Is Domestic Abuse Just a Satanic Deception?

This came up in a comments conversation yesterday, and it is, unfortunately, a commonly-held idea. So I thought it would be worth expanding a bit and giving a spotlight of its own. Thanks for sharing, Hannah!

HANNAH:

I came across another [person who doesn’t understand. She said wives] are easily deceived just like Eve. [She] almost hinted that women THINK they are being abused, but generally they are just manipulating to make sure they get their way.

MY RESPONSE:

Why would this woman be under the impression wives are “easily deceived” “like Eve?” I do not see a single thing in Gen. 3 that says Eve was particularly vulnerable to deception, as opposed to Adam.

Nothing at all was said to Eve regarding her “weakness” or sin, other than being given her consequences for disobedience. God held her responsible for her choice but did not offer any additional comment or chastisement. It was simple consequences for action, as is always the case for sin.

But in Gen. 3 Adam was rebuked for listening to Eve – instead of obeying God. In his case, this was a sin of idolatry. He chose to obey his wife over God, when God had personally given Him instructions and he had a direct relationship with God on the subject. I believe this rebuke is clearly because of his idolatry, not because of the gender of the person to whom he listened! God takes idolatry very seriously.

At the same time, there is nothing in this passage to support the idea (extrapolated from the text by some preachers) that men who listen to their wives are panty-waists.

Adam was the person to whom God had given the instruction about what to eat and what to avoid – not Eve. We are left completely in the dark as to what Eve did or did not know about what God told Adam, other than that God said she wasn’t supposed to eat of that tree. So we really cannot make guesses as to her guilt or innocence of motive beyond the text. All we have is what is in the text. She knew better, she chose to do it anyway, and she was given consequences as a result of that choice.

God did not offer any additional rebuke to Eve. However, God did rebuke Adam. That rebuke was not because Adam failed to be a good leader to his family (as some pastors like to say). It was not because he failed to be a “big enough man” (as some pastors like to say). It was because Adam committed idolatry – plain and simple. He obeyed man rather than God. God Himself had given Adam a direct command and Adam chose to follow someone else.

Elsewhere in Scripture it says Eve was deceived and Paul expressed concern that Satan could deceive the Corinthian believers in the same way (II Cor. 11:3). Again, there is no implication here that this was a “woman” problem, as opposed to a “man” problem. In fact, Paul was addressing Christians of both sexes — he obviously didn’t think this was a “wives” or “woman” problem!

THE reason this woman has the idea women are easily deceived is because preachers preach that garbage from the pulpit as if it were from the Bible. They support it with passages like the “weaker vessel” verse, etc. and say women are morally weaker than men. This is utterly unsupportable by the Word and takes verses out of context to create a new doctrine out of whole cloth.

However, preachers today do not come by this idea out of their own heads. This is a long-standing, unbroken tradition from at least as far back as St. Augustine in the Catholic church. St. Augustine stamped large on the theology of the church regarding the roles of men and women.

Unfortunately, Augustine’s beliefs on the subject of marriage were colored by two utterly unreliable – and extra-biblical – sources. He viewed his own parents’ dysfunctional marriage as an ideal. His mother absolutely submitted to his father’s rages and taught other women to blindly and unquestioningly do that same. He also thought highly of the philosophy of Aristotle, who espoused the idea that women must be subjugated to men for the sake of the function of community. Aristotle lived before Christ and certainly did not acquire any of his ideas from any Judeo-Christian text.

But these two sources — the marriage of Augustine’s parents and the philosophy of Aristotle — were the unspoken mold that held the hand that wrote the theology of marital roles still being taught in Protestant churches today. (As time allows I will eventually write more extensively on this subject later.)

The person who said “women who think they are being abused are just deceived” is merely regurgitation the male domination/female subjugation doctrine she has been fed from the pulpit as if God said it, and she completely believes it. Unfortunately, she is far from alone in her deception.

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Sticks & Stones: Why Verbal Abuse Kills, III

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words could even kill me…

What’s in a name? That nursery rhyme (original version) says “…names can never hurt me…” But I think names can do a world of damage.

While it seems fundamentally obvious, the thing about names is that a name tells who you are. A name is your identity. Whether it is the name your parents gave you or whether it is a “modifier” screamed at you in anger or calmly hurled at you in a quiet diatribe, a name is an attempt to identify who you are.

