An Abused Wife Twice Betrayed: Once by Her Husband, and Again by Her Pastor

Last night I got in the letter below. When I die, I’m going to ask God for a favor. I’m going to ask him to show me where he keeps the language I wish I now had to express how I feel about the pastor in this story.

And then there’s this woman’s “husband.”

This stuff is just so grueling. I can’t even believe what animals so many women are forced to deal with.

John,

I saw that there were some other women telling their abuse story, so I figured I would share mine. I believe that the more light that is shed on this issue, the more the darkness will flee.

Around 1998, I met my ex-husband. We were married for 10 years. Spent that 10 years in the church, a mega Southern Baptist church. I was involved in the Women’s Ministry there, and taught Bible study, the whole thing. We had four children together, adopting our youngest from China. About three years ago, while things were still “perfect,” I could not sleep one night. I didn’t know why. Finally, something (what I believe was God) kept pushing on my heart to check his cell phone. I had NEVER once done that before, never mistrusted him. But, I kept feeling led to do this.

So, I went downstairs and looked at his phone. There were emails between him and another woman setting up to meet for a drink at a bar. This was from someone that supposedly led the “Christian life”; my husband never drank, never smoked, never stayed out all night. He was a suit-and-tie executive type.

I was astonished. I stayed up all night. When he woke, I asked him for his email password. He got angry, refused to give it to me, and left for the office.

I told him we need to go to marriage counseling if we were to stay together. I even chose a Christian male counselor to be sure he would agree to go. I was ready to stay with my husband, because that’s what I felt was what God wanted me to do. After the Christian counselor told him he was in the wrong, my husband refused to go again—saying the counselor was “too liberal.” Following this, his controlling behavior escalated.

He became more and more angry. He threw my then 7-year old son into our kitchen island because he couldn’t find his keys. He angrily beat my 8-year-old’s bottom so hard her feet came off the floor. He would keep me awake all night. He threatened suicide, saying he was going to take the kids and I with him. I would wake in the middle of the night with him pacing around our bed, staring at me angrily. I woke one night to find him laying down facing me, his face just an inch from mine. Daily, he would scream at the top of his lungs, threatening me and the kids. He told my 8-year-old that if she would just behave, he wouldn’t scream, and our family would be perfect again.

I was a stay at home mom for 10 years, homeschooling. What could I do at this point? He took my credit card, bank access, driver’s license and keys from me. He sent an email out to everyone on my church email list saying I was not taking my medication and so was going crazy, and asking them to pray for me (I wasn’t on medication).

We changed churches and started attending a Calvary Chapel church. I called the Pastor of our church after one of my husband’s tirades. I told him I was afraid of my husband, and needed his advice. I pleaded with him not to let my husband know that I called him—that it could be dangerous for me (my husband had told me never to tell anyone at our church what was going on in our home). A few days later, the Pastor called us both in his office. He then told my husband that I had called him and told him what was going on. The Pastor then continued on to blame me for not being a better wife. He said “men can get agitated” for lack of sex. Even after I explained to the Pastor that my husband had me on a “sex schedule” of every other day, it was still my fault.

I shortly fled my home with our four children. My husband refused to help me with anything for them. Not even food money. I got a job offer across the country and took it. I loaded up a U-haul with the little we had, and moved across the country by myself with four children. My husband found out where we were. He stalked me; hired PI’s to take pictures of me; had the IT guys at his office hack into my emails (4 separate accounts); pulled my credit reports; canceled my credit card. He did the usual abuser type things—calling/texting me at all hours to threaten me and our children.

It took me two years to divorce him. I am now still fighting him over visitation issues. He is trying to take our children out of the country without informing me of where they are going. So, his abuse continues on—but now through the court system. His verbal abuse continues with the kids; the court says they still have to talk to him on the phone, even though all of their counselors will tell you he is destroying them emotionally. Even physically—both our oldest children have had medical issues that even the ER doctors attribute to stress.

