Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Author: Jeff Crippen Page 2 of 78

The “Right Now” in the Moment Thinking of the Abuser

I recently heard Dr. Les Carter (find him on Youtube) mention this “right now” mentality of the narcissist and I wanted to call it to your attention. This is a very, very typical characteristic of the RASN (reviler, abuser, sociopath, narcissist) and it is one reason the Bible calls wicked people, fools.

RASNs do not think about the consequences of their abuse. They don’t look ahead. They only operate in the moment, and specifically in the moment when they engage their abusive, evil tactics. Largely this is because they want immediate satisfaction against their target. They want things like revenge. Vengeance is mine, says the RASN. And I will have it now.

But wait, Mr. RASN, did you ever take even a moment to consider the consequences of your actions? The answer is, “no.” He doesn’t. He doesn’t consider the harm his actions might do, or the longer-term effects. He doesn’t even consider the negative effects that will come about on himself! All he knows is that he has been “wronged,” and he is going to punish. He never mulls over even for a second wisdom like this:

So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! (James 3:5)

And so he destroys his marriage, he destroys his wife, he destroys and alienates his children, he harms himself economically, and he adds to the fires reserved for him on the Day of Judgment. But he gets his revenge, and that is all he cares about.

God Hands the Abuser Over to Evil – And it is Right to Escape

Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, for the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD was with him. When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him. (1Sa 18:9-15)

My thanks to a friend who called this Scripture to my attention. King Saul is a clear picture of a RASN, of an abuser lusting for power and control, and there are important and encouraging lessons to be had here.

Saul, first of all, was jealous of David’s successes. So much so that his entire attitude toward David was one of suspicion. Suspicion of what? That David was working to take Saul’s throne. I think that Saul knew full well that David was the Lord’s anointed, that the Lord was with David and was not with him (Saul).

Domestic abusers regard their targeted victim with suspicion. Why? Because they see their spouse as a threat. I think that domestic abusers actually fear their victim. Why else would they expend so much energy and resources to keep them under control? “Now Saul was afraid of David, for the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.

Now, notice carefully that the time came when the Lord handed Saul over to evil. An evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul. This is a very curious statement but it shows us that even Satan and his evil minions are under the Lord’s sovereignty. He uses even demons for His purposes.

Why did the Lord do this? It was a judgment upon Saul for his sin. The Lord hands the wicked over to evil when they refuse to repent. And in this case Saul “raved in the midst of the house.” His hatred for David was ignited into a flame of fury and he threw a spear at David in an attempt to kill him. How is this to be explained? Simply that Saul had been handed over to evil by the Lord. He chose the devil and to the devil he was given.

I believe that this very same thing happens in regard to the domestic abuser (and all other RASNs). The point comes when these self-hardened evildoers are given over to the power of their sin. Given to their father the devil so that they rage against all righteousness, especially the righteousness of their target of abuse. There is no return from this bondage. Abusers never change.

Notice very, very carefully what David did. He escaped from Saul’s presence. And he would continue to flee from him. He did not just remain there and “take it.” He fled. And the Lord protected him. The Lord approved of David escaping.

Wouldn’t you say that right here in these verses alone we have all the proof we need that the Lord authorizes victims of domestic abuse to escape? And wouldn’t you say that right here in these verses alone we are given insight into why the abuser hates and fears his victim, and why he so diligently and constantly seeks to control and even destroy them?

I can hear it now – “But marriage is different. This just concerns David and Saul, not husband and wife.”

Answer not a fool according to his folly.

King Saul – a Classic Toxic Person

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
(1Sa 18:6-9)

Wicked people, RASNs (revilers, abusers, sociopaths, narcissists) are all about themselves. The world revolves around them. They have an astonishing mindset of superiority and entitlement. Make one of them a king, like Saul, and you have a powerful formula for evil.

David had accomplished a great victory for Israel. Goliath was dead and the murderous enemy was defeated. The whole nation was rejoicing – except Saul. And Saul eyed David from that day on.

If you have had the unpleasant experience of a relationship with a RASN, then it is quite probably that you have seen this very thing. One day it seemed that all was well, then next moment as if a switch had been thrown, you realized that things had changed, and not for the better. Why? How can this be explained?

RASNs are extremely jealous people. It makes them fools. Saul should have been celebrating David’s victory as a victory for Israel and for Saul as well. After all, Saul was king and his loyal servant had routed his enemies. But Saul, consumed with jealousy, seethed in his anger that the spotlight was now upon David rather than himself. In addition, Saul must have sensed that the Lord was with David in a way that His blessing was not upon Saul.

And this is how it works with the RASN. When, for example, the wife of a domestic abuser, enjoys some success in her work or at her church or in the eyes of her family, the fires of jealousy begin to rage. And Saul eyed David from that day on. The evil eye watching, bent on destroying his target’s success. No matter that the success of the abuser’s wife is actually a success for and a blessing upon him. Nope. Competition for glory will not be tolerated and he sets out to sabotage. Many abuse victims will tell us how their abuser worked to cause them trouble at work or to destroy relationships.

