How I Learned About Abuse Victims being Blamed Instead of the Abuser

1Ki 18:17-18  When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”  (18)  And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.

When I arrived as a new pastor at Christ Reformation Church here in Tillamook (back then it was called Idaville Bible Church), I had a real mess confronting me. What had paraded as a fine, loving, Christian church when I came to candidate as a pastoral applicant, turned out to be anything but. There were a few genuine Christians in the mix, most of whom are still with us. But the majority were unregenerate people who had been assured in years past that they were surely saved and that, after all, Christians are just sinners who we have to be patient with no matter how ornery they might be. Yeah.

There was a lady in the congregation who was a skilled pianist and she had risen to the positions of pianist and choir director. The music minister if you like (though informally). This lady was impossible to work with and she made that plain right from the start. “I don’t go to committee meetings. The music is my area and I don’t need any help.” Boom. In other words, here was a person who was designing a significant part of the worship services but who refused to work together with anyone, including and perhaps especially the pastor.

It wasn’t long before I learned that she was a very nasty person and she had a reputation for that nastiness. Her own adult son took me aside once, trying to get me to “just be patient with her” because, as he said, “we all know that my mother is a bitter person.” It wouldn’t be long before he hated me as well.

One Sunday during that first year here (let’s call her Linda), Linda threw an angry tantrum right up front in the sanctuary in front of the congregation as we were about 10 minutes from the beginning of the service.  I had made (the day before) a minor change in the order of service and she went ballistic. She threw down her music book and stormed out the side door for all to see. This was no doubt a favorite control tactic that had worked quite well for her over the years.

That afternoon my wife and I called Linda and asked to meet with her so we could find out why she had been so angry. She refused. I told her that there was a worship committee meeting the next day and that if she would not meet with us I would have to handle the situation at the meeting. And that is what I did. At the beginning, after she walked in and sat down, I told everyone that we all knew there was a real problem before the worship service the day before and we had to deal with it. No one said anything for a bit, and then Linda said, “I do not have to be put through this!” I replied, “Linda, you threw an anger fit right before the church was about to begin the worship of God, and I need you to know that this is never going to happen again.” With that, she stormed out in a huff.

At the next church board meeting (as I look back now I realize that perhaps only one of the 5 men on that board was really born again) I told the men that we obviously had a serious problem with the person who was involved in significant parts of the worship of God in this church. They all knew I was talking about Linda. The chairman of the board (who would later storm out of a subsequent meeting when I called him on his own public sin of domineering over the people at congregational meetings) said “well, Jeff, you’ve gotten on the wrong side of Linda right off the bat. We know that she can be difficult but we all have decided to just love her anyway.” I told the men that we absolutely had to meet with Linda as a board and that she needed to be removed from her position no matter how good of a pianist she was. They were silent but I told them I would tell Linda she needed to be at our next meeting.

Linda came, along with her adult son for backup. She began by railing against me for harming her reputation (she had already established her reputation!) and threatened to leave the church. A couple of the other board members said some things to appease here and to talk her into staying in the church and in her position. They all began to rush to the end of the meeting, calling for “prayer” to thank the Lord that things had been worked out. I stopped them.

I told Linda in front of all that nothing had changed. That she was not repentant and that her attitude toward me and her motive for “serving” was not acceptable to the Lord. I told her that there was no way she could continue in her position of ministry without repentance. Her response? “I do not have to sit here and listen to this!” And then she and her son stormed out. She never came back.

Now, here is the point of this entire post. The men on that board then made it clear that this was all my fault. That if I had just remained quiet they had it all worked out. Now Linda was gone and the blame fell on me.

I don’t think I hardly need to make application of this scenario with what most of you all have gone through with your abuser. When you exposed your abuser’s sin, you were blamed. You were the one at fault. You were the one who was so stubborn that you refused to “just get along.” Even though the sin of Linda and of your abusers was obvious and out in the open, YOU were the one who was blamed. The abuser was the one who was pitied.

This is evil. It is the mark of an unbelieving counterfeit church. I am very thankful that the Lord taught me these lessons and I am thankful that not one of those counterfeits remains in our church today. That is why we have such a very small remnant of a congregation and I like to ask other professing Christians who belong to sizeable churches why so many people who show no fruit of the Spirit in their lives seem to be so comfortable in their pews?

4 thoughts on “How I Learned About Abuse Victims being Blamed Instead of the Abuser

  1. Amen. Spot on. I’ve wondered why, if an elder board is supposed to be comprised of men who are filled with the Spirit, why are so many prone to dumb decisions (church related) and not calling out sin. Makes me believe that as you said, there is but a remnant of His church. You Are known by the fruits of the spirit Or works of the flesh. But for the grace of God, go I. May we all strive to be followers of Christ and not man. I for one am weary of the ever present counterfeit church. Either too legalistic or too worldy. Wish I lived in Tillamook, I long for true fellowship….. It’s hard to find (not expecting perfection) these days.

    1. Dan- we livestream the Sunday service on the Christ Reformation Church facebook page. 10:55am approximately

  2. Pure crazy-making. Yet there seem to be so many who claim to be believers who prefer to appear spiritual (tolerant, accepting and gracious) while, in reality, they are actually enabling sin. The appearance of faith is deemed to be of greater value than truth. Isn’t that how the Pharisees operated back in Jesus’ day? If I remember correctly, our Lord wasn’t exactly thrilled about the way those viewed as religious leaders strove to pat themselves on the back and keep up appearances while their hearts were dark, and they took selfish advantage of those who trusted them. Obviously, some things never change.

    So we need to keep our eyes open, our hearts attuned to the Spirit, our mouths prepared to speak truth, and our feet prepared to walk away, if necessary.

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