How To Spot an Abuser On the First Date

This post is in response to a question asked in the comments of one of the articles on this site.

Right up front, let me clarify that this is by no means a comprehensive answer! And as I said in my comments, I don’t think it will be possible to always spot an abuser on the first date. So the title of this piece relates to the question asked, not the answer given.

I have replied with some things that would have applied to my own situation with an abuser. I am quite sure there are more red flags which would apply with other abusers. I hope that others who read this will chime in with other red flags they have seen.

The original question was this:

If you were going on a date, now, with the same man, what would have given you a clue of your future? how would you know if it is real gold, or “gold” that doesn’t exist?

This was my response (somewhat amplified):

A single date could very likely be hard to see through. Someone can put on a perfect front for a brief period of time. With a skillful abuser, you have to put the pieces together over a period of time, though there are generally subtle clues that will peek through even on short association.

For me, with the specific man I married, there were some indications before hand that I didn’t understand.

1. He never quite managed to tell the truth. Everything he said was either over-exaggerated or under-stated, whichever would put him in the best light. I frankly suspected him of lying with all of his self-glorifying stories, but then I did find out at least one of them was true so I thought I must be wrong.

Later, this issue of him recreating reality was HUGE – he used it all the time when talking about me to others, especially pastors, counselors and his family. For many abusers, (I don’t know if it is universal but I’ve seen it in several) their reality is self-customized to their specifications – whatever meets their perceived need at the moment. So dialog becomes virtually impossible since they turn everything that actually happened around, even taking incidents that happened and recreating or even repositioning them in time/space to suit their purposes – generally to the disadvantage of the one they are abusing.

2. There was an incident where he punched a fellow student. I didn’t see it happen so all I knew was his own story, which was that the other student persistently provoked him, telling him over and over, over a period of many weeks, to punch him. So finally he did. I wish I had known to ask other students who knew both of them and would have seen these interactions, what really happened. After experiencing his violence first-hand, I know his version of this event was not true.

3. His mother asked me before we were married whether I thought I could handle his temper. Well, she never explained exactly what she meant by that or told me of any history or examples. And I had literally never seen an adult with a “temper.” In my family, everything was always handled very civilized. That didn’t mean that people didn’t disagree, but no one ever got nasty or yelled and screamed, or called names, or used profanity. And certainly, there was never any violence, not even throwing things, punching walls or furniture, slamming things, etc. So I was completely clueless about what she meant. And I thought that if we truly loved each other we could certainly work out any disagreements. After all, that was what I had seen modeled all my life.

4. I didn’t realize that he was utterly self-absorbed before well into our marriage. Before our marriage, he attempted to engage me in conversation (scripted, no less, with 3×5 cards with questions on them) to try to “find out about me” – but even these were about him. He was trying to find out whether I matched his purposes – not wanting to get to know me because of me. Years later I realized some of those question were designed to make sure I was the type of person who wouldn’t catch on to him or stand up against him – though he may not even have been consciously aware of that fact. I don’t know whether that would have been more obvious to me unless/until I had a clue about abuse, however.

This is something I have seen other abusers do, to a greater or lesser degree. Their conversation, even about you, is always really about them. And they will use flattery, gifts, and constant statements of deep attraction, love, need, “you are more than life to me” yada, yada to win you over. But this is really not about adoration – it is about obsession and desire to “have” you like a possession. And that turns deadly once the “I do’s” are said (or when they feel confident they “have” you).

5. He didn’t really listen to the things about me — he recreated his understanding of me to match his desires and expectations. This was demonstrated in things like the gifts he purchased for me which were things he liked and I didn’t (after his persistent probings to find out what I liked). Also it was revealed in his choice of activities for us – which were always things he wanted to do and not things I would have enjoyed.

Later in our marriage, he went through several months of again probing to find out what I liked to do. He gave me lists to fill out and questionaires to complete. I resisted at first, because by then I knew what would happen. But, of course, he insisted under the banner that my resistance said I didn’t care about him or our marriage. So I filled out his forms.

