Rick Warren and Saddleback Church on Domestic Violence

[Update and correction 1/9/2009 -- It has been brought to my attention, that the audio clip referenced in this post was by Saddleback's Teaching Pastor Tom Holladay. In light of that reality, I have edited my original post accordingly. I apologize for my original error in attributing the quote to Rick Warren.]

To hear for yourself the position of Rick Warren and his Saddleback church about domestic violence in Christian marriage, you need to scroll down this FAQ page on the Saddleback Church web site to find question 32. What should I do when abuse is happening in my marriage? The audio clip is far more revealing than the bit snipped out below. (I have also transcribed the clip in its entirety.)

In this clip the speaker, a Saddleback teaching pastor, makes crystal clear his belief about marital abuse and the question of divorce. He clearly speaks for the entire church and pastoral staff using the collective “we” when he says, “I’ll tell you the advisement we give in our counseling ministry…”

Furthermore, as senior pastor of the church, Rick Warren gives his tacit consent and agreement to these statements since this audio clip was chosen to be featured on the website and he would definitely be a part of the collective “we” mentioned above.

Holladay states Saddleback recommends separation but not divorce under any circumstances. His commentary about the issue of abuse also expresses a distinct lack of understanding about the nature, heart and spiritual roots of abuse. I think he believes he is doing right and doesn’t realize his ignorance or how much he is hurting people, so this is offered without personal judgment. But I also believe catagorically that it is dangerous.

He also states that divorce is a sin. I find that interesting, since God divorced Israel. How did God manage to commit a sin???

I’d always rather choose a short-term pain and find God’s solution for long-term gain than try and find a short-term solution that’s going to involve long-term pain. … [In scripture] adultery is one [reason for divorce] and abandonment is a second. I wish there were a third in scripture. Having been involved as a pastor in situations of abuse there’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you have a right to leave them. … If you’re in this kind of situation I strongly recommend that you take advantage of our lay counseling ministers.

[Thanks to slog.thestranger.com for the original clipped quote above. It showed up on my research ramblings.]

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104 Responses

  1. I must agree: This site has been intensely validating. Thank you Danni. You are a true gift.

    I can hardly bare to listen to a sermon with out holding it up against the reality of the message being walked out. There is a very wide divide there.

    Yet and still…week after week you will find me logging in to the hear something new from the Pastor…something to answer this deep question with in… ” if it is as you say…then how… and why?

  2. Dear LSS
    My book, Not Under Bondage, is distributed by Ingrams in the USA and by STL in UK/Europe/Canada/etc. This means it can be ordered from any book retailer (web-based or bricks-and-mortar). It can also be ordered from my website if you are prepared to use PayPal (you don’t need your own PayPal account, just a credit card). Libraries should easily be able to order it since their suppliers deal with Ingrams. So there are plenty of ways you can get it.
    By the way, for anyone reading this who can’t afford to buy it for themselves, you could try asking your local library if they can order it in. I’d love it to be in municipal libraries since victim/survivors are often broke and can’t afford their own copy. You could also ask you church library to get it in, if they are a safe place to make such a request.
    bless you all.

  3. Barbara, thank you for your response to my earlier posted question about consummation. I understand your concern about muddying the waters with the use of a word that typically is used to mean something much more limited.

    However, what I believe the Lord showed me during prayer was that there is much more to a wedding than speaking vows (and having sex). There must be a joining together on a spiritual level, as well. If one spouse is so emotionally broken that he simply cannot open himself (or turn away from his past trauma) to his wife, then that spiritual union cannot happen. If that spiritual union cannot happen, then there really is no marriage to “put asunder.” I simply do not know another word for this spiritual uniting other than “consummation” (and that was the word that was given to me).

    In fact, the American Heritage Dictionary defines “consummation” to include “a fulfillment,” or “an ultimate goal or end.” And Webster’s defines it to include “completed” and “perfection.”

    Would I go so far as to suggest that there could never be a spiritual consummation in an abusive marriage (and for purposes of this post I mean “marriage” in the legal, physical sense)? No. But there is no doubt that it has been absent in mine.

    And let us not forget that the spiritual dimension is of utmost importance to our Creator, who is Himself spiritual and who sent the Holy Spirit to be with us after Jesus Christ ascended to heaven. Because marriage is supposed to be the model of Christ’s union with the church, it makes sense that the joining together of husband and wife must also occur and be recognized spiritually.

  4. Sherri, thanks for your post. I agree with what you say about not having a spiritual union where there is an emotionally broken spouse.

    What you said reminds me of a question that I guess I want to ask God when I get to heaven . . . why is it that adultery and abandonment are the only two reasons given for divorce in the Bible? If you read the Bible literally (and without the Spirit, I believe), that’s what it says, which is why so many churches hold fast to that position.

    That is what I was raised to believe, what my pastor father with his Phd in Systematic Theology still believes, and what I would still believe if an abusive marriage hadn’t deconstructed and reconstructed my theology.

