ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Christian Marriage, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence and Churches, Failure to Report Crimes, Marriage, Marriages Damaged-Destroyed by Sp. Ab., Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Authority, Women and the Church

Three Pastors Challenge Dr. James Dobson’s Advice on Domestic Violence Which Could Put Victims in Harm’s Way

Dr. James Dobson, Love Must Be Tough, Domestic Violence, Spousal Abuse, Church, Jeff Crippen, Mike Sloan, Neil Schori


Recently, an article was posted at Dr. James Dobson’s website and Facebook page.  The Facebook post received a lot of push back, and interestingly (but not surprisingly), the article, along with all of the comments, has since been removed or hidden.  No comments are allowed on the blog page.  The article was an excerpt taken from Dobson’s book, Love Must be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisis.

I will just say at the outset that there is no hope that I can see for a victim of domestic abuse by following his advice.

This blurb was posted on Dobson’s blog to promote the book. In the context of domestic violence, this blurb is saying that it only takes one person to cooperate in a marriage to draw “your partner back into your arms:”

Unlike most approaches to marriage crisis, the strategy in this groundbreaking classic does not require the willing cooperation of both spouses. Love Must Be Tough offers the guidance that gives you the best chance of rekindling romance, renewing your relationship, and drawing your partner back into your arms.

In the excerpt from the book, we read a letter to Dobson from Laura, a victim of Domestic violence. She indicates she has been married for 12 year to a highly respected lawyer and church leader, but his behavior is different when he is home.  Her husband has a violent temper and explodes once or twice a month, and the beatings are getting more violent and frequent. This woman still loves her husband:

I don’t know what to do. I really do love my husband. He’s a fine man when he isn’t mad about something. He never shows this side of himself in public, even when he is frustrated. No one has any idea he is a wife abuser. I haven’t told anyone, and my husband would blow up if I asked him to go with me for counseling. No telling what he’d do if he knew I was consulting you!

So what can I do? I don’t believe in divorce. I am trying to be gentle and cautious at all times, but inevitably I step on his toes and he explodes again. I’m so tired of being beaten and then having to stay home for days to hide my bruises.

How do I deal with this situation?

Dr. Dobson said that he only saw four options for this woman. I’ve tried to condense the four points below:

  1. “Remain silent at home, walk on cracked eggs, and be the eternal conciliator.”  Dobson acknowledged that Laura is already doing this and this is not a good long-term answer.
  2. Divorce her husband.  Dobson said, “As a Christian, I agree with Laura that divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.”
  3.  The third suggestion is to remain married, but keep emotionally detatched and independent from her husband.  Dobson calls this an “emotional divorce” and says that this “emotional isolation” will help to protect Laura from further pain, but the relationship will still be unhealthy.
  4. The last response Dobson gives is the tough love solution. Dobson suggests that this is the best solution:

This is risky and psychologically expensive, but it is my choice and my recommendation. In essence, Laura’s husband is emotionally blackmailing her. He is saying by his behavior, “Do what I wish or I’ll beat you.” She must break out of that tyranny while she’s still young enough to cope with the consequences. This might be accomplished by forcing the matter to a crisis. Change of behavior does not occur when waters are smooth, as we have seen; it sometimes happens after a storm. I would suggest that Laura choose the most absurd demand her husband makes, and then refuse to consent to it. Let him rage if he must rage. She should prearrange a place to go and ask friends or relatives to step in for assistance at that critical moment. Separate living quarters may be necessary until her husband settles down. He should be made to think that he has lost his wife over this issue, and in fact, I would recommend that she not return until there is reason to believe that he is willing to change. If that takes a year, so be it. When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has a severe problem and promises to deal with it if she’ll come home, a period of negotiations should follow. One of the conditions for reconciliation is competent Christian counseling for the psychological problem that is now apparent to everyone but the husband.

Considering Dr. Dobson’s very wide audience, I found his words to Laura to be shocking and potentially harmful. Dr. Dobson’s words are respected far and wide and I wanted to hear what other church leaders had to say about his advice. I sought out three pastors whose ministries involve working with victims of domestic violence and abusers. These are men in the trenches who understand abuse, understand victims, and understand God’s Word on how to handle these life-threatening situations.  I am very grateful that these men speak truth about abusers and how to protect women who are in harm’s way.

The first pastor who responded to my request was Pastor Neil Schori. I met him on Twitter and so appreciate what he is doing to help battered women. Pastor Schori went to Drew and Stacy Peterson’s home for a counseling session and undoubtedly, Stacy’s disappearance has made a big impact on his life and future ministry work.

I recently saw a post about domestic violence on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Facebook page. At first, I was excited because so few Christian leaders are willing to even address the issue…but my excitement was quickly replaced with the sad reality of the status quo.

documenttheabuse.com domestic violence, neil schori

Dr. Dobson “fielded” a question from a woman whom was a victim of her horribly violent spouse. He was violent to her in every aspect of the word, as he filled her with fear and beat her with the same body that should have been used only to comfort and protect her.

She asked a vulnerable question, and got (sadly) the most typical response that I’ve seen from most Christian leaders: A wife’s purpose is “…to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.” Sadly, this is precisely why churches and pastors are NOT viewed as allies of victims and the first-line defenses (shelters and advocates) that assist victims of violence each day. This is also why there are still 8-10 women killed each day by their intimate partners.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Churches should be the safest places on earth for victims of all kinds. It can happen! My church is “safe place” and I’m working to help others become the same. It is time for leaders to stand up and recognize that Jesus always stood with the oppressed, and because of his lead, so should they.

If you are a church leader, or just looking to make a difference, please join us in our movement to take the power of silence away from abusers.


