Should Texas church shooter’s wife have gotten “Biblical counseling”? #churchtoo

Note: I put the term “Biblical counseling” in quotation marks not because I believe it’s wrong to counsel with the Bible. (Just the opposite is true, in fact.) But rather, because a certain group of people (nouthetic/”admonishing” counselors) have co-opted this term to apply to their style of counseling, when other counseling that uses the Bible (sometimes called “Christian counseling”) could also be called Biblical counseling.

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Recently I listened to a lecture from Caroline Newheiser from the Institute of Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) summer 2017 conference (link). I wanted to hear it for two reasons: In this talk Caroline was teaching other “Biblical counselors” (that is, nouthetic/”admonishing” counselors) how to counsel on the topic “Living with an Angry Husband” (link), and this information is pertinent to my interactions. And also, Caroline is the wife of Jim Newheiser, who is now the Director of the Christian Counseling Program at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC (about whom I’ve heard some interesting things) and a respected teacher in her own right.

Since the friend who had told me about the lecture hadn’t been able to finish listening to it because it was so upsetting to her, my introduction to it was at least somewhat inauspicious.

The first twelve minutes

But Caroline started well.

She actually spent the first twelve minutes of an hour-long lecture speaking about the terrible problem of angry and violent husbands. She told of news stories about . . .

. . . a man who had killed his wife who had an order of protection against him. He had previously dug a hole and told her he would put her in it if she didn’t stay with him.

. . . a man who had critically injured his infant son.

. . . a man who was accused of murder after his wife died of burns.

And more. Several more.

Then she described other ways angry men abuse their families (though she never used the word “abuse”). He might have an unpredictable temper, threatening to hurt or kill the wife, children, or pets. He might destory property, drive reckelssly, and brandish weapons.

And more. She talked about more.

She talked about a husband who exercises his control through the silent treatment or refusing to allow his wife to have friends or go to church. She talked about how he will manipulate her guilt and fear as a means of control.

She told us that far more policemen are killed in the line of duty for domestic violence than any other type of call. For law enforcement, domestic violence calls are the deadliest calls of all.

She told a story about a church that had established a house for battered women next to the church, but the husbands too easily found out where their wives were, so the building wasn’t safe to use.

For twelve minutes she went on about how very dire this situation is. Her outspokenness was encouraging.

And yet I was puzzled. The title of the talk was “Living with an Angry Husband.” But Caroline was describing situation after situation in which a woman should not live with this husband at all, but should escape. If she didn’t escape, according to Caroline’s own examples, she or her children could very well end up severely harmed or dead.

Comparing with the Texas gunman

Because Caroline referenced many news articles she had found in just a week’s time, I was reminded of a news story that came out some months after she spoke—the Texas gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people in a Texas church this past November 5th.

Devin was an angry husband.

Devin Patrick Kelley

Here was a man who fit right in with Caroline’s news articles, except that his violence was great enough to make national news, not just local.

His 25-year-old ex-wife, Tessa Brenneman, said in an interview that during one interaction, “He had a gun in his holster right here and he took that gun out, and he put it to my template [sic] and he told me, ‘Do you want to die? Do you want to die?'” 

Tessa Brennaman (formerly Kelley)

That was just one of several such accounts. In 2012 Kelley had admitted even to fracturing his infant stepson’s skull.

So in my mind I had these two things in juxtaposition:

— On the one hand, the news articles about murderers who are domestic abusers, with Devin Patrick Kelley as Exhibit A.

— And on the other hand, what Caroline Newheiser had to say about “Living with an Angry Husband.”

I’m all ears.

Failing to distinguish between an angry husband and a husband who gets angry

As I continued to listen to a lecture that increasingly confused me and generated many double takes and and “what in the world”s and caused me to take off my glasses and rub my temples, I finally understood that this is the distinction Caroline didn’t draw. Throughout the lecture the examples she gave were of angry husbands who would fit right in with Devin Patrick Kelley, gun brandishing and skull smashing—the cruel ones who caused their families to live in fear.

