This post is taken from an excellent comment by one of our readers (Dawn). I am posting it here as a stand-alone post so that more of you will see it. I am very grateful to her for sharing her story, particularly because she really nails the evil and sin which victims of abusers/narcissists/sociopaths parading as Christians in the church encounter when they ask for help. Her words are also a great encouragement to me because I am so often accused of being too harsh, to negative…too…not looking on the sunny side enough.
So, here is Dawn:
What you say, while true, doesn’t go far enough. The reality, as I understand it, is far, FAR worse. Here’s why I say that:
I am not the spouse of an Christian abuser but the daughter of one. I was close to 30 when I got my divorce from *surprise* my abusive husband. And I used that as an opportunity to look at myself, figure out how I’d managed to make such a mess of my life and change how I was living and what choices I was making. It took me a long while to actually understand that my dad was abusive to us, and to me especially because, growing up, I could always somehow see through his BS, even if I didn’t understand exactly what I was seeing. My mom always told me that she thought he was afraid of me.
My dad had destroyed our relationship by the time I was 16 and I’m pretty sure he never noticed because he simply didn’t care. He found the Lord when I was 18 and it didn’t really change anything other than that he could use G_d as a cudgel to try to get us in line. I’ve been told things over the years like “Since G_d has forgiven him, I have no right to complain about his behavior”, “I owe it to G_d to forgive him and tolerate his behavior”, “Yeah, he might have done some bad things before he was saved, but that was a long time ago and, therefore, it doesn’t count anymore”. I call my dad the Teflon King because nothing sticks to him. And my concerns don’t count. Never have. Never will. So, when I graduated from college, I moved to the other side of the country and never looked back. Best decision of my life!!!
A couple of years after my divorce, when I was really trying to put the pieces of my life into perspective, my dad married wife #3 and was interested in convincing her that he was a good family-man. So he reached out to me. Even though I figured there was some sort of “catch”, I agreed to meet with him and a counselor. The main outcome was that he wanted me to basically give him a free pass for everything that had happened in the past. I agreed mostly because I knew he would never apologize or even acknowledge anything and, really, I wasn’t all that interested apologies anyway. I just wanted the ugliness to end. So I agreed to wipe away the past, provided that moving forward he would “be nice”. So literally, the only thing I’ve ever asked of the man is for him to “be nice”. That’s it. To my face, in the counselor’s office, he agreed. A couple of months later, I went back home to visit the rest of the family for the holidays and found out from my sister that he was telling everyone that I wanted nothing more to do with him. So basically his real response to my request to “be nice” was to end our relationship, lie to the family, lie to his church and publicly assassinate my character. If he was expecting that I would feel enough pain to beg him for forgiveness, I never bit. We have now been estranged for about 25 years and it truly the best gift he ever gave me. He freed me from his evil influence. And between that and moving away, it has given me an opportunity to unlearn the lessons of my youth and develop much better, happier, healthier ways to live my life. I am convinced had I stayed in the Chicago-area where I was raised that I would be dead by now and most likely at my own hand. That is how amazingly destructive abuse can be.
Anyway, at the time I was trying to figure all this out including how to respond to his ending contact with me, I was active in the church and naturally shared what was going on with people that I knew there, like with people in my Sunday School class. I was shocked because EVERY SINGLE ONE backed my dad. And they didn’t even know him. They would tell me that he was correct in saying that I have no right to complain about his behavior since he was saved. And that while maybe he shouldnt act the way he does (which they knew was described as abusive), they would tell me his behavior is actually OK and that G_d forgives him!!!! *Can’t make this up.* Then they would say something dumb about how it is wrong to judge others and then immediately condemn me for my “unforgiving heart”. Guess it is ok to judge me but not him. After I eventually left the church, the comments morphed into how G_d loves him and forgives him but I am going to hell. G_d must really hate me if he wants me to suffer so much.
Sadly, I have heard the exact same sort of thing from pretty much every Christian I have told my story to over the last 25 years. Here’s what I think is the true state of the current church:
1) The average Christian has no idea what evil (or abuse) is.
2) Worse, they have no desire to find out. It would be too much work and effort.
3) In response to evil, suffering, oppression, etc., they don’t really want to be bothered and so their “solutions” are superficial at best and damaging to the real victims at worst.
4) They love their “superficial” solutions because they don’t have to expend any effort in making sure they understand what is really going on and
5) they can pat themselves on the back about what wonderful people they are and how they were able to be so incredibly helpful and brilliant.
6) And the situation is set up so that if it turns out that the solution doesn’t really work, then it is clearly MY fault (not theirs) because I clearly didn’t follow their wonderful, fabulous, brilliant, amazing guidance.
Honestly, I personally think the average Christian would prefer that I just go ahead and slit my own throat because then the problem would go away without any discomfort for them, they can blame me, and feel justified in how helpful and brilliant they are. I don’t believe G_d would condemn me to hell because I endured an abusive childhood and no longer wear a specific label.
I appreciate your ministry in service to those who have suffered at the hands of Christian abusers. Over the last 10 years, give or take, I’ve finally been seeing people stand up against the teachings of the church which support and encourage abusive conduct while expecting that the victims will passively and silently accept their situation, effectively abusing the victims a second time. It is nice to see the change.
BTW, I don’t know if my mom was right when she told me as a child that she thought my dad was afraid of me. But I know that he should be afraid of me NOW. I have more integrity in my little pinkie than he has in his entire body. I am solid in who I am as a person, I know exactly who and what he is about, and I know the tactics to watch out for. I am a bigger, stronger, better person than he will ever be and because I am willing to look at my own failings and weed them out of my life, I am continually improving, growing, and learning.