He didn’t say anything about them at first, but then weeks later he again accused me of not liking to do anything, having no interests, etc., etc. My reply was that I like a lot of things and I had even filled out his forms telling him all of them. His response — none of those are any fun. My response — so, in other words, if I don’t like what you like, I have no interests and don’t like to do anything “fun.” He didn’t reply – but that didn’t mean he changed his mind. He said the same thing again to me and to others about me multiple times after that.

6. Things always had to be done his way. Even if I had another way or another preference, he would pick at it and pick at it, and “reason” and cajole until I gave in to his way. This was vividly apparent (but I didn’t see it at the time) over our wedding plans. I planned that wedding for 18 months, during which we were separated for the most part. I had to pay for all of it, so it had to be on a very strict budget. When he came back from overseas and out of state 3 months before the wedding, he managed to get me to change almost everything. This wedding was “his” day, not the bride’s day. Boy, should that have been a clue!

7. Another indication, which seriously bothered me at the time, but I didn’t understand it’s significance, was in our physical relationship. Now, you have to understand that we were in a very strict environment. We were taught that men and women were not even to touch until after the wedding, period. We had both come to realize that was not only ridiculous, but unhealthy. Well, I thought that was we. Perhaps it was me and he was just glad to agree. But still, it was not to go beyond normal and healthy demonstrations of affection. No petting, etc.

In spite of our agreed boundaries, the first time he kissed me he attempted to french kiss me. I was appalled (understand, I had never done anything of the sort – I know most people would think I was nuts). And personally, I think I was rightly appalled. The boundaries of our physical relationship were to be completely non-sexual and french kissing is symbolic of the sex act – deliberately. But I figured I was being a ridiculous prude, so I gave in to him from the second kiss onward.

Now, here’s the serious part. Every single time he kissed me from that day until after our wedding, it had to be a french kiss. Never a simple kiss of affection. Not only that, he would hold me very tight, push my head as far back as it would go so I was overbalanced, and would prolong each kiss for minutes at a time. I literally couldn’t breathe. It took me many, many years (he still did this after we were married, just not every single time he got near me) to realize this was physical domination and control.

During our marriage, he started griping when I would push him off so I could catch a breath, and he told many, many people that I “wouldn’t let him kiss me.” In fact, this was one of his favorite gripes, along with accusing me of refusing him sex. That got the pastors, counselors and his family every time. What no one ever paused to find out was that I only refused him abusive sex – and he knew that. He also knew that he was welcome to intimacy that wasn’t abusive.

In fact, a year before our marriage ended, he got up in front of an entire church and “testified” that his life had been changed that week because his wife of 19 years had finally let him kiss her for the first time. I was completely humiliated and there was nothing I could do to defend myself. But I did wonder if anyone took a second to wonder how this man had managed to acquire 3 children without ever kissing. That would be really weird.

Going a bit off topic, this habit of humiliating me in front of others was also a consistent issue throughout our marriage. I don’t remember him ever doing that before we were married, but then we also were not together very much before we were married. Strange environment, long story.

But he did this often during our marriage, lying to people about me or telling them twisted things about me. I eventually observed that he did this, not only randomly, but also any time he felt that other people might be viewing me in a complementary way, if he felt I was getting too much attention, or if he felt that others might see him as “less” than me in some way.

But the result of this habitual behavior was that I was even more isolated than I was just by his refusal to let me do things, see family, go out with friends, etc. (And to be completely clear, he even accomplished this by manipulation and pushing, pushing, pushing me until I gave in and did what he wanted. He rarely just flat said, “No you can’t.” Instead he guilt-tripped, manipulated, etc. to get me to agree with him about me “needing” to stay at home.)

As a result, I never knew what people really thought of me because I knew he had lied about me to various people, but I never knew who, or what he had said to them. So I always kept myself reserved to a greater or lesser degree around people who knew both of us. Invariably, the things he had said about me would end up jumping out and slapping me in the face at odd times when people would accuse me of things, or decide to no longer associate with me, or whatever. This was especially true with his family, with the church, and with the pastors/counselors we saw.

Back to the issue of point 7, this behavior of pushing in the arena of physical relationship is common with abusers. They want whatever they can get, and they will flatter, cajole, manipulate, and flat-out push past boundaries to get it. Then if you feel guilty or want them to quit, it is you who are at fault, never them.

