Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

A Good Picture of a Bad Pastor in Action

The following art strip (I was going to call it a comic strip but it’s not meant to be comical.  Maybe a “sarcasm strip”?!)…was drawn by one of our blog family. It is based on the recent series “Stephanie’s Story” and how her ex “pastor” mistreated her.  Many thanks to Alison for drawing this. And by the way, her descriptive term “damned crafty” is indeed fitting. After all, Jesus called the wicked Pharisees children of the devil. This is truly damnable stuff that is regularly unleashed on victims.
[Note: Alison’s definitions of the terms she uses in the drawing are listed below from her comment on Stephanie’s Story]

Pastor’s rap sheet:
Willfully blind to Terrence’s abuse; lack of rightful empathy for victim. [Avoiding the Issue Fallacy]
Characterizing the living conditions as a “household budget issue” regarding lack of follow through on vermin-infested home and junk-filled property with picture evidence no less, and promise of washer dryer. For. Three. Years. [Minimization]
Commanded Stephanie to go home to her [arguably-non] husband. This pastor does the same things as Terrence! [Abusive control]
Believed Terrence’s lies about the girlfriend he took on the cruise. [Avoiding the Issue.]
Failure to acknowledge Terrence’s reviling/railing as abuse even as he did it before the pastor’s very eyes! The other counsellor in the room saw it for what it was: verbal/emotional abuse and belittlement. [Avoiding the Issue.]
Excuse after excuse for Terrence’s behaviour. [Rationalization Fallacy]
Insistence on binding Stephanie to the abusive relationship. [Bad theology.]
“That [potentially entrapping] future gate doesn’t bother you does it?” [Minimization, that is, : denial coupled with rationalization in situations where complete denial is implausible. The opposite of exaggeration.]
Controlling who Stephanie could and could not talk to. Same as the husband! [Now I’m worried about the pastor’s wife!]
Manipulation to subsequently create plausible deniability. “Oh we can’t remove you from membership because you are under discipline.” That they launched AFTER Stephanie’s resignation which IS allowed no questions asked, in order to continue to control Stephanie.
Falsely insisting Stephanie does not have grounds. [Bad theology.]
“Unbiblical divorce.” [Bad theology.]
“Divorce is a sin against God.” [Appeal to Heaven Fallacy.]
Lying about the progress he sees in Terrence. He must have some rose-coloured glasses!
“We never cease to pray for you.” [False piety.]
“[Abuse]…is inevitable in marriage.” [Stipulative Definition Fallacy.]
“God has allowed these struggles to make you and your husband more like Christ.” [Bad theology. There is no meritorious suffering in marriage. Further, you can’t make an evil person (the husband, as shown by his obvious bad fruit) more like Christ.]
“You sinfully distrusted your husband’s promise to work on living conditions. Shame on you for going to your mother instead of me! Your husband has confessed his sins before the whole church, doesn’t that break your heart?” [Appeal to Shame Fallacy.]
“YOUR vow is unbreakable and binding even if your husband breaks his. [Haha you are stuck]. [Bad theology.]
Referring to “[Terrence’s]…bad communication skills, refusal to clean yard” [Minimization.]
“We are praying earnestly that you repent of this ungodly divorce.” [More false piety and Stipulative Definition Fallacy.]
“I must emphasize..” [Fallacy of Accent/a.k.a. Fallacy of Emphasis.]
Sheriff’s visit painted as all Stephanie’s mother’s fault, when the sheriff insisted on seeing Stephanie despite Terrence’s belligerence; the sheriff, seeing the living conditions, told Stephanie’s mom to report the house to the county. [Mischaracterization — lying by omission]
Thomas Cranmer’s article dissed [in favour of more biblicism] from “king Jesus the Christ” [Appeal to Heaven Fallacy].
Grounds for divorce on the basis of non physical abuse, “..Not allowed! You would have to beat, twist, torture, and distort the scripture to get something like this.” [Proof by Assertion Fallacy (proposition is repeatedly stated.)]
Discipline for refusing to meet with the pharisees. And for submitting to unlawful rule. [Appeal to Authority Fallacy]


Preaching Perseverance and Patience to Abuse Victims? Time to get a Clue!


