A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The church thinks it’s being proactive but it isn’t

I wonder how long it will take the church to realize the approach of hammering commitment and forgiveness in marriage is not working to lower the divorce rate before the church realizes another approach is needed . . . being proactive instead of reactive.

This comment was made by one of our readers, Healinginprocess, on Jeff S’s post yesterday where Jeff had asked, “What if the focus of the church in regard to preventing divorce wasn’t try harder, but live more in loving harmony with one another?”

Healinginprocess’s comment got me thinking.  I believe people like John Piper think that they are already being proactive instead of reactive –– and that may be one of the reasons they don’t see any need to change what they are doing.  They think that they are being proactive against domestic abuse by saying things like this – here is the final paragraph from Piper’s recent article which he titled Clarifying Words on Wife Abuse:

My closing plea is to all Christian men, and in particular to the leaders of churches: Herald a beautiful vision of complementarian marriage that calls men to bear the responsibility not only for their own courage and gentleness but also for the gentleness of the other men as well. Make it part of the culture of manhood in the church that the men will not tolerate the abuse of any of its women.

Herald a beautiful vision of complementarian marriage. . . Well I think the runs are on the board, Mr Piper. You and your fellow teachers have been heralding this vision for some time, and it has not made much (if any) difference to the problem of domestic abuse in churches, whether they be your churches or others.

Now of course I don’t have research evidence to back that up. I can’t quote statistics and rates of abuse that have (or have not) changed since the ‘beautiful vision of complementarian marriage’ began to be so strongly emphasised and affirmed in recent decades by people like John Piper. Such statistics do not exist.

But we know, from MASSES of anecdotal experience and the incredible upsurge of interest in sites like this blog, that many conservative ‘c’hristian church-going men, including those who are going to complementarian churches where the ‘vision’ is ‘heralded’, are abusing their wives. And the reports we get from the wives is that no amount of heralding of that vision makes the slightest difference to the abusive mentality of these men. If anything, it just gives them clues as to how to better hide what they are doing behind closed doors. They pick up the right language and can say and do all the right things in public, in front of other Christians. In fact they can pose as exemplary paragons of the heraldic virtues of the complementarian husband, but it’s all just a wicked disguise from the pit of hell, and they are speaking with same tongue the serpent used in the Garden.

So my message to complementarian leaders is:  You are mistaken if you believe that by heralding the beautiful vision of complementarian manhood,  you are being proactive to prevent wife abuse.   I am purposefully putting that politely, so that you may listen to me more carefully. But I am very disappointed that you are so blind.

And since John Piper has made a plea, so will I:

My closing plea is to all Christians and especially to leaders in complementarian Christianity:-  Read this blog. Read the stories of survivors. Don’t discount us. Don’t dismiss us offhand with whatever label you feel like throwing at us. Reprint our articles. Engage with us. Don’t give us the silent treatment. Because – and I shouldn’t have to tell you this  –  the silent treatment is a form of abuse.

13 Comments

  1. MeganC

    YES, Barb! A home-run! Praying all day that ACFJ’s voice is heard and that people read this, re-read it and re-post it. Well DONE!

  2. Carol

    Well put!! I’m very grateful to my pastor at the time helped and encouraged me to get out. My church helped me find a place to live and stood by me. I had to eventually move out of the state and have not found another with the same understanding. I learned not to talk about it else I hear the reporach.

  3. Healinginprocess

    Great post Barbara. Am praying people will read this and hear it and begin to question their actions as to who are they really protecting or helping….the abuser or the abused.

  4. Katy

    “Make it part of the culture of manhood in the church that the men will not tolerate the abuse of any of its women.”
    You know what this reminds me of? I work for a huge multi-national corporation. It has no direct on-the-ground knowledge of its small companies/factories, because it is too busy dreaming up its latest schemes. For instance, this year the leadership on high has decided that it is implementing a new “culture”. This culture change is totally removed from the day-to-day activities of the people it rules over; it is being enforced by mass emails and forced screensavers on our computers. (The screensavers have our new cultural concepts written out, so I guess whenever our computers are idle we will be brainwashed by our screensavers into the new culture)
    The whole thing is silly and laughable to those of us who actually make the products and ship them out the doors every day. It’s having no effect on us whatsoever because it doesn’t address any of our actual problems.
    In that way, Piper and his “beautiful vision” have no control or effect on the Christian population because he is totally removed from us; he doesn’t even recognize what the real problems are – so how can he have any real solutions?
    In contrast, God knows what our real problems are because he is “on the ground” with His people every day. And He already gave us the solution of divorce because He knows the hardness of our hearts and the many evil tactics of abusers.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – No kidding. Perfect illustration. Totally out of touch. Silly and laughable.

