I think one of the reasons it is so difficult to create a church that is safe for the truly hurt, the victims of crime, of abuse, etc, is that we have this strange idea that our religion is a formula that, if followed correctly, will radically change the followers’ lives.
We like to tell people that the reason they are miserable is because they are not doing things God’s way. We like to convince people that if they would only follow this set of instructions, eg. tithe at least 10%, pray the right way, believe the right theology, that everything will fall into place and they will see God’s hand work in their lives.
So when a victim comes into our churches she hears that if she just loves her husband more, is more submissive, is more this, more that, whatever the pastor is saying this week that she must be neglectful in, well, her marriage will be saved. And god does she want her marriage saved because in the very next sermon she’ll hear just how much God will hate her if she tries to get a divorce. She’ll also hear that her children will reject the faith and burn in hell, which they will arrive at via a life sentence in prison…all because she filed for divorce. Who cares that her husband is abusing her. If she’d just (insert whatever your church teaches) then her marriage would be saved, her husband would turn away from his porn addiction/alcohol abuse/etc and his heart would return to his family.
It’s all her fault. It’s all the victim’s fault. If she was more loving and more godly, then her husband would respond in faith.
Let’s just call this what it is…utter bullshit…and a terrible lie.
Her husband will never love her or their children because an abuser is incapable of any form of love except self-love.
For years I have not attended church on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I tire of the garbage spewed forth about how all mothers love their children and how dads are so essential to a child’s life. It’s a load of tripe. But victims of child abuse are force fed these lies to the point that they end up feeling guilty for not wanting to be around their parents. If only they would be a better witness to them. Jesus said “turn the other cheek after all” so submit yourself to more abuse so you can save your abusive parents. Lose yourself, everything you ever should have been, so your abusive parents will spend eternity in heaven.
This sounds like an over-simplification because I’ve gone straight to the point. I’ve boiled down every sermon I’ve heard and every book I’ve read on marriage and family into the most crass definitions and ideas possible. And these were the nice sermons and books. If I drag Dobson and Chapman, et al, into this, it will get positively nauseating…and I won’t even have to summarize their position on these matters. They’re blatant abuse apologists. (In case you care, Gary Chapman believes that if a man rapes his daughters, his marriage to his wife should still remain intact.)
The truth of the matter is this, your religion can change someone IF, and only IF, I mean this is the biggest IF there ever was in the history of all time, IF that person actually wants to change. You can pray for your abusive husband even while he beats you to death, it ain’t gonna change him. You can pray for your abusive parents even as they destroy your soul and it isn’t going to do a dang thing.
The church needs to stop preaching lies about how to have a good marriage and start educating itself on the fact that there are some seriously f’d up people in the world who take sick pleasure in the destruction of another persons soul.
But we don’t want to. We want to believe that Jesus will save everyone, all we gotta do is have faith and God will take care of everything.
As a side note, this is what I picture God doing when people say, “Don’t worry, God will take care of it.”
But I’ll write more about how it is WE who are Christ’s hands and feet, among other reasons I disbelieve the idea that sitting around waiting for God to work a miracle in the lives of those who are a threat to us is about the stupidest un-biblical idea ever.
When we preach this idea that doing (insert your religious dogma) will change a person, then we in turn deny victims the ability to be released from the bondage of an abusive relationship. Twisting Scripture to do so, we create a place where victims are re-victimized.
We must begin by admitting the truth, there are evil people we should stay away from. Pastors must begin to educate themselves about abuse from non-religious sources, because religious people, in all my extensive reading on the subject of abuse are the biggest idiots ever. We need to empower victims by assuring them that God hates the fact that they suffered and we must assure them that it is not God’s desire that they suffer at the hands of evil people.
Unfortunately, that is not how we teach religion. Instead we have all these cutesy little sayings like “God wants you in this difficult place for a reason” then we call up to the stage some woman who claims that because of her love and piety, her husband stopped beating her and her kids. And we all are just so tickled pink that this happened that we completely blow off the 20 plus years she had to hide her bruises at church while her husband took his place of prominence. It’s sick, disgusting, and folks, God does not like it.
I’m reading a book by Jimmy Carter right now that discusses women’s rights. He has a chapter in which he writes down some of his observations as he’s traveled the world and spoken with leaders from different countries with radically different customs. I share the following with you because most of my readers are Christian and they will be appalled and offended at what these women and men think is OK.
He was in a middle eastern Muslim country. He went to visit the ruler, his wife was carted off to a separate location to visit the women. During his visit the ruler explained how well it worked to have four wives. Carter’s wife reported that the women she visited with didn’t seem as oppressed as she had thought they would all things considered.
The point of me sharing this story is that we approve of what we are taught to believe is right. In the country Carter visited, a man having four wives was normal. A woman not being able to walk out on the street without a male relative was normal.
In the Christian church we are taught that receiving abuse is OK. It’s on us to react correctly to it by being loving and submitting to our abuser. We see nothing wrong with preaching that tells women there are things they can do to save their marriage but they must remain married, even if the guy is destroying her. We have been taught that God hates divorce more than any other sin…well, until lately, now he hates homosexuality more…which makes me wonder if it would have been more acceptable for me to divorce if my ex was gay instead of just a porn-addicted perv? But I digress…
Look, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of fine, loving people who are religious. I’m not saying that religion doesn’t work for anyone. I’m saying that when it doesn’t work for a person, and we accuse them of not doing it right, we have just re-victimized them. And that’s gotta stop. Let’s be honest, not only does it not work for some, we are very likely wrong in a lot of our assumptions about it working for us. We need to consider whether or not our religion works for us simply because we are getting everything the pastor promised because we live in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, one that hasn’t seen war in over a century. And then we need to consider whether or not it’s really even Scriptural in the first place. Because it just seems odd that if Jesus is supposed to set us free from bondage, that God would want us to remain in bondage to evil people.