What Does It Meant to Be “Against Abuse”?

by | Feb 8, 2022 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 25 comments

What Does Being Against Abuse Mean

Okay, everybody: raise your hand if you’re pro-abuse!

Of course no one is pro-abuse.

So what does it mean to be anti-abuse?

Just a few quick thoughts on a Tuesday (I try not to write long posts on Tuesdays to give myself a day to get a lot of work done), but I had something I wanted to share.

i told you last Friday in my round-up about an Instagram post where we were “fixing” Owen Strachan’s tweet after the Ravi Zacharias scandal broke, where Owen claimed that “it could easily be me” who formed a sex trafficking ring and was a serial sexual abuser. I said that it’s not okay to identify with the abuser and engage in sin-levelling.

Owen Strachan ended up interacting in the comments on Instagram (It’s threaded, so it’s hard to find, but it’s there) defending himself, and claiming that we were accusing him of saying things he doesn’t believe.

Fixed It For You Owen Strachan

But I want to take a step back for a moment and ask a bigger question: What does it mean to be against abuse?

Lots of people say, “Obviously I’m against abuse, but….”

But is it obvious they’re against abuse? I mean, what does it mean to be pro-abuse? That you approve of abuse? Well, no one approves of abuse, except some psychopaths and abusers (and even abusers would likely say they’re against abuse, they just don’t think they’re abusers).

It’s like saying, “Is anyone pro-kicking puppies?” Of course not. Everyone is anti-kicking puppies.

So being against abuse must mean more than simply thinking abuse is bad.

Let me suggest that if you’re really against abuse, you should actually want it to stop. And that means that you should be against the things that we know are highly correlated with abuse. People who are against abuse should want the things that lead to abuse to be minimized, and should be actively fighting against those things.

So, for instance, we should:

  • Allow divorce for abuse (because we should not keep people trapped in abusive marriages)
  • Reject teachings that are highly correlated with abuse, like telling wives to submit in everything; like telling wives to have unconditional respect for their husbands; like telling wives they cannot say no to sex or it’s a sin; like telling husbands that they have authority over their wives and are entitled to respect, deference, sex, and even obedience.
  • Treat women as whole people, rather than see them as appendages for men or see them as only good for what they can do for men. We should stop relegating women to serving roles in church, like serving in the kitchen or the nursery, and value women for their ideas and intellectual contributions as well.
  • Create an environment where women are not blamed for men’s sins. We should stop calling teenage girls stumbling blocks for boys or even adult men. We should stop asking women what they were wearing.
  • Blame men for their own sins, like lust or porn use or even anger outbursts, rather than asking what the wife did to provoke any of those things
  • Create church structures where, if a woman needed help with an abusive husband, she wouldn’t have to turn to those husbands’ friends for help. When the board is all men, it’s very hard for women to be believed and heard, and it’s very intimidating.
  • Dismiss abusers from leadership positions and work hard to keep them out of any further leadership positions until there is significant, long-term change and repentance as determined by the abuse victims.
  • Prioritize the abuse victim’s safety afterwards, rather than the abuser’s reputation

And I could go on and on, these are only a few off the top of my head.

If you say you are against abuse, but you promote ideas that we know lead to higher rates of abuse, and you don’t help abuse victims get out, and you support the abuser?

Then you’re not really against abuse.

Being against abuse is far more than just a generalized feeling that “abuse is bad.” Being against abuse means actively working against the things that we know lead to abuse.

And that’s why we look at a lot of these guys and have no problem saying, “From what I see, he doesn’t look to be against abuse at all.”

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Andrea

    If you think that kicking puppies is universally frowned upon, you should read the opening pages of Dobson’s Strong-Willed Child. The evangelical world was just groomed for abuse by its most influential leaders.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I forgot about that! Yes, he beat his 12-pound dachshund. And then he made that dog go attack a burglar instead of going in himself.

      • CMT

        Oh jeez. I read part of that book years ago when my oldest was really small because my parents had it on the bookshelf when I was younger. I remember the parts about parents wrestling screaming children to the floor and holding them there for hours but I must have blocked out the part about the dog!

        • Nessie

          Sheesh! As a court-mandated reporter ever since we went through foster care training, I’d have to report anyone that I witnessed treating their child that way for abuse! That sickens me! And beating a 12 lb. dog?!?!? Does beating up something the size of an infant really make a “man” feel better about himself being in charge??

  2. Cynthia


    Genuinely being against abuse means you don’t stop at a general platitude, and you don’t just use abuse or allegations of abuse to children make folks hate and fear Other People that you don’t like.

