Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Importance of Christmas and its Implications for Marriage

Some Christian groups have decided Christmas is not a Holy Day they want to celebrate. I don’t know the reasons all of them give, but some of them arrive at that conclusion because secular society has made Christmas into a season of commercialism and greed. Some say Christmas is based on pagan celebrations. Some add that Jesus was not born on December 25, so there is no reason to celebrate that day.

What does the Bible say about this reasoning? The Apostle Paul had a similar situation with the folks that refused to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Now, since idols are powerless, what does it matter if the meat was offered to idols? Meat is meat. Give thanks to God and eat it.

In the same way, what does it matter what the greedy commercialists, the pagans, and the surrounding culture do? Christ was born, the shepherds came rejoicing to worship Him, and the magi gave gifts to honor Him. Isn’t that what we should be doing? While it is true we should be honoring Him every day of the year, the Bible also supports a special day of honor. First, the example of the shepherds and the magi gives us a clue to what our behavior should be. And the example of Simeon and Anna in the temple suggests we need to treat the coming of Jesus as no ordinary event. In addition, we see an example of rejoicing in the father of the prodigal son, who put on a feast, killing the fatted calf (that apparently was raised to be used for a special occasion) when his son returned.

But what is so important about Jesus being born? Why not quietly and privately worship Him, and not make such a big deal about it?

The big deal is Who Jesus is. He’s not just a king, or the son of a king. Think of how people behave when Prince Charles comes anywhere close by, or how they flocked around Princess Diana. Dignitaries are a big deal. Jesus is God, specifically the Son of God. The omnipotent (that means all-powerful), omnipresent (that means present everywhere), the eternal and everlasting and without end, the holy (that means totally whole and without sin.). There is no other like God or like Jesus, and He is not obligated to give us sinners the time of day. Indeed, if He were like many humans, He would snub us and have nothing to do with us, because we sinners are so distasteful.

In addition, the big deal is where He is from. The eternal Heaven is His home, a beautiful place of splendor and majesty, where all is peace and joy and love all the time. Heaven is much more splendorous than any king’s palace, any garden, any building on earth. None of us would ever want to leave such a place.

Yet Jesus left His home of beauty and eternal satisfaction to come to this cruel, pain-filled earth. It would be somewhat like you or I leaving our comfortable middle-class homes to go live underground with the moles and mice, or perhaps the roaches, termites, or ants. We would always be uncomfortable in our new existence, and we would always long for the comforts of home. Yet, we would go because we wanted to save the creatures from a fate worse than physical death, and because we wanted to bridge the gap between us and them so the creatures can relate to us in a loving, fulfilling way, while bringing unspeakable joy into their lives. It would be all about us choosing to sacrifice our own happiness for their sakes.

That is what Jesus did. While He was here, Jesus self-sacrificially spent long hours healing many sick and handicapped people, and He taught attitudes and truths for living that can bring beauty in our lives in spite of circumstances.

But Jesus went beyond just living among us and suffering along with us from human cruelty and greed. He, who was sinless and did not deserve to be punished or to die, bore the punishment for our sins. We were the ones who deserved to die. But Jesus died in our place.

Without Jesus having come to earth and sacrificing His life for us, we would always be distant from God. Because we did not have the Holy Spirit, we would constantly be making wrong choices unless we carefully kept away from all sin-prone people. Even so, we would need to sacrifice animals to God so that their blood showed Satan that we indeed belong to God and that Satan has no rights over us. But these sacrifices would never remove our sin or free us from sin; they would merely cover or blot out our sin. Why was appearing sinless to Satan so important? We already know God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, but Satan? If sin wasn’t covered by shedding the blood of an innocent animal, when Satan looked at a person, he would see his own DNA of sin, so to speak (Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies,” and by extension, he is also the father of all other sin.), and that would signal to him that the person is a member of Satan’s tribe and is available for Satan’s use. So Christ’s sacrifice in coming to earth, living among us, and dying for us, shedding His blood once and for all, made all the animal blood sacrifices unnecessary. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can be redeemed from sin and death if we choose, and Satan has no dominion over us. It is a very big deal.

