I am also troubled by the fact that Caleb’s behavior was labeled “selfishness” thus minimizing (making an action or thing appear very small and inconsequential compared to what they actually are) his abuse of his wife. This is troubling to me because so many pastors avoid the use of the word “abuse” unless it is a physical assault. With a popular movie like “Fireproof” actually SHOWING what John Piper calls “verbal unkindness,” I am troubled by the minimizing that both Piper and Fireproof use when referring to domestic abuse. This minimization results in wives not realizing they are being abused and that they are in danger. The common knowledge I had 20 years ago, was if my husband hit me, that was abuse. The real truth is that shoving me up against the wall and pinning me there while he screamed in my face was physical abuse, too. And all the nasty stuff my husband did was abuse as well and was made more powerful because of his previous physical attack. Piper, the authors of Fireproof, and others, fail to realize that ONE physical attack makes it clear to the abuser’s target that ANY “verbal unkindness” is a threat that the abuser may repeat the physical attack. Abuse does not need to be “regular” to be devastating. Giving her “the look” which reminds her that he will hurt her if she doesn’t please him, can be just as abusive and traumatic as his actually doing it.
Caleb admits to being selfish and to trampling all over his wife, but doesn’t mention that he also abused her economically and emotionally, that he isolated her by limiting her access to money and what it can buy, he intimidated and threatened her and tried to coerce her into being his slave. He also minimized his own behavior, denying that any of the fault was his, while he blamed her for everything. He also lusted after the women on the porn sites, (and probably in real life) which is another form of adultery, which is also abuse and implies that his wife is not good enough. All of these are abusive behaviors that are aimed at coercing or dominating his wife, at using or discarding her for his own ends, at disregarding her personhood and her humanity.
The writers of Fireproof did a good job of showing a textbook abuser in action. However, their choice of an abusive character, their minimization of Caleb’s abusive behavior together with their statement at the end that a wife can implement the Love Dare and save the (abusive) marriage, suggests to abused wives who view the movie, that they, too, should deny and minimize their husband’s abusive behavior, and if they use the Love Dare, their abusive husbands will start treating them right. As stated in Part 1, this is extremely dangerous. By using an abusive character, it suggests that divorce for abuse is totally unnecessary (possibly sinful) and that the failure of the marriage is the abused wife's fault because she refused to love and sacrifice enough.
Additionally, this movie tells anyone an abused wife goes to for help, that if she would just do the Love Dare and stick with it, no matter how long it takes, her whole problem would go away. Even worse, they may PRESSURE her to do the love dare and stick with it. If she refuses, they are likely to hold her at arms length, shun her, or even drive her out of their church.
Frankly, if the writers had not made Caleb an abuser, the story and its use of the Love Dare may have validity. But as it is, the story appears to claim that if the victim will minimize her husband’s sin and apply the Love Dare, she will likely save her marriage. Therefore, many will likely pick up the implication that if she refuses to apply the Love Dare, she is in rebellion to God, to her husband, and to church leaders as well. Thus, instead of holding the abusive sinner accountable, they contort the truth in order to hold the woman he targets for his bullying and abuse accountable. This makes the church a conspirator in her abusive husband's sin.
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
Chronically Self-Centered Spouse Series - Nope, I'm not doing this series. Nope, Visionary Womanhood is not doing this series. But I do thank Natalie for linking to it over there a couple years back...
6 months ago