Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With: Part One: Our Broken Church
The conventional, institutionalized church, and its form and practice of Christianity, is broken.
There are serious problems, lies, and deceptions in the church that are undermining its ability to represent Christ and fulfill His intentions.
These deceptions create much of the spiritual abuse that abused Christian women are subjected to.
This article focuses on four of those problems and how they impact abused women of faith:
~ Bible mistranslations
~ Power and control/hierarchy
~ A refusal to define evil from God’s perspective
This is part one of the series: Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With.
Part One: Our Broken Church
Part Two: Lies About God
Part Three: Lies About What Godliness Is
Part Four: Lies about Forgiveness
Part Five: Lies About Wives
Part Six: Lies About Husbands
Part Seven: Lies About Marriage
Part Eight: Lies About Feelings and Faith
A thorough study of these topics would require a book, not an article, so I’m covering the highlights to help you think about these issues. I’ve provided links to more resources if you want to study these topics more deeply.
Right off the bat, one foundation that causes the spiritual abuse of women is the misuse of the Word. The Bibles we read have many mistranslations that were created by men who added in words, changed words and inferred meanings that weren’t in the original language.
Where these mistranslations came from
Beginning in the third century AD, Christian theologians began to interpret the Bible through the lens of Plato’s secular, hierarchical philosophy.
Platonists believed that social hierarchy and male dominance over women were the necessary and “natural order” of creation because “the inferior desires” of “women and slaves” must be “held down” by the “virtuous desires and wisdom” of men.
This Platonist (and subsequently Neoplatonist) philosophy affected the translations we use today. Our first English translations were based on Latin translations by St. Jerome and Erasmus, and both were Neoplatonists. These translations still influence how the Bible is interpreted today.
St. Augustine’s commentaries were used to develop the views of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The theology of the Reformation has influenced many of the doctrines that today’s church takes for granted.
St Augustine studied the writings of the Platonists to “help him make sense of the Bible.” These writings agreed with his own view of misogyny. In the words of St. Augustine, “It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands…. the lesser serves the greater…. they who excel in reason, excel in power.”
This is the core belief system behind our modern translations and interpretations, and it completely contradicts what God ever meant. These beliefs have created the prevalent theological errors that have been so damaging to us as women and as abused women.
You can read more about this in the Equality Workbook by Bob Edwards or watch this video.
Examples of mistranslations
Here are three of the many examples where these mistranslations have completely changed the meaning of the Bible.
The correct translation below is based on what the words actually say in the original language without the inferences added by the male translators.
Incorrect: “My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.” (English Standard Version)
Correct: “As for my people—oppressors strip them and swindlers rule them. My people—your leaders mislead you and confuse your paths.” (Common English Bible)
Incorrect: “And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehem in Judah, and was there four whole months.” (King James Version)
Correct: “But she became angry with him, went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem, and stayed there four months.” (Good News Translation)
Incorrect: “Receive her in the Lord’s name, as God’s people should, and give her any help she may need from you; for she herself has been a good friend to many people and also to me.” (Good News Translation)
Correct: “Welcome her in a way that is proper for someone who has faith in the Lord and is one of God’s own people. Help her in any way you can. After all, she has proved to be a respected leader for many others, including me.” (Contemporary English Version)
I’ll be discussing mistranslations about divorce in Part Six.
Since there’s no perfect translation, we need to study the word carefully, be aware of mistranslations, and realize that much of what we’ve been taught the Bible says doesn’t represent God’s views.
We need to be especially careful with every passage
about women and marriage.
It’s wise to research for yourself what every passage about women really says in the original language because they’ve all been tainted by misogyny. We’ll be looking more closely at some specific mistranslations about women and marriage later in this series.
Remember lovely St. Augustine from a few paragraphs ago? Here’s something else he said. “I fail to see what use women can be to men if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
Doesn’t this totally explain the contradiction we see between who Jesus is and how he treated women, and how certain verses are translated?
Thankfully, God sees women as useful, capable, valuable, and equal. He was happy to use Esther, Deborah, Huldah, Mary, Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Miriam, Jael, Abigail, Anna, Lydia and many other women throughout the Bible.
