A Cry For Justice

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

Oppressed by the Wicked but Rejoicing in the Lord — Psalm 64

HCSB

God, hear my voice when I complain.
Protect my life from the terror of the enemy.
Hide me from the scheming of wicked people,
from the mob of evildoers,
who sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from concealed places at the innocent.
They shoot at him suddenly and are not afraid.
They encourage each other in an evil plan;    [or They hold fast to an evil purpose, or They establish for themselves an evil purpose]
they talk about hiding traps and say,
“Who will see them?”      [or “Who will see us?” or “Who will see it?”] 
They devise crimes and say,
“We have perfected a secret plan.”
The inner man and the heart are mysterious.

But God will shoot them with arrows;
suddenly, they will be wounded.
They will be made to stumble;
their own tongues work against them.
All who see them will shake their heads.
Then everyone will fear
and will tell about God’s work,
for they will understand what He has done.

10 The righteous one rejoices in the Lord
and takes refuge in Him;
all those who are upright in heart
will offer praise.

The same psalm in the CEV

Listen to my concerns, God,
    and protect me
    from my terrible enemies.
2 Keep me safe from secret plots
    of corrupt and evil gangs.
3 Their words cut like swords,
    and their cruel remarks
    sting like sharp arrows.
4 They fearlessly ambush
    and shoot innocent people.
5 They are determined to do evil,
    and they tell themselves,
    “Let’s set traps!
    No one can see us.”
6 They make evil plans and say,
“We’ll commit a perfect crime.
    No one knows our thoughts.”
7 But God will shoot his arrows
    and quickly wound them.
8 They will be destroyed
    by their own words,
    and everyone who sees them
    will tremble with fear.
9 They will be afraid and say,
“Look at what God has done
    and keep it all in mind.”
10 May the Lord bless his people
with peace and happiness
    and let them celebrate.

and here it is in the ESV

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
    preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
    from the throng of evildoers,
who whet their tongues like swords,
    who aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from ambush at the blameless,
    shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
    they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
    They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
    For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

But God shoots his arrow at them;
     they are wounded suddenly.
They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
      all who see them will wag their heads.
Then all mankind fears;
    they tell what God has brought about
     and ponder what he has done.
10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord
     and take refuge in him!
 Let all the upright in heart exult!

There is much we can relate to in this psalm. The word ‘blameless’ jumped out at me in verse 4 of the ESV. If only the victim-blamers and sin-levellers would realise that God calls the oppressed blameless in this psalm!

And how perfectly this psalm describes the abusers and their allies! —  mob of evildoers, corrupt gangs, secret plotters who sharpen their tongues like swords and think they will get away with what they do.

Thank you God for Your truth.

 

You Shall Not Put the Lord to the Test — But Abusers Love to

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:5-7)

A typical devilish tactic right out of the kingdom of darkness is tempting or testing the Lord. It is evil in many ways, and as the Lord Jesus told Satan by authority of Scripture, this sin is forbidden. Of course that was the whole thing Satan was up to there in the wilderness. Tempting the Lord.  “If you are….then…”.

You see the enemies of Christ doing the same thing repeatedly as recorded in the Gospels:

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1)

Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? (Matthew 22:17-18)

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2)

And there are numbers of other examples of the very same tactic.

The wicked not only put the Lord to the test directly, probably even more often they do this by putting Christ’s people to the test. If you are an abuse victim or survivor, I know that you have had this happen to you and probably frequently. Another name for this tactic is “the set up.” Because that really is what the point of the thing is. To set someone up (the target of the abuser) for failure, humiliation, or some kind of condemnation. It is quite diabolical as you think about it. Subtlety and cunning cruelty working overtime to plan the set up.

Abusers are really masters at this and they can construct a set up amazingly quickly. After all, evil like this is their very nature. They will say something, almost always in front of others, that demands some kind of response or answer, and they do their best to make it a no-win proposition. Whatever the victim says or has to say is going to appear self-condemning.

A very appropriate response is, “You hypocrite. Why do you put me to the test?”  If you can do so safely, try it next time the old set up ploy is pulled on you.

Shining the Light Conference, Nov 6-7, Greenville, S.C.

Our friends Dale and Faith Ingraham, along with Rebecca Davis, have organized a conference on sexual abuse in the church. It will be held on Friday and Saturday, November 6-7, 2015.  I (Jeff C) am planning on attending as well and looking forward to seeing some of our blog followers for the first time.

Here is the link for registration and ticketing.  And this is the link to the Shining the Light Web Page.

As you know, domestic abusers and sexual abusers share many characteristics.

If you can come, it would be really great to get to meet you.