I used the word “modifier” in its English grammar meaning. A modifier is a word that describes or quantifies another word. It is a name that identifies another word specifically — for instance, the red car, the windy weather, the unsubmissive wife, the demon child son.  A modifier ascribes value to another word.

When a name is used to describe a person it strikes at that person’s very center of being.  This is why name-calling is more powerful than just words.  When a husband or father (or mother/wife) calls their spouse or child names they are ascribing value to that person – they are ascribing a lesser value to that person.   It doesn’t matter if you attempt to say the names don’t hurt, they do – especially when they are spoken by someone closest to you, who is supposed to know you best, is supposed to love and protect you, and is supposed to be “one” with you (as your spouse) or is supposed to be your primary influence (as a parent). 

It also doesn’t matter how the name-calling is phrased.  If an abuser says, in screaming rage, “you are acting like a demon child” – it is no different than saying “you are a demon child” because the spirit, the rage, the violence behind it gives it the same intention.  Splitting hairs by saying “you are acting like” does not give someone a pass on the intention. 

Words can also “call names” through strong implication without saying the actual name.  When an abuser has a pattern of the calm diatribes, carefully and constantly describing, in detail, why you are a failure, wrong, have poor judgment, etc. he is describing you – your worth, value, acceptability, etc. 

For instance, Gary frequently launched into long diatribes about all manner of things about me.  One was about me liking white rice with butter/salt/pepper as a side dish with a meal.  He wondered how I could possibly eat white rice and described in detail all the reasons why it is worthless, bad for you, tastes bad, etc., etc.  He did this everytime rice came into his sphere of reference — could be in a restaurant, could be if I fixed rice, if he fixed rice, if someone else fixed rice, if the rice came up in a casual conversation with strangers — he launched into the “how can my wife/you like white rice because…”  Yes, he did this — about me — to other people in casual conversation if rice was mentioned.  What he was communicating was that I was so stupid I couldn’t make a rational decision about my taste for rice.  I ended up being unable to eat rice for several years and I still struggle with it.  The strong negative emotional connection to rice is very powerful.  There were dozens of things like this that warranted long diatribes toward or about me.  Water temperature in the shower, the direction of washing dishes (left to right sinks vs right to left), theological or political sub-points, favorite colors, styles of clothes, preferred recreation, types of books I liked to read, types of TV programs I enjoyed — the list is practically endless.  There was always something to rant about – literally daily.

 The reason these take a toll is because they “call names” even non-specifically.  These rants quantified who I was as stupid, illogical, unreasonable, unsubmissive, rebellious, un-spiritual, non-Christian (literally), etc., etc.  They communicated that I was not worth respect, and they communicated that he did not respect me because I was not worthy of respect.  While he said he respected me if he was directly asked, his constant way of life said otherwise.

Name-calling, in any form that describes value, is powerful because it assaults who the person is at the most fundamental level.  When the person calling names is in a position of authority or in the position of protector/provider his words hold that much more power.

Paige Patterson On Domestic Violence

The Southern Baptist Outpost has an article with an excerpt from audio recordings and transcripts from a conference in 2000, in which Paige Patterson explains the counsel he gave one battered woman. Here’s the quote the Outpost posted:

I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”

And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis. And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.

And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.

Now, the gross – and offensive – errors in this quote seem obvious to me. But just in case anybody doesn’t see them let me point out some things.

First, there’s an appalling brassy arrogance just in the repetition of this story and the verbage of its telling. It is all about Patterson patting Patterson on the back. Look what he did! Isn’t he so wise and a literal miracle-worker! Applause, applause. This tone is one of the things that in many people, particularly victims of clergy abuse or of clergy who have failed to stand up for them in domestic abuse, generates a nearly visceral reaction of disgust and repugnance. It can become virtually impossible to sit through church services because of this one “little” thing.

Second, this was spoken by a man who is adamantly insisting he has done nothing wrong in his part of the handling of the breaking SBC scandal of clergy sex abuse. This text is being used in examining an entirely separate issue — what he has or has not done to “bring Southwestern Seminary in line with the beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention, as they relate to women’s roles.” This excerpt clearly shows Patterson’s attitude toward women and his view of their position in subjugation to men. A man who has this general attitude toward women is not going to view clergy sex abuse as a terribly relevant problem. At best it would deserve a slap on the wrist; tsk, tsk. Women (and children, since they are even “less” than women in a hierarchical system) are not as valuable as men, especially clergy who trump the average male on a power/importance scale. God’s work and God’s workmen are more important than “that little thing that happened to you back then.”