But there is more to the story. Husbands are told to love their wives like Christ loved the church. I was at a wedding yesterday and saw something I don’t remember noticing before in Ephesians 5: 25 & 26a “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy…” The implication is that just as Jesus’ loving sacrifice of self makes the church holy, so also the husband’s loving sacrifice of self makes his wife holy, (or ‘more perfect’ if we use human terms). This is not just speaking of the sacrifice of making money so she has food, shelter, and clothing. That particular sacrifice is usually a trade; he makes the money in exchange for her caring for house, children, and him, and she raises the level of respect given to him by society. No, the self-sacrifice is to be like the sacrifice Jesus made, where the bottom line is her welfare and the desire for close companionship with her. (I’m not speaking of s*x here.) Griping and yelling, putting her down and other control tactics do not make her more perfect. They make her more afraid, and therefore more accident-prone, more likely to make fear-based decisions, and less perfect.

Just like Jesus left the comforts of His home to meet the needs of his bride, so also a man should marry for the sake of what he can do for his bride rather than for what she can do for him. This is a tall order, especially in a world where men are seen as the important individuals whose needs and wants must be met, and women are seen as tools to help men gain what they want. But if a man wants to be all God asks him to be, he must put his wife and her desires and needs ahead of his own, just like Jesus did. Indeed, if he is marrying to satisfy his s*xual desires, to have someone to keep house for him, and because he wants to have a hot meal waiting for him when he comes home from work, he is marrying for the wrong reasons.

However, if he is marrying to provide shelter, food, and clothing for her, along with a loving, safe, and respectful home, or to fulfill her desire to have children and the resources and help to care for and nurture them, or to help provide resources so her desire to make a difference in the world can be fulfilled, or to walk side by side with her while they both work to provide resources to make a difference in society, or even to remove the stigma of singleness from her and to raise her status in society, or a combination of all or some of the above, then he is marrying for the right reason, and his part of their marriage will be a symbol of Christ in relation to His church.

I am beginning to notice an interesting correlation. Is it cause and effect? The groups who refuse to celebrate Christmas, usually don’t celebrate Easter either, and they also tend to focus on wife submission and husband leadership, but brush over or completely ignore the husband’s responsibility to love self-sacrificially as Christ did. Are these also the groups who are more prone to tell abused wives to go home and submit to their husbands and that it is unbiblical to leave their abusers? A woman at the wedding reception pointed out to me that if a man really understands the sacrificial love of Jesus and what that means for us, and if he chooses Christ as his Lord and Savior, he would never abuse or mistreat his wife.

Yet I know of a number of men who claim to be Christians, who have chosen Jesus as Savior and who claim to have chosen Him as Lord, who also seek to control their wives, and even abuse them. Is the problem that these men do not understand Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for us? And if they do not understand it, have they really received Him? If they claim His sacrifice is something they deserve, (which is their attitude in most areas of life—especially toward their wives) aren’t they belittling Jesus’ sacrifice for us in general and for themselves in particular? Or if they admit they do not deserve His sacrifice, and accept His grace, but continue abusing their wives, (which is “falling away”) are they not “crucifying the Lord of Glory again?” Hebrews 6:6. If so, Hebrews 10: 26-27 pronounces judgment on them: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

Or, because of the male-superior attitudes and teaching of church leaders, do these men not understand the self-sacrifice God requires of them, particularly toward their wives? But, if all Christian men practiced this self-sacrifice, they would be an example and salt and light to non-Christian men. In addition, they'd impress non-Christian women which would likely have the effect of drawing them toward Christ. Currently, many women leave the church because of their churches adding to the abuse from their husbands. Thus, men loving self-sacrificially as Paul teaches would have an evangelistic effect that is currently not happening in a large number of churches. Somehow, Christians need to start seeing male self-sacrifice as a strength to be cultivated, rather than as a weakness as the world would teach.

God bless you all this Christmas!
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Badmouthing Ex-spouse and His Children

The experts advise divorcing parents to refrain from bad-mouthing the ex-spouse. On the surface this sounds like great advice. If both parents follow it, the children will be spared oceans of emotional pain, will be (relatively) free from adult troubles and be able to develop normally as children.

But what if one of the parents tells the children slanderous things about the other? And what if the slanderous parent is so successful, the child(ren) begin to believe what their parent is saying, even though their own experience is the opposite? I have heard a number of stories of fathers who spew hateful things about their wives or ex-wives to their children, the wives don’t defend themselves or help their children sort through the misinformation, and the children at first begin to believe what Dad says, and eventually hate their mother and want nothing to do with her.