After all this, the kids and I are still joyous to be living a (mostly) free life. I am involved in an online forum for abuse, Our Place. These women have saved my life. My prayer is that the women that are still “in” will see that it is hell, and get out. But there IS heaven waiting on the other side.

P.S. Thanks for all you do. Your work is SO very important.

See also my “Christian Leaders: For God’s Sake, Stop Empowering Wife Abusers.

 

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 founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Jeannie

    So much of this resonates with me. I am still dealing with the post traumatic stress of my violent, abusive marriage. While I was never abused by a pastor, I was frequently shamed by an abused woman’s group that met at my local mega church. Of course this was all my fault, because if I had listened to God I wouldn’t have married him. And if I was listening to God now, I would stand up to him. Yeah, how does a physically disabled woman with two small children stand up to a man twice her size that she is terrified of?: Oh yeah, Daniel was kept safe in the lion’s den. BARF

    So glad you are in a better place. I want to check out the website you mentioned. I wish there was a way I could connect with women going through what I did. I can help them hear their hearts. I could help them with their safety planning, because so much has to be carefully and secretly planned for when they leave. God bless you and I hope life just keeps getting better and better for you.

    • Debbie

      I can relate to that. I never made it to the married part and I was also told that if I wasn’t living in sin then it wouldn’t be happening. God was punishing me for being a fornicator and having children out of wedlock. I believed them.

  • http://www.canyonwalkerconnections.comIahv Kathy Baldockk

    I my own story of pastoral abuse in a very similar situation. It was the first time I saw clearly, clearly the danger of authoritarianism in the church and the destruction of it. Of course John you know what my ministry work is now and it is easy for me to understand that pastors can be dictatorial and WRONG.

    The pastor is now sit under has been my pastor for over twenty years. Some day I will write about the whole story , but for now, I keep my mouth shut to honor my children. They are young adults but I want them to value their father. Taking the high road has served me well. The pastor should have asked himself if he would have treated his own daughter in a similar manner and given her the same advice.

  • Jeannie

    Sorry about all the typos. I am having a hard time with my hands being stiff this morning.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    I am angry and horrified, but sadly not surprised. I had a “pastor” tell me that my ex would not have had his online affairs if I had given him more sex. It sure seems like these “good Christian men” are a little too keen on forcing women to little more than living, breathing blowup dolls.

  • A’isha

    This sickened me. Literally. To think a pastor would do that is astonishing, but sadly most pastors have no experience or ability to counsel. This is a story way too common, and it’s my hope that pastors would read this and see how much damage they do/have done/could do.

    Not too long ago I came across a website, http://www.restoredrelationships.org/ They have a church pack available free. Personally I’d like to see every pastor everywhere read the information and use it in their churches. It’s that good. My mom, a pastor and a counselor, printed it out and is using it.

    Me heart really goes out to the woman who wrote the letter as well as the other women who have written recently about their similar experiences. My prayer is that every woman who finds herself in an abusive relationship will find the strength and courage to seek help and will be surrounded by truly caring people with the wisdom to help in the right way.

  • http://soulation.org/breakfastreading/ Molly

    I just wrote about something similar, only in this situation, the abused woman actually finds help. At least that one time. There was pastoral help she received that was less than good. I’d say the jist (like, 98%) of all the other advice this woman got from the church world was along the lines of, “We all have our crosses to bear…” The assumption was that a good Christian woman would stay… to the death. While being submissive, of course.

    So when she eventually (and agonizingly) divorced him, that meant that she was obviously…not a good Christian woman. He remained a good Christian man, in their eyes…because no matter what it was he did to her behind closed doors, honey, *he* wasn’t the one who filed for divorce!

    The church has a looooong way to go when it comes to understanding the dynamics of spousal abuse…and knowing how to be a loving support system for abused spouses instead of a weapon of their abusers…….but good and thoughtful conversations like these are ways we can help the church catch up.