Abusers are fools. They saw off the branch they themselves are sitting upon.

[There will be a part 2 to this post next week discussing how the Lord sent an evil spirit upon Saul so that his ravings against David increased. IMO this same dynamic very often is at work in domestic abusers and other RASNs we deal with]

Does Time Heal all Wrongs?

That happened a long time ago. You can’t keep holding it against me.

Have you ever heard that line? It actually is pretty commonly used by RASNs (revilers, abusers, sociopaths, narcissists). Especially if they claim to be Christians. They will throw in a twisted Bible verse or two to back up their claim.

When it comes to sin, time does not heal all wrongs. God Himself does not just “forget about it.”

But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face.
(Hos 7:2)

RASNs so often make this claim – that because so many years have gone by, we have no right to remember their sin. But in the very act of making such a claim, they betray that they have not changed, have not repented, and have no intention of repenting. Sin unconfessed, unrepented of, does not just dissolve with time. It is still there on the books, as if it were committed afresh every single day.

Divide and Conquer – a Tactic of Evil

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Eph 4:1-3)

As many of you know from hard experience, RASNs (revilers, abusers, sociopaths, narcissists) and other evil people, sow seeds of discord as a tactic to maintain power and control. That is always what everything they do is about – PC (Power and Control). They divide so that they can conquer.

You have seen it in your families. Domestic abusers work to pit children against parent, extended family against their target victim, friends against friends. There is an account of a famous English Admiral (can’t recall his name) who saw two of his officers arguing heatedly on deck during England’s war with the French. The admiral grabbed them both by the collar, spun them around toward the sea where a French warship was approaching, and said “Gentlemen, THERE is the enemy!” We cannot fight effectively if we are fighting with one another.

Evil people of every category are divisive people:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
(Rom 16:17-18)

Abusers turn children and grandchildren against parent and grandparent. They sow division between their target victim and her friends. Why? In part just to punish. but primarily to gain allies for the abuser himself. This adds to his power. The Apostle Paul warns us of this and tells us to carefully watch anyone who causes dissensions and to turn away from them, refusing to listen to their “smooth and flattering speech” which they use to gain us as their ally in wickedness.

Allies of evil. Now there is another related topic. How the RASN works to gain allies for his evil cause. Suddenly an abuse victim’s friends at church grow distant and cool. Relatives and friends pressure the victim to work harder in the marriage. Abuse victims have often even lost their jobs due to the abuser’s craftiness in influencing their employer. Children and grandchildren are brainwashed and lied to, distancing them from their mother. The thing is absolutely and sadly typical.

There IS a division which is of the Holy Spirit. Paul says it in his words quoted above. We are to divide, to separate from – evil. From people who cause wicked division. Turn away from THEM. Far too often we see local churches turning away from the wrong person while the divider remains among them.

A New Post at ‘Light for Dark Times – Lessons from the Hypocrite Mr. Pecksniff

Here is a link to my article at Light for Dark Times entitled “Oh, How Forgiving the Hypocrite is – A Picture from Mr. Pecksniff. Pecksniff is a character in Charles Dickens’ great novel – Martin Chuzzelwit. Pecksniff’s name is synonymous with “hypocrite.” One of Pecksniff’s tactics is to pronounce his “forgiveness,” insisting that not he, but YOU are the guilty party. Yet, so saintly and pious is Pecksniff and his kind that in spite of the terrible wrongs YOU have inflicted upon him, he forgives you.

Abusers are Users

Rom 16:18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Why would someone use “smooth talk and flattery” on you? Deceiving words? Why? Paul warns us that it is because they are out to feed their own wicked appetites (lusts). In other words, they just want to use you to feed themselves. Abusers are users. RASNS are users.

Now, when one of these kind is using the one they have flattered and deceived, all seems to be well UNTIL their target is no longer any use to them. You can’t use a useless thing. And a used person becomes useless to the user when, for a number of possible reasons, they are no longer useful for feeding the RASN’s evil ego.

One reason might be that the one being used has started to realize what is going on. Or, another, that the person being used has undergone some type of change – economic, social standing, etc – which renders them of no value in the user’s eyes. As, for instance, a Christian grows in Christ and becomes increasingly hated by the world, they certainly are not going to be someone whose relationship adds to the world’s esteem of the user. That is why these kinds of relationships often end in a split second. The one used didn’t even see it coming. But you can be sure that the user did. Done. Over. Get lost.

You see this in the Lord Jesus’ experience:

Joh 6:65-66 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (66) After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Abusers are users (and losers!). Revilers, abusers, narcissists, sociopaths – they all use people. There is no love in them. There is never any real friendship. So don’t be surprised when these kind toss you away like a worn out sock. Just keep right on following Christ and be glad you are no longer deceived by a deceiver.

A Wonderful Psalm of Promise

This Psalm (121) is short, but it contains some of the most encouraging and powerful promises to be found in Scripture for Christ’s people. Here it is:

A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psa 121:1-8)

Christ is Our Only and Certain Hope

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Rom 12:12)

Many of you have written to me and shared your stories of past and present suffering at the hands of an abuser. I greatly appreciate the privilege of being someone with whom you can share. Often, when I hear of the intense and prolonged trials abuse victims endure, I find myself wishing I could do more to help. I suspect many of you have experienced this wish as well.