Neil Schori

Pastor Jeff Crippen has been ministering to victims of domestic violence for a number of years now. This article, Abuse and Pastors: An Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors, (which coincidentally was cross-posted here at SSB) explains Jeff’s awakening to domestic violence and the church’s response. He contributed his thoughts on Dobson and the Tough Love article:

Years ago myself and our church rejected James Dobson as a resource.  Why?  Several reasons, but the first was that Dobson built an empire in part by refusing to take a firm theological, A Cry for Justice, Jeff Crippen, Domestic Violencebiblical stand on the gospel. His message was one of human effort, not Christ. It remains so. That is why you have seen him promote “clergy appreciation day” in which he encourages people to show their appreciation for their “rabbi, priest, or pastor.”  When I challenged him on this, his subordinates contacted me and blew us off, telling me that Focus on the Family (Dobson is no longer with Focus) had a much larger and wider base of followers than any local church and so they had to be more inclusive.  All of that indicated plainly to us that Dobson is not truly concerned about the truth of Scripture.  His goal is not Christ, but a model of family and marriage that he perceives to be healthy to society.


Now, in regard to his “Tough Love” message from which his horribly damaging nonsense about a wife having to remain married to a husband who abuses and even beats her comes from – Dobson’s “tough love” is at best what the Bible calls Law, but more probably it is just plain legalism. Works righteousness. It is an improper use of God’s Law.  Dobson replaces the work of Christ and the Spirit in the regenerate heart with this methodology of “tough love.” That is how he sees sanctification. Is a woman’s husband an abuser?  Well then, apply the methods of tough love and change him. But surely anyone even slightly acquainted with Scripture knows that such a philosophy is doomed to failure.  It is letters chiseled in stone, not the work of the Spirit upon the person’s heart. It is Old Covenant, not New Testament. Yet Dobson would have it applied to an abuser even if he claims to be a Christian.


Dobson, you see, believes that white-washing tombs filled with dead men’s bones will clean up the tomb. And thus his message is a false gospel promoted by a psychologist mixing his own traditions with a dash of psychology and a smattering of Bible verses.


Dobson’s empire is a perfect example of how a false gospel sells and deceives. People like it. They can do it. It sounds logical.
Until of course, an abuse victim ends up dead.


Pastor Jeff Crippen

I met Pastor Mike Sloan through Boz Tchividjian. Mike has been a champion in encouraging the church have better guidelines in dealing with child sex abuse (here, here, and here). I’ve been observing Mike use his voice powerfully on Twitter against abuse and it’s clear that he also has a good understanding of domestic violence as you will surely note below. It’s important to read the words from pastors who have experience working with abuse, who understand the way abusers work, and who understand the frailty of the defenseless and oppressed, so victims can become survivors and can finally experience freedom from their abusers, and eventually peace. Here are Mike’s words on Dobson’s article:

What Dr. Dobson advocates here is sending a bloodied sheep back to the wolf. This man has shown that he is capable of life-threatening violence against her. She needs to get out with her children and her life as soon as she can. Telling her to return and force the matter to a crisis is recklessly endangering her life. There is no excuse for this and it betrays a lack of awareness of how domestic abusers typically operate. His behavior is criminal and once she is safe the police should be called. There is no doubt this road will be difficult, but at least this will allow her to an opportunity to escape this life lived under the shadow of terror. Dobson’s ministry should move to correct this potentially deadly counsel immediately before any more victims are harmed.

Dobson should know that in situations of abuse God calls his people to, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:4) Abuse always involves a difference in power and unless someone more powerful comes in on the side of the oppressed they have only their tears (Ecclesiastes 4:1). God ordained civil authorities to bear the sword and punish evil like domestic abuse (Romans 13). This man needs to face the civil penalties for his crimes.


Dobson’s advice is also a form of victim blaming. Notice he says that she is responsible for keeping the marriage together, so she must go back and show “tough love”. But the abuser is the one who has broken the marriage covenant. He is called to love her as Jesus Christ loves. Would the love of Jesus pummel her and loosen her teeth? He has smashed the marriage covenant beyond recognition. He is the one who needs to be held accountable, and yet he puts the responsibility on her to keep the marriage together as if it is on her. This is not her fault. Her job is to get help and heal.


The church should also hold him accountable, but that seems unlikely as he is apparently in leadership. Most in the church aren’t prepared to accept that a man like this, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, would be anything other than his public persona. Churches don’t get that abusers cultivate a double life on purpose to avoid detection. I would be shocked if they did anything but side with him and advise her to return to him. So sadly I would not advise her to go to her church for help. Because they lack informed training, churches are easily deceived by abusers, accepting false repentance as genuine (abusers know the right words and many even shed tears on command!), so they can continue controlling their victims. This is a tragic reality in our churches and the need for training in abuse dynamics in all forms is desperately needed.


Pastor Mike Sloan


Pastor Neil Schori can be reached on Twitter at: @neilschori, @documentabuse, @napervillecc

He also has growing ministry work in the following:

  • DocumentTheAbuse.com:  “Created after Stacy Peterson disappeared, our goal is to empower victims of domestic violence and help them document the abuse
    SafeFaithCommunity.com: A challenge to the faith community to defend, protect, and support victims of abuse.
    SafePersonProject.com: A challenge for anyone who wants to commit to defending victims of abuse.
Pastor Jeff Crippen has a blog dealing with domestic violence at A Cry for Justice.
He is co-author of A Cry for Justice, which responds to the topic of domestic violence from a Christian perspective.


Pastor Mike Sloan tweets at @mikeasloan


You can find other resources on Domestic Violence at SSB’s resource page.



56 thoughts on “Three Pastors Challenge Dr. James Dobson’s Advice on Domestic Violence Which Could Put Victims in Harm’s Way”

  1. Shared that article on Facebook and got a little pushback on my and a friend’s assessment. Ultimately I think it was productive though – they might just get it now.