Jesus honored women and brought them into a place of equality in the church.
Pastors are steeped in misogyny and patriarchy
Almost all pastors were trained by a patriarchal system filled with theological errors rooted in misogyny. This system influences their teaching and their treatment of women, ignoring what Jesus said and did. Because of this, most abused women discover they can’t trust their pastors.
Since the #MeToo movement, which initiated the #ChurchToo movement, pastors and church leaders are being exposed left and right for molesting children, having affairs, and sexually harassing and abusing women.
The church system is broken and is being propped up by men trying to hang on to their power.
They are laboring under theologies that come from mistranslations of the Bible which corroborate their male perspective and promote the spiritual abuse of women.
These theologies lead to advice that seriously harms abused women. We’ll be examining these lies throughout this series.
Power, Control, and Hierarchy
Hierarchy and Church Structure
The hierarchical Platonist philosophy also created the view that power and control should exist in the church.
“I was told during a joint counseling session with the pastor, that if I didn’t comply he would shake the dust off his feet.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
An honest look at the New Testament church shows that God’s design for the church is nothing like the church we have today.
As Frank Viola explains, “The basic tasks of biblical leadership are facilitation, nurture, guidance, and service. To the degree that a member is modeling the will of God in one of those areas, to that degree he or she is leading. It’s no wonder that Paul never chose to use any of the forty-plus common Greek words for ‘office’ and ‘authority’ when discussing leaders… Paul’s favorite word for describing leadership is the opposite of what natural minds would suspect. It’s diakonos, which means a ‘servant’—a person very low on the social totem pole in the 1st Century.” To read more about this, see these articles: Origins and Rethinking Leadership
Abused women in the church are often told that they must submit to their church leaders or they are in rebellion. As Jimmy Hinton explains, this is a mistranslation and misuse of scripture. “Hebrews 13:17 is often translated ‘submit to your leaders.’ But that’s not what it means. My literal translation from Greek to English is this: ‘Be persuaded by those who go before you.’”
A pastor actually has no “God-given authority” over anyone. But pastors who think they do often use it to spiritually abuse and control people, especially abused women. Husbands also have no authority over their wives, which we’ll discuss in Part Five.
Here are some lies we’re taught about pastors:
~ they have the authority to tell us what to do
~ they have a superior connection to God
~ they have Godly answers for us
~ they know what we need to do to be “Godly” better than we do
~ they can help us with the abuser
~ they can be implicitly trusted
Women are abused at home and then are abused by the church
The unfortunate reality is that when most abused women talk with their pastor, he’s ignorant about abuse and sides with the husband. He says she’s bitter, needs to be “more Godly,” or needs to give her husband more sex, and she wonders where that Mack truck that just hit her came from. She wasn’t expecting to be spiritually abused by her pastor.
If pastors truly represented God as they say they do, their answers and advice would be consistent with the character of God. They would listen to and believe the woman. They would enter into our suffering like Jesus does, and do everything they can to stop abuse.
Pastors don’t have a special relationship with God. They are only as helpful and knowledgeable as their experience has taught them and, sadly, many pastors don’t have an interest in learning about abuse or the correct Christian response to it.
Refusing to Look at Evil from God’s Perspective
Blind to wolves
When most women go to their church for help with abuse, they find that the leaders are unwilling to even consider that the woman is telling the truth and that the abuser is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Instead they believe his Christian façade, make excuses for him, and blame her.
Afraid to identify evil
Our institutionalized church is cowardly. It’s afraid to call out the real evil in its midst, and unwilling to label psychological and emotional abuse as evil and wicked.
Church leaders and members refuse to face that there are wolves in their midst– spousal abusers, pedophiles, sexual predators of all kinds masquerading as Christians. Instead, they cover for them or believe their fake “repentance.”
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works.” 2 Cor 11:13:15
God hates evil
This cowardly, blind form of Christianity has recreated God into a spineless God. But God is not weak. He doesn’t give grace and mercy to evil and neither should His followers.
“I was told that I owe my abuser a debt of love because that is what God has done for me while I was still a sinner.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
God is a God of justice as well as love. He has defined evil for us and He calls evil what it is. He wants the church to expose evil, cast it out in its midst, and not fellowship with it.
“Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Eph 5:11
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” II Timothy 3:1-5
“But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” 1 Cor 5:11 (also see Rom 16:17, Ps 26:4)
I don’t know how God could be any clearer than that. God is a God of truth, not sugary sweet niceness.
He offers grace and mercy to the truly repentant, but he wants those whose ongoing behavior is wicked removed from the church.
Abused women are accused of being wicked
When we begin to understand that we are married to a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and raise concerns about his behavior to our pastor or elders, we are suddenly labeled the bad person, the evil one, the trouble maker, or the rebel. We are accused of not being “quiet and gentle,” but of being bitter.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Is 5:20
Applying scripture aimed at wolves to saints
The church’s blindness to true evil also causes incorrect teachings that say that we all have equally wicked hearts and we are all evil. The Bible clearly says that those who genuinely follow Jesus, and have His Spirit in them, are not sinners, they are saints.
Many pastors seem to be ignorant of the fact that there are wolves in the church who pretend to be Christians. They apply scriptures meant for wolves to saints.
Here’s a scripture that’s often misapplied to non wolves:
“Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Mk 7:21
Jesus was explaining that hand washing doesn’t make a person spiritually clean. True follower of Jesus are made clean by Him and are not the targets of His anger. Wolves are the ones who have hearts full of this evil.
Yet rarely is this scripture applied to wolves in the church:
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 Jn 3:10
Abused women are willing to search themselves for their sin, and end up belieiving the lie that they are somehow responsible for their husband’s abuse. The misuse of scripture keeps them trapped in self-examination and condemnation instead of clearly identifying the sin of their abuser.
We who are truly following Jesus by trying to stop abuse in our marriages are being wrongly accused of being the wicked ones. Please know that this is not how God sees you!
How God feels about wolves
In Acts 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They were wolves in the church because they were doing the works of evil – living in deception and lying for selfish gain while pretending to be followers of Jesus. Peter told them that “Satan filled their heart.”
God struck them dead. That’s not a spineless, cowardly God. That’s a God who hates evil.
But my husband isn’t evil
An abuser can be anywhere on the continuum between a fool or a wicked man. But their abusive behavior causes destruction and pain, which is the opposite of God’s will for you.
It’s a unbearably painful process to face the wicked behavior in the man we love. This should be a time when you are surrounded by loving support, comfort, and Biblical truth and wisdom. The last thing you need is a church who blames and confuses you.
The church should believe you and defend you rather than support the abuser and throw you under the bus.
A fool who is reproved and won’t change his ways needs to be treated the same as a fully hardened wicked person– removed from the church in the hopes that someday he will repent.
A church who knows Jesus
The church has been deceived and believes doctrines of devils that accept evil in its midst, put marriage above the welfare of the individuals, and allow power and prestige in its leaders. This church no longer represents Jesus.
How do you know if your church is aligned with Jesus? They:
~ won’t turn against you when you expose the works of darkness
~ won’t misuse scripture to prolong your abuse
~ won’t have a hierarchical authority structure
~ won’t lay legalistic burdens on you
~ won’t teach mistranslations of the Word as truth
~ won’t confuse PTSD with sin
~ will see abuse as evil and call it out in their own church
~ will believe and support women
~ will believe that responding to abuse with grief and anger is appropriate
~ will hate oppression and wickedness
~ will offer comfort and compassion in your suffering
If the church was doing what God tells us to do, abused women be listened to and believed, wouldn’t be spiritually abused by the church, and wouldn’t end up suffering devastating faith crises.
If you are going through a faith crisis, it’s because the church is failing you, not because there is something wrong with you.
I’m ready to grab a whip and go turn over some tables in a church foyer right about now. How about you?
“Stay away from those Pharisees! They are like blind people leading other blind people, and all of them will fall into a ditch." Mt 15:14
Renewing your Mind and Undoing Brainwashing
If you want to get to know God and His view of abuse, you can start by underlining every reference to evil and the foolish or wicked man (one who reviles, causes strife and division, or is a false brother) in Psalms, Proverbs, and the NT. Let Him show you His views, and let Him show you that you are not the wicked one.