DV and the Church

Recently I was sent a link to a video of the much loved Christian writer John Piper, addressing the issue of domestic violence, submission, and the church.  I was very unhappy with his response, first, the fact that he laughed when the question was asked (although perhaps he was just uncomfortable), and also his answer, which seems completely out of touch with what domestic violence actually is and looks like.  You can read the transcript for yourself here.  The parts I found most disturbing:

So if this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly (group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin), then the way she submits—I really think this is possible, though it’s kind of paradoxical—is that she’s not going to go there. I’m saying, “No, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it.”

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t go there.”

If it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.


I decided to click around online and see what else I could find on the subject, and was happy when I found this short blurb from Chuck Colson, another beloved Christian writer.  He seems to understand the seriousness of this issue, and the way the church has failed to help these women.  One statistic in the article was especially shocking to me:

George sites a survey in which nearly 6,000 pastors were asked how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them the same way Marleen’s pastor did: to continue to “submit” to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50 percent said women should be willing to “tolerate some level of violence” because it is better than divorce.

Holy cow…the last line is particularly upsetting to me, however, I do not ascribe to the “divorce is one of the seven deadly sins” camp.  It reinforces to me that the church is not a safe place for many women suffering abuse from their husbands.  

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3 thoughts on “DV and the Church

  1. Wow! Julia, I agree with you. This is crazy. One of my cousins got married about five years ago to an abusive man. When they went to counseling at her church, the pastor blamed her for the problems, even though her husband had some deep anger issues. It was really terrible, and it pushed my cousin away from the church.

  2. I am glad you are exploring this issue;I also find Piper’s comment wrong-headed, and reject the notion that women should be expected to submit to domestic battery as some form of ‘obedience.’ But….I also caution you against throwing the baby [the church] out with the bathwater [wrong-headed pastoral thinking]. Perhaps it would be useful to search for examples where the church and pastors are doing it right-headed. Even the 21st century church is capable of being redeemed! Love ya. Papa

  3. Oh wow. Yes, I’ve known pastors who would have responded like this. One of the pastors in the town I grew up with I can only assume was slightly emotionally abusive himself, his wife was very submissive, and his son when angry with his girlfriend (one of my close friends) picked up a table and threw it at her!

    I think it’s sad when the people supposed to guide and lead us, repeat things they’ve been told rather than relying on the fact that Jesus and God do not call for anyone to beat someone for submission. It’s just so sad that they are that misguided.

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