    My wife had a great comment on it. She noticed that not ONCE did he acknowledge the fact that the woman was experiencing PHYSICAL abuse. Kind of blew my mind when I saw it too. It’s what these guys don’t say sometimes that’s most informative of what they see is of most importance.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. YOU BUNCH OF ASSCLOWNS. that woman should run like the wind and get away from him before he kills her. and they should hang their heads in shame and stop beating their own wives. idiots. what kind of god do you believe in????

    Liked by 2 people

  3. he’s beating her because he can. because she and you allow him to get away with it. because you say your god encourages it. he does not beat men because they would beat him back. i would feed him a lovely chocolate cake loaded with exlax. then wake him in the middle of the night and remind him he closes his eyes and goes to sleep and there are sharp knives in the house. you bunch of cowardly asshats


  4. Totally aside from my disgust (but not surprise) at Dobson’s counsel here, I’m just blown away that he advises Laura to respond to her husband’s “emotional blackmail” with some emotional blackmail of her own. Where did this guy get his credentials?? From a Cracker Jack box?? Yes, I know he actually went to a reputable institution, but this is ridiculous.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We’ll be publishing a post at A Cry For Justice this Friday on this same topic. The post will be titled “A ‘Gauntlet Down’ Challenge to James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Other Christian Ministries of Fame.”

    Good work Julie Anne for getting those three pastors to make informed comment on Dobson’s appalling teaching.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I read Love Must Be Tough years ago, when I was recently gone through a break-up. I saw some good points there, where letting go needs to happen; even in a marriage. He did advise “Laura” to find a safe place to live until her husband decided, either to get help, or not. Enlisting family and community is good, though yes, there are situations where that’s harder; where people are stuck in a “one-word-against-the-other” situation. But we’re talking about it, so hopefully we can learn together to be Jesus to everyone involved.
    But I got a general feeling throughout, that James Dobson sees marriage as a forever game of “wanting what you can’t have”. He even commends Shirley for lying to him when he was breaking up with her! Also, he put a disclaimer in that book, saying how if a spouse knows what you’re doing, it won’t work. But it’s been talked of publicly now, so what’s the new solution?
    BTW, I was under the impression that James Dobson retired from Focus; their radio program showed clips of a nice goodbye party thrown for him. Has Focus gotten better since? Well there ARE some tough topics addressed; homosexuality, divorce, domestic violence, and I’ll think of more.
    Thanks for bringing this up


  7. The more exposure on this stuff, the better. When it comes to abuse as a reason to get a divorce, Dobson must be reading the Bible in the same wooden way as Sproul Sr. But hey, at least he’ll allow separation for up to a year in an effort to bluff the husband into thinking she is going to actually divorce him. 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  8. He advised her to confront him one more time, after she already said she feared for her life after the last attack, after she already said the attacks were getting worse and more frequent, and there’s kids watching this whole thing (who knows if he’s abused them to? Likely. You can stay home to hide your bruises too, but kids notice these things. How about that for emotional trauma?). His wording indicates he’s advising her to set up a safe place to run to AFTER confronting him again.

    Yeah, that’s great, if she can bloody well make it there after he’s beat her again!

    The husband has already shown his true colors. But no, Dobson couldn’t even acknowledge the fact that PHYSICAL ABUSE was happening in his response.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Taking Dr. Dobson’s advice is the way women get killed.

    Anyone, if you’re in such a situation, GET OUT NOW. LEAVE. You are not going to be able to change anyone. Go to a shelter if there’s nowhere else to go.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Where did this guy get his credentials?? From a Cracker Jack box?? Yes, I know he actually went to a reputable institution, but this is ridiculous.

    I think his credentials are legitimate, but then he built an entire business empire “ministry” about “family” and his views of the importance of family. I think his original intentions were fine – wanting to help families stick together, encourage each other, but somewhere down the line, he lost sight of real people and put the institution of marriage over the safety and well-being of individuals who are harmed. Thus, this is what we see reflected in his writings when he encourages the wife to give “tough love.”

    In this situation, he has surely lost every bit of psychological training and defaulted to his business model of “protect the institution of marriage/family at all costs.” He’s lost all common sense and has put battered wives at risk of harm, including death.

    I cannot think of any situation where a mental health professional would advise someone to confront her abuser.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I appreciate the analysis of Dobson’s career – devising rules about how families should work. If you don’t follow his rules, apparently you only have yourself to blame if your family doesn’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The wife mentioned that she would get bruises – that is evidence right there of a crime: domestic abuse! Crimes like this one should be reported to law enforcement. Hubby needs to face his CRIME by being arrested for beating his wife. In this case, the wife needs to be told that the marriage vows have been broken by her husband and she has only one goal: to protect herself and her children. That is far more important than trying to save a crumbled marriage due to abuse. Further, this wife is in denial, something Dobson never addresses, i.e.: “He’s a fine man when he isn’t mad about something.” No, he IS NOT a fine man. That’s like saying about a thief, “He’s a nice guy when he isn’t ripping people off.” Or, like saying about a murderer, “He’s was a really nice guy when he wasn’t killing someone.” This woman should have been told to GET OUT, press charges while the evidence of bruises is fresh, find a safe place where hubby cannot find her, and then encouraged to receive counseling to heal from this crazed maniac.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I don’t know what academic/professional training (if any) Dobson ever had regarding marital abuse. I do know he grew up among a generation of evangelicals for whom divorce was still a rarity, and the intact nuclear family with lifelong marriage was the expected norm. Things like domestic violence weren’t talked about in any public forum, including church. If he has never done any personal long term counseling with domestic abuse victims, but has merely doled out advice to the occasional letter writer or written about it here and there, then I’m really not surprised at his advice.