I’ve heard tales of children maintaining that hateful attitude until they themselves are middle-aged and beyond. And even if they finally catch on that Dad was lying, the relationship with Mom is never very close because the lies cover nearly every area of their relationship with Mom and it will take the children the rest of their lives to sort through all the untruths. As issues come up, item by item, and they face one painful belief after another about Mom’s horrible neglect or mistreatment of them or their dad, and they find that Mom actually did not do what Dad said she did, or if she did it was because he did something to misinform or block her, it can be very difficult to let go of “truths” that are not truth at all but have become a part of the child’s self-concept and beliefs about the family history. Because of what Dad said about Mom, the child now believes he or she is not worthy of Mom’s love or is not loveable.

This is tragic. Life will always be extra difficult for that child who mistakenly thinks her mother doesn’t love her and/or is inherently bad. In addition to that, she will have missed out on a relationship that is usually more closely bonded than that of father/child. (When the mother is the badmouthing parent, the children also suffer loss, but the loss may be different.) Without a bonded Mother/child upbringing, children tend to be unable to develop close relationships with others for the rest of their lives. And if the hateful attitude of their dad is the daily “bread” for the family, the children learn to despise others (especially women) and any reaching out to others tends to be for selfish purposes and lacking in genuine caring and compassion. Because of this, I cannot agree with the experts in cases where one parent continually tells the children hateful and untrue things about the other.

However, for the maligned parent to join in the hateful talk only adds to the children’s distress and further impedes their ability to experience a “carefree” childhood and develop normally. Furthermore, if both parents badmouth, the children feel confusion and don’t know who to believe. So neither staying silent, nor badmouthing the children’s father with exaggerated tales or twisting the truth, nor vicious hateful talk will have a positive effect on the children and their relationships with their parents. The mother in this case must walk a very fine line of correcting the misinformation, but keeping all negative talk about their father to a minimum. She can appeal to the experiences of the children to help them sort through the conflicting stories. For example: Even if Mom said that to Dad, is she actually having nothing to do with the children? Does she act like she hates them? Is she being hateful when she helps them with their school work or expects them to abide by rules aimed at helping them develop to their full potential?

Children cannot be expected to sort through hurtful information by themselves; they do not have adequate reasoning skills to perform the task. And there is far too much to lose to allow one parent to drive a wedge between Mother and child.

But even if Mother does defend herself and appeal to the child’s own knowledge of truth, the end result may be less than healthy for the child because of the conflicting messages and accompanying emotions. The child loves both her parents. When Dad uses vicious verbiage to downgrade and disrespect Mom, he has set himself up as the primary parent who has the right to define the person and behavior of every person—especially those in the family. Even if the child has concluded Dad is wrong, his love for Dad is likely to cause him to retain a part of Dad’s message—disrespect toward Mom. Indeed, disrespect toward Mom has been planted, and then with the repeating, disrespect is watered and tended, and is likely to flourish in spite of the child’s conclusions. It is Dad’s example toward their mother that is easily copied, especially in moments when the child wishes to rebel or discount what Mom says.

For the parent who would rejoice with that outcome, the monster will come to roost on your doorstep. A child who knows her parent is capable of being so obviously wrong about her other parent that even the child can see it, loses her respect and trust in the disrespectful parent. She will be unable to bond with the parent that lies to her. In addition, she will feel conflicted about that parent, and by extension, she will be conflicted about herself. She wants to say both her parents are good. If they are good, she can assume she is good, too. But if one of them bashes and lies about the other, how can she conclude the bashing parent is good? And if one of them bashes, can she be certain without a doubt that the bashing was not deserved? So she has to live with the possibility that both of her parents are bad.

If one of the child’s parents is unacceptable, is that true of him, too? Or perhaps his conclusions are wrong, and the bashed parent is actually the bad parent. Even worse, what if the bashing parent is partially correct (not all bad) and Mother is almost as bad as Dad says? With two bad parents, does that mean the child is terrible, too? If his mother is partially bad according to Dad, and he, himself knows Dad is partially bad for his vicious and untrue statements about Mom, the whole family, including him are probably bad and undeserving of respect. In other words, the bashing brings confusion to a child’s thoughts. It’s a confusion that never quite goes away and affects the child’s sense of who he is and how much respect he deserves from society.

