Addressing Abuse, Christian Marriage, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Focus on the Family, Marriage, Spiritual Abuse

Blaming Abuse on Satan is Not Enough

An article from Focus on the Family asks the reader to ponder if their marriage is under a spiritual attack or if your spouse is just being a jerk based upon the following examples:

Your spouse isn’t as kind or loving toward you as they used to be.
They know which of your buttons to push and the worst time to push them.
You’re afraid to bring up any tough issues because it leads to conflict.
You have a low-grade irritation with your spouse most of the time.
Your husband or wife doesn’t meet your needs.
You try to stay positive and focus on their needs and interests, but you’re faking it.
You blame one person for every issue; either it’s your fault or their fault.

Why is it difficult for Focus on the Family to admit that these scenarios are signs of abuse? Why is it so hard to admit that Christians can be abusers too? I suppose it’s easier to blame it on Satan and human nature.

What is the solution to solving the problem? Pray, change yourself, and work on the relationship. Sounds like some of the godly wife books out there, doesn’t it? At least Focus on the Family isn’t blaming it all on the wife.

While there are some good points in this article for working on problems in a marriage, the suggestions provided assume that the marriage has open, healthy communication. However, the scenarios provided do not reflect a healthy marriage and the solutions will not fix a marriage where one spouse is controlling and abusive. Too many times a victim remains trapped in an abusive marriage because praying more, working on himself/herself more, and focusing on the relationship is not reciprocated by the abuser.

It’s time for Focus on the Family to acknowledge that abusers are not interested in making the marriage better. Abusers are only interested in maintaining power and control. If a victim is ready to find their way out of an abusive marriage, then they should be encouraged to seek help. It’s time to stop blaming Satan and hold the abuser accountable for the problem in the marriage.

11 thoughts on “Blaming Abuse on Satan is Not Enough”

  1. From the article, advice for asking God for wisdom: “Help me think clearly and see my spouse through Your eyes.” This may not turn out as Focus on the Family intends… In the case of abuse, God may think your spouse is a jerk, too. I believe “you brood of vipers” were Jesus’ words of choice.

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  2. First, let’s just look at some big obvious things.

    Why this author?
    Mike Bechtle is not a psychologist, he’s not even a licensed therapist or a clinical social worker. Why is he writing an article for Focus on the Family on praying to get Satan out of your marital problems?

    In real life, he’s a business consultant. Is this how he handles his business clients? When he does consulting for FranklinCovey (which is his current job according to his LinkedIn profile), does he tell them to pray that Satan gets out of their businesses?

    He brushes serious problems under the carpet.
    There’s a lot going on in this list that is serious. The husband isn’t kind and loving anymore. She’s afraid to bring up conflict. They are pretending everything is okay. If she’s afraid to talk to her husband, that tells us she’s been trying over and over and has hit a wall. Something is wrong.
    All Mike offers is gaslighting
    I believe in prayer. I’ve seen miracles. But that’s all this man offers. He’s a one-trick pony. It’s insulting to think these readers haven’t tried all that. So he gaslights the readers.
    His solution is that you:
    -pray harder
    -try harder
    -hope more
    -be more sensitive to your spouse (“empathetic”)
    -don’t set a time frame (don’t hold them responsible)
    -don’t call your spouse out on their behavior (doing that is a “no win.” he says. Really? He brushes all marriage conflict as being mutual? Aka “it takes two to tango”?)
    -you can only change yourself (but no mention of setting boundaries about serious issues)
    Like so many other articles on the Focus site, this is a marketing copy for Focus on the Family’s counseling services.

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  3. One of the problems that I keep seeing with Focus writers is that they don’t have any close to an adequate theology of abuse to draw from.

    For that matter, they often don’t seem to have much training or theological depth at all.

    Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but I’ve seen so much inadequate or wrong teaching in the Christian blog-o-sphere that some things don’t shock me or surprise me anymore. Should I be more outraged? I think there is a time and place for it, but outrage fatigue is real.

    This problem of not having an adequate theology of abuse is by no means unique to Focus – it infects many other publications and sites.

