The Dynamics of Spiritual Abuse Within Domestic Abuse

Lori Alexander, Domestic Abuse, Spiritual Abuse

 

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Information from Beaverton Police Department Resource Guide

 

-by Kathi

I have the privilege of volunteering with a local police department as a victim advocate. I consider it an honor to work with the officers at this department because I find them to be kind and compassionate toward victims of domestic abuse. During my training, I was excited to see the above information that goes in our area resource guide given to victims on scene. This was the first time I had ever seen spiritual abuse acknowledged as a component in domestic abuse.

Why is it that a police department understands that spiritual abuse happens within domestic abuse, yet the church has a difficult time identifying this?

The above is an outside-the-church perspective of indicators of spiritual abuse within domestic violence. Those of us who have been on the inside of the church for years can likely identify other signs of spiritual abuse. How many stories have we heard where the abuser is believed over the victim? How many accounts have we heard where victims were compelled to stay with their abusers due to the influence of a church leader or another Christian? How many wives have been told that they need to submit more to their husbands? How many victims have been told they need to pray more and trust God to heal their relationship? Who has heard Bible verses referencing why one should stay married and that there is no room for divorce from an abuser?

On the last book review of Lori Alexander’s The Power of a Transformed Wife, I highlighted this comment on Lori’s blog from a reader, Trey, and Lori’s response:

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Comment and response on The Transformed Wife, 2/13/18

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Lori followed up with a second blog post, “Christian Women are Floundering,”  which is Trey’s full comment from the original post she wrote. (Extra notation added for reference.) The following is quoted material from Lori’s post:

This post was written by Trey from a comment on this post. Yes, there were women who were terribly angry and offended with Trey for writing this and wrote that it wasn’t biblical. I added scripture to everything he wrote to prove that what he wrote was scriptural.

Here is part of what I highlighted in the earlier screenshot, with additional notes and Biblical references:

She is to submit to, serve and obey her husband in everything, as long as he does not ask her to sin. She is to do this even if her husband is mean, unreasonable and cruel and it causes her unjust suffering. (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5, 6; Titus 2:5; Colossians 3:18) “For what glory is it, if, when  ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps…Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:20, 21, 23)

Yes, Lori actually provides scripture to back up Trey’s response that a woman should stay with her husband who is mean, unreasonable, cruel, and causes unjust suffering. I cannot even begin to express how this has sat with me since I read her post. To think that Lori would “mentor” a woman who is experiencing domestic abuse by telling her that her suffering is acceptable to God leaves me heart-broken and angry.

The use of scripture to keep someone in an abusive relationship is spiritual abuse.

Not to mention the fact that she applies scripture out of context. The 1 Peter 2 verses are about slaves, not wives. 1 Peter 3 discusses suffering due to expressing belief in Christ. And, she doesn’t even bother to follow up Colossians 3:18 with Colossians 3:19 which says, “Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Her sole use of scripture that tells women to submit to their husbands leaves out the prior verse, Ephesians 5:21, “Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ.”

When I read this post, which is filled with scripture validating Trey’s view of women, I immediately knew that this is why I have such a hard time with the Bible – it’s the use of God’s word to keep some in power and others in submission, no matter the cost. This sits heavy on my heart as I think about victims who believe that they must stay in abusive relationships because the Bible says they have no way out.

Once again, Lori proves that she does not care about women. She only cares about her beliefs. Thank goodness there are others who understand the dynamics of spiritual abuse within domestic abuse.

26 comments on “The Dynamics of Spiritual Abuse Within Domestic Abuse

  1. I think along the lines of the last bullet point, spiritual abuse is assigning “worth” to position within the spiritual system. That is that elders, pastors, deacons and other spiritual leaders are more “worthy” and that lay members and women are more “worthless”. There are many concepts that go along with that value proposition, such as trustworthiness, honor and deference, that are used to silence and demean lay members who speak out against abuse.

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  2. Kathi, I am with you. When I start thinking about this, I can feel physically sick. Do these pastors live in the same house where there is abuse? No. What they are doing is saying that God thinks the marriage is more important than the people within the marriage. Where do we see God doing that in scripture?

    But for an abused woman to even go to her pastor puts her in a vulnerable place. She is looking for answers. Of course, she’s going to go to someone who is a “shepherd.” He has her best interest at heart, right? Evidently not. He has his legalistic agenda. If it was his own daughter being abused would he be saying these things?