 

Thursday Thought — “A” is for Abuser

A gem from the GEMS page,

 

The thought crossed my mind that proven, even divorced abusers, should wear a scarlet letter to warn future brides so they don’t make a mistake.  If you are not familiar with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, his heroine was required to wear a large scarlet ‘A’ because she had had a baby out of wedlock.  ‘A’ would do for abusers as well as adulterers.  [Ann]

An Abuser Showed Up at the First Church as Soon as It Opened: And He’s Still Doing it

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7)

Christians really have no excuse for being naive about the evil of abuse and other forms of wickedness creeping in among them in their churches. No excuse. Right at the get go of Scriptural revelation we have the fundamental model of the serpent’s method and tactics exposed for all to see. There was a perfect church with NO sin in it. None. Only had two members, but there it was. Filled with the Spirit and blessed with the regular presence of God. And it was a beautiful, wonderful place.

And what happened almost immediately? Evil showed up. The serpent, the devil — more crafty and diabolical and deceptive than any other creature. He came to church. He spoke up in the place of worship, and he was permitted to speak as a “guest preacher.”

Presenting himself as a thing of beauty, he began to do what he does best — lie and kill. He countered God’s truth, and the congregation listened to him. They didn’t expel him. They didn’t kill him as they should have. They gave him the pulpit and he got them.

Now let me ask this of every Christian, every pastor, every Christian teacher — just what makes us think that he hasn’t been about this very same business all down through church history and in the churches of our present day? In YOUR church? Don’t answer too quickly. I can hear many people saying “Oh yes, Amen to that brother!” But voicing agreement is easy. What I want to ask is, what are you doing about it? What have you done about it? Who are the enemy’s agents in YOUR church, speaking against God’s truth, spreading soul-killing lies and a false gospel, teaching as God’s Word the mere traditions of men? 

I was recently told a true story that illustrates what is going on like a plague in our churches. A church, after many years of being subjected to the evil, deceiving, destroying tactics of a wicked man, woke up to what was happening, consulted God’s Word on the matter, and put that agent of the enemy out of Eden. Yes, Eden. That is what our local churches are supposed to be. Did you know that? We are supposed to emulate Eden and the New Creation as a witness to this world of Christ. The church I speak of did just that. They did what Adam failed to do. They put the evil out from their midst, and the Lord blessed them for it. This was no spur of the moment action. It came out of a genuine awakening to the nature of evil, much like an abuse victim experiences when she begins to come out of the deceptive fog of abuse.

But the story I heard goes on. Some professing Christians from another church heard about this and commented on the matter. What do you suppose they said? “Oh, I just don’t think that was right. We must all forgive one another and be patient with one another. Why, we have never ever done anything like that in our church.” And I imagine they never had put a wicked person out of their church.

I want to ask — is it not true that in reality many local churches today and the members who fill their pews, really ultimately would have disagreed with Adam and Eve if they had expelled and even killed the serpent? Why, even the devil believes God is one, right? He holds true theology, doesn’t he? He is one of God’s creations, correct? And yet right smack on the very opening pages of God’s Word, we have it. Evil comes to church. Evil preaches theology and claims it is God’s Word.

And evil will, if permitted, take people straight to hell.

 

Perhaps feminism is not the enemy — by Michael Jensen

Michael Jensen is a Sydney Anglican minister. 

If you are a Christian, is feminism the enemy?

At a recent marriage seminar I was leading, I asked a group of women (in front of their fiancés) what the hardest thing about being a woman in 21st century Australia was. They had plenty to say, starting at workplace inequality – not structural inequality as such, but the fact that as a woman they noticed that their opinions were overlooked. One woman had hidden the fact of her engagement from her employer, because of the expectation that she would be rushing off to have a baby and thus leave the company.

Others spoke of the pressure to conform to a social expectation of success in work, family and in appearance. Even more disturbingly, they spoke of their vulnerability to harassment and violence.

These were educated, successful and relatively wealthy women, and yet even so they felt that there was a bias against them in the world.

I asked the men what was hard about being a 21st century man. They couldn’t come up with anything.

Yet despite all this, many Christians think that feminism is fundamentally anti-Christian. Professor Mary Kassian of Southern Baptist Seminary and the author of The Feminist Mistake argues Judeo-Christian ideas about gender, marriage and the family have all but disappeared. She writes that “during the feminist era, all of these ideas were challenged and deconstructed” – which means that now “women grow up thinking that the essence of womanhood is the exercise of personal power (including sexual power).”

Kassian is in no doubt as to the consequences of this cultural shift. Under feminism, women, she says, have “been taught to be loud, brash, sexual, aggressive, independent, and demanding. They have been trained to value education, high-powered careers, and earning potential—and to devalue the home, marriage, and children”.

This has led to the higher prevalence of marital breakdown, she claims, with more women initiating divorce than men.

For Kassian, feminism is a specific ideology which directly challenges a ‘traditional’ reading of womanhood in which women take particular roles in the family and in society. In her view, “we are all feminists now”: feminism has so deeply permeated Western culture that we unthinkingly ascribe to its unchristian assumptions.