In this excerpt Patterson says, “…you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him…” He believes submission of the wife is paramount. According to Patterson, woman’s submission is the most important factor in marital success. If only she will submit enough, God will be able to change her husband. That is what he said.

Patterson is also expressing that the abusive husband is still deserving of elevation! The abuser is to be elevated regardless of whether he beats the life out of his wife. Shoot, compared to that, what’s a little clergy sex abuse? Elevate that man!

He sent a domestic violence victim back to her abuser, knowingly putting her in harm’s way. He felt it didn’t matter that she would be abused even worse than before; he expected that to happen. It was completely fine.

But it was all worth it because, since that women subjected herself to an abuser, prayed for him on her knees by the bed, and took another beating, God brought her husband to his knees in a dramatic, miraculous, life-changing conversion! Amen! Or not. Let me break it down.

While I don’t want to accuse Patterson of lying, this story has all the earmarks of one of those pastoral embellishments used to illustrate or emotionally manipulate the audience into “feeling” his point. Everyone wants miracles like that story. Since pastors believe God can and will do things like that, they can get a little generous with their “true” stories.

The fact is, this type of miraculous transformation does not happen. There’s a reason. The problem with an abuser is not just a matter of getting “saved.” There are deep-rooted issues behind and underneath the behavior. While accepting Christ might motivate a man to find out why he is making the choices he is and might open his eyes to see the value of his wife, it’s going to take a lot more than a single spiritual experience to transform an abuser. Not maybe; definitely.

Another problem is that this story demonstrates a commonly taught mistaken belief that God will force an abuser to change his behavior because you prayed about it (see my article God Answers Prayer in Abusive Marriages for more on this subject). If Patterson told this woman to do this, he was operating on erroneous theology and should be held accountable for the physical abuse she received. This is just as wrong as letting clergy sex abusers slide, and comes from the same root attitudes and beliefs. This is one example of why I feel the issues of clergy sex abuse and clergy overlooking domestic violence are fruit of the same tree. And in using this supposed event as a sermon illustration he is perpetuating a dangerous bit of wrong theology on his audience and on anyone they, in turn, encourage to do the same thing. It is not an overstatement to say someone could get killed trying to be obedient to “God” per Patterson, et.al.

In telling this story, Patterson is also perpetuating his horrific acceptance of domestic violence and subjugation of women to his audience, and through them, to how many others? This man is a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is in a position of authority. People look up to him and follow his example. This is one seriously bad example to follow.

Now, I’m going to give Patterson one out. The ideas and theology he verbalized in this excerpt are not an expression of his own that he came up with single-handedly. I have heard this type of teaching from many preachers for many years, in a variety of churches and denominations. He is just one voice of many harmfully negligent voices speaking about the subject of abuse in the pulpit and in pastoral counseling. That doesn’t mean we can judge every preacher as being the same. And certainly, a large subset of preachers are not to be confused with God Himself. Again I will reiterate – God is not the problem. What these preachers are teaching is not even remotely what God and the Word teach. It has to be exposed and highlighted if it is ever going to stop.

… and Let the Wife See that She Respects Her Husband

OK, that title grated on my nerves when I first saw it on the blog I’m referencing.  I just had to read it though, to see if it was saying what I thought it was.  It wasn’t!  What I found was a very good and lengthy book review, in which the author offers some great insight into Eph. 5:25-33.  If I could figure out a good way to excerpt or bring it over here, I would.  But on this one I’m going to refer you to Emotional Abuse and Faith. I wish I could tattoo this on a bunch of foreheads! You’ll see why when you read it.

The format and grammar can make this piece just a little challenging to read, but it is very worth making the effort!

The Neatnik and The “Relaxed” Housekeeper

This morning on the radio while I was driving to school, there was an interesting issue being discussed on the Christian station.  The show hosts received an e-mail from a woman asking for advice.  I don’t have an accurate quote since I’m operating from memory here, but the woman indicated her husband is a neatnik and she is not.  She feels like she cannot meet his expectations and is a failure. 