    Is it any wonder why we see divorced women from abusive marriages not going back to church? I don’t have statistics, but I hear from women who just can’t do it. Their husbands were abusive, and their pastors spiritually abused them. The church does not represent a safe place for them anymore. I get it.

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  3. According to Walter Callison, the problem is translation and interpretation. http://www.tellingthetruth.info/publications_index/callisonwalter.php It is “putting away” that is forbidden and that God hates. Putting away leaves a woman bound to a husband who has abandoned her. Abuse certainly falls into that category. It is extreme abandonment. Even captive women in the O.T. were to be set free if a man didn’t make sure both her physical and emotional needs were met. If that is the requirement for captive women, how much more so for Jewish women–and by extension for Christian women? More info: http://www.thelibertyconnection.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57:marriage-divorce-a-remarriage&catid=10:bible-topics&Itemid=14

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  4. I am VERY angry by the comments of this person called “Trey”. Someone who remains anonymous to hid who he really is. As a victim of domestic violence, a sociologist/statistician working with domestic violence data and a Christian women, I find his views (and Lori’s) obscene and sickening. It finally summed up Lori and all her empty words in regards to domestic violence. But what is worse – there are no men standing up for women and saying that Trey is WRONG on all levels. Where are all the men – why are they silent?

    I do not believe (in fact I am positive) that a loving God would NEVER say that remaining in a marriage that is “mean, unreasonable, cruel, and causes unjust suffering”. In fact, whilst He tells women to submit, He tells men that they must love their wives as as God so loved the church. Therefore any man that behaviours in this manner is SINNING. It really is that simple. Whilst we will suffer – all will suffer at some point in our lives, through sickness and all the normal things in life, the Bible does not tell women to be martyrs and die or be injured as a result of one’s husband.

    Sadly, those that believe this rubbish will never repent, until they are face to face with God and finally told they are WRONG.

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  5. Jo, there are men like that, but Lori owns the blog and she can delete whatever comments she sees fit to portray the version of reality that she wants. It’s well known here and on other blogs that she does just that.

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  6. Kathi, I find it interesting that Lori does the worst sort of proof texting. She doesn’t even do the honor of explaining each verse, but just puts down a reference, as if that settles it. Completely heuristic, but I find that it’s the most abusive pastors who won’t even quote a verse and instead just list a bunch of references when they make their claims.

    Interesting that the passage she quotes is taken completely out of context: “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

    If she’s saying wives are slaves, where is her proof? Just quoting a passage from scripture and saying it’s applicable doesn’t mean it’s applicable.

    Jesus did not submit to all suffering. He saved himself from being stoned. He argued against the abuse of the Pharisees. Paul didn’t just submit to beatings. He told the Romans it was unlawful to beat a citizen without a trial.

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  7. The 1 Peter 2 verses are about slaves, not wives.

    I am convinced ‘trey’ sees no difference between a slave and a wife.

    There seems to be no point where a man fails so fantastically at being a decent husband where they will admit defeat, but the smallest imperfection by a woman will be treated as the gravest sin. It’s all such obvious nonsense. I think ‘headship’ teaching had completely warped too many ‘christian’ men. Women are being told utter lies about what is right. Their souls are crying out and men in some churches just keep treating them as if they don’t matter.

    We all matter. Men, women, children. Everyone matters.

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  8. Interesting that the passage she quotes is taken completely out of context: “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

    Let’s put that in the context of the roman empire where the last slave revolt resulted in six thousand being crucified to make a point.

    This is a very practical piece of advice for a different time.

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  9. Mark – Picking up on a couple of your points here…

    Your first comment about the worth and value of a victim of abuse, in this case a woman, is very important. I have heard police officers say to victims, “You’re far more worthy than this. This behavior toward you is not acceptable.” How is that difficult for Christians to see. In Lori’s case, she has stated that she doesn’t care if women are made in God’s image because that’s not important. So, it’s easy to see how she would not find worth or value in a woman outside of her role to her husband.

    You also brought up the passage that addresses slaves. Trey had this in his comment about 1 Peter 3:

    “How deep does this really go? In 1 Peter 3:6, it tells us that “Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord.” That word we translate into English as “lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” Kurios literally means an owner and master; a person who exercises absolute ownership rights. Sarah considered her husband to be her owner and her master and she is held up to you as an example to follow. Do you consider your husband to be your owner and your master? Does the way you treat him reflect this?”

