Friday, October 30, 2009

Is Forgive and Forget Biblical?

Those who place emphasis on forgiveness often say one must forget for it to be real forgiveness. This week a woman told me about her struggle to forgive her abusive ex-husband. As soon as she decided to forgive him, the memories of all he had done overwhelmed her. She thought that meant she had not forgiven him. She said it took 2 years for her to be able to forgive and forget. (Yet, she must still be remembering, or she wouldn’t have mentioned it to me—not even from the forgiveness angle.)

I want to know the book, chapter and verse that tells us to forgive and forget.
I checked the concordance, and did not find those words together anywhere. In fact, I find principles that suggest it is unwise to forget. Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12 “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Even though we forgive, it may be stupid to forget.

Consider this unlikely situation: While at work, your boss tells you and a coworker to go to another area of the building. You get on the elevator with your coworker, and she walks in front of you presumably to punch in the number of the floor you are headed for, and with all her weight, steps on your foot with her spiked heel. She apologizes and you forgive her, even though your foot hurts, and when you check it later, you have a bruise. But you put the incident out of your mind.

A week later the boss sends you and your coworker on another mission, and she does the same thing, and again apologizes, calling herself a big klutz. You forgive her again, and berate yourself when you can’t put it out of your mind the first 2 days. “It was just an accident,” you scold yourself, “forget it!”

Two weeks later during another elevator trip with her, you again get your foot nailed by her spike. This time, she apparently lost her balance and fell against you, and her spike landed on the very spot that is still hurting from the last time. You forgive her again.

Now, if you are too stupid to see that this is a pattern you need to make sure you do NOT forget, and that you either need to ride a separate elevator or keep a large briefcase between you and the spike-lady, and that you need to report her to the boss (or to whoever deals with assaults at your workplace), and to the police, you will keep getting hurt by your coworker.

Remembering how other individuals treat us is an important part of making decisions, of staying out of danger. Yet many Christians throw human interpretation of forgiveness at people, and by insisting that they forget, influence them to put themselves in harm’s way.

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

Forgiveness, Trust, Restitution, and Reconciliation

The truth about forgiveness is that it does not erase our pain. Instead, we choose to bear the pain and release the one who caused it by no longer demanding payment from them and by letting go of our anger and refusing to seek revenge.

Consider a person whose loved one is killed by a drunk driver. Will forgiveness actually take away the pain of loss? Will the person stop missing their loved one? Hardly. That pain will be there for many years. Forgiveness in this case means the person is not going to try to get even, but chooses to let go of all anger, resentment, bitterness, and malice against the person.

Does forgiveness mean the person is going to try to protect the drunk from the consequences of his behavior? No. To do so would actually be a disservice to the drunk, and may result in another unnecessary death at his hands. However, testimony against the drunk must be truthful and neither understated nor embellished. It is the responsibility of those who administer the law to punish the drunk.

Therefore, while forgiveness does not seek revenge, neither does it protect from consequences. Further, although a person who forgives may have to distance herself from or even divorce the one who wronged her, she will not administer punitive consequences by her own hand, unless that is actually the harmed person’s responsibility because she is the offender’s parent, or otherwise carries the responsibility to punish the wrong-doer.

How does forgiveness look in real life? In the case of unpaid debt, the wronged party may choose to stop associating closely with the one who did the harm, and may even take steps to hold the wrong-doer accountable by reporting him to the authorities and testifying in court if needed. However, the wronged person will not slash the wrong-doers tires, spray paint hateful words on his garage, nor leave key scratches in the paint on his car. Instead the wronged person will pray for his/her trouble-causer, and with a loving attitude do what he/she can to restore him to right thinking/behaving if opportunity arises and if it is safe to do so. Here I add that what is safe for one person, may put another at risk. For example, it may be safe for a large man to associate with an abusive husband, but totally unsafe for the abuser's wife to associate with him.

When the person says he is sorry, the wronged one can express forgiveness and cautiously offer relationship if it is safe to do so, leaving room to back away again if the repentance is not genuine. However, in some cases, especially when there has been repeated harm done as in domestic abuse, a person can accept a statement of apology, extend forgiveness, and remain distant until such time as trust is reestablished through the offender’s restitution and long-term trustworthy behavior.