  • Charlene

    Thank you for sharing your story, I am a fellow member of Our Place and I just wanted to share that my soon to be ex husband abused his first wife through their Church as well. He would share all their details in bible studies and group meetings always pointing the finger at her, saying she was unwell and mentally ill and refused help for herself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. The CHURCH counsel actually gave him their blessings to leave her and take their children with him! So not only did she suffer 20 years of abuse at the hands of the man who had promised to love and cherish her, but she lost her children and her Church family…

    SAD

    • Steen

      Charlene, the woman you mention who suffered 20 years of abuse and then lost her children and her church family… that sounds like me. It was 18 years for me, and then the abuser, with the support of my former church family, took all four kids that I had with him from me. I was considered evil for having found love with a new man – oh, my! Imagine that! LOVING someone and being loved back in return! What a new experience for me. Certainly not something I had while in that relationship with the ex.

  • Sheri

    To the woman represented in this story…I BELIEVE YOU!

    Something nearly identical happened to me…Southern Baptist Mega Church…I would love to be able to privately connect with you.

    John Shore: Is there a way you can help facilitate that?

  • http://OurPlace Meg Wojcik

    Hi John! I also have been in some churches where I was told I had to just “put up” with any bad treatment my husband dished out to me. Unfortunately, the Pastor had no knowledge of the nature of domestic violence and how it affects women and their children. For years, my husband’s violence went unchecked, until we went to the church we are in now, and have been for almost 8 years. The Senior Pastors and the counselling Pastor encouraged me to take out an intervention order against my husband, and encouraged me to lay assault charges against him and to leave him. They completely loved on me, believed in me and helped me through some of the darkest times in my life. They also help my husband accountable for his wrong behaviours and action and refused to allow him to tell lies about me-in fact, he was told off for slandering me at church. They also got my husband to seek help and counselling for himself, with the result that he changed his ways, and after 10 months of seperation, we re-united. We are doing really well now…the difference is like night and day. If my pastors hadn’t taken the time to care for us and loved us enough to confront my husband, then it would have been a very different story.

    I am also on the website Our Place too, like Charlene. My husband is one of the very few that DO change. Most abusers do NOT however, and I believe there needs to be a LOT more education for Pastors on how to deal with abused women and their abusive husbands.

    God bless

    Meg

    • vj

      *Your* husband changed because the people he respected most (church leaders) supported and encouraged you, stood up for the truth and held him accountable for his actions. They required that he do something more than just show remorse – they pointed him in the direction of repentance. They understood that ‘all that is required for evil to prosper is for good men [& women] to do nothing’. They put their faith into action, and see how the blessings have flowed!

      Good for them, and for your husband – and of course, mostly, for you.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    To whoever wrote this, thank you so very much for sharing your story with us! I pray for your and your children’s continued healing, and that your ex might some day also come into the light and let go of the demons he yet clings to. And together with you, I pray for anyone else who presently faces a situation at all like what you went through.

    What on God’s good earth are the human conditions that contribute to such dynamics in the first place? That is, to the husband’s assholery, not the pastor’s: for the pastor’s can be readily explained by his subscribing to a seriously mistaken set of spiritual beliefs (which, owing to such effects as in this situation, I’m all for arguing against), but no one could think the husband’s lies to be consistent with his understanding of the truth. (The nature of the lie, and the reason wicked men have loved the darkness, is that it cannot be consistent with the light of truth no matter what angle you shine it from; it doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or a Muslim, the lie’s still a lie.) Certainly, it is very, very important that such situations actually find positive resolution when and where they arise, which the pastor utterly failed in trying to help accomplish. But it would be even better if such situations might have been prevented or their harmfulness minimized in the first place. So, since there is a lot collective wisdom in the commenters on John’s blog here—and a treasure trove of individual experience and intelligence—I thought I’d put the question to you all. So what conditions in our culture lead or enable a husband or a wife in a decade-long, seemingly typical, happy marriage so suddenly and so uncorrectably to veer off the straight and narrow? Again, it’s very important that there be support out there for when such things arise, but perhaps there also are societal attitudes and/or dynamics that ought to be changed to have a net-beneficial effect by reducing the occurrence of such family-shattering misfortunes. If so, I think we ought to be interested in discerning what they are.

