How Can I Trust God After Marriage to A “Christian” Abuser?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This exchange occurred in one of the comment threads on another article, but I thought it might be beneficial for others as a stand-alone piece by itself.

Mary said:

…I have a lot of unfinished business that I need to work through regarding my relationship with God and the church… I don’t know where God is in any of this anymore. I feel paralyzed to do anything about my situation… because I don’t trust myself to hear from God. (and even if I did I don’t know if I have the strength or the courage to do anything. I feel empty) I can’t imagine God saving me from [one] abusive marriage and then leading me to do the same thing again. But that is what happened if I retrace my decisions that I was making at the time. Am I so defective that I can’t hear from God?

Danni said [amplified, as always when I think about it more]:

It is not that you are so defective that you can’t hear from God. It is a combination of the fact that our own paradigms of reality affect what we think we are hearing from God and that the church is teaching some things about God that aren’t completely accurate.

Our own paradigms are probably the biggest thing that sabotages us. Those of us who marry into abuse almost always – I’d say always but there is always the rare exception to the rule – have some underlying wrong beliefs about ourselves, marriage, relationships, and even God that are so unconscious we are not aware they influence us. If we were raised in abuse in any way – not necessarily overt abuse – we definitely have some foundation problems we are not aware of.

Then when we take that into the arena of church, one or both of two things happens. One is that we do not accurately understand the truth because our paradigms color our understanding – for instance, our understanding of God’s love. How can we understand God’s love for us when we have never experienced real love? And we may think we have experienced real love and not understand that what we think is real love is not. If we were raised in an environment where our acceptance was intrinsically tied to our performance, we will see God as having that same standard toward us – which is not true and literally twists everything else around backwards. These are just a couple examples.

The other thing that can happen in the church is that it may actively teach wrong theology about God, God’s love, the gospel, etc. — all of which will be detrimental to a greater or lesser extent as applied to the issue of abuse. Here again, if we have been raised in an abusive environment (or been in one for years), a church which teaches this type of wrong theology or is even straight-out spiritually abusive will feel right and comfortable to us. This is the type of church we are likely to instinctively choose, just as surely as we are likely to instinctively choose to marry an abuser.

But the truth is that God is none of these things. And while you may think God told you to marry that person who was an abuser, He didn’t. He couldn’t have; it would be a violation of His character and nature. But we can misunderstand. And God is bigger than that. It doesn’t mean God failed; it just means we have more to learn about God — which is an awesome thing to know! That means there are unplumbed depths to the goodness, kindness and love of God, which you have yet to explore. And it means we can still trust Him — because without that we have nothing.

Empty is a good place to start. And baby steps are just fine. Is the Word true? That’s the first thing you have to ask yourself. And God knows where you are – Ps. 103:8-14 says:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. [Note: in fact, under the New Covenant we are not under God’s wrath. The New Testament says it is being held until the end of time for those who reject Jesus. God is not mad at you and He’s not going to get mad at you.]

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

He knows your frame; He remembers that you are but dust. He knows and understands every emotion, every fear, every hurt you are feeling. And He’s not mad.

The Holy Spirit has been promised to be our comforter and our counselor (read John 13-17). Is the Word true? Do those words actually mean what they say? Do you need comfort? Do you need guidance and direction? Is the Word true? (Yes, I know I said that three times now; it was on purpose.) God can be trusted and He will not be mad at you, remembering your frame, when you ask Him to show you unmistakeable how to truly hear His voice.

I would even recommend very specifically asking Him to expose and overturn your paradigms of belief that are hindering you from knowing Him as He really is. He will do it — that is my own testimony. He will do it. Not all in a day; not even all in a year. He is a gentle healer. So He can be trusted to deconstruct and reconstruct as carefully and as tenderly as it is possible to do with such a radical work, taking as long as necessary to do it. And all you have to trust with is this one moment at a time.

Hebrews 11:6 …he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Is the Word true?

Another thought regarding believing God led you to marry an abuser, I have to say I fully believed God led me to marry my husband, too. I was completely devoted to God and seeking God as fully as I knew to do. I prayed about it alot and specifically prayed many times that if it wasn’t God’s will, God would show me. Everything I knew about God and obedience and the Word said I was supposed to marry my husband. And God knows I was very willing to lay it down if He didn’t want me to do it.

