A Cry For Justice

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

The Eyes of Faith: A Truth from the Lord for Your Encouragement

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings  (James 1:1)

I was taught that James wrote to Jews who had professed Christ and who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Israel had undergone other dispersions — expulsions from the Promised Land, in the past — such as the deportation to Babylon back in Daniel’s day.  It is interesting that Peter speaks similarly to James, addressing Christians who were “in Babylon” or “exiles of the dispersion.”

She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.  (1 Peter 5:13)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.  (1 Peter 1:1-2)

I want to suggest to you that it is quite possible and I believe probable that both James and Peter are not writing merely to Jewish people who are Christians, but that they are addressing the church, consisting of both Jew and Gentile, as Israel in a state of exile.  Let’s think through this idea a bit further and apply it to ourselves.

Certainly in the New Testament days, there were Jewish people scattered throughout the world. Not all the Jews by any means returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Most of them remained in the “diaspora” which is what the dispersion was called.  They were viewed as exiled.  And here it appears to me that both Peter and James are using that “exile” and “dispersion” language, only they are applying it to all Christians throughout the world. If this be the case, then the question is — what are WE, the church, in exile from?  And the answer is — from our inheritance. From our Land. From the Land and home that Christ has prepared for us. We are exiles in this world:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Hebrews 11:13-14)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  (1 Peter 2:11)

This means two things:

  • The church is in fact the true Israel, and
  • The church is presently in exile in this present world, awaiting a great Exodus yet to come and a return to our true homeland.

James even addresses the church then as “the twelve tribes.” Of course this is where we embrace quite a different interpretation of Scriptures like this than that endorsed by Christians who are dispensational in their theology.  They would maintain that James and Peter are addressing literal Jews — that the 12 tribes could only mean the 12 tribes of Israel. Well, we believe that as well, but we maintain that James uses 12 tribes as an Old Testament type that is fulfilled by the New Testament church. [On this note it is interesting that Jesus chose 12 Apostles].

Christian, YOU are an exile in this present world. That means that your real homeland, your real country and citizenship is not in this life and not in this place.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  (Philippians 3:20-21)

Listen to this again —

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Hebrews 11:13-14)

This is the description of true faith, of the true people of Christ while we are still in this world. We die in faith. Even at the moment we lie on our death bed, still not having received the things promised us by the Lord, we remain in faith, trusting His promises, because:

  • We have seen these things and welcomed them, even though they are in a far off place,
  • We have come to understand that we are strangers and exiles in this world. That our land is not this land.

And therefore a Christian is a person who is — a seeker, a pilgrim, a person who is traveling through on the way to his true home.

Christian, how is it that the Lord says that you have SEEN the promises? I think this is a reference to what we can call “the eyes” of true faith —

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.   By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  (Hebrews 11:1-6)

The conviction of things not seen, and therefore, seen.  It is by the eyes of faith that we see and believe everything God’s Word tells us. We were not present at creation, and yet by faith in what the Lord has told us about creation, we are “eyewitnesses” of a rather incredible thing — a universe created out of nothing. And it is through this faith in God’s Word that Christ’s own people have been “commended as righteous” — Abel, Enoch, Abraham, and you.

All of these truths are wrapped up in this wider truth that WE who are in Christ are the true Israel, the real 12 tribes, in exile and dispersed throughout this present world as strangers, as citizens of another Place. Therefore. . .

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

This does not mean that we must remain in suffering when there is a way out. All of us have had that kind of “scripture twisting” laid upon us all too many times. It does not mean that an abuse victim has to “put on a happy face” and remain a target of the wicked. But it does mean that in our suffering in this present life, the Lord is there, He is in it, and He is going to bring good to us out of it, and great glory for Himself. These things we see, these things we have seen, by the eyes of faith.

 

 

 

 

“Don’t be a victim!” — a victim-blaming message that needs to be stopped

highlight-vehicle-theft-sig

 

I went to an event designed to help local police and the community to get to know each other. There were tons of officers in uniform, detectives in slacks and sports coats, ADAs in suits, politicians in nicer suits, and Crime Watch Volunteers in pastel jogging suits. They had cookies and coffee. There were brochures on the tables and coloring books for the kids about safety, etc. They had a table for code enforcement, a table for fire prevention, a table for Volunteers In Patrol, a table for Domestic Violence…

There are lots of thefts from vehicles going on right now and various other non-violent thefts. Several of the brochures about this said “Don’t be a victim!” followed by crime prevention and safety tips like lock your doors and don’t leave your stuff in your car.