    • Jeannie

      I can only speak for myself. There was no veering off of a seemingly happy marriage. My ex had emotional and psychological problems. It took me almost a decade to realize that. Until I realized there was no fixing him and no making him happy, I kept trying. I kept blaming our marriage issues on me. And I kept trying even harder to make things better.

      What could have not caused this situation to arise? I don’t know, on his part he was an abused child who watched his father abuse his mother. His patterns and damage were done long before I came into the picture. Perhaps if I have been raised in a healthier dynamic I might have realized how dysfunctional he was before I married him. In short, I am not sure there is anything we could have done, short of lots of therapy prior to our marriage, that would have made a difference. We simply should not have been married – ever. I wish him peace. I truly hope he is never in another relationship with another woman again though. He will be miserable and so will she.

      • http://deconstructingmyselfdma.blogspot.com/ D’Ma

        Wow! I can’t believe how much you sound like me or I sound like you.

    • Hope

      Matthew, It was never a happy marriage, although people tell me we seemed the perfect couple. Our bible study leader told me he would pray for a reconciliation because we were a great couple. This is after I told him about the abuse.

      How to prevent such a thing happening? Leaders and counselors need a lot more clarity and knowledge. I sought help from many counselors and pastors even before marriage. Nobody warned me about domestic violence, even though he already showed signs of violence then. I tried breaking it off, and found it impossible to cope with post-separation violence. I was alone and far from family members.

      After marriage, I continued to seek counsel, and again, not one counselor, pastor or elder addressed the domestic abuse. One pastor of a previous church recently told me that he remembered me going to his house when I was assaulted as a young wife, and how he told me to go back because I had to work it out. He wasn’t apologizing, and still doesn’t see it as wrong advice. He spent a lot of time helping me, so I am not going to criticize his efforts.

      I think all pre-marital counseling should include the issue of domestic violence – how to spot it and what to do. This is the only thing that could have saved my family. (We are alive, but we are severely scarred.) Even knowledge of his past would not have been enlightening because he was very evasive about his past, so I have no idea about the environment in his home.

      As to what could have prevented such ingrained attitudes in him, I can only surmise that it is a combination of factors: poor role-modeling, both of an entitled father and an anxious, controlling, invalidating but victimized mother, misogynistic attitudes in society, and the ignorance of church members – instead of holding him accountable, they sympathized and gave him a lot of ammunition to carry out his violence, first to his own mother, then to his girlfriends and finally to his family. Those that called him on it were swiftly replaced by new allies. He could ALWAYS find new allies.

    • LVZ

      I don’t pretend my own experience is all-encompassing, but there are only two reasons I’m aware of.

      (1) the spouse becomes abusive because he (or she) develops a mental illness.

      (2) the abusive spouse always was an abuser. The reason the victim married him (or her) in the first place was because the abuser was putting on an act during the courtship and (sometimes) the early years of the marriage. That’s another reason so many people stay in abusive relationships — they keep hoping that the person they married will come back. They don’t realize that the person they married never really existed; that person was a facade all along.

  • Don_C

    I am SO DAMN ANGRY right now. Angry at the stupid, stupid husband and the even stupider pastor. If God brought someone into my life who was willing to share hers with me, I would never, ever treat them like that.

    To the anonymous writer: I pray you and your children find healing. You’ve done the right thing by getting out.

  • Richard Lubbers

    This is a very sad story with an ending that is heading in the right direction. Thank you John for making this one of your missions. And thank you to women like this who have the strength and courage to get away from the monsters that would destroy them.