The child then begins to either copy Dad and pick on others, or begins to assume a worth beneath everyone else, resulting in getting picked on.

Children rely on their parents and other adults around them for a sense of what is true and the difference between fantasy and reality. When one parent distorts truth by resorting to vicious lying about the other parent, the child has to take on an adult job and discern for herself what is truth. But because the person she naturally turns to to help her discern her world cannot be relied upon, she has to rely on the person the first person has made clear is secondary. And because that person is secondary in her mind, she can never be quite sure if her conclusions are correct.

This confusion will always be churning at some level in her brain, which steals some of her concentration, resulting in the likelihood of creating difficulty in getting good grades in school or of succeeding in life. The child is likely to either believe he or she is less than others, and then the stress of that belief brings the belief to fulfillment and results in poor achievement at nearly everything. Or conversely, the child is likely to believe he or she is super-important (like the bashing parent) and without any effort is entitled to privileges others can never attain no matter how hard they work, which also results in poor achievement at nearly everything.

The prognosis for children with one badmouthing parent is not good. What can the non-badmouthing parent do to reduce the damage, besides help the child to know the truth? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have suggestions.

First, use the reports of badmouthing as an opportunity to teach the children to pray for those who persecute you, as the Bible teaches.

Second, acknowledge to the child that this behavior is hurting both you, the child, and any siblings, and that all of you need to go to God for healing. Search for resources on how to accomplish this.

Third, don’t be in a hurry to force forgiveness, unless forgiveness is taught as something apart from reconciliation and trust. It is not appropriate to teach a child to behave as if it never happened. He or she may need to keep an emotional distance from Dad for awhile as a way to let him know the bashing is unacceptable to the child, and that there will not be a payoff for Dad.

Fourth, do not talk to your children about your own painful emotions about your (ex)spouse, except in areas where they are already involved as a way to show them you are available for them to talk about these things with you, and to model behavior that seeks healing rather than stuffing emotions inside. In those cases, use your difficulties as examples of how to deal with the pain, rather than as spouse-bashing opportunities.

Fifth, always double check your own motivations. Are you doing the right thing for the right reason? Are you helping the children discern absolute truth and keeping your bias (whether protective or accusatory toward the spouse) out of the discussion?

Sixth, if there is anything good you can tell your child about the other parent, do so. Some folks say there is good in everyone. But I have discovered the so-called good in some people is evil in motivation, and therefore I cannot call it good. It may be the only “good” that is to be found is in meeting minimal human expectations. (He fed and clothed the child, even if it was poorly done.)

Seventh, absolutely do not forget to find good things about your child and to comment positively to your child about them. In your effort to affirm your child, do not lie. The child will conclude you think he is so bad you cannot find anything to compliment him about, or will learn to negate what you say which will start a pattern of negating nice things about himself—even when they are true. And your whole effort is to keep your child solidly connected to truth and reality.

Lastly, accept that healing and mopping up after a badmouthing parent will take time. Especially, since badmouthing is not the only damaging thing he is doing.

Never forget: with God’s help there is hope—even for children of a hostile, verbally abusive parent, and also for their non-abusive parent who is suffering along with them. And although it doesn’t excuse the parent inflicting the damage, God is very capable of turning your woundedness and your child’s woundedness into something that blesses all of humanity and brings forth beauty and light to everyone it touches.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Domestic Violence: Terrorism at Home

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit

In the United States we expect to be safe in our homes. Terrorism doesn’t happen here, we think. But is that true? In 2003, among all female murder victims in the US, 30% were slain by their husbands or boyfriends. In 2005, 1200 women were killed by their intimate partners, and 400 men were killed by their partners. (Women who kill their male partners often do so because they are being abused and threatened by their husbands or boyfriends and are afraid for their lives--the female version of self-defense) Did these murders occur out of the blue? No, they were the end result of weeks, months, and even years of terrorism—most of it behind closed doors, in the “safety” of their homes.