    It means being willing to stand up for those who don’t have power, against those that do. It means that it may be scary and uncomfortable because you could also make yourself a target. It means that you may need to be willing to help and to act even if the abuser is someone close to you, related to you, someone you love or trust or someone that you depend on. It means that you continue to stand by victims and help even if the abuser’s allies come after you. It means that you take allegations seriously even when it is inconvenient, creates more work and more demands in you, or affects an organization that you work for.

  3. Anon

    Definitely! Avoiding participating in something wrong doesn’t make you opposed to it – it just means you’re passive about it, which can actually end up enabling those who are doing wrong. Any opposition against injustice which isn’t active opposition is pretty pointless.

    • CMT

      Kind of like, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?”

  4. A2bbethany

    That’s the nasty, lukewarm behavior that my brother and father had when dealing with my trauma. They never saw me and instead kept making comments of admiration for my abusers integrity for deciding to “confirm my story”.

    (I publicly outed him as an adult for child molestation and he decided not to deny it.
    While I had already told them years ago and they did absolutely nothing about it, now telling me that they didn’t believe me, how could they? I was under 5, so in their professional opinion, incapable of remembering anything.)

    They then didn’t understand why I didn’t “follow the biblical path” of talking about it with them privately before repeating their own words on Instagram! I was overwhelmed with a lot of things at that time and I have never recovered from their stunning stupidity.
    But unknown to me until after, he was about to enter seminary for the purpose of becoming the replacement pastor of my old church. So I know God lead me to open that whole debacle.

    Not anything I haven’t shared before, but I’m having alot of memories resurfacing. Mostly because I’m trying to think through when I can consider a reconciliation wise, with a former(?) narcissistic sister.

  5. CMT

    What did the prophets accuse Israel of, over and over? Worshipping other gods, and oppression of the powerless. I can’t count how many sermons and Sunday school lessons I’ve heard about the dangers of “idols,” yet I’m pretty sure I’ve heard exactly zero about how much God hates oppression. Why is that, I wonder? Why are the powers that be in evangelicalism happy to warn against “idolatry” and “worldliness” but so rarely preach on Isaiah 1:17?
    “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Obtain justice for the orphan, Plead for the widow’s case.”

    • Cynthia

      Years ago, I remember a discussion about what idolatry meant today. Obviously, most people aren’t literally building altars to Baal on hilltops now.

      To me, the bigger issue with idolatry was that it was hard to follow this abstract, invisible God who actually expected people to not just offer sacrifices, but to also follow a code of conduct with each other. When things got hard, it was really tempting to turn to more immediate sources of power and forget about needing to do the right thing.

      • CMT

        Right. The prophets draw a connection between the two sins. What I’m saying is modern evangelicals love to thunder about the one while disregarding the other. The culture trains people to focus on ideological purity and personal piety, while overlooking the women and children (and some men!) in their midst who are functionally oppressed widows and orphans. And “strangers and foreigners?”Good luck!

        Scripturally you can’t split these things apart, but in my observation there are at least some segments of evangelicalism that don’t see that. I think that’s why you get people saying “of course abuse is bad, but…” From God’s perspective there’s no but. It’s just as abhorrent to him when his people mistreat the powerless as it was when they built altars to Baal.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, very true. I think it’s because we’ve made Christianity completely individualistic–something the early church would not have understood or recognized. When we make being a Christian merely about saying the prayer of salvation, then we miss out on what the kingdom of God is supposed to be. Individual salvation is important of course, but that is not all there is. And the point of salvation is to usher in a real community, a body of Christ. It isn’t an individualistic pursuit.

          • CMT

            I’m sure individualism is part of it, but I think there’s also skewed beliefs about what real community is. So you get an unspoken (usually) hierarchy of which individuals are protected and which ones can make “sacrifices” (or be sacrifices!) for the “vision.” Or for “unity” or the “witness of the church” or whatever.


          • Noel Lokaychuk

            “I think it’s because we’ve made Christianity completely individualistic–something the early church would not have understood or recognized. When we make being a Christian merely about saying the prayer of salvation, then we miss out on what the kingdom of God is supposed to be. ” This is such a great point. It dovetails with so many other things I’ve been thinking and wondering about. I have not been deconstructing my faith, but I have been deconstructing my church experience. Even the “good” things- are they what I think they are? I feel like I need to read the early church fathers, and really see what Christianity looked like.

        • Jenni

          Skye Jethani wrote a book called What If Jesus Was Serious about how Jesus’s teachings in the sermon on the mount are ignored by most churches, while “crotch Christianity” (focus on sexual sin and abortion and gender wars) gets the most focus. His podcast together with Phil Vischer called The Holy Post is also great.

