Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Back to 2009: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Wife

Trey Smith
Original Post Date: 2/2/09

A very interesting article, "Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence" was posted on Alternet this morning. It explores the issue of spousal abuse within the confines of fundamentalist Christianity and this exploration isn't very pretty.
What is a good enough reason for divorce? Well, according to Rick Warren’s Saddleback church, divorce is only permitted in cases of adultery or abandonment -- as these are the only cases permitted in the Bible -- and never for abuse.

As teaching pastor Tom Holladay explains, spousal abuse should be dealt with by temporary separation and church marriage counseling designed to bring about reconciliation between the couple. But to qualify for that separation, your spouse must be in the “habit of beating you regularly,” and not be simply someone who “grabbed you once.”

“How many beatings would have to take place in order to qualify as regularly?” asks Jocelyn Andersen, a Christian domestic violence survivor and advocate, author of the 2007 book Woman Submit! Christians and Domestic Violence, an indictment of church teachings of wifely submission and male headship. As she sees it, by convincing women that leaving their relationships is not an option, these teachings have laid the ground for a domestic violence epidemic within the church.

Andersen writes from personal experience, describing an episode of being held hostage by her husband -- an associate pastor in their Kansas Baptist church -- for close to twenty hours after he’d nearly fractured her skull. Andersen was raised in the Southern Baptist Convention, where she heard an unremitting message of “submission, submission, submission.” She saw this continual focus reflected in her ex-husband’s denunciations, while he detained her, of women who wanted to “rule over men.” Though Andersen was rescued by her church’s pastor, who had his assistant pastor arrested himself, she says other churchwomen aren’t so lucky, particularly when churches tell couples to attend joint marriage counseling under lay ministry leaders with no specific training for abuse survivors, who instead offer an unswerving prescription of submission and headship, often telling women to learn to submit “better.”
As a former licensed social worker, I realize that the plague of domestic violence isn't confined to any one religious tradition. It occurs across economic, religious, ethnic and geographic lines. However, while some atheist (or even Taoist) husbands most likely beat their wives, the victims of this violence don't have to fight through religious mores and laws to find safety!

In essence, this kind of violence almost is institutionalized in fundamentalist religions. This should surprise no one because these religions were created by men, not women. In fact, if we look at the Judeo-Christian tradition, women are not treated as feeling and sentient beings at all, but as property! Fundamentalists tend to favor the idea that a man (not a woman, of course) can do whatever he damn well pleases with HIS property.

If a person had no other issues with Christian thought, this particular issue should give one pause. Why should women be treated as property or second-class citizens? For that matter, why is God conceived of as a he? It would make far more sense if God was not gender specific. The very fact that a specific gender is indicated should inform anyone that the concept of God was conjured up by members of the gender that is forever least in THEIR eyes.

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