In the case of domestic abuse, the abuser is often the first to point out that if the abused party does not take him back into her full good graces, she has not forgiven him. This is totally false. In actuality, the ball is in the abuser’s court. Because of his repeated trampling on his wife, he must not only show that he will no longer stomp all over her, he must take responsibility for his behavior by paying restitution.

Lundy Bancroft, in his book “Why does he DO That?” puts it this way. (I repeat this in my own words without looking it up recently, so I may miss some points and add thoughts that are my own.) The harm done by domestic abuse is similar to the harm done when a man cuts down his neighbor’s beautiful shade tree. Most abusers think an “I’m sorry” will make the relationship OK again. But it does not. How does the neighbor know if her prize rose bush is safe from her neighbor’s chain saw? In fact, although it is impossible for him to restore the shade tree, he must do his best to restore as much as he can. He must buy as large a shade tree as he can find to replace the tree he cut down, it must meet with his neighbor’s approval, and he must hire a tree moving service that plants large trees to plant it. He must water and feed the tree faithfully for several years to make sure it survives and grows. Since even this does not restore his neighbor’s property to its original condition, he must look for other ways to make amends, to beautify his neighbor’s property or benefit his neighbor in a way that the NEIGHBOR deems appropriate.

This obviously requires genuine repentance, humility, loving concern for his neighbor, and an attitude of selflessness. When these qualities and actions are missing, it is impossible to restore the type of trust that brings true reconciliation.

Only when the abuser makes full restitution and shows himself trustworthy over a long period of time—at least a year—can he expect his wife’s pain to begin to diminish and her physical and emotional ailments to begin to heal, which will allow her forgiveness to grow into trust and then into reconciliation.

Instead of pushing the wronged party to forgive, trust, and reconcile, it is high time we push the offender to take responsibility, pay restitution, and BE consistently trustworthy for the rest of his life.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Forgiveness—What it is and Isn’t

Christians say much about forgiveness. They teach it is the eraser that cements all kinds of relationships. People often believe forgiveness erases offenses, restores trust, brings reconciliation, eradicates emotional pain, heals illnesses, and makes everything hunky dory.

But is this true? Can forgiveness do all of the above?

Well, what IS forgiveness? There is so much conflicting information about it, that I have struggled to know what it is, let alone how to apply it. I finally came to a conclusion based on biblical teachings about money. Using a concrete item makes it much easier for me to understand the concept, which also clarified for me what forgiveness can and cannot do.

Jesus told a parable about forgiving a debt, so I, too will tell a parable.
Imagine that you came to me, jobless and wanting to invest in a business that would provide for your family, and I loaned you $100,000.00 (One hundred thousand dollars). It took me 40 years of scrimping and self-denial to save this money so I could set it aside for retirement. It is also all I was able to save. But seeing your distress, I loaned it to you so that your family would not go hungry, and with the agreement that you would pay me interest so that I, too, would benefit from the exchange.

The first year was interest and payment free, per our agreement, and the second year you made two monthly payments, and then stopped paying altogether. It soon became clear that you had used up the whole $100,000 and now your fledgling business had failed to get off the ground. Then I find out you squandered the money, using most of it for “research” that was actually self-gratification and entertainment. You never did open your business. And now you not only had no money left, I also understood that you didn’t have the morals to be able to work enough to repay it. I could choose to forgive you or choose to remain angry and frustrated the rest of my life as I keep hounding you for payment or telling everyone what a horrible person you are. (I do believe there is room for sharing our grief with a few trusted confidantes, but it is important that we do not emebellish the wrong that was done to us.)

What does it mean to forgive? It means that I do not expect you to repay the debt. It is forgiven. Therefore, I let go of the anger and frustration I felt toward you. However, I may need to take some time to grieve my loss.

