A few more posts on spousal abuse, then I’ll close on the topic.

This is such an unpleasant topic to research in a Christian context, because I had been under the impression that the Church helps women in this type of situation.

However, today — in the 21st century — the pendulum is swinging back perhaps further than in the 19th century. Women, submit!

Here is Baptist minister John Piper in 2009 answering a question on domestic abuse:

He seems to half-smile the whole way through and gives a rather daft response.

Piper, for those who are unaware, is lead pastor of his church in Minneapolis and is the head of  Desiring God Ministries.

Many men and women of a Reformed persuasion rely on him for guidance in leading a Christian life. I’ve quoted him here once or twice. However, he has become clearly identified with complementarianism, which is that women should take second place to their husbands at all times except if the husband would cause the wife to sin (e.g. a three-in-a-bed romp).

So, you can imagine how a godly woman who is being abused by her ‘leader’ and high priest (imam) of the household feels when she hears Piper tell her to keep enduring then go to the church for help. After all, was it only verbal abuse or physical? To Piper, it matters, because it is a trivial issue. He doesn’t advise calling the police, by the way.  Ask permission before using the telephone?

The blog Emotional Abuse And Your Faith discussed Piper’s video (a partial transcript of which is on a Women in Ministry post). Emphases mine below:

When the women of his church that have been abused, and wake up and leave his church? John Piper is seriously going to wonder what happened. That’s the sad part …

Allow John Piper to hear from a child that realizes the church has told their Mommy that she needs to take verbal abuse for a season, and allow herself to be hit by Daddy. THEN the church will be called to help mommy with the aftermath. Ask the child to tell John Piper what effect that had on their life …

Jesus had harsh words for anyone who would cause a child to stumble, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” The Bible tells parents to be gentle and loving with their children (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) …

Please let them know that you have to be SURE what type of abuse you are dealing with so you will know how to respond. Please tell them that one kind of pain from the abuser is better than the other please. They truly need to hear this from your pulpit. How about a children’s sermon huh? Please tell the children the truth!

Readers offered other helpful Scripture passages on pastors and Christian relationships in general:

Matthew 23:10
King James Version –
Neither be ye called masters:
for one is your Master, even Christ.

The Amplified-
you must not be called masters ( leaders )
for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.
Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

Romans 12:1-2, which is written to “brothers,” men are told to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Tasha, a commenter, observes:

I have no problem with gender roles. Myself, I am definitely more on the complementarian side of things.

My problem is that Piper is saying that my temporary role as wife supersedes that as sister in Christ.

If my biological brother were in a pattern that damaged his soul (say… pornography, dishonesty, or pride) it would be my duty to warn him of the weeds Satan had been using to choke his soul.

Danni writes (emphases hers):

One verse should be sufficiently striking in addressing Piper’s advise to women to endure verbal abuse and only after physical abuse should they call the church for help. I Cor. 5:11 says the church is to put a “railer” out of the church and treat him as an unbeliever. A railer is a verbal abuser — not a physical abuser.

But the Word says far more. It says that a man who doesn’t provide for his family (and that provision, based on the whole teaching of the Word about a husband’s responsibilities, includes more than money) he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Does the Word mean what it says?

An abuser is an unbeliever (regardless of a “profession of faith” and all the right “deeds” – this is the Word’s judgment, not mine) and this puts a wife into the position of being married to an unbeliever (I Cor. 7) — to whom she is not bound if he is not “pleased” to dwell with her. An abuser is not pleased to dwell with his victim. His is displeased with everything — even if he refuses to remove himself from the house.

To which a complementarian — male, most probably — responds:

Physical abuse is horrible when committed by a man to his wife, but that same women (along with all other men and women) committed the unspeakable physical abuse in the torture and slaying of the Son of God. Swallow your pride and get some perspective! We should be praying for the abusive husband, excercising church discipline, and pleading that God would restore him – not getting angry, fighting back, or blogging about which of our rights were violated.

