Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Seeing, Yet not Seeing Evil

Mat 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.

Man and Water Buffalo, Philipines, 1945

This carving has been around longer than I have. My father purchased it in the Philipines in 1945 when he was there near the end of World War 2. What has this got to do with abuse and evil? Let me explain.

This carving has been present for my entire life. In the home I was raised in. In my parents’ home each time I would go there to visit. And now it is in my living room. It has been present constantly, so constantly in fact that I don’t even see it. If I were to envision our living room where it is, I probably wouldn’t even include the thing in my mental picture. Common things in our lives are often invisible to us. Seeing, yet we do not see.

And that is how evil is when we are raised up in it. When we live in it. When we are immersed in it. Sometimes we see it but just explain it away, but I think even more often we don’t see it at all. We don’t even think about it. It becomes like the air we breath, like the stop sign at the street out in front of our house that we pull up to every day as we go to work. You don’t even think about it. You stop for that sign, but if you tried later on to call up an actual memory of seeing the sign and stopping for it and looking both ways – you couldn’t. You draw a blank.

I suspect that psychologists have some kind of name for this phenomenon. I don’t know the name, but I do know that the thing exists. And this blinding effect of evil is….very evil. It enables wickedness to abuse us sight unseen. I suppose this is partly what Paul meant when he said that Satan can appear as an angel of light and his servants as sons of righteousness.

This is also why abuse victims sense such a HUGE feeling of relief – so much so that they often break out into tears and sobbing – when someone begins to NAME the evil they have been subjected to for so long. There it is! This is the thing! It is real and it is there and you aren’t crazy.

And those are just some thoughts that this carving brought to my mind today when I looked at it for the bajillionth time – and saw it.


Loyalty is a Fundamental Quality of Love


The Haughty Evil of the Wicked and Their Just End


  1. freedom123joy

    Now I know that Mr. Crippen will go to any lengths to make a point, I LOVE THE VISUAL EXAMPLE! It does get the point across. We can grow so used evil that it is dangerous by becoming paralyzed by fear and staying when we should have left or dealt with the abuse a long time ago. This is what I am dealing with, knowing it’s wrong to still be in the home with the abuser and seemingly adjust to the evil and allowing too many years to go by in the mire. Thanks for the wise insight, I have to get busy finding my place in life and making those hard decisions by “stepping out of the boat”!

  2. Finally Free

    Part of the problem, I believe, is that humans are so conditioned to think highly of everyone. If we don’t readily excuse the abusive behavior of someone, others will try to convince us. “Oh, he’s just a big flirt.” Society especially imposes these excuses on women and children, but it happens to men too.
    Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, talks about how much people twist all logic in the critical time window that we might instead use to get away from someone. He mentions a woman in Los Angeles who was attacked from behind at her apartment. When she turned around, she saw that her assailant was wearing a ski mask. It was summer in Southern California, but she thought to herself that he was wearing a ski mask because he was going skiing.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes. de Becker’s book is excellent

    • freedom123joy

      Yes, the tricks we play. Following God and not man has become increasingly important to me, and I am convinced it takes more courage to follow the Lord than to follow the crowd. I will be looking up that book, it sounds great.

