Category Archives: Religion

Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 4 – Public Shame

Purple flag at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Source https://www.marines.mil (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Women are often reluctant to make abuse public, as if their lives did not matter.  Speaking out about domestic violence, and seeking help for it, are said to bring shame on the family and the church.

The truth is that abuse starts an avalanche of harm that can extend for generations.  Whatever consequences flow from domestic violence, they result from the abuser’s actions – not the attempts by his victim to defend herself and her children, or escape the abuse.

The Catholic Church sex scandal illustrates how bad the organized church is at dealing with victims.  Focus Ministries http://www.focusministries1.org is just one Christian organization helping the victims of domestic violence, while training churches how better to respond to abuse [1][2].

Though priests and ministers have endorsed them at times, the Scriptural passages keeping women in abusive relationships are taken out of context.  Satan uses these snippets – these lies – to undermine women’s faith, and destroy their lives.

But in Christ we are set free.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5: 1).


[1]  Today’s Christian Woman, “The Silent Epidemic” by Corrie Cutrer, September 2004, http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2004/september/silent-epidemic.html.

[2]  1 Cor. 6: 1-11 and Matt. 18: 17 address conflict between Christians, and the use of secular courts.  However, church intervention was never intended to shield sinful behavior, or place lives in danger.

Originally posted 10/4/15

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

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Filed under Violence Against Women, Justice, Religion, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence

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

“Drunk Father” by George Bellows (c. 1923), Source Library of Congress (Digital ID cph.3g04623) (PD-Art, Old-70)

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.

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/.

Originally posted 9/27/15

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: https://alawyersprayers.com

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

“The journey to eternity” by Walter Crane, National Gallery in Prague (1902) (PD-Art, Old-100)

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.

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

“Christian Men Are Never Abusive”

Emerging Directors Showcase (2016), Author University of Fraser Valley, Source https://www.flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

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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The Abusive Workplace

Photo Courtesy of One Connecticut

You work for someone vain, self-centered, and vindictive.  Someone who knows less about the job than you do.  You put in longer hours than he/she does, but his/her name is the one on the door.  You do the work, but he/she gets the credit.  You can’t remember the last time you received a raise.  And still you keep trying to please.

Sound familiar? A recent study indicates that the American workplace is “grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile” [1].

We may view our work as a calling, enjoy our chosen field, and meet some wonderful people in that field.  Or, depending on the economy and our particular situation, we may not have much choice as to our job [2].

But we stay at some jobs far longer than we should, a fact which can negatively impact our confidence, our self-esteem, our relationships, and our health.  Why?  An abusive childhood can be a contributing factor.

Abuse can impact not only our personal, but professional lives.  There are many reasons victims tolerate abusive work environments and dysfunctional bosses.

Abusive Management Style

Does your boss manage at the top of his/her lungs?  Does he/she rant and rave over the least mistake…sometimes over no mistake at all?  Is scathing sarcasm his/her favorite style of communication?

Just as parents, spouses, and lovers may be bullies, narcissists, paranoiacs, or other abusive personalities, so too can bosses [3].

No Limits

Even work that is intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging can by physically draining.  In an ideal world, we would not have to choose between inspiring work and livable working conditions.  But ours is not, unfortunately, an ideal world.

As abuse victims, we set no limits for ourselves, exceeding all reasonable expectations.  We take work home nights, to the shore with us on weekends, and away on vacation. There are always more files, more cases, more projects.  Paperwork has a permanent place on the dining room table, and the nightstand beside our bed.

That fact facilitates avoidance.  We have no time for a personal life.  The endless hours we spend at the job, and the emotional investment – the very problems at work – serve to keep personal issues at bay.

The lack of limits, also, feels familiar.  We were raised in a setting where love required self-sacrifice to the point of self-destruction.  Reasonable boundaries were not allowed during childhood.  So we do not recognize them (and do not establish them) as adults.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism can play a role, as well.  Victims may strive to achieve unattainable levels of perfection.  That we fail demonstrates, again and again, to us what we mistakenly assume is our inherent “deficiency”.  In effect, we are compelled to re-enact the emotional experience of our childhood. Continue reading

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Dry Bones

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” ‘ “ (Ezek. 37: 12).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel had a widely known vision in a valley of dry bones.

The corpses there had been scorched by the sun, picked over by vultures and jackals.  God spoke to Ezekiel and asked if the bones could live again, to which Ezekiel replied that only God knew the answer.  God then instructed Ezekiel to prophecy, and life was restored to what was a vast army.

Though Bible commentators agree that the bones were a symbol of Israel, this passage has a highly personal meaning for me.

Many times in my life I have been at the end of my strength.

As an abuse survivor, I have walked lonely beaches at night, and cursed hope for drawing me forward toward another dawn.  As an advocate for the poor and a lawyer responsible for the welfare of clients and staff, I have fought many a losing battle.  As a woman with chronic health problems, I have sat in emergency rooms at 3AM, and more than once lain prostrate in public restrooms, unable even to call for help.

Rarely did God make Himself known to me, in these circumstances.  Unlike Ezekiel, I saw no visions, heard no voices.  But at all times God was present.  It was from God my strength derived, and He that carried me through the worst ordeals. Continue reading

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Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/7462740970/, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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Poison

King Cobra, Author Vishnukanayathil (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of cobras”(Deut. 32: 33).

