Real life examples of pastoral advice to victims of domestic abuse, for our readers to analyse
Here are some things that pastors have said to victims of domestic abuse. We invite our readers to analyse their pastoral advice. Pick one or more of these examples and tell us what you see. What are the truths and the falsehoods? Are there any correct statements of doctrine? Faulty doctrines? Euphemisms? Misunderstandings? Wrong attribution of blame and responsibility? Does anything strike you about the tone and language the pastors have used? And if you are pointing out a wrong idea, you might like to say how you would rebut that wrong idea.
We have not made any of this up. We compiled this list from accounts from readers of this blog. Pastoral guidance is in italics. Back-story and post-advice material is in plain font. Trigger warning.
Example 1 Real change is hard and takes a great deal of hard work. Abusers have options for treatment. Your husband is taking those options – succeeding at times and failing at times. As long as he is trying, there is hope for real change.
Example 2 I have helped lots of guys get over anger and I am sure I could help your husband get over his completely if you would help. He is very open to doing what I ask. It would be a shame to waste it. 1 Peter 3 would be good meditation verses for now for you.
Example 3 It is never right to give up on anyone. Jesus wants to save everyone and he can. It is wrong for us to put an abuser out of the church. He says he is a Christian and we must take him at his confession.
Example 4 If a husband or father is provoked by his wife or daughter then it is understandable that he lash out at her sometimes, and in that case the lashing out isn’t wrong.
Example 5 You are wrong to invoke the civil authorities by filing for divorce, because your marriage problems are to be handled only in the church.
The victim was the only one ever put under church discipline, not her abusive (ex)husband. And even though the consistory finally came to the point of saying the husband was abusive, they also said he “wasn’t abusive enough” for the victim to have Biblical grounds for divorce. And in fact they wanted her and her children to go back to him – even after they had “washed their hands of him” because he wouldn’t listen to them.
Example 6 You are not allowed to separate from your husband, because how would you ever know if he had changed if you did not continue to live with him? You are not even to put a boundary in place; that is our job, if we think it needs to be done.
Example 7 The only two reasons for divorce are adultery and abandonment by a non-believing spouse.
Example 8 If you read Jesus’ words in Matthew 19, He doesn’t allow divorce for adultery. Jesus’ words are: “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” The wife already was an adulteress – due to the words “except sexual immorality” — so the husband wasn’t causing her to commit adultery because she already was an adulteress.
The leaders would also preach Hosea, who was married to the harlot – so there was never ever a way out other than death.
Example 9 I’ve reconsidered my position on divorce. I realize now that God can use divorce as a tool for reconciliation.
Example 10 Never give up on anyone.
Example 11 If you divorce, you will be miserable for the rest of your life.
Example 12 If you love Jesus, you won’t divorce your husband.
Example 13 Well, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there.
The victim had just described her husband’s many abusive behaviors.
Example 14 Your conscience will condemn you.
The victim had informed that pastor she was leaving the church. The church had expected her to reconcile with her obviously unrepentant abuser and sign promissory notes for his ongoing, expensive “biblical” counseling.
Example 15 You are being disrespectful to your husband.
The victim had told her pastor that she yells at her husband if he raises his hand to hit her. She yells: “You BETTER not hit me!!!” It works. When she asked her pastor what she should do if her husband tries to hit her, his answer was, “Well, the worst thing that can happen is that you would die. And then you would go to heaven.” When she said, “Then he would go to hell,” the pastor replied, “Not if he repents.”
Example 16 Return to your husband and submit. Your husband is not abusive; he just has poor coping skills.
For further reading:
Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People (this article gives you ideas for how you might want to make snappy comebacks to foolish pastoral counselors…. )