These are a few I can think of off the top. As a general rule, I think a single date would be difficult to know (though, not always; sometimes it’s really obvious if you know the signs) but over time it is not hidden.

What makes it most difficult, actually, is that if you have come from an abusive background (and unfortunately, a lot of people do not even realize their background was abusive since it was their “normal”) these behaviors will not seem abnormal to you. You may even feel flattered by the persistent attention and apparent adoration. So the very best way to learn to spot an abuser is to get healthy yourself first. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this is the only way to really protect yourself from an abuser.

Advertisements

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Wives Submit

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Recently, a drive-by poster replied to the article “Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage. His post was so full of twisted and misunderstood Scripture that it cannot go unaddressed. This is especially true since he managed to encapsulate so much of what the church tends to teach or preach at those who are in abusive marriages. As a result I feel this needs the attention of an article of its own.

I have been unfortunately slow in responding, since this is such a big pot of goo. In fact, I will have to break this into a series addressing each part because a single article cannot possibly do it justice. So this is the first installment, addressing just the first two verses Ancient has nipped neatly out of the Word.

Ancient, on May 29th, 2009 at 8:24 pm said:

Read the Word of the Lord, sisters:

Eph 5:22-23 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Mark 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matt 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Remember that even in the case of a marriage between a believer and a non-believer, it is better that they stay together so that the believing spouse might sanctify the unbelieving spouse.

Trust in the Lord, not men. Christ, not attorneys or psychologists, etc. Pray for your husband. Submit yourself to him humbly and tell him you love him and that God loves him.

If he strikes you upon the cheek, turn so that he might strike you upon the other. Forgive him, for Christ was better than ALL of us put together and he died for us on the cross though we deserved nothing but condemnation. Will you only condemn your husband?

We are Christians, not servants of Islam or any other religion which makes a mockery of marriage. Do as the Lord would have you do, as His only begotten Son commanded of all of us no matter the situation.

May the Lord bless you and keep you always.

Danni response:

In this article, I will address only the first two Scriptures misused.

Eph 5:22-23 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

In the first place, I have to point out that all of these individual Scriptures have been plucked out of their context. In every case, the result is deadly. Let’s get a look at the “back story” on this one.

Eph. 5:17-33

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

OK, right off the bat – that is a whole lot more verses and verbiage than the one bit Ancient snagged out of the middle!

So here goes. First, let’s isolate who this passage is written to. Given the first part, which is intrinsically linked to the admonitions regarding marriage, it is clear this was written to Christian couples, where both husband and wife are believers. The marital specifics were written in the context of a directive to be filled with – under the control of — the Holy Spirit rather than being drunk with alcoholic beverages. It also says to speak to yourselves in songs and hymns, and to give thanks for all things. Then it says to submit to one another.

Now, people like to chop this entire section up, but you just can’t do that. You can’t separate it out into isolated bits when there is no reason to do so. This is all one string of admonition, one context, and it should be interpreted that way.

The Word indicates we are to submit to one another in other parts of the Bible as well. Let me ask you – how much sense does it make for God to say submit to one another — except if you’re a man who is married; and only toward your wife are you not to submit. If God meant that, He surely would have said it clearly because that’s a pretty hefty and complex exception.

But just in case, someone might want to get that out of it – and many people do – the rest of the context should put that idea to rest.

Verse 22 says wives are to submit to their husbands, but the verse doesn’t stop there! This statement has a qualification in it. It says wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. As very simply means “in the same way.” So, how is a wife to submit to a husband who is telling her to do things that are against what the Lord tells her to do, to believe things that are contrary to the truth of the Lord, and to obey him, submit to him, and agree with him in untruth that is in direct denial to the truth of the Word? This admonition to submit has a limitation on it — as unto the Lord. And that doesn’t even take into account that this relationship is supposed to be one that is happening in the context of both parties being controlled by the Holy Spirit, etc. and mutual submission.