But the advice she gave, throughout the lecture, almost exclusively applied only to wives who are married not to “angry [cruel] husbands” but to husbands who sometimes get angry. She referred to them once as “the everyday run-of-the-mill aggravated husband.” (23:40) But that was when she was giving advice, not when she was describing the problem.

I have a wonderful husband and often refer to him here on my blog as a man of wisdom and grace that I’m very thankful for. But through the years, there have been two notorious sets of circumstances under which he would get angry. One was when I would do something genuinely stupid (which, alas, has been the case a few times through the years, like the time I threw away the key to the lawnmower . . .). I would say to my friends, “I can tell when he’s upset with me because when he’s talking I can see his dimple.” Was I ever afraid of him during those times? No, never. Instead his great self-control and gentleness melted my heart.

The other circumstance was when he would undertake house repairs that would go awry, especially plumbing repairs. His voice would get very tense, even shaky, as he would describe the new problem he had run into in the twenty-minute job that was taking all day. Sometimes I would help by handing him tools and such, but often I would want to just get out of the room.

But neither I nor the children were ever afraid of him.

In fact, that’s why we have other words for this kind of anger. Like aggravated (the one Caroline used) or frustrated or upset or irritated. Words that describe more or less normal reactions to living in a world with difficulties and challenges.

That’s so different from an “angry husband.” A solid definition of the “angry husband” as “a husband whose anger and cruelty causes his wife (and often children) to live in fear” would have helped for foundational grounding at the beginning of Caroline’s lecture. But it didn’t happen.

I believe Caroline didn’t intend to sound an uncertain call with this lecture, but because of this problem and others, that’s what she did. Because of confusing an angry husband (whose cruelty causes his wife to live in fear) with a husband who gets angry (but with whom there is no fear) her lecture snapped my neck around so much I nearly got whiplash.

For just one example, she advised to speak gently to your angry husband, telling him you want to help him, “and a lot of husbands will respond right away to this.” (29:50) So I’m thinking, ok, in that place she’s not really describing an “angry [cruel] husband”; she’s describing a husband who gets angry sometimes (aggravated, frustrated, irritated, etc). But no, she then immediately followed that with “Do you think he’s happy when he’s full of rage and slamming things around?”

What? What?

I can’t even imagine my husband—who, as I described, would get angry sometimes—ever doing something like that. If that were to happen, I would be in fear and would huddle in the farthest corner of the house I could find or get away if I could.

So when he’s doing that, the wife is supposed to speak gently and ask how she can help him? Will she not be in danger of losing a couple of teeth . . . or worse? Is this what Devin Patrick Kelley’s wife should have done when he was holding a gun to her head?

I felt this confusion and this kind of mental whiplash here and there throughout the lecture. I wondered if the women who sat under Caroline’s lecture felt it too.

Jumping into “look at your own sin first”

But back to the chronological order.

After the twelve minutes of unqualified exposure of the wickedness of these violent men, Caroline spent a while talking about what marriage should be, with the expected explanations about roles, etc.

Then, to my absolute shock—in fact, my mouth dropped open—in reference to what is commonly called “resistive violence” (fighting back), she said at about minute 14:35, “Sorry, but I have to talk about the wife’s role in this.” She made reference to a “screaming match going on” and talked about how the wife’s anger is one of the “deeds of the flesh” in Galatians 5.

What? What?

Can you run that one by me again?

Devin Kelley’s ex-wife said in her interview that when he told her he had cracked her infant son’s skull, “I was so angry.”

She was angry because her infant son’s skull had just been cracked on purpose.

“We know that it takes two to have a fight,” Caroline said at 16:43. “Remember Galatians 5:15, ‘But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.’”

What? What?