But I think there’s a couple of flaws in this thinking. I should emphasise that I write as a social conservative with a belief that men and women are made differently, and most happily realise their created natures in different ways in the context of family and society.

Saying that ‘feminism’ represents ‘culture’, mostly in its worst aspects is simply wrong. If you read Collective Shout’s page often enough, it becomes pretty obvious that, despite progress in some areas, we (still) live in a deeply misogynistic culture in which (just to name one example) it is apparently fine for a major shopping chain (Target) to sell a video game in which women are depicted as being raped and murdered (Grand Theft Auto V).

If feminist thinking has permeated our culture so successfully, then why can feminist writers keep pointing to obvious social inequalities? Why is it still the case that something like 1 in 6 women will suffer physical abuse at the hands of a partner? Why do strong, confident women still report experiencing discrimination and disempowerment?

What Kassian further fails to see is that feminism is a very broad movement – or more accurately, a collection of movements – which addresses a range of issues from abortion rights to domestic violence issues to equal pay and more.

Feminists are in passionate disagreement with one another on many things. There is philosophical feminism and political feminism. There’s liberal feminism, radical feminism, and difference feminism. There’s eco feminism and conservative feminism.

But what they all have in common is quite clear. As feminist Gloria Steinem once said: “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” The differences arise from how that goal might be achieved.

And on this basic premise, a Christian point of view has more in common with feminism than not. The profundity of the affirmation that male and female are created in the image of God is extended by the deep equality that male and female can share together in Christ Jesus. We can see how the consequences of the fall have worked themselves out in gender relations, as prophesied in Genesis 3 – and we can share with many feminists the concern than male power allowed to run unchecked has all too rarely resulted in the freedom and the flourishing of women in human history.

It is no surprise to learn that many of the early feminists were evangelical Christians. Of course they were!

That is to say: feminism is a response to a deeper problem in human relations – not the problem itself. Attacking feminism as the problem while saying little about the (for example) prominence of hate speech against women or the growing acceptance of rape culture is a failure to attend carefully to what is really there in front of us. It is a failure to analyze the depths of evil in a culture in a way that Christians should. It is killing the canary in the coalmine, while still breathing the noxious air.

But sadly, I have heard more from pulpits against feminism than I have against domestic violence.

One woman in Christian ministry told me: “I guess I’m feminist because the things I want for my daughters are: to not have to fight for equal pay, I don’t want them to feel unsafe walking down the street, I don’t want them to be blamed for their rape, I don’t want their opinions to be considered less important than her male co-workers….It’s just fighting to be treated as equals.”

That being said, there are forms of feminist thinking, or common feminist opinions on certain issues, that a Christian would be troubled in affirming. There are forms of feminism that (in my view) sell women very short – to name one example, by claiming that pornography is not degrading of women. But there is enough internal debate between feminists that it would be wrong to generalise. There are plenty of feminists who would share with many Christians a pretty strongly negative view of the 1960s sexual liberation and its impact on women, for example.

In fact, if you make a sweeping generalisation about feminism – targeted at those feminisms which are openly hostile to Christianity – it may be heard instead as a trivialising the real suffering and vulnerability of women.

The sad thing is, I think, that we’ve spent more time in church worrying about the cultural aspects of feminism and the debates about women’s ministry in the church, but said far too little about the grave evils that so many women face, even in a supposedly enlightened country such as our own.

This is not to say that debates about ordination and ministry are unimportant. It is important to say that churches who ordain women have not thereby ended their culture of sexism; and neither have churches who don’t ordain women not done so because they are necessarily sexist. That’s a furphy, it seems to me. But can we have a discussion about how as churches we can be truly counter-cultural – by standing against the vile and violent misogyny that is so prevalent in our culture? And that means: can we see that our real captivity to culture lies as much with misogyny and patriarchy as it does with the feminism that opposes these things?

This poverty of cultural analysis has partly occurred because of lack of proper attention to the urgent task of reading Scripture in, against, and with a nuanced understanding of human cultures. Dismissing this activity as ‘trendy’ is a terrible dereliction of duty. It is the calling of preachers and theologians to read culture as the prophets did, not least so we can call it to repent; but to do so in such a way as we realise our own cultural embeddedness too.

We need to do this because Scripture tells us how dark and twisted our hearts are, and that we shouldn’t trust ourselves. We need to check and balance ourselves as we read the Bible, because we are very good at seeing what we want to see.

* * *

Michael Jensen is a Sydney Anglican minister. Find him on twitter: @mpjensen

Reblogged with permission from Michael Jensen  and John Sandeman, editor of Eternity Magazine which is published by The Bible Society in Australia. Click here for original article (pub April 2015).

Thank you very much, Michael, for giving us permission to republish this article. :)

 

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