Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Abuse in the Church: A Review of A Cry for Justice

Every pastor that has ministered for any length of time is familiar with abuse.  Some pastors or pastor’s wives grew up in abusive situations.  Others see kids or spouses in their community that are abused.  We understand that in our sin-soaked world, abuse happens and we compassionately do our part to minister, care and rescue those in abusive family situations.
But one of the things we pastors don’t think much about is abuse in our churches.  I am not talking about sexual predators that all churches should be on guard against.  Rather, I am talking about seemingly ordinary families in our churches, people perhaps in leadership or in ministry that are secretly either abusers or victims of abuse.  This is the topic of Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood’s book A Cry for Justice:  How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in your Church.
I do not know either of the authors personally.  A couple in my church gave me the book, sharing with me that Jeff Crippen was an ex-pastor of theirs in the years before they moved to our area.  Jeff has a background in law enforcement and has been a pastor for 20 years.  Anna Wood is an abuse survivor who writes and blogs to help other victims of abuse.
A Cry for Justice is a powerful book.  It is obvious that the authors feel passionate about their subject.  Anna dealt with it first-hand as a victim, Jeff as a pastor of a church with abusive families.  It is a call for believers, and especially pastors, to open their eyes to the fact that there may be families in our churches who outwardly appear normal, but in reality are hidden centers of abusive behavior.  The book is a hard read, because it is a hard topic.  Jeff and Anna delve into the mentality of the abuser – their motivations and thought processes.  They present a clear picture of the ugliness of sin and the true depravity of man.
The authors argue that the serial abuser has a mentality foreign to our understanding.  While pastors deal with sinful people all the time, we can often see that solid biblical counsel, confession, prayer, forgiveness and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives can bring true life change.  For the serial abuser, that is not the case, mainly because the authors argue that the serial abuser, even the one who holds a leadership position in the church, is not a believer.  They argue that:

While every Christian can certainly hurt, mistreat or be insensitive to another person, and more frequently than we think, it is impossible for a Christian to be what we have defined as an abuser in this book.  That is to say, Scripture makes it plain that a person whose very mentality and habitual practice is that of entitlement, power, control, and justification, does not know Christ, nor does Christ know him. (p. 241)
The authors argue that when we see the serial abuser who he really is, as someone who does not know Christ, we are able to see the abusive situation as it really is.
The book is a valuable resource for pastors.  In addition to chapters on how the abuser thinks and operates (which are very disturbing), there is good counsel about the effect of abuse on children, how the church can help an abuse victim, how abuse often continues after separation and how the church should deal with abusers, especially those who are on a quest for power in the church.  I am not sure I agree with the authors on every point.  They argue that abuse qualifies in Scripture as abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15) and thus enables the abuse victim to pursue divorce without sin.  Another controversial point they make is that pastors should be reading secular experts in the subject of abuse; men and women who have made is a specialty to delve into the mentality of abuse.  I for one am not totally convinced on these last two points, but I do plan to hunt down some further resources to pursue these questions in greater depth.

Despite the fact that it contains truths that are hard to read, pastors should read this book.  Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood have done a service to the church.  They have lifted the lid off something we do not want to talk about and have shed the light of the Scripture upon it.  While it should not prompt us to see abuse under every tree and bush, it should equip us to recognize the signs when we see it, and have the tools to compassionately and justly care for the victims of that abuse.


  1. Hello Jeff, if you are interested in exploring the idea of 1 Cor. 7:15 giving permission for divorce for abuse, then I'm happy to send you a review copy of my book.
    Cheers and G'day from sunny Australia where it's springtime :)

    1. I would be interested. Your book in on my wishlist for future purchase. You can send it to my church address: Lolo Community Church, PO Box 1323, Lolo, MT 59847. Thanks.

  2. Ok Jeff, I'll send you a copy to that address.
    Also, I hope you won't mind me putting this comment here from another lady who has read your review. She told me (by email) that she wants to submit her comment here but doesn't know how to do so anonymously; if she uses here Google account her name will show up. Here's what she says:

    Hi Jeff. I am actually from Montana! I am a Christian who has survived domestic abuse for decades and I am happy to read your review here and am also grateful to see that you have accepted Barbara's offer to send you her book. Those two books along with Lundy Bancroft's book are what made the difference for me. I truly believed that God did not want, nor allow me to leave or divorce my abuser. I actually had become convinced by others in ministry, that God wanted me and my kids to stay, even if the abuser killed us. They said that God would be glorified through our deaths. I got stuck there. Then, I realized that the world would only consider me stupid and God a tyrant, if I died at the hands of my abuser and that it was not really glorifying to God at all. It wasn't until God revealed to me and I realized that my abuser did not care for, nor love my soul and that he did not care if I went to hell, that I believed that could not be God's desire for me. I belong to Christ and no other one.

    I hope that you will truly pray and ask God to reveal His truth to you in this area. The blog, A Cry For Justice, would also be a good place for you to gain understanding. It may be hard to read the stories there, but I also believe that God wants the Church to realize that He cares for these women and would not ever condone their being abused, by demanding that they continue to live in it.

    Just to note - I was very concerned about reading a non-Christian book on the subject of abuse, but then I began to read Bancroft's book, and it was so freeing to me, to understand abuse better, that I felt God had graciously given it to me to free me in some ways. I just know that when I am reading something that is not Christian in nature, that I have to watch and be careful for things and trust God to use it for His purpose in my life and protect me from faulty thinking or beliefs.

    Thank you for your concern and for your desire to know what God's will is and to pursue at least looking into learning about the same. Won't be long, and you'll be under 3 or 4 feet of snow! I miss the beautiful Montana winters.

  3. Barbara,

    Thank you both for the book and your friend's comments.

  4. Jeff, I had a longer comment but it got lost so I will try a short one. The secular books until I read this book and Leslie Vernick's book on the Emotionally Destructive marriage worked better than the Christian books. If women are not in an Emotionally Destructive marriage the Christian books were ok but in and ED marriage the blame and burden gets put on the wife because she is not submissive enough and loads the gun for the abuser.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the book, that the abuser has abandoned the marriage even though still in the house. There is not room enough for their heart for anything other than them. On the outside they are charming but that is charm and the character is what the family sees and those two things don't line up.

    Greetings from Great Falls

  5. Jeff, have you considered submitting this review to Amazon? It's easy to do. Just go to the page for the book, and click on Reviews and you'll see a button that says "Submit a review".

    It would be great to have a review of Jeff's book on Amazon that was written by a pastor.