I’m continuing to pray as I write this post. I don’t want to come off as a know-it-all or angry. However, the apathy in the Church and lack of knowledge must be addressed. Now, I’m a little biased, but this issue needs to be, radically, addressed in the Church, instead of passively. I mean, Jesus did flip those tables in the temple that one time out of righteous anger; sometimes I try to reflect his image that way.
I tend to identify myself in two ways: Christian and Feminist. No doubt will I proudly proclaim the former before the latter, but until our society (and the Church) gets to a place where I can call myself a Christian and being a feminist is automatically implied, I feel the need to identify as both.
This post is about the Church’s apathy towards social justice issues, primarily domestic and sexual violence (beyond the cases of sex trafficking…it’s almost becoming a fad in the Christian community). It’s about a lack of real community and, what I believe is to be a failure on the Church’s end to be thoroughly educated about the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence while preaching a sound Gospel message. It’s about the Church’s perpetuation of domestic violence and misuse of biblical principles (i.e. submission) when working with victims of this crime (or teaching about marriage in general). These failures are not a reflection of all churches, however, the lack of either, sound knowledge of the Gospel or interpersonal violence…or both, is far too common – I mean really, pick 3 random Christians in America and ask them what the Gospel message is…my sentiments exactly! Most of us don’t know why we’re saved and then we try to speak up about social injustice. Others may know why we’re saved but remain passive, apathetic and silent about injustice. And then there’s the ‘other’ category, one I’m praying the Church can get to, where a solid understanding of the Gospel can permeate through all social justice issues of our day.
This post, by debunking a few myths about domestic and sexual violence, is an urge to get the Church to understand basic dynamics of domestic and sexual abuse through the lens of the Gospel, so that we may better love, not just those victimized by these crimes outside of the church, but the many victims within the Body who are kept silent by the Church’s failure to biblically love well, and be a voice of justice, advocate and knowledgeable resource to victims.
*note: Yes, all of these myths (among others) have been said/asked to me by fellow Saints, some who are close friends. Names are not used to protect the formerly ignorant.*
Myth: “Why do women stay in those situations?”
For starters, “Why do some men abuse their partners?” would be a better question.
Second, some survivors got tired of hearing that question, but provided a few answers. I suggest you check out #WhyIStayed on Twitter.
Last, I have 3 issues with this statement:
1. …And go where? What if the shelter is overcrowded? What if she has children and doesn’t want to bring them in a shelter environment? Why does she have to leave; why can’t he leave? What if she lives in a rural area where everyone in the town knows where the shelter is? Shelters are only temporary living situations; what if she’s never had a job or doesn’t have a degree (research financial abuse) and is unable to find economic stability on her own?
2. The chances of the violence escalating and becoming fatal increases significantly when a victim tries to leave their abuser. The most dangerous time for a victim is when they’re trying to flee. [Bachman, R. and Salzman, L., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Violence Against Women: Estimates From the Redesigned Survey 1. (January 2000)]
3. Most churches are going to ridicule a woman who wants to leave or, shall I say the ‘D’ word, divorce her husband (even for abuse), so I’m not even sure why so many Christians advocate that a woman leave (and risk losing her or her children’s life/lives!), but won’t advocate that she leave the relationship permanently. Furthermore, the Church quickly focuses on victim safety, but not offender accountability. Building more shelters in not going to end domestic violence! Accountability (and church discipline) needs to take place, and that accountability is not found in marriage counseling. When talking about domestic violence, we are dealing with power & control. This goes far beyond some little communication issue. The last thing you want to suggest is sitting an abuser down with their spouse, and being under the impression that the spouse has the freedom to openly speak out about the abuse without repercussions when they get home.
Myth: “I just don’t understand how women get themselves in situations like that.”
Simply put, if someone punched you in your face on the first date, there’s probably a 0% chance that there would be a second date. Or if someone proposed to you and said “I think I’m better than you, I won’t allow you to work, you can’t talk to your friends and family, and I would like to gain power & control over you, make your life miserable, all while making everyone else we come into contact with think that I’m ‘such a great guy’ until death do us part…will you marry me?” You’d say hell-to-the-naw bro!!!
Unfortunately, people aren’t that straightforward and abuse happens, progressively and subtlely over time. Many red flags, such as constantly calling/texting/wanting to hang out, can be seen as acceptable behaviors in our society. It’s far more complex. Google “Power and Control Wheel”. Study it.
Myth: “Domestic violence [among other social injustices] is just another sin that’s a result of The Fall. Jesus will be back soon.” *drops mic, walks away from hurting people*
This, Saints, is called apathy. *Inserts sermon about the Good Samaritan. Also drops the mic and prays for the Saints who still don’t get it*
Myth: “When women are dressing provocatively and going out to get drunk, what exactly are they really expecting?” (in regards to sexual assault…and micro-aggressions that perpetuate sexual assault such as cat calling, lust, ‘the talk’ about modesty)
This is usually followed by: Get mase, take a self-defense course, don’t walk alone, don’t hang out at bars, etc.