Wicked, abusing, narcissistic people create horribly tangled webs of deceit, lies, accusations, civil and even criminal court actions, court filings battling for custody of children simply because the abuser must win. How is this web to be untangled? Many of these persecuting machines go on and on and on. What is our hope?

Help is to be found through becoming wise about evil, to learn about the mentality of entitlement and the abuser’s quest for power and control. To wake up to the weapons these evil people use against us. To get straightened out in respect to all the false, supposed “biblical” doctrines which keep abuse victims in abuse. We can find help in learning about trauma and its effects.

But in the end, what is our certain and ultimate hope? What is the real, final remedy? Where can we go for rescue that will never fail? Because unless we can find a Deliverer who will never fail us, who will with certainty one day put an end to this evil and make us free, there is no real hope. Who is that Deliverer? He is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is very easy for us who have wised up to the evil of abuse, especially as it hides under a disguise of “Christian,” and creeps about in our churches, it is easy I say to forget Christ. To forget our real message of hope – to preach Christ and Him crucified. To set our hope and aim upon Him and His salvation. If we forget Christ, if we forget to keep our eyes upon Him, if we fail to point people to the perfect redemption to be found only in Him, then we are doing no more than applying a temporary salve to injured people. And the danger of this, of proceeding down a “therapeutic” path which leaves the real Therapist outside, is that we will only “help” people to remain in victimhood. Never showing them how to be ultimately free. We will fail to do what Bunyan’s character “Evangelist” did when Christian came out of the City of Destruction crying out, “what must I do to be saved?” Evangelist pointed Christian to that little gate off in the distance. He pointed Christian to Christ.

Knowing Christ is our only real hope. Putting our trust in Him and believing His promises to protect us from enemies “behind and before,” and to one day bring us safely home where evil abusers will never be seen again, there is the real thing. More and more and more I am realizing that the real therapy, the real help and hope for us is to be found in the Word of God. Therein we find Christ and this great and certain promise:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39)

Flattery and Popularity – Two Warning Signs of a RASN**

Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

I have been naïve in my life more often than I would like to admit to myself. Smooth talk and flattery have duped me until, I hope, I have finally learned. In my 40 years as a pastor, these smooth-talker-flatterers have come along quite often and in the end, caused immense pain and harm in the church. They cause division. They work to gain a following for themselves and thus lead people away from Christ and His true people. They rise to lofty position in the church.

And then, when they have the power and control handed to them, they show themselves to be the demagogues that they are.

I could tell you many stories about these kind who I have experienced and been harmed by, and I suspect many of you could tell your stories too. Let me give you a scenario which I will draw from several cases which I have seen.

Here comes, let’s say, Larry. Larry has heard that a new pastor has come to the small church in his community, or perhaps even a brand new church is being started. So there is Larry one Sunday morning with his family. Everyone is pleased to see some new faces and afterward Larry is sooo excited. The sermon was soooo spot on and biblical – nothing like the old church he came from. And it turns out that Larry is a bit of a figure in the community. A professional in a respected career. “My wife and I are eager to help. Just let us know how we can.”

Before long, Larry is a mover and shaker in the church. He volunteers for the treasurer position. He has community contacts. Need something done – just call Larry.

But no one has ever really talked to Larry about the Christian life he professes, other than to hear him say that he is a Christian. Things have been rushed. Adequate time has not passed for Larry to be tested and his profession of Christ to be observed. It isn’t long before Larry has a bit of a following in the congregation. “What does Larry think,” becomes a common phrase to hear. Larry even volunteers to put his name on the line as a co-signer for a building project mortgage, and Larry’s reputation takes a big leap ahead.

But then comes the day of reckoning. Larry and a few of his loyalists come to a church board meeting and express “concern” over the pastor’s preaching. “It is our job and your job as a board to be certain that the members of this church hear sermons that they want to hear.” (That very statement was one which “Larry” actually stated as an attack against me at a board meeting).

Now I shall speak in the first person. In response to Larry’s evil takeover plan to control the church and me as the pastor, I announced – “I have been preaching just like I always have, and no one is going to dictate the sermons I preach. I will preach God’s Word and I will not compromise.”

And here is one of my main points and one which most of you will be able to identify with because I suspect it happened to you. Not one single person on that church board backed me up. Not one. After the meeting a couple of them came to me and said “we agree with you, pastor.” Oh, really? Then why did you not stand with me in the meeting? Crickets.

It was not long before the Lord made it plain that He was going to take us out of that false church and lead us to a new ministry. What of Larry? Well, to this day – over 30 years later, Larry is still running the show. Larry is just the greatest, you know.

This is the very kind of person the Apostle Paul is warning us about – these smooth talking flatterers who creep in among us. We must be wise to them, but that wisdom so often comes through hard and painful experience. One day Larry will be called to account and his smooth talking flattery will be of no avail to him.

2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

**RASN = Reviler, abuser, sociopath, narcissist

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