Domestic abuse: the big lie

Domestic abuse: the big lie

(This post from Baylyblog almost twenty years ago highlights the degree to which feminists in the church have been successful in their campaign to smear God’s Creation Order with the responsibility for domestic violence. Everyone today simply “knows” that abuse is exclusively male and father-rule causes it. But the statistics expose this lie and every pastor and elder involved in pastoral care knows how often women are violent, against their husbands, and also against their children. But read on…)

If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31,32

It’s no accident the move to legitimate sodomy has experienced its greatest success precisely during the past decade when AIDS has decimated the homosexualist community. From Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, to legislators in Washington D. C., to the National Institutes of Health, there has (quite properly) been a surge of compassion for the sick and dying, but this compassion has provided perfect cover for the entry of same-sex intimacy into the mainstream of public approval.

Why kick a man when he’s down? Sensing the political advantage victims possess in our culture, the sodomy lobby’s rhetoric has been successful, and wrongheaded compassion has trumped God’s Moral Law.

Similarly, compassion for victims of domestic abuse has been a potent weapon in the hands of those opposing God’s universal law of father-rule or male headship. Consider this from a 1998 release by Baker Books:

Patriarchal beliefs about marital relationships make women vulnerable to abuse and powerless to protect themselves once abuse occurs….(P)atriarchal attitudes founded in religious beliefs contribute to the abuse and subjugation of women within marital relationships…. Religious teachings that support the primacy of males… have served not only to keep women silent but also to keep them vulnerable.1

The line of attack is clear: paint a graphic picture of wives suffering at the hands of their husbands, and when the reader’s compassion has softened him up, go in for the kill, presenting the Biblical doctrine of father-rule as the real culprit.

But what of men abused by their wives?

The book’s title, Healing the Hurting: Giving Hope and Help to Abused Women, makes it clear women are the abused—never men. Chapter titles serve to further indoctrinate: “Power, Patriarchy, and Abusive Marriages,” “Battered Christian Women,” “Christian Men Who Hate Women,” “The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages,” “The Evangelical Family Is Sacred, But Is It Safe,” “Group Work with Evangelical Abused Wives,” and “A Theological Analysis of Hierarchalism.” So in the chapter titles we have our a full outline of the propaganda Baker Book House is here promoting: namely, that women are the victims, men the brutes, and patriarchy the cause which must be destroyed.

It’s no accident this work is co-edited by Christians for Biblical Equality’s (CBE), president emerita, Catherine Clark Kroeger, and James R. Beck, a CBE founding board member. Here Kroeger and Beck have added a potent weapon to their arsenal as they attack Scripture’s doctrine of father-rule: the specter of the suffering and death of powerless wives held submissive and mute by Church leaders clubbing them with Scripture’s patriarchal mandates.

Thus on the next to last page we read:

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) was the sponsor for the 1994 consultation in which most of these chapters first appeared. CBE is an organization dedicated to pursuing equality in Christ between men and women in the home, the church, and society. We maintain that ridding ourselves of an unnecessary and unbiblical difference between men and women regarding authority will help us attack the abuse of authority that occurs in our churches and homes. We contend that the underpinnings of equality in Christ for both women and men will enable us to attack with effectiveness the problem of abuse against women.2

Some time back on (what was then) CBMW’s Internet Discussion List, Bill Mouser called the accusation that patriarchy causes abuse an egalitarian “slander.” This slander is useful, though, at a time when the Church has become a community of emotion, not faith. So the sad stories carefully limited to wife abuse carry the day. Abuse, they claim, is committed only by men and whatever it takes to end the violence is justified.

Really, though, the goal isn’t simply to stop domestic abuse, but to lead a paradigm-shift from patriarchy to egalitarianism among the People of God. One hint may be this quote by well-connected feminist scholar, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, on the back cover of Healing the Hurting:

This is …a vital resource at a time when biblical equality is under siege in certain quarters.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of Van Leeuwen’s statement. If certain parts of the evangelical subculture are hesitant to join this holy war against patriarchy—say, for instance, Paige Patterson and his cohorts in the Southern Baptist Convention—then rally round and let us issue another volume in this smear campaign against those who believe that God’s Word teaches father-rule. Keep lobbing this shell into their front lines, reminding the Church of the justice of our cause as we set about tearing down the exegetical framework of Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1Timothy 2, and 1Peter 3—those specific Biblical commands upon which all Christian marriages and homes have been built from the days of the Apostles on. Compassion is on our side and we shall not be denied. “Healing the hurting” requires “biblical equality;” and “at a time when biblical equality is under siege,” another book on wife abuse will prove “a vital resource.”

About this time, one is reminded of Emerson’s rule, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” The louder she talks of compassion…

Feminists who use suffering wives as a tool to attack father-rule avoid the inconvenient fact that the violence and victims literature exposes their lie.

But such lies are often useful and necessary. Ask Papa Joe Stalin. Ask Chairman Mao. Consider Bernard Nathanson’s own testimony.

Nathanson was a prominent leader of the movement to legalize abortion in the sixties and early seventies. Years later, Nathanson repented of his murders (that’s what he called them) and published a first-person account of the tactics he and the rest of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) had used to get abortion legalized:

How many deaths (due to back-alley abortions) were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false… But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible (Nathanson’s emphasis).3

Evangelical feminist dogma that patriarchy leads to spouse abuse is denied time after time in scholarly studies. After analyzing a number of studies of domestic violence, Canadian psychologist Donald G. Dutton of the University of British Columbia concluded, “no direct relationship exists between patriarchy and wife assault.”4 He wrote “…patriarchy does not elicit violence against women in any direct fashion. Rather, it may provide the values and attitudes that personality-disordered men can exploit to justify their abuse of women. This distinction is an important one….”5

While it is evil for any Christian husband to justify violence against his wife by appealing to the Biblical doctrine of father-rule,6 such self-justification is a far cry from the feminists’ claim that this doctrine is the cause of the abuse. Samuel Johnson warned against the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy when he wrote, “It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.”

