Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Church Lies

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Most of the time when someone quotes Philippians 4:8, they skip the first two items on the list, true and honest. They focus on noble, lovely, and good report, but delete what is true and honest. Instead, they lie to themselves, and to others.

Was this what the writers to the Philippians intended? Did Paul refuse to look at the ugly? Did he refuse to look at and deal with sin? Did he say their sin was good, was the fault of someone else, or wasn't there at all?

Actually, there are a number of passages where Paul rebukes those who are sinning, a passage where he defends himself against those in the church who are bad-mouthing him. In order to write those passages, he had to spend some time thinking about things that are neither noble, lovely, pure, just, or praiseworthy.

Yet, so many in our churches refuse to look at domestic abuse and what causes it. Last week I told a woman that I am working to fight domestic abuse, and she accused me of wallowing in abuse. Her pet phrase seemed to be, “God is in control, just trust Him.” I told her that is not particularly comforting to the person who is suffering for years and years at the hand of her abuser. She kept wanting to put a spin of “lovely” on everything, and at the same time throw accusations at anyone who looked ugly sin in the face long enough to try to stop it.

Why was it so important to this woman to deny domestic abuse, to blame me for working to bring the freeing truth in God's word to the church's attention? Why did she insist God had not called me to this ministry?

Is it not for the very same reason that the church in general refuses to deal with the issue? And so many that say they are dealing with the issue, put a large portion of their pressure on the abused wives, not on the controlling and abusive husbands. Some say an abused wife may separate from her husband, but she must still subject herself to him. (What an oxymoron! And how ridiculous and blind!) So many churches tell abused wives they are not allowed to divorce their husbands. Some say they are not allowed to separate from their abusers. The bottom line is that the sin of domestic abuse is denied by so many pastors, or blamed on the wife. Other pastors don't deny domestic violence and abuse but they deny its severity, cost, and damage.

Isn't it time the church stops skipping over the first two items on the list? When are pastors going to be honest with themselves, with their congregations, and with abused wives and children? When are they going to STOP dening that domestic abuse is a serious problem? How long are they going to keep on condemning women who have left their abuser? (One woman I know is still being condemned by the church she left because she divorced the man who nearly killed her several times.) How long are they going to claim there is no domestic abuse in their church, while studies have been showing that one in three women have suffered domestic violence in their lifetime--including women in church. In fact, at least one survey showed that 50% of women in church have suffered abuse from their husbands. When are pastors going to teach their congregations to offer friendship and support to abused women, instead of the cold shoulder and/or accusations and discipline?

When will the lying and dishonesty stop? Domestic abuse/violence is neither lovely, nor praiseworthy, but that it is among us is true and honest.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.


  1. Its a form of denial which is manifestly unhealthy AND unbiblical!

    I see in Scripture:

    Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

    Paul named names of someone who did him “much harm” (sounds personal and painful!):

    2 Timothy 4:14
    Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.

    ...and read the small epistle of John 3 for some more public exposure by name and misdeed.

    The Greek word "hypocrisy" means MASK! May we all think twice about doing things we would be ashamed of were they “exposed”. They are visible to GOD, even if we succeed in hiding them from everyone else…

    “This is the judgment,
    that the Light has come into the world,
    and men loved the darkness rather than the Light,
    for their deeds were evil.
    For everyone who does evil hates the Light,
    and does not come to the Light
    for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
    John 3:19-20

  2. The mind has a great ability to RATIONALIZE. Given enough time, us humans can turn black into white by rationalization!

    Women have a greater ability at it more than men--probably for a reason. An abused woman, first, blames herself. Next, she tries to convince herself "it will get better." Finally, she may settle on "this is just God's plan for me!"

    All of the above are rediculous when God sees us and our situation as it is---period. It is clear that abusers / persecuters / selfish / unloving / etc. people will get their surprise one day in the Judgement. God sees to the heart of our motivation in life. Paul said, "If I do all these things and have no love, it is nothing! (I Corinthians 13)"

    I am confident God does not intend for any woman or child to live in a hell of abuse. It can happen to men just as much as women. When the marriage vow says, "For better or worse / richer or poorer / in sickness and in health till death do us part," it is totally honest = life is not going to be a bed of roses always. There will be hard and good times throughout any relationship.