See, women are such whingers — it’s all about ‘rights’, isn’t it?

Swallow your pride and get some perspective!

Okay, I’ll up the ante with a few online stories on Minister Jacky’s blog — a Charismatic minister in Oxford (UK) who is offering advice to and an outlet for abused wives. Here is part of one American woman’s story:

I totally agree that I should not have to submit to him when he is leading me against the will of God (about going to church, etc.); however, in my case I must be willing to suffer very unpleasant consequences when I go against him. The church I am currently allowed to attend, with him, is 45 minutes from our home. In our six years of absence from our former church, which is less than 10 minutes from our home, we have attended four different churches. We attended this one for a period of about 2 years, left, attended two other churches, then went back to it. I have not been permitted to make any friends at the church. Since my husband has sort of started his own church, he now does not feel obligated to attend church elsewhere

There is absolutely no way I could see a psychiatrist or psychologist without my husband at least knowing about it. He often tracks my mileage on the car and questions me about exactly what I’m doing. Yes, there are confidentiality laws that protect psychiatric patients in the U.S., but good lawyers have ways of getting around that. He could dig for information if he really wanted to. And believe me, he always finds a way to twist the facts around in his favor. We do not have the finances for professional counseling, and my insurance does not cover it. As for the psychiatrist, I am not sure how to go about finding one that will meet my needs.

I have a good Christian friend/neighbor who is like a mother to me. She lives up the street and we just had a conversation about that very thing, after my last melt-down. She let me know that I could always go up there to get away for a bit, if I need to!

Piper and his fellow complementarians would say that this woman was overstating and complaining. Be happy in the Lord, sister! Take your stripes — verbal or physical! You, too, crucified Christ!

Here’s part of another story from Minister Jacky’s site:

The hard part can be that he is a tyrant vicitm, meaning he goes on these anger tyrades where I am left cowering and silent and then the next day is saying what a terrible person he is and how he is so messed up. This sounds like he is coming close to repentance but really I think it just pushes him to be more angry. I have heard the same thing for four years. I used to try and tell him what a good person he was, how I believed in him and what God had for him. That was part of the cycle too so I stopped saying anything.

He is going through weekly counseling with a pastor right now – not for the abuse but for his own heart healing. This is great but nothing has changed for me at home. I feel so weary. At church I am counseled to fight for our marriage, to go through our house and declare God’s authority. It is very hard for me when I feel all I really want to do is crawl into a ball in the lap of God. I have been fighting since we have been married. I do 80% of the household duties while he sits and watches TV. Any request for help is met with another tyrade. Why is it also my responsibility to save our marriage? This cannot be dependent upon me. I really feel the need to rest. Deep down I love my husband but much of that has been buried by all of the hurt and pain. He can be very sensitive and very sweet but those times are overshadowed by the anger and then he can’t understand why it is hard for me to respond to him physically. I feel used. “Take up your spiritual armor” I just can’t right now.

Minister Jacky has a good response to Piper’s video:

I often get emails from women as a result of my own ministry. Usually the women have been given the sort of advice John Piper gives. Unfortunately, things tend to go from bad to worse and abusers are excellent at convincing Pastors and the like that they are no longer abusing while continuing to abuse.

I do not doubt John Piper’s love for Jesus. I have no doubt he wanted to help and gave the best advice he could. However, it just does not work.

If an abused wife said anything like John Piper suggests to an abusive husband it would actually be likely to increase abuse. This is a problem many who seek counselling for abuse come accross – they are told to do things that seem absolutely fine but are not wise in the context of the relationship. There are seemingly normal things you can say to an abusive person which make them worse

At least John Piper goes further than those misguided churches that suggest a woman continues to submit to a violent man ‘because it is scriptural – it happens

One Reformed pastor who does understand the issue is the Revd Jeff Crippen who co-blogs with Anna Wood at A Cry for Justice.