I wanted to call in but couldn’t get through – not at all uncommon, of course.  But the more I thought about it the more I realized this situation is a great relationship snapshot with a whole lot more to say than anyone can attempt to express in a one-minute (or less) phone call.

The problem is there are so many things we don’t know with just this information.  There is no answer possible because we don’t know what the problem really is.  One thing we do know – situations like this affect every married couple.  The blending of two people always has these places that don’t blend.  The situation serves to spotlight areas we need to change and grow, for both partners.

For instance, how can we know what “neatnik” means?  Is this husband truly obsessive about cleanness?  Or does he simply prefer things clean and tidy?  Is the wife genuinely a slob – completely unkempt, filthy home; unsanitary conditions; packrat to the point rooms can’t serve their given purpose?  Or does she have a child or a few, a busy life and a messy home as a result?  Do dishes get done once a day or so; bathrooms cleaned when mold is visible but not before then?  Hey, she’s not alone there by any means!  Real life doesn’t look like a magazine cover.  Real life doesn’t work like the 1950’s stereotype either.  There’s a big difference between being messy and being a slob. 

Anyone who is obsessive about cleanness has issues deeper than cleanliness.  Anyone who is obsessive about clutter, collecting more stuff than they have space, and about completely failing to clean also has issues deeper than dirt.

Another thing we don’t know is whether this husband cleans up after himself and this wife is feeling judged when in fact her husband is not upset by her housekeeping.  In this case, the issue is one the wife needs to address because it really doesn’t have anything to do with the husband.  Why does she feel inadequate, within herself?

Or does this husband occasionally vent about the mess, but he’s just letting off steam and doesn’t really expect his wife to reach perfection any time in this life?  This is something they can work on together, understanding their differences and giving each other grace to express themselves respectfully.

Or does this husband nag his wife constantly about the mess, pointing out everything that doesn’t get done to his satisfaction?  Does this husband help out with household chores or is he all mouth?  Does he help with the housework in addition to nagging, using his “help” as a weapon in a manipulative abusive twisted way?  These would indicate a serious lack of respect on the part of the husband, and could even be symptoms of deeper issues of abuse.  He needs to take a close look at Eph. 5:25-33, especially at what it says to the husband.  The focus is on how the husband treats the wife.  It is his responsibility to do what is right first and always, regardless of how his wife keeps the house.  He needs to get this right before anything can change in his marriage.  It’s not about the housework.

Is it possible for this couple to sit down and talk through the issue and reach a mutually-acceptable compromise between two naturally-opposite people?  There were some great suggestions called in to the program.  One woman who has a neatnik husband makes a point to keep one room completely clean for him; that is his refuge.  This works for them.  Another couple sat down together, made a list of all the work around the house with a 1-3 difficulty designation, and on the weekends they divide the work between them.  The point is that these couples have worked out agreements and compromises that not only keep their sanity at home, meet their material needs, demonstrate mutual respect, but also make their relationship stronger.

The little “stuff of life” that happens in our homes is often not as little as we want to think it is.  And these ordinary events have the power to unlock significant change and growth if we can find understanding of what is really happening.

“He Taught Me How to Fly” – How Abuse Affects a Child, Part 2

I’ll never forget how sick I felt the first time I heard my oldest son, J, verbalize his memories of his early childhood.  I had wondered what he remembered and hoped he didn’t remember the specifics.  But when he was a teenager he finally told someone what he remembered.  He was speaking to someone else, I can’t remember who now, and I was listening.  I had never spoken to him about the details because I didn’t want to color his memories, just in case he didn’t remember. 

This is what he said:

I remember being kicked into the closet.

I remember being slammed against the walls.

I remember running down the hall to get away from him and pushing the crib behind the door so he couldn’t get into the bedroom to get me because I was so afraid.

My dad taught me how to fly [spoken with heavy sarcasm].  He threw me across the room when he was angry.

While most of these could have happened at almost any age, the one about the crib occurred before he was 4 years old. 

It was also revealing, and just as heart-breaking, what he didn’t bother to mention. He never mentioned the slaps (open-handed, full-strength strikes to any body part) and punches, or being hit with whatever object was closest to his father’s hand at the time. These went on all his life, though after he was reported to DFCS “Gary” stopped hitting first. Instead he would provoke J until J flinched first. Then Gary could justify bringing out the fists in the name of “defending his manhood.” (So for the last 4 years we were together I couldn’t ever say Gary initiated physical violence – thus he and everyone else, including the judge in our divorce, thought he was a changed man.) J also never mentioned all the times his dad called him “demon child” or some version of that in his frequent rages. These things were so “normal” they didn’t even rate mention.