Closer to home, in Iowa in 2006, domestic murders hit an all time high since 1995: 15 women, one man, and 4 children were killed. Domestic murders have decreased from what they were in the 1970’s and 1980’s since laws have been enacted and enforced, and resources made available for victims of domestic abuse. But since 2002, those resources have been cut; 9 programs to aid abused and raped women closed due to funding cuts, and female deaths in Iowa due to domestic violence have increased.

These figures are why the focus is still on male violence against their female partners, and on providing safety to women. The most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she leaves her abuser and in the two weeks following, which means it is imperative she has a safe haven to go to, resources to help her get there before her abuser catches up with her, and security and advocacy when she gets there.

This is difficult even with resources available before 2002. An abused woman has to pick a time when it is safest to leave. She often can’t leave when he is beating her and possibly maiming her for life, lest he kill her. Beaten, suffering from broken bones and internal injuries, she has to wait until he leaves or is fast asleep long enough to give her time to make a phone call to get help, to allow extra time to drag her children and her aching and broken body to the driveway or street, and if she cannot drive, to give the responding person time to arrive.

But when a woman lives 50 miles from the nearest shelter and her abuser has turned her family and friends against her so she feels she cannot ask them for help, and shelter staff has been reduced from 8 persons to 5, so she has to wait for someone to be available to drive that far to get her, what is she to do? Will the help arrive before the abuser returns? With reduced shelters, sometimes there is no room for her and her children. This is not acceptable. Any woman who is afraid of her husband or boyfriend MUST have help available. Even if he has never stooped to physical abuse, her gut is telling her she is not safe. The common denominator about DV is that it starts with verbal and emotional abuse and escalates from there. Women need continued resources to stop DV—even before it starts, instead of only intervening when she is bloody and helpless to help herself. So this October, don’t forget to do what you can to help our hurting women. Check out to see the October Domestic Violence awareness month calendar of events, and find where you can participate. Click on “where can I help?” and “handouts to print” and donate money or supplies to help those who are abused. God bless you for it!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Husbands Always Sacrifice for Your Wives, No Matter What

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit to read chapter one.

Wives submit no matter what. It does not matter if your husband is kind or mean and demanding, if he beats you or calls you names and demeans you in every way he can think of. You are still required to submit to him. Or so the teaching of some groups says. Some, like Bruce Ware, even go so far as to say that domestic violence is caused by the refusal of the wife to submit. If all this isn’t bad enough, folks with this belief also think the wife who refuses to obey her husband’s ridiculous demands is rebelling against none other than God, Himself.

Yet, when a husband demands that his wife submit, in most cases she does everything she can to please him, and he still is not satisfied, increases his demands, and gets angrier and angrier until he lashes out at her and hits her with words, putdowns, threats, intimidation, or physical pain. That marriage does not symbolize Christ and the church in any way. In fact, it is more like Satan turning his evil attacks against the church.

So what is the answer? Did you notice the directive for husbands from that same passage is not stressed by the wife submit group? If it was, it would sound like this. Husbands, love your wives self-sacrificially no matter what. It does not matter if she shirks her responsibilities, calls you names, belittles you, beats you, does not submit to you, or is unfaithful to you. God does not say you are to sacrifice yourself for her only if she meets your expectations. You must always love her unconditionally. The bottom line is that you must sacrifice your own desires for hers. You must give your wife and her desires and needs preference over your own, no matter what. If she is hurtful to you, turn the other cheek. If she is demanding, give her what she asks for and walk the second mile, giving her more of what she wants than she asked for. Always be kind and tender toward her, set aside your sexual preferences to fulfill hers, and bend yourself to fit with her goals and aspirations.

Indeed, if churches taught this one-sided doctrine that implied wives had the blessing of the church to take advantage of their husbands, men would walk out, and cringe at the word ‘love’ just as wives currently cringe at the word ‘submission.’ If every time marriages got embroiled in conflict and husbands went to their pastors for help, and the pastors advised the husbands to sacrifice and give in to their wives, men, too, would believe themselves to be oppressed. If pastors focused their preaching and teaching on requiring sacrificial behavior from the husbands, and had done so for hundreds of years, with only a brief overview of wife submission, perhaps men too would feel that the balance of power between the genders is very unequal.