Does it mean I trust you? If you have shown yourself untrustworthy, absolutely NOT! Does it mean I am reconciled with you? No. Does it mean I do not deal with emotional pain? NO. In fact, I will have to deal with major emotional pain because I have just suffered a HUGE loss. My entire retirement savings are gone and cannot be recovered. Because of this, I will be unable to retire—ever. My income was low enough in my working years that my social security will never be enough to live on. I will live in pain, still working hard years after I am too frail or ill to keep working. Or I will stop working and constantly be scraping the bottom of the barrel for the rest of my life, forced to choose what needed items I must do without.

The pain I suffer will be so severe I may end up grieving my loss for the rest of my life. It will always be a factor in my life circumstances. Even at a tiny 2% interest on the $100,000, I will bear the loss of $167 a month for the rest of my life. That hurts! It is not small change to me.

Yet Christians teach that if I forgive you, my pain should be gone, and I should be your good friend. They seem to deny that friendship requires trust—a trust that is earned. In fact, they would urge me to be so foolish to loan you money again, if you are still in need and I am able to save enough to loan. This, my friends, is not forgiveness, it is stupidity and foolishness.

The forgiveness pushers fail to understand that it is each person’s responsibility to BE trustworthy—to earn trust. I take that back. They fail to understand that it is each MAN’S responsibility to BE trustworthy. They have very little problem demanding trustworthiness and perfect submission from women.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Authors of Fireproof Seem to Claim Forgiveness Would Save Abusive Marriages

Another comment by the Kendrick brothers, that Catherine’s “bitterness” is the result of her failure to forgive Caleb on a daily basis, seems to suggest that the marriage of Caleb and Catherine would not have degenerated if Catherine had forgiven her husband daily. This belief is frequently voiced in the Christian community and needs to be examined. Does a spouse’s forgiveness stop her abuser from escalating his abuse as is commonly believed? Many people quote Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” Is this verse always the case?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think forgiveness is great and necessary, and a soft answer does turn away wrath in many cases. But is this true in abusive marriages?

To find out, I want to follow through on what their reasoning would produce. Remember, I personally have been abused and for years did my best to forgive and believe the best of my husband and also responded with a soft answer. Other abused women report experiences similar to mine. Yet none of us claim to be perfect. Thus, I want to imagine what the results would be if a wife WAS able to forgive her abusive husband every day.

Let’s start with Caleb saying he wants to withhold a third of his income to save for his boat and that he pressures Catherine into agreeing to this. According to Brothers Kendrick, Catherine should forgive him for being so self-centered and for not seeing her needs. So let’s say Catherine sacrifices her needs and even tries to help him save for his boat. She forgives him, loves and serves him, while she sees him in the best possible light as an unselfish man.

Caleb sees her love, service and forgiveness as his due, and takes his 2 days off doing whatever brings him pleasure. (This has been his pattern for 6 years of marriage, according to the writing of the Kendrick brothers.)

Catherine comes home from work on his second day off, picks up Caleb’s mess, buys groceries, cooks his dinner, dares to take his clothes to the dry cleaners while the food cooks, all the while thanking God that she has such a wonderful husband and again forgiving him for leaving all the work to her. At the dinner table, Caleb complains that the roast is tough and the lettuce hasn’t been cut fine enough. Catherine forgives him, and brings out the dessert, which he tells her is not to his liking, either. After dinner, she struggles with resentment, but chooses to forgive him. She sweetly gives herself to him that night, and he uses her, giving nothing in return. Catherine cries herself to sleep, and when she wakes in the morning, again chooses to forgive her husband and love him unconditionally.

This becomes a normal part of Catherine’s life. Her husband puts her down and expects special service every day, justifying his behavior by emphasizing how much he contributes with his pay check and with saving people’s lives. Catherine forgives him, and acts like a normal wife would by telling him how her dad has to work so hard to help her mom because the wheel chair and bed are not right for her mom, but Caleb dismisses Catherine’s concern, saying it is their problem, so Catherine drops the issue as a good Christian wife is taught to do.

Catherine tries to do all the little things to encourage her husband, to raise his self-esteem, and he continues to get nastier. (Bruce Ware and followers would blame Caleb’s nastiness on Catherine because she is not submissive enough, but in real life once abusers get what they want, they soon raise the bar and increase their demands. This seems to be caused by a mix of believing they are entitled to get special service and special privileges that their wives do not have and by a desire to feel a sense of power over their wives.)

