I cannot remember the last time a book made me sick. I don’t mean metaphorically. I am talking about head splitting, gut churning, chest aching sick. I wanted to put it down, to stop reading, and quit inflicting this level of torture on myself, but every time I cast it aside in disgust, I found my hands reaching for it again. Sometimes I read spellbound, a prisoner of its words, and other times I rapidly skimmed through paragraphs as if I could defect the blows of what was printed there.
It took me three days to wade through the dense pages. Not because it was difficult to read, but rather it was agonizing to relive the memories of another time in my life, ripped from the forgotten recess of my mind and now splashed across my consciousness. This was no thriller, although for sheer horror Stephen King has nothing on this book. No, this was an unflinching look at the mindset and methodology of an abuser, the sheer lack of understanding exhibited by many in church leadership, and how incorrect application of Scripture has kept may victims of domestic violence bound to their abusers.
In the years that have passed since I escaped my own abusive marriage, I have lost count of how many books I have read describing the dynamics of abusive relationships, but none have come close to the accuracy presented by Jeff Crippen in his book Unholy Charade: Unmasking The Domestic Abuser In The Church.
Nor does stop there, Crippen goes on to address how and why abuse is such a problem within the Christian community. He tears open the lies that so many abuse victims have been told about why abuse is to be ignored, accepted, and even a part of God’s plan for their lives. He explains how the Church has re-victimized those who seek help, and have sometimes even become complicit in the devastation of the lives of so many men and women who turned to Christian leadership for answers.
Crippen is no coward. He names names, and he decimates the arguments of popular Christian preachers and teachers that would require unconditional submission to abuse in the name of Christianity. He exposes the lies and counters with the truth. He refutes cherry picked verses and clichés with sound exegesis and by placing those verses within their proper context so that we can see that God’s design for marriage make no provision for a person violence – be it physical, emotional, or sexual violence. He tackles the thorny issues that are rarely addressed from today’s pulpits. Issues such as to who is a real Christian and how can you tell who is one, what is repentance and how can you see if it is true, when is church discipline appropriate and why aren’t we utilizing this God sanctioned responsibility of our community of faith.
Crippen presents the marriage covenant as part of the Christian experience and not some separate entity that abides by its own set of rules with no bearing in or obligation to adhering to the Biblical standards we impose upon other relationships within the Church. He does not present marriage as exemption from being living examples of Christ’s love to one another or to ourselves. And in doing so, he robs the abuser of their power to use Christianity as leverage against their victims.
Two things stood out to me as former victim of abuse:
1. Crippen does not espouse unthinking submission of a wife to an abuser. He understands that abusers do not respect, value, or love anyone they perceive as weak and therefore worthy of abuse. Instead, he offers Biblical guidelines to help women discern when submission is wrong or dangerous.
2. The manner in which Crippen addresses the issue of divorce. He builds his case thoughtfully and in a balanced manner, placing individual teachings within the context of totality of Scripture so that we might have proper understanding of what the Bible really has to say about divorce.
The book is well documented on many fronts. Scripture is scattered liberally throughout the book, footnotes abound, and testimonials are highlighted on each page. This is not a book of opinion or speculation. It is rooted deep in the Truth of God’s love for each of us while revealing the pitfalls of those who fail to move past the trite answers of a Church that turns a blind eye to the ugly realities of living in a fallen world. The almost expected sentimental idolization of marriage found in the majority of Christian books on marriage is, thankfully, nowhere to be found in the pages this book. Instead, Crippen looks the ugliness of abuse square in the eye and calls it what it is – sin.
I can overstate how much I believe that this book should be on everyone’s must read list. Even if you are not or have never been in an abusive relationship, the insights into how such a relationship functions are among the best I have ever read and will be an invaluable tool in caring for those who have had to walk this path. I would further urge everyone to not only purchase a copy for themselves, but to also to buy one for the leadership of your church body. As a whole, the Church has failed to meet the needs or address the issue of abuse in a Biblical or knowledgeable manner, and I believe sharing this book is one small step to correcting our errors on this front.
Purchase your copy on Amazon. Unholy Charade: Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church