The recent events surrounding the actions of Ray Rice, the running back for the Baltimore Ravens, have created a new and intense focus on the issue of domestic violence. A video showing Rice knocking out his now wife in a hotel elevator was displayed on virtually all media outlets for everyone to see. It is interesting to note that in the midst of a storm of negative reactions, Rice’s staunchest defender has been his wife.
According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, nearly 25 percent of women in the US have been victims of some form of Intimate Partner Violence in contrast to 7.4 percent of men, clearly indicating that this type of violence is still largely female targeted. Of significance to us here is the fact that despite the decline in religious affiliation, still over 80 percent of the adult population in the US identify with one religious group or another (76% are Christian). While there is very limited data for specific religions, the trends indicate that this problem is as pervasive in the churches as in the society in general. Have you been the victim or do you know someone who has been subjected to this type of violence? Here are some critical points to consider as you deal with this painful issue.
1. Don’t bury your head in the sand
Everyone wants to believe the best about those we love. However, refusing to acknowledge the signs of abuse is dangerous and potentially fatal. Abuse only gets worse over time; an angry push today often turns into a knockout punch tomorrow.
2. There is no spiritually valid reason for abuse
One of the main hallmarks of abuse is the manipulative talents of the abuser. They are often capable of twisting, distorting and misapplying spiritual teaching to suit their own ends. One husband I met with had a history of convincing his wife that everything he wanted her to do was the will of God. These included giving up a career she was passionate about, so she could be available to fulfill his often bizarre requests.
3. Don’t blame yourself for the violence against you
I know this is more easily said than done. Christian women often feel that if they were more obedient and respectful to their husband as head of the house, it would stop the abuse. A woman in this situation should remember the violence she endures originates in the mind of the abuser and he would be violent regardless of anything she did or did not do.
4. Every person’s body is sacred and is to be respected
Christian abusers often justify marital rape and other sexual violence under the guise that Paul teaches that the wife’s body is for the husband. But Paul also teaches in the same verse that the husband’s body is for the wife. The point being that each has a responsibility for treating each other’s body with respect. This is confirmed by Paul’s additional statement that no-one deliberately hurts his own body.
5. Leaders put others first
Some husbands justify abuse under the guise of being the spiritual head of the house. The New Testament model of servant-leadership makes it clear that the leader serves others. Jesus as the model of such a leader declares, I did not come to be served but to serve. If the husband is the head of the house, his main task is to serve his wife, not expect her to do all the serving.
6. Violence is never an act of love
No matter what distorted logic persons may bring to justify their abuse, you should remember, violence from one christian on another is never an act of love. It is a terrible distortion of the Biblical teaching on love for a woman to believe and say “he beats me because he loves me,” or “he only did it because I was rude to him.” Keep in mind the New Testament teaching that love is patient and kind.
7. Violence is an expression of fear
In contrast to the distorted belief that violence is an act of love, the truth is that it is an act of fear. Abusers often have a deep sense of inadequacy which gives rise to the need for control. Violence is often seen as the quickest and most effective tool for control.
8. Violence is immoral and evil
Violence against those who love and trust us and who we claim to love is the ultimate betrayal. The hallmark of true love is that it does no harm and it is the fulfillment of the law. It follows that love that harms contradicts itself and is therefore immoral and wrong.
9. The intent of intimate violence is subjugation
The sole purpose of intimate violence is the subjugation of one by another, to his or her will. This violates the spiritual teaching that the will of God is the chief good for every Christian. After all, how could one imperfect human determine what is best for another to extent that he would use violence to achieve such an end?
10. Every person has the divine right to be free of violence
It is a sacred teaching that it is God’s will that we live spiritually prosperous and healthy lives. Violence harms not only the body, but the soul of its victims. Consequently, it deeply affects their ability to form close and endearing relationships, and that includes their relationship with God.
Living in a violent abusive relationship is a physical, spiritual and psychological nightmare. It endangers not only the body, but the soul and spirit of its many victims. If you happen to find yourself or are aware of someone who is in such a predicament, please do not allow any spiritual or religious justification to remain in such a state.