After a year goes by, Catherine is secretly crying herself to sleep every night, while Caleb is getting everything he wants, and becoming discontented that he doesn’t have more or get even more service from his wife. He would like her to stay at home so she can do more for him—especially on his days off, but he also wants her to continue bringing in her paycheck, so he can buy his boat sooner. He asks her to cook meals for him to eat while she is at work, and she complies with that request, too.

Catherine keeps forgiving her husband, and doesn’t keep a record of all the things he does to hurt her every day, yet her inner pain keeps growing. She makes a bigger effort to forgive him, thinking that is her problem, but she ends up bursting into tears at work. She tries to control and hide her tendency to cry, but it slips out at times.

When Gavin makes his overture at work, she tells him how wonderful her husband is, which results in Gavin leaving her alone. Everyone thinks Caleb and Catherine have a wonderful marriage.

After another year, Catherine stops going to sleep after being intimate with Caleb, but instead gets up to finish all the tasks she is expected to do, trying to be as quiet as possible so her beloved husband can sleep soundly. She uses this time to pray for her husband, focusing on seeing him in the best possible light. These extra hours of work result in her getting fewer and fewer hours of sleep. Less sleep plus the stress of being continually trampled on by her husband makes her prone to “catching” every cold and flu that goes around, and she develops physical diseases as well. (In a recent study women who had suffered recent domestic abuse were more likely to have been diagnosed with a wide range of diseases and disorders:
The women who reported violence were nearly six times as likely to have been diagnosed with substance use disorders, the researchers found, while they were at nearly five-fold greater risk of "family and social problems." Their risk of depression was more than tripled, while anxiety diagnoses were nearly three times as common among these women.
Other diagnoses that were more common among recently abused women included low back and neck pain; sprains and strains; sexually transmitted diseases; lacerations, bruises and scrapes; urinary tract infections; chest pain; and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

to read the entire article.) She goes to the doctor for her many maladies, and the doctor recognizes symptoms of depression and prescribes anti-depressants.

Caleb thinks the anti-depressants are not necessary and refuses to pay for them, which leaves Catherine with yet another expense she can ill-afford. She tries to cook more from scratch to save at the grocery store, but time is an issue, so she tries buying cheaper cuts of meat so she’ll have funds to buy some precooked meals. Caleb complains about the cheap meat, so she is forced to skimp on clothing for herself, wearing them until they are noticeably worn out, and getting fewer haircuts. Caleb gripes that she is letting herself “go to seed,” so she tries to find other ways to stretch her income.

There never is a solution. Catherine is always viewed as the problem, and over time she also believes if she could be more perfect, Caleb would be happy with her.

The prescription doesn’t help. One day when Catherine’s heart is breaking because of her husband’s recent “verbal unkindness,” (John Piper’s term) she focuses so hard on trying not to cry and on trying to get rid of her anxiety and the fear she still feels because Caleb overwhelmed her by threatening her with his fists and screaming in her face that she steps in the street without thinking and a car hits her and kills her. Everyone thinks it was an accident. No one suspects suicide, since they believe her marriage to Caleb is so happy. A few blame the anti-depressants. But no matter, Catherine is dead and everyone feels so sorry for her husband who “adored” her.

A second possible ending is that one day threatening her with his fists wasn’t enough, and Caleb gets his bat and hits her with the same viciousness he used on the garbage can. Caleb either breaks her jaw and fractures her eye socket, or hits Catherine so hard she falls and hits her head on the counter, killing her or putting her in the hospital for a long time.

The point I’m making is that in both Fireproof and in the Love Dare and in the Kendrick Brother's commentary there is a complete lack of teaching about a wife confronting her husband and holding him accountable for sin. Instead they say when Catherine confronted Caleb she may have been disrespectful. In other words, they suggest wives shouldn't express anger or disgust to their husbands concerning their behavior. With their repeated comments about Catherine's “bitterness” and lack of forgiveness and trust, they apparently would have us believe an abusive marriage will become healthy if the abused wife will just forgive and love unconditionally. If she will get rid of her bitterness and completely die to self. But they picture Caleb being REJECTED when he "dies to self," not TRAMPLED on, screamed at, threatened, punished, and assaulted—perhaps even killed.

