Girls Write Out
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Being a writer allows you to enter into worlds that you question. I'm fascinated by what leads a woman into abusive situations. What keeps her there? When Mary Winkler killed her pastor husband, I was mesmerized. What would lead a woman to do this? Was she crazy? Was he abusive? Did she just snap? What made her snap? Those questions are what leads an author to a story idea. For one thing, if he was abusive and he was raised by his parents, that's who is raising her kids now, and that scares the daylights out of me. If she was abused, her action of killing did not stop the abuse -- it only perpetuated it. But seriously...a divorce would have kept him from being a pastor. Not his abuse, but definitely the divorce. What is it with the church that they can't get off divorce as the ugliest sin? Sheesh, you can have four abortions, sleep with every man in Texas before you're married and it's all you and God's little secret -- but get a divorce and the church is going to tell you girl about your sin.

What bothers me most about Mary Winkler's story is not that it happened, but that the church is always so quick to deny abuse. Would the church have listened to her? Would they have told her she was crazy and needed to submit more? Doing the research for the Trophy Wives' Club, the stories of abuse in the church are everywhere. Why do we deny that this exists? And if the man truly is the head of the household, why do we hold the women responsible when the marriage breaks up? Is it because the women generally stay in the church?

Could we be doing more in the church to take this matter seriously? How can we take the stigma away from divorce and slap it on abuse? Abuse is shameful. Women are ashamed to admit it. Abusers tell them they're lucky to have the life they have. Where does the truth lie?

If Christians are abusing those they've vowed to love, the truth is not in them. That is why this situation needs to be addressed. If we have not love for our fellow man/woman, we are but clanging gongs and the truth is not in us.

So if I head to murder in my stories, you'll know why now. This is not a new concept unfortunately. Sin is nothing new. "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" by Thomas Hardy. The church was quick to blame the victim of a rape and let her child bear the brunt of her "sins". Copyright 1891. So much for evolution. Kristin


posted at 12:29 PM  
  Comments (24)
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At 3:27 PM, Blogger Julie Carobini said...

You know, I've been, mesmerized by Winkler's story too (much to hubby's chagrin). Seriously, it makes you wonder. I'm not defending her because I don't know all that went on. But if she truly was abused by her pastor husband why wasn't she strong enough to say No More? Was the church in the way? I don't know. I do know that there's so much legalism marring the beautiful message of our savior. Legalism can keep even the most sincere Christian from doing what's holy in God's eyes, ie. protecting one's children and self from danger by getting the heck out of there.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I don't know why abuse happens, but I don't believe it happens any more often in the church than outside of it. I don't understand why a woman stays in that either. I'd take a frying pan to his head! LOL

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Jaime said...

I told my husband (well before we were married) that if I was ever married to man who lifted an abusive finger or a verbal abuse at a child of mine, I'd be out of there so fast it'd make his head swim. Thankfully, it's not an issue I've had to face. I can lend a positive note though and say not ALL churches respond to the abused divorced with judgement. I've been witness to my church coming around such women and loving them through the divorce and supporting the separation because of the danger it presented to the wife and the children

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I guess because I have a gentle husband and a gentle father, I can't understand how women who are being abused will stay and continue to let it happen. I wish I understood how to draw the line between, say, spanking and hitting. I know that's a kid thing and not a spouse thing, but it's another thing the church tends to look away from. It's supposed to be okay to a point, but how much is too much? No one ever really says. It's like the whole subject doesn't exist - physical, verbal, nothing. I think this hits close to home today because I just heard this week about some of the "discipline" my husband was raised with and it made me want to throw up on the story-teller. It's a miracle he turned out the way he did.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Tracey said...

Though I did not know Matthew or Mary, I knew Matthew's parents and his younger brother, Jacob. I can tell you that Dan and Diane Winkler are among the kindest, most gentle people I've ever met. If Matthew was abusive to Mary, I wholeheartedly believe it was a product of his own nature, not his nurturing childhood (though you never know for certain what goes on behind closed doors). I don't know why abuse happens, or why women allow it to continue, but I hope that Matthew and Mary's story can be a wakeup call to the church and bring some light to this often overlooked topic. Maybe some woman out there will hear about the Winklers and agree to ask for help or get out before she ends up on the evening news. My two cents...

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Tabitha said...

I LOVE Tess of the D'Ubervilles...for the injustice done to her...none of it was her fault but she had to take the blame. I may have reread it again. Thanks.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

It's the same with abortion. A woman can be forgiven by God, but do't talk about it in church. When I researched When the Wind Blows, I found a surprising munber of women in the church who had abortions. They were muzzled by the church, not even allowed to have recovery programs. I'm thankful my pastor blew the lid off that by having one woman give her testimony as the sermon one day.

There is forgiveness, but healing comes through ministering. Too many churches are hung up on the outward apprearance.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Interesting comments gals. You know what I think got Mary winkler off? It was the shoes. No self respecting man would ask his wife to put those on. I think that's wjhat "saved" her. Such a sad case, but I don't want it repeated, and that's why we need to be at the ready for church.