Verse 23 and 24 put further qualifications on verse 22. Verse 23 starts with the word “for.” That means it is continuing the thought without pause. Verse 23 says for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… therefore (verse 24) as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Again this includes the qualification that the wife’s submission to her husband is to be as the church’s submission to Christ – not outside of it! There is no circumstance under which the church would obey Christ outside of the context of the truth because, obviously, Christ would never ask such a thing of the church. But that doesn’t mean that a wife is supposed to obey or submit to her husband if he is going outside the stated perameters and expecting his wife to come into agreement with him outside of, or in direct violation of, obedience to Christ.

There is another important qualifying detail here too. Verse 24 says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Well, Phil. 2:2-8 puts some context to that statement.


Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Verses 2-4 describe behavior which is distinctly opposite of the behavior of an abuser. And to make it more potent, these verses are connected to the ones following, which very specifically describe Jesus’ way of being the head of the church.

Jesus was the head of the church, not by being it’s master controller but by making himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a servant, and being humbled in the most extreme way.

This is NOT the model of headship the church teaches. The Word uses the word “head” in the way you would describe a person who is at the “head” of a line. The person at the head of a line doesn’t boss everyone in line behind him. He simply goes first, showing the direction to those with him, and perhaps making a model or path that those behind him can follow. He may clear debris and obstacles from the path so that it is easier for those who follow. But he doesn’t boss around those who are in the line behind him!

This understanding is further supported where the Word specifically states this same understanding in Mark 10:42-45:

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

In case there was any doubt whatsoever of how God intended leadership to be in the body of Christ, Jesus is very specific in this passage. We as believers are not to model leadership, authority, headship, etc. after the pattern of the Gentiles who rule over others. We are to follow Jesus model – be the servant of all, minister to rather than being ministered to, and give up our lives in sacrifice for the benefit of others, not insist that they do so for us. This was Jesus’ model and the Word very specifically says husbands are to follow this pattern!

We also need to remember the cultural context of these statements. We tend to think of the word “servant” as someone who helps out someone else. But in the culture to which this was written this was a truly radical thought because a servant was automatically understood to be a slave. A slave was the equal, or inferior, to women and children.

When the Word makes these statements it is telling husbands (and church leaders, incidentally) to put themselves on the same level, equal to, the slave who serves their wife and children! There is no room in the Word for the understanding that men are supposed to rule over their families or that a wife is to obey or submit to a husband who is being a tyrant – which would be submitting NOT as unto the Lord.

The passage in Ephesians then goes on to describe in more detail how a Christian husband will treat his wife, by drawing more specific comparisons to the way Christ treated the church. This is the behavior that must characterize him in order for her to submit to him as unto the Lord.

A Christian husband must give himself for his wife, he must love his wife as his own body, he must leave his family, and he must cleave to his wife. Frankly, not one of these things characterizes an abuser. Each one of these points is huge in itself.

But just taking the last one – he must cleave to his wife – this pivotal truth is not taught in the church. This verse is directly quoting Genesis 2:24, another verse plucked out of context and misapplied by Ancient. We read these verses all the time, and they are very popular in marriage ceremonies. But no one really teaches about this. A husband must leave his family and cleave to his wife. When he does that, they will be one flesh.

First of all, we have to note that this is not, nor ever implied elsewhere in the Word to be, directed to a wife. This is ALL on the husband. He is the one who has to leave his family bonds and sever that loyalty as first place in his heart. And he must cleave to his wife. That doesn’t just mean he will have sex with her and they will be one flesh. No, it means he must cleave to his wife.

When something “cleaves” to something else it does a couple things. First, it sticks completely – there is no place of separation. Second, it molds itself to the surface to which it is adhering – not the other way around!!!!! An abusive husband has done neither – and he usually hasn’t left his family either.

A godly husband will make his wife his absolute first loyalty. He will be completely devoted to her, without any place of separation or divided loyalty. And he will mold himself to HER, rather than insisting she mold herself to him.

Then, after all this huge pile of very specific admonition to a Christian husband about how he is to treat his wife, there is one final phrase directed to the wife. It says the wife should reverence her husband. Reverence means to respect and honor. Honestly, any wife who had a husband like this passage describes would have little or no trouble respecting and honoring him!