She’s comparing the wife’s pushing back against the anger as equal with the angry husband’s anger—the kind of anger that produces the cruelty that had been described in the first twelve minutes? My head began to feel like it was going to split, and we were only 15 minutes into an hour-long talk. Things were not looking good here, folks.

At 17:10 Caroline says that though on the one hand some marriages have the “screaming lady,” other marriages have a wife who is “filled with bitterness and hopelessness.”

And I thought, “Yes, that sounds about right. Bitterness (meaning grief, of course) and struggling with hopelessness (which is one big reason I write about hope often). Of course an angry husband would bring his wife to such a state. That’s what the church is supposed to be here for—to offer help and hope.”

But ah! to our astonishment we see that by her tone of voice and choice of words, we are actually in some measure being encouraged to look down on the woman struggling with bitterness and hopelessness! Caroline charges these wives of angry, violent husbands, of wanting—of all things—to give up on the marriage. “She’s turning to what she thinks is the answer, to escape and get out of the marriage, with justification, is perhaps how she thinks about it.”

No, Tessa Brennaman Kelley. It didn’t matter that he cracked your infant son’s skull or held a gun to your head. You cannot be angry, and you cannot give up on your marriage. Apparently you should have still been his wife when he took assault weapons into that church and killed 26 people. Stand by your man.

And my head is down in my hands again and I’m rubbing my temples.

How Caroline can on the one hand describe situations that are the stuff of nightmares, covenant-breaking experiences that cause such trauma a person can take many years to recover. . . .

And on the other hand issue these rebukes? They’re gently spoken rebukes, granted, but they are rebukes nonetheless. At minute 21:40 she again says, “We’ve got to have a look at the wife’s sin first.”

When I thought she was finally done talking about the wife’s sin, she picked up on it again at 26:55, so while she talked I needed to take off my glasses again and hold my pounding head and heave a heavy sigh. . . . It was at 26:55 that she said the wife needs to deal with her own sinful anger by getting “that great big log” out of her own eye, according to her interpretation of Matthew 7:3-5. “You can’t deal with his sin if you’re full of anger yourself.”

Oh?

If Tessa Brennaman Kelley was angry about Devin Patrick Kelley bashing her son’s skull, that means she couldn’t have taken the steps necessary to deal with what this criminal was doing? Apparently that protective anger she felt for her child was a “great big log” in her eye?

This is the kind of teaching that, if taken to heart, will keep abused women from being able to take any action in their abusive situations. An abused wife could take away from a lecture like this one: “Before I can do anything to address his anger that causes me to live in fear, I have to be completely free of any kind of sin in any reaction.” This is, after all, certainly what it sounds like Caroline is saying.

Though Caroline showed what I think was genuine concern for abused women (though she never named them as such), she still laced the lecture with talk that makes it sound like the wife is the cause of the anger. Is there a rule in “Biblical counseling” (nouthetic/”admonishing” counseling) that say no matter what the counselee comes in for, you have to talk about the counselee’s sin first? It sure seems like it.

Instead, though, we can assure a wife that when a man is “an angry husband”—that is, a husband whose anger and cruelty causes his wife and children to live in fear—the wife does not bear the blame for this fearsome anger. 

Although there seemed to be some half-hearted attempts to distinguish between wives who cause the anger and wives who don’t, I know from experience that the women with sensitive consciences will take all these words to heart and figure they must be the source of the problem. Their takeaway from a lecture like this one would be, “I need to try harder.”

Speak gently to him; that should do it

Throughout the lecture, Caroline brought in Scripture, especially Proverbs. Such as Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.”

Based on this verse, she told the wife to treat him gently, like a toddler (22:55), in order to get his anger to calm down. What a shame that you have to treat your husband like your toddler, but she goes on to say, “I don’t think this is going to solve this man who’s got the gun over here. I’m talking about everyday run of the mill aggravated husband.”