    • Memphis Rayne

      I just could not stop laughing over this. I picture a group of guys at church huddle together, saying “Lets do this! On the count of ONE, TWO, THREE!! Okay!…. Starting right NOW we are ALL going to stop abusing our women!!!”…..silence in the backdrop….”.Okay! .. Now lets eat some lunch!!!” Then everyone goes home, life as usual. I mean it is THAT ridiculous right? No abuser is going to read that and go “Gee? You know what honey? He is so right? Im just going to sit right down and re-evaluate my manhood in regards to how I abuse you” “And you know what else honey? I am also very disturbed over the culture in this here church environment, I mean I dont like how easily I can hide here, I cannot stand how well they help me to keep you were I want you”

      Do you think other pastors read that statement in awe and amazement, wishing they had thought of it first?

      Magical fairy dust has fallen on his corn flakes.

      But Barbara! You are amazing and completely spot on with every word!!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Memphis – In my opinion, that is what Promise-Keepers was/is. I have never and will never attend. Guys got together in huge numbers, made promises, then went home and broke them. I know of such cases. A stadium filled with supposedly sanctified testosterone is not the gospel. It is more like a Super Bowl and they may as well have had cheerleaders. Maybe they did. The Bible is very plain that CHRISTIANS HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAUGHT BY THE SPIRIT OF JESUS TO LOVE. Just read 1 John for a starter on this theme. You don’t have to gather together and make promises that you won’t go home and treat your wife like you have been treating her. “I’m sorry, was I not supposed to do that? I didn’t know. Ok, I will stop abusing her then.” (Crowd stands at this point and raises hands while band breaks out).

      • Memphis Rayne

        …it has literally become a dark, dank, moldy breeding ground for abusers to get together and cheer each other on, in the name of Christ. As long as the opportunity is there to KEEP making the PROMISE over and over, they are pumped full of empowerment. So sad = (

  5. Anonymous

    “My closing plea is to all Christians and especially to leaders in complementarian Christianity:- Read this blog. Read the stories of survivors. Don’t discount us. Don’t dismiss us offhand with whatever label you feel like throwing at us. Reprint our articles. Engage with us. Don’t give us the silent treatment. Because – and I shouldn’t have to tell you this – the silent treatment is a form of abuse.”

    Barbara, could anyone have said it better? Pure gold.

  6. Anonymous

    I fear the problem with all of this, is that unless you have actually suffered the trauma and dynamics of abuse yourself, you just cannot put yourself in the shoes of the ones who have, and therefore, the record stands, “No Divorce For Any Reason”, because “WE” don’t get it. However, they don’t say they “don’t get it”, in fact they say they do get it, but know for certain that it is not a cause for divorce, based on the teachings of Christ and the Bible.

    They believe that we are called to suffer and should accept the hardships here. That is true, but is it true here? The unfortunate thing, is that as Christians, we may not be being allowed to stand before God with our own consciences, we are being forced to live under the conscience of another person, who has not endured the abuse or made pleas before God for the right answer in our case. Because we victims end up living in such a fog, it can leave one feeling as if they make a decision to divorce their abuser, they are not Christian, because they did not follow the teaching of the Bible, as their pastor/elders interpret it. Then that can lead to thoughts for the victim, that if they mess up, Christ will put them out of His Kingdom, which is not only untrue, but also contains an aspect of “works” related theology. They think it is admirable to suffer for Christ and His Kingdom, which it is! But the question remains for them, is abuse in marriage, a God glorifying way of suffering? Doesn’t it really in fact, twist the whole idea of marriage and what God intended for it?

    The problem is that we do not interpret the Bible the same way as these pastors do, and even great pastors and teachers of the past, did not interpret and agree on everything. It is almost as if they have come to this place with divorce, where they can say that they all agree on “no divorce for any reason”, and they are not going to give up the ground they believe they have gained in the name of “unity” about something in Christ’s Church. The problem with this thinking however, is that false religions also believe in “no divorce for any reason”, so it is not a clear distinction in Christ’s Church, when others hold to the same teaching, is it?

    We all know that if an ex-murderer came to the Church, having appeared to be repentant and having accepted Christ, that he would most likely be cautiously received. Right? The sad thing, is that the wife who came to that same Church previously for help, is his victim, only no one would listen to or help her, because they felt she was misinterpreting the Scriptures. She leaves behind helpless children. But, they are just thankful that HE is now repentant, and right with Christ, because that was their entire hope anyway; to win him! All the while they quietly comfort themselves saying, “She is with the Lord. How much better can it get?” Sick. And it gets even sicker, when they are happy to re-marry him, so that the children can have a mother. Ugh.

    There must be something really wrong with my thinking. Sacrifice another human being, for the sake of another one. Didn’t Christ already give His life for us? Does He really make demand that we make another sacrifice for someone? I believe that great love lays down its own life for his friend, the Bible says so. But is that what spousal abuse is? If that is what the Gospel is, us dying for the Salvation of another, then the population of the world should be a lot less. I am open to anyone speaking correction to me.

    • Memphis Rayne

      Anon, that was so beautifully expressed, and so true = (

    • Anon, there is nothing wrong with your thinking.

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