So after the nightmare started, and then would never end, I had these thoughts, too. Eventually I came to realized that God did try to let me know – but my paradigms made it impossible for me to see and understand what He was saying. My theology, which was mistaken, said I should marry him – but God Himself did not. And He cannot and will not interfere with the authority He has delegated to us on this earth. What He will do, because His grace and mercy are everlasting and eternally long-suffering, is walk with us through what happens next and redeem us when we realize things are amiss.

If you do not see those hindsight warning signs yet, that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. It just means that your inaccurate paradigms of reality haven’t been overturned yet. And God can fix that, over time.

As for where to start – well, that turned long, so I’m going to put it up as a series of separate pieces.

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Ex-Pastors’ Wives Share Hope in Abuse

Two ex-pastors’ wives have written a book together sharing insights on how to cope with abuse and adultery. The book is titled, Surviving Shattered Dreams: A Story of Hope after Despair, by Yvonne Partyka and Joanne Klinger.

When the women first met they had no idea how much they had in common. As they became better acquainted they discovered they had both had been married to pastors who committed adultery and were abusive. Eventually, they decided to share their story and the hope they have found in their experience.

According to the linked article, Yvonne and Joanne have singular advice for women, especially pastors’ wives, involved in marriages where there is adultery and abuse. “Don’t try to handle this on your own. Secrecy and cover-up don’t work. You’re not alone, and God is faithful.” The problem of pastors involved in extramarital affairs, pornography, or abuse “is not uncommon,” says Yvonne. “Churches tend to look up to their pastors and don’t want to believe it when problems surface.”

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Wives Submit

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Recently, a drive-by poster replied to the article “Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage. His post was so full of twisted and misunderstood Scripture that it cannot go unaddressed. This is especially true since he managed to encapsulate so much of what the church tends to teach or preach at those who are in abusive marriages. As a result I feel this needs the attention of an article of its own.

I have been unfortunately slow in responding, since this is such a big pot of goo. In fact, I will have to break this into a series addressing each part because a single article cannot possibly do it justice. So this is the first installment, addressing just the first two verses Ancient has nipped neatly out of the Word.

Ancient, on May 29th, 2009 at 8:24 pm said:

Read the Word of the Lord, sisters:

Eph 5:22-23 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Mark 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matt 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Remember that even in the case of a marriage between a believer and a non-believer, it is better that they stay together so that the believing spouse might sanctify the unbelieving spouse.

Trust in the Lord, not men. Christ, not attorneys or psychologists, etc. Pray for your husband. Submit yourself to him humbly and tell him you love him and that God loves him.

If he strikes you upon the cheek, turn so that he might strike you upon the other. Forgive him, for Christ was better than ALL of us put together and he died for us on the cross though we deserved nothing but condemnation. Will you only condemn your husband?

We are Christians, not servants of Islam or any other religion which makes a mockery of marriage. Do as the Lord would have you do, as His only begotten Son commanded of all of us no matter the situation.

May the Lord bless you and keep you always.

Danni response:

In this article, I will address only the first two Scriptures misused.

Eph 5:22-23 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

In the first place, I have to point out that all of these individual Scriptures have been plucked out of their context. In every case, the result is deadly. Let’s get a look at the “back story” on this one.

Eph. 5:17-33

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

OK, right off the bat – that is a whole lot more verses and verbiage than the one bit Ancient snagged out of the middle!

So here goes. First, let’s isolate who this passage is written to. Given the first part, which is intrinsically linked to the admonitions regarding marriage, it is clear this was written to Christian couples, where both husband and wife are believers. The marital specifics were written in the context of a directive to be filled with – under the control of — the Holy Spirit rather than being drunk with alcoholic beverages. It also says to speak to yourselves in songs and hymns, and to give thanks for all things. Then it says to submit to one another.

Now, people like to chop this entire section up, but you just can’t do that. You can’t separate it out into isolated bits when there is no reason to do so. This is all one string of admonition, one context, and it should be interpreted that way.

The Word indicates we are to submit to one another in other parts of the Bible as well. Let me ask you – how much sense does it make for God to say submit to one another — except if you’re a man who is married; and only toward your wife are you not to submit. If God meant that, He surely would have said it clearly because that’s a pretty hefty and complex exception.

But just in case, someone might want to get that out of it – and many people do – the rest of the context should put that idea to rest.

Verse 22 says wives are to submit to their husbands, but the verse doesn’t stop there! This statement has a qualification in it. It says wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. As very simply means “in the same way.” So, how is a wife to submit to a husband who is telling her to do things that are against what the Lord tells her to do, to believe things that are contrary to the truth of the Lord, and to obey him, submit to him, and agree with him in untruth that is in direct denial to the truth of the Word? This admonition to submit has a limitation on it — as unto the Lord. And that doesn’t even take into account that this relationship is supposed to be one that is happening in the context of both parties being controlled by the Holy Spirit, etc. and mutual submission.