At the end of the night the terminology of the brochures was really getting to me. “Don’t be a victim!” What does that say? To me, it gives the message “Don’t be a burden on society!” so it stigmatizes victims. Maybe that message comes over to me partly because of the exclamation mark at the end. It sounds like an order, a directive from the authorities, the ones who are more powerful than the everyday folk (including us ‘victims’) and they are telling us what to do and what not to do. Haven’t we as targets of abuse been told what to do and what not to do for long enough already? Does it help when the police force us not to be victims? I know they are trying to help us, to warn us, to give us good advice, and I know it was just a sign and signs are meant to catch your attention, but the tone bothers me.

In considering Persis’s post on the Just World Phenonmenon it seems to me that society is hard wired to hate victims. No one wants to be one. And once they are, they want to shed the label asap and be a “survivor.”

I was chatting with my neighborhood officer and I mentioned the terminology on the handouts and how regular folks perceive those words. The chief was next to her and she got his attention and had me talk to him. I explained that those brochures communicate that victims are bad. It’s a punch in the gut to victims of crimes. I asked him to consider changing the bold print to “Help prevent crime!” He explained that “victim” is a legal term. I acknowledged that. I can see how it is something he works with everyday and it doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it does to the general population.

In my writing and in my advocacy, I make an effort to only use the word victim in a legal context. Otherwise I say “target of abuse.” I suggested to the police chief that changing the phrasing would engage the community to effectively empower us and make us feel like we can help, rather than the present phrasing which orders us not to become a burdening victim. I asked him to consider changing the phrasing as the brochures are updated. I don’t know if he will or can, but that’s what I did and I wanted to tell you about it.

I think it’s a subtle thing, but very powerful. It’s one more message that tells society that victims are bad; a covert victim-blaming message. It needs to be changed.

Thursday Thought — Step 1 in Trauma Recovery: Establishing Safety

It is exceedingly difficult for abuse victims to give up their defense mechanism and come alive to healthy intimacy when their safety is still threatened. Powerlessness makes deadness and denial extremely enticing — particularly for those who have experienced chronic abuse.  Thus, the first step in trauma recovery is establishing safety.

It’s hard for those who haven’t lived with an abusive husband or parents to appreciate the emotional and psychological toll of chronic abuse.  Imagine the child who goes to bed every night wondering if tonight will be the night her father will fondle her.  Imagine the wife who never knows when her husband will come home from work in a blind rage.  Imagine the families who can never relax on the weekends or the holidays because that’s when Mom or Dad gets drunk and abusive.  Even if the abuse only takes place a fraction of the time, the abused child or battered spouse is constantly on the alert, never knowing when the next eruption will occur.  Thus, parents and church leaders  — Church leaders, You need to hear this** —  [You] must be particularly sensitive to the need for abuse victims to have a safe environment in which they can begin to heal, where they can regain that crucial sense of power and control over their lives that abuse strips them of.

While God can and does use suffering to build character, there is no virtue in enduring avoidable suffering.  In fact, the Bible teaches that we should avoid abuse and seek safety whenever possible.  Jesus repeatedly avoided physical assault and sought safety by hiding (John 8:59), by maintaining physical separation from his abusers (Matthew 12:14-15; John 11:53-54), and by eluding them (John 10:31,39).  Other godly individuals in the Bible, such as David and Paul, also repeatedly fled from physical abusers (1 Samuel 19:12; 27:1; Acts 9:22-25; 14:5-6; 17:8-10, 14).  Creating safety for those traumatized by abuse has a strong biblical basis.  The Bible frequently instructs those in positions of power to ensure the safety and protection of those who are vulnerable (Psalm 82:3-4; Proverbs 24:11-12; Isaiah 1:17).

(excerpt from Steven Tracy’s book, Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse [affiliate link*] p143-144.)

** emphasis to church leaders added by editor 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

Has the Church Embraced the Mindset of Sharia Law in Abuse Cases?

In 2008, the United Nations condemned the stoning to death of a 13 year old girl for fornication. Her crime? She was gang raped and then sentenced to death by a Sharia court.