  6. Jo R

    Perhaps part of the lackadaisical response is that suffering is inherently thought of as good or holy or sanctifying in and of itself, no matter who’s perpetrating it or why. Such an attitude might even try to make the case that it’s actually good for the abused to suffer, as it gives them a chance to grow spiritually. (And the abused might have Philippians 4:13 quoted at them as well.) 😱 😱 😱

    And based on some recent posts here, there’s probably at least one “teacher” who might dismiss or at least minimize any abuse that didn’t involve literal crucifixion. 🙄🙄🙄😡😡😡

  7. EOF

    Preach it! This needs to be shouted far and wide.

  8. Bre

    YES! This is perfect! It reminds me of this phrase that I’ve heard a lot in Pro-Life trainings; “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If people think that you are trying to go at them to prove them wrong, take them down, or slam them with facts, they won’t listen. No matter how right you are, they aren’t going to open their ears and mind to you until you show them that you actually care about people and take their feelings and fears seriously.

    That phrase, combined with things like Christian patriarchy and the horrendous treatment of abuse victims, basically sums up how I see the church/Christians shooting themselves in the foot. This is why many people look at Christians and hate them for being oppressive and/or are leaving the church. If you say stuff about loving the least of these and fighting injustice but don’t follow through; if you preach a God of love, forgiveness, healing, and salvation; if you talk about the ways Christians in the past have fought things like sex trafficking and child abuse, but then turn around and oppress woman in the church, ignore the sufferings of women and children in your congregation, and hide rape and abuse while blaming the victims…no one is going to care if the God of love and mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus you preach is true or not if if you act, live, and run your church the exact opposite way.

    It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately as a soon-to-be educator who aspires to go teach children and witness abroad (at the same time). CBE has articles on how complementation organizations are setting themselves up to fall by trying to provide education to little girls abroad in countries that devalue females. Great idea, but since many of those bodies of people believe that women shouldn’t go to college and/or enter the workforce and that their place is at home, they are sending mixed messages. You can’t end the abuses of patriarchy by trying supplement it with a “soft” western patriarchy wrapped up in Christianese. This really hit me yesterday because I was researching Japanese society for a project on children’s rights and maltreatment in that country for a class. Thanks to cultural norms and isolation, Christianity barely found it’s way into there and, after what I just found out…I think that the church at this point would just do more harm trying to bring the gospel there! I wanted to barf…their anti- rape law was from the 1900’s and jut got updated in 2017 FOR THE FIRST TIME. And essentially no offenders ever go to jail because unwanted sexual contact isn’t illegal on it’s own…unwanted sexual contact is only illegal there if the victim can prove they tried to fight and were overpowered. They ignore research and science on trauma responses and freezing and the whole thing is, in practice, the victim trying to prove they are a victim in court and it’s typically never enough. Oh, and until 2017, rape was only rape if it involved “vaginal intercourse”. For years, there was literally no legal recourse, justice, or acknowledgment that males can be sexually abused. And how Japanese society as a whole treats women and the epidemic of abuse that just skyrocketed during COVID…it’s so bad. All that to say, I sadly have doubts about how transformative the gospel will truly be in many of these places given the current sate of affairs in the churches. At this point, we need to actually act as though we believe what we say on abuse (and many other things) and put it into practice and truly become the hands and feet of Jesus before we can have a great effect on the larger world.

    • Bre

      Oh, and just to clarify, I do know that Christians are hated for lots of other reasons besides our failures. I know that persecution is real. And I’m not saying that those of us with the gospel and the means shouldn’t take Jesus to places where there aren’t enough Christians to reach the population on their own. I have gone on missions trips since I was in middle school and, again, my dream is to teach abroad as a vechial to share Jesus with the people I meet. I know many people are learning about Jesus and are being saved and that’s good! But if we want to truly change the world for the better and be the hands and feet of Jesus, we need to get our own house in order so we aren’t giving out poisoned, unhealthy messages along with the Good News, if that makes sense? Also, I apologize for my spelling and grammar being atrocious. I just got a new laptop yesterday and the spell check is weird. It has a digital touch bar to correct stuff and I’m very poor with technology.

      • G.C.B.

        This is exactly what happened in this year’s March For Life. I didn’t attend, but I followed the coverage and social media of pro-life followers that went.
        We had at least two Neo-Nazi groups attempt to infiltrate the march that the crowd thankfully rejected and pushed out, and the official leadership released a statement the next day saying that they and those like them were not welcome.
        But they had also invited three main Christian figures that those crowds looked up to, which included ignoring, supporting or even participating in the January 6th 2021 Capitol Insurrection; and the fact that all of this happened in the exact same spot as the Insurrection makes it even more gross.

