Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Author: Jeff Crippen Page 2 of 70

Narcissists are all about Image

Christian behavior is easy to fake and many in the church are naïve and gullible and are particularly vulnerable to the manipulations and deceit of the narcissist. The church is a prime hunting ground for narcissists, with little real accountability and significant opportunity for attention and [self] promotion. Narcissists are able and willing to adapt their behavior and words for the purpose of promoting their image and will use organizations, such as the church, to accomplish their goals.

Narcissism in the Church, David Orrison

Orrison is right on. His book is excellent by the way – available on Amazon. Notice that he identifies a (perhaps “the”) fundamental motive and makes the narcissist tick. Image. Promoting their image.

The narcissistic message does not build families. Rather, it builds the image.


Image, image, image. Entire families, as Orrison notes, can be nothing more than a tool used by the narcissist to promote his or her image. That image is, of course, a lie. It is a mask. A counterfeit. A fiction. But wicked people of this kind are often very, very skilled at creating and promoting an image that causes others to even envy them. “Just look at that family. What fine Christians the parents must be!”

Narcissist fathers or mothers work very hard to promote this fictional image. They are stalwarts in their church. They “serve.” They communicate in all sorts of ways that no one else can achieve the level of holiness that characterizes them.

But it is a house of cards. And as the years go by, as the children advance in age, the lie becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Such a home is devoid of the Spirit of Christ. For all their apparent godliness, inside they are full of dead men’s bones.

When anyone in the slightest way questions the image – the fury of these kind is unleashed. Other people only exist to promote the image. As soon as anyone is perceived as failing to do so, the narcissist has no more use for them. In fact, all along, these superior, entitled types deny any real existence of the people around them. Individuality is not permitted. Other people only exist for one reason – to envy and promote the narcissist’s image.

These types of family units are not that rare, and quite often their chosen field of operation is the local church. They come flattering, but their goal is to use. It is just as Paul warned the foolish Galatians –

Gal 4:17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.

Man Cannot Cleanse the Sinner of Sin

Jer 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.

The emphasis of this Scripture is, of course, not to somehow accuse the Ethiopian of being a worse sinner than other peoples (no doubt there have been wicked men in history who have tried to twist this verse to mean that). Rather, this is a declaration from the Lord that man cannot cook up his own remedy for sin. The sinner is a sinner. He can no more make himself pure and righteous than a leopard can decide not to have spots anymore.

John Bunyan illustrated this in part 2 of Pilgrim’s Progress where two fools named Fool and Want-Wit (ie, Witless) were trying to change the color of an Ethiopian’s skin by washing him. It reads like this:

They saw one Fool, and one Want-wit, washing an Ethiopian with intention to make him white, but the more they washed him, the blacker he was. Then they asked the Shepherds what this meant. So they told them, thus it is with the vile person; all means used to get such a one a good Name, shall in the end tend but to make him more wicked.

There are plenty of Fools and Want-wits around us today, and particularly in the local, visible church. Many professing Christians actually believe that by “loving” the wicked person, by “forgiving” the RASN, a fix can be effected. Filth washed away. Darth Vader becomes good once more because Luke just knew there was some island of goodness in him.

And notice – the more this kind of approach is taken, this business of human beings transforming the wicked into saints, the more evil the person becomes! A false gospel only produces counterfeits.

Have you ever had professing Christians get angry with you when you told them that RASNs never change? I have. Sometimes that anger has come from the actual victims of the RASN! One abuse victim told me angrily, “I don’t believe that! My God is bigger than that and He can save anyone.” I can assure you that her abuser has not become a saint.

God cannot save everyone. This is something God cannot do. Does this mean He is not omnipotent and sovereign? No. What it does mean is that God will never violate His holy being. He will not justify the unrepentant, unbelieving sinner. God cannot and will not and is not going to save Pharaoh.

I maintain that many local churches today are Fool and Witless. They are washing and washing and washing through all their self-invented methods, wicked people and the only result is that those wicked ones are just growing in their evil.

New Mid-Week Bible Study on Romans has Begun

This link will take you to the first in a new series of studies through the book of Romans. Two videos have been posted already, introducing this epistle and the Apostle Paul. If you subscribe to our channel (Light for Dark Times) and, as they say in youtube land, hit the bell icon, you will be notified when a new post is uploaded. I plan to publish one each week in addition to the Wednesday and Thursday morning studies (Ephesians and Revelation).