Biblical Law is for the Wicked, Not for the Righteous


  1. Rowan on the high mountain

    Alison’s cartoon is perfect, and thank you, Pastor Jeff, for this very clear charge sheet!
    If only physical abuse is acceptable as grounds for divorce in God’s eyes, wouldn’t that imply God cares more about the well-being of our bodies than of our hearts and souls? I have trouble squaring that with most of the New Testament.
    And the statement that God “allows” a man to abuse his wife to make them both more like Christ is an incredibly twisted representation of the idea that suffering can be redemptive. To claim it for the victim would be appalling enough, but for the abuser? Unbelievable! This bears no resemblance to the two of them struggling because one of them has been unfairly fired or gotten cancer, since the abuse was a pattern of sinful behavior on the the part of the husband.
    I’ve been concerned about the pastor’s wife since reading the first part of Stephanie’s story. Having read the entire account and thought about what might be going on there, what I suspect is that the pastor and his wife have an abusive dynamic in their marriage, quite possibly without what most people would technically consider abuse. Since childhood, I’ve witnessed this dynamic play out in a number of marriages in which the husband is domineering and the wife a bit timid. Early on, he responds to any disagreement from her by raising his voice or pounding his fist so that she backs down and tries harder to give him what he demands. As long as he gets what he wants, he treats her reasonably well, but resorts to occasional booster shots of covert threat if there’s any hint she isn’t enslaving her will to his. He usually also supports his family and provides decent living conditions, so nothing in the way they live would attract any attention.
    The man in these cases is still low-grade abusive, but he’s different from the more obvious abuser who escalates his behavior no matter how hard his wife tries to meet his demands and/or fails to take care of his family. When such a couple encounter a husband like Terrence, especially if his wife appears to have more self-respect than the average doormat, their assumption tends to be that he’s only escalating because his wife isn’t giving him what he wants, so they place the burden of change on her, even if they appear to call the husband to account for his actions. By blaming the abused wife, both the pastor and his wife can protect their image of their own marriage as a good one. The clearest evidence for this is the way the wife spoke to Stephanie, urging her to pray for and encourage Terrence while assuring her it would get better–by which I assumed she meant Stephanie would learn how to please her husband well enough that he wouldn’t resort to abuse to enforce his will.
    Escalating abusers are very useful to other men using an abusive dynamic to control their own wives, because their overt abuse reinforces the husbands’ covert threats and serves as a warning to the women of what could happen if they fail to do everything their husbands want.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Rowan!

    • Stormy

      Thank you Rowan—perfect I have never heard a more articulate description. I’m amazed at your insight, wisdom and ability to make sense of this horrific dynamic I see all around me in marriages. Whoa!! It’s just awful that women are still subjected to this in 2019. And that abusive men rally together to suppress the women they claim to love. I’m disgusted!

      • Rowan on the high mountain

        Thank you, Stormy, for your kind words, but I understand the dynamic as well as I do only because I’ve witnessed it from the cradle and have read the work of people wiser than I am in my effort to understand what I saw. I agree it’s horrific and wish more people would push back against it.

  2. GrayRock

    Stephanie’s ex-pastor strikes me as a textbook narcissist (as already mentioned by another commenter):
    1) Narcissists are image obsessed. The church seems to be an extension of the pastor’s big ego. Therefore its image must not be tainted by a divorce. He goes to great lengths to dissuade Stephanie from getting a divorce.
    2) Narcissists are control freaks. The pastor feels entitled to make life decisions for Stephanie.
    To him SHE is the culprit because she isn’t obedient, neither to him nor to her husband. (Guess how he treats his own wife!)
    Churches run by narcissists exist solely for the needs of the narcissist. They resemble cults rather than churches. In my observation, many pastors are narcissists.
    3) Narcissists manipulate and are very good at it, in this case evidenced by the unanimous votes for whatever the pastor suggests.
    Nevertheless, the church members are responsible for what they do when they allow themselves to be manipulated by their pastor.
    4) Narcissists lie. The pastor tells his congregation: “Terrance has not been … in an adulterous relationship.” But he goes on a cruise with a girlfriend. So this is not adulterous?
    5) Narcissists believe themselves to be gods: “when the church executes discipline [at the pastor’s behest] it is as if Christ himself was carrying it out”.
    6) Narcissists are vindictive. The ex-communication after Stephanie had already resigned from membership is his revenge for Stephanie being disobedient to him.
    7) Narcissists are abusive. He most certainly also abuses his own wife because all narcissists do.
    The pastor’s wife appears to have been brainwashed as a result of his manipulation and domination. I have observed this in long-time wives of narcissists. “Oh just pray and encourage him, it will get better. He needs your encouragement!” Maybe her husband told her this is what men need. Narcissists definitely need plenty of narcissistic supply all the time.
    8) In my observation, all male narcissists are chauvinists/misogynists. The pastor therefore sides with the male abuser, Stephanie’s husband.
    9) Narcissists do not love, ever. They have no idea what love is. Stephanie’s wellbeing is of no concern to her pastor.
    10) Narcissists do not have a functional conscience. Therefore they can consider themselves to be Christians in spite of all this toxic fruit.
    Glad you’re out, Stephanie!

    • Jeff Crippen

      And we are warned. 3 John tells us about Diotrephes who “loved to be first.” We are to rebuke and expel this kind, not choose them as pastors

  3. No one down here

    Pastor disbelieves the danger is ongoing. Pastor downplays current trauma responses. Pastor consistently “confronts” husband but believes the justifications of sin make that sin “ok.” Pastor thinks it’s ok for the abusive husband to continue lying, controlling, manipulating, and demeaning the wife because he “confesses” (actually, suspiciously like the Catholics…) pastor continues to push … communication with a liar. Pastor has bought rhetoric that the wife is at least in part responsible for being abused, due to character flaws or whatever.
    And yet, pastor is surprised when she leaves the church?
    This is not proper shepherding.

    • Jeff Crippen

      So according to Psalm 1 and many other scriptures, that pastor is supporting the wicked because HE is one of them.

  4. Wow, impressive art work! I hope we see more of it!

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