Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

We All Begin in Naivete About Evil — But We Must Not Stay There

 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?  (Luke 6:39)

An abuse survivor made the following excellent comment: 

I grew up very sheltered, I mean genuinely sheltered and protected in a godly Bible-believing home. And if someone had just walked up to me and started describing an abusive situation in a “nice Christian home”, I wouldn’t have been able to understand. I wouldn’t have accused the person of lying, but I wouldn’t have been able to grasp that level of evil and deceit hiding under the façade of Christianity. I would have looked for some other explanation, some way that there was some sort of misunderstanding or something.

I know now that that innocence and naivete on my part would have made me ripe for being manipulated into aiding the abuser, but it would have been genuine ignorance on my part, not evil. I didn’t even begin the process of really understanding that abuse as it really is even existed until I read your blog a couple of years ago when I was 19, and things have been slowly filtering through my brain since then. I guess I’m just trying to say is that there are others like me who have just been so sheltered that they truly can’t comprehend such things in their most raw form.

So keep on going after the bad guys — especially the subtle ones — but please remember to give people like me a chance. (I’m not saying you haven’t been; I’m just sort of throwing the idea out there.)

Mary is the kind of genuine Christian who we want to help become wise in regard to evil. Like her, those of us who grew up in a Christian home, sheltered from evil, are (or were) largely clueless when it comes to the existence, the nature, and the tactics of wickedness especially when it parades as Christian and creeps into the church. We thought that our local church was a place where nice people come together and love one another and sing praises to the Lord and everyone is happy. Sometimes the pastor would mysteriously disappear and a new pastor would come, or at other times some people who used to be very active suddenly left to be seen no more. But those things were for the deacon board and such. We didn’t worry about it really.

But in fact, as we now know, evil lurked. It always does. Satan always comes into Eden. The moment Jesus entered this world Satan began his attacks to destroy him. The devil and his agents inevitably creep unnoticed into any place where the gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and lived. 

This is where we as the church have no excuse for this naivete. What I mean is that people like Mary, people who are genuine sheep, are in the local church so that the shepherds can protect them, teach them, and help them become wise. And that wisdom necessarily must include becoming wise about evil. The Bible is absolutely filled with such instruction. Teaching and preaching that fails to so equip the flock is like basic training that doesn’t teach soldiers how to shoot a rifle, or worse — that doesn’t teach them about the enemy!

Oh, sure, we had classes on the doctrine of Satan and demons. We heard about his origins and the various names Scripture gives him. But we weren’t taught about the actual hands-on tactics that he uses (the same kind that abusers use against us). We weren’t taught about what his agents look like. Yes, we were told that Satan can come as an angel of light and that his servants disguise themselves as sons of righteousness, but what we weren’t told is that this means that Mr. Smith, good old “godly” Mr. Smith that everyone believes is the pillar of the church, could very well be an emissary of darkness. We weren’t told that all of this deception Scripture identifies for us means that these things are happening in OUR church, and that the fellow up there reading the Scriptures each week from the podium may actually be a most wicked abuser of his wife. We weren’t told that there are women (and sometimes men) in OUR church who are suffering horribly at the hands of an evil spouse who parades under a cloak of saintliness each week.

Such things you see, are too unpleasant, too unbelievable.  And there is the crux of the thing. Unbelievable. Unbelief. Lack of faith in the Word of God that reveals these things to us. Study theology and Bible doctrine all we want, memorize catechisms and be well-versed in our confessions of faith, we will remain absolutely ignorant of the enemy and his tactics and his agents in disguise among us. There is a bridge that must be crossed from the realm of systematic theology to the world of practical wisdom about what all that theology necessarily entails in real life and in our churches. Most Christians haven’t crossed that bridge. Many don’t want to.

All of this reveals, in my opinion, a widespread scarcity of truly wise shepherds to lead God’s people. I used to think that such wisdom could be obtained by going to seminary. I no longer believe that. In my seminary years I never came across one single, godly, wise professor who was battle-scarred and understood the wiles of the enemy. On top of that, there was a climate in the seminary that squelched real honest discussion of and instruction about such things. Happy talk. That’s what we want.

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1 Comment

  1. Noka

    This reminds me Rachel Denhollander said “There’s no greater cowardice than chosen ignorance”.

    So true that churches do not go beyond confessional theology and it’s concerning when pastors don’t grow and teach beyond whatever they were taught in seminary. Sometimes I get the impression that they are trying to keep people ignorant on purpose.

    As far as my own personal growth, this is something I still grapple with in some ways. I can see how much I’ve changed and grown in the last 3 years, but I’ve also changed my mind on things I never thought I’d change over.

    In some ways I’m so glad I think differently now, but I regret that I was too staunch in my convictions before. It’s so hard to see deception until you’re out of it though, especially when spiritual leaders prey on trust and zeal for the truth. The only thing I ever wanted was to be Biblical and all I ever got was a distortion. It can be so very disorienting. It makes me wonder on what else will I change my mind again? It makes me doubt myself and think that I’ll never be able to stand my ground on anything again.

    My only comfort is that we have the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. Otherwise, I’d end up like one of those agnostics who’s always looking for the truth while never finding it.

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