Saturday, June 6, 2009

No Excuse for Abuse

I'm an incurable channel flipper.  Give me a remote and my fingers automatically flip channels.  I guess it's a man thing, or in my case, trying to find something on the one eyed monster that doesn't bore me silly.  I guess that's why it's off most of the time.  Books are so much more entertaining for me.  But this morning I stumbled across a channel I've never paid attention to before.  It was Grit TV  and the show caught my attention.  As I listened, I grew angry.  At first my anger was directed to the obvious anti-Christian feminist stance of the host and and guest, but then I realized my anger was a reflection of my finger pointing at the screen.  I had one finger pointed at the TV and three pointed directly back at me.  (No...It wasn't THAT finger I was pointing although it may as well have been)
Let me explain.  The host Laura Flanders was interviewing Kathryn Joyce regarding her new book, "Quiverfull, Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement".  I had never heard of the Christian Patriarchy Movement but apparently there is this small group of people who follow Psalms 127:3-5 where it says that the blessed man is one who has lots of kids.  But beyond that, that blessed man is the king on the throne, so to speak.  He's the King Tut of the household, the Big Kahuna, the one everyone should obey and serve.  This book is a direct attack on a secret sin of the Christian church called the Patriarchy movement.  It is an uncomfortable book because it underscores the underbelly that goes beyond this crazy little sect that she puts under the magnifying glass.  

Even Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church is linked to this movement which is, I think, a bit of an unfair shot.  Never the less, what is clear is that even in his church male dominance can be a problem.  See the sad story on the Double X webpage, "Does Rick Warren's Church Condones Domestic Violence"?  Now, I'm sure there is a lot stretching of the truth in that article, but the fact remains, this is a major problem we evangelicals must face.  And it takes a non-believer to highlight it.  Also see the Christianity Review article on the book entitled "Deconstructing the Quiver".  

Now I confess, I haven't had time to read the book yet as this is the first time I've heard of it.  But, I've been very aware of this dirty truth that stains our testimony to the world.  I want to address primarily spousal abuse rather than the whole family as a tribe issue.  This accusation of patrimony along with spousal abuse is well deserved.  Far too many of us men are guilty of "lording it over our wives/women."  We think we are the God given heads of our households that everyone must serve.  That is a blatant  lie and mistranslation of Ephesians 5:22 and other verses.  While that verse calls for submission we forget that in the previous verse  Ephesians 5:21 we are to submit to each other in love.  There is a mutual submission with Christ as our example.  That rules out all acts of subjugation or taking advantage of each other.  It is an act of love that calls for a responding act of love.  

Now, this is a hard subject for me to discuss, but I must.  This hits close to my heart.  I grew up in a very strict patriarchal home where dad was the king of the house.  It was one of those homes many of us grew up in where what dad wanted he got.  If he wanted a glass of water, mom would have to bring it to him rather than he get out of his lounge chair and get it himself.  His world was law and not to be questioned.  As a result, he was often harsh and demeaning.  Now in his defense, that's all he knew.  Many in society and especially Christian circles were brought up steeped in the strong male authoritarian philosophy.  That was, for him, is how he expressed his love.  

But that kind of love, which isn't love breeds domestic violence.  At the worst, physical abuse, at the least verbal abuse which can be even worse.  And it is how I learned to deal with women.  I believe my first marriage failed because I had carried this kind of patriarchal, lord of the house, verbal abusive attitude into our relationship.  I was inattentive to my first wife's cry for attention and verbally abusive.  It's no wonder she left me and found a man who would listen to her cries and love her.  It was a hard lesson for me to learn and would take years for me to understand.

But thank God, the second angel I married was strong enough and smart enough to not put up with that kind of garbage.  And because I was broken, she lovingly put my pieces back together and taught me how to love.  She was God's gift to me.  But enough about me.  I only use my personal testimony to illustrate how devastating this kind of thing is and pray that something I say may shake someone caught in this web of abuse.

Men, wake up!!  There are thousands of wives in the Christian community who are nothing but doormats for their husbands.  Men, you will be the last to see this and it may take a brave woman to say enough is enough and walk out on you.  This is not God's way.  I especially speak to pastor's wives, many who have absolutely no self identity left, thanks to a domineering, Bible thumping monster who is both your husband and pastor.  You don't have to live under that kind of abuse.  And pastor, if you are domineering your wife in this manner, repent, get out of the ministry and seek help.  You will destroy yourself and bring down your entire family in the process if you don't.  

Ms. Joyce's book may be God's way of using an outsider to expose this dirty truth in our midst. Let's do all we can to rid ourselves of this patristic notion that women must cowtow to us because the Bible tells us so.  Baloney, we are to submit ourselves one to the other in love as Christ submitted himself for us in love.  That is the only way to break out of this problem of abuse.  May God use this message to awaken some hurting people to break this pattern of abuse that is wrecking so many lives.


  1. Thanks. I have been perplexed in the bookstore, looking for spiritual books from a woman's point of view, and finding some of these "submit radically to your husband" sort of ideas. They were a surprise to me.

    I also recall reading an article from a woman who was abused in her marriage, talking about the "falseness" of forgiveness in the cycle of abuse. He hits you, you must forgive him (because you are a Christian), and nothing changes. This seems to be the pattern of abuse outside of any church involvement, also. Forgive, abuse, forgive, abuse, and on and on.

    Rather, I think you may forgive, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Or vice versa.

    I have read of marriages where a spouse was physically abusive, and after long physical separation (a year or two) and much searching and changing, a couple might re-unite. I don't think this happens very often, as it sounds like an arduous (and unpredictable) process. Both parties must be highly committed.

    The unintended but real "fall-out" from our beliefs (here you can put Catholics and every other sort of Christian you can imagine) are difficult to face, hard to admit, and even harder to know how to address. We want our lives and beliefs to be about love and compassion and understanding. When someone airs our dirty laundry, I want to do just as you - point a finger at someone else. Not my most noble, or Christian, response.

  2. Thanks Pennyyak for your encouraging comments. This is a major issue along with the problem of pornography that needs addressing. The two often go hand in hand.