Get “Pity” Right and Stop Pitying the Wicked While Refusing Pity to the Innocent

Psalm 55 — Exposition by Charles H. Spurgeon

The Psalms can be a comfort during times of loss, grief, and hurting. Psalm 55 is one such psalm. Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s exposition of this psalm is brimming with wisdom and insight.

Here is the first verse of Psalm 55 and Spurgeon’s exposition of that verse. The remainder of the Psalm is copied afterwards and the exposition for each verse can be found at The Spurgeon Archive. We encourage you to read Spurgeon’s exposition in its entirety — we think it will give you much comfort if you have been abused.

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 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
 and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!

The fact is so commonly before us, otherwise we should be surprised to observe how universally and constantly the saints resort to prayer in seasons of distress. From the Great Elder Brother down to the very least of the divine family, all of them delight in prayer. They run as naturally to the mercy seat in time of trouble as the little chickens to the hen in the hour of danger. But note well that it is never the bare act of prayer which satisfies the godly, they crave an audience with heaven, and an answer from the throne, and nothing less will content them. Hide not thyself from my supplication. Do not stop thine ear, or restrain thy hand. When a man saw his neighbour in distress, and deliberately passed him by, he was said to hide himself from him; and the psalmist begs that the Lord would not so treat him. In that dread hour when Jesus bore our sins upon the tree, his Father did hide himself, and this was the most dreadful part of all the Son of David’s agony. Well may each of us deprecate such a calamity as that God should refuse to hear our cries.

2 Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
    and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
    I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
8 I would hurry to find a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”

9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
    on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11     ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
    do not depart from its marketplace.

12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

16 But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
    I utter my complaint and moan,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
    from the battle that I wage,
    for many are arrayed against me.
19 God will give ear and humble them,
    he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
    and do not fear God.

20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
    he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
    yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
    yet they were drawn swords.

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

23 But you, O God, will cast them down
    into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
    shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.

Psalm 55, ESV, A Davidic psalm

 

Every Appearance of Evil, and the Billy Graham Rule – another great post by Sam Powell

Head’s up: Every Appearance of Evil, and the Billy Graham Rule by Ps Sam Powell  is very good.  We encourage you to go there and read it.

Don’t Listen to these Lies — Expose them with the Truth of God’s Word

I am not going to say anything new in this post. You have all heard it before. But we need to hear it, before, now, and again and again.

An abuse victim who has been targeted not only by her abuser, but by her family members, by her pastor, by the pastor’s wife (I need to write a post about pastor’s wives and how they so often enable the abuser), and by other church members in her church, told me some of the things she is being told:

  • Give him a chance
  • We must forgive people
  • He wants you back
  • He is hurting
  • Stop running from your problems
  • The Bible says for better or worse
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Now, this stuff just makes my blood boil. Lies. All lies. Let me make a few observations and I imagine you all will have some also —

  • Give him a chance — that is what the victim HAS been doing, often for decades!  Yeah, give him a chance to abuse and destroy you all over again.
  • We must forgive people — Really? Does God forgive everyone? Does God forgive when there is no repentance? NO! Does forgiveness necessitate reconciliation? NO!
  • He wants you back — Oh man, you can’t invent this stuff. Yes, he wants her back alright. So his kingdom reign of power and control can be reinstituted in full measure.
  • He is hurting – Oh really. So this means that the people saying these things to the victim have been in contact with the abuser, listening to his plays for pity. They are his allies now. He is hurting? Well how about the victim’s hurts? How is it no one seems to even think about how she has suffered? This is pure EVIL.
  • Stop running from your problems — Ok, well, the next time someone points a gun at your head, or puts poison in your drink, don’t run. Just stand there. Just drink up. And the fact is, abuse victims who leave their abuser, who start calling him on his evil, ARE ceasing to run from their problems! They are now facing those problems square on.
  • The Bible says for better or worse — Now this is rich. I will give $1000 to any of these people who can show me chapter and verse on that one. You see, people take statements made by man and they hear it so often in sermons, and in their laziness they don’t check it out, and pretty soon they elevate it to the Word of God. In addition, “for better or worse” was never meant to mean “you must endure even the most cruel wickedness from your spouse no matter what.”
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself — Time to get a clue. The person who is feeling sorry for himself is not the victim. It is the abuser. WE must stop feeling sorry for him because his pity ploys are largely how he enlists us as his allies.

To people who lay this cruel garbage on victims, I say go. Just go. Go away and learn what God means when He says He desires mercy, not sacrifice. Close your lips. In the meanwhile, we are done listening to you.

 

Further Reading

Christians are Very Confused About Forgiveness

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”.

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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