Indeed, it appears to me the life they picture for abused wives is a life-time of degrading slavery and cruel punishments, neglect, overwork, and imprisonment, coupled with a spirit of forgiveness and service on the part of the abused wife which amounts to voluntary self-degradation. The Kendrick Brothers compound this by neglecting to clarify that it is the abuser who must use the Love Dare.

Once again, the focus is on finding yet another way to condemn the abused wife. When are Christians going to hold abusers accountable, instead of transferring that accountability onto abused wives?

Think about it: Does forgiveness stop emotional pain? Does forgiveness heal a person who is a paraplegic because of being hit by a drunk driver? Does a victim's forgiveness stop an abuser from abusing? Are marriages that end in assault and murder (till death do us part) more righteous and godly than those that end in divorce to avoid assault and murder? Is divorce a bigger sin than murder and spousal abuse?

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Authors: Fireproof intended for ALL Marriages, Not Just Abusive Ones

Now that I dissected the Fireproof movie, I wanted to see what the authors intended, so I listened to their commentary. I came away from my first listen-through amazed that God used the Kendrick brothers to say so much that they never intended to say. LOL! Isn’t God great! What a sense of humor He must have!

Alex and Stephen Kendrick prayed about this movie, and wrote what they felt God was directing them to say. Yet what they thought they were saying and what they actually said are not necessarily one and the same. The Kendrick bothers wanted Caleb and Catherine Holt to represent any and all marriages. They wanted the relationship to be so bad in the beginning so that those in the worst marriages could identify, and so good at the end so that every couple between the two extremes could identify with Caleb and Catherine’s marriage. However, in doing this, they made the movie about couples who are dealing with abuse, something Alex and Stephen Kendrick never intended.

According to their comments, they tried to put their own viewpoint into the movie. Their criticism of Catherine, for example, stood out to me. One of the brothers commented that a wife who loves as she should would assume the best about her husband until it was proven otherwise.

I find his criticism unwarranted. After all, Catherine HAD been believing the best of her husband for six years, until it became clear that he was ruled by selfishness. We get a peek into their lives AFTER Catherine has finally admitted to herself that Caleb does NOT have her best interests at heart. Caleb had ALREADY shown her over and over again for a number of YEARS that she could not assume the best about him.

The brothers repeatedly kept referring to Catherine’s “bitterness.” On the one hand they kept talking as if her “bitterness” and mistrust were out of line, but on the other, when they commented how Caleb, like many husbands, thought he could make up for years of trampling on his wife with one dinner and a few kind gestures, they point out that it takes much more than that to rebuild trust. On the one hand, they seemed to say wives should forgive and then be so stupid as to hide their heads in the sand and pretend all is well even though it isn’t, and on the other they said husbands have to consistently continue with loving behaviors for a long period of time—possibly even two to three years—before they can expect their wives will trust them again. What the authors refer to as “bitterness,” is actually mistrust that is based on reality over time.

Several statements in their comments, when put together with the Evangelical view of marriage do not add up.

First, they point out that Caleb and Catherine were going in 2 different directions and did not have joint goals. The problem with this is that when evangelicals hear that, the blame would immediately be placed on Catherine, who was not getting behind her husband to support him and submit to him.

But wait! Do they really think the Holt family goal should have been saving for a boat, like Caleb wanted? According to Christian doctrine, Catherine should have hardened her heart about the hospital equipment her parents needed, and joined her husband in his selfish pursuit of a leisure-time boat. The Kendrick brothers don’t go so far as to say that. But that is the conclusion a Christian wife—especially an abused Christian wife—would draw from their statement, since they do not point out that Caleb's goal is taking him in the wrong direction. If they omitted specifying this because they thought scriptural principles make it obvious, they underestimated the effect of their statement on both abused wives and on their counselors, who tend to elevate the "wife submit" doctrine above most other scripture, except those acts that are CLEARLY sinful, (Piper's words) like killing, stealing, and adultery.

