Why Won’t the Church Address Domestic Violence?

I have to give a round of applause to Michael Spencer of the Internet Monk blog for his piece yesterday on this subject. He did a great job and he’s taking some heat for it.

You have to read it, but he gives 10 reasons why churches and pastors won’t step up to the plate on the issue of domestic abuse in the church – and they are not only right on target but communicated in a way that strips all the veneer of piety right off the excuses. I love the fact that he’s daring to take on the issue, when he is 1) a man!!!! yeah!, and 2) not a victim. In a strange twist of illogic, victims who speak out are automatically discounted considerably because we are assumed to have an agenda of validating ourselves.

So check it out and be sure to let the iMonk know you appreciate it!

The Link Between Illness and Abuse

This post was written by a friend of mine and she communicates it so well, I am copying the post in its entirety.

This is such a huge issue, which is still almost completely unnoticed in the church’s ignorance of abuse. And it is affecting many, many people sitting in our pews.


By Sharon Merhalski

I am a survivor of childhood abuse: every kind of abuse from my mother (22% of pedophiles are women) and sexual abuse from my brother. As an abused child I experienced a childhood of illnesses. I now understand illness is an expected scenario given the constant internal and external stress an abused child (and children raised in domestic violence) carries. And I now understand until abuse issues are dealt with and healed, that internal stress cannot be alleviated, resulting in continued illness in the adult years.

I believe the Bible gives plain affirmation on this subject (words inside parenthesis are definitions for the previous word from the Strong’s Concordance).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire (longing) cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A victim living in an abusive situation constantly hopes the abuse will end. When they are separated from the abuse by age or living situation there is usually an internal longing (especially with child abuse)–hope for a healthy relationship with the abusive parent. When hope longed for doesn’t happen the Bible says it makes their heart (feelings, the will and even the intellect) sick (be weak, sick, afflicted, cause to grieve, diseased, put in pain, be wounded) If our feelings, will and intellect are sick we are under extreme stress and on our way to physical illness.

In spring of 1984 I was 35 years old. I had severe allergies requiring weekly allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication. I was always fatigued, in bed a lot of the time, fought sinus and bronchial infections and yeast infections constantly and was an overall miserable mess.

In September of 1984 I came to a crossroad in my spiritual and emotional life that ended in my allowing God to take my very damaged heart and emotions and heal them with His Word. About six months into this lengthy process my allergies were so minimal that I no longer required allergy shots and I seldom took allergy medications. By mid-1985 the sinus infections and yeast infections were few and far between. The bronchial infections maybe happened once a year.

At this time I began to see a licensed physician who is a dear Christian man. He was the first doctor I asked about the ‘coincidence’ of my emotional healing and healing from allergies and infections. I remember clearly his saying to me it was no ‘coincidence’ and then teaching me about inner stress. He assured me what I experienced was a normal reaction to my internal healing. Since then I have asked two other physicians the same question and received the same answers.

In the last twenty-plus years I have been entrusted by God to both counsel and work with many women who are survivors of abuse…child abuse and/or domestic violence. The pattern I have observed is almost all of the women with unresolved/unhealed issues have been physically ill in some way…from allergies to cancer. And, those women whom I have observed through their personal spiritual and emotional healing process have experienced a lessening, if not total healing of their physical illnesses, i.e. arthritis, allergies, repeated infections, stomach and/or bowel problems, Candida/yeast infections, etc. I have always been very thankful I can share with each woman why their health was improving…using the words of my physicians—my Heavenly physician/Jehovah-Rapha and my earthly physicans–spoken to me. (The Bible has much to say on this subject.)

A few years ago I began to find research on this perceived ‘phenomenon’ of relieved stress and healing. Recently there has been much research done on this subject. I now understand fully the reasons for an increase in health when there is a decrease in stress…internal stress and external stress.

If you are a survivor or victim of abuse, or know a survivor or victim of abuse, I hope you will assimilate this information for yourself and/or pass it along to others.