    Reading his comment, I am left to think that yes, wives are considered property to Trey. It is easy for him to use this verse if that is his view of women.

    I responded to Trey on the original post where he commented telling him that no, I do not consider my husband to be my owner and master because slavery is illegal. I also called out his admonishing wives to stay with cruel and unjust husbands. Because those husbands are committing a crime as well. I also called out Lori for supporting this criminal behavior. Of course, my comment was not approved, because she needs to keep the narrative spinning in her favor.

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  10. Julie Anne – In some cases we have pastors who are abusers, so they will never side with a victim. Think about how much influence a pastor has to upholding the abuser and denying the victim to the body. It really is no wonder that some abuse victims never go back to church.

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  11. @Lea, “I think ‘headship’ teaching had completely warped too many ‘christian’ men.”

    This is somewhat baffling to me. I think that, although the teaching is misguided, men glean from the teaching what they want to, or are conditioned to, hear. Because I was taught by the patriarchal system that I was worthless from day one, headship was a huge burden of meeting my wife’s needs every day as Christ sacrificed for his church. It led to being trapped in my marriage in almost exactly the way that women claim – I was afraid that saying “no” to my wife when she had a legitimate request was not sacrificing enough for her.

    But, I also know men who have taken the same teaching, and turned it into “I’m the boss and my wife serves me.”

    As I’ve said, the underlying problem is one of “worth”. In the patriarchal spiritually abusive system, everyone starts out as worthless and gains value by manipulating the religious system and looking a certain part. And… it’s confusing because we are told that acting the part is “submitting”, but in actuality, the secret message is that those who rise to leadership are those who, in fact, don’t submit. They boss others around.

    I was told repeatedly that the church, the society, my bosses, would elevate me to a position to match my gifts. Instead, I found that all of the above feared my gifts and sought to keep me in a position of slavish obedience and worthlessness, saying that if I only tried harder, I would rise, like my bossy, but incompetent peers.

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  12. @Mark:

    As I’ve said, the underlying problem is one of “worth”. In the patriarchal spiritually abusive system, everyone starts out as worthless and gains value by manipulating the religious system and looking a certain part. And… it’s confusing because we are told that acting the part is “submitting”, but in actuality, the secret message is that those who rise to leadership are those who, in fact, don’t submit. They boss others around.

    The Great Chain of Being: Kiss Up, Kick Down.

    (Reminds me of Lewis’s descriptions in Preface to The Screwtape Letters…)

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  13. In the patriarchal spiritually abusive system, everyone starts out as worthless and gains value by manipulating the religious system and looking a certain part.

    Men, however, start with more worth and can gain more ‘value’ as well.

    A woman’s worth is only allowed to come from certain things, as well.

    Patriarchy is bad for men and women, generally speaking. It is great only for a certain subset of men who wish for a certain type of power, whether it is over a congregation or a wife and family.

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  14. Kathi, you wrote: “I responded to Trey on the original post where he commented telling him that no, I do not consider my husband to be my owner and master because slavery is illegal.”
    You should have written, that Jesus is your kurios and you cannot serve two lords. It would be idolatry. On the other hand, that comment would not have been approved, too, would it?

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  15. I was a member of an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church for thirteen years. Women are always treated as “less than ” (you know the whole submission and husband is the head of the house thing) so therefore it’s very easy for an abuser to get away with it and have his behavior justified by the church. Since women are shamed for wanting to work outside the home, it’s even easier for the abuser to keep them under their thumb because the women have no resources and no place to go. It’s sickening. I know several women from my former church who couldn’t leave even if they wanted to because they have no job skills and no education.

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  16. She just deleted this comment from a woman who simply said there was a time in history when women were seriously abused.

    She also shares a story of how her mom was almost killed by her husband.

    The woman’s original comment is still up and this was a follow up comment. She can’t have anyone seeing any truth about history. Ruins her whole narrative. Can’t let anyone know about people who are actually abused. I am in shock right now. Just when I think she sinks the lowest, then she outdoes herself again.

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  17. Some thoughts on 1 Peter 3… first you have to go back to chapter 2 for context where it is talking about following the example of Christ in our suffering. How did Christ suffer for us? He was submissive to his Father in heaven, but he did NOT submit to the evil actions and threats of people (Matt 12:11-12).

    Sarah’s example of obeying Abraham would refer to leaving her home and following him to an unknown land… I’m pretty sure it’s not referring to the times he told her to lie and be deceitful!