The end result for abused Christian wives who hear the Kendrick brothers saying a couple should be going in the same direction, would be a wife who drops her own desire to help others, so that she can "do the right thing" and support her husband in his goals. Her husband would end up free from confrontation about his selfishness. Because he would feel entitled to get whatever his heart desires, sermons on self-sacrifice would go over his head. In his mind, his income-producing job and his contribution of 2/3 of his income to support his family IS self-sacrifice and so much servitude that no more should ever be required of him.

It is usually the wives who listen to and do what pastors recommend in self-sacrifice to make their marriages work. If Catherine did as the Kendrick brothers recommend, Caleb would have had everything going his way so much that he never would have come to the place of having to choose between divorce or trying the love dare, nor would he have had any reason to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

More on the Kendrick brothers commentary in the next post.

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fireproof, What’s Right About it, Part 6, Conclusion

The main problem with Fireproof is the interpretation of those who view the movie. For the most part, the necessary and correct details ARE in the movie, but they are either too subtle for most Evangelical Christian viewers who know little about domestic violence, or they are downplayed by the screenwriters. Keep in mind, the screenwriters knew their audience would largely be Evangelical Christians, so I’ll leave it up to you as to whether the fogging-over of the issues was intentional.

First, notice that the word “submission” is not used once in the movie. Perhaps this is because the couple does not claim to be Christian, even though they have Christian values. The writers got it right when they left “submission” and “authority” out of the movie. They rightly do NOT indicate that Catherine’s “non-submissive” behavior, her forthright and truthful comments, and her confrontive speech is the factor that is destroying the marriage and driving her husband to porn addiction, lack of love and respect for her, and trampling on her. Instead, it is clear that her behavior is a RESPONSE to her husband’s selfish use of her and his lust after other women.

Next, notice that the writers deal compassionately with Catherine’s responses to the doctor who is wooing her. There is some truth to the counselor’s words that if a husband treats his wife right, she will bloom, but if he mistreats her she will wilt. We can see that in the scene where Catherine wilts when Caleb abruptly slams the cupboard door, turns on her with his savage words, and threatens her by punching the air with his fists stopping just short of her nose. We also see where she blooms with the positive attention of the doctor.

The writers use the “on-the-job flirtation” to show abusive husbands that they are literally driving their wives into another man’s arms, rather than to blame it on the abused wives. I commend them for this compassionate stance. Although the abused wife is accountable to God for her behavior, the writers show that when a husband mistreats his wife, he also carries the responsibility for putting her in the position to be seriously tempted to become an adulteress.

Another thing they got right, is when they refer to Caleb’s parents’ marriage. Caleb’s impatient and contemptuous attitude toward his mother seems unwarranted, until a viewer puts it together that she was the abuser up until 2 years ago. She was so hard to live with, that her husband was planning to leave the marriage. Because she was the abuser, SHE had to be the one to implement the Love Dare. If her husband had used it, she would have continued to walk all over him.

Next, notice that the word “abuse” did not appear once in the movie. Not once. Why? I would guess it is because their target audience had largely rejected that word. The writers replaced it with the word “trample” when Caleb confesses to Catherine that he has trampled on her for 7 years.

Replacing the word “abuse” with “trample” has at least 3 consequences, some positive, and others detrimental for their audience.

1. The movie would not be rejected by those who reject the veracity of the claims of wives who say their husbands abuse them in non-physical ways.

2. Because the word “abuse” is not used, many viewers are unaware that the story is about a couple whose marriage is being destroyed by Caleb’s abusive behavior and porn viewing. They can consider his actions to be “verbal unkindness” as John Piper has labeled non-physical abuse. This downplays the seriousness of the abuser’s sin, making it very easy to blame the wife for non-submission, which, as mentioned above, the writers did not do. However, since respected Christian leaders, like Bruce Ware, have told huge audiences it is the wife’s non-submission that causes husbands to get angry, it would be easy for viewers to draw the same conclusion.