Can you see that this passage has an awful lot to say about the husband’s behavior and very little about the wife’s? Yet verse 22 gets plucked out of context on a regular basis and women are preached at to submit to their husbands in all things and reverence their husbands – with no understanding given to the fact that the wife’s behavior is to be predicated on whether her husband is acting in a way that she can submit to/reverence him as to the Lord — which is the qualification the verse places on her.

This gross misuse of Scripture by Ancient – who learned it from the church – is one example of how the church is being used as an abuser of women and children, because the church is supporting their abuser and sending them back into abuse, increasing their abuse – all in the name of righteousness and against the clear teaching of the Word.

Rejecting the Heretical Abuser

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

I am going to start a series of articles about what the Word says about the power of the tongue, the spirit of murder behind an abuser and separating from a verbal abuser. I have no idea how long this may become or how long it will take, but as I make additions I will post them and also add them to a series list under “Family Abuse.”

This first installment is drawing the correlation between the Biblical description of a heretic and an abuser – and what the Bible says we are to do with a heretic.

Titus 2:15-3:11

In this passage, Paul is admonishing Titus how to teach in the church (2:15 – these things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority…). He says believers are to be subject to authorities, be ready for every good work (3:1); to speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness (3:2); and avoid contentions (3:9). He says believers are to avoid contention over spiritual truth and strivings about the law – which can certainly be understood to include pressure to measure up to some standard of behavior in order to be acceptable (3:9).

Then it says to reject a heretic after a second warning. What is a heretic? The Catholic Church defined this word and we still accept that definition today without question. The Catholic Church defined a heretic as a person who disagreed with officially accepted dogma of the Catholic Church. That would actually include all Protestants. But we translated that meaning of the word “heretic” to mean someone who rejects the basic tenets of Christian faith – roughly as outlined by the Apostles’ Creed.

However, the word “heretic” is a transliteration – making the Greek word into an English one without translating it. This is something that early Catholic translators did on a regular basis, and it sometimes resulted in an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the original word. The word “heretic” is a transliteration of the Greek word “hairetikos” and as such, the original meaning of the word is not apparent. The word actually means someone who is divisive. And the context of the verse gives a fairly detailed description of the behavior of a person who is to be labeled a “heretic.”

We need to look at the whole of the Word and realize that the behavior of an abuser is all these things that the Word not only says believers are not to be (but a heretic is), but says that believers are to separate from.

An abuser is not subject to authority – certainly not to God’s because he not only defies God’s standards of godly behavior persistently, consistently, and violently, but he demands his family’s compliance with his actions which are against the Word.

An abuser may be ready for good works out in public where they will win him applause and recognition, but those good works are least in sight at home, where God has still called us to serve one another in love.

An abuser speaks evil of and to his family constantly.

An abuser is a brawler – a person who constantly picks fights, whether verbal or physical. An abuser is not gentle or meek toward his family.

An abuser is characterized by his contentious spirit.

And an abuser is constantly demanding his family conform to his ever-changing demands of performance in every area of life, insisting that a never-ending host of failures to comply are the reason for his contention and anger.

God calls this man, by implication of the context here, a heretic. Being a heretic does not have to be limited to questions of theology within the church setting. The same spirit of a heretic is contentious and in disagreement with the truth of the real knowledge of God (theology – as described in 3:4-7) and this contentious spirit is nowhere more evident than in his own home. He may be able to keep his contention under the radar at church, though I have observed that it is usually there – perpetual fault-finding of the people and beliefs of his church even while he appears to be in agreement with them in public. But his heart reveals the truth of a heretic.

And God says we are to reject a heretic after two warnings. “Reject” is fairly decisive – there’s no grey there. In case there is any question how clear God’s feelings about this are, here is some amplification from the dictionary.

  • to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.
  • to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.)
  • to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff
  • to discard as useless or unsatisfactory
  • to cast out or eject
  • to cast out or off

Will the church dare to stand up to the truth of the Word? And does God’s Word not apply just as strongly, if not more so, to those closest to this individual, who are being directly and constantly wounded by his heretic spirit? We are told to reject a heretic, not remain silent before him or turn the other cheek. This applies to us within marriage! And it applies to the way the church handles a marital abuser.