Or would they? Oddly, focus on the husband’s part is closer to the Bible’s teaching than the one-sided wife submit teaching many churches currently promote. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” If we get the order right and make the sacrificial love of husbands the center of attention, the wife’s love and submission are very likely to follow. Indeed, some groups are emphasizing to abusive husbands that they practice self-sacrifice toward their wives, without any expectation of return. And when the husband follows through, the couple ends up with a very happy marriage. (see The page for men is especially helpful.)

Why does this work? As God prophesied to Eve in Genesis 3:16, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband.” Women have a built in desire to please their husbands. So if the church would emphasize the husband’s role of leading out in loving self-sacrifice, servanthood, and nurturance, and the husband would follow through, the wife would respond with a return of the same. The result would be a reality of what is described in Ephesians 5 and other similar passages. Everyone would submit to everyone—including husbands and wives submitting to one another. Then, indeed, our churches would have achieved marriages that truly resemble Christ and the church,(instead of Satan and the church) and as a by-product, a highly reduced divorce rate.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Behind the Hedge: Abuse Done in Secret is not Necessarily Hidden

Behind the Hedge. What does the title of my novel mean? I wanted a title that symbolizes that most family abuse is done in private, behind closed doors. But I wanted something more. Something that symbolizes that abuse is not as private as the abuser thinks it is. Behind the Hedge was a perfect fit. If you’ve ever driven past a hedge, and then walked past it, you’ll understand what I mean. When we drive by, all we see is the hedge. We cannot see what is going on behind it. But when we walk by and try to see through that hedge, we will find places where we can get glimpses of what is on the other side. Sometimes if we move the branches ever so slightly, we can see amazing things on the other side. It just takes a small amount of effort.

Family or domestic violence—even when it is non-physical violence—is that way. When we breeze by, everything looks normal. The husband appears to love his wife, and the wife appears to look up to her husband. If they are church goers, he may have his arm around her in church, and they may stay close together after the service. Both may laugh and joke like anyone else. She may tend to be quiet, and he may be so charming. But if we take the time to slow down and really get to know them, we may find a different story. At first, it is like peeking through a hedge. We get a faint clue that something is not right. He may say something to her or about her that hints at disrespect. She may go out of her way to avoid displeasing him. But at this level it is easy to pass off what we see. To ignore it.

But if we make the effort to know them even better, we may find out that he does not allow her to do what she is educated to do or what she is passionate about. And he may limit her contact with friends or how much money she can spend, but he has expensive toys—perhaps a boat or a classic car, or clothes that are more expensive than hers.

And if we spend more time with them, at some point we will hear him say something demeaning to her or hear him react in a irrational manner, or even hear him verbally tear her to shreds. Then we will look at one another as if to say “What is his problem?” If we are allowed to talk with his wife for any length of time, she will indicate she thinks she is stupid, incapable, or inadequate. But if we ask, we will find she was on the honor roll at school and is very bright. By now, we’d have to be quite dense to not see he is controlling her, and likely abusing her at home.

That is why I put a flowering hedge around the Miller’s yard. I wanted people to see that the fa├žade can be ever so beautiful, but if we care about our fellow humans, we will make the effort to see beyond appearances, to offer understanding and help to those who are being hurt and accountability to the offender. Indeed, abuse done in secret is not necessarily hidden. And those who abuse lose their right to privacy. It is very apparent if we educate ourselves on what to look for and if we take the time to find the places to peer behind the hedge.

Waneta Dawn is the author of Behind the Hedge, A novel.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why Everyone Must Combat Abuse & Domestic Violence

Domestic violence. Batterered wives. Domestic terrorism. Bah humbug. Who cares? None of my friends are abused. It has nothing to do with me. People may well say that; but how do you know? Are you sure your friend isn’t black and blue on the inside from verbal and emotional abuse and is keeping it private as is typical of abused women? And what about the receptionist at your doctor’s office? Could it be the name calling and put downs she’s getting at home made it so hard to concentrate that she put your papers in someone else’s file and now no one can find them? Could your coworker, whom you think has PMS, actually be in terror of unjustly losing custody of her children because of threats from her almost ex-husband and because the court tends to believe the statements of an angry aggressive man are true, while his victim must furnish proof for her statements? And horror of horrors, what if one of your daughters—or your friend’s daughters ends up married to an abuser? As with the Holocaust, if too many people shrug and turn away, the problem will soon be on everyone’s doorstep and come into their homes. We must not only intervene to stop domestic violence, we must take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

But how can we prevent abuse?