Verse 23 and 24 put further qualifications on verse 22. Verse 23 starts with the word “for.” That means it is continuing the thought without pause. Verse 23 says for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… therefore (verse 24) as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Again this includes the qualification that the wife’s submission to her husband is to be as the church’s submission to Christ – not outside of it! There is no circumstance under which the church would obey Christ outside of the context of the truth because, obviously, Christ would never ask such a thing of the church. But that doesn’t mean that a wife is supposed to obey or submit to her husband if he is going outside the stated perameters and expecting his wife to come into agreement with him outside of, or in direct violation of, obedience to Christ.

There is another important qualifying detail here too. Verse 24 says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Well, Phil. 2:2-8 puts some context to that statement.


Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Verses 2-4 describe behavior which is distinctly opposite of the behavior of an abuser. And to make it more potent, these verses are connected to the ones following, which very specifically describe Jesus’ way of being the head of the church.

Jesus was the head of the church, not by being it’s master controller but by making himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a servant, and being humbled in the most extreme way.

This is NOT the model of headship the church teaches. The Word uses the word “head” in the way you would describe a person who is at the “head” of a line. The person at the head of a line doesn’t boss everyone in line behind him. He simply goes first, showing the direction to those with him, and perhaps making a model or path that those behind him can follow. He may clear debris and obstacles from the path so that it is easier for those who follow. But he doesn’t boss around those who are in the line behind him!

This understanding is further supported where the Word specifically states this same understanding in Mark 10:42-45:

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

In case there was any doubt whatsoever of how God intended leadership to be in the body of Christ, Jesus is very specific in this passage. We as believers are not to model leadership, authority, headship, etc. after the pattern of the Gentiles who rule over others. We are to follow Jesus model – be the servant of all, minister to rather than being ministered to, and give up our lives in sacrifice for the benefit of others, not insist that they do so for us. This was Jesus’ model and the Word very specifically says husbands are to follow this pattern!

We also need to remember the cultural context of these statements. We tend to think of the word “servant” as someone who helps out someone else. But in the culture to which this was written this was a truly radical thought because a servant was automatically understood to be a slave. A slave was the equal, or inferior, to women and children.

When the Word makes these statements it is telling husbands (and church leaders, incidentally) to put themselves on the same level, equal to, the slave who serves their wife and children! There is no room in the Word for the understanding that men are supposed to rule over their families or that a wife is to obey or submit to a husband who is being a tyrant – which would be submitting NOT as unto the Lord.

The passage in Ephesians then goes on to describe in more detail how a Christian husband will treat his wife, by drawing more specific comparisons to the way Christ treated the church. This is the behavior that must characterize him in order for her to submit to him as unto the Lord.

A Christian husband must give himself for his wife, he must love his wife as his own body, he must leave his family, and he must cleave to his wife. Frankly, not one of these things characterizes an abuser. Each one of these points is huge in itself.

But just taking the last one – he must cleave to his wife – this pivotal truth is not taught in the church. This verse is directly quoting Genesis 2:24, another verse plucked out of context and misapplied by Ancient. We read these verses all the time, and they are very popular in marriage ceremonies. But no one really teaches about this. A husband must leave his family and cleave to his wife. When he does that, they will be one flesh.

First of all, we have to note that this is not, nor ever implied elsewhere in the Word to be, directed to a wife. This is ALL on the husband. He is the one who has to leave his family bonds and sever that loyalty as first place in his heart. And he must cleave to his wife. That doesn’t just mean he will have sex with her and they will be one flesh. No, it means he must cleave to his wife.

When something “cleaves” to something else it does a couple things. First, it sticks completely – there is no place of separation. Second, it molds itself to the surface to which it is adhering – not the other way around!!!!! An abusive husband has done neither – and he usually hasn’t left his family either.

A godly husband will make his wife his absolute first loyalty. He will be completely devoted to her, without any place of separation or divided loyalty. And he will mold himself to HER, rather than insisting she mold herself to him.

Then, after all this huge pile of very specific admonition to a Christian husband about how he is to treat his wife, there is one final phrase directed to the wife. It says the wife should reverence her husband. Reverence means to respect and honor. Honestly, any wife who had a husband like this passage describes would have little or no trouble respecting and honoring him!

