Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Thank You to Carma for this Term: Toxic Positivity

Jer 37:19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land’?

In our current sermon series on the book of Jeremiah, we meet large numbers of false prophets who claimed to speak for the Lord. Their message was the exact opposite of Jeremiah’s. According to them, there was no way that God would ever hand Jerusalem over to the Babylonians. “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,” was their motto. “We are His covenant people. His temple is right here in this city. He will bless us and bless us no matter what.”

These were lies of course, and when the Babylonian armies laid seige to Jerusalem, Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah…”where are your prophets now?” They were nowhere to be found. Their message was a lie and as such, it was poison. Toxic. Deadly. Jerusalem and the temple were in fact destroyed, the people slaughtered, and others carried off to captivity. All because they refused to love the truth spoken by the Lord through His true prophet.

Recently, a lady named Carma wrote a comment on a short post I put on Facebook. I was writing about how the “glass-is-always-half-full” philosophy is so destructive. It refuses to see evil. It twists everything into positivism – and excuses evil. It always sees the “good” that surely must be lurking somewhere in the most wicked person. Carma said that she gave this kind of thinking a name – “toxic positivism.” This nails it and I thank her for it. Toxic positivism.

This is the kind of garbage that is laid on abuse victims in their churches so typically. “Your husband just needs understanding. He is really a good person. He isn’t perfect, but we must see the good in him and be patient.” Here is Carma’s description:

It’s a term I made up out of observations, and realize it is a form of denial, saying positive affirmations for example, with the belief it will make everything better. I used to say, “I’ll be a better wife tomorrow.” “I’ll make him happy tomorrow.” “I’m going to be the best wife ever because I’m a hard worker,” etc., every night before bed. It kept me holding onto the hope that God would move in the ex husband’s heart, and soften it. All the positive words I said didn’t change the situation or him. Toxic positivity is a thing, even with PTSD,…think positive thoughts and it will go away. This is similar to toxic faith, if you prayed more you wouldn’t have cancer. I’ve seen people in palitive care dying, and their loved ones still in denial saying “think positive thoughts and you will rally. We know it. You can beat cancer.”

Toxic positivism is poison. It is deadly. It enables the wicked. It energizes evil. It denies the truth of God’s Word as it denies reality. It shuts down victims when they seek help – “well, let’s see the sunny side in all of this. Let’s turn to a brighter note.” And then it just blows off the grief and pain of the victim. Toxic Positive people are toxic. To themselves and others. They actually embrace a false gospel. They deny the wickedness of the human heart. It was Toxic Positivism that largely led to World War 2 in Europe. The allies refused to see the evil in Hitler, even though the evidence was right in front of their eyes and it nearly destroyed them and it did destroy millions of others.

I have found that Toxic Positive people do not like the plain and truthful teaching of God’s Word. Why? Because the Bible shocks and threatens their toxic philosophy. The Bible talks about evil all the time. Jesus told the wicked they are children of the devil. God announces His judgment upon the wicked He exposes. Wisdom books like Proverbs would be gutted if a Toxic Positive person edited them. Which is exactly what is happening week after week in the churches. Scripture is gutted by their red pens of unbelief.

Jerusalem came down. And this present world is coming down. The wicked are headed for judgment and hell. Each one will give account to Christ and He isn’t going to buy their Toxic positivism-