    Remember also that it does not say, "I'll always stay with you no matter how bad you treat me!" God never meant marriage to be a hell on this earth.

    I believe God made us "warts and all." The Bible writers often tell of their warts and how God uses, even them, for his ultimate Will to take place (read Leslie D. Weatherhead's "Will of God" for details).

    Far too often we assume God used "perfect people" as writers and followers. Peter and Paul both had problems with their ego. It was to the point they eventually separated to have peace between them---and then be used more effectively to share the Gospel.

    Waneta, when you point out the importance of all things said in the passage, you are totally right. It took a blinding on the Damascas Road to let Paul know he was "in the wrong" prosecuting followers of Christ.

    When you take those thing which tried to destroy you, like abuse, and turn it into a real ministry to abused women, you help them overcome the rationalizations which hold them captive! If it continually hurts and destroys you, get out!!!

    My daughter, like Waneta, lived in 15 years of verbal and mental abuse. He added drugs to that equation and that was enough! She invited him out and is now moving to a formal divorce after a year of separation under NC law. She has a Peace Bond on him. Her kindness and the reality that he can't pay his child support has kept her from having him arrested over the last year. She just had that temporary order made permanent because of recent actions on his part.

    She is doing the "right thing" in my opinion. Her 4 boys are improving by being with him only every other weekend. Every time they come home there is still emotional turmoil over how they were treated with his parents and him during the weekend. This further proves she it "doing the right thing," not only for her, but her children as well! It is working, but it is also taking my wife going there during the week to help. It is a sacrifice on our part, but it is helping greatly and it is necessary.

    As a father / grandfather / minister / man I'm here to tell you---NO WOMAN NEEDS TO PUT UP WITH ABUSE OR RATIONALIZE HERSELF INTO THINKING IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD!!!

    If it smells like cow manure, don't try to make it smell like roses. Be honest with yourself. Realize the Bible was primarily written by men in a Jewish culture where the man ruled and a woman was just another possession. It's not the way God meant it to be! He created male and female to love one another and forgive one another.

    In this, you will find joy and peace. If there is no joy or peace, it's simple: IT IS NOT OF GOD! PERIOD!!!!

  3. Charis,
    Thanks for filling in with the references! I wrote that post when away from home and didn't have my Bible with me.

    "Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

    The amazing thing about so many congregations (I cannot call them "churches," because when they do not show fruit consistent with Christ and the fruit of the spirit, they must be connected to a different vine/tree. Jesus said "By their fruit ye shall know them.) is that they refuse to expose the "unfruitful works of darkness" that domestic abusers do, but instead make suffering and trying to cope into a sin--which they expose. They call evil good, and expose the good--the good of trying to hold her sinful abuser accountable and get him to stop sinning--as evil.

  4. Gene,
    You said, "If it smells like cow manure, don't try to make it smell like roses. Be honest with yourself."

    One of the hardest things an abused wife faces is confusion. Her gut is telling her 'this is wrong.' IE: cow manure. But Christian radio and her pastor may be telling her 'don't listen to your gut.' IE: it's a rose with a few thorns. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood tell wives to pay no attention to their "gut," to pay obey God. They claim God commands wives to subject themselves to their husband-authority no matter what. Some of them permit the abused wife to not obey her husband if his demands are "clearly sin." (John Piper) But they give far-out examples of "clearly sin." Some allow no recourse for wives when husbands sin against them--even when it's repeatedly. Some allow recourse for hitting, but don't mention choking, kicking, etc. If her husband commands her to eat her dinner off the floor like a dog, that is not clearly sin, she must do it. Meanwhile, her husband's behavior is only 'verbal unkindness.' (My interpretation of Piper's rules.)

    I dealt with this confusion. (No, my husband did NOT tell me to eat off the floor.) The preachers I heard said if anyone tells you to leave your husband, they are not of God, but are of the devil. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM.

    They said if we listen to women teachers, they will lead us astray. We will wind up on the wide road to destruction. Most of the teachers against domestic abuse/violence are women.