But the absence of a causative relationship between patriarchy and spouse abuse is just the tip of the iceberg of problems created for feminists by the growing body of evidence which demonstrates that domestic violence is not intrinsically male. The November 23, 1999 New York Times ran the following headline, “Crackdown on Abusive Spouses, Surprisingly, Nets Many Women.” The article began:

Defenders of battered women long struggled to persuade authorities to crack down on brutal men who reigned by the fist at home. But those crackdowns have produced an unexpected consequence: in some places, one-quarter or more of arrests for domestic assault are not of men but of women.

Those who are serious about addressing domestic violence must turn away from their exclusive focus on fathers and husbands and their blame game attacking God’s father-rule. We must consider how best to teach mothers and wives that battering their husbands and children is no way to solve their emotional problems. Worse, it dishonors God.

Think about the implications of the above statement for the debate in the Church concerning father-rule. What would happen if every time the stalking-horse of wife abuse were raised in this debate, those of us who haven’t rebelled against God’s Father-rule were to respond by condemning domestic abuse, but at the same time pointing out that mothers kill more children than fathers, that there is no causative link between patriarchy and abuse, and that while the abuse of husbands against wives is decreasing, that of wives against husbands is rapidly increasing?

This would lead to a radical change in the terms of the debate—a change long overdue.

With the stalking-horse under some minimal courageous attack, Church leaders would have more freedom to discuss pastoral approaches to domestic violence without their discussions having to be carried out in a polemicized environment. To that end, here are a few observations.

It’s our practice to bring abuse before the board of elders. When it’s sexual or physical abuse, we take it to the civil authority. God gave the king the sword precisely for this purpose.7 Where the abuse is emotional, deep involvement in the marriage and home on the part of pastors, elders, and the Titus 2 women of the church is necessary. If significant progress is not made, we proceed to formal church discipline.

Care needs to be taken not to look to the victim for permission to proceed with the discipline, whether that discipline is ecclesiastical or judicial. Rather, this burden ought to be carried by the elders and pastors.

For instance, in one case, the elders required the victim (in this particular case, a woman) to file charges against her husband. When the case went to court, the elders and pastor were present, demonstrating their support for the victim and her children. What a relief to all concerned this was, seeing these men standing there in solidarity with the wife.

Faced with this monolithic and deeply compassionate authority opposing his sin and protecting his wife, the husband was broken and, without mincing words, confessed his sin to the judge and told him he would submit to whatever sentence the court decreed. This was a godly witness to that court.

Lengthy pastoral experience with domestic violence leads to a few anecdotal observations:

Women are more inclined than men to use violence to solve domestic quarrels.

Men do their best to conceal their wife’s violence.

Men are ashamed to admit they are victims, whether of sodomitic abuse when they are young, or of violence at the hands of their mothers, girlfriends, and wives.

For a few years early in our married life, my wife and I lived with our baby daughter in federally subsidized housing in Madison, Wisconsin. Guns, alcohol, drugs, and violence were daily life there, and several times I had to intervene in fights outside my apartment. Once a besotted man was being beaten to a pulp by another man entirely in control of his faculties. Another time a husband was being beaten by his wife. His head was pouring blood as she bashed in his head. Both episodes had this in common: neither victim was putting up a fight.

One because of his drunken stupor; the other, because of his sense of honor.

The second man had blood pouring out of his head wounds, but his wife carried on with her work, swinging her purse as a sledgehammer against her husband’s head while he tried in vain to deflect the blows. The wife was heavy and muscular, livid with rage, and each blow seemed to intensify her fury.

What harm can a purse do?

This purse contained a large, heavy, black handgun.

Despite his danger and public humiliation, the husband would not hit back; he didn’t try to trip his wife, grab her, hit her, wrestle her to the ground, or even yank the purse out of her hand. Nor did he flee—real men don’t run away.

I’m sure the husband didn’t go to a safe house that night. Who’s ever heard of a battered men’s shelter? Too, I doubt anyone took a picture of his head and kept that picture to remind Christians of the horror of husband abuse. Rather, since this poor man took his licking in public, I’d guess the story was told all over the complex that night—to the great amusement of all.

Domestic violence is tragic enough without it being used as a weapon in the arsenal of egalitarians. Men and boys suffering at the hands of women must be abandoned no longer. Do they not, also, have a proper claim to our pit and compassion. Should they not, also, have the protection of the Household of Faith?

But finally, who is willing to speak up for God? He is the One Who has decreed, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”8

To lay blame for domestic abuse at the door of father-rule is to slander the Lord of Hosts.

(Originally published on Baylyblog July 6, 2004.)

1 Beck and Kroeger, eds., Healing the Hurting: Giving Hope and Help to Abused Women, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), pp. 16, 17, and passim.
2 Ibid., pp. 236,237.
3 B. Nathanson, Aborting America. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1979, p.193.
4 D. G. Dutton, “Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy,” Violence and Victims 9 (1994): 167-82.
5 Ibid., p. 176.
6 CBMW adopted a statement on abuse at its November 1994 meeting, which included the following: “We believe that abuse is sin. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is the hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purposes of God. Abuse ought not to be tolerated in the Christian community… In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.”
7 Romans 13:1-6.
8 1Timothy 2:12.

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About The Author

7

Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church since 1996, Tim and Mary Lee have five children and lots of grandchildren. Tim's books include "Daddy Tried," The Grace of Shame," "Church Reformed," and "Elders Reformed." Tim spent ten years in the PC(USA) and twenty in the PCA, and is now a member of Evangel Presbytery.

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