Mat 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

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7 Comments

  1. lg

    I think this is a very American thing.
    For example, I noticed as American’s we are always saying as a greeting or small talk: “have fun!” or “did you have fun?” as if that is the ultimate goal. I have caught myself saying it absent-mindedly to my daughter all the time.
    I think a lot of people are starting to get sick of all the empty positivity talk…. I wonder if that might one of the reasons the “get easily offended at everything” movement is gaining momentum.
    I remember years ago reading an article about the book of Ruth written by VANEETHA RENDALL RISNER, who is wheelchair bound due to childhood polio and lost a son which resulted in a divorce.
    I have not read many articles by her, but this one I remember. Because she addressed Naomi’s bitterness (Ruth 1:19–21) as an example of honesty. Like Job, Naomi did not lose her faith in the midst of trial and bleak circumstances, but instead was honest about her circumstance. She did not feel like she had to exude a positivity, paste on a smile and adopt the “fake it till you make it” mantra to demonstrate her faith.
    It is a balance: on the one hand my mom would easily pull me down into her apocalyptic pit of despair, but my ex husband would be the other extreme: I was never allowed to have any feelings that were not happy and bouncy (unless he was upset about something, then I should be upset at the same thing). I was never allowed to be upset, tired, sad. It was several years after the divorce before I learned that this is typical of narcissists.
    Our increasingly narcissistic culture and toxic positivity go hand in hand.
    I think life for Christians is going to get ver difficult in the days to come – but God tells us to not be afraid, but be strong and courageous and promises He will be with us through the trial.
    I love the encouraging verse: Eph 5:19: Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit, singing and making melody to the LORD.
    When we read through the Psalms — they are so raw and honest. There is no toxic positivity in them. We have lost the “art of encouragement” and instead replaced it with shallow and toxic positivity.
    *****
    “When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. ‘Is it really Naomi?’ the women asked.
    ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she responded. ‘Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?’”
    Ruth 1:19–21

  2. Em

    Thank you Pastor Crippen, you are so right. I never had a term for the lie(s) of positive thinking, so this is extremely helpful.
    It took me a long time to figure out that the power of positive thinking is just a refusal to acknowledge the existence of evil. If we refuse to see or recognize evil, if we refuse to acknowledge the existence of evil, then we are enabling and excusing the evil – just as you say. If churches teach this, and I’ve heard many that do, then what are they really teaching? The lies of satan? Certainly not the truth of Christ.
    The several Christian “friends” I tried to talk to during the worst time in my life could not even listen without trying to tell me to cheer up and “help” me to see the good in him and all of my torment! What good is there in being ripped to shreds and destroyed? One “friend” even accused me of gossiping. It never occurred to her that I was not only telling the truth that happened personally to me, but only a very small portion of that truth. I quickly learned to shut up about it, but it was enough to make me question my own perception, reality, and sanity. Then I found your blog and sermons and a few other sites that also helped and still help. Those “friends” are no longer part of my life, I’ve moved on and walked away.
    It’s not me, it’s not any victim, it’s not ever the victim – it’s evil and lies, the lies of satan. Those lies keep people blind, deaf, and immature.
    Freedom is found in truth, the truth that this is an evil world, that evil certainly does exist, and that we need a Savior! The truth of Jesus helps us see reality for what it is, it helps us mature, and it really does yield freedom from believing satan’s lies, and there are so many.
    Thank you.

  3. Free

    This is an accurate term. It’s part of the tactic that people closest to you use when they say that you “should be glad” meaning now that your divorced from the abuser, “you’re lucky” because you have to start completely over and change everything about your life to escape the violent attacks by the now-turned-stalking abuser, “love covers all wrongs”, just “pray for them”, etc. It just goes on and on and on all in the name of fake positive statements that as you said, excuse the abuse. And sadly – yet again – these thoughtless and harmful comments misplace blame onto the very person that was so grossly abused and remove it from the very person who chose to abuse. There are way too many churches that seem to have either a shame-based or suffocating fake positivity to handle things that are loud and clear evil, and would require them to take a real stand against it, yet they get away with not doing so by pretending that is the Lord’s will to dump fake positivity comments all over you instead. Abuse is never the Lord’s will, and that includes defaulting to fake positivity to gloss over evil.

  4. lg

    Invalidating was the word that kept coming to my mind as I was thinking more about the term toxic positivity.
    What makes the all the positivity messages so toxic is that are so invalidating: invalidating of the suffer’s experiences, invalidating of the truth and reality of evil, and invalidating of the true promises of God for those He loves.
    The invalidation — the toxic positivity — is another form of emotional and psychological abuse.

  5. Sarah Howard

  6. Ms. E.

    I see so much of this in our church culture. Thank you Ms. Carma, for giving this a name!

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