In 2013, a Norwegian woman was visiting Dubai on business and was raped by a Muslim man. When she reported the rape, she was arrested, tried and convicted by a Sharia court. She was sentenced to jail time before finally being pardoned by the Dubai monarch.

In Bangladesh, raped women are often convicted by Sharia courts for the crime of being raped.

What does this have to do with A Cry For Justice and abuse, you may ask? Isn’t the focus of this site about domestic abuse and the handling of it by church leaders?  Yes, it is; however, what I wish to show is how the way the church often deals with abuse, and those who divorce because of abuse has some similarities with the mindset and philosophy of Sharia law. Please note that I am not calling anyone in the Christian community an Islamist or terrorist, but am only trying to show that the psychology behind the way we treat victims is strikingly similar to radical, fundamentalist Islam.

Let’s examine first the general view of Sharia law toward women in general. Under Sharia, a woman is considered less trustworthy and of less value than a man. This is clear from Qur’an (2:282) where it states that a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man’s in court. In other words, a woman is automatically discounted when she testifies about rape. This is proven by the fact that a woman who alleges rape must have no less than four male witnesses to the event who will testify that the man forced himself upon her  Qur’an (24:4 and 13). Note that in these types of cases, the testimony of women is not even allowed, only men.

Contrast that with the way that many churches treat a woman who accuses her husband of abuse. Too often, she is required to meet a burden of proof that is impossible. It is not uncommon for a pastor or elder board to require witnesses to abuse, but since most abuse occurs in secret, there often are no witnesses. If the abuse is primarily emotional, then there are no scars or bruises to prove the woman’s story. Compounding this is the almost endemic belief system in many churches that the woman is automatically suspect because women are considered overly emotional and thus unreliable. Forget the fact that the abuse has taken a huge emotional toll on the woman such that, by the time she reaches out for help, she is desperate while the abuser comes across as cool and level headed. For this and other reasons, the man seems automatically to be believed and the woman blamed for the misdeeds of her husband. (More about blame shifting in a bit)

In Sharia law, the woman is considered a sexual object. Her whole body is “Awrah”, which is essentially Arabic for genitalia. The mere sight of this inflames a man into an uncontrollable sexual urge (according to Islamic belief), which is why they want their women to be covered from head to toe and not leave the house (in the more extreme sects). This is also the excuse they use to say that a woman who was raped caused the rape by simply being present in front of Muslim men. In other words, it was all her fault. Just by the fact that she exists, she is the cause of all a man’s sexual misconduct.

How does the church often treat abused women? They are told that they caused the abuse by not doing the right things. They weren’t submissive enough or they didn’t keep the house clean enough or didn’t look pretty enough for their man. Perhaps, she did not gratify him sexually as much as he “needed”.  Many abusive men will shift blame to even subtle nuances of the way a woman looks at him, or a perceived sarcasm in her tone of voice.  She made me angry! She made me lose control! Like in Sharia law, it is all her fault!

In a similar vein, Sharia law looks on the woman as the property of her husband. In practice, a Muslim woman is subject to anything that her husband wants to do to her, at least sexually. Qur’an (2:223) states that a woman “…is as tilth to you, so approach your tilth when or how ye will…”. Tilth is the Arabic word for arable soil, so the Qur’an is saying that the woman is property to the man, to be plowed and planted as he will. Essentially, there is no such thing as marital rape.

In some Christian circles, especially the patriarchy types, this same attitude seems to prevail not only sexually, but in other ways. We have heard of stories of Christian women who were expected to bend to a husband’s sexual desires whenever or in whatever way he wishes. To deny the husband, in any way or for almost any reason is considered sin. In addition, some in the patriarchy movement have even been known to spank their wives, treat them as children and to “punish” them mercilessly because they are not much more than property. Of course, Scripture is used to support this. When it is brought up to the church, almost invariably the wife is punished and forced to go back into the torment she is trying to escape from.

When a woman is raped under Shariah law, she often receives much greater punishment than the man. In fact, under most applications of this part of Shariah, if it cannot be proven that the man was violent, using the impossible bar set by the same law, the worst punishment he will receive is to pay her financially. That is it. No jail. No beating, just some money. The woman on the other hand is subject to the death penalty if married and 100 lashes if single. The woman is also shunned, becomes a social outcast, brings dishonor on the family and is considered unsuitable for marriage. In some countries, it is a reason for honor killings and many women in Islam commit suicide after such incidents.