    I realize he’s getting up there in age, but if he still has all or most of his marbles, I do wish he would educate himself in this area given all the resources that are out there now.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dobson’s credentials are actually pretty good–he’s got a Ph.D. in psychology from USC. We’re not talking about someone coming out of Pensacola or BJU here, whatever anyone thinks of any of these institutions.

    What strikes me here is that Dobson isn’t building from psychology, or the remedies available via the church (Matthew 18 etc..), or the remedies available from the state. His whole response is a “nothing-burger”. Clara Peller would be appalled.

    And of course a disclaimer; I am fully aware that many here don’t believe Matthew 18 applies, and I fully concede that many churches screw up Matthew 18 really badly even where all agree it does apply. But Dobson here doesn’t even get us to any place where we can debate this, and it’s appalling.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. One other thought; I’ve seen this kind of thing up close, and the woman needs to know that people around her know. They’ve seen the makeup that is on way too thick. They’ve seen the eyes that are puffy, and if they’ve got children, the children’s teachers have noticed that there is something amiss with how the children are “acting out”. They’ve watched her grimace as she eats with those loosened teeth.

    They may not be saying anything, and they may not know what to do, but they know something is up, and a lot of them will support you when you go public with this. That’s what my Mom learned.

    Or, put differently, though this woman’s situation is probably well in the past–the book was originally published in 1986–if there’s a woman out there reading this who is going through this, talk to someone. If your teeth are loosened, get to a doctor or dentist, who can (a) provide an objective opinion and X rays to demonstrate the damage and (b) help walk you through reporting it. They’re mandatory reporters in most states. Get the police involved, and if you trust them, get the church involved–spousal abuse is a reason to remove someone from church leadership, and if they don’t, you need to leave that church anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. There is a larger picture that remains unaddressed: Not all abuse is physical, but all abuse is emotional.

    Even as a growing number of believers might be willing to concede (at long last) that physical abuse is unacceptable in a “Christian” marriage and home, there is still a profound depth of denial with regard to those who suffer the horror of verbal and emotional abuse. At least if he hits you, someone will defend you. But when you bear no physical scars, such a victim is dismissed, silenced and encouraged to return home and try harder and save the marriage. It is not a marriage, it is a mockery.

    These abusers are just as wicked but smart enough to understand how to win the battle of perception. Should this victim leave, she may have no one to support her. He knows this and relishes the power this affords him.

    The neglect of believing victims of physical abuse is so inherently obvious. The good doctor Dobson is way off base here, expecting a victim to stand her ground under such dangerous conditions.

    There are so many things wrong with this picture.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Dobson was a young buck who used his credentials to sell Conservative Christians that hitting children really was the best way to raise children. He was the the anti-Dr Sears of the 70’s and got too big for his britches after being a part of the Reagan administration. His conservative political/theological parade has never ended.

    Never mind that his own children went through major rebellions (something his teachings promised to minimize), including drug use, tattoos, sex, etc…

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Cindy, I’d love to hear more about what you’re talking about sometime. For the present time and in the present subject, it would be a great thing if we could get our response to physical abuse halfway plausible. Maybe then we could see straight to deal with the rest then.

    ChristianAgnostic, the book has been revised several times, and the FOTF HQ is palatial–a lot of big names have passed through and even now work there. So I think this is just a colossal “brain fart” (pardon my French) on the part of a lot of people who should have said something.

    By the way, Dobson was politically involved for a long time, but he does not appear to have been employed by any White House. Allied with some, yes, but employed, no.


  19. OK, commission member, I’ll grant that. Might quibble that he wasn’t paid, whatever, but that wasn’t my central point anyways.

    Fleshed out better, my central point is that I don’t believe that his commission memberships messed up his mind so that he started putting nonsense into his books. I think he simply didn’t apply what he knew from any of the areas he was trained in, and nobody called him on it.


  20. I agree with you about applying his training…but his high visibility within Gov’t commissions lent him an air of credibility on all things political as well as parental.

    That’s why I mentioned it, many who follow his teaching also follow his pronouncements on social/political issues.


  21. I am horrified that Dobson would encourage a wife to intentional bait a husband who has proven to be violent towards her in the past. The violence would only be exacerbated and she could end up dead. The husband may have no intention of killing his wife, but in the heat of his rage he could choke her just a little harder than usual or slam her head against a sharp surface and having the safe place planned ahead of time would not “unkill” her.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. From what I read Dr. Dobson seems to mean well and thinks he’s helping I even agree on him on the wife separating from her husband until he realizes he has a problem even if it takes a year, but I don’t agree on the wife returning if the husband tells her he will get help if she comes back as that still could be placing her in harms way. It would be better for the husband to get help, counseling, therapy for his anger and violence first and only when it’s an absolute that the wife will be safe under the same roof with him should she return. I don’t rule out reconciliation even in this case and understand why churches prefer to help save marriage first but don’t like it when they treat divorce as some abomination that should never ever happen. There are biblical grounds for divorce like in sexual immorality, desertion and I agree that a spouse who physically abuses another throughout the marriage is deserting the marriage covenant. If this woman doesn’t want to give up on her marriage, than her husband is the one who needs to change reaching out to God, he has to do whatever it takes, therapy, repenting, healing and for her part she should also get help to heal from the pain and be able to forgive. Of course the police should be involved if her safety is being threatened and possibly a restraining order if necessary. I do agree many churches are ill-prepared on dealing with spousal abuse cases but hopefully not all.


  23. There are biblical grounds for divorce like in sexual immorality, desertion and I agree that a spouse who physically abuses another throughout the marriage is deserting the marriage covenant.

    I believe that chronic physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse is desertion. The husband is turning his back on his wife, completely dishonoring the vows to which he committed.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Hello, Bike Bubba and others. I appreciate your interest in understanding more about verbal and emotional abuse and need to address your assertion that maybe once the physical aspects of abuse are addressed, the church can take a look at the non-physical forms.

