Abuse happens within the walls of the church, among those who name themselves Christian.
This is a reality we have a difficulty accepting, because we want to believe the best of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Though only God truly knows our hearts, there are signs and symptoms to diagnose unhealthy spiritual conditions in the face of problems, concerns or behaviours.
In Rebecca's book, But He Said He Is A Christian: Journal Entries of a Young Christian Woman in an Abusive Relationship she documents her journey to Christ, meeting and dating a man in ministry, the following trauma she experienced in their relationship and pieces of her healing journey.
A difficult story to read, but one so important to understand.
But He Said He Is A Christian | Book Review
Purpose of the Book
The author shares her story to help us understand domestic abuse among Christians, so we can better care for ourselves. She also writes to help those who don’t believe to see the goodness of God in the midst of evil.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 A New Creation
CHAPTER 2 Swept Away
CHAPTER 3 The Bombshell
CHAPTER 4 Footprints in the Snow
CHAPTER 5 The Escalation
CHAPTER 6 STOP
CHAPTER 7 The Cycle
CHAPTER 8 My Anguished Heart
CHAPTER 9 Coming to the Surface
CHAPTER 10 Healing Through Jesus
CHAPTER 11 Final Reflections
This memoir is a collection of storytelling through the use of her journal entries as she was growing in Christ, active in ministry and seeking the Lord’s will for her life. A man came into her life, who seemed to love the Lord, and carried a passion for ministry. Their relationship moved fast, and slowly the pieces begin to unfold that behind closed doors he was not who he appeared to be.
The author’s story not only helps us understand abuse happens even within the church, the damaging effects, and the hope for healing in Christ, it also provides some takeaways for budding romantic relationships. These are helpful for those in young adult ministries, discipleship, or parents.
1 She felt spiritually inferior
“I had developed a reputation as a spiritual leader who passionately loved God and the Church. I was the one who read the Bible everyday and knew all the Christian terminology. But after meeting Tony, I felt like there was so much more to learn and I wanted to learn all of it. I wondered how he knew all of these things about Christianity. I wanted to be on his level.”
We measure ourselves against our brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t we?
The standard is often based on outward appearances, how put together she looks, how nicely their children sit in church, the eloquence of their public prayers.
This is a dangerous tendency for the church to permit. Church leaders need to be cautious in lifting themselves up above others (for teachers are also held to greater account) or inadvertently esteeming some over others, “not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12).
Our identity is in Christ, through faith by grace we are secure in him. Yes we want to strive to grow in knowledge of him and in good deeds, we look up to our pastors and mentors as models for us, but people aren’t the standard we hold to, the Lord Jesus is.
2 Friendship Hurts Sometimes
“[December 4, 2014] I feel a little frustrated. I hate to have people not agree with me being with Tony. I feel judged by them for being with him.”
I can imagine it’s a really difficult situation when you’re concerned about your friend’s relationship, especially if it is to someone who, by all appearances, is a ministry leader. There’s fears about if you say something it will drive her more toward him, fears that it will be taken the wrong way, or that you’ll fracture your friendship.
My hope is they continued to pray and stand by her. As the relationship deteriorated, she felt increasing amounts of shame which also prevented her from talking to her friends about what was happening. Friendship can be painful, particularly when you’re watching your friend become more anxious and sad. They were able to share their concerns and become a part of her healing journey.
3 Cautious Relationships
“Reading this journal entry and others around this time made me see how I lacked a strong understanding of theology. The person you marry does have an impact on the way you live your life and will strongly influence your beliefs, and so we need to be very careful about with whom we enter an intimate relationship.”
When someone takes an interest in us, it’s hard not to be flattered. When we’re pursued, it’s difficult not to reciprocate.
Their relationship moved quickly. She had doubts about it, but the intensity seemed to drive them away.
In some ways I noticed this when my husband and I were dating. You spend more time together, in some ways distancing yourself from friends so you can go for walks or out on dates. In doing this, there’s less accountability and after the hype dissolves, you still need friends. We were blessed to be part of a friend group that gathered for bible study and spent a lot of time together (I remember lots of football, card games and potlucks).
Starting a dating relationship, to me, meant keeping the end goal in mind: Whether he’d be someone I could spend my life with. In high school I dated once, but knew it wasn’t something I wanted to give my time toward yet, so it didn’t last long, especially as I was busy with sports. I’m grateful for this perspective because it brought in a level of caution in approaching relationships and whether or not I was really ready for the commitment.
4 Sexual Temptations
Physical boundaries in dating relationships can be vague.
She’s clear that when she started dating him they both agreed to no sex before marriage. That’s great. But practically, how does that play out?
They may not have wanted things to go that direction initially, but that can easily change as you spend more time together and temptation grows.
I had a very loving friend as my college roommate. When my husband and I started dating, she flat out told me the bedroom door would remain open at all times. While fairly direct, it did the trick in reminding me of the possibility of temptation, and also how much she loved and cared for us that she wanted to help guard our purity. I love her for that and pray my kids will have friends, and be friends, like that.
5 Emotional Awareness
I think this also reminds us of the importance of learning how to identify our emotions and also pay attention to how others respond to theirs. We all become dysregulated at times, over different things, but whether or not we have the skills to cope in a healthy way is important.
And most often these skills need to be learned.
Pre-marriage counselling can be very insightful here, as you talk with a pastoral leader or counsellor about both your own emotional life and your relationship and how they impact you. She notes in her journal that after seeing him she was becoming more sad and increasingly anxious. It’s heartbreaking to hear, especially when the desire is for our significant other is for them to be an encourager and supporter of us—our partner.
Schools are paying more attention to bring emotional health to the surface, and I hope this is a positive trend for youth ministries as well. We’re just not always equipped with understanding or have seen modelled what a healthy emotional life looks like.
I picked up this title from Darryl Dashouse’s 2023 book list, knowing it was going to be a tough read. Trigger warnings would include a descriptions of physical abuse and a reference to sexual abuse.
I think this is something everyone in ministry should read.
If you’re a parent, you will also benefit from reading it. This is well written and reads like a story; you almost can’t put it down until you find out what happens. It’s helpful because it causes us to see how the relationship progressed, how she got stuck and felt stuck, and a few encouragements on how to help and support women who come out of these relationships.
If you’re a single, young adult this is also something you could benefit from reading, because she points out areas of romantic relationship that are temptations and that are difficult to see in the moment, and the value of your community.
This is a book I highly recommend and encourage you to read to help you see the perspective of someone caught in an abusive relationship and what she goes through.
(I read this for the 2024 VT Reading Challenge - a book recommended by a pastor)
# of Pages: 116
Level of Difficulty: easy reading style
My Rating: 5 stars
More Like This
1 Biblical counselling resources from RPM ministries on sexual abuse
2 Articles from the Biblical Counselling Coalition related to abuse
3 How to Combat Domestic Violence in the Church | Mark Spansel (The Gospel Coalition)
Scriptures About Healing in Christ
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy (Ps. 103:2-4).
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10)
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