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.

Advertisements

Agreeing With Curses

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

During the last summer of my marriage God showed me the truth about the power of the tongue in abuse and that it has the power of life and death. He revealed to me that my husband’s constant curses were literally killing me, resulting in cancer.

However, the other day God showed me another layer of truth to this. He showed me that by not standing against these curses I was standing in agreement with them. I stood up for my children, with my eyes constantly on the physical abuse. This earned me even greater wrath from my husband. But I did not stand up for myself.

I had been taught not to stand up for myself. I had been taught that a wife should submit to her disobedient husband without a word (which does not apply in an abusive situation, but that is the subject for another day), and I had been drilled all my life that I was “less than” and whatever other people said about me must be true. I was told to turn the other cheek (again, taken out of context to make a wrong application). So it did not occur to me to stand up in the truth of the Word against the curses. I may have objected now and then, but I did not persist and I certainly didn’t do so on a constant or regular basis.

So as he cursed me on a daily basis, with practically every word out of his mouth directed toward me, I let those curses stand in my life. Twenty years of nearly daily curses piled up against my spirit, soul, and body.

Is it any wonder I ended up with a death-curse of cancer? And while I can say that cancer resulted from the death curses of his mouth, I also have to own the fact that I did not stand against those curses. In so doing, I accepted them even though I hated them.

This is yet another reason why we must not remain in subjection to the curses of an abuser. We have a responsibility to steward the temple of God which is our bodies. If God speaks life but our spouse speaks death, that spouse is demanding an idolatrous allegiance from us! It is just that simple and that serious.

Blessing for the Ultimate Sacrifice in an Abusive Marriage

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

When I refer to the ultimate sacrifice in an abusive marriage, most people’s minds probably think of what mine would – what happens if you actually die in an abusive marriage? However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

There is a sacrifice that may become necessary and it is one that the most dedicated of us do not want to make – in fact, many refuse to make.

The most determined of us hold firmly to our marriage vows and refuse to consider that God could actually lead another way. While we believe our actions are demonstrating huge faith and sacrifice for the cause of Christ, they may actually be an expression of unbelief.

First of all is the issue of holding to our marriage vows. God Himself cannot keep a covenant where the other party persists in violation. The other party’s violation voids God’s agreement and His blessing. God is faithful; that is His nature. And that is the deep desire of many of us in our marriages. We are faithful; we will remain faithful no matter what. But we cannot make the choice for the other person to remain faithful. And that voids our ability to maintain our end of the covenant. If we have a wrong belief (unbelief) about this issue of our marriage vows, we will remain in a situation God does not expect or want for us.

Second, we have to understand there is literally an issue of idolatry in place when dealing with an abusive spouse. I address this issue briefly in the article The Issue at the Heart of Domestic Violence. When it comes right down to it, we have to choose which master we will serve. Remaining in a marriage of spiritual idolatry boils down to a problem with unbelief – we do not believe God sees it just that black and white.

Another thing that can keep us in unbelief is our own selfishness. Yes, that’s what I said. It can be very hard to look at this hiding in the corners of our heart. You see, if we walk away we give up a lot. We give up our image, we give up our identity as a wife (huge!), we probably give up friendships and even church support we have valued immensely, we give up the respect of others. We may even think we are giving up on ourselves and God and our family – though this is not the truth. We may give up our home and our financial security.

For me, the single biggest step of faith I ever made was believing God when He told me to get out of my marriage and follow Him. It was a daring, blind step of audacious faith – and it came at huge expense. I did lose friends, family, church support, my identity, my role as a wife, my home and financial security (such as they were), and the respect of others.

But, I dared to believe what God told me.

