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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

God Said it; You Just Don't Like It

A common refrain of complementarians is “God said it; you just don't like it.” They are usually quoting their favorite women submit and women keep silent verses. These same people are silent about the 'husbands love your wives' and 'husbands be considerate to your wives' verses, and have nothing to say about all the women in Paul's day who were prophetesses and leaders in the Christian churches. When they do quote those pro-women and husbands treat your wives right verses they don't talk in depth of what that means. Instead, they breeze over them to focus on the woman be in subjection and silent verses.

Having lived with an abuser and having facilitated a men's batterers group, and having read books pointing to this very behavior, I recognize the tactic the speakers are using. They are switching truth, attributing the other person's innocent or righteous behavior as their own, and projecting their own behavior/attitude onto the innocent party.

In other words, these speakers do not like that husbands are to love their wives so much that it is the same as submitting, so they focus instead on the wife submit verses. The “God said it, you just don't like it” speaker does not like that husbands are never told to take authority over their wives, because that is not the way they want it to be. The speaker also does not like that women in Paul's day as well as in the Old Testament and in Jesus's circle were also leaders, thereby showing that the prohibition to women was for specific cases. These complementarians do not like that truth, so they brush it off and put the focus and weight of their argument on the verses they do like.

Sometimes a woman, who claims to be submissive to her husband, says “God said it; you just don't like it” to a woman who is explaining that the “woman submit” doctrine is one-sided and as such is not biblical. Usually the women who claim to be so submissive sound smug. They are impressed with themselves for “getting it right.” They seem completely unaware that they are self-righteous. They are unaware that their self-righteousness is sin, and that it will not earn them a way into heaven. They also are unaware that they have not truly listened to the statement of the person who is explaining that the woman subject yourself doctrine is one-sided and encourages both husband and wife to sin.

Frankly, I don't like that people are maligning God, giving Him a bad name, by claiming He says such belittling things about women and that He made the women to be an underclass who are beneath men and who have the sole purpose of being the personal slaves of their husbands. That He made them a class He will never call into service, except to as invisibly and silently as possible serve the all-important male gender. I don't like it that they lie and call this one-sided servitude "equality." I don't like that so many women have turned away from the “church” because it has become a den of thieves that robs women of their dignity and worth. I don't like that their are so many atheists, who became atheists because of the sin of organized "Christianity" against women and their children. I don't like that “church men” are doing to women like white men did to American Indians. They are taking from women their property of value, which is their God-given dignity, worth, equality and whatever God has actually called them to do, and replaced it with worthless pretty beads, which is this so-called “glorious subjection,” which they themselves wouldn't be caught dead wearing because it is so demeaning. They are persuading women to give up their high worth in exchange for groveling in the dung-heap.

And the reason they manipulate and deceive women into this exchange? Because they themselves do NOT like what God has told them to do—to sacrifice for their wives and to love their wives as they love their own bodies.

How do they love their own bodies? They insist on freedom—freedom to choose whatever they want to choose. But they deny this freedom to their wives.

Complementarian men have claimed the Declaration of Independence for themselves, but denied it to their wives. Wives who are married to complementarian husbands are in the same class with slaves who only have whatever rights their masters choose to allow them, rights that can be taken away at the whim of their masters. And all because their masters do not like what God said.

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Expendable Wives and Children

A repeated refrain on many blogs is that the gender issue is secondary doctrine that has nothing to do with salvation. Folks who believe husbands are to take authority over their wives and wives are to subject themselves to their husbands, (even when they are abused) are going to heaven just as much as those who believe husbands and wives as a team are to take authority over their children and households. But is this a scripturally sound view? I considered splitting this into several posts, but decided against that, since it needs to be read in one sitting to get the picture.

On the surface, I could agree with them. The Bible does not say Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and submit to your own husband, or take authority over your wife, and you shall be saved. Nor does it say Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and practice egalitarian marriage and you shall be saved.

Although egalitarians often understand that the doctrine of husband authority and wife subjection is the seedbed—yes, the CAUSE—of domestic abuse and domestic violence among Christians, complementarians deny that this is so. We know this is so because the abuser announces it frequently, telling his wife she is required to do as he says, because he is the man and God gave him the authority and she must submit to him. He frequently verbalizes this as he is abusing her for any real or imagined infraction of his rules, or just because he feels like it. He believes he has the right to determine the value of his wife, himself and of each of their children, to define their character--usually falsely defining himself as righteous and his wife as evil, decide the freedoms and limitations of each, the work each is to do, how much influence each will have, and to decide how much of their lives he wants to control. He can change the rules at a moments notice and punish the person who has not obeyed the rule that he had not yet decreed. He also believes he has the right to determine the type of punishment, whether "verbal unkindness," put downs, name calling, threats, intimidation, a slap, physically restraining, choking, raping, beating, kicking, or more subtle control methods like manipulation, driving wedges between people, deception, etc.