    “Do what is right and don’t give way to fear” implies that even in marriage we make individual right choices instead of fearing an angry husband.

    Lastly, the passage draws a portrait of a considerate, respectful, gracious, praying husband which is the very OPPOSITE to what many Christian authors think is a good husband (i.e. authoritative). Those who stress the authority seem to forget that Biblical authority is not domineering. Jesus graciously washed his disciples’ feet, served them, and allowed them free choice (Judas was free to leave). Then in verse 8 (which they don’t include) it goes on to describe even more gentleness… harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, humility… why don’t they emphasize these words when they think of the husband’s “position”?

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  18. thingsgodlywomensay — Yes, even the ones who agree with Lori are not out of bounds for getting deleted or banned. Lori has to keep everything looking just right. I’d say this commentor crossed the line by stating that laws that protect women serve a purpose plus the additional story of her mother, which is unsettling to read.

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  19. Lea, I knew a woman who was pretty powerful within a patriarchal system. The game of manipulating the system is different for women and men, and I guess if women want to be recognized as leaders, that’s not going to happen in a patriarchal system, but she got pretty much what she wanted in the church, even while portraying herself as a submissive wife and sacrificial member.

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  20. Lea, I knew a woman who was pretty powerful within a patriarchal system

    What is your point here mark, I take it you disagree that patriarchal churches reserve power mostly for men. The only power women have in those system tends to come through their husbands, is my observation.

    You cant honestly think these systems primarily benefit women?

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  21. Lea, not disagreeing, just an observation. For the patriarchal system to work, there need to be people in the oppressed class who benefit from the system and can be pointed to as an example. The complementarians claim that the system gives women everything they want, so there have to be women who they can raise as being truly happy. These women then become spokespersons for the movement, because obviously, if it worked for them and it doesn’t work for you, something is wrong with you. I think there are some examples, like Elisabeth Elliott, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, maybe Aimee Byrd and Rosaria Butterfield.

    I think I was reacting to “bad” – the more I think of it, patriarchy is an abusive system, but the leaders within that system have to maintain it generally by treating many people well within that system. Those people have a “good” experience, whether it’s truly a good experience, or just a much longer chain, but those are the people that are on blogs bashing victims, or in churches blaming victims.

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  22. I think I was reacting to “bad”

    Ah, I see. That’s a pretty broad term that covers a lot of evil, to me. I think it’s bad for men in a lot of ways and bad for women in different ways.

    A few people benefit, sure. A few people in cults benefits, generally those at the top who are raking in the cash, and maybe some who are getting what they want out of it. But it’s overall a bad system with a lot of bad outcomes.

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  23. @Mark:

    I think along the lines of the last bullet point, spiritual abuse is assigning “worth” to position within the spiritual system. That is that elders, pastors, deacons and other spiritual leaders are more “worthy” and that lay members and women are more “worthless”.

    That has a name:
    The HERESY of CLERICALISM.
    The belief (and actions) that only Clergy (spiritual leaders) matter to God and the Laity (all the rest of us) can go to Hell. And the only life that’s REALLY Christian is to become one of those spiritual leaders.

    Just now we call them “elders, pastors, deacons, and worship leaders” instead of Priests, Monks, and Nuns. NO POPERY, remember.

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  24. @Lea:

    A few people benefit, sure. A few people in cults benefits, generally those at the top who are raking in the cash, and maybe some who are getting what they want out of it.

    “Most cults are started so the cult leader can (a) get rich, (b) get laid, or (c) both.”
    — My old Dungeonmaster, in a post-game “recreational thinking” session

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  25. “I immediately knew that this is why I have such a hard time with the Bible – it’s the use of God’s word to keep some in power and others in submission, no matter the cost.”

    Bit of gallows humor here, but I think Lori is a great example of why the Apostle Paul was telling ONE church that the women should be silent and not teach. What Lori does is actually spiritual abuse.

    Having been exposed to some churchian women who use the bible to justify their own bitterness towards other women, their envy, their desire to protect their status, I get this. Lori is a woman who should not teach. This is how Paul’s spiritual authority should be used and interpreted, as something designed to protect the sheep from false teachings.

    The bible is really never the problem, the problem is people distorting it so it becomes a weapon against those who are vulnerable. One way women can protect themselves from spiritual abuse is by reading it themselves, by building their own relationship with the Lord,by trusting that God is good and would never wish harm on you.

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