Domestic and sexual violence are the only crimes where, even if a victim has taken the “necessary precaution”, they still get blamed. No one says to someone who gets robbed, “You shouldn’t have had expensive things” or “You should’ve gotten a security system” or “Why did you leave your house unattended during work hours”.
Dressing provocatively does not cause rape. People who think it’s okay to rape cause rape. Much like leaving your door unlocked doesn’t cause a robbery. People who think it’s okay to steal cause robbery. Rape, robbery, assault, or whatever the crime may be, are illegal – not just by law, but even in the Bible. As believers, we are also given a mandate not to do such things. All people must be held responsible for their own behaviors and their blatant choice to sin – even under grace, each of us will have to give an account before God one day. Abuse is a choice. Sin is a choice. And we can choose righteousness.
Let’s put it in a biblical perspective: Once upon a time, there was a man named Adam, who thought that he could get a pass by telling the Creator of the universe that the woman whom was given to him as his wife (Eve) told him to eat of a certain fruit, coincidentally causing him to disobey a command from God and sin. God, the Creator, looked at Adam and said “Nah bruh bruh” (Genesis 3:17, Ebonics Translation). Adam was given a command from God that he was to pass along to his wife. Adam failed to take responsibility for his own actions (this also ties into a post I wrote about modesty. Check it out) and instead chose to place it solely on Eve. Now Eve wasn’t completely off the hook, however, Adam was given the command. Adam was the leader, and instead of loving and leading his wife in holiness, he chose to sin and then try to place all the blame on her.
Fast forward many, many years later to a man named Jesus. Jesus was chilling in the desert and, after fasting for 40 days & 40 nights, became hungry. The same deceiver from Genesis 3 challenged Jesus to turn a few stones into bread, because although he was fully man, he was still fully God. Did he give in to the temptation so he could eat? No. Why? Because he had a command, he was on a mission, and he was all about pleasing the Father. Jesus chose righteousness despite what lied before him.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:2)
It doesn’t matter how hungry you are or who’s dangling what in front of you. God’s Word is very clear about pursuing righteousness and fleeing sin (James 1:13-18, Matthew 6:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Peter 4:12, James 4:7).
What is sin in light of this topic? Rape, which is sexual immorality. Cat calling, which is a adultery. Relationship violence, which is in opposition to the mandate husbands have been given in Ephesians 5:25-33 (I believe could be read along with Philippians 2 and St. John’s telling of Jesus’ life and ministry in case one doesn’t understand the phrase ‘as Christ loved the Church’).
Relationship and sexual violence, primarily against women, are a result of sexism. Our society (today and of years before) has always devalued women. Again, even Jesus combated that societal norm. Let us look at “The Well“. Now, I could use this story to also highlight racial reconciliation through the Gospel, but I’ll stay on one injustice for now. Women, far more than today, did not hold much value during this time. Just the fact that Jesus is taking time to even talk to this woman is mind boggling! And this wasn’t the last time Jesus would break societal norms when dealing with women. Compassion, justice, reconciliation and love is what we see from the ministry of Jesus. I think that’s the cue each of us should be taking when dealing with victims of injustices.
I don’t believe we (the Church) are truly understanding who Christ is and what the Gospel means for us, when we chose apathy towards the hurts of other. We are not imitating the life of Christ when we expect justice to come from works and performance instead of grace, and choose to justify evil.
My post wasn’t meant to throw the Church under the bus, but we have some serious work to do. This post is to encourage and challenge us to be the Church we say we are striving to be. The Church needs to be honest about when we fail at that…which is quite often. I wrote this post to challenge the Church to live out REAL community with some serious accountability (we don’t have to overthink it, y’all!). To encourage and challenge believers to have Gospel-centered friendships, especially between men and women. This starts with a biblically sound view of masculinity and femininity. It starts with a biblically sound view of submission. It starts with not teaching our men that their sisters (and those pesky yoga pants) are to blame each time they fall into sexual sin (Because again, Matthew 5:28, Job 31:1, 1 Corinthians 6:18). It starts with teaching our men to take after the second Adam, that is Jesus, and flee from all temptation no matter what you think may be justifiable. It starts with teaching our men to lead and love sacrificially like Christ!
No one is going to get it done perfectly (clearly, at times I still feel like justifiably turning over tables like Jesus). I think only by being rooted in the Gospel and understanding the dynamics of domestic violence will the Church truly be able to begin dealing with matters of domestic and sexual abuse biblically.
Without the Gospel we will not see healthy relationships and respect for all genders. The Church, through a biblical lens of the Gospel, should be on the forefront of this issue. Not just on the reactive side (shelters and counseling), but in education and intervention – first ourselves, then others. I doubt we’ll see the end of this epidemic in my lifetime, but as the Church, we should know that without the Gospel, we have no hope.
Until next time….
LC….(Still the Christian feminist)