First, look at what causes it. We have a nation built on patriarchy, of men making the rules, and still have many who are intent on keeping it that way. Theoretically that should not be a problem—at least not if men are truly intent on the best interests of women and children as much as or more than their own welfare. But not only do humans tend to be selfish, when we have years of pro-male teaching, beliefs and power, combined with disrespect and devaluing of women, laws--whether by government or society--intended to benefit and maintain the power and privilege of men are the outcome.

Second, examine those male vs female beliefs. Is the religious text actually aimed at keeping women in their place, or have you misread it and totally missed that in the culture the directive was given, the intent was to provide for women the next step out of oppression? Have you not noticed how incongruent are the texts for yielding to one another versus interpretation of texts requiring one gender to totally yield so the other can dominate?

Third, educate yourself about domestic violence and abuse and control tactics, and conversely, about healthy supportive relationships. Examine your own behavior. Do you tend to control or manipulate others? Do you tend to be controlled or manipulated by others? If so, take steps toward mutual respect of self and others and influence others toward the same.

Fourth, look for role models who respect both men and women, and for married role models who show what a marriage where both spouses have equal respect and decision-making power looks like. And then develop relationship with them so you can see them in action, learn their attitudes, behaviors and knee-jerk reactions, and copy them.

Fifth, learn to see past the charming exterior of a man, and watch for signs that his partner believes she is less important than her spouse, or that she is brow beaten. (Yes, it is true some women are abusive and the reverse may apply. But at this point it is still primarily women whose lives are in danger. Even if the abuse doesn’t appear to be “that bad” right now, abuse does tend to escalate to physical violence and all too frequently, life-long injury or death for women.)

Sixth, when you think you have spotted an abusive relationship, resist the urge to avoid them and move toward them instead. Work to develop a trusting relationship with the couple, and contact your local shelter or read a book on the subject for ideas how to make a positive difference and be a corrective influence and support in their lives without stooping to controlling them.

Who knows? The life you save may be your daughter’s, or your granddaughter’s, or your son’s.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Backbone of Domestic Violence

Imagine living in a culture where everyone deferred to women. When husbands wanted to purchase something, they would be required to tell salespeople, “I have to ask my wife.” We would have a history of perhaps 43 women presidents and congress would be primarily women, with only a smattering of men. Men would have gained the right to vote in 1920, but only after 70 years of debating, arguing, and persuading for that right. There would be an ancient law allowing wives to beat their husbands with a stick no bigger than their thumbs (perhaps in this case, the husband’s thumb would be used as a measurement.) Pastors and priests would have been only women for nearly two thousand years, with a few men becoming pastors perhaps in the last 20 years. Husbands would be taught both from the pulpit and from societal pressure and shaming devices that they are required to yield to their wives, to sacrifice their own desires and their sense of right and wrong and what is best for the opinion and preferences of their wives. The whole society would be based on laws and rules drafted by and decided by women. Men would have had very little control or choices concerning the details of their lives. Whoever “wore the dresses” would be in the power position and would control the purse strings of family and society. Men wouldn’t be allowed to go hunting, boating, or to a professional ball game without the permission of their wives. In fact, there may be no professional ball games, or the teams may be primarily played and owned by women. Females would have had the privilege all these years to determine the direction of society, if or when our country went to war (perhaps there wouldn’t be any war). Men would often be expected to serve their wives and children by fetching them a drink or food. In the bedroom, the wife’s desire—or lack thereof—and preferences would determine the details of intimacy, while a husband’s desires may or may not be addressed, depending upon the whims of his wife. “Women’s work” would have earned substantially higher wages than men’s work for years, with only recent efforts at equal pay for equal work, and male professions still valued as deserving less pay than female professions.

Or perhaps if women controlled our country, most of those inequalities listed above wouldn’t be here. Maybe instead of a society governed far too often by “might makes right,” the prevailing code would be “caring and sharing are daring.”