3. Those who do not recognize the abusive behavior of Caleb, and the abusive behavior that is inferred about Caleb’s mother’s previous behavior, nor that Catherine has already been loving for six years, assume the statement toward the end that either gender can apply the Love Dare, means that either spouse—even the abused spouse—can successfully and safely implement the Love Dare. This is very dangerous.

The result is that the Evangelical community pushes abused wives to apply the Love Dare, which further damages marriages that are already close to beyond repair, and puts abused wives and their children at serious risk for their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Considering that it was Caleb and his mother, the trampling, abusive ones, who used the Love Dare, the movie DOES tell viewers that the person who has been violating his spouse is the one who must use the Love Dare.

Besides these assumptions made by viewers, there are two major problems with the storyline itself. One is the assumption that a person who becomes a Christian and uses the Love Dare will stop trampling his or her spouse. As I pointed out in an earlier post, men who choose to abuse, often see scripture as permission to increase their abuse. There are some men, however, (like Gary Smalley, Paul Hegstrom, and Joel Davisson) who have seen their sin, and taken steps to cherish, sacrifice for, and honor their wives.

A second problem is the assumption that the abuser’s heart-change will be fairly quick, or within 40 days, and does not need to be time-tested for a year or more. Even though Caleb says “you can have all the time you need,” the story still has Catherine making up her mind in a very short time. This, however, may be because it is fiction. To hold the interest of the viewers, writers frequently have to condense the time-line of the story. Indeed, I had to do the same thing with my novel, “Behind the Hedge,” and will likely have to do it again with the sequel. Like the writers of "Fireproof", I, too, have to hope my audience will gain enough truth and insight from my story that they will refrain from forcing a compressed time-line on hurting people.

A third problem arises after the church gets it right and pushes the abuser to try the Love Dare. Although the story does show Caleb trying to use the Love Dare manipulatively and without genuine love, which is typical of abusers, a problem arises because of the church’s emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation. Many pastors and Christian counselors would join the abuser in pressuring the spouse to accept the abuser’s/trampler’s half-hearted change as genuine and urge her to forgive and forget, instead of first making sure the abuser has a genuine heart transformation, and that he will stick with it. They fail to understand the necessity of making the husband deal with the consequences of his sin, by making it HIS responsibility to WIN her trust and respect, instead of HER responsibility to forgive and take him back without proof of his trustworthiness.

In Conclusion, it is important for Christians to understand that the Love Dare is to be applied by the spouse who has been nasty and “trampled on” his or her partner, NOT by the abused spouse. It is also important that church pastors and lay people, educate themselves about domestic abuse, including behaviors and thought patterns that are typical to abusers, and stop pushing the wrong solutions on hurting people.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fireproof, Part 5, Making Sin Funny

Another theme throughout the Fireproof movie that troubles me is when Caleb takes his anger out on the garbage can. This is minimized by making it funny because the neighbor catches him in the act. The truth is Caleb’s physical violence on the garbage can is a warning sign that he is dangerous and could turn that violence on his wife. In fact, when he screams in her face, he IS using violence against her.

Further, if lusting after a woman is committing adultery in one’s heart, then beating a garbage can, with which you are not angry, instead of beating your wife with whom you are angry, is the same as beating your wife in your heart. Caleb’s dad does make this point, but it was not put together with slugging the garbage can. I John 3:15 says “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Caleb’s screaming in his wife’s face until he induced her to fear and provoked her to tears also show hatred in his heart, which John says is murder.

It is no wonder emotional/verbal abuse so frequently escalates into physical violence, and far too often ends in murder. It is because murder was in the heart in that initial verbal assault. Indeed, beating the garbage can with a baseball bat, kicking the dog, putting a fist through the wall, and etc. all suggest the person has murder in his heart.

Neither the act, nor the embarrassment for being caught in the act is a laughing matter. It’s not just weird. It’s not comedy. It’s a warning sign that a dangerous and violent man lives next door. In fact, if a neighbor who witnesses that behavior would guess that the man is abusing his wife, 95% of the time he would be correct.