Can you see that this passage has an awful lot to say about the husband’s behavior and very little about the wife’s? Yet verse 22 gets plucked out of context on a regular basis and women are preached at to submit to their husbands in all things and reverence their husbands – with no understanding given to the fact that the wife’s behavior is to be predicated on whether her husband is acting in a way that she can submit to/reverence him as to the Lord — which is the qualification the verse places on her.

This gross misuse of Scripture by Ancient – who learned it from the church – is one example of how the church is being used as an abuser of women and children, because the church is supporting their abuser and sending them back into abuse, increasing their abuse – all in the name of righteousness and against the clear teaching of the Word.

Rejecting the Heretical Abuser

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

I am going to start a series of articles about what the Word says about the power of the tongue, the spirit of murder behind an abuser and separating from a verbal abuser. I have no idea how long this may become or how long it will take, but as I make additions I will post them and also add them to a series list under “Family Abuse.”

This first installment is drawing the correlation between the Biblical description of a heretic and an abuser – and what the Bible says we are to do with a heretic.

Titus 2:15-3:11

In this passage, Paul is admonishing Titus how to teach in the church (2:15 – these things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority…). He says believers are to be subject to authorities, be ready for every good work (3:1); to speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness (3:2); and avoid contentions (3:9). He says believers are to avoid contention over spiritual truth and strivings about the law – which can certainly be understood to include pressure to measure up to some standard of behavior in order to be acceptable (3:9).

Then it says to reject a heretic after a second warning. What is a heretic? The Catholic Church defined this word and we still accept that definition today without question. The Catholic Church defined a heretic as a person who disagreed with officially accepted dogma of the Catholic Church. That would actually include all Protestants. But we translated that meaning of the word “heretic” to mean someone who rejects the basic tenets of Christian faith – roughly as outlined by the Apostles’ Creed.

However, the word “heretic” is a transliteration – making the Greek word into an English one without translating it. This is something that early Catholic translators did on a regular basis, and it sometimes resulted in an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the original word. The word “heretic” is a transliteration of the Greek word “hairetikos” and as such, the original meaning of the word is not apparent. The word actually means someone who is divisive. And the context of the verse gives a fairly detailed description of the behavior of a person who is to be labeled a “heretic.”

We need to look at the whole of the Word and realize that the behavior of an abuser is all these things that the Word not only says believers are not to be (but a heretic is), but says that believers are to separate from.

An abuser is not subject to authority – certainly not to God’s because he not only defies God’s standards of godly behavior persistently, consistently, and violently, but he demands his family’s compliance with his actions which are against the Word.

An abuser may be ready for good works out in public where they will win him applause and recognition, but those good works are least in sight at home, where God has still called us to serve one another in love.

An abuser speaks evil of and to his family constantly.

An abuser is a brawler – a person who constantly picks fights, whether verbal or physical. An abuser is not gentle or meek toward his family.

An abuser is characterized by his contentious spirit.

And an abuser is constantly demanding his family conform to his ever-changing demands of performance in every area of life, insisting that a never-ending host of failures to comply are the reason for his contention and anger.

God calls this man, by implication of the context here, a heretic. Being a heretic does not have to be limited to questions of theology within the church setting. The same spirit of a heretic is contentious and in disagreement with the truth of the real knowledge of God (theology – as described in 3:4-7) and this contentious spirit is nowhere more evident than in his own home. He may be able to keep his contention under the radar at church, though I have observed that it is usually there – perpetual fault-finding of the people and beliefs of his church even while he appears to be in agreement with them in public. But his heart reveals the truth of a heretic.

And God says we are to reject a heretic after two warnings. “Reject” is fairly decisive – there’s no grey there. In case there is any question how clear God’s feelings about this are, here is some amplification from the dictionary.

  • to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.
  • to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.)
  • to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff
  • to discard as useless or unsatisfactory
  • to cast out or eject
  • to cast out or off

Will the church dare to stand up to the truth of the Word? And does God’s Word not apply just as strongly, if not more so, to those closest to this individual, who are being directly and constantly wounded by his heretic spirit? We are told to reject a heretic, not remain silent before him or turn the other cheek. This applies to us within marriage! And it applies to the way the church handles a marital abuser.

Blessing for the Ultimate Sacrifice in an Abusive Marriage

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

When I refer to the ultimate sacrifice in an abusive marriage, most people’s minds probably think of what mine would – what happens if you actually die in an abusive marriage? However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

There is a sacrifice that may become necessary and it is one that the most dedicated of us do not want to make – in fact, many refuse to make.