    Gene, I do not deny that some women are abusive. I know some controlling women that I try my best to steer clear of. However, I focus on the abuse of so-called Christian husbands, and the pastors and churches who back them, because they USE scripture to deceive their wives and put them in bondage, and deny them their liberty in Christ. Because the wives are trying their best to obey God, they end up too confused and deceived to be able to get themselves and their children to safety.

    If domestic violence/abuse is like a person holding their spouse captive in a prison castle, the abusive behavior of "Christian" husbands along with pastors and "wives-be-subject-husbands-take-authority" writers, adds a moat with crocodiles and sea monsters, making it far more difficult for Christian women to escape before major harm is done. Studies now show that domestic abuse inflicts brain damage. It kills brain cells, which take years of living in a safe environment to regrow.

    I consider the church as a whole, the preachers and commenters on Christian radio, the book writers, as well as the courts accountable for the damage that women and children suffer.

    It is amazing to me, Gene, that your daughter managed to stay with her abuser for 15 years!! Was confusion part of her story, too? I don't believe you or your wife were urging her to stay with him, but the collective church pushes wives to stay with their abusers, downgrading the abuse, minimizing it by calling it "temporary" or "verbal unkindness," or "unhappiness," or pressuring the wife to forgive. (as if that will stop the abuse.)

    You are right about the marriage vows. The vow to love and cherish for better or for worse, is specifying sickness or health, rich or poor, etc. It is not to "love and to cherish in abuse and mistreatment or in love and kindness." The vow to love and cherish rules out ANY right to abuse, control, or mistreat the spouse. (Excepting, of course, when one must "control" the other because of health or mental health issues where the other is incapacitated.)

    I am glad your grandsons are doing better, that the influence and infliction of damage from your nearly ex-inlaw has been greatly contained, and that the support you and your wife offer your daughter is helping to produce these results. Praise God for that!

  5. Why aren't the men being held to their vows? No one leaves a marriage where they are being loved and cherished. Sheesh. Reality is not that hard to understand.

    I thank God for the charismatic preacher who taught, "if your husband isn't loving you like Christ loved the church, you should NOT submit to Him! You are supposed to submit "as unto the Lord" so if he isn't acting like Jesus, you are not bound to submit to him."

    That preacher was awesome in that respect! Now I don't necessarily agree with his interpretation* but he definitely understands the gospel! "let love be sincere...."

    (*I don't think any women is required to submit to her husband by God. It seems obvious to me that Paul was recognizing Roman law, not laying down a new law from God. Paul was relating how a woman could bring her Christianity to relevance while still living without rights as a wife in a pater familia. In the same way he told slaves to obey their masters unto the Lord, looking for God to reward them for the attitude with which they approached their life of slavery. Paul was neither endorsing slavery nor the pater familia way of life. He was exhorting the oppressed to live their lives as a gift to God.

  6. Shadowspring,
    "Why aren't the men being held to their vows? No one leaves a marriage where they are being loved and cherished. Sheesh. Reality is not that hard to understand."

    Why, indeed? Could it be the pastors are blind? Blind to their own sin? When the blind lead the blind they both end up in the ditch. We have lots of pastor's marriages in the ditch, too.

    ""if your husband isn't loving you like Christ loved the church, you should NOT submit to Him! You are supposed to submit "as unto the Lord" so if he isn't acting like Jesus, you are not bound to submit to him.""

    I agree with this statement. Although a wife can submit to an unloving husband, she cannot submit to him "as to the Lord." If she tries to submit to him "as to the Lord," she must submit as if her husband is loving, which means she has to lie to herself. That kind of lying is sin and is also unhealthy for the wife, her children, for the husband, and for their church and community. Both the unloving husband and the lying wife bring leaven of sin into the whole lump.

  7. Waneta--

    Our daughter stayed in the marriage because she is kind and compassionate. She thought he would one day change for the better. He would abuse and then be contrite and promise not to do it again.

    Sadly, our daughter hid the truth from us as her parents. As a minister, I have counseled with any number of abused women. They tend to say, "I think it might get better / he promised if I would come back he would do better / it is probably as much my fault as his."

    My answer was always: "Tell him he has abused you for X number of years. The only way you will even consider having him back is to show you the same number of years of kindness and right living. Now, start the clock and see!"

