Abuse in the Church

Abuse-in-the-Church

This is a guest post by anonymous

Abuse can easily hide in the church. Oh we decry the evils of it, but if it is among our church members or especially our leadership, there can easily be a deafening silence. We do not know how to respond.

I grew up in a religious “evangelical” home. At one point, I can remember being at church every night of the week. Looking back on those days, however, I realized that it was half piety and half escapism on my part. My home was abusive.

Though much of the abuse was not directed specifically at me, it affected me like second-hand smoke. My mom and two siblings felt most of it. My other sibling and I had our own ways of avoiding the pattern as much as possible, but not completely.

Though much of the abuse was verbal, the occasional and not so occasional physical was etched in our minds. As we would ride to school or church, the Christian radio would come through the speakers. I can remember thinking when I marry I don’t want someone who has two faces—one for work and church that gets praised and the other at home which is a powder keg waiting to explode.

You may think that with such an upbringing I would end up running away from the church. But God in his great mercy brought godly mentors into my life. I don’t know if it was fully conscious at the time, but each of these mentor’s home life matched up with his church life. So what is the church to do when abuse is secretive and those who practice it live such duplicitous lives?

1. Raise awareness. This can be done through sermon application.

2. Having tight-knit community at the church, small groups, life on life. Abusers will eventually be revealed. They tend to be controlling.

3. Watch the response of children. Is there extreme fear when the abusive parent finds out an offense?

4. Leave pamphlets in conspicuous places with a number to call for help. Make sure it is small enough to slip in a wallet or shoe. One in four women are abused in the US and many of them see no way out.

What can be done when the abuser is found out? It then becomes a matter that needs extreme care. Professional help should be sought with the goal of protecting the abused and bringing repentance and restoration to the abuser. The latter of which may take time from family and intense therapy, but it is an investment that we must be willing to make. 

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