    That kind of mindset is sadly common – and tragically naive. That view is precisely why women remain in their toxic, ungodly marriages. I did it for 20 years, because no one in the church validated my experience or gave me permission to leave my abuser. I cannot begin to tell you the depth and breadth of the wounds that man inflicted on me and our four children. We are all healing now, but even more than 10 years later, some scars still remain, my four children can never get back the childhood that they lost, and the regret that I carried for years after finally seeing it all was emotionally devastating.

    It is absolutely imperative that we as a body recognize that abuse in whatever form it takes is the same and the abuser mindset is the same, whether or not the abuse is physical or emotional. The effects – the fear, the confusion, the isolation, the crazy-making, the jealousy and paranoia are the same. The secrets we keep, the nights we cannot stop trembling and cry ourselves to sleep, the terror we see in our children’s eyes is all the same. Let’s talk about the silent treatment. Let’s talk about the cold stares, the cursing and raging and sexual coercion and humiliation. Let’s talk about how the air changes when he walks in the door. Let’s talk about when our husband threatens to harm our children or take them away, being deprived of financial support and friendships and family relationships. And please don’t tell me it’s not the same, it’s not as bad. You shouldn’t have to wait for his fist to hit your face to escape such torment.

    Hopefully this serves as an eye-opener for those who don’t understand.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Cindy, I think you’re misreading me. All I’m saying is that if a church (or society) does not recognize the harms of something where the results are empirically measurable–bruises, broken bones, and the like–good luck getting people to act on that which does not show up in a photograph or on an X-ray.

    And that’s all. I’m not saying that there aren’t other forms of abuse, or that they’re “not that harmful”, or whatever. It’s just that when you’ve got what appears to be willful blindness, opening eyes to see bruises and broken bones and the like is a necessary prerequisite to opening them a bit further to see the things you mention.


  26. Hello, Bike Bubba, and thank you for the clarification.

    I believe this issue can and should be fought on all fronts and from every angle, because the abuse dynamic is always the same, whether or not the abuser is causing physical harm. This is the primary factor that so many, particularly in the body of Christ, do not understand. It makes it all the more difficult for a woman who is not being slapped around to leave, because she can expect to be told, “It can’t be that bad,” and she is afraid of being abandoned by her church and by God.

    But it is “that bad.” These are not random acts or merely behavioral issues that need to be addressed. The abuser mindset is always, always the same. The abuser is not interested in relationship; he wants power and control.

    It is because of what I know now and my experience as a believing survivor of abuse that I do what I do. Find me on WordPress if you want to know more.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Quoting the letter from Laura, the abused wife:

    He’s a fine man when he isn’t mad about something. He never shows this side of himself in public, even when he is frustrated. No one has any idea he is a wife abuser

    Yes, that’s how they operate.

    I also read in a book on verbal abuse (I am related to a verbally abusive family member) that abusers rarely will abuse you in front of others – in either the case of physical abuse or verbal abuse. That is sure true of my verbally abusive family member, she waits ’til we are alone (in a room or on the phone) to verbally assault me.

    From the part about Dobson’s advice:

    Divorce her husband. Dobson said, “As a Christian, I agree with Laura that divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.”

    Oh yes, divorce most certainly an option and a solution. One reason of several divorce even exists is for cases such as this.

    Based on what all I’ve read in books and blogs by experts on domestic violence (and verbal abuse, and codependency), abusers don’t often change. The only option for a woman is to permanently leave the guy.

    Regarding this bit of Dobson advice:

    He should be made to think that he has lost his wife over this issue, and in fact, I would recommend that she not return until there is reason to believe that he is willing to change. If that takes a year, so be it.

    I wish women in these marriages would consider their OWN NEEDS and be pragmatic – do you really want to WASTE a year (or more) on some abusive floating sewer scum who mistreats you?

    You’re never going to be happy with the guy. Why would you waste months or years of your life on some jerk??? You only get several decades down here. I wish these women would not fritter away their time on these violent or verbally abusive ingrates.

    It makes me sad how so many think, due to Christian teaching, that they HAVE TO stay with an abusive guy no matter what, because they hear pastors or Christian book authors teach the “no divorce ever, no matter what, not even for women who are being abused by their husband” tripe.

    I don’t think God is against all or even most divorce, but even if he is, so what? Just get a divorce and beg God’s forgiveness of it later – the Bible says God will forgive.

    You’re the one who has to endure beatings or verbal abuse off the creep you’re married to, not Mr. Dobson or John Piper, or whatever Christian idiot is telling you that divorce is always verboten for Christian women. You’re a Christian with liberty in Jesus, not a burka-covered Muslim lady married to a Muslim man in Syria.

    I wish the Christian women in these crummy marriages could have their eyes opened to all the stuff they’re being taught, because it’s wrong. God did not intend for men to be the heads of women, or for women to unilaterally submit to a man, nor is God against all divorce.

    Regarding this:

    She asked a vulnerable question, and got (sadly) the most typical response that I’ve seen from most Christian leaders: A wife’s purpose is “…to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.” Sadly, this is precisely why churches and pastors are NOT viewed as allies of victims and the first-line defenses (shelters and advocates) that assist victims of violence each day. This is also why there are still 8-10 women killed each day by their intimate partners.

    This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects about abusive marriages both in secular culture and in Christian culture though most Christians seem more prone to this thinking: there is nothing a wife can do or not do to halt a husband from abusing her.

    There is no justification for a man to beat (or verbally degrade) his wife – it doesn’t matter if she ironed a hole in his favorite shirt this morning, and he claims that is why he beat her.

