Wearing our Abuse like a Badge of Honor

Or, How the Conservative Church Has Elevated the Abused Who Submits to the Abuser to Sainthood

(Warning: If you don’t like gallows humor, proceed with caution.)

When I was a girl growing up in the church, I was regaled with story after story of the abused wife or the abused child whose faithfulness to God and their abuser somehow saved the latter. These people were placed on a pedestal that, if we were Catholic, should have been reserved for actual Saints. This continued into adulthood and eventually became a steady belief of mine.

You see, in the church we have certain things we idolize, though we usually prefer to call it “right theology.” One of those things the conservative church idolizes is “submission.” Ask a random conservative Christian what’s wrong with marriage these days and she or he will tell you that marriage is suffering because women refuse to submit to their husbands. If only women would submit as the Bible commands, all would apparently be bliss and our noses would bleed rainbows.

This is the reason abused people who remain submissive to their abusers are revered as saints in conservativism. Because they are “obeying God.”

When I was looking for a graphic for my previous entry, I came across this old article from the Internet Monk. He very much hit the nail on the proverbial head and I wish to address each one, even if all I have to add is some snarky comment But point 7 is my interest today:

  1. Plenty of women and men prefer to hear about how submission will get you through any marriage problem, and they need for that to be right. It’s what they have been told and what they are telling other women. If someone says I’m leaving a man who is hitting me, then a whole lot of problems occur for some people’s version of submission. (I do not believe that is necessary, btw. I think that is a wrong emphasis on submission and a right emphasis is what’s needed. Mutual love in Christ.)

If I wrote sermons, I could write a lifetime supply of them based on this one point.

When I would discuss my parents’ abuse of my siblings and myself I was ALWAYS admonished to not break off the relationship because I might be the one to save them, I might be the one God has placed in their lives so they will become Christians. Never mind that my mother is a manipulative liar and that my father would love to share his interest in sex with my small children. Yeah, that doesn’t matter.

And why?

Well, having believed this crap for pretty much all 21 years of my marriage, let me explain:

It’s insanity.

OK, I know that sounds glib, but seriously, how else do we explain people forcing a person to expose  themselves and  their  children to hellish situations based on this false notion that we might save the abuser from hell if only we submit to them?

(As an aside: I really, honestly, and truly believe that this very point is why the conservative church doesn’t give a flying you-know-what for the persecuted church around the world. From what I’ve seen and heard all my life in the church, we believe, though we would never actually force ourselves to articulate it in such a way, that if those Christian parents over there in Iraq are submissive to the government, yet at the same time standing for their Christian beliefs, some ISIS guy will be in the middle of beheading a child and suddenly have an epiphany and be saved.)

This is not biblical submission and if you are in an abusive relationship the Bible doesn’t command you to stay in it. Traditionally, women remained in abusive relationships because they had no recourse. They couldn’t find housing, had no education to get a job that could pay for their needs, had no support from the church or family because, well, you are a horrible, sinful, harlot if you leave your husband.

Today, however…it’s pretty much the same. Women can’t leave their husbands because, in most of conservative Christianity, the guy has all the money. He has the job. He pulls all the monetary strings. The woman has most likely been a stay at home mom for at least the entire life of her oldest child and therefore has no real marketable skills. How do you pay all the bills on minimum wage?

(She did all this, btw, because she was being a good, submissive wife.)

And, of course, and I will harp on this point some time later, the church also has an idolatry of the male species (along with marriage).

Aside from all that, who is going to pick the kids up after school? Childcare ain’t cheap. And what about the kindergartener who gets out in the middle of the day? Yeah, there’s a whole truckload of jobs out there that will let women just leave in the middle of the workday to pick their kid up…every, single, day. And let’s not even think about Summer vacation.

So, unless the woman is a complete jackass like me and simply decides to tell the world where it can go and say, “I’d rather live in a box than with this jerk,” she is stuck.

And it’s kind of a nice stuck. Really. If I stay with my husband I can be revered for “sticking it out” and being a good wife. If I just sit down, shut up, and be “content,” it won’t be that bad, will it?

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