    I guess my point is this: In the case of adultery, if sex (extramarital) is the only thing that can BREAK a marriage, then the presupposition is that sex is what MAKES a marriage. And that is so untrue. Why didn’t Jesus and Paul spend time talking about the spiritual union of marriage? Or abuse, for that matter?

  5. I guess as I read about union in marriage..spiritual, emotional, etc…it reminds me of what a counselor explained to me. He was one individual who helped me tremendously…helped me to see not only my spouse’ abusive behavior, but that I was taking risks by continuing to be part of it. He, at one point, asked questions about my “risk” taking behavior.

    Anyway….he explained that when there is abuse in a marriage.. and he was responding to physical abuse…it is literally impossible to give yourself to someone..whether it be physically or emotionally. If you continue to do it…it is very damaging emotionally and psychologically…I was living proof of this.

    I (and my spouse) I was invalidating my feeling of fear and trying to keep up a good front…to keep the illusion of my marriage going. I wouldn’t or couldn’t admit I was afraid…or covered it up. I will admit it wasn’t all because I was a Christian….but there was pressure on me to do so because of what I falsely believed.

  6. Sherri (Fla), thanks for your elaboration on the meanings of “consummation”. Your dictionary quotes are all very valid, and I guess I was reacting because I was thinking only about the limited use given to that word in Roman Catholic annulment system.

    Since we are all now au fait with what Sherri meant, and what I mean, I think this discussion can use the word “consummation” without too much danger, being aware of the range of meaning spanned by the word.

    And Zoey, I like that use of words “risk-taking” in relation to the victim. That is exactly what unthinking people are getting at when they ask us so glibly “Why don’t you leave?” (not knowing how much that quesion blames and hurts us).
    Jocelyn Andersen’s book has a whole chapter about the parallels between addiction to an abusive relationship and substance addiction. Substance addicts are constantly taking dangerous risks. DV victims who remain with or go back to their abuser are at risk. The difference seems to be that DV victims are not given much help from society in recognising the risks, but instead are given lots of double messages:
    “Why don’t you leave?” is countered with
    The children need a father.
    Maybe he is under stress at the moment.
    You made your bed now lie in it.
    What did you do to provoke him?
    Don’t give up on your marriage.
    You made vows.
    Marraige is ‘until death do us part’.
    Have you prayed about it?
    Have faith that God will change him!
    Try talking to him after he’s calmed down and explain how you felt about his behavior.
    ETC ETC.

  7. Sometimes the way God moves us in a new direction is through a hard loss.

    God is going to use this for your good. How He does that may not look the way you’d like it to at first glance. But that’s not necessarily up to you because you can’t make decisions for other people. If others choose to make wrong choices, you can’t stop them. But their choices can end up affecting yours – because if you are wanting to follow God in truth, He’ll put you where He can best use you. And no one can stop that. God is way more creative than our human choices. He will use you – if human free will by someone else puts an impassable wall in front of one way, then God will use you another way.

    — Danni

  8. Two other thoughts occur to me:

    1) It is not outside the realm of possibility that the reason you have suddenly been contacted for a meeting right at this time is because someone else saw this blog and saw that you were preparing to tell your story publically. There are links all over blogland back to my article about Saddleback – I don’t know why that happened but it did. This site has not been drowning in hits – so everyone out there isn’t coming to look ;-) – but all it takes is for one person to see and raise an alarm.

    This is not to alarm you, or hinder you. It is just so that you are not blind-sided by an accusation something along the lines of slander/libel against Saddleback if you talk. You can speak the truth without fear – and manipulation to the contrary is not truth.

    Libel/slander is telling what is false – and my understanding is that the burden of proof is on the party who brings the accusation of libel/slander. You may want to double-check on that, to be absolutely certain before you go. Just because the truth hurts does not make it libelous/slanderous. If it is truth you haven’t committed libel/slander.

    2) The other is that Satan likes to use the idea of negotiation to get us into bondage. Negotiation sounds so civilized. “Let’s work something out here…” We give you a little (emphasis on little and ineffective) and you give us a little (well, a “little” more – like everything that matters). This way everyone feels like they’ve won, right? Wrong. The person who controls the negotiation wins – and this is their meeting, not yours (or you wouldn’t be denied a witness or support).

    Again, not for alarm or concern. Just to be aware of the possibility.

    — Danni

  9. Another thought – you said the head of lay counseling contacted you for a meeting. The way you said that was as if such a thing were very unusual – that a prayer request would have been put all the way up to the top to him, and then that he would personally called a meeting. If that were the way it happened, it would seem like God’s timing to finally have your voice be heard.

    But that sounds less like “great concern for an ‘invisible’ person has finally made it all the up through the food chain” and more like “someone powerful enough has his ear.” Who could speak the word – even in the form of a prayer request – and motivate a meeting like that? Does average Joe in the church have that kind of access or leverage?

    It seriously makes me wonder. Don’t answer this question here – but something to think about.

    — Danni

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