The videos are also published on our Sermon Audio site at sermonaudio.com When we make the videos we livestream them on both Facebook (Light for Dark Times) and on Sermon Audio. Generally we will do this on Friday mornings but the time may vary.

RASNs in Church and the Damage they do to Children

Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

3Jn 1:9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

Christians know that they are to fellowship with other Christians, and that we are to remember the Lord’s Day and gather together in Christ’s church. We are to train up our children in the Lord and one key way we do that is to take them to church regularly where they hear God’s Word taught and preached.

But what happens when we are taught that the only way to “go to church” is to get dressed up, hop in the family car, and drive down to the church building where we go to Sunday School and then the worship service? What happens, I ask, when that particular model of “church” is clung to at all costs? What do I mean by “at all costs”?

I mean, being so stuck in our idea of “church” that no matter if Jezebel or Diotrephes is running the show there, we still persist in showing up there each week with our children? In that rut, we seem to think that it is better to be in a visible, brick and mortar building with a pulpit and pews, even if RASNs are in charge. What if, just what if….there is the option of a small group of genuine believers where God’s Word is faithfully preached and where the people really love one another – would you embrace it or would to cling to that brick and mortar synagogue of Satan?

Do you understand my point?

If you take your children to a “church” where false believers abound, where everyone is told they are surely on their way to heaven (even though they walk and live in unrepentant sin), do you realize what that is doing to the children? Kids aren’t stupid. They sense when they are uncomfortable around an adult, but they really have no choice in the matter. Sunday after Sunday they find themselves around Jezebel and Diotrephes. That after all is where the big pipe organ and stained glass windows and programs for every age group are – and you can’t have a real church without those props, you know.

Do we EVER read God’s Word? Which of the 7 churches of Asia were free of Jezebel and her kind? Just two, and here is one of them:

Rev 2:8-11 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. (9) “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (10) Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (11) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

So think about this carefully? Would you choose Smyrna? Or are the bells and whistles of Laodicea what you want? To insist on taking your kids to Jezebel’s church is surely spiritual child abuse – it is causing the little ones to stumble. And you know what the Lord thinks about that.

The First Time You Realized Your RASN Never Loved You

Gen 4:8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Do you suppose that Abel thought Cain loved him? I mean, they were brothers. Abel was a righteous man, Cain was not (that is the reason he killed Abel). But I wonder – could it have been that Abel did not really understand the hatred his brother had for him?

Mothers love their children. Fathers love their children. Husbands love their wives. Close friends love one another. Unless, of course, one is a narcissist or a sociopath. In those cases, the “love” is just a sham. A deception utilized as a tool to use the target.

Did you think that your domestic abuser spouse loved you when you were first married? I suppose you did – I mean, generally why else would anyone marry someone, right? And did you once think that your narcissist parent loved you? Or that “good” friend who turned out to be one of our RASN categories?

My point is this – at some time it dawned on you that the love was a mask. It took you, most likely, a long, long time for you to see through that mask and even though it slipped numbers of times, you still clung to the notion that this person loved you.

But then there comes that time – and it is a really hard pill to swallow. A realization that is very, very difficult to wrap your mind around. In fact, it turns out, this spouse/parent/friend did not love you at all. They actually, you began to realize, regarded you with contempt. In their eyes you were stupid, beneath them, just an errand boy/girl to be used.

You saw glimpses of this – subtle smirks, cutting words, not-so-funny insults, but you just didn’t realize the true state of affairs. When you did, when the lights went on, when you finally understood that this person was in fact incapable of love, how did you feel? All those years – apparently they meant nothing and could be as easily discarded by the RASN as a if they never happened at all.

This kind of reality is very painful – and that pain doesn’t dissipate quickly. One day it will be gone though. The pains of this life will be swept away forever when the Lord Jesus Christ returns and takes us home. Crying, pain, tears, hurtful memories, trauma – all gone.

Know the House by its Fruits

Pro 3:33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

Zec 5:1-4 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! (2) And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.” (3) Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. (4) I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.”

We know that a Godly parent can have a prodigal child. We see this in the parable by that title – The Prodigal.

But what I want to address here is a pattern which I have seen repeatedly over the years. A pattern which the Scriptures above, and others, declare. It is this: When the children in a home, one after another, embrace the world and choose to walk in sin rather than following Christ, it reveals that the Spirit of the Lord has left that home. And the cause is to be found in the sin of one or both parents.