    Your typical moronic Christian preacher, however, will lecture that wife, should she approach him, and he will stupidly say something like, “Well, in the future, be careful not to burn a hole in your husband’s shirt, and I’m sure he will stop beating you.” -The responsibility is put in the wife, when it should be on the abusive husband.

    The sole responsibility for abuse is on the ABUSER.

    And a lot of these abusers abuse to CONTROL the woman, they just use other excuses (like burning a hole in the shirt) as a pretext or excuse. If it’s not a hole in the shirt, it will be because the wife forgot to pick up a favorite case of his beer while at the store, or because he feels the skirt she wore earlier was too short – or whatever.

    This also holds true for verbal and emotional abuse – the responsibility is on the abuser, not the target.

    Other than applying negative consequences for behavior you don’t find acceptable, you cannot really change another person or his behavior, and even if you do inflict a negative consequence on to someone’s behavior, that is not a guarantee that the person will change.

    An abused wife cannot change her abusive husband’s behavior – not by giving him more sex, keeping the house tidy, cooking him his favorite meals — all of that is walking on egg shells around the abuser, and it’s enabling.

    The abuser needs to get his butt into therapy with a therapist who understands the dynamics of abusive marriages, the abuser needs to admit to himself, his wife and the therapist that he wants CONTROL and that he has an entitled mentality, and he needs to let go of his big, entitled ego. That’s just for starters.

    But all of this “the wife can change the man by being sweet, demure, sexy, baking him muffins and not doing the things the husband finds annoying will keep him from abusing her” nonsense that so many Christians and preachers like to preach at abused wives is a load of ineffective crap and puts the onus on the victim when it should be on the abusive husband.

    I am amazed -AMAZED- that Christians in the year 2015 are STILL stupidly advising abused wives to take the blame for these cruddy marriages and telling them it’s their duty or responsibility to get the man to stop abusing, and that they are still saying to these women that “divorce is never an option.” Oh yes, divorce is an option and a solution, it most certainly is – avail yourself of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. by nowamfoundatlast,
    “i would feed him a lovely chocolate cake loaded with exlax.”

    On an otherwise sad and sobering thread, that made me laugh. Thank you.

    I might want to jot this down, in case I ever feel crabby enough to prank someone back – put some Ex Lax in a chocolate cake.

    Has anyone here seen the movie “The Help.”? Though the character in the movie puts something much more gross in the chocolate pie than Ex Lax. 🙂


  29. I do apologize if I annoy anyone with my harping on certain topics – like singleness, for instance – but you can’t say that my input on some of this stuff doesn’t occasionally come in handy.

    Like, if churches were more respectful of singleness and women being single and/or childless or childfree, then they would not be putting ‘The Family’ and pro-creation (having children) on to this gilded pedestal, above all else.

    If more Christians in America (and other nations) were more respectful and okay wiht women being single and not having kids…

    Women wouldn’t likely be pressured into marrying if they did not want to, nor to feel pressured to stay married to a creep if they did marry and the husband turned out to be a jerk.

    I myself would like to marry eventually, sure – but I am currently single, and being single is not second best, but churches keep acting as though it is, as though Marriage should be for everyone, and if you don’t marry (for whatever reason), you are a failure.

    Churches and most conservative Christian think tanks keep acting like a woman’s ONLY acceptable role or purpose in life is to marry and have a kid or two.

    As long as they keep attaching this insane amount of value on to Marriage And Family (that not even the God of the Bible does!!), they will continue to stick women into these awful situations, or advise them that since Marriage is so freaking important, that they can never divorce, marriage must be kept together at all costs.

    When you knock marriage down a notch or two (where it really belongs in the overall scheme of life), then suddenly, you’re not going to be AS legalistic and dogmatic about women divorcing an abusive jackass, nor are you going to marginalize men or women who do not marry, and maybe singles would be treated with more kindness and consideration.


  30. Tim said,

    I appreciate the analysis of Dobson’s career – devising rules about how families should work. If you don’t follow his rules, apparently you only have yourself to blame if your family doesn’t work.

    This is true for a lot of other subjects in Christianity. As a single adult, I’ve seen singles explain how the Christian dating advice they got growing up did not help, and they are still single.

    When confronted with the fact that typical Christian relationship advice doesn’t help singles get married, the older married Christians get irate and blame the singles for the advice failing.

    It’s also just odd how so many Christian want easy formulas or check lists to follow at everything – how to succeed at life, at work, how to get married, how to get God to answer your prayer- they have steps and tips to take for every topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. cindy burrell said,

    There is a larger picture that remains unaddressed: Not all abuse is physical, but all abuse is emotional.

    Even as a growing number of believers might be willing to concede (at long last) that physical abuse is unacceptable in a “Christian” marriage and home, there is still a profound depth of denial with regard to those who suffer the horror of verbal and emotional abuse.

    Thank you for bringing up verbal and emotional abuse.

    Too often, people discount those as being as serious as physical abuse, but they can be just as damaging.

    I have a family member who has inflicted verbal abuse on me for YEARS, but I was in denial about it up until a couple of years ago, when I finally confronted her on it (there are times I do think it’s okay for a victim to confront an abuser, but it depends on the particular persons – with my family member, I felt fairly safe confronting her, though it did make her lash out at me even more than usual).

    Anyway, I confronted this person on her verbal abuse, she refused to change her behavior, so I had to pretty much cut her out of my life.

    Being consistently verbally abused (and there are different types of verbal abuse, not all of it is name calling, though that is one type) can kill your spirit, can cause you to doubt yourself, can lead to depression.