Links to articles:

Physical Abuse Raises Women’s Health Costs Over 40 Percent The implication of this is that there are all these women suffering long-term health problems as a result of abuse.

possible link between sex abuse and Interstitial Cystitis

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’

Facial Fractures Speak Volumes

Childhood Abuse Raises Psychosis Risk in Women

Teenage Stress Has Implications on Adult Health

In this search page there are a couple posts about studies on domestic violence and ill health.

Quivering Daughters – Another Voice Speaks Out

God has raised up another voice in the growing army of those speaking out against abuse in Christian families. Quivering Daughters powerfully addresses abuse within the Quiverfull movement, and associated issues.

Hillary speaks with clarity and wisdom about the roots and fruit of the theological philosophies behind the Quiverfull movement. She writes from the perspective of someone who has experienced the movement first hand, and her authority and the truth she speaks are compelling.

I’m so grateful to God for raising up Hillary to this place!

Should You Speak Out?

Do you know of injustice but feel you are powerless to make a difference?

Are you a victim but think you can’t change anything?

Do you see abuse but not know what to do so you don’t do anything “this time,” with good intentions for “some other day?”

I had a major revelation recently. It is one of those — so incredibly small it’s incredibly huge — things.

All the power anyone has is the power of ONE.

You may think that someone else has more power than you do, but that is only because he or she uses their power differently than you use yours.

But the fact is this, all the power anyone has is the power of ONE.

Where the power of one becomes greater is when the power of one becomes one plus one, plus one, plus one..

Margaret Mead, the famous American anthropologist said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

YOU can change a life. Because you have the power of one.

You can change your life.

You can change one other person’s life.

You can change many other people’s lives, simply by doing what you can do – you have no idea how much one person can do who will just do what is within their grasp to do.

And when you join hands with others, there are no limits to how much you can do.

If you know of abuse, speak out.

If you are being abused or have been abused, speak out.

If you do not know who to speak out to — e-mail me. I can help you. And then we can join our power of one and become one plus one.

Yes, you can. Because God made you one – in His image.

Not Under Bondage – THE BOOK on Divorce and Abuse

Finally, there is a book which takes an in-depth look at what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage, especially asking the question, “what about abuse?” Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion is the book I desperately wanted to find during 13 years on my face with God in my own marriage and would have written myself – but, thank God, He had someone else do it faster!

Barbara Roberts has written a very readable text for those who are facing their own troubled situation. She writes from a position of understanding, having walked through an abusive marriage herself. However, she also writes from a position of uncompromising scholarly detail, which the analyst in me demands. This is exactly what I wanted in a book on this subject – both understanding of the real issues of abuse and exacting theological and historical examination of Scripture.

Not Under Bondage, by Barbara Roberts, is a must-read for everyone who is in an abusive marriage, has a family member in a troubled marriage, is a Christian counselor, or a pastor. It should be in every church library.

As I can, I will be incorporating information from Barbara’s book into this site with links back to her ordering page (with her permission, of course). She has written so much about which I had already jotted pages of notes to write “some day” when I had time! Now it’s done, printed and available for everyone, courtesy of Barbara. I’m so grateful!

Running the Race, and Fighting the Fight

Sunday in church one of my pastors used this video clip to illustrate a point. I was particularly struck by it. Watch the clip and then read why.

I was a bit discouraged Sunday as I went to church. Not a big deal but there were a couple things weighing on my heart.

First, I hate to watch people be offered truth and deliberately turn away from it. On one of the threads actively progressing on this blog right now, a church is tearing apart. I went to bed Saturday night and God got me back up to go tell them something. However, it was clearly and coldly ignored. Only one person “heard” it. It’s hard to see that happen. Not because it is a personal rejection – but because I know it was a rejection of what God said, and they don’t realize that. But I can’t make people’s choices for them.

There is also another upcoming clergy sex abuse case we’ve been watching, hoping this time it will actually make it to trial. It is the case of Chester Mulligan, which is scheduled for trial in September. He was charged in 2004 and his attorney has successfully played court dodge-ball for the past four years, leaving Mulligan’s alleged victim hanging in the breeze with her life on hold. I have to walk the careful line of what can legally be said. In most of these situations I don’t know innocence or guilt, but in this one I do. And it is very difficult to sit still and watch.