Now, I want to be very careful in handling this subject because I do not want to lay any false guilt upon a godly parent. There are exceptions. For instance, I know a man who was not born again until mid-life. Prior to that as he raised his children, he walked in sin. Not surprisingly, his children followed the world. Now however, he loves the Lord and does all he can to point his children to Christ. And I know there are other exceptions – the very common example of one spouse being a Christian while the other is a wicked abuser.

But I am speaking here of a too common pattern in which both parents are pretending to be Christians – perhaps that pretending is even quite convincing – but over the years you see the children rejecting Christ (or carrying on the hypocritical disguise of pretending religion) and following the world. When the children were small, it was much easier for the parents to put on an appearance of godliness while, in fact, denying the power of Christ.

This dynamic causes great confusion to us. Here we see what we thought was a fine Christian family, but as the years pass and the children grow up, the fruit is bad. We can remain blind to what this reveals – after all, it is always very hard to come to the realization that the whole house is built on the sand of false faith.

Pharisees beget Pharisees. Worldlings birth worldlings. The Spirit of the Lord is not present in such a home. Rather, as Zechariah’s flying scroll announces, the Lord’s curse is upon such a home. The fruit is bad because the root is bad. So let’s not be deceived. Something is terribly amiss with a place which claims to be the home of saints and yet the fruit coming out of that home is consistently rotten. A bad tree does not produce good fruit.

Those of you who are or have been married to a wicked spouse and you had had children in that marriage, have certainly seen and had to battle with the influence of an evil father or mother upon the children. And there are still more of you who are the children of an evil house – yet you have been rescued and saved by the Lord. These exceptions are the pure mercy of Christ, that we smoking brands were plucked from the fire.

But, let me emphasize this again, the pattern I am speaking of here is that of the deception which is carried out so often in churches. Namely, this:

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Eze 33:31-32 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. (32) And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.

The flying scroll of the curse of the Lord is upon such a house. The rottenness in the foundations of such a place will inevitably be revealed as the years go by.

Many Church Leaders are Guilty of Lording it Over the Flock

1Pe 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has surfaced on my radar once again. It isn’t the first time – that’s why I say “once again.” Still another domestic abuse victim has written to me and shared her story of how she was treated by her pastor and elders in spite of clear evidence of her husband’s abuse (and it was severe).

NOTE: I realize there will be exceptions in a few individual OPC churches. Exceptions, I mean, to what I say here. But I have received repeated reports over the years about abuse victims being further oppressed in this denomination (as well as in others of course).

The OPC (like several other Presbyterian denominations) takes great stock and delight in consulting and enforcing their “Book of Church Order.” The way they proceed is very similar to a secular civil court. It is typically heartless. They will cite this paragraph and that rule and then level formal charges against the accused. Along with these accusations you have the inevitable threats.

  • Obey us, submit to us, or else
  • You will be ex-communicated
  • Your soul is in danger of hell if you don’t repent and do as we say

And, of course, all of these heartless indictments and procedures are prosecuted by men who are absolutely ignorant of the nature of the case before them. They are fools. But a fool with power is a real danger. They are haughty. They will NEVER listen to correction. They are un-teachable. I don’t even try anymore. If their incompetency were exercised in the secular world in some profession, they would have their credentials removed and they would find themselves being sued for big bucks. But in the churches – nope. There is no accountability.

Well, hmmmm, I guess there IS accountability, isn’t there?

Jer 23:1-2 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (2) Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.

Two Demonic Skills RASN’s Possess

3Jn 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (10) So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

These words by which the Apostle John exposed Diotrephes, reveal two “skill sets” that most every Diotrephes (we will call them RASNs) possess. They are:

  • The ability to achieve power and control
  • The ability to accuse and thereby make everyone but themselves bear the blame

RASNs not only lust for power and control, they are quite accomplished at obtaining it. Think about this. Why is an abuser able to exercise power and control over, for instance, his/her spouse? How did they get a hold on this power? How was it that your abuser slowly but surely (or perhaps even very quickly) establish this power and control over you? I bet you don’t even remember. Because you didn’t even see it happening at the time.

Creeps, like Diotrephes, creep in with stealth. And before you know it, they have the keys to everything. How does it happen?

I think that part of the answer is related to the second diabolic skill set they possess – blaming, guilting, accusing, threatening. They are confident that they are never to blame and before you know it, you believe they are never to blame – YOU are!

RASNs are very skilled at offering tantalizing “bait” to their target – bait with a hook in it. That bait might be their reputation in the community, their skill at their career, their apparent “care” for others, etc. And once people take the bait, you guessed it, Diotrephes is running the show.

