Monthly Archives: September 2015

Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 3 – Forgiveness

We continue this series on abuse in Christian marriage with the widely misunderstood topic of forgiveness.

Christ came to forgive sins (Matt. 26: 28; Rom. 5: 28). He repeatedly forgave sinners (Luke 7: 44-50), using the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” even from the cross (Luke 23: 34).

Christians are called on to love their enemies, to forgive those who persecute them (Matt: 5:44; Luke 6: 27-29). The Lord’s Prayer contains the line, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6: 12).

“Forgiveness Requires that a Woman Return to an Unsafe Marriage”

But the assertion that forgiveness requires a woman to return to an unsafe marriage is patently false.

Forgiveness and trust are distinct from one another. A Christian woman may choose to forgive her husband’s caustic comments, his violence and brutality – electing not to waste any more of her life in bitterness or regret. She need not live in fear under his roof, and run the risk of additional harm to herself or children.

“There Is No Escape from Marriage but Death”

Many an ignorant minister has described submission to the point of death as the hallmark of a Christian woman, and divorce as more harmful to children than a childhood spent in an abusive home.

However, the biblical right of self-defense supersedes any duty of “submission” to an abusive spouse.  Women and children were not ordained as sacrificial lambs to the tempers of men.

Domestic violence, Source http://www.psicoterapeutas.com/paginaspersonales/concha/violenciadegenero.htm, Author Concha Garcia Hernandez (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

As many as 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence annually [1]. These children are likely to experience low self-esteem, social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression [2]. The boys so exposed are many times more likely than normal to become abusers; the girls, many times more likely to become victims [3].

If nothing else, we must save our children.

[1] Huffington Post, “30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us It’s An Epidemic” by Alanna Vagianos, 10/23/14 (Updated 2/13/15), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html.

[2] and [3] National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The Effects of Child Abuse and Exposure to Domestic Violence on Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems” by C. Moylan, T. Herrenkohl, C. Sousa, E. Tajima, R. Herrehkohl, and MJ Russo, 1/10, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872483/.

This series will conclude next week with Part 4 – Public Shame

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 2 – Faith and Fault

We continue this series on abuse in Christian marriage with a few more of Satan’s lies.

“Abuse in a Marriage Is the Woman’s Fault, a Result of Her Sin”

Not only are women frequently blamed for the abuse to which they are subjected.  A Christian woman may be told that, as a sinner herself, she cannot criticize her husband’s behavior. If anything, it is her duty to reform him.

While a clever way of shifting blame, this is circular logic. It has no basis either in fact or Scripture.

Abuse – physical, emotional, financial, or sexual – is a deliberate act by the abuser. It is not the woman’s fault, and not her sin. No one deserves to be abused – not a “witch”, not a “nag”, not a “pig”, not an “old bag”, or any other offensive term the abuser may devise to excuse his reprehensible behavior. No one.

True, a sinner will reap what he sows (Gal. 6: 7). However, it is the abuser – not the victim – who has sown the wind, and will reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8: 7).

As for reform, it may take criminal liability – if that – for an abuser to change his lifestyle. Continue reading

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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 1 – Satan’s Lies

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted in the desert. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” ’ ” (Matt. 4: 1-4).

In the wilderness of an abusive marriage, stones can all too easily be mistaken for bread.

Satan, we should never forget, is the father of lies (John 8: 44). Familiar with Scripture, he is adept at twisting the word of God to suit his purposes. This can cause even the most sincere among us to be misled.

Domestic violence (illustration), Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/dinfos_showcase/sets/72157650921376780/, Author Sr. Airman Rusty Frank (PD-US federal govt.)

Here are a few of the adversary’s favorite lies.

“Christian Men Are Never Abusive”

A glance at the news makes it abundantly clear that abuse is not foreign to Christians and men of the cloth.

Pastor Arthur Schirmer of the United Methodist Church was convicted in 2013 of murdering his wife [1]. Televangelist Joyce Meyer’s bodyguard, Christopher Coleman, was convicted in 2011 of murdering his entire family [2].