How does the church handle abuse, and especially divorce from abuse? Women are excommunicated and shunned. They are sometimes disowned or at least psychologically abused by their families. They are considered unsuitable for church service and marriage as they are seen as adulterers and living in sin. While stoning and lashes are not handed out in the physical sense, they are spiritually and psychologically stoned or beaten. While I cannot say for sure that suicides have happened, we hear from women who tell us they nearly suicided because of the domestic abuse, so it stands to reason that some women have carried out the deed. And I can say that spiritual suicide has happened. We see many stories of women (and men) who have given up on God or church because of the way they were treated!

These are just a few examples of the similarities between the two groups. Women who suffer rape in Islam are disbelieved, counted as unworthy and second class. The burden of proof is so stringent that almost no victim can ever hope to overcome it.  The rape is almost always their fault. They are punished severely, while the man often gets off with little or no punishment. They are considered chattel and all the blame is placed upon them.

The same is true in many churches. The abused are disbelieved. The burden of proof is impossible. Because of the misapplication of several verses, they are blamed  because they did not follow the rules. They are punished severely while the man barely gets a reprimand. They lose their families, friends, jobs, and spiritual support. They are often forced into poverty. Worst of all, they can lose hope.

Questions for the church

My questions are directed at the church and especially to church leaders in the permanence and patriarchy crowd. Do you really want to be tied to the same attitudes as those in radical Islam? Do you not care for the humanity of the victims of abuse, or are they, like in Sharia law, only women or just property to be dealt with as the man (the head of the house) sees fit? Do you not see how your views, that women must remain with their abusers or that they must be at fault or share the blame for the abuse, are actually destroying them?

Do you not have eyes to see or ears to hear that you are engaging in the same evil, just with a Christian face, and more spiritualized, as Sharia? What will it take for you to see that you have set up a system of law that makes you feel all righteous, but destroys precious people?

Matthew 12:20 in the NLT reads:

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.

When will the church stop crushing those among us who are victims of abuse? When will they cease snuffing out their spirits, all in the name of law? When will the church finally start acting like Jesus?

 

Sources:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/354800

http://aina.org/news/20081117111817.htm

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/002-rape_adultery.htm

You Were Right All Along: Let’s Start Listening to the Spirit of Christ

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:9-10)

One of the greatest sources of trouble for genuine Christians, and abuse victims in particular, is that we are not trained in real discernment. In fact, we are often directed quite wrongly in this regard. We feel one thing, we sense something, but those feelings and senses are squelched. “I am sure I am wrong. Mr. So and So, godly saint and pillar in our church, tells me I am wrong. Therefore I must be.”  We go on for years and years in this mindset.

We must study and read and absorb God’s Word, the Scriptures. It is by the Word that the Spirit of Christ in us leads us. In this article I am in no way promoting some kind of “spirit-leading” that is divorced from the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit “breathed” the Word of God through prophets and apostles appointed by God, and He did so inerrantly. However, the Holy Spirit DOES lead Christ’s people. And it is this Spirit leading that I am trying to encourage every Christian to acknowledge, heed, and be encouraged by. The Word of God tells us “do not quench the Spirit,” but unscriptural church traditions, Christians who lack real wisdom and knowledge of evil, and false shepherds who lord it over us are doing just that.  Quenching the Spirit.  Let me give you some examples from my own experience.  I bet you will relate to them quickly.

So here we are.  My wife and I and a “pillar of repute” from our church some 10 years ago.  This was well before I had sorted out the nature and tactics of abuse. I wasn’t totally ignorant.  I knew that this “pillar” riding in our car with us could be abrasive and controlling, and he had already caused us much grief for a long time. Anyway, just before we were about to let him off, we were discussing a serious issue in our church that was being fueled by a lady who had a whole history of trouble-making. My wife said something like, “if she continues and will not heed warnings, she will have to be put out of the church.” That was a true and wise statement. But the “pillar” spun his head around, looked at my wife, and in a stern tone said “Well let’s show her some grace! You need to show her grace!”