    I met my wife on Match.com. Her profile said she was looking for a man who is an atheist, agnostic or Buddhist. She had been married to a Baptist man for 20 years, and her story sounded similar to the one written here. Her husband kicked her out of his bed because she “disturbed” him. Then he finally left her and proceeded to look for a much younger wife in Russia, one that would be more subservient. All the while he is a respected member of his church, a “good Christian man”.

    In our marriage, Tammy has found that there are Christian men who actually care for their wives and allow them to be who they are. She has come to know that not all Christian men are mean-spirited, domineering and manipulative. We attend a church where faith, grace and love are the norm instead of dogma, control and the attitudes of the conservative right.

    Love Wins!

  • http://lifesfunnylikethat.blogspot.com debby

    I stayed with my abuser for 10 years, ashamed to have a failed marriage. I felt terrible about myself. He molested our daughter. He went to prison. It is now 15 years later. I often think of those days, ashamed that I endured such a hard time. If I had not, those terrible things would not have happened to my child. I have a good husband now, even though I vowed that I would never marry again (and meant it with all of my heart…) I never thought that I would have that in my life, and I am thankful for it every day of my life.

    I remember though, that I received a lot of mail from our old church, chastising me for leaving my husband.

  • Amanda

    I think it’s time now for bible colleges to teach classes on how to handle this sort of thing. We need to start a revolution!

  • http://rinmmkay.blogspot.com Mariah

    Sometimes, it’s things like this that really convince me that when I am finally ready to be a mom, I (and my babies) would be better off if I went at it alone and just asked a good friend to be a donor.

  • dani

    I am the writer of the above story. thanks for all the responses-it really is very validating.

    A few additional things I failed to make clear in my writing. He was having a sexual affair with the women he sent the emails to. I also found out later he had another affair with someone between our first and second child being born.

    He had always been very controlling, even at the beginning. When I look back, I saw the signs but chose to ignore them because he was the “head of the house”. I was a new Christian and wanted to do what I thought God wanted me to.

    I remember driving frantically home one day from the gym after he started escalating (He wanted me to work out every day for 2 hours). I had left my phone at home by mistake and didn’t realize it until I had started working out. I knew he would be furious because he always wanted to be able to get ahold of me at any time. I remember, clear as day, sitting there at the railroad crossing by our house. There were tears streaming down my face, I was just sobbing. I was so afraid to walk in the house and was hoping he didn’t try to call me while I was gone. As the train was passing, I prayed to God that my husband would cheat on me so I could have a “valid” excuse to escape. Little did I know, but at the time I prayed that prayer, it had already happened. He had already cheated on me a few times.

    There were little things that happened along the way. Instances that helped me see TRUTH, helped me leave, helped me and 4 children get by when he wouldn’t pay child support, got me through these last three years….I KNOW these things were God looking out for us. Nobody, I mean nobody will ever convince me otherwise. I don’t think that the church or “good” Christians would believe that. But, I learned not to care what people think. My relationship to God is personal, more spiritual now than it ever has been in my life.

    Again, thanks for reading. :)

    • Jeannie

      I so relate to all of this. Hugs to you and yours.

    • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ erika

      bless you. you wonderful brave momma

    • DR

      These stories are heart-breaking.

    • SugarMags

      Sweet sister….are you me? Am I you? I could have written your post. Oh, my STORY is different. But your follow up here….those are my words. How did you know?

      “I KNOW these things were God looking out for us. Nobody, I mean nobody will ever convince me otherwise. I don’t think that the church or “good” Christians would believe that. But, I learned not to care what people think. My relationship to God is personal, more spiritual now than it ever has been in my life.”

      That. Exactly.

      And yes, some “good” Christians will believe it. I found a few. Ones I didn’t expect. They are the keepers.

      • Nicole

        As the “survivor” of a Southern Baptist marriage. I so totally understand and can relate to your entire post. I was divorced from an abusive alcoholic one year ago last week and the “monster” continues to try to control me and abuse me even now. My parents who are Southern Baptist have turned against me as well as the church which screamed about how much they loved me and my kids while I was married. Now it’s me battling with my ex, my parents, and unfortunately the same church that I looked to for guidance and support.

