I receive communications from pastors or other people in churches who are doing “counseling,” with some regularity. I won’t say “frequently” because most of them think that they know all they need to know and I find that they really are not teachable, so I don’t waste a lot of time dealing with them. Once in a while someone who is sincere will write and ask for help, but they are a rare breed.
Here is an example of the kind of thing I receive. Read it and then mull it over and chew on it a bit and then let me know what you think. Spoiler alert – I am also including below our friend Kelly Orr’s take on it:
Dear Pastor Crippen,
I’ve recently read your book “Unholy Charade.” It was presented to me by a spouse in my church who is undergoing marital difficulties and may consider herself to be an abuse victim. What I’m wondering, following my reading of your book is how in your view does a pastor differentiate between a difficult marriage and an abusive one? – or an unhappy marriage from an abusive one? While I see some validity to the things you say about abuse victims, the thought also occurs to me that your book has the potential for throwing the door wide open for easy divorce. All that’s needed is for a spouse to create a rationale for calling him/her an abused victim. Is it not true that some form of abuse can be found in every difficult or unhappy marriage situation? I’d appreciate your thoughts on knowing when a marriage crosses a line and how to recognize that line.
How did I respond? Well, after my blood pressure level lowered again, I simply said this: “Read the book again. And this time, really think about what it says. Your questions are answered clearly in the book. You still don’t ‘get it.'”
You see, this fellow’s questions on the surface to most people sound like, good, honest, genuine inquiries, right? But there are red flags all over the place in what he says which tell us he is incompetent to counsel an abuse victim or to deal with an abuser. Let me give you Kelly’s reaction and you will see what I mean:
Good grief! Really. Even reading the phrase “easy divorce” makes me feel irritated. When is divorce easy? He sounds like a legalist wanting an easy answer to making a judgment about someone else’s situation. He is trying to take away her perspective. Now that, in my mind, is controlling. I like your suggestion to tell him to read it again. If he can’t figure it out, he should remove himself from the privilege of giving any input into her life. He should just refer her on to an abuse professional like the domestic violence center and be quiet. He has no empathy. He doesn’t believe her and he minimized her situation. He thinks he knows better than her and that he gets to make some decision about her life.
It makes me angry and I want to tell her to run far away from him.
What do you think? What red flags do you see in what he says? And let me know what you think about this business of the “difficult marriage”? Hmmmm…. What is that? What does this concept tell us about this pastor’s theology of salvation, of the new birth, of who a Christian is in Christ???