    Only after our daughter made up her mind to divorce did she start telling us story after story of abuse. One time he held a butcher knife to her throat in front of their children at the supper table. That was chilling and torments us to this day.

    Had I known of such treatment to my daughter, there would be no need for a divorce because he might have strangely disappeared in one of the many abandoned wells in our rural area. It would have been more nice than he deserved! A man with a tree removal company has machines which will destroy completely any worker who is not careful and "accidents happen."

    The worse tragedy in all this is he was raised in abuse and never recovered from it even with our daughter and grandsons involved. He would promise to go for therapy. When she invited him out, he even checked himself into a mental ward. They treated him with drugs which only covered the evil. He never took them for long. His favorite drugs are marijuana and cocaine and he is lucky to have a good paying technical job with a large medical scanner company. Would you feel safe using one he repired while going to his car every 20 minutes for a puff on the weed???

    Much talk of drug testing is just that---talk. His company has big bucks invested in his training. They prefer to have an impaired employee over one who is drug tested daily!

  8. Gene,
    It is clear to me that your daughter did not stay with her abuser because of any pressure from you. Note the lessons from that. I, too, was encouraged by my pastor and his wife to leave my husband. They saw his abusiveness more clearly than I did. But I still had the comments of Christian radio and of my family and the church where I grew up ringing in my ears. I knew that if I divorced my husband, I would have something similar to the mark of Cain on me in my community. (and I could not afford to live anywhere else.)

    For every pastor that said it is ok to leave in cases of abuse, there are 40 pastors saying marriage is for keeps and that wives should submit no matter what. Some pastors have even pointed out that wives should not treat husbands as they deserve to be treated, but should instead treat them as if they are like Christ. In other words, when hubby sins, let him off the hook and don't hold him accountable.

    My question, Gene, is what could you as a pastor have done differently? Perhaps preach about abuse six times a year instead of twice a year? Preach against wife submission as it is commonly taught? Preach husband submission six times a year? Preach human dignity?

    I am not asking you to blame yourself. I am asking you to recall what you did, and considering your daughter's choices, (and other women's as well) alert other pastors what they need to do differently.

    I think of a comment my daughter made during the time when she was forced by order of the court to live with her dad. I had suggested she tell someone at school what was going on, how her dad was treating her. She didn't think she could talk to any of the school staff. I suggested a teacher my daughter was closer to. She said she couldn't talk to her; she wouldn't know anything about that kind of thing.

    I suspect this may hold true for adults, too. If a person doesn't mention that they know something about a particular subject or let people know they are open to talking about domestic abuse issues, those who are hurting from repeated rejection, put downs, and worse from their abusers will think it is too risky to approach them. I suspect it is important for a church group to have at least 5 different people speak up about abuse, so the abused have a choice of people they could go to for help.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts on this, Gene. Perhaps you can help pave the way for other pastors.

  9. Good questions, Waneta!

    This is a sore spot in your spiritual life to the point you see a need for Pastors to focus more on it. In my 16 years of full time ministry and preaching and the years following until today (1970-present), I always did my best to share the truth of the Bible passage for that day.

    I also preached mostly from the Gospels and NT rather than the OT. A first clue any pastor tends toward a judgemental / woman-demeaning outlook is too much OT preaching. I viewed my preaching as "group counseling" based on the needs I had preceived in my counseling with parishiners that particular week.

    I think the "superior husband" problem has grown drastically in recent years when I have not been in the pulpit regularly. I see no problem with a series on "Healthy Family Living." I would introduce it with the observation that we have so few good families today because so few people have witnessed a good upbringing themselves.

    With a divorce rate hovering around 50% / so much sexual confusion / so many shows on TV portraying sickness over health in family life---it might have a shocking title like "What Bevis / Butthead / and Rosanne Failed To Tell You!"

    I use I Corinthian 13 in my wedding ceremony so I think the first verses offer good marital advice about the nature of love. The few stories of Jesus as a boy tell us much as well as how what he taught had much to do with basic rules of carpentry he learned from Joseph.

    You have a tall order on marital happiness. Only after experiencing the pain of our daughter's abuse, could I be empathetic enough to undertake your worthy challenge!