Will Your Church Leaders Stand With You Against Your Abuser? 3 Ways to Know

With some regularity I hear from people who tell me that they are on board with this issue of domestic abusers hiding in the church. They are excited that their pastor has “really had his eyes opened” and is “promising to stand with abuse victims.” And I have heard the same from various well-known Christian counseling ministries.

I don’t believe most of them. And when I say so, let me tell you, I lose friends and I do not gain any popularity with the “happening” crowds in Christendom. They accuse me of being narrow and arrogant, as if “only I know anything.”

But the truth is, I do know that they still cannot be trusted to stand with victims of abuse. How do I know, you ask? I will tell you. Three things. There are just three things that you need to find out – and then you will know too. Ready? [If they fail at any ONE of these, they fail all]

  1. Does this pastor/counselor/church freely acknowledge that abuse is grounds for divorce? Or do you discern that even if they don’t come right out and say “God hates divorce” (not in the Bible by the way), nevertheless they will only talk about “separation” for abuse. I have found that pastors and counselors and so-called experts on domestic abuse dance all around the D-I-V-O-R-C-E word.
  2. Does this pastor/counselor/church freely permit an abuse victim to decide for herself to divorce her abuser, or will they be upset if she decides that she does not want to be married to this abuser and files for divorce? In other words, do they indicate that she must have their permission to divorce?
  3. Does this pastor/counselor/church inject themselves into her life and marriage, insisting that she allow them to “shepherd” her by counseling the abuser, counseling her, and in general working to “redeem” the marriage and fix the abuser?

If any one of these elements is present in your pastor or church leaders then you can be sure that in the end they will not stand with you. Oh they can be soooo nice and sound sooooo loving and supportive, UNTIL it gets right down to the wire, your abuser has not changed, their fix efforts have failed (as they always will) and you announce you are filing for divorce. So save yourself much grief by finding the answer to these questions early on. And watch out for hesitation and stammering when they give an answer. Don’t accept halfway answers.

15 thoughts on “Will Your Church Leaders Stand With You Against Your Abuser? 3 Ways to Know

  1. IamMyBeloved’s

    This post on finding out if someone’s church supports divorce for abuse is excellent and needs to be read, memorized and seen by more ppl. I see this all the time, where some leaders/pastors are now stating they stand against abuse in marriage, but then THEY have to define what constitutes abuse in marriage and they really never support divorce for the victims. Women are being duped by these shenanigans and need to have their eyes wide open when they meet with their leaders.

    This would be one of the first questions I asked: “Do you advocate for and support divorce for abuse?” Because if they say “well only after we see if things can be worked out and only if the abuser refuses to repent”, which really means saying “I’m sorry” after he abuses you for the next century, then you know you will take a bazillion mile long trek on the abuse railroad that eventually ends in a train wreck; and besides the domestic abuse, you will face the possibility of unscrupulous spiritual abuse that comes with leaders/pastors who really do not understand the mind of an abuser, narcissism, abuse tactics or the evil behind abuse in marriage. Better to get professional help from abuse experts and forego the additional abuse and “you (the victim) must not really be a Christian hate mongering” from other professing Christians who don’t have a clue. The additional spiritual abuse can leave you with a double whammy of trauma and additionally broken .

    So when having to choose between box “A”-domestic abuse only or box “B”-domestic abuse and spiritual abuse, be sure to check the box marked domestic abuse only, please and thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. anonymous

    This is a misplaced comment. It’s really in reply to your other blog, Light for Dark Times, and it’s latest post about the BTK killer.

    My abuser had a thing for studying serial killers, too. I was unaware of these serial killers and pretty ignorant of criminals overall. But the more I read about serial killers, the more I saw the connections to my abuser. It’s not a stretch. Rapists, batterers, serial killers, sadistic abusers. It’s a continuum. And my abuser would murder me today if he thought he could get away with it. Murder is the ultimate power and control move. It’s “playing God” as my abuser put it. Nothing like deciding whether or not someone gets to breathe, which is the appeal of suffocation, strangulation, and the terror it produces (not to mention brain damage, that is irreversible) in a victim. And suffocation doesn’t usually leave fingertip bruising.

