Christianity and domestic violence

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Christianity and domestic violence deals with the debate in Christian communities in relation to the recognition and response to domestic violence, which is complicated by a culture of silence and acceptance among abuse victims. There are some Bible verses that abusers use to justify discipline of their wives.

Abuse within marriage[edit]

Christian groups and authorities generally condemn domestic violence as inconsistent with the general Christian duty to love others and to the scriptural relationship between husband and wife.[1]

Relationship between husband and wife[edit]

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Men who abuse often use Ephesians 5:22, taken out of context, to justify their behavior, but the passage (v. 21-33) refers to the mutual submission of husband and wife out of love for Christ. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body, as Christ loves the Church."[2]

Some Christian theologians, such as the Rev. Marie Fortune and Mary Pellauer, have raised the question of a close connection between patriarchal Christianity and domestic violence and abuse.[3][4] Steven Tracy, author of "Patriarchy and Domestic Violence" writes: "While patriarchy may not be the overarching cause of all abuse, it is an enormously significant factor, because in traditional patriarchy males have a disproportionate share of power... So while patriarchy is not the sole explanation for violence against women, we would expect that male headship would be distorted by insecure, unhealthy men to justify their domination and abuse of women."[5]

Few empirical studies have examined the relationship between religion and domestic violence,[6] According to Dutton, no single factor explanation for wife assault was sufficient to explain the available data.[nb 1][citation needed] A study by Dutton and Browning in the same year found that misogyny is correlated with only a minority of abusive male partners.[nb 2][citation needed] Campbell's study in 1992 found no evidence of greater violence towards women in more patriarchal cultures. Pearson's study in 1997 observed "Studies of male batterers have failed to confirm that these men are more conservative or sexist about marriage than violent men".[nb 3][7]

In Responding to Domestic Abuse, a report issued by the Church of England in 2006, suggests that patriarchy should be replaced rather than reinterpreted: "Following the pattern of Christ means that patterns of domination and submission are being transformed in the mutuality of love, faithful care and sharing of burdens. 'Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ'(Ephesians 5.21). Although strong patriarchal tendencies have persisted in Christianity, the example of Christ carries the seeds of their displacement by a more symmetrical and respectful model of male–female relations."[8]

Bible[edit]

Bible verses are often used to justify domestic abuse, such as those that refer to male superiority and female submission. Others counter that the use of violence is a misinterpreted view of the male role.[1] For instance, Eve (Genesis 2-3), is seen by some Christians[who?] to be disobedient to patriarchal God and man, and to many a generalized symbol of womanhood that must be submissive and subject to discipline, while others[who?] disagree with this interpretation.[9]

Christian Domestic Discipline[edit]

There is a subculture called "Christian Domestic Discipline" that promotes corporal punishment of wives by husbands. While its advocates appeal to the Bible to support their views, the movement has also been described as a form of S&M and there is a FetLife page devoted to it. It has also been described as inherently abusive and as primarily appealing to mentally disturbed individuals. [10]

Responses to abuse[edit]

There are a variety of responses by Christian leaders to how victims should handle abuse:

  • Marjorie Proctor-Smith in "Violence against women and children: a Christian Theological Sourcebook" states that domestic physical, psychological or sexual violence is a sin. It victimizes family members dependent on a man and violates trust needed for healthy, equitable and cooperative relationships. She finds that domestic violence is symptom of sexism, a social sin.[11]
  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in 2002, "As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified."[2]
  • The Church of England's report, Responding to Domestic Abuse advises that Christian pastors and counselors should not advise victims to make forgiving the perpetrator the top priority "when the welfare and safety of the person being abused are at stake."[8]
  • Significant numbers of Christian pastors ordinarily would tell a woman being abused that she should continue to submit and to "trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it" and would never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate because of abuse.[12] One mid-1980s survey of 5,700 pastors found that 26 percent of pastors ordinarily would tell a woman being abused that she should continue to submit and to "trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it" and that 71 percent of pastors would never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate because of abuse.[12][13]