    Perhaps Focus has an outsized influence. Part of the problem is that evangelicalism on the whole has propped up ministries without accountability into super-star status. Maybe when Dr. Dobson was involved in the day to day operations that was acceptable, but now that the torch has passed on, clearly the ministries are not the same as the used to be. There has been a subtle, but very real shift. The quality and discernment has dropped. This is something I noticed ten years ago – I still have email subscriptions but rarely open their mailings anymore, and haven’t for years. Are they sustaining their readership and listening audience? Hard to say.

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  4. Says Dr. Mike, ‘Philippians 4:6 tells us that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The word “everything” is pretty clear; prayer should be a component in dealing with every marital challenge, no matter how big or small.’

    Dear God, thank you for creating Satan and allowing him to be my enemy. I pray that you would bless him in all of his work. Thank you for all of Satan’s obedient children who desire to make my life a living hell.

    Maybe Dr. Mike needs to understand that the Bible does not mean itself to be taken literally.

    Also find it funny that they seem to be hiding his academic credentials… He has an Ed.D from Arizona State University. https://education.asu.edu/degree-programs/doctoral-programs

    “The EdD in leadership and innovation is designed for practicing educator-leaders who work in a range of settings and want to transform their practice and create better learning opportunities for students of all ages.

    Students in the program begin as accomplished teachers, teacher leaders, principals, superintendents, higher education professionals or leaders in other educational contexts. Through course work, students deepen their abilities to lead change and implement innovation in their local educational organizations. The program is not designed to prepare students for academic research-oriented tenure-track positions.”

    — a professional degree, not an academic one

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  5. “Why is it so hard to admit that Christians can be abusers too?”

    This should say “professing Christians”. I do not at all believe Christians can be abusers, but that there are numerous ravenous wolves wearing Christian sheepskin devouring sheep. Garbage like this article sets the table/prepares the sheep to be devoured.

    There is no wisdom or authority in his words at all, though he’s talking down to readers with the stupid assumptions that they haven’t already tried the blatantly obvious things like praying. Then he stupidly sin levels assuming the person he’s talking to is just as much at fault as the abuser. He’s just regurgitating the same baloney we’ve all been indoctrinated with as if it’s new. He then peppers it with a Bible verse of Song of Solomon 2:15 that has nothing to do with the topic at all. He’s just using the Christianeze version of psychobabble.

    He’s greasing the skids to further prepare the sheep for the slaughter, not only from their abusers, but also for getting fleeced/ further endangered from Focus on the Family counseling.

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  6. I’d be willing to buy into the spiritual component, but not his solutions or full diagnosis. The actual spiritual component, as I see it: Abuser has handed himself over to service to Satan. Therefore, Satan uses abuser as his puppet to hurt innocent believer. Not too hard to figure out. The problem with the author’s diagnosis is that it’s not the poor little abuser’s fault Satan uses him like a puppet, whereas in my diagnosis, the abuser chose to serve Satan and should be repenting of it. Why, why, why, do these people keep treating abusers like they’re poor little victims?

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  7. My problem with blaming Satan is that it takes away personal responsibility. Which often leads down the road to we’re all sinners. Therefore, since we all sin, the offended needs to forgive as they would be forgiven. Blaming Satan is easy – holding the perpetrator accountable requires a commitment.

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  8. My problem with blaming Satan is that it takes away personal responsibility.

    Geraldine Defense:
    “THE DEBBIL MADE ME DO IT!”
    — Flip Wilson

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  9. How curious that a ‘marriage is under a spiritual attack’ often looks an awful lot like a man doing a really bad thing like cheating, being abusive, or being a ‘jerk’ in general. Very curious.

    This article sounds like trash.

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  10. [also, how strange to say a ‘marriage’ is under spiritual attack, rather than a wife being under emotional and/or physical attack when that is often what is really happening.

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  11. Even if the marriage is under spiritual attack, there is still personal responsibility. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15)

    I think the point James is making here is that regardless of the “source” of the trial, succumbing to evil is still a matter of personal nature and personal responsibility. And to make matters worse, “enticed by his own lust”. So the question is not “Is this a spiritual attack or is my husband a jerk”, but “this a spiritual attack AND my husband is a jerk” – if your husband wasn’t a jerk, he would not be carried away by temptation to be a jerk.

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