    Indeed, BTK sent something from the church computer and that brought him down. Abusers who volunteer or donate to battered women’s shelters. Abusers who become pastors. JimmyHinton.org is Pastor Hinton’s website/blog and his dad was/is a pedophile who used to be a pastor.

    Larry Nassar, the pedophile doctor who preyed on 100s of gymnast girls, was outed by his neighbor victim, and when the parents confronted him, he played it off as a lie, but said that if someone ever did that, it was very serious and the little girl should tell….something like that. The parents thought of their daughter as a liar who did an awful thing and punished her, forced her to apologize to Nassar, and later, when the truth came out, that girl’s dad suicided, awash in grief and horror, I’d imagine.

    How many doctors, judges, attorneys, cops, pastors are abusers? How many persons in contact with vulnerable populations are abusers? Predators are drawn to opportunity and vulnerability. A woman is statistically the least safe in her own home.

    Pastors are charged with watching over their flocks. The realities of our evil world should be driven home again and again each week in sermons, but then again, Sundays are to worship the LORD, so perhaps adult Bible study should contain it instead. I don’t know. I can’t seem to read Proverbs enough times. It horrifies me each time, so many verses, I was so naive, so silly, such ideal prey. It was all there. I had a Bible from very early on. How could I have been so stupid?

    But anyhow, I’m glad to hear a pastor talk about how the BTK killer isn’t so far off from an abuser. There isn’t that much difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stormy

      Yes my abuser was a church leader and has a group of loyal followers. He has the same attributes as a murderer. These abusers are dangerous and need to be ousted from the church. It’s absolutely horrific. The church needs to circle the wagons. But the phonies want the gates left wide open for predators to find peace, comfort , consolation and a hunting ground for the abusers prey. May we never be victimized again. In Jesus Name.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. itaketoflight

    What about the churches where the pastors and priests follow all three of those and still get it wrong? Some of us are in the opposite situation – ending the marriage doesn’t stop the abuse – in fact it makes it worse. In some cases, much worse. The only thing that will stop the abuse is if someone the abuser sees as an authority figure speaks to the abuser and firmly says to them that what specifically the abuser is doing is wrong and sinful and abuse.

    But instead of condemning the abuse, all the church leadership does is act like Pontius Pilate and washes their hands of the matter. They say “leave, divorce him if you want, you have our support to divorce him under the circumstances as the abuse you have suffered is more than enough grounds for divorce” but what good are empty words? Divorce won’t stop the abuse any more than separation stopped the abuse (another empty recommendation they made which only led to him escalating the abuse severely).

    Instead of acting like churches of decades past (where women were told not to go to the police and courts, not to divorce – to just “keep it in the church”) battered women are told the opposite – to go to the police and courts, to divorce, even if the local police and courts side with abusers, even if reaching out to these people and/or separating and divorce makes the abuse worse, to NOT involve the church at all. Don’t ask the church leadership for actual support, don’t ask them to tell the abuser that beating your wife and children is abuse, don’t dare ask them to tell your abuser that the other forms of abuse are abuse and sin and need to stop, because that’s “none of the church’s business”, “that’s a secular issue”. And God help you if you genuinely feel called to not give up on the possibility of one day having your marriage restored – because the church wants nothing to do with it.

    Neither end of this spectrum helps victims, especially in a world where secular services like the police and courts don’t help victims, often battered women have no one else to turn to BUT their church, and all their church wants to do is pretend the abuse isn’t happening.

    For those of us who have separated from our abuser only to have the abuse worsen and the police and courts turn a blind eye, how do we get our churches (who genuinely mean well) to wake up and take a genuinely christian approach?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jeff Crippen

      itaketoflight – I am very sorry that you have had to go through all of this grief. I don’t pretend to know your situation well at all, but I can make a couple of observations. First, you said – “The only thing that will stop the abuse is if someone the abuser sees as an authority figure speaks to the abuser and firmly says to them that what specifically the abuser is doing is wrong and sinful and abuse.” In other words, as I understand you to say, what you have experienced to be lacking in your church’s response is actual hands on standing with you against your abuser and instead your church while verbally helpful hasn’t stepped up to the plate to actually stand in your shoes and confront your abuser. That of course is when it would start to cost your church leaders and congregation.