A contributing factor to the disparity of responses to abuse is lack of training, many Christian seminaries had not educated future church leaders about how to manage violence against women. Once pastors began receiving training, and announced their participation in domestic violence educational programs, they immediately began receiving visits from women church members who had been subject to violence. The first Theological Education and Domestic Violence Conference, sponsored by the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, was held in 1985 to identify topics that should be covered in seminaries. First, church leaders will encounter sexual and domestic violence and they need to know what community resources are available. Secondly, they need to focus on ending the violence, rather than on keeping families together.[14]

Incidence of domestic violence[edit]

In the 1970s when programs were initiated to train church leaders about domestic violence, But no one ever comes to me with this problem was the most common response. Church leaders often believed that if no one was reaching out for assistance within the church that there was no problem in their church; however, women often withheld discussing their problems over concern that it would not be handled appropriately. When women became pastors they found that much of their time became devoted to handling domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women; Their involvement included crisis intervention.[15]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "During the late 1970's a number of single factor explanations for male assaultiveness toward women were proffered. These included sociobiology, psychiatric disorders and patriarchy (Dutton, 1988). Dutton argued that no single factor explanation for wife assault sufficiently explained the available data and proposed instead a nested ecological theory examining interactive effects of the broader culture (macrosystem), the subculture (exosystem), the family (microsystem) and individual characteristics (ontogeny)."
  2. ^ "Only a minority of batterers are misogynistic (Dutton and Browning, 1988), and few are violent to non-intimate women; a much larger group experiences extreme anger about intimacy."
  3. ^ "‘Patricia Pearson (p. 132) points out: That men have used a patriarchal vocabulary to account for themselves doesn't mean that patriarchy causes their violence, any more than being patriarchs prevents them from being victimized. Studies of male batterers have failed to confirm that these men are more conservative or sexist about marriage than nonviolent men. To the contrary, some of the highest rates of violence are found in the least orthodox partnerships — dating or cohabiting lovers."

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tracy, Steven. "Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse". Christianity Today (February 2003). (Accessed January 3, 2015)
  2. ^ a b "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (November 12, 2002). ISBN 1-57455-509-X.
  3. ^ Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore (2001). ""Let the Children Come" Revisited: Contemporary Feminist Theologians on Children". In Bunge, Marcia J. The Child in Christian Thought. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 462. ISBN 0-8028-4693-9. 
  4. ^ Kroeger, Catherine Clark Kroeger; Beck, James Beck (ed). (1996). Women, Abuse and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  5. ^ Tracy, Steven. (2007). Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 50(3):580-583.
  6. ^ Wilcox, William Bradford. Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands. University of Chicago Press (2004), p181-82. ISBN 0-226-89709-5.
  7. ^ Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  8. ^ a b The Archbishops' Council. "Responding to Domestic Abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibilities". Church House Publishing (2006), p19. ISBN 0-7151-4108-2.
  9. ^ Adams, Carol J.; Fortune, Mary M. (1998). Violence against women and children: a Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. Pages 92-3. ISBN 0-8264-0830-3.
  10. ^ "Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of 'Christian Domestic Discipline'". 
  11. ^ Adams, Carol J.; Fortune, Mary M. (1998). Violence against women and children: a Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. Pages 428-9. ISBN 0-8264-0830-3.
  12. ^ a b Alsdurf, James and Alsdurf, Phyllis, Battered into Submission, Wipf and Stock, 1998, as cited in Tracy, Steven, "Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse", Christianity Today, February 2003, accessed January 24, 2007
  13. ^ Grady, J. Lee "Control Freaks, and the Women Who Love Them". New Man magazine (Jan/Feb 2001).
  14. ^ Adams, Carol J.; Fortune, Mary M. (1998). Violence against women and children: a Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. Page 10. ISBN 0-8264-0830-3.
  15. ^ Adams, Carol J.; Fortune, Mary M. (1998). Violence against women and children: a Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. Page 9, 428. ISBN 0-8264-0830-3.

External links[edit]

  • FaithTrust Institute (formerly Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence), a multifaith, multicultural training and education organization in the United States with global reach working to end sexual and domestic violence.