    There are many good web pages about verbal and emotional abuse out there, such as this one:
    _Ten Myths About Verbal Abuse_ (hosted on Mental- health- matters site)

    6) Verbal abuse is less impacting than physical abuse

    Verbal abuse hurts. It is damaging. It is an element of emotional abuse – Verbal abuse is emotional battering. The verbal abuser bruises his or her victims – emotionally – in a way that hurts just as much, if not more, than actual physical bruises inflicted by the physical batterer.
    Being verbally abused is being abused. It is not a matter of having been done a favour because your partner or boy/girlfriend didn’t hit you.

    7) Verbal abuse only involves name-calling or yelling

    Verbal abuse is more than only name-calling or yelling and screaming. It is using words to intimidate or control. It involves threats, put-downs, and making fun of someone – even if it is couched in a joke and you are cajoled into joining in. Verbal abuse is any language used to demean, criticize, tear-down, make fun of, embarrass or otherwise intimidate or control another human being.

    8) That it is not as abusive as hitting someone

    Another thing I’d add is that some verbal abusers will hint or imply to their target that they will physically abuse the target if the target does not comply. They use verbal threats to get their way and dominate.


  32. christianagnostic said,

    Never mind that his own children went through major rebellions (something his teachings promised to minimize), including drug use, tattoos, sex, etc…

    This is so true, but also true of other groups, like the Duggars, and the other groups that are heavily into Patriachy, Gothardism, the ‘get your kids into homeschooling,’ types etc, – these groups tell Christians, ‘just follow our recipe for godly kids, and your kids will never sin.’

    But then, years later, you find out that the men promoting this stuff are molesting their nannies, or they are molesting their own sisters and paying porn stars for sex…

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Bike Bubba said,

    Cindy, I’d love to hear more about what you’re talking about sometime. For the present time and in the present subject, it would be a great thing if we could get our response to physical abuse halfway plausible. Maybe then we could see straight to deal with the rest then.

    Get a copy of the book
    The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans and read that.

    You may also want to get the book “Why Does He Do That” book by Bancroft, I think his name is. IIRC, he mentions in that book that some women said that the verbal abuse was WORSE than the physical abuse they got from their husbands.

    Being consistently verbally or emotionally abused is very stressful and knocks your self worth down. I have a family member who verbally abused me for years, and when I finally woke up to it and called her on it and asked her to change and treat me better, and she just replied by screaming even harder, I had to cut her out of my life.

    I am no longer subjected to an hour or longer tirade, or 20 paragraph long e-mails, where she tells me I am a ‘pathetic loser,’ a ‘mother f–king idiot’ and so on. I am much happier, and my anxiety at least in regards to her has been cut in half because I don’t have to put up with it anymore.

    And that is just a family member of mine who lives out of state, who I rarely visit in person.
    I can’t bear to think of a woman MARRIED to a MAN who is like that, where she has to live in the same house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Julie Anne said,

    You are sadly correct, Ann. That is why I found the advice to appalling. It must be corrected.

    I already alluded to this up that page, but the MEN who give this advice to WOMEN (women are usually the victims in abusive marriages) aren’t the ones who have to live this stuff out.

    It’s easy for these men to preach to 5 foot 3 inch tall women who weight like 115 pounds to stay in a marriage with a guy who is like 5 foot 11 or 6 foot 4 man who is physically larger/stronger than the women to say “you must return, can never divorce.”

    If God magically sucked Dobson out of his “man body” and stuck him into a female body, like the old Quantum Leap TV series, and had him in the body of a woman married to a verbally or physically abusive man, I can guarantee you he would not hesitate to divorce the joker if he personally were subjected to this trash.

    A lot of Christians do this hypocritical dance, where they so easily give impossible advice to a person for a situation they themselves will never be in. Case in point, to give you an example…

    It reminds me of this book I read by Paul Coughin, Christian author. He wrote a book for men about codependency (I read free excerpts from it on the web).

    Coughlin said he was being bullied by a male co-worker at one job he held. He did not know how to handle the bully. So, he went to his men’s group at church and asked one older Christian dude about it.

    The old guy advised him to suck it up and just smile and don’t confront the bully, don’t call the bully out, just put up with it. So for weeks, that is what Coughlin did. Until the week the old guy was hired as a consultant at Coughlin’s job or whatever role.

    The point is, Coughlin watched first hand how the old guy handled the bully and other people at his job.

    Coughlin was stunned to see that the old guy did not take crap off the bully or ANYONE. The old guy did NOT follow his own adivce of “turn the cheek, suck it up, just put up with it.”

    No. Coughlin saw the old guy chew other co-workers out. Couglin was like how do you like that hypocrisy? A lot of Christians will tell YOU, if you are being abused or bullied, to NOT FIGHT BACK, just take abuse, but if THEY are the one being bullied, they take their claws out and cut the bully in two!

    I have seen this phenomenon a lot in my own life. I have seen Christians tell me to be a doormat for a bully, but these same Christians will turn around and literally or figuratively smack the crud out of any bully who dares mess with them.

    These Christians expect other Christians to be doormats and sheep, but not themselves. They give themselves the right to be assertive to bullies … being a passive, lovey-dovey, turn the other cheek doormat is for everyone else.

    Dobson of course expects women to stay in cruddy marriages and allow a man to smack them around or yell at them, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts the jerk would never put up with that from another man himself.


  35. The church is in the dark ages concerning these things… not just in advice that is backwards, filled with fables, and potentially life-threatening, but in seeking “church leaders” for help, rather than realizing we are all the same before God. Why do pastors need to be consulted as to what color the sky is? It is because we have been taught we cannot tell the color of the sky by ourselves. We are a broken and controlled people, not allowed to grow up and follow God. Marriage is not for abuse. It is illegal to represent yourself as a councilor in secular culture unless you are well educated and have degrees from accredited institutions. This should be made to apply to churches.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. There was a time, long ago, that I respected James Dobson. I could go into this in more detail but let it suffice to say that his advice in another area was equally bizarre and non-helpful. Sometimes it takes a crisis to open your eyes. I came to see him as a person devoid of discernment and merely a promoter of any “religious” quack with something to hawk. His show was nothing but an infomercial, slap the name of Jesus on something and sell sell sell. He has given a platform to heretics and allowed them to gather recruits. He’s very vague on what he actually believes, aside from “family.”