The New Abuse-Aware Church

There is a new trend in Christianity. It is the trend of being abuse-aware in churches. Many of the biggest marriage and family organizations have joined it, as have many large and very influential churches. They are publishing articles, making statements, removing damning statements from public view, and generally rushing about to shine up their image on an issue that is becoming more and more vocal in the church.

The problem is – the actions being taken clearly reveal that underneath the public polish, nothing has changed.

As recently as a few months ago, there was a huge stink about public transcripts posted by Saddleback Church on their website, clearly stating that their policy was to insist a victim of abuse remain in that marriage unless she was being physically beaten on a regular, ongoing basis. Their statements about divorce left NO POSSIBLE allowance for divorce for abuse.

In a move I predicted, they removed those transcripts from public view quietly and without comment. But not before I transcribed them word-for-word. And apparently, that was a wise choice because they have gone into deny-and-cover mode. This article clearly reveals they are attempting damage control. The article says Jim Wilke stated what happens is pieces are taken from the whole of their stand, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. Really? The “pieces” were the ones THEY publically published – nobody took anything out of context there!

In fact, I have communicated personally with more than one individual who received the exact destructive abuse counseling from Saddleback Church of which myself and others are trying to raise awareness.

If Saddleback really didn’t mean what they plainly said in the transcripts, why has there not been an equally public retraction and acknowledgement of error? By attempting to tell people what they clearly expect to hear (as in the case of the above linked article) and minimizing the reality of what actually has happened they are, in fact, underscoring their error.

What was plainly taught in those transcripts, and which my private and extensive communication with some counselees in that church supports as accurate, is unscriptural and literally dangerous. If that is not their policy now, there should be a statement saying they were wrong and have changed their policies in specific ways. This has not happened. Instead, those who specifically ask (obviously wanting to hear that the church isn’t locked in the Dark Ages of misunderstanding and handling the Word) are being told what they want to hear and blame is shifted to vague others who have misunderstood – what was clearly and publically stated.

Unfortunately, Saddleback is not the only highly visible church or ministry in this same boat. Family Life recently published an article which glorified and applauded remaining in an abusive marriage and “suffering for righteousness sake.” When there was a huge outcry, recorded for posterity in the comments section (which they may delete since attention is being called to it) the article was modified and editorial comments added to the beginning. In fact, this clearly revealed that they do not grasp the issues of abuse, since those familiar with abuse can plainly see an abuser and victim in the original article.

However, these adjustments made by Family Life change nothing. It is another public relations cover, as clearly indicated by the fact they also recently featured Mark Driscoll as a model of teaching godly marital values. Unfortunately, Freedom For Captives is just one of quite a few sites which chronicle, in detail, Mark Driscoll’s own abusive teachings. If you read enough, you will find quotes that describe how Driscoll teaches absolute subjugation of the wife, and an abusive “leadership” style of husbands.

You can also hear for yourself, Mark Driscoll describing his own abusive behavior toward his wife (especially the last 5 minutes). What he describes is controlling, abusive, even violent – it doesn’t matter if it was toward others! This is the way he treats his own wife, and this is what he uses as an example of “protecting” your family. No, that is not protection – it is ownership, control, violence and abuse. That is classic abuser behavior. He expresses exactly the same attitudes toward his church and even the men in his church in the above sermon to men. It is all based on control, authoritarian dictatorship, ownership, violence and abuse.

And just to clarify, verbal violence is just as significant as physical violence. Words carry the power of death and life – that is not metaphorical. God Himself does not treat us that way. Driscoll’s clearly stated theology and example cannot be justified by any teaching under the New Covenant – in fact, quite the opposite. The Word is very clear that God is not extending wrath to the world at this time because of Jesus’ sacrifice — and He certainly doesn’t extend it to those of us who are hidden with Christ in God and whose every single transgression is paid for by Christ’s sacrifice and gone from His sight “as far as the east is from the west.” (For more on this subject, see my article Does God Get Angry At Us?.)

