First, a little housekeeping. I accidentally posted a journal I wrote yesterday morning. A reminder to not do anything before coffee. Anyway, it was pretty depressing, which was how I felt yesterday morning. It happens, so, I’m going to leave it.
OK, now onto the real business at hand…:)
Welcome to October. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month so I will be posting on this topic a few things I’ve been meaning to but haven’t got around to yet. At the end of each of my posts I will link to another blog entry or website that addresses the subject of DV.
The first subject I’d like to tackle is the subject of one of the least prepared groups of people who really ought to be more prepared, Pastors. I shouldn’t be, after all I’ve seen, but I still find myself caught off guard when I am confronted with or hear a story about pastors who obviously have no idea what they are dealing with. Most of my experience is with conservative pastors, so that will be my focus.
My first personal experience with this problem was in high school. The pastor of the church I attended told me in no uncertain terms that a woman could not divorce her husband no matter how much he abused her. I played devil’s advocate pretty severely…”What if he beats her so bad she ends up in the hospital?” “Nope.” “What if he shoots her?” “Nope.” Finally, I asked him why, and he told me the Bible said that divorce is a worse sin than abuse.
At that point I wrote off the church and walked away. Why be a part of something that thought that was OK?
In college, I found myself in an extremely horrifying situation, full of the usual abuse I was used to from my father. I turned to the church because my experiences hadn’t been all bad there. I ended up back in an abusive relationship with my mother so I went to the college pastor and shared a lot of the things my parents did that were obviously abusive. I asked him “The Bible says, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ but what if they aren’t doing anything honorable?” His answer, from years of seminary training was, “I don’t know, that’s a good question.” He mustn’t have thought it that good a question because he never got back to me on it. It’s been 30 years and I have to wonder if that’s still his answer.
In the conservative church I was taught the conservative view of abuse. Only poor men who are alcoholics and drug addicts abuse their wives and children. Sometimes when a man is depressed from being unemployed he takes it out on his wife in the form of abuse, but he can’t help it. He’s only acting that way because he’s going through a mid-life crisis. If the wife was more godly and prayed more, her husband would stop abusing her and become a godly person.
I think you get the picture.
The church is entirely unprepared to deal with domestic violence, which makes absolutely no sense to me. One, the statistics are that 1 in 4 women is abused by her partner. Unfortunately, the church likes to think itself insulated from that. Whether it’s because they have “right theology” or because they “preach only the Bible,” churches have their unfounded reasons for believing that there is no abuse in their midst. That’s the sort of thing that happens in other places, not in our white, middle class, suburban cathedrals.
The other reason I find their lack of preparedness confusing is because, with one exception, all the single parents in my Sunday school class (that I have spoken with) are from abusive relationships. And most of these people attended church while being abused. And we are not alone. Every Christian woman I have spoken with online who has divorced their husband did so because he was an abuser. And almost everyone of them attended church with their spouse while they were married. This information alone should at least make pastors realize there is a huge problem.
Instead, most churches have adopted this weird belief, that comes from secular psychology…from the 60s no less…that people always get divorced because the two people involved didn’t want to work hard to save the marriage. The old “they fell out of love” baloney that we tell our kids so they don’t learn the ugly truth about their other parent.
The fact is, in my Sunday school class alone, I am one of the few parents that has to deal with visitation. Most of the ex’s have simply walked away from their family. And yet, the remaining spouse, who brings their children to church and tries to raise them right, is forever held suspect, the comments of “It takes two to destroy a marriage” and “Did you pray about this?” and “You know, I think if you trusted God more…” make getting to the church an overwhelming experience some times. I’m nearly convinced that those of us who do have more chutzpah than we give ourselves credit for.
The church needs to drag itself out of the dark ages, open its eyes to the real problems in its midst, and develop a cognizant plan. The world is offering a lot of help, the church, sadly, is more often turning a blind eye.
This is a great post from Grice-Fully His that further illustrates the need for more understanding of how serious an issue this is.