  37. In that interview, Bundy described being with a childhood friend (whom he named) and finding a cache of pornography in the woods which he blamed for setting him on his path to rape, murder, and necrophilia. A reporter contacted the former friend who said that he had no idea what Bundy was talking about. They never found any pornography.

    Bundy tried hard to sound repentant over the years but could never quite manage to pull it off. He once said that he felt bad for the parents of the girls he murdered because “they probably miss them.” He also said that he was very lucky that he was born without empathy considering his proclivities.

    But there’s Dobson, happy to use Bundy for his agenda and be used by Bundy in turn to excuse his evil deeds.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Marsha said,
    “But there’s Dobson, happy to use Bundy for his agenda and be used by Bundy in turn to excuse his evil deeds.”
    I was unaware of a Bundy-Dobson connection.

    What did Dobson promote by way of Bundy – was it a a vauge-ish “Family values!!!” shtick, or given Bundy’s claim to have found porn behind a tree in the forest when he was a kid, did Dobson use that to bash secular, horrible ungodly culture and to bash porn?

    For the record, I don’t like porn either, but I don’t know about a guy who makes a living off stuff like this – using a serial killer to bash whatever secular, social issues that make him squirm. That makes me a little uncomfortable too

    I am a social conservative myself, but I don’t try to make a profit off it.

    I don’t (unlike Dobson and these other Christian “family values” guys) write and publish stacks of books screaming and yelling about how cruddy culture has gotten, nor do I go on to radio shows every day complaining out the yin yang about this stuff.

    If you’re sincere about this stuff, okay I guess, but Dobson Family Values crusaders seem like they’re in it only for the money or attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. I found this while looking for something else, and I thought it would be relevant to a conversation some of us were having earlier in this thread:

    _‘But He Never Hit Me’: A Christian Primer on Emotional Abuse_, on Christianity Today

    There’s an interview with a Christian woman on that page, where she describes how her Christian husband verbally abuses her. Here is part of that page:

    [quoting the abused wife]: “I tried so hard to be godly … and the Bible told me to submit to my husband. Maybe God just wanted me to suffer a bit, to make me more holy. Besides, it wasn’t that bad—he never hit me.”

    But it was bad, enough that their marriage disintegrated under the strain, leaving Deb brokenhearted, fearful, and ashamed.

    Deb’s story is not unusual. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four American women experiences domestic abuse in her lifetime, with emotional abuse present in the majority of cases. The numbers are no better among churchgoers….


  40. thanks, Cindy & Daisy. Lest there be any confusion; if you doubt how I feel about verbal abuse, ask me about my experience in middle school.

    Or, spare yourselves and don’t. It could take a while. Suffice it to say that being a young nerdling is not always fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Daisy, Dobson used the Bundy interview to warn against pornography. I agree with him that aberrant pornography is damaging to adolescents, but I disagree that it explains why Bundy did what he did.

    Back during the Nixon years, researchers received a grant to study the effect of pornography on adults. So normal adult volunteers were shown pornography and lo and behold, initial interest was followed by boredom. The ‘pornography causes sex crimes’ crowd was incensed with the study and commissioned their own. (If I remember correctly, it was published in the Readers Digest). Their own researcher visited prisons and asked male sex offenders if pornography caused them to commit their crimes. To a man, they all agreed that it was all the fault of that darned pornography!

    I am not defending pornography here of course but the causes of sex offenses are much more complex and there are good reasons to keep pornography away from minors without telling parents that their kids will grow up to be serial killers.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Ted Bundy was a psychopath. As wrong as pornography is, you don’t get a personality disorder by looking at it. I don’t really know what Bundy was looking for in Dobson -hoping for some kind of last minute stay of execution maybe- but he knew how to play him. Dobson took advantage of Bundy to promote his own anti-pornography crusade. They both used each other. In Dobson’s case, I don’t know if it was dishonesty or it was stunning naivety- as a psychologist he should have known how psychopaths function. But if he couldn’t even recognize Ted Bundy’s pathology for what it was, how could he possibly gauge an abusive spouse?

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Shy1, I saw part of that interview & it was so stupid, I could of screamed…..My mom was watching with me, & she looked at me, & said, ” Dobson looks like an idiot! I learned more psychology than that so-called ‘expert’ in Educational Psychology back in the ’30s”. We both agreed that wherever he got his degree, it sure didn’t teach him anything……


  44. This might help in regards to Dobson’s part: https://thegreycoats.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/julies-story-part-2/#comment-21665 (note the comments by Arendale regarding Dr. Dobson and also who funded regimes, ministries and organizations and other comments).
    Haven’t looked at your site in a long time and this article came up.
    As far as articles no longer there and can’t comment. You will see that a lot so make sure you print out and or copy. In an article read some Big Names have PR groups to erase the bad press and seen that with corrupt leadership that a lot of things have been removed or co-erced like in Jeremiah Candler/Bethany Deaton situation (the latter made 48 hours and Rolling Stones) a lot of lies on leaderships part=not living in truth. Julie-Anne please read all the comments.


  45. Dobson’s being more concerned about promoting his ideal marriage and family values than about the gospel reminds me of Doug Phillips and others that were involved with the now defunct Vision Forum. An older man by the name of Robert Gifford spoke to Doug about the tyrannical type of patriarchy Doug was advocating and his failure to mention the redemptive work of Christ in his Vision Forum catalogs and elsewhere.


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