  3. Seeing it

    De Becker’s book is great, as is this posted visual to get across seeing yet not seeing. In fact the visual was not only a great reminder, it is a full-on depiction of what I knew/did to survive for so many years – again, you hit home.
    Growing up in a very religious family, and being sent to the private school that demanded your compliance even more so, left me many a day praying to statues of Mary, proclaimed saints and other idols – in fact, I/we practically prayed to anyone but God. The underlying message was we were not worthy of going to him directly with all of our prayers so we prayed to these other idols (literally pictures, statues and the like) who could speak to our unworthy prayers. We walked by and saw these idols, but didn’t see them, for years.
    Worse, we went to medians to confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Instinctively as a child, teen and young adult I knew there was something so terribly wrong with all of this, I started to see it – and really see it too – and eventually challenged it – and boy did I learn to shut my mouth!
    Finally I left all of it, them, the religion, the whole enchilada. When I would return to visit (on as rare occasion as possible) it was practically like walking into barbed wire fences in their homes – the idols I had not seen, but seen, all of those years before were now so boldly there and I was /am horrified at it – it was short of feeling like you were hitting barbed wire each time you passed one of them. Yes, it was all there, just as always, and although barbed wire in one way, it was also a relief in another to really see it – and see it for what it was/is (praise God!).
    Fast forward years later, and after the horrible abuse in marriage, I still recall the seeing but not seeing again in my very own home and those of Christian “friends”. And the same as before, when I questioned I was squashed by the self righteous. I cringe at the thought of all of the scriptures they smeared around their homes to appear so in tune with Christ, all the while I was having that same “what on earth?!” feeling as I did growing up, they paraded scripture around as a mask of Christian perfection to cover up their lives that were as broken as the rest of us?!! There is a difference in humble presentation of the Word, and the masking version – a big difference! It was the seeing but not seeing feeling unraveling all over again, this time behind those proclaiming Christianity in now what seems a performance. I cringe too at how the abuser I was married to paraded his Bible around and wanted biblical references visible in our house, which isn’t in itself at all bad…. except it too was masking the evil that lived there, he did this all the while as he unmercifully tortured me behind the scenes as if I was his personal game piece – too be abused and all the while mocking my relationship with Christ. I anguished many a day as I knew it was the seeing but not seeing for anyone who entered our home – we were one of those who used scripture to mask the severe brokenness of our home, it too was a performance. And when I spoke up I paid dearly for it.
    Bottom line, seeing but not seeing is real…. BUT…. so is the Holy Spirit’s prompting, yes, that gnawing feeling that just won’t let you be, or that one that is practically waving banners within you when you realize you are seeing it now. And regardless if anyone else is seeing it, when you do see it, that is all that matters.
    Thank you for the reminder and the message Pastor Crippen.

  4. Lynn

    I think the word your looking for is desensitization pastor Crippen. When you are constantly in the presence of evil and it’s not dealt with in a godly manner and removed, our minds become desensitized to it. You can see it in today’s churches. Certain sins are now being tolerated, accepted or even celebrated in the name of ‘love.’
    Abuse is getting passed on from one generation to the next because most proclaiming Christians can’t identify real evil in their midst, and instead chase after and get riled up and much more minor issues. They will ignore spiritual and sexual abuse, but a woman teaching men that’s a line too far. Heaven forbid a woman hold a place of leadership and authority or use her teaching gifts to edify the whole body of Christ – which may, gasp, include men – and the whole system rallies to snuff that perceived sin out swiftly.
    While I don’t have a clear answer on women as pastors or church leadership, I don’t see the scriptural support for placing women under the authority of men. Doing so violates the command that Christians are to be known for their love of each other. Subjugating an entire gender based on the interpretation of a couple of verses the New Testament seems like the work of the devil, not God. In Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor gentile, man or woman. Christ is the only mediator of all Christians – male and female, not a woman’s husband, father or pastor.
    Jesus told us the two greatest commandments are to love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The great commission to ALL believers is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in them name of the father, son and Holy Spirit. How can women participate in the great commission if they are not permitted to teach? In light of these commands, how does it make sense to subjugate women and have them deny their god-given talents by placing them under the authority of men because of a couple of verses that Paul wrote regarding women? That is not a loving thing to do, it subverts the work and message of the gospel, and has resulted in the abuse of women in the church for the last 2 millennia. That is the pig of patriarchy smeared with the lipstick of tradition trying to pass itself off as godliness. Let he who has an ear let him hear…

    • Jeff Crippen

      Some great points here Lynn. Thank you. It seems that there is always a danger of taking Scripture that was meant for a certain problem or context and which of course STILL is to be applied today BUT not in a wooden, unbending manner like the Pharisees would do with the Sabbath for instance. I don’t have these issues all sorted out either, but as Lynn says here, I do know that God’s Word is never going to tell us to oppress anyone. If churches have embraced a theology of “men are in authority over women,” then something has really gone wrong. Plainly the Bible nowhere teaches such a thing. And frankly, it is this business of men over women that is rampant in the churches.
      And thank you for that word – “desensitization.”

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