Christian Leaders: For God’s Sake, Stop Empowering Wife Abusers

Pastors, church, and ministry leaders: Please refrain from ever using the Bible as a means of keeping women in physically or emotionally abusive relationships.

If you believe in hell—that working in direct opposition to the will of God means spending eternity roasting alive—then, on behalf of the abused women who’ve written me in response to my Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, please consider that Jesus—hero of the oppressed, champion of the meek, defender of the weak, Deliverer, Lamb, Advocate, Protector, Chief Shepherd, Prince of Peace, giver of the Great Commandment—reserves a place in the lowest reaches of hell for anyone who uses His good and honorable name as a justification for evil.

And make no mistake: a stronger, more powerful person emotionally or physically beating a weaker person is as evil as evil gets.

You might, through your arrogant, morally misguided perversion of the Bible, be able to talk a woman who is weak and afraid into believing that God ever supports and desires that evil. I wish I could be there when you try to talk God into the same thing.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • dyann gardner

    Amen.

    There are many scriptures instructing men on how to treat their wives… but even now with the increase in Testimony and Wisdom men still tel their wives they are stupid, too fat, not pleasurable ,etc. I married a man who was in the Presidential Honor guard, studied to be a minister and ended up being so abusive mentally and emotionally that I was hospitalized three months after the wedding. He measured my arms, legs, butt, waist and chest after I went to the gym each day to make sure I did not gain weight and claimed it was his god-given right to take me for his pleasure at any time. God delivered me from that marriage in a miraculous way. MIRACULOUS. No person should ever be treated with oppressions. Oppression is a sign of the absence of Christ.At which point the marriage covenant between a man and a woman with Christ as the third person in that relationship has been broken. The sinful spouse removed Christ and thus borke the covenant long before the victim spouse ever left. God doesn’t like divorce, but marriage is to be a benefit to us—in the New Kingdom we will be married to CHrist Jesus and no one else.

    • Father Jack Ryan

      I am a Catholic priest and am often amazed at what some women endure in abusive marriages. I remember one Sunday preaching a homily about the respect and dignity that each person deserves, and that marriage calls each partner to strive to help their mate to develop their gifts and talents, and not compete, but take joy in their spouses achievements. I stressed the importance of never humiliating anyone, or allowing one's self to be humiliated. A lady came to see me the following day, and told me horror stories about the abuse that she suffered in her marriage. She told me that my words gave her the "courage to escape", as she put it. Human dignity is at the heart of the Gospel.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Amen to that, Father. Thank you for this.

      • ion unlimited

        Dude, it seems that as a priest…you've got a lot of more important things to worry about than women in your "flock"…

        • AWoman

          Ion Unlimited: You are disgusting to all humankind. What else is more important than man & woman and how we treat each other?

          • http://johnshore.com Ferd

            AWoman, you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’m not a mind reader, but I believe that ion unlimited is referring to the abominations that have been perpetrated on our children by the priests of the Catholic church. So, are men and women more important than our children? Is how men and women treat each other more important than how our children are treated? The children must be nurtured and cared for if we hope to see them become healthy, respectful members of our community. It’s well documented that the abused frequently becomes the abuser.

          • seerickson

            It's not appropriate to slam and disparge an innocent priest for something his church should have stopped. Guilty by association? If he had identified himself as a protestant minister would what he said have been praised? While AWoman didn't appear to get the point of ionunlimited's post, you were pretty quick to judge her.

          • Diana A.

            "So, are men and women more important than our children? Is how men and women treat each other more important than how our children are treated? The children must be nurtured and cared for if we hope to see them become healthy, respectful members of our community. It’s well documented that the abused frequently becomes the abuser."

            No, men and women are not more important than children. No, how men and women treat each other is not more important than how children are treated by adults. But, very often, the same people who abuse children are often the ones who abuse and/or advocate abuse toward women. So yes, Catholic Priests should feel free to address spousal abuse, just as much as they address child abuse.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            You’re absolutely right. The 98% of priests who have never touched a child should simply refrain from speaking in public ever again about anything remotely good. Right?

            Ugh. People make me tired.

          • Diana A.

            Me too!

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    Amen!

    It breaks my heart to see people so badly misuse the words of Jesus. He certainly didn't come to tell women that they have to be beat up for Him to be happy with them.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Wickle: Amen

  • Rachel

    Thank you, I like this post the best, I agree with my whole heart.

  • Greta Sheppard

    I'm with you on this one, John….I hope every pastor in America goes to your site and reads this post….some Shepherds of God's flock will have some answering to do when they stand before Him…..mind you there are still some good men, like you, left out there to become an advocate for women who suffer at the hands of male jerks. Thank you for speaking out on the whole thing of abused women.

