Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Abuser Uses Language to Establish Himself on the "High Ground"

Gen 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

The wicked talk “down” to those they are trying to control and to do this, they very often open up their deceptive assault with words that are designed to establish them on the “high ground.” To make them appear superior – morally, spiritually, intellectually, superior. We are wise if we recognize this tactic. Let me try to explain and illustrate what this business looks like. Many of you will know exactly what I am talking about.
In order to shut down their target – to silence them and bring them into submission – the power and control hungry abuser will speak or write in such a way that he appears to be wiser, more loving, kinder, more godly, and purer in his motives than his target. All for the purpose of making his victim doubt herself, lose her confidence, place blame and guilt and shame upon her, even though in reality everything he is saying is a lie. Here are some real examples of this nastiness in action. The first one was targeted at me, and I have shared it before. It was written by a wicked man parading as an eminent “saint” in the church who was trying to shut me up after I had exposed evil in an organization our church used to belong to. Listen to him speak in his air of superiority:

I know how important it is to you that we not forsake our first love (Rev. 2:4).  So I am assuming that you intend to hold to that same standard in your own personal interactions with your fellow servants of the gospel.  Are we to denounce hatred in a hateful way?  As your ally in the battle against sinful abuse, I am concerned that you do not sabotage the Lord’s blessing upon your ministry

This is just a small portion of what he wrote, but you can see what he is doing. He presents himself as wiser, more spiritual, superior to my inferiorness so that I would put my tail (if I had one) between my legs and sulk off in shame and defeat. [By the way, it turns out that the evil I had pointed out was in fact true and THIS very man ultimately was confronted by his church for lying and covering up gross wickedness. All of his elders resigned, half of his church left].
Now, here is a recent example of a pastor presenting himself as “superior” to a lady who confronted evil on social media. This is a “gag me” spewing of “I am so above you” talk-

My heart aches for you sister.  Please know that my comments here are meant in careful love, gentleness, and compassion for your eternal good.  The last thing I’d want to do is harm you in any way.  (You’ve suffered enough already!!!) But it would not be loving for me (although very tempting to be sure) to just ignore what happened and let it go.
I care for you, and it’s obvious that you are self-justified in what you did – even though (whether you intended to or not?) you very clearly violated several scriptures in your words, approach, and attitudes in the exchange that I witnessed on my thread. (Eph 4:31; Phil 2:3-5; Tit 2:3) Would you be willing to submit yourself to biblical shepherding from your pastor in regards to your approach to social media?  Again, I’m not mad with you, I’m not angry with you, and I’m not trying to bully you in any way.  I love and care for you sister.  But I grieve how you are presenting yourself online, because I believe you are actually sabotaging the good you are trying to accomplish

This is only a part of what he wrote – all designed to establish himself as the spiritual giant whose insight far exceeds hers – and ultimately motivated by the goal of making her just shut up and stop pointing out evil. She has sinned, you know. She is the one who has caused the trouble. She needs to hang her head and listen to him. Why, he is even willing to give her “biblical counseling” (watch out for that term when it is offered!!). In other words, “my dear sister, you are soooo messed up and wrong and you need to submit to ME because I speak for God!” Here is just a taste more of this guy:

Please understand… I’m fully assuming you don’t realize how you are coming across publicly.  I expect you are going to be shocked and perhaps even hurt by what I’m saying.  So please, again, please understand…it’s only my love and care for you that is motivating my time to write you this difficult note…but I’m hoping you will be able to receive my gentle admonishment in the spirit of 1 Peter 2:1-3…and vv. 11-12.

Unless we understand what these evil types are up to when they speak this way to us, we are going to be duped just like Adam and Eve were by the serpent. What great wisdom the devil had, you know. “Indeed, has God said…? Let me tell you what is really going on here.” We will be convinced that our anger is sin, when in fact it is righteous. We will think that we have slandered or gossiped, when in reality we have exposed evil. And worst of all, we will look up to these hypocrites from the low ground they have convinced us that we stand on. Domestic abuse victims in a church setting will find these things all too familiar.
The Apostle Paul warned the Galatian believers, who had been deceived by spiritual abusers/false teachers. He told them that such evil ones will typically “make much of you.” You can see this tack in the quotes above, especially the second one. In order to draw us in, these abusers use compliments and flattery, but, as Paul says, “for no good purpose.”

Gal 4:17 “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.”

The entire motive is to “shut you out.” That is, to sever you from your comfort and confidence in Christ and sway you into virtual worship of the abuser. “Oh yes, you are right. I shouldn’t have been so critical. I’m sorry. I will listen to you first next time.”
So watch out for this kind of talk by which the wicked set themselves on high and you end up looking up to them from below. This is one of the horrid tactics that keeps abuse victims in bondage so often for years and years and years.


The Abuser and Satan's Devices — Sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen


"Love your Enemies" – What does this Mean?


  1. eyes opening

    I recognise this tactic!!!! I fell for it once but will never again. What a wonderfully clear description.

