Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Itching Ears, Part 2 (Rewriting Scripture)

One of the “proofs” that church men have itching ears, is that so many pastors they have chosen abuse their own wives. In my networking, it seemed like over half of the women responding to those who blog about Christians and domestic violence were wives of the clergy. Again and again they’d share how the church turned against them, while their abusive husband was allowed to continue serving at the front of the church. Hannah, in her blog “Emotional abuse and your Faith,” March 17, 2009 post, includes a You Tube clip of Caryn Burton, the training director for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where Ms. Burton says the most common profession group among domestic violence perpetrators are the clergy--faith leaders. (Law enforcement is the second most common profession that perpetrates violence against their wives.)

How do they get from:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”

To something like this:

“Husbands, lead your wives as Christ leads the church and gives her explicit directions, cleansing her by reminding her that she must follow his leadership, guiding her toward perfection by training her to maintain a cheerful attitude as she serves him and learns to meet his every desire, thus becoming more perfect and desirable. In the same way, husbands ought to lead their wives as they direct their own bodies. He who leads his wife, has control of himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he urges it to do his bidding, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”

Or like this:

“Husbands, rule your wives as Christ ruled the church and made her yield to him, to make her perfect, cleansing her by constant correction or scolding if needed, and to present her to himself as a happy church without any displeasing qualities. In this same way, husbands ought to rule their wives as their own bodies. He who rules his wife, rules himself. After all, no man ever hated his own body, but whips it into submission, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”?

Obviously, neither of these sacrilegious paraphrases are what the passage says, but many men ACT as if the passage says this. Christ neither whips the church into submission, nor rubs our noses in our inferior position, expecting us to be mindless followers. Instead, he served the church, both in death and in life, and raises us up to be joint heirs with him. In other words, He raises us up to His level, rather than keeping us groveling on the floor. Christ’s behavior is that of a selfless servant, while the leader/authority belief encourages men to expect to be served by their wives instead of giving themselves up for and serving their wives. The men expect a place of privilege. They think they are entitled to have their way. They think being “in charge” makes them more manly. Therefore, many men put out extra effort to get that “in charge” feeling.

But the directive to men tells them just the opposite. They are to sacrifice themselves like Jesus did. They are to humbly seek to meet the needs of their spouse, rather than focusing on their own hunger for power and control of their wives. Not once are husbands told to lead their wives or to rule them, or to be their authority. Not once.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what.
Please visit www.wanetadawn.com


  1. Oh boy, Waneta, you've hit it on the head with this one! You had me laughing out loud at those two sacrilegious paraphrases. And you're also right that the paraphrases can have different tones. Some abusers are more velvet glovers, and some are more thuggish. But it's all abuse.

  2. I loved this post. You've got it exactly right, the way Eph. 5 is preached!

  3. This is awesome!