There are a lot of things I don’t like, but one of the biggest is a problem without a solution (close behind that is someone who complains about a problem but doesn’t want a solution…but I digress…again). It was asked after my post on Tuesday, what the church should do to change things. This is actually something I give a lot of thought to since the majority of the abuse I experienced in my life was at the hands of people who claimed to be Christians and who attended church.
I think, first and foremost, the sin of silence must end. And by this, I mean the pastors. Pastors must step up and preach not just a digressing comment (as much as I enjoy a good digression) during a sermon on marriage. They need to preach entire series on it.Look, I love my pastor, he is an amazing man, but I hear a lot of admonitions to make your marriage work, that Christ WILL save your marriage, nothing ever on what abuse is and how marriage is no excuse for it and that if your spouse is abusing you that you have every right to get out.
Oddly, the only place I’ve ever found to do a series like this was at a Reformed church in Oregon. I’m still trying to process that. I have never attended a more abusive church than the three Reformed and Presbyterian churches I attended. The pastors and elders were appalling in their contempt for those suffering under abuse. Probably has a lot to do with their embracing and promotion of nouthetic counseling. (And, no, I won’t digress into an explanation. I might lose my dinner. You’re free to google it. :))
(Pastor Jeff Crippin is the pastor who preached the series. His site: A Cry for Justice is, as far as I know, the only Reformed anti-abuse site/blog. And by “anti” I mean he has a zero tolerance policy, not this nimby-pamby, you have to sit together in church and take communion together crud I watched at all the Reformed churches I attended.)
The second thing goes hand in hand with the first. Pastors need to stop lying to parishioners. Look, I’m a positive person, but even I know that it’s impossible for God to save all the marriages. Coming to Christ is not, ever, going to save your marriage, if your spouse doesn’t want it saved. Stop lying to people, stop telling us that if we just would follow Christ our lives would be better. Yes, most pastors will give some little caveat about how life can get more difficult, but the overarching message is that the Christian life is akin to playing a country music song backwards.
(For those who haven’t heard my favorite joke: What do you get when you play country music backwards? You get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your wife back. If you’re too young to have heard of backwards music, ask an older friend…or google it. ;))
The third, likewise, goes with the previous. We must STOP pretending that abuse is rare in the church. We must STOP thinking it’s something that happens to people outside the church. I am of the opinion that abuse in the church, particularly in conservative churches, is higher than the national average. From speaking to hundreds of abused women since coming out about the abuse in my marriage last year, I have found that the incident of abuse in the church is alarmingly high.More alarming is the church’s attempt to cover it up.
It’s time to come clean, it’s time to let women know that they do not have to be silent, that the church WILL as Christ would, support them and their children. Don’t push them into a corner and ask them to be silent. Don’t offer them platitudes. And, above all else, stop forcing them to sit through sermons on how easy it is to save a marriage.
What I’d absolutely love to hear is a testimony from someone whose marriage was not saved after they came to Christ. I’d love to hear about a woman who stood up to her abuser once she realized the great sin abuse is, and put him out and walked away from the marriage to save herself and her children’s soulds. What other abused people would love to hear is that a pastor stood up to an abuser and said, “Look, I care about your eternal fate, but maybe you should get some serious counseling before you consider attending church. Until you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are serious about changing, you are not welcome here.”
Yeah, that last one is never happening. But, I have no hope the others will happen either. We simply do not want to admit that there are people within our congregations living in a hell on earth. We want to pretend that Jesus makes everything good. We want free will, but we don’t want that much free will. We don’t want to admit that the people we pray for can reject Christ. We don’t want to admit that a man can choose to beat his wife, to treat her with contempt. Maybe we’re not all as evil as Paige Patterson (scroll to bottom to read how he thinks a wife allowing herself to be beaten by her husband is a great form of evangelism), but by our silence on the issue, by the way we sweep abused women, children, and men under the rug, we are certainly no better.