  • Cibola

    It is amazing to me how much more talk there is among Christians about wives submitting than about "husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church."

    I agree with dyann in thinking that by abusing his wife, a man has broken the covenant. The wife who leaves when he becomes abusive doesn't break any vows that weren't already shattered on his part.

  • sunny

    Second to getting my cup of java to wake up, I usually pad over to my computer to check out my messages. A quick scan on your site and what you wrote reduced me to heaving sobs of a whole range of complex emotions..one of the biggies, that of having been heard. Such a seemingly simple thing, the business of ‘being heard’ but really it is not simple at all. Especially for the women who are survivors of relationship abuse, be it from a spouse or family member, it’s all ugly, unacceptable stuff. Thank you John, for opening your heart to take in some of the pain of we who carry such vile memmories deep inside our still struggling and shaking psychs and emotions. Your a true brother. We, the still healing ones need so many more like you who will dedicate themselves to be a Restorer to the women who enter his life. It takes a very long time to truly heal on all levels from the ravages of abuse..some struggle the rest of their lives or commit suicide to try to find peace from the pain.It is the responsibility of all those who would call themselves Pastor to educate him or herself on the signs of abuse and what the face of Domestic Abuse really is. We NEED True Transparancy in the Church and strong people of valor to confront this evil particularly in the Body of Christ! Sadly, it seems the secular world have more of a handle on zero tolerance than the Church: HOW VERY, VERY SAD!! So, hopefully your words will continue to beat against the chest of women beaters everywhere and help some women realize they need to leave any male figure in their life who abuses them in any way. Indeed, everyone needs to have a ZERO TOLERANCE in this! Bless ya!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Sunny: Wow. What a powerfully moving statement. Thank you so much for writing it.

  • shelley

    I agree 100%. My sister was abused by her husband for years. After she left him the first time, he became a Christian, and looked to fully devote himself to Jesus and his church. My whole family was happy for him; and after about six months, my sister returned to him. Well, he reverted back to his old ways, and finally went to jail for attacking my sister. She left him again; and then returned to him again. This continued to happen. Last year, she asked us for help once again, and once again left him. This time, though, she filed for divorce, and said she was done with him. It has been almost a year since she and her kids left him. But he is once again claiming that Christ has changed him, this time for sure. He has been preaching forgiveness to her, sending her gifts, and slowly manipulating her. My family and I are so scared that she is going to return to him. He has her convinced that God would not want her to be alone and divorced. So as a Christian myself, I am wondering how many times does a person need to find Jesus? He is playing on her Christian values and morals to win her back. What would your advice be for someone in my sister's situation?

    Thank You

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    Shelley … My advice? Stick with the truth.

    God might not want her divorced and alone, but He certainly doesn't want her manipulated and beat up again.

    If she's afraid of being alone, then she should find someone who'll love her, respect her, treat her like a human being, and care for her.

  • pam

    This is very interesting to me. I left my husband after 7 1/2 yrs of verbal and physical abuse. We have a 19 month old child together. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Now that I have taken a stand, for myself and for the simple fact that I did not want my daughter to be exposed to this and grow up thinking that it was normal and choose the same kind of man for herself, my husband has started going to Church and reporting to anyone and everyone that he is now a Christian and a saved man. He is attending bible studies and utilizing counseling services through the Church that he has chosen to attend–ironicly the Church that his ex-wife attends–oh yeah–he abused her as well–go figure!! Every time that I have a connection with him he is quoting me verses from the Bible. He is also fighting feverishly to claim his custody rights to our daughter–using the Church and Bible as a cloke for this as well. He is constantly telling me that God does not condone divorce for abusive relationships. I do not know exactly what to say about that other than the fact that I prayed about my situation for a long time and this is where God guided my heart. I hope that someone out there reads this and says to themselves–"wow–that sounds just like my story" and that it will help them to take a stand for themselves and get out!!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Pam: The fact that he's using the Bible to try and emotionally bully you into staying with him sends up nothing but red flags. Good for you for staying away.

    • Liz

      I was reading your story and it sounds just like my story. Thank You for sharing… the only difference is that we attend the same church.