Abuse happens slowly gals, it doesn't happen overnight. A person slowly makes a person feel worthless and then the control gets worse. It's what happens in cults too. They love you like you've never been loved. The human brain is easily susceptible to abuse.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Deena said...

Here's my review:

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

While the requirement to be the "husband of one wife" is probably the most talked about of the qualifications of a pastor, it has been my experience that men have been disqualified for other things as well. If a church is following Paul's instructions, and knows that a pastor is abusing his wife or his children then there really is little choice but the remove him from his position, but part of the problem is with what the church knows. A person can fake most of the things that are listed in in I Timothy 3, but when he gets a divorce the church has evidence that he had broken not one, but several of these qualifications. It probably should not be that way. What we really want is a pastor who meets all of the qualifications, but aside from seeing him hit someone or seeing him sitting in a bar drinking it is difficult to bring these other types of accusations. When his wife finally has enough and files for divorce the church finally has the proof it may have been looking for.

Would the church have listened to a report of abuse? I do not know about that particular church, but I think I am safe in saying that the church of which I am a member would take it very seriously if such an accusation was brought against a staff member. I can also say that I have seen a church refuse to ordain a man because his wife was against it.

I think you said it correctly when you said that if Christians are abusing those they've vowed to love, the truth is not in them, but I cannot take responsibility for every person or so call church that is doing thing that are contrary to the Word of God. We can tell them that they are wrong, but if they will not listen there is little that we can do.

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Timothy, I hear what you're saying. There is little we can do if someone's sin is hidden and they will not come forward. My point is that we have to at least have something in place for the woman in these times. And I don't mean to pick on the men, there are plenty of female sins that remain hidden, but what I'm saying is that the church seems to push back and not want to hear these things, and then you have the woman's shame to go alone with it.

Abuse is not an easy thing to explain, because it happens slowly. NO woman is going to just be hit or talked down to. It's that these people first gain their trust, then slowly erode their self confidence and use isolation to make them feel alone and useless. My theory is that men aren't allowed to show their feelings, so often there's a silent rage brewing within. But your points are well taken. Kristin

At 2:36 AM, Blogger Anna Marie said...

A growing number of teenage girl's have boy friend's who abuse them.
Laying down the mind set of worthlessness that will more then likely fellow them through
womanhood and find more abusive men.
There's also a work to do with the the teen's.
And Kristin is right, A lot of the men are very charming in the beginning.
A lot of men buy their wife gifts to say their "Sorry."
And the wife really do want to believe they are.
But reason are many why they stay.
I could fo on and on...

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...


Here are a couple of things to think about. One, in an abusive situation, it is not always the man who abuses the woman. We hear about women abusing their husbands less frequently and it may even occur less frequently, but it does happen.

Two, abuse may be less about suppressed rage than it is about a desire for control. Yes, it is taboo for men to express some emotions, but most men simply learn to channel these emotions toward other things or to turn their thoughts to other things. Emotions are like a pressure cooker. The pressure will only build while there is fire under it. Turn off the fire and the pressure will drop, even if we don't let of the steam.

The desire for control is different. In some cases, it may lead to rage as the other person will not or is unable to do everything this controling person tells her to do. If he loved her as he is supposed to then he would have a different attitude, but he sees this a violation of his right to control this other person. He begins to do things that are designed to reinforce his power. If he is not obeyed completely, he may punish her in some way. "Look what you did, now we can't go out to eat tonight," he might say. It will progress from there. There are plenty of things that an abuser can withold in a relationship. Interaction with friends. Money. Sex. You name it. Still, it doesn't stop there because the lust for power grows and the other person can never live up to the ever changing standard. Eventually, the abuse becomes physical.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Sally said...

I don't know all the details of the Winkler case, but I do know the "denomination" they come from (I put that in quotes b/c they don't consider themselves a denomination). Remember your post about legalism, Kristin? Well, this church is the epitomy of's the one hubby grew up in and we've struggled with differences in our beliefs because of it.

The church probably would not have listened to her complaints of abuse if she'd made them. It's sad to say, but it could very well be true.

For some reason, she thought that was her only way out. I can't imagine being in that situation. To me, it's evidence of how our churches need to be more like a community - where you feel like a family. Imagine if someone in that church would have realized the strife and trouble in that family - they could have tried to intervene or help. What's worse is what if they DID see trouble, and kept their mouths shut b/c they thought it wasn't their business.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Abuse is so hard to see too, Sally. I mean, it's shameful so the women hide it, and these men are very good at putting on the game face outside the home. It's a serious dilemma, but isn't it scary to think there are men who do abuse that are preaching the Word and getting paid for it?

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Leslie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

At last. A place to give an opinion on Mary Winkler. Kristen, first of all, good post! You're to be commended for it. Abuse is unacceptable. The reason some women put up with it, is, they have too compliant a personality, and/or they have a stubborn, controlling streak, too. I've studied lots of cases and helped lots of people and even brought them into my home, and that's my opinion. It's all so sad, it just hurts my heart no end to think of someone being abused.