      I do not think that the typical abuser is going to cease his abuse merely because he is told that he is sinning and must stop. I am of the opinion, which others may differ with, that abusers never change. Never. They may cease their abusive actions if they perceive that their target has strong allies who are not duped by his deceptions. But they are never going to truly repent and stop abusing out of a heartfelt remorse.

      With that said, a local church has the ability (if they desire to, which very, very few do) to be a powerful force in helping abuse victims, including openly declaring themselves her allies. In addition they can short circuit many of the abuser’s tactics of abuse by doing things like providing financial aid, accompanying her to any court hearings, helping with childcare if she has to work, and many other things.

      Finally, you asked “how do we get our churches (who genuinely mean well) to wake up and take a genuinely christian approach?” My answer is – you don’t. For people to act as Christ did/would/does requires that they truly know Christ. In other words that they are genuinely saved, regenerate, Spirit-led people. I do not believe most local churches mean well but are merely ignorant. If that were the case then we would be seeing far more of them respond to attempts to be educated about abusers and abuse – but they aren’t doing so. In fact the typical scenario is that pastors and churches resist very heatedly even considering this issue. We can try. We can talk to them, offer them sound biblical books on the subject, but if they resist aiding the widow and orphan, well, what does the Lord say about such people? They don’t know Him. His wrath against them is aroused.

      As a blog post here which will publish on Feb 20th states, there are popular personalities out there among the “christian” world who are putting on seminars on domestic abuse, writing books and workbooks, going around speaking at conferences and so on who insist that their program, their therapy, their ministry can change abusers. That there is hope. My advice is, don’t get sucked in by them. All they do is issue false promises and create false hope that only prolongs the victim’s sufferings. They are announcing a message that tickles people’s ears. People want a “they all lived happily ever after” ending. And guess what? If we don’t promise that happy ending where the abuser changed and was transformed and everyone reconciled and so on, then our books and programs are not going to sell. So they perpetuate this false hope and remain popular and in demand.

      The Lord. The Lord is our Rock and our salvation. Whom shall we fear? He is our Redeemer and Deliverer. He is the One who stands with us against our enemies and who promises real deliverance. Trust in Him. He will not let you down.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Debby

        Jeff, you nailed it with the “not wanting to even get educated.” It goes so much deeper than “they just don’t realize.” They don’t WANT to realize. Which, ironically, is exactly the way an abuser is. I just know he doesn’t MEAN to hurt me. He just doesn’t realize. So I will be patient and share information bc I just know that they, these well meaning people, WANT to get info and THEN they will understand. No. Most of them dont. It’s too costly and inconvenient for them. Much easier, less messy if the victim just takes one for the team and stop causing “division.” Sigh…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jeff Crippen

          Debby – Correct. Lot’s of people think that if we could just educate the churches about abuse and abusers, they would see their naivete and how not being informed on the subject is causing them to be allies of the abuser. Not so. Nope. I have tried, believe me. Not even the seminary I graduated from paid any attention at all to either of my two books, even though I sent the counseling department copies. So I don’t waste my time or energy on pastors and churches or “christian” organizations (UNLESS the very rare one sincerely asks me for help). I focus on the victims. THERE is where you will get an enthusiastic and thankful hearing, and where you will do real good.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. cindy burrell

            So the seminary you graduated from accepted your books, gave you the customary nod, and then proceeded as though nothing had changed… it’s stunning. I too have held out hope that there will be a miraculous moment when the truth will shine forth – when the wicked within the body of Christ will be exposed and the innocent will find safety, a day when things within the true church will change.

            Silly me.

            I guess change will have to come through our individual voices one person, one blog, one article, one book, one day at at time. So be it. All we can do is what we can do, and we’re just going to keep sharing the truth with passion and conviction and pray that we see more captives set free until the Lord comes!