This was one of those confusing times, because almost everywhere else in the lecture the man she was referring to was the one who was either slamming his fist into the wall or brandishing a gun or injuring the children and pets or destroying his wife’s property. But here she switches to a different person altogether, the husband who simply gets aggravated (which would match with my description of my husband with the plumbing problems).

I think the reason for this switch was that Caroline herself had to admit that this verse doesn’t hold true 100% of the time. After all, Solomon wasn’t writing prescriptive statements that necessarily apply in every situation; he was simply making observations about life. And some of these verses in Proverbs, like Proverbs 15:1, simply don’t apply to a woman in a situation with an angry husband. Caroline herself knew it.

Another example of a verse that doesn’t always apply is the one Caroline quoted next, Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” That is a wise observation, but it is simply not always true. It may take two to actually have a real fight, but it doesn’t take two to be contentious and stir up strife. It takes only one: the angry one.

Many women who are reading this blog post can testify that even when they were as quiet as a mouse, the contention didn’t cease, because of their hot-tempered and controlling husband. Often, even, many wives would have no idea what their husbands were raging about.

Think of him as a Proverbs fool

Though I believe there were some mis-applications of the Proverbs scriptures, overall I think this right here was the best counsel Caroline gave in the whole lecture (at 17:45 and again at 35:00), telling the roomful of counselors that when a woman sees her angry husband as a “fool” according to Proverbs, this can give her comfort.

I’ll go a step further and say that when the wife of such a fool looks up all the verses that apply to a fool and sees how her husband fits them, this will change her paradigm. It can be both a comfort and a move toward clarity and an impetus to do something. Caroline would say that “something” would be to get help from the church, who will make an effort to “restore” him (32:15), whereas I would say the “something” could include much more drastic action than this.

Summary thoughts

Though there was more to this lecture, which I hope to address soon, right now I want to make a few summary observations:

  • Anyone lecturing on “the angry husband” should, I believe, distinguish between the “angry husband” and the husband who occasionally gets angry (better labelled frustrated or aggravated). The former uses cruelty to cause his family members to experience regular and ongoing fear; the latter does not. Devin Patrick Kelley was an outstanding example of an angry husband.
  • “Looking at your own sin first” is, I believe, not a wise approach to dealing with a wife living with an angry (cruel) husband. I can only imagine what would have happened if Tessa Brennaman, Devin Patrick Kelley’s former wife, had followed advice like this. She never would have escaped and gotten to safety, because she hadn’t dealt with the “log” of her own “sin” (of anger for what he had done to her son, etc).
  • “Speaking gently to him to assuage his anger” is, as Caroline herself admitted, often not the right way to deal with an angry (cruel) husband. Speaking gently can sometimes even cause his anger to escalate. I believe even Caroline would acknowledge that in Tessa Brennaman’s situation, when Devin was pointing the gun at her head, the onus was not on her to speak gently enough to get him to stop.
  • An angry (cruel) husband is a Proverbs fool. Yes. Looking up all the verses in Proverbs about the fool can bring clarity to a woman living with an angry husand.

And yet . . . even better, I believe, will be to look at what the New Testament has to say about anger, which is a lot. Here’s just one example from I Corinthians 5:11.

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Do you see it in there? The reviler. That is the angry husband. How I wish more Christians actually paid attention to this admonition, the way Sam Powell did at My Only Comfort. That word describes the angry husband, and this verse tells how he is to be handled.

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Part Two of this commentary series is now available to read here (link). 

20 thoughts on “Should Texas church shooter’s wife have gotten “Biblical counseling”? #churchtoo

  1. This “Biblical” counseling is confusing, self-contradictory, and crazy making! If King Husband is the spiritual head wouldn’t he be setting the moral tone of his household? If Devin Kelley had sought out “Biblical” counseling would they have told him it was his fault? Breaking a baby’s skull is just plain evil! He didn’t succeed in killing him, but by golly his prison sentence was WAY TOO SHORT.