This wickedness has happened to me as well. More than once. You find yourself years down the road realizing that something sinister has happened. That you aren’t even yourself anymore. That Diotrephes has become your “go to” person. There is another name for this dynamic – it’s called “enslavement.”

Pride and Prejudice

1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

As many of you know, our church here has invited those who have been abused not only at the hands of a RASN, but also had that abuse added to by their church, to join us as their church. Some of you have even been ex-communicated for separating from an evil spouse. For you to continue in a local church has been virtually impossible. For others, there is simply no real, sound church locally to be found. This is not to be attributed to an unreasonable “pickiness” over minor issues. Numbers of you have chosen to become “distance members” of Christ Reformation Church, and you have really become part of us.

Now, there are Christians who struggle with this concept. This group wrestles with the honest question, for instance, of Scripture telling us to be sure and gather together and not forsake the assembling of the saints. I had those questions myself initially. But, in the end, I concluded that we are to gather together WITH THE SAINTS (see Hebrews 10 on this). Being part of a local, visible church that is filled with hypocrites, where abusers are protected and victims are oppressed, where habitual sin is tolerated and thus a false gospel is preached, is NOT gathering together with the saints!

Now, I am thinking about this topic because recently we ran into a professing Christian who was quite critical of our distance outreach. This person said, upon learning of our online members, that “yes, people have become just too lazy to get up and go to a real church, so they just sit at home and watch online.” Pride and Prejudice, you see. This individual had no knowledge of who our online members are (or even those of you who follow us regularly). They had no knowledge of the fact that, to my knowledge, NONE of you are “too lazy to get up and go to church.” I mean, such a person could be out there, but I regularly communicate with many of you and, in fact, those of you I know are genuine, committed believers who have been sorely oppressed, who would, in a moment join a real church if you could find one. But this critic has no knowledge of you, no knowledge of what you have been through, no knowledge that you hunger and thirst for God’s Word but haven’t been able, in spite of searching and searching, to find a place locally where that priceless pearl of the gospel is to be found.

Pride and Prejudice. Enemies of righteousness. This business of pride is vast. Over the years we have come up against it time and time again. We ourselves must battle it, but so many others choose to walk in this pit. Entitlement. Superiority. A demand for praise to be supplied by others. Those ensnared to it are drawn deeper and deeper into this abyss until they are either mercifully broken by the Lord, or they continue to descend, never to come out.

Christians must be humble. We must not behave toward others as if we know all about them, because we don’t. We must not judge someone because they don’t measure up to our traditions. Christians who have lived a sheltered life, raised up in a local church where there is a big, beautiful building, a sanctuary replete with a $150,000 pipe organ, fine woodwork, a big choir….and more…simply do not understand. They have never been the target of a wicked narcissist (or perhaps they are enslaved to one but don’t know it!). They don’t even realize that victims of RASN’s exist among them. And so, as was the case with this person we heard recently, to pronounce judgment upon sisters and brothers in Christ who are suffering, is to judge by a false standard. It is to be unkind. It is to speak in arrogance. It is to judge by outward appearance. And worst of all, it is to exalt oneself and speak out of a spirit of superiority and partiality – ‘I am better than you.’

Think carefully now. What was the local church like in early New Testament times – in the time for example of the Apostles? In the time of persecution from Rome? The day may well come, you know, when we are returned to such times – in fact, that day WILL come because Antichrist will one day be allowed, for a brief time, to establish his worldwide kingdom. Will this critic I am speaking of here dress up in their Sunday clothes and take a pleasant drive to the brick and mortar edifice, walk in unmolested as always? Of course not. In those days the church will have to meet secretly – in private homes and catacombs. And, might I suggest, gathering together via online means if possible.

Think of the Apostle Paul. How did the early churches hear from him? You know the answer – we see it in the New Testament. He wrote letters and they were read in the small local gatherings of believers in someone’s living room. Then those letters were passed on to others. Paul had never seen the Laodiceans in person –

Col 4:15-16 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (16) And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

If Paul had the internet, do you think for a minute that he would have refused to use it in order to gather together online with these people he considered his church?

Well, that is enough, I have gone on longer than usual. May the Lord keep all of us humble and deliver us from Pride and Prejudice.

Be sure and read this post at Light for Dark Times

If you go on over to my Light for Dark Times blog, you will find an important post entitled “An Acid Test to Reveal the Counterfeit.” It contains some real wisdom from John Bunyan and John Calvin on this subject.

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