  • Dee

    This kind of abuse is so difficult to survive… I was married to a pastor. Enduring emotional abuse and watching him physically abuse my sons. Always having scripture used against me to excuse and lay blame on me. I was so beaten down emotionally and it took all I had within me to finally decide to leave. I struggled with the fears that John has talked about… what will everyone think, how will I pay my bills since I didn’t have a college degree, will I be alone for the rest of my life? I got into counseling and talked to a number of friends and family who supported me in my decision to leave. For seven years I lived separately, raising my sons, going back to college, but always at the beck and call of my husband. Going “home” on weekends, going to his church to help in his ministry, on trips together, family events, etc. So he could pretend that everything was okay and the separation was only a matter of convenience. Finally, after 12 years of repeatedly asking him to go to counseling with me (he said I was the one with the problems… I was a “jezebel” and was rebellious), I filed for divorce. He has battled me for almost a year and it doesn’t look like this will be resolved any time soon. I have a wonderful job in another state and a wonderful church family. God is opening up my heart to allowing my gifts and calling to operate again… and my faith is being rebuilt and I am slowly being healed. I am OKAY with being alone for the rest of my life! Isaiah 54… HE is my Husband and my Provider! His promises are True and He is faithful and loving!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Dee: Whoa. WHOA! Amazing. God bless you. And damn your “husband.”

  • http://johshore.com paul thomson

    it quite obvious that people still belive in changeing the face of the world about the way men abuse their wives.am happy to read from this site.i came from a community where beating wives is mandatory to everyman .i hate the fact that i cant change it so easily cos most people still live with the mentality of gaining the upper hands by useing powers on their wives…the bible didnt tells us to abuse women but people upturn it by adding their judgement..i am young and strong and belive in campaigning against women abusers in all africa country according to my little survey 85% of women are been abuse everyday….i have thousands of quesions which i need an answers to,in all africa country,i still cant figure out why the culture beliv men are superior than women…am asking all readers to join me as we move against men that abuse women.

  • http://www.cornerstone4sq.tv Kory

    Ab-so-root-ree!

  • Bud Millington

    What about abusive wives? I married a female Pentecostal minister and the psychological abuse she heaped on me was nothing less than Satanic. The lies, the deceptions, the unfaithfulness, the plain cruel hatefulness…say what you want, I know she had the New Birth and yet she was indeed full of the devil! She NEVER grew up spiritually and learned how to SERVE God. And yet every "minister" told me I had to remain in that abusive relationship, and if she fooled around and gave me AIDS, too bad…because God hates divorce. However, through prayer I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that it was God's Will to move on and let her go. He does hate divorce, but if you read the Bible, God is divorced…He divorced Israel (the ten northern tribes.) There are legitimate reasons for divorce! After she left me for another man, I was immediately denounced by these same "ministers" as unfit for the ministry! Never mind she cheated on and left me, allegedly I was now tainted by the sin of divorce. I could make a comment here about how I've seen prostitutes, drug dealers and murderers get saved Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the pastor anoints them as assistant pastors in the church because of their "glorious testimony of how Christ delivered them…" but a faithful person who endures a divorce is denied ministry. Never mind that Paul said a novice should never be allowed to an elder… Neither did one of those same ministers deny her singing/ministering in their churches despite her living in sin with a man whe wasn't even married to! It also came out she was bisexual and had a girlfriend…no matter! The "church" threw me out and embraced her. My argument: birds of a feather flock together. People who lie defend people who lie, people who steal defend people who steal…and as the years went on almost every one of the ministers who took her side was exposed as being unfaithful to his/her spouses. No wonde they came to her defense…they wanted to hide their own sin! People: Just because a person has a ministerial license, a church building, a following, a famous name does NOT mean they are right with God. The wolves in sheep's clothing outnumber the real servants of the Most High by about a million to one. Stop following men and follow Messiah. Learn to walk in the Spirit and stop being led to the slaughter by these charlatans. 'Nuff said…

  • Bud Millington

    PS I’ve met DOZENS of women AND MEN who’ve married “ministers” and endured horrid, horrid abuse. It’s absolutely RAMPANT in America from I’ve seen.

  • Debbie

    Unfortunately, there are many Christians who use the Bible & it's quotes to interpret it for what it is not. It does not say anywhere in the Bible that abusing a spouse is being a Christian. God preaches forgiveness not stupidity!

  • Shelley

    Well, looks like My sister is going back once again! She somehow thinks that if she is counseled by their pastor everything will be a happy ending. Her mutual friends and pastor are sending her good reports on him! I have debated with her until I'm blue in the face but this is her decision. My argument with her is that he never received professional help (just goes to church) and that didn't work the last two times she left? She also never received counseling or her children. Nothing I say gets through to her, she hears what she wants to hear. I am losing my mind!

  • jamal houssami

    i need help

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      Did you get it?

  • Diagoras

    Shelley,

    I grew up in an abusive home, and my parents are still together. The only time my mother ever bothered calling the police was when he gave her a black eye. My dad got help (anger management classes) and did change, but my mom never did admit that she was also at fault for exposing her kids to that environment and letting him hit us. Your friend may be a victim, but she's not nearly as much of a victim as her kids who have absolutely no choice, no options. If he's hitting her, he's also hitting the kids. It's her job to protect them, and she is failing at her job.