Except for wife beating and smacking, all these forms of domestic abuse against wives are protected by John Piper's church, for example, (see Bruce Ware publicly suggested the wife is at fault when the husband does these things, and most (if not all) of the Counsel for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood say things that indicate similar viewpoints.

Some complementarians say “Of course, a wife should never tolerate abuse.” Yet, churches all over, even those who seem to support women in divorcing abusive husbands, are frequently inhospitable to the abused women among them. The result is that many abused women give up on going to church. They have already suffered for years, and when their church hears about it, they abuse her still more through their avoidance of her, and frequently through taking disciplinary action against her. Some claim they don't want to get involved or take sides, yet uphold her abuser, offering him support, praise, and important and prominent roles in the church. Frequently, an abused woman's own friends turn away from her, and/or tell her she ought not be bitter or angry and to just get over it. If the couple had friends in common, the friends tend to maintain friendship with the husband, while claiming they cannot take sides.

The result is that many women who have experienced abuse, whether from pastor or husband stop attending church. Now this is NOT their initial response. They usually try to stick it out for awhile, but soon find that the retraumatizing at church in addition to the abuse they have already suffered, and are still suffering at home, is too much. In my work with abused women a common theme is that they stop going to church, often for more than a year. Some keep trying to find a church where they can find friendship and support, but never are able to find such a church.

One woman who had suffered domestic violence and long-term abuse through the custody decision of the court and her ex-husband, reported that it was so hard to even find someone to say “hi” to, after trying to make friends for 1-2 years, that she left that church, too embarrassed to return. A friendly, talkative, and open person, she experienced similar responses in 4 churches, including those where she never or rarely shared her personal story and made every effort to engage people in conversation of their choosing. She currently finds it too embarrassing to go to church, because people act as if she has the mark of Cain on her, often even refusing to make eye contact. If she did, she would have to plan to make a beeline for the car every Sunday, thereby defeating the purpose of attending church—which is fellowship. (One can worship, read the Bible, and listen to sermons at home.) But she knows that kind of self-isolation also hurts, so she associates extreme pain with church attendance and has no desire to force herself to suffer that kind of pain Sunday after Sunday.

Children who have suffered domestic abuse are also affected by the church's attitude toward abused women. When a mother leaves a church or stops attending church altogether, she usually takes her children with her. Yet the response of Christians is to either ignore those who give up on church, punish them, or shame them into returning to church, even though the only way to survive such shunning and shaming is to attend without any expectation of warm fellowship with other Christians—ie: avoid eye contact with others and make a beeline to the car the second the last amen is said so it won't hurt so much.

Diana Garland, co-author of a ground-breaking study on the sexual misconduct of ministers against their congregants, said
“(I)f the cases of reported abuse were spread evenly across the country, every average-sized congregation with 400 members would include seven women who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct at some time since they turned 18. That includes only women who go to church regularly, not those who stopped attending after their abuse.” (see for more on the clergy abuse article)
Finally someone mentions the fact that many leave church because of abuse! Even if the article deals with clergy inflicting sexual abuse on women, the comment applies. No one seems to be keeping count of the women who are not attending church because of the abuse they suffered from a complementarian, authoritarian husband. And then there are the women who attend, but who will never again be members of a congregation because of the "permission to abuse" that membership seems to carry with it. And we have no clue how many children are leaving the faith altogether because of the church's support of their abusive father. According to Barna, the number of non-churched Christians is growing steadily.

My first experience with this issue I was in my thirties, and found my insurance agent had left her church and said she would never go to church again because of how the pastors did not deal with her abuser and blamed her. She still had a good relationship with God, but would never again involve herself in organized religion. It was my own experience with abuse that opened the subject, so it appears that abused women share this information among themselves, but through experience know better than to divulge such information to men or to the 50%-75% of women who have not experienced abuse. Recently, my insurance agent mentioned a rule she had set for her daughter. Even though she said it in humor, I caught how difficult it is to train up a child in the way she should go when there is no church family to second the message.

At a time when a woman is in dire need of Christian support, when she has suffered years of abuse that has drained her energy and her belief in her own worth and competence, when she becomes a single parent, that is the time the church adds their pounding, humiliation, and avoidance to an already beaten-down woman and her children. The attitude of some churches toward abused wives seems to be “good riddance.” Her husband doesn't value her, therefore, her church refuses to value her, too. The faster they can push her out the door, the sooner they wash their hands of a difficult problem. Meanwhile, they keep the person who caused the problem in their midst. No one bothers to invite her back to church, or offers to be her supportive friend. And if someone does offer to be her friend, that person, too, will be ostracized. If she doesn't come back and face their shaming and disciplinary action, they are well rid of her.