    I know a lot about secular counseling. They would have helped by encouraging Mrs. Kelley to leave. But there’s not much they could do for folks like Kelley or Josh Duggar. Tell them they had an “illness” and suffered low self esteem and other crap. A good preacher like Jeff Crippen might help by pointing a finger at them and saying, “You have sinned! Repent!!!!”

    About abusers, yes, they actually do enjoy smashing things and scaring other people. They find it empowering. Caroline didn’t know what she was talking about.

    • Caroline actually never addressed wickedness in her talk, never. There is a lot of where she fell short, because it so desperately needs to be addressed. Thank you, as always, for your helpful contributions in the comments, Rachel.

  2. Such “counselors” always seem to bring their advice around to the wife’s “sin” and her submission while completely ignoring the husband’s abuse and his lack of loving and protecting his wife. I am weary of such advice.

    I also think so many Christians think the only emotion a person could have is total joy and peace. I think that is ridiculous. We were created with emotions and I think there are times when the “negative” emotions are realistic and justifiable–like, uh, anger that your abusive husband cracked their infant son’s skull. Ps 7:11 (KJV) says that God, Himself, is “angry with the wicked every day.”

    • Yes, because SHE is the one who comes for help (of course), so they say “SHE is the one in your office, so look at HER sin.” What? What? Don’t get me going on one of those headaches again! Ha ha!

      And yes, I’ve written about righteous anger a few times, because wickedness makes me angry and it also makes me righteously angry that we’re counseled as if we can’t ever be angry about wickedness. Absolutely, and thank you!

    • Lots of Christians think other Christians–especially women–need to go around with smiley face masks instead of human faces. Had a woman tell me Jesus should make real Christian ladies happy 100% of the time. Happiness is a choice! If you’re sad, cheer up, because sorrow means you have sin in your heart. 😛

  3. Thank you for this hard-won analysis, Rebecca. Your distinction between an angry (controlling) husband and a husband who occasionally gets angry (frustrated, aggravated) is brilliant. I appreciate you so much!

  4. This is the kind of awfulness preached in the churches I attended growing up. It was the nonsense my mom sincerely believed in.

    As I was reading this blog, I started thinking of a time when I was 20 and one one of the only two vacations my family ever took. My dad’s boss had a cabin on a lake in the state we lived in and he let us use it for a few days. I was upstairs in the cabin taking a shower and when I came downstairs, the board game my other 3 siblings were playing (I had a 4th sibling who was 23 but had been kicked out of the house a year earlier for dating behind my parents back) had dissolved into an argument about how closely the rules should be followed. My dad flipped out and started yelling at my siblings to stop fighting and one of my siblings snapped back at him, so he snatched her up by her throat and pinned her against the wall. She always fought back and this time she punched him in the nose. Hard.

    He was completely unhinged at that point so I took my three siblings and told them I was going to take them out to eat to get them away from my dad. I couldn’t get my mom to come with us because she said she needed to stay there to calm my dad down. So I left with my siblings and gave my two brothers 50 or 60 dollars to buy quarters and play the arcade games in the restaurant for a few hours, while my sister and I sat at one of the tables and talked.

    When we got back to the cabin late that night, my dad was still yelling at my mother so us kids slipped upstairs to go to bed. Really late that night he all of a sudden screamed at her and, using profanity, threatened to kill her if she ever spoke to him again. He stormed out the door, and left in his truck, leaving everyone behind with just my little car to get us all back. I went downstairs and held my mom and let her cry, then we sat there and looked at the map (this was pre-gps days) to see if I could figure out how to get us all back home and what we were going to have to leave at the cabin so we could all fit in the car.

    My dad came back the next day, unfortunately, and put all the belongs we had brought with us on vacation in his truck and drove really fast through the forest and mountains back to our house. I was a new driver so it was really hard to keep up with him he didn’t care.