The most determined of us hold firmly to our marriage vows and refuse to consider that God could actually lead another way. While we believe our actions are demonstrating huge faith and sacrifice for the cause of Christ, they may actually be an expression of unbelief.

First of all is the issue of holding to our marriage vows. God Himself cannot keep a covenant where the other party persists in violation. The other party’s violation voids God’s agreement and His blessing. God is faithful; that is His nature. And that is the deep desire of many of us in our marriages. We are faithful; we will remain faithful no matter what. But we cannot make the choice for the other person to remain faithful. And that voids our ability to maintain our end of the covenant. If we have a wrong belief (unbelief) about this issue of our marriage vows, we will remain in a situation God does not expect or want for us.

Second, we have to understand there is literally an issue of idolatry in place when dealing with an abusive spouse. I address this issue briefly in the article The Issue at the Heart of Domestic Violence. When it comes right down to it, we have to choose which master we will serve. Remaining in a marriage of spiritual idolatry boils down to a problem with unbelief – we do not believe God sees it just that black and white.

Another thing that can keep us in unbelief is our own selfishness. Yes, that’s what I said. It can be very hard to look at this hiding in the corners of our heart. You see, if we walk away we give up a lot. We give up our image, we give up our identity as a wife (huge!), we probably give up friendships and even church support we have valued immensely, we give up the respect of others. We may even think we are giving up on ourselves and God and our family – though this is not the truth. We may give up our home and our financial security.

For me, the single biggest step of faith I ever made was believing God when He told me to get out of my marriage and follow Him. It was a daring, blind step of audacious faith – and it came at huge expense. I did lose friends, family, church support, my identity, my role as a wife, my home and financial security (such as they were), and the respect of others.

But, I dared to believe what God told me.

Today, He gave me a huge blessing. Actually, today He gave me the promise of a huge blessing – which is sitting right in the Word and I had never realized it applied directly to me.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30

Now, lest anyone think that this sacrifice in an abusive marriage isn’t about the gospel, it is indeed about the gospel. Not only is it an issue of obedience to God, it is quite literally about the gospel. Jesus defined the gospel in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The gospel includes healing the brokenhearted, preaching deliverance to captives, setting at liberty those that are bruised, and preaching the favorable – full of God’s favor! year of the Lord. The gospel is not just about going to heaven when we die. And that is definitely not what Jesus modeled in His earthly ministry, nor does it describe the fulfillment of what Jesus very specifically commissioned his followers to do when He left. Eternal life starts at the day of salvation and God’s salvation is for every part of our lives, not just our eternal destiny.

The promise of a blessing is literally also for those of us who have left husbands (or wives, as the case may be), family, friends, churches, homes, and financial provision to leave an idolatrous marriage and follow ONE God. God promises us a hundredfoldin this world – not only in the world to come!

This is a powerful promise for those who will dare to let go and abandon themselves to God. The sacrifice is astronomical – but God’s promise is a hundred times bigger.

Is There a Silver Lining to the Abuse-Aware Church Trend?

So, as I have been thinking about this issue of the new trend among churches and Christian ministries to be “aware” of abuse, it has occurred to me that there may well be a good side to this situation. Right now, as I mentioned in my last post, what is happening is actually more hurtful than ignorance.

However, it could well be that this is a first step that will lead to further steps — moving subsequently into a better direction. I have to remember that these are people and organizations which, until very recently, were not even acknowledging domestic abuse as a real issue in the church and in Christian marriages. Now, with the increasing outcry of those of us who have experienced it, they are seeing there is a problem.

The first, and simplest response, is to say, “Oh yes, there’s a problem. We understand and care. But our theology hasn’t changed so we’ll see how we can wrap this up with a nice bow on top and stuff it into our existing theology with a minimum of effort.” Even though, for now, that’s disasterous, it is a step. It is motion instead of inertia.

It is my hope that, as the outcry continues and the error of this “new” philosophy is exposed, they will look deeper and make further changes. This really does take time. Nobody goes from 0 to 100 in one instant. When a quick and easy bandaid doesn’t staunch the gushing wound that is Christian domestic abuse, those who genuinely do care and are seeking God will look deeper to find out why the bandaid isn’t working.

The next step may be only another small one. But a series of small steps will get the job done eventually. And, that’s what we need. I have to remember that, even though I was in it with the problem very present in my own face, it took me 13 years to “get there” – after seven years of complete blindness and incomprehension. Why do I think it will be easier for those who don’t have a living and present reminder in their living room every day?

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.