Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Focus-Shifting: It's The Tool of Blame-Shifting

2 Corinthians 10:10 ESV  For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

The real issue at Corinth was the truth of the gospel and the false gospel wicked “apostles” were introducing. They hated Paul and they hated the truth of Christ, but instead of arguing what we might call the “merits of the case,” they changed the focus and made attacks upon Paul’s style of speech and physical appearance.
This business of shifting the focus from the real issue to some detour topic is a sure sign that evil is afoot, working to pull off another “shift” – the shifting of blame.

With very, very, very few exceptions (the exceptions being where there was true repentance by the real culprits), evildoers such as domestic abusers quickly work to change the focus of the matter. If you have dealt with a domestic abuser, you know this business quite well. You’ve seen it. The perpetrator of the abuse or other evil is confronted. Almost immediately (because it is in their mental DNA), the real issue – their wickedness – is sidestepped, put aside, and a new focus is introduced.
For example, over the years we have had to deal with wicked people in our church. We didn’t ask to do this, we didn’t create the situation. But there it was. Let’s say a lady who was a church member exploded in anger one Sunday right before the worship service, in view of others, because she didn’t like a minor change in the order of service. And this wasn’t the first time. It was not an isolated incident in regard to this lady.
The pastor had this incident of sin dumped on his plate. He didn’t ask to be the one to deal with it, but, well, as Jeeves or Wooster might put it, “there it is.” Long story short, the lady was admonished by the pastor for her sin at a subsequent worship team meeting. He had tried to talk to her privately but she refused. Once admonished, she stormed out of the meeting in anger and resigned from her position.
Now, what was her subsequent response? What did she tell her friends and allies? And what did her friends and allies say about it all? You can guess. It went something like, “I don’t like the way he talked to me. I don’t like the way he handled it. Yes, she is an angry person, but he needed to be more loving to her.” Yada, yada, yada.
What had happened? The focus, the real issue, had been sidestepped and exchanged. The ensuing discussions of the matter would no longer be about the real issue – her sin – but about blaming the pastor. About how he handled things. And voila!! Just like that, the pastor becomes the culprit and the real culprit becomes the victim.
“Well, he preaches the Bible, but we don’t like his style.” Or, in regard to a domestic abuser – “Yes, he was very angry toward his wife, but you know she pushed his buttons.” From then on, the button-pusher would be the topic of discussion and blame.
Whenever – and get this down soundly in your thinking – whenever the focus is changed from the real evil to a focus upon the whistleblower or upon the victim, you can be certain that this wicked tactic is operating and the chief operator in it is the real evildoer. It is long past time for pastors and professing Christians to get their act together and wise up to these things.
“We are not here to discuss how you were admonished for your sin. We are here to discuss your sin and to call you to repentance from it.” 
“But she/he….” – “No. Forget about she and he. The subject of our meeting here is YOU.”


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  1. Noka

    This reminds me of these verses:
    Proverbs 13:1
    A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
    Proverbs 15:12
    A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.
    Proverbs 9:7
    Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
    Proverbs 9:8
    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
    Proverbs 29:9
    If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

  2. Snapdragon

    I have seen blameshifters who outrightly accuse another person of the exact sin that THEY themselves are guilty of. They sound ludicrous, as if things are literally switched around in their brain, because it is such an instinctual reaction. Somehow they make it sound just believable enough to leave you questioning who was wrong. Then there are others who always try to make you share in the blame, “it was both of us”, “I’m sorry for MY part.” “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but you need to understand that the way you confronted me about it really broke me.” (i.e. “ the consequences of my sin are your fault”)

  3. Elly

    Shifting blame, projecting, gaslighting, etc. are constant characteristics of an abuser. I was with one once, and as we have a beautiful daughter together I continue to be subjected to this, but not as directly as I am not living with him (as does our daughter sadly whom he uses a a pawn). In fact, years ago when I quickly had to leave our home at the time due to escalating violence, I was then told that I “provoked” his behaviour. Interestingly, both my abuser (my husband at the time), and his enabling mother, echoed the view that I provoked his behaviour. Unbelievable. Nothing I feel can change an abuser’s ways. My abuser now uses his church sadly as his sanction and sadly has a Pastor that supports him and only sees his view (as I previously, years ago met with the same Pastor, this was before my then husband agreed to go to the church). That Pastor once told me directly that he sees that my husband is following what is right and that one day God would judge me (um, he will actually be judging all of us, including Pastors!).

    • Free

      Excellent posting and comments. When you see someone seeking to directly or indirectly sabotage you, the blame shift is the start – the web of the deflections gets bigger as time goes on. The book of Proverbs raises this over and over again – do not support or engage with this behavior. It is hard to resist their snares, particularly those in your church, work, family or friend circles – yet you can. To survive and also thrive, truly believe it’s a must.

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