If he is a mature man, as John Piper defines masculine maturity in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," he would also take steps to protect his neighbor’s wife by calling the police. Her very life may depend on her neighbor’s report. The neighbor would also use the experience as a reminder to research domestic violence and use that knowledge to help him (and perhaps his family) develop a relationship with his neighbor(s) that will permit him to influence his neighbor to develop respectful and caring attitudes toward women. That action would have the likely side effect of strengthening the neighbor’s wife’s inner sense that her husband is indeed out of line, that he has broken the marriage covenant, and that she needs to be firm in requiring respect and cherishing from her husband.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fireproof: part 4, Salvation is No Deterrent to Abusers

Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just
….think on these things.

With their story, the writers of Fireproof teach that when a man is saved and gives his heart to the Lord, he will stop being selfish and nasty to his wife and will genuinely love her instead. Yet many “saved” husbands, who make a profession of faith, are just as selfish and abusive as Caleb, the man in the movie. How Caleb responded after becoming a Christian is opposite of how real-life abusers usually react to becoming Christians or to rededicating their hearts to the Lord. And here is where the church is culpable.

If an abuser-turned-to-Jesus read Ephesians 5 on his own, it is possible the Holy Spirit would convict him to love his wife self-sacrificially. But both historically and currently church males have pulled one phrase out of Ephesians 5—“Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord”—and in their hearts deleted the rest of Ephesians 4 and 5 so they could emphasize wife submission.

On top of that they conclude that the Bible’s statement that the husband is the head of his wife, means he is her authority and leader or ruler, even though Ephesians 5 tells a husband he is to be his wife’s loving, self-sacrificial servant, like Christ is to the church. The abuser who dedicates his life to the Lord, therefore, by his association with the church, gains ammunition, which he considers to be the command of God, to use against his wife. In this way, he adds spiritual abuse to his arsenal of control tactics. And he does it with the church’s blessing.

Although the Love Dare works with abusive Caleb in a fiction (fantasy) movie, would it work with real life abusive husbands? I doubt it. A real-life Caleb is very unlikely to try the Love Dare unless he is desperate to keep his wife from divorcing him, so church folk push ABUSED WIVES to apply the Love Dare. This invariably gives the abusive husband more power to destroy his wife and requires the wife to yield more of herself and her wishes—including her dignity and what is reasonable, which further destroys the wife and children, and harms the husband.

When abusers do get desperate enough to use the Love Dare, they use it as a tool—a manipulation—to gain control of their wives. Most of them are so used to getting immediate gratification that they have no patience with the Love Dare, and give up in the first week or two, as Caleb wanted to do. Because Caleb was urged to keep at it, and also told he was at the hardest part and that he was doing just enough to get by, he stuck with it, more to prove himself to his dad, than because he loved his wife.

If they do stick with it, abusive husbands do it with the intent of appearing to change for awhile in order to manipulate others into giving them what they want. After they succeed, (in Caleb’s case, he wanted his wife to drop the divorce proceedings), they return to the previous demanding, selfish, nasty and abusive behavior—often within six months.

So what will happen with Caleb and his wife? Caleb will go to church and hear that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. But for every time he hears that, he will hear that wives are to submit to their husbands at least twice if not thrice as often. He will hear church people condemn wives whose husbands are nasty to them, saying or implying "If she would submit, he wouldn't abuse."

Depending on which church he chooses, he will hear that he is to be his wife’s authority. With Caleb’s previous thinking that stemmed from his belief that the purpose of having a wife is to have someone who will set her own needs aside and focus her attention on helping him get what he wants, it would be the most natural thing in the world for Caleb to place emphasis on wife submission, and return to his previous nasty behavior. Except this time he has more ammunition, given to him by none other than the church. That would be the end of his self-sacrificial love for his wife.

He may stop beating up the garbage can and screaming in his wife’s face. Why? He would not need to. All he would have to do is take her to a church that emphasizes wife submission and husband authority, and he’d have the equivalent of the pastor and the whole congregation screaming in her face that she MUST submit.

Although the Love Dare may work in marriages where the couple has grown cold or grown apart, it is very unlikely to work in the long term in a marriage where the husband abuses his wife. Because the church does not emphasize “husbands submit to your wives,” it is possible the Love Dare would work in the long term if the WIFE was the abuser and gave her heart to the Lord.

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