On Mr Crippen:

Jeff Crippen is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon and has been a pastor since 1983.  For the past three years, Jeff has studied the subject of domestic violence and abuse.  He began this study after he and his church suffered through an incident of sexual abuse by a member of their church … 

On Mrs Wood:

Anna Wood is a survivor of many years of domestic abuse and has been active in blogging about the topic in an effort to help other victims. Beyond that, first and foremost, she is a bond-servant to Christ. She is also a lifelong resident of the South, a Reformed Baptist homeschooling Mom of many who enjoys study, reading for pleasure, playing games with her children, cooking, homemaking and her crazy cats and dog. She sets aside as much time as possible for writing.

On both of them and their blog (in my blogroll, as is Anna’s):

We are not “liberal” Christians.  We hold to the solas of the Reformation.  We believe absolutely in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture.  We insist, along with God’s Word, that a person must be born again through faith and repentance in Christ if they are to be justified before God.  We say all of this because we have just established this blog, and already we have been hammered by a couple of fellows who seem to think that anyone calling attention to domestic violence and abuse has to be part of some kind of radical, Christ-hating, liberal, feminism that is conspiring against men.  Frankly, the tone of such attacks is identical to that used by abusers we have known!  We suggest such people work on their disguises a bit!  Their true self is showing!

Crippen’s take on Piper’s video is here:

we could go on for a long while  listing well-known authors, pastors,and  theologians who refuse to acknowledge abuse as biblical grounds for divorce.  The thing is epidemic in our churches, especially our conservative, Bible-believing churches.

What are we doing?  Why have we exalted men such as this to such a level of prominence that whatever they say, it seems, is God’s Word?  Are they prophets?  No.  Why are we acting as if they are?  Their books sell by the thousands.  As in the above youtube clip, here are these men who sit in front of large audiences, being asked questions about what God says.  Why?  Should we not embrace the Apostle Paul’s attitude

Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

And in another post, he asks us to uncover the Church’s resistance to help abused women.  Yes, unfortunately, John MacArthur is among those named. I think that, as wonderful as he is at explaining Scripture, MacArthur — like so many of these men — lives in a rarified atmosphere.

Crippen writes:

I am not a politician – I am a pastor.  A controlling, power-seeking man once told me years ago that if I did not become a better politician, I would never make it as a pastor.  I blew him off.  And I still do.  He was right in a sense.  Our church has grown small.  A politician would have kept them happy and the crowd would have stayed. But that is not the Christian pastor’s calling.  In fact, one reason abuse victims are receiving so much injustice in our churches is because leaders are playing the politics game

I believe that our primary mission right now, in light of the horrible ignorance of abuse in our own conservative churches and in light of the terrible injustices regularly being meted out to victims who seek help from their pastors, that our mission is to address this very problem.  I am not sure how yet.  Writing books and blogs and networking is certainly a pretty good start.  We need to sound the alarm, loud and clear, about what is going on.  We need to expose and oppose and correct the nonsense that the “big” leaders, like MacArthur, Piper, and Sproul (these are just 3 of many examples) have been feeding our churches for a long, long time – largely unopposed.  We need to issue a cry for justice and expose to as many Christians as we can just how wickedly abuse victims are being treated.  And how the evil abusers are being enabled and protected.  You know the story.  For many of you, it is your own story.

Now, here is the issue I that bring up to you with fear and trembling.  I do not think it is wise for us to allow ourselves to get all caught up in the complementarian / egalitarian debate, at least in regard to this specific mission.  Anyone who really “gets it” in regard to abuse and especially if they are truly Christians, has a burning desire for justice and for the correction of this evil, be they complementarian or egalitarian in their views of the headship/submission doctrine of Scripture.  I have my views in regard to this particular debate – most of you probably can guess what my position is.  (By the way, whichever side you might imagine I am on, I can tell you that I fully agree that the truly biblical concept of headship/submission has not very often been taught to us or by us).