Across time and across the globe, women have been harassed, threatened, imprisoned, violated, and put to death for seeking equality with their male counterparts.

There have been political, cultural, and religious reasons given for this inequality.  But at heart is the matter of poison.  Not a chemical or biological agent of warfare (though there is a kind of war being fought), this is instead an insidious poison of the mind.

Simply put, many consider half the population of the earth – the female half, the very mothers who bore them – less worthy than the other, male half.  This toxic belief corrodes nations and cultures, along with relationships and individuals.  It establishes and enforces a power differential in favor of the male members of society which is a temptation toward abuse.

More than that, the inequality violates the laws of God.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1: 27).  

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Sin has, throughout history, distorted the relationship between men and women.

Though the Old Testament prophetess, Deborah, more than capably judged Israel; though women were faithful at the cross, and the first to arrive at the empty tomb; though Mary, Persis, Priscilla, Tryphena, and Tryphosa were just a few of the women who ministered in the early church; and though God pours out His spirit on sons and daughters alike (Joel 2: 28-29; Acts 2: 17-18), Christianity has not been immune to this distortion.

There has been a great deal of emphasis on the submission of wives to their husbands (Eph. 5: 22-24; Col. 3: 18), and very little on the requisite love by husbands for their wives (Eph. 5: 25-26, 28-29, 31; Col. 3: 19, 1 Pet. 3: 7).

This skewed emphasis by the church has done greatest damage – both spiritually and physically – in regard to abuse.  Over the centuries, women have again and again been counseled by their priests and ministers to remain in abusive marriages, even at the risk of their lives.  For many of these women, the poisonous belief that they were of less value than men proved lethal.

Abuse is, of course, biblically prohibited.  Submission to another flawed human being was never intended to supersede the right of self-defense [1].

Nor does forgiveness by the victim necessarily restore trust.  That may be lost forever.  Certainly, an abused woman is not required to return to a situation she perceives as dangerous.

Christianity is the antidote to this and other poisons like it.  Male and female, let us live our faith as Christ would have us do.  Let us treat one another with kindness and respect that the warfare between the sexes may end, and the world may see in us — men and women alike — the image of Christ.

_____

[1] The Christian concept of “headship” (Ephesians 5: 22-33) is best assessed vis a vis the servant leadership modeled by the Lord (Mark 10: 42-45).

Originally posted 5/30/12

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

 

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Topsy Turvy

“Desolation of Tamar” by James Tissot (c. 1899), Jewish Museum (Accession No. X1952-328), Source http://thejewishmuseum.org/collection/26535-desolation-of-tamar (PD-Art, Old-100)

“Topsy turvy
Wake me
I’ve had enough
Topsy turvy
Don’t know
Which way is up
Or down
Tears on the ground”

– “Topsy Turvy” by Family Force 5

Child abuse victims are often scapegoated for the disharmony within their families.

The narrative fabricated is that child victims are troublemakers, “bad seeds”.  According to this distorted view, victims are by nature disobedient and rebellious, trying the patience of their loving families.  They deliberately prompt family arguments, and “deserve” to be punished for the hurt they cause.

Outrageous as it may seem, the needs of child victims – for food, shelter, and comfort – are seen as an unreasonable burden in dysfunctional families.  Victims are viewed as provoking the abuser to act as s/he does. In the case of sexual abuse, child victims are seen as “tempting” the adult, therefore, responsible for the abuse.

This is all a fiction – a false explanation for the dysfunction which allowed the abuse to occur, in the first place.  It is, in effect, the rationalization of the abuser.

Any negative emotions the abuser may experience, in connection with his/her moral transgression, are projected onto the victim.  The Bible story of the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon illustrates this.

But she [Tamar] answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not force me…Do not do this disgraceful thing!’…However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.  Then Amnon hated her exceedingly…” (2 Samuel 13: 12, 14-15).

Other members of the family may buy into the narrative, in self-defense.  That does not, however, give it validity.

In a topsy turvy way, the very opposite of the distorted family narrative is true. Continue reading

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Grace

Light in the clouds, Author Axel Kristinsson of Reykjavik, Iceland (CC- BY-2.0)

“Do not be discouraged.  You…[may] not have the power to relieve yourself of sorrow or grief or pain.  But Our Lord did [have that power] on the Cross. He could have turned the crown of thorns into a garland of rosebuds…He was tempted to shorten His agony, as those at the foot of the Cross taunted [Him]…But He did not come down.  It is human to come down, but it is divine to hang there.”

Our Grounds for Hope, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Jesus suffered and died to restore the relationship between God and man for us, a relationship sin in its many forms had fractured [1].  His sacrifice bought our freedom from sin.  We can throw those shackles down.

But believing ourselves included in Jesus’ work on the cross can be a special challenge for the victims of abuse.  Often, we mistakenly take on the abuser’s guilt – feeling “unworthy” of Salvation, as if we had somehow brought on the molestation or “deserved” the abuse.

Many of us are prone to workaholism.  We strive past the point of exhaustion, in the belief our best efforts would not suffice.  It never occurs to us that Salvation might not be dependent on our efforts, but rather Christ’s.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned…much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5: 17).

There is no qualification standard for Salvation in Christ.  He meets us where we are, even if we are broken and lost.  It was for the broken and lost He came.

Originally posted 2/16/14

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

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse