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.