As to Mary Winkler, of course I have no inside knowledge, only what I've observed of the trial and what I've read. When I first heard about the high heels and the wig, I thought, So what? My dh and I teach Joy in Marriage seminars, and we teach, about sex, that it has to meet three criteria in order to be biblically acceptable: 1) no mental or emotional harm; 2) must be mutually agreed on by BOTH parties; 3) doesn't permanently replace intercourse. I teach that we CAN use things like a boa and pretty lingerie, etc., and so I put the wig and heels in that category. So those didn't bother me at all.

What really bothered me was Mary's little girl persona on the witness stand as opposed to her videoed confession after the police caught her. Night and day. IMO, it was an act, the witness stand persona. She wouldn't make eye contact, she kept saying Yes, sir, No, sir, and she never said those in the confession.

What further bothered me terribly, was, she shot him about 6 a.m., and then HEADED TO THE BEACH FOR TWO DAYS!! Now, that to me, is ultimate selfishness.

Oh, well. Just my opinion on those two points. Hope I didn't say too much. Please forgive me if I did. I just have been so grieved about the whole Winkler case. For Mary. For Matthew. For the children especially. For his parents, her parents, the whole shebang. Lord, help them, and help us, too, Father God.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Oh, and as far as divorce for the minister. My dh, a minister, has always said we (denominations) make room for the guilty but not the innocent. The guilty being, like you said, sleeping around, having children, etc., or, after marriage, adultery. Those all are covered with grace (which they should be). But the person who divorces, woe be to him, is the common thinking. Of course I'm not saying ministers shouldn't be expected to live on a higher plane. They should, by the very nature of their work. They DO have higher expectations. When they fail (and fall), it affects myriads of people. It hurts them. Maybe that's why denom. are so stiff about divorce. Maybe they're trying to protect their people.

Okay. Enough from me. Thanks for letting me make these long ccomments.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Kristy, great thoughts! And by the way, did you SEE the shoes? It wasn't that there were shoes, it's that they were fetish, freakish shoes. Not like black stilettos or something relatively sexy and normal. LOL

I will say, she doesn't seem all that normal to me, but maybe after she snapped she realized this was her last hoorah? Or maybe...she bought the shoes and planned it to change her life. hmmm.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger SuseADoodle said...

I don't watch TV news -- so I actually know nothing about this case. However, I do know that a certain radio preacher (who has his own string of stations) once told a woman who called in to his night-time show that she should never leave her abusive husband; "What a blessing it would be if you were to go to meet Jesus by being obedient to staying in that marriage."

I sometimes wonder at all the legalism I grew up with and heard from people like that -- how did I ever remain a Christian? I guess it was because I was too afraid to consider anything else.

I praise God that He has shown me that salvation is about what He did, His love, His mercy, His grace; it has nothing to do with me or my behavior. (That is not to give me a license to go out and treat others horribly, though.)

Today I "flee" legalism of all kinds -- down to a church that tells me I should tithe. It makes it very hard to find a church to be part of that isn't legalistic AND not too "flaky" at the same time (like one huge one in TX where the preacher uses the name of God but not the scriptures) ...

My husband and I both agree that the church is the one place where God's grace, mercy and love should abound. What we tend to see is judgment and condemnation; or a list of six or seven really "bad" sin issues that keep sin "out there" among "them" while "we" are God's righteous ones; without deaing with the everyday issues we all face -- impossible co-workers, gossip, greed, nit-picking in-laws, etc.

How can anyone find help for the problems in their lives if they fear the reaction from their fellow sinners?

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

"...maybe she bought the change her life."

Kristy: Maybe she bought the shoes right before her trial. She wasn't in jail; she was working at a dry cleaners. I don't have a clue, but I DO know that her little girl persona on the witness stand seemed exactly that: a little girl persona--a fake. Again, my heart goes out to her and Matthew and the parents, oh, and their congregation. Can you imagine the trauma they're in? God help us all.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

One more thing and then I'm done. Just a correction in my first post, for the "criteria for what's permissible." I meant, 1) no mental, emotional, or PHYSICAL harm.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger Robin Caroll said...'re thinking of murdering people in your books, Kris? Yippee! Welcome to the dark side! LOL

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Andrea said...

Just wanted to comment that there is a grand difference between legalism and confronting sin in our brothers and sisters as God's word calls us to do. I have no problem with a pastor preaching to me about what I should be doing (straight from the Word), as long as there is mutual accountability. I think that's what you're talking about Kristen - that there is this double standard oftentimes where the pastor preaches against all sorts of evils while they're happening in his home. I'm happy to say that the dynamics you describe Kristen, don't exist in my church or many of the ones I know of around here. Believers in Recovery is our largest ministry, with Divorce Care right behind it. We have a post-abortive care group and the pastor has regularly addressed abuse (especially when he is giving admonitions aimed at healthy marriages) - he never wants his words used as justification by an abuser and he flat out says from the pulpit that you need to get out! This is where the power of fiction is so cool. We're seeing this issue more and more in Christian novels and I think that you all are doing an amazing thing!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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