This was a typical scene with this guy.  It was the kind of behavior that causes everyone to be on edge around him, and yet he was a leader and “eminent saint” in the eyes of many. I mumbled something in my doubt and confusion about, “well, yes, maybe so.”  He exited the vehicle and we went on home.

Now, I quenched the Spirit of Christ in me and I did wrong to my wife at that moment. I didn’t plan to. I didn’t even know that is what I had done until years later. What was really going on? This guy had a record of being abusive, abrasive, deceiving, and a rank controller. That is what he was doing to my wife at that moment. He was fueled by his arrogance and it was in his very being to seek out and destroy when opportunities presented themselves to him to exalt himself as more loving, more gracious, more godly than anyone else. That is what he was doing. And like all deceiving abusers and narcissists, he operated like this in a very fogged and confusing way so that it took you off guard.

Now, what would the un-quenched Spirit look like in me in such a scenario? Like this — “Jack, you need to apologize to my wife for speaking to her in that tone. Furthermore, you will never speak to her that way again, or anyone else. You need to repent of that wicked behavior. I have seen it in you many times.” Of course Jack would not apologize, but he would have been exposed and called out, and my wife would have been defended. But tell me, is THAT response, the response that I am saying is the leading of the Spirit response, what you have been taught is “spiritual”? I bet not.  I bet that Christians and pastors and sermons and books have told you that a Christian must never speak to someone like that ever. Well, they are wrong. Dead wrong.

Here’s another example.

At an informal church social gathering, one of the couples was playing a board game along with numbers of other people, including the same aforementioned “church pillar.”  During the game, the wife in this particular couple (who has a very lively sense of humor) chided/kidded her husband about a play he made. She told me later that as soon as she said it she realized “there would be hell to pay” — and she didn’t mean from her husband.  Sure enough, after the game was over, this “eminent saint” called her aside and lectured her about how she needed to give honor and respect to her husband and that her statement during the game was disrespectful. She told me about it. I didn’t say anything to Mr. Pillar.  We just chalked it up to life in the body of Christ with a guy who we have to be forbearing with.

I quenched the Spirit.

Inside me, once again, I felt very uneasy. I felt a sense of UN-righteousness. I felt….but I didn’t understand what it was I was feeling. Now I do. It was the Spirit of Christ leading me, and this is what He was leading me to do. “Mr. Pillar, I saw and heard what you said to our sister. You are lording it over her and putting yourself off as some nobility in this church, and I am calling you out on it. You have no right to control people in this manner, and that sister’s remark was between her, the Lord, and her husband. You need to repent of what you said to her, ask her forgiveness, and I do not want to see you doing such a thing again.” That is spiritual. Yep, it is. That is the Holy Spirit.

It is time for all of us to stop permitting people to control us when the Holy Spirit is leading us another direction. We are to be led by the Spirit, not “drunk with wine” and led astray by our flesh or by other people. If you belong to Christ then the Spirit of Christ IS in you and He IS leading you.

I could give many other examples. Those times when I saw that the Word of God was very plainly teaching things like, 1) If a person is a Christian they will not be defined by and habitually walk in sin, 2) that a marriage covenant has vows which, if broken in a serious enough degree so as to destroy the marriage, permit divorce, 3) when I knew someone was wicked and dangerous and I refused to permit them to be around my children but others in the church were telling me I was wrong….and many others.

To a large degree, Christian, it is going to turn out that you were right all along. Right about your abuser, right about the instruction you were being given sounds wrong, right about sensing that that guy should not be around children. It makes sense.  The Holy Spirit is in us.  He is leading us. He leads us in righteousness. He exposes the enemy’s lies with Christ’s truth.

Listen to Him.  Follow Him.

Who will roll away the stone?

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.
(Mark 16:1-4)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
(Matthew 28:1-6)

The stone was very large, much too large for the women to move; but God rolled it away. He used an earthquake and an angel to accomplish what had seemed, to the women, to be an insurmountable task. How wonderful of God to use both natural and supernatural means to relieve the women’s anxiety about how to shift the stone that blocked their access to the Lord’s body.

What a deep metaphor for those of us who are wondering anxiously how to move big stones so we can be free of our abusers and be able to fellowship with the true Body of Christ in the bond of peace, rather than being held in constraint and fear by the stony, unyielding, coercive control of an abuser.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,059 other followers