I believe what I wrote in the comments to my post is true – an innocent man does not need to hide from a courtroom and intimidate his followers into silence, or censor their input for fear they may see something negative about him. Those actions are facts that are openly visible for anyone who knows him to see and are not subject to my opinion. They do not look to me like the actions of an innocent person – my opinion here. An innocent man does not need protecting. A guilty man does not need protecting. God does not need protecting. So why the deep, dark secrets?

I am also aware that on the other “end” of this computer there are real people facing extremely serious situations. I get private e-mail from some. For those, all alone, this is worth everything.

Anyway, back to my video clip. I think anyone who deals with issues of abuse and Christianity gets discouraged from time to time. Even if you know beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that God has called you to walk in this path, some days it seems like an impossible task. Like the kids in the video. Yeah, maybe I can make it to the 10 yard line. Ok, maybe with just us guys, I could get to the 20 yard line. With nobody on my back, to the 50. But, have you seen the other team?

And that’s just it. Have you seen the other team? We want to think the other team is dressed in red and black and carries pitch forks. But they don’t! The other team is often called “pastor,” has a seminary degree, or has the same last name as I do. The enemy isn’t at the gates; the enemy is within the gates! Satan is a deceiver, and the very best deception of all is to infiltrate the good guys and pose as an angel of light.

Sunday afternoon I had to write a hard e-mail. For the very first time, I was profoundly grateful God had me walk the path He did when I had to walk out of my marriage against the strong opinions of my pastors. God told me then I had a choice; and, yes, I later doubted myself. I could go alone with just me and God (that’s what it felt like anyway and that is certain what the choice was). Or I could put my pastors’ words above God, which would be idolatry, and I could stay in my marriage and I could die from cancer.

When I wrote those words in my e-mail I cried. Because I knew why God let me walk that way alone three years ago. Because sometime later someone else would be in the same place and some other pastor would give them the same wrong advice. Some other day, some other woman’s life would literally be on the line. And it would matter than much.

Yes, sometimes I feel like Brock carrying 160 lbs on his back blindfolded 100 yards down the field by himself. Some days I’m mad because there are pastors and church leaders and denominational leaders out there piously sending people to literal death sentences at the hands of an abuser or to metaphorical life sentences from sex abuse because they’d rather either deliberately or unknowingly hold hands with the enemy. I love my pastors dearly. They fall into the unknowingly camp. They are precious (and to give credit where due, one of my pastors would not have an abused woman stay under the same roof with an abuser; just either not divorce him or never remarry). Other pastors are not innocent. They know better but they are vested in their wickedness because it is to their advantage, both financially and positionally, to keep their opinions.

But God’s eyes are on the broken ones Jesus came to save in their today’s as well as their eternal tomorrow’s. Someone has to be the ones who will carry them to the finish line. And if the so-called leaders won’t then who will? It will have to be those of us who have walked there, had those wounds, witnessed Jesus’ healing, and know the path out.

Jesus’ model of ministry wasn’t in preparing sermons, attending business meetings, planning new buildings, deciding on the Sunday School curriculum for spring quarter or what program to do for Christmas. He just lived in the trenches, on the way, side-by-side, in the dirt with hurting people, where they were, in their lives, where they hurt. He got his feet dirty, His clothes sweaty, His hands soiled – every day. He cried. He cared and He lived it 100%, every day. He didn’t go to the office every day and preach about it on Sunday, hallelujah.

He washed feet. And that’s what He’s called me to do; us to do. If those feet are wounded, we carry them on our backs, like Brock. And if the people who wear the name “minister” don’t do ministry, so what? We are all called to minister. It’s not in a label and it never was.

Recognizing and Dealing with Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators and Users in Relationships

I’ve just posted another great article by Dr. Joe Carver about how to recognize and deal with Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators and Users in Relationships. This another fantastic piece in his insightful series.