But why blame the wife for her husband's behavior? Could it be that most Christians, in spite of what they SAY they believe, are acting on the belief that it is the WIVES who are to subject themselves to husbands and therefore any marital discord must be the wife's fault? From their behavior, it would appear that most Christians, even those who claim to be egalitarian, hold a deep-down suspicion that if the wife would just submit all would be well, therefore, the abuse must be her fault. Why else would they avoid abused women and cozy up to her abuser?

Not only has the church refused to be the Good Samaritan to abused women and their children, some of them have been the “Priest” and the “Levite,” passing by on the other side in their avoidance of her, and some have been the robbers as well, going right up to her and verbally attacking her and beating up the very one who is already black and blue on the inside.

After making every attempt to drive the abused woman and her children away from God's table, and succeeding, or after sitting by and watching others drive the abused woman and children away from God's table, they sit in their emptied pew and declare the egalitarian/complementarian debate is not a salvation issue.

What does Jesus say? Matthew, Mark and Luke all recorded Jesus's statement.
Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
According to Strong's concordance, #3684, Jesus was talking about a large millstone that required an ass to turn it. So He was speaking of a large enough weight to make sure the person goes down to the bottom and can't get back up. It sounds to me like Jesus is saying it would be better for a person that they drown than that they offend a little one.

Who are the little ones? The context in Matthew is speaking of children. But the context in Mark and Luke is speaking of anyone. Little, Strong's #3398 refers to “small in size, quantity, number, or (figuratively) dignity. The word clearly refers to short people, like children. The figurative usage would definitely include anyone who is already downtrodden to the point they are small in dignity—like the handicapped or abused wives; people who may be more easily intimidated due to social standing, past experiences, or height. Interestingly, although there is a list taking up ¾ of a column for verses with “ones” in them, the word is only used in Hebrew once, and not at all in Greek. It is added for understanding, but not italicized.

Offend, Strong's #4624, is “skanalizo,” where we get “scandalize.” The word is from 4625, and means
“to entrap, ie trip up (fig. stumble or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure). (make to) offend.”
The offense Jesus was talking about is that of a believer being tripped up and enticed to sin or even apostasy. Jesus said it would be better FOR HIM that HE were drowned in the sea than that HE should offend a believer, causing them to sin or turn away from Christ. (Caps used to show who Jesus was talking about.) We already know it would be better for the offended one to not have been offended, but Jesus said it would be better for the one who does the offending that he/she were drowned rather than give them a chance to cause someone to stop believing in Christ. This suggests that God's judgment is extremely harsh on one who causes another to sin so much that they are in danger of losing their faith in God. Do we know of any such harsh judgment meted out to those are saved? No. So this suggests the one who causes another to lose or nearly lose faith is in danger of losing their salvation and going to hell.

Thus, in a round about way, the issue of husband authority vs functional equality in marriage does become an issue of salvation for both those believers who are driven out of church and those who drive them out. This is the second count against the abuser, who already does not produce fruit that shows he is connected to the vine. It is also the second count against the church that protects an authoritarian husband's right to maintain his authority over his wife, requires the wife to suffer under her husband's cruel reign, and now drives out the wife and children who are the targets of their husband and father.

It looks to me like the narrow way is much more narrow than I thought. If whole churches are teaching husbands to take authority over their wives, causing some of them to become lords and disconnect from the vine, if whole churches push traumatized believers away from church, causing abused women and their children to lose or nearly lose faith, are whole churches going through the strait gate, but leaving the narrow way to join those on the broad way to destruction?

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jesus and Equality vs Roles

Contrary to the complementarian explanation of “equal but different roles,” Jesus saw those differing roles as greater and lesser. Luke 22:27 “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth.” The context clearly is about authority and subordination, that which some complementarians have declared makes their doctrine so "beautiful" and "glorious."

Jesus says something similar in John 13:16 “Verily, verily I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”

Clearly, Jesus is using the negative to show that the opposite is true: the lord is greater than the servant. These verses are self-explanatory, especially to those who are familiar with their bibles. But since so many insist that men and women are equal but have different roles, they apparently pass over these verses and others like them, and may need to have them explained. Jesus, who is our authority, taught that the one in authority is superior. Both the one who sits down to eat and the one who sends are the authority figures and are superior, while the ones who serve and subordinate themselves are the inferior. These are the words of Jesus.

The complementarians cannot have it both ways. Husbands cannot be both the authority, yet equal. Jesus stated those in authority are superior. And wives cannot be both the subordinate and equal. Jesus said the servant is not as great as the one in authority who is being served, therefore the subordinate wife cannot be equal to her husband.

Since complementarian authority/subordination teaching does require wives to yield to their husbands, but does not require husbands to yield to their wives, they do indeed teach a superior/inferior relationship.

If complementarians are right, and husband authority/wife subordination is equality, then we must conclude Jesus is a liar.

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