I have been a pastor since 1983, having been a police officer for 14 years before that. In 1993 I came as pastor to my present congregation, Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon.
In the early years of my pastoral ministry (really in the first 25 years!), abusive men and women were almost always in the pews. These were people, both men and women, who saw themselves through a mindset of entitlement to power and control. They were the “Diotrephes” (see 3 John) who lusted to be “first” and punished anyone who stood in their way through various abusive tactics.
I did not understand it for many years, but this abuse affected me so deeply that eventually when someone outside my own family was kind to me, it seemed like a foreign, strange thing. I ultimately realized that I had been isolated and robbed of any confidence that other people would want to have a relationship with me. When I finally told someone my story, they affirmed me and then said, “you and your wife are incredibly wounded people.” It still did not understand what he meant at the time, but years later as I researched the topic, those words came back to me and made sense.
As I learned about the tactics of abusers and their effect on the church, I began to share my insights. Eventually I preached a sermon series about domestic abuse which I originally called, “The Psychology of Sin.” Reactions were mixed, to put it mildly. They ranged from extreme gratification and excitement to anger that I would even mention this subject.
This sermon series was posted online at Sermon Audio, where it remains available to this day. More people heard it than I would have imagined. That series became the foundation for my first book, A Cry for Justice. Three more years of hearing people’s personal testimonies and coming to even greater understanding of the nature and dynamics of abuse and its effects on the victims resulted in a second book, Unholy Charade: Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church.
I have interacted with many abuse victims, their friends and relatives, their pastors and fellow church members (very few pastors want to hear about this subject), and others. Most of these victims are Christians and as such their abusers also claim to be Christians. The favorite chosen facade of these “Christian” abusers is one of pious, saintly, eminent “Christianity.” They cruelly abuse their families day after day behind the scenes and yet show up at church on Sunday playing their chosen roll which I call the “unholy charade.” They are the “poor pitiable victim” of a difficult wife, or the suffering, patient saint, a man of God who is a model of servanthood to others, and so on.
It is my settled conclusion that these “Christian” abusers are the most hard-hearted of any hard-hearted sinners to be found. It would not surprise me at all when we stand before the Lord at the final judgment to learn that these wicked ones were the “Esaus” for whom repentance was impossible, so knowingly did they trample underfoot the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 6:4ff, 12:15-17).
As I have worked to expose abusers and validate their victims, there have been many attacks – mostly from within the visible church. But in over 35 years now of pastoral ministry I have never experienced anyone more grateful or enthusiastic than these abuse survivors who have endured so much evil. Evil not only at the hands of their abuser, but in their churches where they should have been able to find help and rescue.
They are disbelieved, discounted, their abuse minimized, while their abuser is enabled, considered to be a fellow Christian who has issues that through patience and forgiveness and counseling can surely be “fixed.” When victims do not go along with this fiction, they are punished, ostracized, and even ex-communicated from the church.
In the posts which will be forthcoming on this blog, you will find that I repeat these two points which I consider to be fact and wisdom. Many people bristle when they hear me state them. Here they are:
1. Abusers never change.
2. A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed. It needs to be ended.
Sound too harsh to you? Do those statements seem to go against everything you have been taught in your church about salvation, forgiveness, repentance, marriage, and divorce? Well, before you click “exit” and walk away, I encourage you to stick with us and read on as we post weekly articles that, I believe, will prove these points and more. Perhaps, just perhaps, we who have been raised in local evangelical churches have not always been taught the truth of Scripture as our teachers claimed.
May the Lord use this ministry and bless it to the ends of exposing the Unholy Charade and setting captives free.