As I’m writing this my insides are trying to climb out of my skin. Why, why, why would no one ever believe me? Why was the answer always “submit more,” “have faith,” “remain faithful,” etc.? None of those answers even touched the question, “What about the children?”  Both of the first two times I left him it was about his abuse of the children.  When I asked for help I was betrayed, denied and disbelieved. When I left Gary he convinced everyone I was lying or it was my fault. And because those voices were so loud and so unanimous I kept believing them.

 I was afraid of the authorities because the fundamentalist system in which I was raised painted the government, and especially family and children’s services, as evil people who couldn’t wait to take away the children of Christians, abuse them and turn them against their faith. When Gary was finally reported to the authorities I trusted them. The church had failed me; the authorities were supposed to protect us and they were supposed to be able to recognize abuse.

But Gary convinced the DFCS case worker I was teaching J to disrespect him and he was only responding to J’s taunts and rebellious mouth. Everytime I talked to her she threatened to take the kids away from both of us because Gary was violent and I was teaching the children to disrespect him. She scared me to death.

Later our Christian counselor (the one who didn’t believe me and didn’t approve of our separation) also said my actions were teaching our children disrespect.

The accusation of disrespect came because every time Gary became angry I got between him and the kids. I tried to reason with him. In the moment I had two choices. Walk away and let him mistreat the kids or get in the middle and try to reason with him and get him to stop. By necessity, these arguments (because that was always what they became) happened in front of the kids. There was no opportunity to take them out of the room – Gary wouldn’t cooperate with that. But they did serve the purpose of turning his anger onto me and off the kids. That action on my part was “disrespect.” And yes, I was angry in those times. But I never raged and I never got physical. I never screamed and I never used profanity – which was his modus operandi. (To be absolutely honest, I did scream at him twice while I was on chemo – and immediately apologized and took myself out of the room. It was because my meds were out of balance and getting them balanced fixed the problem.)

Two voices both said I was teaching the boys disrespect of their father — I believed them both. I apologized to the boys. And I tried to be even more reasonable. I learned to never engage in anger; to remain calm and reasonable. I still got in the middle because I couldn’t just walk away and let him treat the kids that way. And every time J mouthed off to his dad I also talked to him about his disrespect and his responsibility to do what was right no matter the provocation.  These conversations took place in private.  Gary frequently accused me to “buddying up” with J in these conversations and taking sides with J against him, which was not true at all, but no one believed me. 

Of course, the fact that I didn’t get angry back at him only made him angrier. Previously, when I did get angry, he excused his rage saying it resulted from my anger. When I didn’t get angry anymore he said I was treating him like a child (disrespect again) and it excused his rage. Somehow if I said anything, his rage was my fault. He could get angry about anything and was both entitled and excused; I was not allowed to ever be angry about anything – not his lies, not when he put us in danger with his choices, not when he abused our children.

At that point, J had never initiated physical violence toward his father and didn’t for another couple years after that. Not until he was physically larger than his father. Let me ask the question no one else seemed to be able to see — why was it OK for Gary to punch his son in the abdomen hard enough to leave marks I could still see a couple hours later, no matter what came out of his mouth? On the other hand, why was Gary excused for everything that came out of his mouth because we “provoked” him – by being too loud, or interrupting his TV show (a common offense that resulted in physically violent rage), by doing whatever he found annoying at the time? Why, why, why????

A True Story – Abuse in a Christian Home

 I have posted another article by Marcia, a Christian counselor in my Articles section, under Abuse in the Christian Home.  I have excerpted only a little bit to give you a flavor of the whole…

~~~

…The first thing I noticed about her was that she was a tiny little thing. The next thing I noticed was that she was very young. Perhaps in her late twenties, but with a look of youthful innocence…

She was silent for a moment. Looking down at an invisible object somewhere on the floor, she tightly gripped her small clutch purse with both hands on its corners, centered it smoothly on her lap, and in a soft, almost breathless voice, exhaled, “I killed my husband…”

You can read the whole post here.