    You need to call social services to protect the kids. Maybe if she realizes she could lose her kids over this, she will finally leave him for good. If not, she deserves to lose those kids anyway. You need to stand up and protect her kids because they've got no one else.

  • http://none Katherine

    I read not long ago that after very deep soul searching, Jimmy Carter chose to leave one of the big Baptist Councils he belonged to for precisely this reason. (I don't recall its proper name.) He could not continue his membership on principle as he completely, utterly disagreed with Biblical misinterpretations that were somehow twisted into justification of the abuse of women.

  • Robert Morwell

    I am a pastor who worked with our local women's shelter on a pamphlet which was distributed to other pastors, giving them firm Scriptural grounds for not advising women to just put up with the abuse. I use these same passages when meeting with an anger-management group our church hosts. As Shakespeare noted, "The Devil can quote Scripture for his own purposes" Many an abusive husband and boyfriend has used stuff like "Wives submit to your husbands" while failing to go on to the next verse which says, "Husbands, love your wives are Christ loved the church." Or they will use the, "Spare the rod and spoil the child" passage from Proverbs while ignoring the passage in Ephesians 6:4 which tell parents not to provoke their children to wrath, which is clearly an admonition against abusing their children. I also point out that only moronic and thuggish shepherds would use the rod to beat their sheep. Instead, the rod is used as an instrument of protection and guidance, as in "They rod and thy staff thy comfort me."

    • DG

      I am a pastor and would love to see this pamphlet! I cannot get my head around the idea that people use the Bible to support abuse and/or suggest that abused spouses should stay with their abusers. The God in whom I believe is a God of Love.

      By the way, I am a survivor of emotional abuse.

  • Sandra

    When I was 18, I eloped with a man who began beating me up from the first night. The elders at the church insisted that I stay with him even when he kicked me while I was pregnant. I had black eyes, was knocked unconscious, bruises all over my body and still the elders did not want me to leave him. So at 21, I left my husband and the church at the same time. I consider the church as abusive as my husband. Although they did everything they could think of to get me come back to the church. I refused, went into 14 years of therapy. I now have high self esteem, live happily by myself and am very glad I got rid of the abuse from both the church and my husband.

  • Willow

    You know, there's a whole different perspective that ought to be considered besides what God wants or doesn't want. At this point, let's just put God aside for a moment and take a look at these situations differently.

    A marriage, is by legal definition, a contract. A contract is defined as a "mutual exchange of promises, where the parties intend to create an agreement which requires definite and certain terms". It's a bit rough but this construct will serve the purpose. Thus, a marriage is a mutual exchange of promises; ie: to love, honor and cherish; the definite and certain terms: better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health; the remedy: until death do us part. Obviously, those folks who enter into such promises are agreeing to the terms and conditions.

    Now, go look up in the dictionary the words love, honor and cherish. Honor is respect, to hold one in high esteem. To cherish is to hold one dear. In contract law, if any of the promises agreed to in a contract are broken or unfulfilled, the party against whom the violation was made has the option of voiding the entire contract.

    Thus, if a husband or wife does not honor, cherish or love their spouse, does not carry out the promises as made, then the marriage contract is null and void. Period. The parties are free to enter into side arrangements such as support, the raising of children, the division of labor. However, these side arrangements are not determinative of the underlying contract.

    I know this may sound strange in a way but all this talk of what God wants is equally strange. Frankly, if I'm getting the crap beat out of me I really don't give a rats rear-end what God wants…I'd want out fast and if for no other reason aside from guarding my life and my well being is that this spouse has broken the promises of our marriage contract and, by the behavior alone, would clearly indicate that the person has NO intention of fulfilling those promises.

    God gave you a free will to choose, a mind to reason with, emotions to guide you, a soul to contact him and a spirit to enliven you. These are gifts. Start using them. If your reasoning and intuitive mind tells you something is horribly wrong…it is. If your emotions are telling you this situation feels bad and frightening…it is. If your soul is dying and your spirit contracting in the situation it is because it is the WRONG relationship; that you have been deceived, lied to and harmed. It is therefore time to choose differently.

    There is no brownie points for suffering; no score board in heaven for enduring years of torment and torture; no big reward for not facing your fears head on. Denial is a powerful force (probably more powerful than gravity or electromagnetism) and it does not serve you well. It takes courage to face the truth and courage to act on that truth. And if the truth is that your spouse is a cruel and dangerous person then accept the truth of that and stop telling yourself stories, creating excuses, or rationalizing behaviors. If you got to tell yourself some BS, then tell yourself they are possessed by the Devil or some evil spirit and there's no hope for it but an exorcism…and you are not qualified to undertake that method. So, there's nothing for it but to leave as quickly as possible.