        The main national face of the pro-life movement made a statement loud and clear that their numbers and their popularity was more of a priority than making sure their audience felt appreciated and safe. Unless a massive reform takes place, we’re almost certainly going to see a wave of people run away from the movement, where they’ll go private or stay in their own communities to fight abortion. They won’t become pro-choice or support pro-choice candidates, but they’ll lose hope that their leaders will ever be consistent and protective. It’s terrible, but I also wouldn’t in good conscience encourage any loved ones of mine to go to an environment like that either.

        • Bre

          I was actually going to go to the march and excited even though I knew I might not agree with everyone…but guess who got Corona-ed two days before? I was literally watching my school’s pro life club group chat in bed and pouting like a five year old all weekend. I have had … experiences the last (first) time I went two years ago. I literally was told by random “pro lifers” online and at the march that I was too happy and not christian or pro life enough and that I was going to burn in hell and needed to repent of my selfishness. Ooof…yeah, some of these people only think you are pro life if you do things exactly the way they want. They have said the same things all over online to my friend who works for a national pro life organization and her boss get the same things all the time because people don’t like who they partner with (feminists and LGBTQ+ people, even though the boss doesn’t nessarily agree with them on other stuff as a catholic)or XYZ and basically think they are in it for fame and glory (or are sent and powered by satan himself to cause people to stumble??? WTH?) Some people are…oof! But everyone knows to just ignore them because they are nuts and not helping anyone. My club’s president told us to link arms and not make eye contact and we basically speed-swam through the crowd as fast as we could. The one thing I’m glad I didn’t have to see was all the focus on the family signs…last time I wanted to barf because I saw a pretty quote about the devine meaning of life…then found out that it was from “penis home” Mark Driscoll🤢. Yeah, this was back when I first went through my deconstruction journey and Sheila was in the midst of the Love and Respect saga. It’s hard for me because many prominent Pro-Lifers aren’t exactly egalitarian, but many christian feminists or egalitarians that I’ve met are either pro abortion or really just don’t care and just want to pretend the topic doesn’t exist. I feel a bit homeless and weird because of that. But the club I’m in is super nice! I helped start it and we’re pretty diverse now! Honestly, there’s this lesbian couple who are also my coworkers and our new president is an atheist who is open to the possibility of God and, in many ways, I feel a lot safer around them because we’ve been through a lot together but I can also talk openly with them about many of my struggles as an christian feminist pro lifer and just bounce ideas off of them. The whole club is just so loving, too; we spend a lot of time just doing fun stuff together outside of activism work and the members have helped me when I needed money, food, or a ride somewhere, It’s helped me learn to love on others and see them as whole people created in God’s image. It’s gotten me out of my church bubble and helped me grow my empathy and love for others. I have a long way to go, but I know God placed my group in my life for a reason! And thanks for responding to me! I just ended up back on this post by accident tonight looking for something else. I love the TLHV community because almost everyone here is so respectful and I’ve met people like me (including you now!) who get it and it’s so encouraging. I’m glad I saw your comment because it really gave me a positivity boost knowing that I’m not alone. Thank you!

  9. Ellie

    Are there any good resources for someone to contact (male or female) when dealing with domestic abuse. I know we have a 1800 number (I’m in the US) but is there a Christian equivalent that anyone knows of?

  10. Carla

    I wouldn’t trust a Christian organization to give safe, wise counsel or useful assistance. I read somewhere that women of faith tend to stay in abusive marriages 10 years longer than secular women. When women of faith reach out for help initially, it is usually a pastor and that pastor usually sends them back in to work harder at her marriage. Our local women’s shelter tried to do outreach to the local Christian community to educate leaders about abuse dynamics, but most pastors feel that they don’t need that information, so it’s a hard sell. The prevalent Christian view of a successful marriage is one that doesn’t divorce, and women are acceptable collateral damage for achieving that “witness”.

  11. Linda

    I was raised by a narcissist and married a narcissist. It is not only emotional abuse but psychological abuse. Always being made to feel ‘less than’. Having your character destroyed by his direct actins and words. Everyone believing him because he has charisma and charm and can look into your eyes and lie and you will believe him not me. I have been entranced by Putins war: it feels like my life being played out on the international scene. My counselor and daughter agree with me.

  12. Linda

    I was raised by a narcissist and married a narcissist. It is not only emotional abuse but psychological abuse. You are made to feel you are never good enough. My X would slander my character and I found myself frequently alone and isolated. He has a lot of charisma and charm and can look you in the eyes and lie to you and you will believe him and not me. I have been entranced with Putins war thinking: This is my life being played out on the international stag. My counselor and daughter agree with me.


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