There is a new trend in Christianity. It is the trend of being abuse-aware in churches. Many of the biggest marriage and family organizations have joined it, as have many large and very influential churches. They are publishing articles, making statements, removing damning statements from public view, and generally rushing about to shine up their image on an issue that is becoming more and more vocal in the church.
The problem is – the actions being taken clearly reveal that underneath the public polish, nothing has changed.
As recently as a few months ago, there was a huge stink about public transcripts posted by Saddleback Church on their website, clearly stating that their policy was to insist a victim of abuse remain in that marriage unless she was being physically beaten on a regular, ongoing basis. Their statements about divorce left NO POSSIBLE allowance for divorce for abuse.
In a move I predicted, they removed those transcripts from public view quietly and without comment. But not before I transcribed them word-for-word. And apparently, that was a wise choice because they have gone into deny-and-cover mode. This article clearly reveals they are attempting damage control. The article says Jim Wilke stated what happens is pieces are taken from the whole of their stand, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. Really? The “pieces” were the ones THEY publically published – nobody took anything out of context there!
In fact, I have communicated personally with more than one individual who received the exact destructive abuse counseling from Saddleback Church of which myself and others are trying to raise awareness.
If Saddleback really didn’t mean what they plainly said in the transcripts, why has there not been an equally public retraction and acknowledgement of error? By attempting to tell people what they clearly expect to hear (as in the case of the above linked article) and minimizing the reality of what actually has happened they are, in fact, underscoring their error.
What was plainly taught in those transcripts, and which my private and extensive communication with some counselees in that church supports as accurate, is unscriptural and literally dangerous. If that is not their policy now, there should be a statement saying they were wrong and have changed their policies in specific ways. This has not happened. Instead, those who specifically ask (obviously wanting to hear that the church isn’t locked in the Dark Ages of misunderstanding and handling the Word) are being told what they want to hear and blame is shifted to vague others who have misunderstood – what was clearly and publically stated.
Unfortunately, Saddleback is not the only highly visible church or ministry in this same boat. Family Life recently published an article which glorified and applauded remaining in an abusive marriage and “suffering for righteousness sake.” When there was a huge outcry, recorded for posterity in the comments section (which they may delete since attention is being called to it) the article was modified and editorial comments added to the beginning. In fact, this clearly revealed that they do not grasp the issues of abuse, since those familiar with abuse can plainly see an abuser and victim in the original article.
However, these adjustments made by Family Life change nothing. It is another public relations cover, as clearly indicated by the fact they also recently featured Mark Driscoll as a model of teaching godly marital values. Unfortunately, Freedom For Captives is just one of quite a few sites which chronicle, in detail, Mark Driscoll’s own abusive teachings. If you read enough, you will find quotes that describe how Driscoll teaches absolute subjugation of the wife, and an abusive “leadership” style of husbands.
You can also hear for yourself, Mark Driscoll describing his own abusive behavior toward his wife (especially the last 5 minutes). What he describes is controlling, abusive, even violent – it doesn’t matter if it was toward others! This is the way he treats his own wife, and this is what he uses as an example of “protecting” your family. No, that is not protection – it is ownership, control, violence and abuse. That is classic abuser behavior. He expresses exactly the same attitudes toward his church and even the men in his church in the above sermon to men. It is all based on control, authoritarian dictatorship, ownership, violence and abuse.
And just to clarify, verbal violence is just as significant as physical violence. Words carry the power of death and life – that is not metaphorical. God Himself does not treat us that way. Driscoll’s clearly stated theology and example cannot be justified by any teaching under the New Covenant – in fact, quite the opposite. The Word is very clear that God is not extending wrath to the world at this time because of Jesus’ sacrifice — and He certainly doesn’t extend it to those of us who are hidden with Christ in God and whose every single transgression is paid for by Christ’s sacrifice and gone from His sight “as far as the east is from the west.” (For more on this subject, see my article Does God Get Angry At Us?.)
These are just three of the very visible churches and ministries which have similar policies and have made similar “adjustments” in a public nod to abuse which changes nothing on the level where it matters most. I suspect it has recently become unfashionable to take a hard stand on abuse. So they “say” they are understanding of it, wrap it all up in a good PR package – and change nothing.
When it comes down to it, judgment of what qualifies as abuse still sits in the hands of an uneducated (about abuse) pastor or counselor, the victim is assumed to be exaggerating in an attempt to get out of their marriage, the abuser is believed because the pastor/counselor doesn’t know how to read the signs, and abuse is still “graded” with physical abuse being the “bad kind” and everything else negotiable and subjective.
I am frankly alarmed by this new trend by forefront Christian leaders to say they understand abuse and are intolerant of it, while their real treatment of the issue hasn’t changed. In reality, this puts victims in greater danger than they were under blatant ignorance and rejection. Now, the church is telling them it does understand, and in light of that “understanding” victims are still being told the same old things. There has been no new understanding of what abuse is, the roots and heart of it, what the Word actually says about it — nothing. The old stuff has just been re-wrapped in shiny new tissue, with the dangerous contents hiding behind an attractive and disarming package.
Filed under: abuse and the church, domestic abuse, Family Abuse & Relationships, Family Life, Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, relationships, The State of the Church | Tagged: domestic abuse, domestic abuse in the church, domestic violence, Family Life, marital abuse, Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Rick Warren, Saddleback Church |