Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous? Pt. 11

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

[To read all the articles in this series, see Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous, Series.]

Another concern I have is more general in nature.

I understand the limitations of the forum for which this excerpt was used – though certainly, other pieces on the site about abuse are more comprehensive, so this answer did not have to be this brief.

But abuse is not a “two-paragraph” problem. There are a host of unanswered questions left. That fact, in and of itself, is not really a problem. This is just one piece on a broader topic, which is being addressed more fully on the site.

However, an issue I see here is that without clarification, those unanswered questions are going to have answers made by “suggestion.”

Let’s say someone is going to Dr. Dobson’s site for help with the question, “What should I do if my husband is abusive?” Given the fact that question is asked on this blog multiple times every day, I have to believe the Focus on the Family site gets that question a whole lot more frequently!

This seeker can find a lot of information on the website. But what about the other questions which are left unanswered? Might she reasonably assume the general collaborative association with which Dr. Dobson aligns himself, would reflect his ideas or offer some answers to those unanswered questions?

It doesn’t take but a few minutes scratch around to see that Dr. Dobson and other writers value the opinions of such groups as Eagle Forum and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. So this seeker would logically reason she may be able to find additional, like-spirited, help from these sources.

This is quite dangerous. The teachings and practices of these organizations are exactly the ones that justified, empowered and perpetuated the abuse in my marriage. I have seen the same in many other abusive marriages. The tangled knot of all the ways the teachings of these groups foster abuse is complex and deeply embedded.

Because these organizations cannot accept any of their philosophies could possibly be contributing to abuse, their answers are frequently going to be looking in the wrong direction. They also tend to include additional blame and condemnation for the victim, and attempt to lock that victim into further abuse while they “help.”

This may or may not be something Dr. Dobson overtly affirms. But the very visible association and approval of Focus on the Family toward these organizations leads to a connection which can put abuse victims in serious danger.

You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here:

Advice that Can Get a Woman Killed

Response from Dr. Bill

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9 Responses

  1. I would love to hear from men (women too, but especially men) who feel affiliated spiritually and theologically with Focus on The Family, CBMW, etc, but who have disquiet about the way these organisations have up till now been handling domestic abuse. Who will step up to the plate. Who will advocate for improvement and reformation?

  2. This web site is all false. I was in a trerrible situation with my ex husband and read Dobsons book Love Must Be Tough. (I read the book Boundaries by Cloud Townsend a year later) I told my (ex)husband there was no revolving door! He finally left for good! I didn’t want him to leave because I was emotionally tortured and brainwashed by him- I understood from Dr Dobsons book that I had become a door-mat! So why are you against the best author for anyone in that situation? I forgave my ex and we get along fine – 300 miles away! HaHa,.. He is very sorry for the way he treated me, but I don’t envite him over- ever! Think about readiung the book some time- it is really intuative. God Bless you

    • Hi Becky!

      If you will remember, I did the first segment explaining the things Dr. Dobson and the Focus and the Family websites are doing right. And they are doing a lot right – which I also stated. Their sites offer the best advice – and the best correct advice – I have seen published by a mainline organization — something I also said.

      However, there are some “cracks” – which are the very things used to keep people in bondage. I don’t know whether Dr. Dobson, et. al. even realize the significance of these ideas since they are “traditions” taught by the church for so long that they go unquestioned. But if they are not pointed out, they can be used to keep people in bondage.

      This would not be a significant issue if it weren’t happening. From your comments you apparently have had some really great church experiences. I wish more were like that! But, truly, yours are not shared by a huge segment of Christianity. This is not just my personal experience over a lifetime, in relationship with and/or intimate knowledge of, many, many churches — but I hear from others having the same experiences on a daily basis.

      When you read Dr. Dobson’s book (and Boundaries – another book I highly recommend elsewhere on this site) without the background of the erroneous church ideologies, these “cracks” are invisible. You don’t even see them because you interpret what he is saying through the lenses of everything else you have been taught – which appears to have been very solid. But for the many who are dealing with churches bound in bad theology regarding marriage, those “cracks” are suddenly yawning canyons, and take on the meaning associated with the bad theology in which they still have roots.