And here:

… The fact is, most Christians do not know nor understand the mentality and nature of abuse.  They are oblivious to the nature of the sociopath and psychopath.  Which is to say, they have not really met evil.  Abuse victims have.  And that is why Christians who have been on the receiving end of the evil of abuse go ballistic when they hear leading evangelical pastors and teachers announcing that abuse is no reason for divorce.  No one is untouchable in Christ’s church.  Not MacArthur, not Sproul, not Piper.  If we have misrepresented them by saying that they teach that a woman beaten by her husband has no biblical grounds for divorcing him, then please send the quotations to us in a reply on this blog.  But don’t use the argument – “why, how dare you criticize these men of God”…

Wayne Grudem, a famous Baptist theologian, is also in this camp. Crippen says:

So, what would Grudem tell a woman who came to him with black eyes and a split lip?  I am granting that he would surely pick up the phone right there and then and call the police and see that the brute was thrown in jail.  Piper would, Sproul would, MacArthur would – I have to believe that.  But then what?  Would they tell her that she has the right to divorce?  From everything I am reading from these men, the answer is “no.”  They would tell her she can separate, but only for a time and during that separation she needs to keep working toward reconciliation.

Wayne Grudem is not my enemy.  He is a brother in Christ.  I am not setting out in naming names in these blog posts to simply attack these men because it makes me look and feel like the self-righteous big-shot.  I am simply sounding out A Cry for Justice – and I am saying that such men’s teaching in the church that, in God’s name, forbids beaten, terrorized victims to divorce their abuser (who has already destroyed the marriage covenant) is wrong.  It is injustice.  It is cruel.  And God is not pleased with us for teaching it.

Grudem has an ESV Study Bible. Crippen has this take on it:

The people who put the ESV study Bible together believe that a man can beat the living &^%$(* out of his wife and she CANNOT divorce him.  He can terrorize her (oh, and note that he gets a free pass the first time he punches her lights out – it has to be “repeated” instances of physical abuse), but she can’t divorce him.  She can separate, but always with the notion of reconciliation in mind.

Crippen and Wood are authors of a forthcoming book, A Cry for Justice: Recognizing Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Abuse in the Church and Rendering Justice and Help to Their Victims. More news when it is published.

Anna, a godly woman and the furthest from a feminist that you can imagine, has added her own insights. ‘Comforting the Abused’ is a perfect response to complementarians, and pastors should read it. Here is a brief excerpt:

Abuse isn’t anger issues, isn’t caused by lack of submission on the wife’s part and isn’t a momentary issue. A man isn’t abusive because he isn’t getting enough in the bedroom or because he is intimidated by his wife. Abuse is a long-standing pattern of treatment designed to break and control another person.

A man is abusive because he desires ungodly control over his wife. The sin of abuse lies in the abuser’s court.

And in ‘Silence Heard In Hell’, she writes:

There is a desperate need in the church today for godly men and women to be willing to openly address this issue. To educate themselves on domestic abuse. To be willing to call out the abusers. To minister to the abused. Believe the abused. Most Christians aren’t. Even most Christians in Reformed circles aren’t. By failing to speak out in behalf of the abused, by pretending this isn’t an important issue (or that we are somehow infringing on other’s rights by addressing it), we are speaking very loudly about it. Very loudly, indeed, and our silence is heard in hell …

The obligation to speak truth lies with each one of us. We’ve been silent far too long. We must teach about abuse and minister to the abused because the abused are important to God. This isn’t an easy issue to address; if you take a stand on it some folks won’t like you. Some already don’t like us for taking such a stand but that’s okay; it’s God Whom we seeking to honor, not a person. We’re walking into the fray and we invite you to go with us. We might get singed but since many of Jesus’ followers have been burned at the stake, that’s a small price to pay. I pray that many others feel the same.

It’s a cry and request to all our fellow Christian bloggers to please support our abused sisters in Christ and to help shine a light on nonchalance in this area.  If you don’t, please don’t be surprised when you find increased numbers of atheists and a greater belief that secular government is the only remedy to domestic abuse.