    • Anon3

      Thank you so much. I have spent a lot of my life feeling like ‘puddleglum’ (‘everyone else’ defines reality differently and inside I know they are lying – but I’m going to keep trying to tell the truth!) – but you speak such good sense that you help me to keep focussed on what I know to be true!
      I’ve been the victim of abuse in a church and this post makes me wish I’d kept the letter – I could have forwarded it to you so you could use it as another example of this kind of evil – from ‘good, reformed men’ too!!
      I’m getting the same kind of lies from those who are colluding with a man who has abused his wife. It helps to know it’s just a tactic – and not one of which our Father approves. One begins to see how laughable this technique is. Do these people actually believe the guff they churn out?

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Living with such a person is like drinking a shot of poison every day. I am very glad he is your ex abuser.

  3. GypsyAngel

    It never fails to amaze me; the tactics that abusers choose to use, especially those that are hiding within the “church.” They hide behind the terminology “scriptural” and “biblical advice” which can be translated as “You’d better listen to me because I’m the authority here.” I’ve had my fill of that type of authority, especially when it colludes with the abuser to keep the abuse going. And, as in my personal case, actually becomes part of that abuse.
    I urge anyone who is undergoing abuse of this fashion to please find a church home that has God as the head. Also please know that this type of abuse IS just that…..abuse. Its not God, biblical, or scriptural.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I can remember about 7 years ago starting to re-think marriage and weddings and “permission to divorce” in churches. I came to realize that people do not have to have their pastor or church’s permission to divorce. So many have been taught that they do need it. The only thing that would bring someone under biblical church authority/discipline is if they are guilty of sin, and in the case of divorce that means being guilty of abuse or some other evil that has destroyed the marriage. THAT is the one the church is supposed to deal with, not the victim! So now I regularly tell abuse victims, “you realize that you do not need your pastor’s permission to divorce your abuser, right?” And their response is often one of surprise, shock, questioning if I am right. This is because they have been held in an unbiblical bondage by unbiblical authority mongers who misuse Scripture and claim authority Christ has not given them.

      • GypsyAngel

        My family were Mennonite. And though my ex and I were non -denominational I was brought up to believe that Everything one did was under the authority of the church. Even down to having children, what job you held, or where you were buried; so to me it was natural to first seek the help of the elders and pastor. At that point had never occurred to me that they would not understand the fear and terror of my situation. And the for them to ask me to leave the church, but retain my husbands membership because I was unrepentant….that really opened my eyes. I had ALOT of long late night talks with “Daddy” about this particular house his.
        Thankfully, God brought me through, and to an amazing church and church family. They have all been very instrumental in not only healing the wounds from my abusive marriage, but the childhood wounds that led me to that marriage in the first place. God Is in the Healing business! He wants only His best for us, and most CERTAINLY does not want His daughters and sons in marriages that are abusive.

      • Anon1

        I think it’s great that divorce is presented as not only permissible, but a blessing from God, when married to an abuser.
        The whole “don’t believe in divorce” “divorce is sin” and similar (like the endlessly repeated “God hates divorce”) needs to stop being preached. “Marriage is for life” and “to death do you part” and pretty soon a victim starts praying for death, as incorrectly taught doctrine makes divorce seem like something only a non-Christian would do, having stood in God’s house, and vowed to God to be married for life….
        Given the damage to the victim’s soul (not to mention mind, body, spirit, health, well-being and overall life), I’m glad Pastor Crippen makes a point to say to a victim that she doesn’t need his permission to divorce.
        Perhaps in the church circles, it can be shown that the divorced women aren’t some inferior lepers, given over to sin, not having taken their marriage seriously enough to make it work, and rather women who rightfully divorced, rightfully preserved themselves, rightfully gotten out.
        And this blog posting is great as the really slick ones present themselves as your helper, just acting out of love, care, and concern…..and suddenly yet another person has gotten their claws in you and your life and are dictating things (to suit their purposes, not yours) ….. but it’s hard to see at the time, most especially with the subtle guilt-tripping, shaming, and ‘loving criticism’.

  4. Helena

    Now that I see through this stuff, it makes my skin crawl to read this arrogant, smarmy stuff. Thanks for exposing it!

  5. NeatNerd

    Have you ever heard of a church which is reluctant to allow its members to transfer to another local conservative congregation? In several cases, it was a complex struggle of several months.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes. But they have no authority to do so. That is why R.C. Sproul Jr for example was defrocked by his one time denomination. He and his elders were pulling that very kind of thing. In such a place abuse victims are further abused.

  6. NGL

    Oh yes, the ‘spiritual authority’ tactic. ‘I am your pastor, so you should take that into account’, when I voiced my concerns about the dysfunctional methods in my (ex) church.
    Anyone daring to raise concerns was labeled as ‘traitor’ to the cause.
    It is the same in most abusive groups, no matter if Charismatic, Baptist, mennonite, or Roman Catholic.. The Canadian drama series ‘Boys of St.Vincent’ showed so aptly how the abusers seek to silence their victims – by shaming, and calling them ‘traitors to God’, no less than that!
    It is astounding how very similar the methods are, even when names and doctrines differ.

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