    There is a special place in hell for any person to advise anyone to stay in an abusive relationship. Their advise is both unwise and designed to retain the status quo and the power structure that is in place. Such advise in NEVER in the best interest of the victim but only in the best interest of the perpetrator and the surrounding system which supports such behavior. Keep in mind the pastor or minister who is propounding such ill-will is probably abusing their own spouse and needs to be validated in their own behavior.

    I think John's point that men are loath to give up power and equally loath to share it is well reasoned and in abundant evidence in the world. Perhaps they are driven by testosterone but the point of religion in any form is designed to subdue this force and rechannel these inclinations and impulses toward helping others rather than harming. Yet, we can see how that's worked out…not well by all evidence observed.

    In the end, the point here is that the marriage contract is broken; the love and trust that began the relationship is no longer present. There is no other solution to such a disintegration but to dissolve the marriage and move on. If you've got the faith to believe in God, then have the courage to admit the marriage was a mistake and move on as best you can. Staying will only make matters worse.

    • Hope

      But I was taught many times at marriage seminars that marriage is NOT a contract. My senior pastor said that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. He said that a contract could be broken if one person broke it, but in a covenant, you keep your part 100% even if the other person doesn’t. So maybe I misunderstood it, but that was drummed into me. I am still in that church, because it is a huge leading contemporary evangelical church, and I don’t want to go to another church where things don’t happen.

      The other very misleading advice was what I heard at an elective during a womens seminar. The panel was speaking about the sexual relationship. They said that the bottom line is that Christian women should not say “No” because men needed it. There was a throw-away line about certain circumstances like abuse but they didn’t go any further into it, and I can guarantee you that the women there who were in abusive relationships (like I was) didn’t think that they were being abused. All we heard was that there were no excuses for saying No – there was no mention about rape/sexual assault or that it was a crime. As a result, I suffered continuously from that form of abuse, apart from the physical, emotional, social and financial abuse, none of which were recognized, even when I disclosed certain situations to pastors when I got desperate.

  • Rider

    People use the bible to justify their own agenda by taking lines and verses out of context and perverting it's real meaning. In so many cases, I swear most of these people haven't even read it. If they did, they'd know that Jesus was NOT at all about hate and abuse and would never condone such a thing. Did he not stop the crowd from killing a prostitute? Didn't matter what she did. He felt no one deserved that-period. This is no different from what extremist cults do. People need to actually READ the bible and stop using the lords word to justify their evil. To me, that's a sin they will answer for.

  • Amy Corson

    4 years ago, my smart, amazing, beautiful sister got out of her marriage to a controlling, cheating, evangelical Christian. For years she did things his way. She home-schooled their boys, she submitted herself to him, she literally became a shell of herself. And while he was not physically abusive, he could justify the hell out of all his many affairs (ie she was too fat from just having another child, she was nursing a child as he had insisted, or even that she was big because she was pregnant!) When she decided to leave, he turned God and his full wrath on her. He left the bible laying on the floor opened to passages about being a submissive wife. He wrote bible verses in her underwear. He sent people from their church to try to reason with her, for her to see that she was shutting herself out of the kingdom of God forever. Still, she did it. They have children, so she has to deal with his harassment still (he continues to throw God at her). She lost almost all of her friends in her home-schooling group. The good women of her church turned their backs on her literally. Still, she did it. And she even reached out to her minister's wife, when he had an affair with a much younger girl. She is amazing, strong, and often very sad about the reality of what happened to her. She has said to me that it seems like people try so hard to keep their own butts out of Hell, they forget that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The moral of this little tale, my beloved sister's own story is that she never really gets to rest from leaving, but everyday she is so very, very glad she did.

  • Nik

    As a pastor, please let me apologize for the way that other Christian 'Leaders' have misused the bible to enable abusive situations to continue. I am heart broken over the way that so many precious people have been manipulated or intimidated into staying in abusive relationships by someone's misuse of authority and misinterpretation of the bible.

    As a pastor, i have high regard for God's Word…but it is the whole of scripture that interprets the parts. Husbands are to love their wife the way Christ loved the church. If pastors focused on getting that truth into the heart of husbands instead of telling wives to 'submit' to ungodly and sinful practices of their spouses, many marriages could be helped.

    In my church, if a husband abused his wife, we would focus on him and help him repent (have a change of mind, which leads to a change of heart and of behavior). if he were unwilling to repent and change (stop abusing his wife), we would report him to the authorities and help his wife get into a safe place until he was willing to demonstrate lasting change. If he did not, we would help his wife divorce him.

    Divorce is not commanded in scripture, but it is permitted in cases of marital unfaithfulness and abandonment (i.e., breaking the covenant). Continued abuse would be seen as a form of abandonment since he is failing to love and provide for and protect his wife, thus divorce would be biblically permitted if the husband refused to change.