        I hope that you find peace and happiness. I hope that I may too someday.

        P.S. There are SO MANY women in this exact situation in the SBC but they can’t come out and speak because they are afraid of the ramifications if they were to do so.

  • janebluebelle

    John I just want to thank-you for facilitating these wonderful forums. I have been reading all of your articles and find today a good day to leave my first comment. It is one of gratitude. Thank-you for being a free and critical thinker who challenges the institutions which not only keep people in chains but Jesus as well. You have been an inspiration to me during my own trials and challenges with the same issues.

    Great respect to the writer of this letter! Your honesty is empowering and inspiring. How we women have been oppressed by religion is a sad and terrible truth. I bow to all of you courageous women. You inspire me to fight for the truth that the world just starts to be getting, that we are free, capable and independent beings who have not only equal rights but also the right to shine brightly in who you are, the individual you. This is not idealism, this is truth.

    May the real and true Jesus bless all of you in your search for life and vitality free from the oppressors!

  • janebluebelle

    I couldn’t reread my post as my iPhone will not scroll back over it. It replaces words on me and corrects spelling by relaplacing likely words. So my apologies if I’ve made those mistakes. It’s very frustrating indeed. Thanks all ! You’re a great bunch :)

  • http://www.notunderbondage.com Barbara Roberts

    Hugs to all the victim-survivors out there! I’m another survivor who was shamed and condemned by the church as well as by my husband. Twelve years out now, and happily remarried, thank the precious Lord.

    Many survivors are now talking and supporting each other online, such as at the Our Place forum, and there’s a momentum building to get our voices out there, but I don’t see a lot of improvement in the way the churches are handling domestic abuse. They’re taking ‘baby steps’, if that. But it needs mountain scaling strides and Christian champions who will make domestic abuse their MAIN issue and not give up till it becomes central to the ongoing mission of the Church.

    Thanks, John, for being at the vanguard.

    If anyone wants help untangling the divorce conundrum as it applies to domestic abuse, check out my book Not Under Bondage. It’s written for Bible believing Christians. You can read the first chapter online at http://www.notunderbondage.com and I also have heaps of links and articles to help anyone who is addressing domestic abuse in a Christian context.

    I also endorse the Restored Relationships organisation. They are aiming to be an worldwide umbrella group for all Christians engaged in preventing Violence Against Wome. Anyone who is interested in this issue can join them.

    John, can you email me so we can talk about doing a book swap?

  • Michele

    I am a close family member of a domestic violence victim. For the family of abusers, it’s like beating your head against a wall and never getting through. It can last for years! Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe some pastors just don’t care? I think they would handle it a lot different if it were their daughter, sister or mother. Makes me wonder how an abused wife of a pastor gets help?

    • Diana A.

      “Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe some pastors just don’t care?” It occurs to me. I think much of the problem (at least with the pastors who encourage women to stay with their abusers) is that they worship the Bible (certain verses at least) more than they worship God. So, “wives, submit unto your husbands….” they’re on their knees to that one.

      “I think they would handle it a lot different if it were their daughter, sister or mother.” Maybe. Maybe not. It’s been fairly easy down through the centuries for men to regard all women as less than. Once a man (or a woman) comes to that conclusion, it’s fairly easy to condone the abuse of women. Afterall, it’s not as if women are people or anything. (Grrrr!)

      This is why I’m so not a biblical literalist.

      • Ninetailedfox

        If you dont mind my saying so, Liberal chrisians are a strange breed to me. I grew up in the bible belt, and Ive met enough mix and match christians that I honestly shy away from almost anyone that says they believe in Jesus. Ive come across a Gnostic christian that said if youre not Christian, youre not spiritual.

  • Jeannie

    I am fascinated by how angry I am. Reading these posts this week has unearthed feelings I thought I had worked through. I guess I just buried them. I am furious – at God, at the church, at my ex. I liked the feelings better when they were invisible and silent. Guess I had better figure out what to do with them now.