Today, He gave me a huge blessing. Actually, today He gave me the promise of a huge blessing – which is sitting right in the Word and I had never realized it applied directly to me.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30

Now, lest anyone think that this sacrifice in an abusive marriage isn’t about the gospel, it is indeed about the gospel. Not only is it an issue of obedience to God, it is quite literally about the gospel. Jesus defined the gospel in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The gospel includes healing the brokenhearted, preaching deliverance to captives, setting at liberty those that are bruised, and preaching the favorable – full of God’s favor! year of the Lord. The gospel is not just about going to heaven when we die. And that is definitely not what Jesus modeled in His earthly ministry, nor does it describe the fulfillment of what Jesus very specifically commissioned his followers to do when He left. Eternal life starts at the day of salvation and God’s salvation is for every part of our lives, not just our eternal destiny.

The promise of a blessing is literally also for those of us who have left husbands (or wives, as the case may be), family, friends, churches, homes, and financial provision to leave an idolatrous marriage and follow ONE God. God promises us a hundredfoldin this world – not only in the world to come!

This is a powerful promise for those who will dare to let go and abandon themselves to God. The sacrifice is astronomical – but God’s promise is a hundred times bigger.

Is There a Silver Lining to the Abuse-Aware Church Trend?

So, as I have been thinking about this issue of the new trend among churches and Christian ministries to be “aware” of abuse, it has occurred to me that there may well be a good side to this situation. Right now, as I mentioned in my last post, what is happening is actually more hurtful than ignorance.

However, it could well be that this is a first step that will lead to further steps — moving subsequently into a better direction. I have to remember that these are people and organizations which, until very recently, were not even acknowledging domestic abuse as a real issue in the church and in Christian marriages. Now, with the increasing outcry of those of us who have experienced it, they are seeing there is a problem.

The first, and simplest response, is to say, “Oh yes, there’s a problem. We understand and care. But our theology hasn’t changed so we’ll see how we can wrap this up with a nice bow on top and stuff it into our existing theology with a minimum of effort.” Even though, for now, that’s disasterous, it is a step. It is motion instead of inertia.

It is my hope that, as the outcry continues and the error of this “new” philosophy is exposed, they will look deeper and make further changes. This really does take time. Nobody goes from 0 to 100 in one instant. When a quick and easy bandaid doesn’t staunch the gushing wound that is Christian domestic abuse, those who genuinely do care and are seeking God will look deeper to find out why the bandaid isn’t working.

The next step may be only another small one. But a series of small steps will get the job done eventually. And, that’s what we need. I have to remember that, even though I was in it with the problem very present in my own face, it took me 13 years to “get there” – after seven years of complete blindness and incomprehension. Why do I think it will be easier for those who don’t have a living and present reminder in their living room every day?

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.

Is it the Alleged Victim’s Fault?

It is fairly standard procedure when a clergy-member is accused to sex abuse for people to blame or accuse the alleged victim. The alleged victim is either accused of lying and making up the whole thing to destroy God’s servant, or s/he is accused to seducing the clergy member and then lying about it.

Unfortunately this practice isn’t reserved for clergy sex abuse. In fact, it is a standard byproduct of denial. And, for all that, denial is a normal response to information that seems impossible. Where this becomes dangerous is when denial persists into unreasonable refusal to accept truth or to deflect responsibility from the one(s) responsible.

Sociological Images: Seeing Is Believing has a great article about how common and widespread this response is. Did you know it is the victim’s fault if her husband beats her (oh, yes – even the church will tell you that), a wife’s fault if her husband kills her children, the economy’s fault if domestic violence rates rise, girls are to blame for internet predators, and women cause sexual harrassment and male lust. This linked article has proof of this widespread problem – check it out.

The heart of this issue is that in each of these types of situation people fail to connect the action with the correct cause. Any perpetrator is fully responsible for his/her own behavior. If this were not true, all of these actions would be universal – all men would have unbridled lust, everyone would sexually harrass those around them, husbands would always kill their children when their wife upsets them, there would be no domestic violence in financially secure families, etc. No victim ever forces the perpetrator to take advantage of them. This is patently ridiculous. Still, the myth persists, adding to the pain of victims everywhere.

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.