    Again, my heart goes out to anyone who has been abused by a husband, and then suffered further abuse by a 'minister' who misused the bible to misdirect them to 'submit' to that abuse instead of seek protection from it. Please don't see the bible as something that is wrong…what's wrong is the horrible way people have misused it and misconstrued it's core teachings. Jesus loves his Church, and died for her. He says husbands are not to demand service from their wives, but are to lay down their lives to honor, provide for, protect, and serve their wives. God have mercy on those who teach otherwise.

  • David

    I can relate to all of the comments above and more. My spouse told me on our wedding day, as we left, ''take a long look, you'll never ever see those people again'' and then proceeded to be violently and viciously abusive, and to write letters and make phone calls to every friend and family member, denouncing me. I was allowed no contact with family, my phone calls were always listented too. I was pushed, yelled at, allowed no sleep, my clothes were torn off while I was sleeping, I was accused of 70 affairs, I still carry physical and emotional scars, and most of my friendships have not been repaired from that time. I was married nine years, though separated for half that time, We went to to something like nine different counseling/counselor arrangements, and my spouse always used spirituality as cover. I had been so brought up, that divorce is evil, that I would go to hell that I could not leave (I was living in hell, how could I go there?) Finally, the abuse was too much, I left, and left the church, for many many years.

    I can not answer at all, why God did not heal that marriage, maybe someday I will find out. God is restoring my life, and my faith, in a very different context. I have found bible believing churches, that do not condone either divorce, or abuse, IT HAS TO BE BOTH, FROM BOTH SIDES, but I was utterly and totally shocked, that the churches I was at, whould not not stand up and call evil, evil, and would allow a woman to do this to a man, and moreover, would not listen to or believe what I had to say.

    Men need to watch their backs too, run, if you see any type of controlling behavior from a woman, while dating or engaged, run away, never look back, don't regret it. Had I not I would be dead.

    I hope my wife has found peace.

  • Scarlet

    I just had to post on this forum…..I was involved in an extremely abusive marriage for 7 years, and my pastor told me if I left my husband my name would be wiped out of the book of life and I would be condemned for all eternity—–this was a very controlling pastor and the congregation felt he spoke the word of God so no one questioned what he said—-so along with being in an abusive marriage I was trapped in an abusive church as well….mentally I just didn’t have the strength to break free of all the brainwash, and endured so much pain, physical and mental….with the very real threat at the point of a gun that I would be killed if I left my husband…

    The last year of our marriage my husband was having an affair, and I still wasn’t allowed to leave him. Finally he decided he wanted to be with her—–I felt so guilty for being secretly relieved all the while I was condemning myself for not being a better wife!!

    It has taken me many years to partially get over this, as I don’t think I’ll ever totally get over it–and of course it was horrid for my children as well. One of my kids has disowned me over it, the other is very close and supportive…..so the pain continues even though he is no longer in my life….

    I do not believe that it is God’s intention for anyone who enters into marriage to have to suffer abuse; marriage should be a treasured, safe and secure oasis against the ups and downs of life. I also do not believe that any one pastor, rabbi, priest, whatever has all the knowledge from God so clearly that they can dictate what people should be doing in their personal lives.

    I agree that nearly always the Bible is used incorrectly by these leaders in these situations, but because of their position people don’t question, or in my case, if you questioned you were rebellious.

    I would like to see this article sent to every single “spiritual” leader, along with workshops, training, and a good dose of God fearing thrown in. I am so damaged by this as regards organized religion, and I know that this whole attitude is grievous to God.

  • http://lives.com Felecia Berg

    Clyde Brandt steered me to this site. I have been through it. As an ordained minister I was born again in 1983. I received persecution for that and I was in an abusive marriage. I got enough of the “headship” “lording it over”, speeches, to choke a horse, (Why blame the horse?). I was called into elder meetings year in and year out for defending and interfering, while trying to assist women in the church, who were oppressed by their husbands. Every meeting without fail opened, if not with prayer, of which happened too many times, a lecture on my role in headship and the other ministers present out ranked me. They are “the stars in Jesus hand”. I took it quietly and submissively. I do know my “place”. It didn’t stop me from assisting women in the church. So… Jesus responded and they didn’t like the response they got. They took a blessing as a curse. And kicked me out. I am in the “wilderness” going to college to get my BA in social work. I want a degree for what I do anyway. I joined HOH last year and am on the Board of Directors as their fund raiser. (WE CAN SURE USE HELP). It has been a long journey so far, but I know there are many blessings ahead. One of those blessings is that I am alive to write this for you to read. Thank you.