We get so used to the way things are, that we don’t realize about half of us are more privileged than the other half. It’s by looking at life with the genders flipped that we can see clearly how much our society is controlled by men and how privileged they are and expect to be. Some people think here in the USA there is equality between the genders. If that is so, why is there still so much husband and boyfriend violence against wives and girlfriends? Isn’t it because men expect to be in control of their wives and girlfriends? Why is it only in the last 20 years that law makers have begun to address domestic violence? Why do some church leaders (like Bruce Ware) still insist women cause men to abuse them because the women are not submitting? Why are the majority of women’s jobs paid far less than male professions? Who decides that childcare should have little pay? Wasn’t it started by husbands who would not allow their wives to have a paying job unless childcare cost substantially less than the wife brought in? Why wasn’t childcare based on the husband’s salary? And why are those in the childcare and elementary teaching professions still paid so little? Although our laws and culture have moved to being more egalitarian, many men still expect to have their way and the men who make the rules are slow to make laws to curb abuse, either because they do not see the necessity for it, or for fear of losing their privileged positions, or both.

Having said that, I am deeply grateful to the men who have picked up the gauntlet and chosen to battle domestic violence and male privilege alongside women. Some men even lead the charge. After all, since women are their wives, sisters and mothers, the pain women experience at the hands of men has a way of rippling out and impacting the men closest to them—often excruciating and for decades. Usually in less income for the family. Sometimes in stress diseases or mental illness that drain the family funds. Sometimes in a troubled sex life, or a grouchy wife to name a few. Indeed, when men take up the battle for women, they are also fighting for their own wellbeing and quality of life, as well as that of their families. These are the men who are truly “manly.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Who is Doing the Abusing and Why?

Domestic Violence. It’s an ugly term, and the results are even uglier. Few want to admit to doing it. And those who do admit it, blame someone else for their actions. Part of the blame game is to say women do it just as much as men. Is this true? I agree some women use abuse tactics, including physical violence. But the statistics say it is women who are getting hurt and dying.
What causes individuals to degrade, threaten, rape, demand, shove, choke, control, and otherwise violate their spouses? Isn’t it that they think they have the right to have their way and to have power over another—and over one whom they claim to love, at that? Who has this belief? Women or men?
If you say women expect to have their way, what societal norms cause women to believe they have this right? Name and state the rule. Let’s see… “Women are to control the world.” Isn’t familiar to me. “Women should rule their families.” Never heard of it. “Husbands submit to your wives.” Sounds familiar, but is misquoted backward. I conclude I don’t know of any rules that give special privileges to women.
Does society have a belief system that says men should have things their way? Absolutely! The man is the “head of the house.” He’s to “wear the pants.” Women are to “submit to their husbands.” Society has lots of rules granting privilege to men, but none that bestow similar privilege upon women.
Why? The Women’s Liberation movement blames Christianity. Are they correct? Partially. The church has indeed put emphasis on wifely submission and very little on the self-sacrificial love required from husbands. Traditionally, wives have been blamed and told by pastors to submit any time there is “conflict” in the home. But is this Christianity? Absolutely not! The Bible requires that all Christians submit to one another. There is no free pass for husbands—at least not in the Bible.
So where does abuse come from if God and the Bible are not to blame? It comes from the human tendency to sin. For centuries male “Christian” leaders have emphasized Bible verses of their choice, and rushed over verses they didn’t care to obey. It was easy to focus on verses that gave them the authority and privileges they wanted and to ignore verses that directed them to submit.
The requirements of true Christianity are to “not think of (ourselves) more highly than (we) ought to think,” to “present (our) bodies a living sacrifice,” to “submit to one another,” to “build one another up,” to “be kind to one another,” and to “honor and prefer one another.” When leaders fail to teach biblical principles of mutual submission, it gives those who want to control their wives the hammer to do what it takes to enforce their authority. In effect, it gives men permission to hijack Christianity for their own ends and to terrorize their wives and children.
But why do some men who reject Christianity and have no “God-given” mandate to rule their wives choose to abuse? Ever since the fall, men have chosen to rule their wives. Adam blamed Eve for his sin, and God prophesied in Genesis 3:16 that because of his sinful nature, Adam would rule over Eve. That pattern has been here ever since, and God first implemented Judaism and then Christianity to free the oppressed and return equality to humanity. Let’s not allow the power-hungry to hijack our faith and make it into something evil.