No Christian has the right to abuse anyone – man, woman, or child, inside marriage or out. Christ came as the Servant to all (Mark 9: 35). But not everyone holding themselves out as “Christian” has truly accepted Christ, and sought to emulate Him. And Christians, themselves, are not immune to sin.

“There Is No Such Thing as Rape in a Christian Marriage”

Christian women are often taught that they give up all rights over their bodies to their husbands, and must submit to their husbands as to Christ. While the Apostle Paul, at 1 Corinthians 7, does speak of a husband as having authority over his wife’s body, he, also, speaks of a wife as having authority over her husband’s body. Continue reading

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Kidnapped by Boko Haram

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.”

– “Meditation XVII” by John Donne (1624)

WARNING: Graphic Images

The extremist group Boko Haram has since 2009 led a brutal insurgency in Nigeria with the twin goals of imposing Sharia law and establishing an Islamic regime. Boko Haram is known to utilize child soldiers; engage in the forced conversion, castration, and beheading of non-Muslim men and boys, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage of women and girls.

Mary Patrick was one of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 [1]. The horrors she faced during four months of captivity included cannibalism, the murder of her older sister, and repeated rape by as many as five men at a time.

Given a Muslim name and forced to recite verses from the Quran, over and over, Mary began to lose her identity. Thankfully, she managed to escape before it was too late.

Why the World Matters

Why should this matter to American women? Why should it matter to abuse victims, in particular?

Many abuse victims are likewise brutalized. This tends to focus our attention inward, on short-term survival. But there is a great deal of pain in the world…not ours alone. The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are just one example.

Abuse victims understand pain. That others, too, have suffered should not demoralize us. Rather, it should motivate us to reach out to one another.

Isolated by abuse though we have been, we are part of the world. We have a responsibility toward the world. And the exercise of that responsibility may actually prove healing to us.

Connection

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” as it was known killed an estimated 75-200 million men, women, and children.

The dead grew so numerous that mass graves had to be dug. Venice and other cities banned the ringing of church bells during funeral processions. The sound was thought to discourage the living.

During one outbreak, the poet and clergyman, John Donne, wrote that no man is an island. We are all connected. That is how Christians see things or should. We are connected to one another – whether abuse victims, plague victims, or the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Leaving the Past Behind

No one can blame victims for seeking to forget their experience of abuse. We long to blot abuse off the face of the earth, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, much as we may desire to leave the past behind, we are often bombarded with unwelcome reminders of it [2]. The ongoing barrage of triggers can feel like defeat; the flashbacks, like daily fresh wounds in a war that has gone on for years [3]. We simply cannot move beyond the pain.

While recovery is not a matter of will power, confronting our demons may help us cut them down to size [4]. And using our experience to benefit others can give meaning to our suffering.

Outward toward the World

If we can manage to direct our attention outward toward the world, we may find that what we have suffered has actually increased our empathy for the suffering of others. Their suffering is personal for us, not merely political.

In turn, they may have lessons they can share with us.

Amazingly, Mary Patrick says that her captivity strengthened her faith. “Before, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t read [the] Bible, I didn’t pray. But now I go to church everyday…I am thankful for my life.”

[1] See, Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, “Trained to Kill – Learning to Forgive”, August 2015.

[2] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently accompanied by intense flashes of memory. These flashbacks are triggered by sounds, smells, people, places, thoughts, and feelings which call to mind the traumatic event. Flashbacks can cause physical and emotional reactions, including a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, and profuse sweating.

[3] Coping strategies for dealing with triggers include deep breathing, mindfulness/grounding techniques, exercise, relaxation and self-care, writing, art, music, and prayer. The support of friends and loved ones can be extremely valuable.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Collection, “Prolonged Exposure vs. Supportive Counseling for Sexual Abuse-Related PTSD in Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Edna Foa PhD, Carmen McLean PhD, Sandra Capaldi PsyD, et al, 12/25/13, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/collection.aspx?categoryid=5862.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Politics, Religion, Slavery, Terrorism, Violence Against Women