  • cats

    After finally reporting physical abuse and filing for divorce I entered into years of legal and custody abuse. That is when I felt totally alone and abandoned. Church friends who might have stood in support of a spouse betrayed by infidelity or grieved by widowhood just could not get their heads around the idea of what might happen to a protective parent or the children in the process of divorce from an abuser. There is so much more education that needs to be done about what constitutes bullying in a marriage and how this traumatizes people as well as how hard it is to get away from this.

  • Rhoda

    Thank you so much for bringing up this subject. As a young woman, I was married to a Mormon man who abused me severely. It was very hard to get away. I was rejected by the community I was in, and by many members of my family. My ex-husband left me with many psychological scars that I had to deal with on my own because I was so isolated at the time. I still can’t talk about this without feeling frightened and alone.

    Keep on bringing this subject up. If I had read something like this at the time I was being abused, I might have had the courage to leave sooner. It is my hope that articles such as this one and the discussions that follow might give strength and courage to someone else who is in a bad situation.

  • ChrisL

    Organized religion is the longest-running con of them all. There are other (not so easy) ways to lead a full life without buying into all the fantasy. Just because it has been around for so long doesn't make it true. Christianity and most other faiths are dangerous when they blind their followers to reality.

    • DR

      Thanks for clearing that up for us in one fell swoop. Comments like this that are dismissive and sweeping only serve to make people defensive and identify you as someone who’s not invested in real dialogue that honors the actual complexity of most things that are institutionalized, powerful and catalysts for both good and evil. Consider actually *thinking* prior to commenting on something so important.

  • Vladislaw

    Having seen and heard about so many abuses of various churches it would be my wish, you actually NAME NAMES!

    Shine God's light on these churches, these ministries, these pastors and practices. It is all well and good to post anomously about a church but that does nothing for all the little girls being brainwashed into believing that divorce is a sin and abuse is a god given right to males. ONLY the light of day can begin to wash away the evil taints on these pastors, clerics, priests.

    Make these abusers defend themselves in the light of day and the press and court systems.

    An individual may escape but what is left behind? All that happens is the problem is passed onto another generation of young girls to accept and deal with it.

    Name those people and make THEM defend themselves in the press, put THEM on the defensive to defend their positions PUBLICALLY. I like a lot of what I am reading but it is all defense AGAINST them… it is better to make them defend themselves to the school board about abusing their kids, defending themselves as reporters dog THIER trails.

    I am highly proactive in this area and the first thing I ALWAYS recommend is SHINE THE LIGHT on it .. sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    • mary

      Exposing this evil to ‘the light of day is the best advice of all!. This is how the FDLS and other abusive cults have managed to be so secret about their illegal practices and keep women and children captive and hidden.

      This is NOT religion.

  • Kelly

    In an abusive relationship there is also a lot of "brainwashing" going on…the abuser will, over time, convince the abused that they are worthless without (the abuser), that they are incapable of doing anything on their own & that no one else will love them as they are. This is so very wrong. I only wish I could give strength to all of those people to resist that systematic brainwashing & love themselves as they should. They are NOT worthless, and they CAN be a whole person without someone else controlling their very lives. The key is self-empowerment for the "victims"…once they can achieve that, they are no longer "victims".

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  • LawBea

    To all of you in an abusive relationship: Remember that {GOD loves you, God LOVES you, God loves YOU}

    You are His Precious Child! Any guilt you may feel in leaving this abusive relationship does not come from God but from the father of lies. God has a plan for you – plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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  • Brighid Rose

    I can’t thank you sufficiently for doing all the work you do in advocating against domestic violence, especially with reading the last round of letters and columns. When I finally got the courage to file for divorce from my abuser, I was told by my pastor-father and organist-mother that if I had tried harder, if I had been a better wife, things wouldn’t be this way, because of how frustrating I can be to live with. Even then, as weak and beaten down as I was, I knew/felt that was wrong. They knew so much of what had happened (tho not all) and they only encouraged me to “repair my marriage” and “be a better wife.” When he started lurking around again in spite of the restraining order, they thought it was a great opportunity to “work on my marriage.” The end result of that was I moved clear across the country and speak to them rarely at best. I understand how completely warped their thinking is now. I wish I had the strength then that I have now, but they too did everything they could to weaken me. (My mother told me once when I was a teenager that the first thing you have to do in raising a child is break their spirit. They almost succeeded.)

    • Diana A.

      “(My mother told me once when I was a teenager that the first thing you have to do in raising a child is break their spirit. They almost succeeded.)” I’m glad they didn’t succeed. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that POV expressed by Christians writing about parenting before. In fact, I think that might have been said by James Dobson. Certainly, it was implied in his books.

  • Amanda

    Thank you so much for saying this. My friend was in an abusive marriage, and her pastor knew about it. and did nothing. I thank God that she was strong enough to leave on her own.

