What Women Wish Pastors Knew

There is a new book out entitled What Women Wish Pastors Knew: Understanding the Hopes, Hurts, Needs, and Dreams of Women in the Church by Denise George, in which she shares the following information:

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.

These numbers are hardly surprising for those of us who are working with domestic abuse victims in the church on a daily basis. 50% of 6,000 pastors surveyed said women should be willing to tolerate some level of violence because it is better than divorce. Yes, this would exactly reflect what we are seeing. And a representative sample of 6,000 is considered quite substantive; definitely enough to be fairly confident this is an accurate reflection of pastoral advice across the board, though no specific denominations are mentioned. I have noticed little variation from one denomination to another, though there are a couple denominations that have taken policy positions against domestic violence.

So do half the pastors out there really think that women should tolerate “some level of violence” to save their marriages? How can this possibly be?

In my observation this is possible because Christian theology attempts to misapply concepts such as submission and suffering for righteousness while completely ignoring the rest of the Word on issues such as violence, anger, verbal abuse, relationship with an abuser, the heart of God regarding the oppressed and afflicted, etc.

I found the quote reference above in the article An Ugly Secret, by Chuck Colson, posted today, April 20, 2009. The article includes “Marlene’s” story, alluded to in the quote.

While I cannot say the oversight was deliberate, accidental or telling, I thought it was significant that Colson’s article does what so many in the church in the “other 50%” are still doing. The focus of his article is entirely and exclusively on physical battery. There is no expressed understanding that “milder” battery that doesn’t include actual fists (forced physical compliance, forced sex, physical aggression and domination) and non-physical abuse are just as deadly and just as serious. There is not enough information present to conclude whether Denise George also makes this mistake in her book.

I wonder what results such a survey would reveal if these other forms of abuse were included in the study? The results would definitely be even worse.

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