      Churches which are teaching harmful practices regarding abuse and abuse counseling will take advice like this from the Focus on the Family sites and use it like a recipe – but when you look at that recipe through their lenses it takes on the meaning and challenges to safety that I have described in this series of articles.

      I hope this is not the way Dr. Dobson means it. But since he also appears to be aligned with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (he has leaders from that movement on many, if not all, of his boards/councils/whatever they’re called – I verified this myself through research), whose leadership and spokespeople are closely involved in, and strongly advocate, this exact theological error, it has to be interpreted through that lens.

      — Danni

  3. I’m looking through your comments and wonder where peoiple went to church. My pastor believes that women are not to be suserviant to men. He believes we are equal in God’s design in intellect and should share in the leadership of the home. He sais he doesn’t want his wife to leave it all up to him. Look at victory.church it’s the one with Mark as the preacher. I thought more people believe this way too. Why would God make woman from Adam’s rib if she was supposed to lick his feet. She was designed from the rib to stand beside him. Not behind him! I have had interesting talks with people who didn’t know that mental and physical abuse are a form of abandonement. The husband abandons his role as protectore and is still sponging off the kindness of the poor woman he terrorises. This is not a marriage! It’s Hell. God isn’t mean – He is Good and expects the church to help those in this distress! I know my church does.

    • Becky,

      You’re preaching my sermon! LOL! Unfortunately, it’s not a sermon that is being preached in many, many churches. I would dare say, and do, it is not a sermon that is being preached in most mainline evangelical and fundamentalist churches. What you are describing they call “Feminist Theology.” I have been accused on this site of ascribing to “Feminist Theology” for having these very belief you are voicing. I think when they make this accusation, they are lumping these concepts in with radical feminism in order to label it something evil by association.

      What you have said here has been directly preached against in conservative-moderate churches and I have been attacked about it on this site. The leadership of powerful and widely respected organizations such as Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, True Woman, Eagle Forum, Vision Forum, Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, Saddleback Church, etc. strongly disagree with it, based on what I have read and heard by them – not based merely on hearsay.

      — Danni

  4. Becky, I am so pleased to hear that Dobson’s book helped you. And I agree totally with Danni’s replies to you (though I think, Danni, you need to check your second reply: some of the wording doesn’t make total sense.)
    Becky, I was mightily surprised that a victim of domestic abuse had been helped by Love Must Be Tough. ( Though that doesn’t mean I don’t believe your testimony.)

    Coming from the kind of church situations Danni describes above, I was deeply offended and hurt by Dobson’s treatment of domestic abuse in Love Must Be Tough. I thought his illustration of the wife who paraded her bruises to all and sundry, hoping to get sympathy, was extremely unrealistic. I can concede, in theory, that some very rare woman might do that, but in my experience (and like Danni I’ve talked to many victims and seen how they behave in their church families) that illustration was very unfair. Most victims hide their bruises, and go to incredible lengths to do so. By using that illustration, Dobson encourages evangelicals to be highly suspicious of any woman who discloses that her husband was abusing her. This is incredibly painful for most victims: they are disbelieved and discounted by their abuser, and when they finally get desperate enough to tell their church, the church has a pre-set judgment and suspicious attitude against them.

    Thanks for engaging us in dialogue, Becky, I really appreciate it. Bless you.

  5. Becky, your pastor is one in a million. Enjoy him!

    When I was still in my abusive marriage, I read Love Must Be Tough. I, too, was disturbed at the ignorance portrayed in the one page he dedicated to domestic violence. The book is mainly for those whose spouse has cheated on them.

    In spite of the fact that the book did not address my situation specifically, it did help me see that as a Christian wife I did not have to be a doormat–because I was taught my whole life to be one! I was taught that I just had to suffer my husband’s abuse because that was Christ-like suffering. And in that way the book strengthened me. I realized that I did not have to tolerate bad behavior–that was not submission. I finished that book knowing that separating from my husband was the right thing to do. Which is funny, because that was not the message that Dobson intended for me, a woman who could not even claim that her husband had hit her! But it was the message that God intended for me.

  6. Zoey, that’s just great to hear! God is good. I love it when the voice of the Holy Spirit speaks louder to us than the voice of a preacher who is preaching something that is sub-biblical or is not the “whole counsel of God”.

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