    My mom was convinced it was her job to calm him down and be gentle and “godly” towards him and could only focus on her “wrong responses” to him instead of the fact that he was an abusive monster she needed to leave. That is the kind of life that these horrible teachings trap women in.

    • Thank you for this example, elliegirl49, and I’m so sorry this happened to you and your siblings and your mom, that this wicked man wasn’t stopped by people who claim to love God. I admire how you stood up for your siblings and loved your mom through this awful episode. I pray that there will be more and more Christians who will call out wickedness for what it is and stop pussy-footing around and blaming the victims. God speed the day.

  5. Thankful for what you have shared and that you are exposing the danger of tolerating angry men, in the church, and in our society. The law was made, for the lawless…Domestic abuser that profess to be ‘christians’ needs to be taken more seriously…it impacts us all.

  6. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult this account was to read. I know I would probably go off the deep end if I even dared to listen to everything that Caroline so ignorantly stated.

    Here’s the bottom line of her insanity: The “angry husband” is wholly unable to identify his own behavior and change himself. He is simply an ignorant (even innocent), struggling fool. His wife is ultimately responsible for inspiring, invoking or leading him to change by first changing herself to meet his needs and find a way to reach him. Ultimately, this means that she is the one responsible for his anger. If he doesn’t change, it will be because his wife wasn’t devoted enough. She didn’t handle him correctly. She hadn’t dealt with the sin in her own life. She did it wrong.”

    So at the end of the day, when he doesn’t change, it is because she has failed as a wife. When she finally leaves him out of exhausted desperation, she will be condemned, and he will be the one the church community surrounds with comfort and support… (I wish I was making this up.)

    Yes, dear friends, too often this is how the Christian marriage counseling game is played.

    It is nauseating.

    • Well, something in me wants to apologize for the account being difficult to read, but I’ll resist that, ha ha! Yes, I know the lecture was too difficult to listen to for at least one of my friends—the one who sent it to me.

      Yes, you give a succinct synopsis of what the takeaway will be from a message like this one. I’m guessing if Caroline were to see this she might say, “But no, that isn’t what I meant at all,” but so much of the teaching was contradictory, and I know that women who have been conditioned will hear the condemning statements and miss everything else.

      And the response of the church that you describe—that I KNOW you’re not making up!—ends up being wickedness in itself, just in a morphed form.

      Thank you so much for commenting, Cindy. I do have two more installments on this analysis. I hope they won’t put you over the edge.

  7. I shared this article at FB and was told that this article is a gross misrepresentation of IBCD teaching..and that “it’s very very sound and that while biblical counseling does address the heart of the victim it’s not done so in a way that protects the abuser or places blame on the abuser for the abuser for any reason, rather helps the victim to respond to their circumstances biblically because often in these circumstances fear and or bitterness add to the pain and destructiveness of the situation.”

    This really upset (triggered) me because so many Christians support this sort of teaching believing that it is very spiritual without understanding the damage it causes. They think that because the counselors mention that “Abuse is wrong” that they are giving good advice that will actually help the victims. I really wish people would actually LISTEN to the victims. Many times churches/counselors say that they are against abuse, but the advice they give is actually extremely damaging and even dangerous to victims. Many times abusers, who are skilled at appearing charming, sorry, or even spiritual, are protected and defended while the victims are silenced. If they actually listen to the victims’ stories maybe they could see the damage being done to them by such teachings. There are hundreds and hundreds of stories. I wish they would stop dismissing victims as being angry, bitter, unforgiving, or sinful and hear their cries. But usually they do not listen.

    I appreciate those of you, Rebecca, who are able to keep speaking out. Sometimes I get tired of trying to explain to people who do not hear.

    • Thank you, TJ. Yes, it’s hard when people refuse to hear, and that response certainly is a typical one. But we trust that there will be those who will be willing to listen and understand, and I’m sure they’re out there. I know that because I used to be someone who didn’t “get it,” and the Lord taught me. One of the main things He taught me was to listen, as you say.