  • Steen

    I agree with the original post wholeheartedly, and would like to add that not only should NOBODY (pastors or otherwise) accept and/or support physical abuse but it should also include a refusal to accept and/or support emotional and verbal abuse. There is much in God’s word that speaks with contempt against the damage done by the tongue.

  • hayles

    i am glad there is a person like you in the world who writes things like this. thank you.

  • http://jennaglatzer.blogspot.com Jenna

    Thank you, John. The world desperately needs more men who are willing to speak up for abused women. Right now, it’s far too easy for the Powers That Be to claim we’re all a bunch of hysterical liars… the lengths that abused women need to go through to be believed and protected can be unreal.

  • Michael Rowe

    Fantastic post, John.

  • Laura

    Perfect. Now can your next blog be: “Christian Leaders: For God’s Sake Stop Empowering Parents to Abuse Their Children”? Just a thought.

    • Melani Longoni

      @Laura: AMEN!

  • John

    Along these lines, my daughter was forced to endure several years of verbal and emotional abuse from her alcoholic mother. She was thrown out twice and the second time came to live with me. Both of her pastors convinced her to return to her mother’s home where she continued to be abused. Fortunately, she is now in college but is still often reminded by her mother that she, apparently, is the worst daughter in the world. My two colleagues will never admit to having made a mistake.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      God that’s so awful.

  • Anne

    When you look at the types of people leading the types of churches that advocate this sort of behavior, it’s not difficult to understand why spousal/child abuse is so pervasive among this lot. They’re usually self-educated and grew up in households where the female presence was often maligned and abused in front of them. If they aren’t gay, then they’re the ones advocating this behavior is in keeping with the teachings of the Bible.

    There should be an extremely high standard of education for people who want to open up their own church, and they shouldn’t get tax exempt status until they pass a barage of psychological and theological tests to determine if they’re fit enough to lead a congregation responsibly.

  • kmd

    The Faith Trust Institute has been working tirelessly for over 30 years to educate religious leaders and faith communities about what they can do to stop being part of the problem and start affirming the power of faith to support and transform the lives of DV victims/survivors.

    http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org

  • Danielle

    When we focus only on the end result we miss the insidious causes of the problems.

    There are so many patriarchal and authoritarian attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and practices that are condoned and even promoted within churches. It’s only in the last decades that anything much has been done about church awareness and action relating to child abuse. Now the focus is moving to domestic violence. But the most significant changes will come when we identify, highlight, create awareness of the underlying factors (which are often condoned, accepted or promoted) and bring about change at the emotional, attitudinal, mental, spiritual and social levels.

    Perhaps then we might truly see Jesus reflected in Christianity!

  • Jill

    I wish that anyone in the church had been sympathetic or supportive of me 23 years ago. Fortunately, I did not stay in the marriage a very long time, but it could have been almost a year less. I had one minister tell me that my husband’s salvation and redemption depended on my submission to him. That my love and endurance would be the example to him and give him the reason to change. Another minister completely ignored my admission about the abuse that was occurring and lectured me on the importance of marriage and the sin of divorce (as if I had told him nothing). A Christian counselor (which we both went to see) told me that my son’s misbehavior was the cause of the problems in our marriage, this was after I had expressed my concern that the abuse I endured would also eventually be inflicted on my son. With each one of these people, I had hoped that they would help me escape from the marriage and offer me assistance to start over in my life.

  • Joseph Kuzara

    according to scripture, their are only two reasons for proper divorce for the believer, Adultery and if a unbelieving spouse wants to leave the marriage.if the wife divorces the husband without the reasons of adultery she must stay unmarried or reconcile back to the husband. now if she just decides to separate herself from the husband but not divorce this would be within Jesus and Paul’s instruction as no one has to subject themselves to such abuse to both believer and non.I do not condone or support abuse of family nor verbal as both are sinful but i don’t condone divorce without proper cause according to Jesus’ Teachings.if the husband or wife decides to separate themselves from you and divorce that is on them even though i would try to salvage the marriage and see if the spouse is willing to repent and stop the abusive behavior. otherwise stay separated without divorce so you are not in sin in doing so. but also if the abusive husband is a member of the church, the Church leaders must take action on the habitual sin to rebuke the behavior and if need be excommunicate the person in hopes their sin is realized as serious and they repent. once repentance has occurred the church are to accept the person back into the church and discontinue the punishment less drive the person away. but with Love,Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness shall each person be accepted even when a wrong was committed. i feel once a sin is exposed to the members of the church it is the responsibility of everyone to enforce and keep each other in good standing.especially on matters of spouse and child abuse. when it comes to the child i feel it is best to separate the abuser although repented away from children until they have built up an resistance to the temptation. i feel people fail at this and that is why it occurs again.