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Jeff Crippen

            Cindy- Yes, that is exactly what they did. I believe that what appears to be the church very often isn’t. In fact I will go further. I believe that the majority of people and churches and pastors who claim to belong to Christ, don’t. “Many will come to Him on that Day…”. And this I think is the explanation for why we are seeing people who claim to belong to the Good Shepherd fail to hear His voice. How can that be? There is only one explanation – they aren’t His sheep. Because He Himself said (John 10) My sheep hear my voice and a stranger they will not follow.

            Liked by 3 people

    2. Stormy

      I recall a very tragic situation from my youth. Where church folks supported evil.

      The step father of my childhood friend raped a young girl that was his neighbor. The girls family pressed charges.

      The abuser went to court. In the court room he had his allies all members of the Church supporting him. I was told there were many supporters from his church standing by him.

      The child abuser convinced the church folks that he was a changed man. They became character witnesses for him. Imagine how that little girl felt when she told her story in court.

      Place yourself in her shoes. The faces of adult professing Christians looking back at her, the scary courtroom. Telling your story. Then having professing Christians support and defend the horrific , perverted, nasty abusive man.It must have been devastating for her.

      Unfortunately years later she took her own life. I believe the incident of abuse and the udamage done by the lack of justice in her case contributed to this tragedy.

      This same man exposed himself to me. I remember him trying to befriend my father after the incident. Looking back I see this as a grooming technique. Was he trying to discern if I told my dad that he exposed himself to me. I told no one about it until years later.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Free At Last

    These are very good standards, Jeff. If only I had known them before I fled to my pastor and the elders of my church for help, support and protection……..

    Even if I had been aware of them, however, it would not have saved me from being abandoned by people I thought were friends and the support of my church family, as well as the humiliation and pain of being abandoned and betrayed by my inner circle.

    Thanks to your ministry, I became aware of truth. My interaction with you, Jeff, was the turning point for me. I was homeless with my dog, wandering the country, suicidal, still hoping my husband would change, waiting for some sort of revelation or someone to speak into my life. You were the first person who did. It was life-giving.

    Today, I have made my peace with it all as much as is possible. And I am now a vocal (and I am sure annoying) advocate of justice for women in the church. God works all things for good. And we can use our experiences to come along side others experiencing what we did, so they don’t have to be as alone and abandoned as I was. There are so very many of us out there.

    Nothing at all has changed in my old church, except my understanding of what needs to. But that church won’t change any more than my abusive husband will. It still makes me very sad though, because some of the women I left behind (including the pastor’s wife) are in abusive marriages and refuse to do anything about it because they have been counseled (or “shepherded”) that “marriage is hard” and we are “called to be an example to a secular world full of divorce.” These women were the ones I have been most grieved about as I do think they know Jesus but have been imprisoned by lies.

    Preach on, Pastor Jeff Crippen. You are a brilliant light in a dark land. Praise be to God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeff Crippen

      Free At Last- Thank you very much for sharing this. It is very encouraging. You said “that church won’t change any more than my abusive husband will.” That is absolutely true. Right now we are seeing the Southern Baptists do all kinds of image and damage control, claiming they are going to implement this program and that program and this and that policy, blah, blah, blah. But the fact is the a leopard cannot change its spots. Abuser friendly churches, like “christian” abusers, have opposed truth for years and years. They too have oppressed victims. They have covered up the evil. Birds of a feather…

      As you say, some church members and even abuse victims are brainwashed by such places and thus kept in bondage. But the powers that be in those churches, the ones who are false shepherds, the ones who joined in on the oppression of victims….they are not going to change. I don’t even bother with them anymore, other than working to try to expose them.

      And fundamentally, what is the real problem in such churches? Jesus tells us – “You must be born again.” That is to say, these are false shepherds, false churches, teaching a false gospel, building their towers of Babel that will never produce the fruit of the Spirit. Flesh only brings forth flesh. None of these kind want to face up to the real problem – they don’t know the Lord.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kate

    Sad to say, my church fails on all three counts. When pastors do not respect the agency of victims, they always end up adding to the abuse instead of alleviating it.

    Liked by 1 person

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