      I didn’t mean to be analyzing all IBCD teaching, only Caroline Newheiser’s. I also listened to Zondra Scott’s lecture from the ICBD Summer Institute 2017, and incorporated an analysis of that teaching into this blog post: http://www.heresthejoy.com/2017/09/if-jane-from-tmu-were-to-seek-biblical-counseling/

  8. It seems that very often, it’s the woman who gets the blame, no matter what the situation. (although secular authorities and councelors may often be better equipped to deal with DV)

    A different angle entirely, but I have noted that if the relationship did not work out (in the case of divorce or even break-up before any marriage could take place), the trend is to question the woman’s character and blame her – for being attracted to the man in the first place. ‘What’s wrong with you for being drawn to such-and such types?’

    If she is wary and prefers to keep her distance, she is admonished for ‘not giving him a chance’, for having ‘trust issues’ and so on. (and she is told to work in her ‘issues’, to have more counceling in order to be more trusting etc…yawn)
    Then.. when she dares to trust and hope, and it ends up in disappointment, the responsibility of the broken dreams seems to fall on her.. again. ‘You should have seen the red flags’ (which are not always visible beforehand, unless the Lord clearly shows them), or ‘Why are you attracted to emotionally unavailable men?’ (very often, that’s all what’s around her: she was attracted because she trusted God could work it out for the best between fallible and imperfect people.)

    • Oh yes, you’re so right! And that’s when you realize no matter what you do, if you don’t end up with a “happily ever after,” you (the victimized one) will get the blame.

      There was even one point at which I thought maybe Caroline was hinting at this with one of her Proverbs verses, the one that says, “With an angry man you shall not go,” and I thought, “Is she saying the wife should have seen that he was an angry man before she married him?” (Knowing of course that the red flags often don’t appear till after marriage, as you said.) But I wasn’t sure if that was what she was saying, so I decided not to address it and stick with the parts that were more obvious.

  9. Have you considered actually listening to what she is saying, and not just wanting to be mad about it?

    I say that honestly, because after reading your article, I was almost in tears and then I clicked the link and listened to the entire thing, twice……and if you try to understand what she is saying, she very clumsily, yes VERY clumsily went through all the methods that as a counsellor you are to try and figure out what is REALLY going on…..remember, there are times it’s not abuse, it’s just arguing, so as she said and you misheard it, because you wanted to mishear it, she said if the woman was gagging or furthering the yelling match, we need to deal with her sin before his, that is true, you need to figure out, is she engaging in the same behavior he is, if so she needs to stop, if not you move on and escalate.
    You are correct, she doesn’t in the first 25 minutes make a distinction between a man with frustration and cruel abuse, but by the 35 minute mark she is very clearly making that distinction.
    The line about bitterness and hopelessness is a reference to a previous session from the conference, but even that she is talking about a woman who is just bitter, or married a bad man because of her father being like that, and so she is furthering the bad behavior by bringing a victim mentality to the marriage.

    She says, in fact, the woman should leave if the man if he is the type that would be violent, and especially if he is hurting the kids, at the 38 minute mark she mentions that if the husband has “murderous rage” she is to tell the authorities, and says “jesus says being angry is the same as murder” so comparing it to the texas shooter’s wife shows you never got past the 30 minute mark because she CLEARLY says that type of rage means separation. Even saying to not tell the police would be assisting in his sinful acts, at 41:24 she says “to be a help she has to report” at 42:45 she encourages the woman not to worry about if telling on abuse is “taking revenge” …… at 46:00 she mentions that if the woman thinks her husband might “take it out on her” that she was getting counseling, the church should step up and send a man home with her to deal with it and protect her, or not let her go home at all. She even says “if she is going to deal with the real sin (his sin) that is going on she needs to be protected by the church” and says we have to be radical to protect women from abuse. AND at 48:50 she tells how people might not believe, but we need to believe her, at 49:20 she says with disgust “I could tell you stories of how many women have come up to church leaders and said ‘I’m desperate, this is out of control.’ and they say they don’t believe her.” and the audience reacts in disgust and shock……she is saying everything you say…she just didn’t do it using your vocabulary….and yes, she started out very clumsily, and sloppy, but she does right the ship and give a very good textbook outline of how to deal with a woman needing counsel, starting from the simplest “he gets mad some times” and moving to “yelling matches” and on through abuse, which SHE CLEARLY SAYS SHE SHOULD LEAVE HIM……so your Texas shooter comparison is ridiculous.