These are just three of the very visible churches and ministries which have similar policies and have made similar “adjustments” in a public nod to abuse which changes nothing on the level where it matters most. I suspect it has recently become unfashionable to take a hard stand on abuse. So they “say” they are understanding of it, wrap it all up in a good PR package – and change nothing.

When it comes down to it, judgment of what qualifies as abuse still sits in the hands of an uneducated (about abuse) pastor or counselor, the victim is assumed to be exaggerating in an attempt to get out of their marriage, the abuser is believed because the pastor/counselor doesn’t know how to read the signs, and abuse is still “graded” with physical abuse being the “bad kind” and everything else negotiable and subjective.

I am frankly alarmed by this new trend by forefront Christian leaders to say they understand abuse and are intolerant of it, while their real treatment of the issue hasn’t changed. In reality, this puts victims in greater danger than they were under blatant ignorance and rejection. Now, the church is telling them it does understand, and in light of that “understanding” victims are still being told the same old things. There has been no new understanding of what abuse is, the roots and heart of it, what the Word actually says about it — nothing. The old stuff has just been re-wrapped in shiny new tissue, with the dangerous contents hiding behind an attractive and disarming package.

What Women Wish Pastors Knew

There is a new book out entitled What Women Wish Pastors Knew: Understanding the Hopes, Hurts, Needs, and Dreams of Women in the Church by Denise George, in which she shares the following information:

George sites a survey in which nearly 6,000 pastors were asked how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them the same way Marleen’s pastor did: to continue to “submit” to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50 percent said women should be willing to “tolerate some level of violence” because it is better than divorce.

These numbers are hardly surprising for those of us who are working with domestic abuse victims in the church on a daily basis. 50% of 6,000 pastors surveyed said women should be willing to tolerate some level of violence because it is better than divorce. Yes, this would exactly reflect what we are seeing. And a representative sample of 6,000 is considered quite substantive; definitely enough to be fairly confident this is an accurate reflection of pastoral advice across the board, though no specific denominations are mentioned. I have noticed little variation from one denomination to another, though there are a couple denominations that have taken policy positions against domestic violence.

So do half the pastors out there really think that women should tolerate “some level of violence” to save their marriages? How can this possibly be?

In my observation this is possible because Christian theology attempts to misapply concepts such as submission and suffering for righteousness while completely ignoring the rest of the Word on issues such as violence, anger, verbal abuse, relationship with an abuser, the heart of God regarding the oppressed and afflicted, etc.

I found the quote reference above in the article An Ugly Secret, by Chuck Colson, posted today, April 20, 2009. The article includes “Marlene’s” story, alluded to in the quote.

While I cannot say the oversight was deliberate, accidental or telling, I thought it was significant that Colson’s article does what so many in the church in the “other 50%” are still doing. The focus of his article is entirely and exclusively on physical battery. There is no expressed understanding that “milder” battery that doesn’t include actual fists (forced physical compliance, forced sex, physical aggression and domination) and non-physical abuse are just as deadly and just as serious. There is not enough information present to conclude whether Denise George also makes this mistake in her book.

I wonder what results such a survey would reveal if these other forms of abuse were included in the study? The results would definitely be even worse.

Another Domestic Abuse Survivor Tells of Pastoral Abuse

Yet again, a woman is telling how her pastor has sided with her abuser. She shares e-mails from her pastor with his exact words and has photos of her wounds – so there’s no denying this unless you just want to bury your head in denial. I wish this pastor’s attitude were unique or rare, but it is unfortunately common.

Hear, See, and Analyze Real Domestic Abuse on Video

[Update note from Hannah: I would mention a bit of a disclaimer. Some of the videos can be very triggering to some parties.]

Hannah, at Emotional Abuse and Your Faith has assembled a series of posts enabling viewers to see and hear domestic abuse in action and learn to evaluate what is really happening. Since the abuser involved is not a batterer (well, his battery is generally considered to be within socially acceptable boundaries), this is particularly powerful.

This situation is the type of abuse many thousands of families in the church tolerate every day, with no understanding of how destructive it is. The family featured makes no claim to being Christian, as far as I know, but their family life is not substantively different from Christians.