How to Stay Popular With the Church Establishment
If you want to avoid being persecuted in Christendom, all you have to do is throw in some work in addition to the gospel. If the Apostle Paul had wanted to remain popular, all he had to do was go along with the idea that guys had to get circumcised as well as trust in Jesus for their salvation. Circumcision was the thing to include in those days if you wanted to remain in good standing with the religious establishment. These days it is not circumcision. It is other works, other additions. If you want to remain popular in the “church” all you have to do is teach a tidbit of the popular, oppressive traditions. A few false notions of repentance and salvation in regard to the wicked (we must “redeem” the abuser/marriage, etc). A tidbit of victim-blaming. A few works the oppressed person must do, to measure up.
It’s obvious that some individuals, authors and ministries who are speaking up about domestic abuse in the church are more widely popular than others. Popular, that is, with the movers and shakers in Christendom. The powers that be if you will. Others are more often than not spurned as being too harsh, too judgmental, too… you fill in the rest.
The Great Divide
We see this as the Great Divide. What is the difference between those who teach about domestic abuse and remain in the good books of the celebrities and the masses, and those who teach about it and get very little oxygen?
We have often been told that we need to mellow out, soften down, and stop giving offense to the “big names” in the church so as to win them as our allies. This is how the admonishment goes:
There are many others besides you who are working to educate the church about domestic violence. You need to work to network with them. But because you are too critical of them, you turn them off and alienate them. If you would tone it down and not be so harsh then they would give you a hearing and eventually they would come around, admit their errors, and our work would be more effective.
The Apostle Paul came up against the very same kind of pressures:
But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Galatians 5:11)
Paul’s denigrators were saying: “Come on Paul, don’t be so hard on these other fellows. After all, they are Christians too. They just have a bit different take on circumcision than you. Your message is offending the unconverted Jews. Look how much strife it’s causing you! Your message is offending the circumcision party of Christians. The circumcision party are the ones in the church who the Pharisees and unconverted Jews are most likely to listen to! You want all the Jews to be converted don’t you? Don’t be so hard on these brothers. Your hard line is bad for the cause of the gospel. You need to soften it down, Paul.”
Sound familiar? We all know Paul’s response to such criticism:
I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. (NLT)
I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (ESV)
I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated! (HCSB)
The fact is, if we wanted to be accepted, endorsed by, and popular with the celebrity crowd in Christendom (who they are makes no difference to us — Gal 2:6), all we would have to do is “tweak” our message just an itty bitty bit. We would only need to
- acknowledge that an abuser (as we define the abuser) can be a genuine Christian
- teach that there is real hope for the abuser to come to repentance
- imply that the victim is uniquely placed to influence her abuser to repentance
- suggest that the victim needs to work on herself and her character in order to confront her abuser and set boundaries with him in a godly manner
- talk about “separation” as boundary setting, but not mention divorce
- or say that after all the work the victim has done on herself and after she’s confronted her abuser “well,” and set boundaries “well,” if all her efforts have proved fruitless then divorce may be appropriate and allowed— but leave the details unspecified, so that no victim can really be sure when she’s done enough.
- always present divorce as second best, or imply that it is “the lesser of two evils.”
- cool it in our declarations that God blesses divorce from an abuser
- soften up on our criticism of pastors, local churches, Christian authors, parachurch ministries and so on.
We could keep adding to the list, but you get the point. “Just, just….a little change. That’s all.”
There are not “many” in the Christian world who are working to expose abuse in the church. That is a simple falsehood. There are hardly ANY, and that is what most of our readers have found in their hard experience. Oh, there are numbers who claim they are, but in the end most of them still
- lay damaging advice or demands on victims
- pathologize and subtly denigrate victims
- make victim-blaming statements
- only talk about divorce for abuse in veiled, vanilla-grey, fence-sitting statements like “divorce may sometimes be appropriate”
- pressure all of us to “do more to redeem and reform the abuser”
We believe that the abusers in the church actually applaud the approach of the abuse activists who remain on the acceptable side of the Great Divide, because that approach puts a burden on the victim. It keeps the spotlight on the supposed inadequacies of victims, rather than on the evil mindset and tactics of abusers.
And as you listen carefully to the material put out by the abuse activists who have remained in the good graces of the Christian establishment, you will see there are quite a number of elephants in the room that they are simply ignoring. That makes everyone happy. No trouble.
Well, except for the victims of the abusers. But then, they just need to suck it up.