    Yes, I understand the church has been terrible over the way they have always handled this issue. I am working to fix it in my church. But please don’t just go around looking for a reason to be mad. And especially when you know all these women will just believe what you say and not do what I did and listen to what she actually said…..

    Please, I’m begging you to listen to the audio again, this time without the preconceived notion that its horrible and especially listen from the 30 minute mark onward…….and after you do, I am asking out of a spirit of humbleness to remove this article, because it is not helping, especially when you and what you are bashing are saying the same things. Just different vocabulary.

    • Please notice that I didn’t say that Caroline said a woman (such as Tessa Brennaman Kelley) should physically stay with a physically violent husband. What she said was that she should stay married to him.

      What you’ve called clumsy presentation, I’ve called an “uncertain sound.” She does say, for example, that a woman should be protected from a man who wants to kill her. (Kudos to her for saying that—I’ve certainly known of people who said a woman should stay with a man she’s married to until he kills her.) But in spite of Caroline’s awareness of how dangerous husbands can be, she continues to tell wives to look at their own sin first. This is counsel I disagree with.

      It’s a three-part series, and some of the things you mention in your comment are addressed in the other two parts. Caroline’s lecture seemed somewhat disorganized, so I was trying to put her advice under organized headings. I listened to the whole thing at least twice while writing the commentary, and after the whole thing was written found that it was too long for one blog post and had to break it up into three parts.

      I hope the women who read my posts won’t listen just to me, but will listen to her too. That’s why I linked to her talk several times and urged readers to listen to it (maybe that was in Part Three; I don’t remember). But I’ve heard from several people who have been counseled with this very counsel, this very counsel that Caroline Newheiser espouses, whose lives were endangered as a result and whose churches turned against them when they were the targets of cruel and dangerous husbands. So I know that what I’ve written speaks truth that they have needed to hear.

      The problem is that when a woman is living with a cruel and dangerous husband (the husband Caroline describes in the first twelve minutes) the first thing that would need to happen when she comes for help is that she needs to understand what she’s dealing with (the Proverbs fool) and how to be safe. Speaking gently to a cruel and dangerous husband is not the way to get the help she needs. For Caroline to mix up the two kinds of men, and flip back and forth between them during the lecture, will be very confusing to anyone living with a cruel and dangerous husband.

      Also, since when she talked about safety her emphasis was on the physical harm and threats like the gun to the temple, a woman living with a man who daily whispers to her about how he’s going to chop her or the children up into little pieces and feed them to the dog but then says he’s just joking and can’t you take a joke you’re just so sensitive, that’s the woman who may very well, when she hears Caroline, think she needs to figure out the sin she’s committing that makes him keep doing that or think that if she just keeps gently pleading with him, eventually he’ll understand. It’s an uncertain sound.

      I’ve not been the target of domestic abuse and am married to a wonderful, strong and gentle man, as I testify in many of my blog posts. I do get angry when I see women being put into harm’s way, because I hear from so many of them and I know what they’re going through. But I’ll also testify that I’m not an angry woman, and I believe the people who know me personally can testify to that as well. The woman who sent me the audio to listen to was also one who had helped someone else through domestic abuse and knew how very damaging an “uncertain sound” like this one can be.

I welcome your thoughts (and of course, please feel free to use a screen name)