Everywhere we turn we see allegations that abuse is epidemic. The church is no exception. There was an anecdote that made its way around the various Christian forums I used to populate that I’ve no doubt was true, but it was used, as these events universally are, to score wider points for evangelical feminists. Forgive me if I get the details wrong, but that incident I believe involved a man in the music ministry of a very large and famous mega church in Southern California. The man was physically abusing his wife, who when she approached church leadership, allegedly circled the wagons around the man and demanded she simply submit more. I seem to recall that drama even ending with legal incident. I hasten to add I am sharing sketchy memories of recounted second, third and fourth hand accounts of an alleged event. My point is not to cast doubt on its veracity though. My actual point will be clear later.
I cam across a predictable article, called The Silent Epidemic, in the Kyria newsletter, which I think is affiliated with Christianity Today. The article recounts another story of a woman abused and how the church responded to her cries for help with advice that she just submit more.
Her husband’s comments were so routine that for 20 years, Brenda Branson didn’t realize she was a victim of verbal and emotional abuse.
“You breathe too loud,” her husband would tell her. “Your smile is silly. You look terrible. Don’t you have anything better to wear?”
It wasn’t until Brenda realized his comments weren’t true that she approached him. And that’s when he picked up a chair and hit her with it. Brenda knew she had to do something, so she went to her pastor. Unfortunately he wasn’t equipped to handle domestic abuse; his suggestions about submitting to her husband only made her home life more difficult. “Our church didn’t know what to do with us,” Brenda says. “They just wanted the problem to go away.”
I also have no reason to doubt the story as told, that is not the point.
The point comes as a result of the interview that follows the story, where a retired police officer, Don Stewart, speaks to the issue of DV in Christian homes.Further, the woman from the original story has formed a ministry called Focus Ministries, and while any effort to help anyone who is a victim of violence is laudable, both the retired policeman and the woman from the story draw from oft reported data that is 100% untrue, and they make the mistake of pronouns so common in DV dissertations, choosing the masculine for perpetrator and the feminine for victim as base assumptions, and fail to qualify by highlighting that while the recognize that DV is an equal opportunity problem they CHOSE to offer help to women.
Mr Stewart wrecks his credibility with the following statements:
According to Detective Sgt. Don Stewart, a retired police officer who handled domestic violence cases for 25 years, one out of every four Christian couples experiences at least one episode of physical abuse within their marriage. In fact, battering is the single largest cause of injury to women—more than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.[my emphasis]
When you run across a string of statistics based claims, and you find one of them to be so badly incorrect you must ask yourself about the soundness of all that persons assertions. See the following chart regarding what I put in bold.
Note that Domestic Violence does not even appear on the chart…..at all, while he claims it should be the biggest bar on the graph. This oft repeated nonsense about DV being the single largest cause of injury has been traced back to an off hand comment in an interview. It was never tested or measured, just repeated. I have to therefore question the claim that one in four Christian household experience an episode of physical abuse, and I suspect the problem there lies in the nature of the question used to get that figure, if there ever even was a survey taken. Gut honestly I guess most marriages could point to one person shoving past the other, shrugging off a hug, even a slap to the face during some heated youthful argument, perhaps that gets you to one in four. Depending on how physical abuse is defined its likely they could even get a higher number than 1 in 4. But that would strain the common sense of even the most ardent sympathizers.
The list of another misleading statistic that can especially be misused in the church environment.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 2,000 women are murdered every year by an intimate partner.
The problem isn’t the statistic, the problem is the context that those prone to propaganda will swallow with their cool-aide. INTIMATE PARTNER indeed, drilling into this statistic reveals something that would work counter to the evangelical preference for easy divorce. The risk of all forms of violence including murder is much higher with unmarried women and their intimate partners, and according to the Dept. of Justice (you’d think Don as a police officer would know this) fewer than 5% of domestic violence incidents involve couples in intact marriages, meaning they are not physically separated. This states something that would really mess up the game…..the safest place for a woman to be, statistically, is in an intact marriage. Now how often have you ever heard DV used as a reason to STAY married?
Brenda goes on to reveal where she is coming from as she describes the most up-defined term in the DV marketplace, verbal abuse:
Brenda: Emotional and verbal abuse can become so commonplace in a woman’s relationship that she doesn’t realize she’s being harmed. It took me a while to realize my husband’s attacks weren’t my fault and weren’t true. For example, we both used to work in our church’s children’s ministry. My husband often told me I was uncaring toward the kids. For a long time I struggled with this, until one day someone told me how blessed she was by the compassion I extended to her children. Suddenly I saw I’d been basing my identity on my husband’s perception of me instead of God’s.
To claim that one doesn’t know they are being abused until they figure out it is “abuse” is incredibly specious. I’ve read numerous accounts where women say exactly that, they were experiencing abuse and didn’t know it until someone told them they were being abused. I will never understand that. Whether its called abuse or flarb or vorvg, if someone is being mistreated and its causing them to feel badly, do they not, well, fell badly? Do they not realize that because they sense something is wrong, that something is wrong? Why only when a well intended friend offers them one of these checklists on how to recognize abuse does it suddenly click and they join the victims and advocates?
This tells me that these checklists are tools of inclusion, hence tools of recruitment for new victims to add to the roles. Bulking up the victim list is useful for women to claim moral superiority on that basis, to advocate for easy divorce based on the old canard about being trapped in abuse, and don’t discount the quest for empathy as a victim is far more successful with the term abuse included, be it in why she doesn’t believe in submission, why she divorced her husband, or why she is a feminist. Abuse is a major pillar on which the evangelical feminists and their useful idiot male Christian Socon conservatives stand.
Don and Brenda bring the topic back around to actual physical violence as he recounts another tragic story of a woman severely beaten. As a man too intimately familiar with that dynamic due to it happening to my mother, I am comfortable speaking about this and not drawing the “you are a man and don’t understand” card in rebuke. I DO understand and sympathize enormously with abuse victims.
What I disapprove of is abuse as agenda, is recruitment of victims, and of using outright false information to make points that are then taken and used for more nefarious reasons. There will always be horrible people and horrible crimes and the victims must be treated with care and compassion, and justice must also be done. The abuse industry both in and out of the church have over played what is actually a good and worthy hand by subscribing to tactics more suited to militant feminists.
The news is spreading, and more and more men especially are waking up to the threat….to men….that misinformation on DV poses. Two wrongs (actual DV and lies about actual DV) do not make a right, ends do not justify means, and anything that contributes to Christian woman’s sense of moral superiority, their aggressive urges to control men and use The Personal Jesus (TM) as an ally, and their requisite defense of easy unilateral divorce as an escape hatch from rampant abuse must me challenged. Media R.A D.A.R. is an outstanding resource that is garlic and holy water to feminists, evangelical and secular alike. Sadly for them the facts there are impeccably footnoted and the sources are the same sources they claim to have used when they spread rumors and innuendo. The RADAR folks actually did the research in other words, and from the near 50/50 gender propensity to violence initiation to refuting the hyperbolic fear mongering of evangelical feminists and white knights, they get it right.
Men its time to stop knee jerk sympathy when the mere word abuse is used. Its OK t ask a follow-up. The present meme is harmful to men, yes, but as you can see by the advice Im offering, in the wrong hands it can even be harmful to actual DV victims as the peddlers of fear exploit them and damage their credibility by piggybacking on their pain.