    • http://deconstructingmyselfdma.blogspot.com/ D’Ma

      I know the feeling all too well. Just when I think I’ve put it behind me something happens that brings it to the fore and it feels just as raw as it did when it was happening. When the feelings are invisible and you’re moving on with your life you think you’re “over it”. Somehow I don’t think it’s something you ever get over. {{hugs}}

  • Leigh

    Oh, my God (an utterance of the heart…) I was pointed to this blog by Rev. Meredith McGrath. I don’t have the emotional energy to rehash, right now, so I’ll let the response I just sent to her stand as my words here:

    I took your advice and read John Shore’s blog– that particular post and some related ones. Thank you for pointing me there. Although I have to admit I’ve never thanked anyone for something that left me feeling… I think “flayed” is the right word. One commenter summed it up perfectly: “I am fascinated by how angry I am. Reading these posts this week has unearthed feelings I thought I had worked through. I guess I just buried them. I am furious – at God, at the church, at my ex. I liked the feelings better when they were invisible and silent. Guess I had better figure out what to do with them now.” I guess there’s a lot I thought I’d dealt with more successfully than I apparently have.

    I knew in my head that my story couldn’t possibly be unique and that there had to be other women who had experienced the double agony of domestic abuse and abuse (or at least the perpetuating of abuse) by their pastor/ congregation. But after reading just a few of the stories that women have shared on John Shore’s blog, I feel like I’ve been shown the tiniest tip of an iceberg that I didn’t know existed. I have spent the last hour just.. weeping. In shock. Horror. Seeing so much of what I went through repeated almost verbatim by so many other women is at once oddly comforting (in that I know I’m not alone) and indescribably sickening.

    My God, what have we done. We, the Church, the bride of Christ, have over *centuries* taken one single word from one single out-of-context verse from one of Paul’s letters and used to excuse, justify, even advocate the physical, psychological and spiritual torture of an entire gender. Submit. I really didn’t realize how much I’ve come to hate that word until just now. It’s like poison in my mouth when I try to say it. I refused to use it with (as you so wonderfully put it) my true husband. I used “defer”. But then our agreed upon system was that if we couldn’t come to a mutual decision, the partner to whom the issue was less important would defer to the other. Funny how our experiences can burden a word with so much connotational baggage. “Defer” makes me think of mutuality and partnership. “Submit” makes me think of being 5 months pregnant and on my knees, wordlessly scooping meatloaf and glass off of the floor, hands and knees bleeding, after my ex had thrown it at me and then ordered me to clean it up.

    And I know that’s not what Biblical submission means. But it’s what it means to me. Domestic abuse in the church at large is a bigger problem than I knew and one that does not have a quick or easy solution. Nor do my own unresolved issues (you know.. the ones I didn’t realize I still had to such a degree of depth). Thanks for pointing me to an online community that’s acknowledging the problem and trying to come up with the answers.

  • DR

    John these women have some powerful voices. How can we get them out there? This could be the start of something huge. I love you for your courage and the love you have for Christ who I know emboldens you in this space.

  • Ninetailedfox

    People may not want to hear ths, but it MUST be said. Christianity empowers abusers, with passages like these

    women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

    1Tim 2:12

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

    Not to mention Jesus hung out with 12 men, Mary Magdeline was turned into a prostitute, and Eve was blamed for eating the tree of knowledge.

    • DR

      With all due respect, you’re simply restating the obvious. This is exactly the point of all of these posts, how Scripture is being used to abuse and victimize women (and we’re allowing that to occur).

  • Ninetailedfox

    My marriage is great so far, then again I am a Pagan married to a Buddhist/Pagan.

    We have our ups and downs, but theres no physical violence.

  • Angel C

    Patriarchy is a sickness in any and all institutions. Its a good thing I don’t believe in “God,” but the Earth as my Mother. I love matriarchy!

    Thank you for sharing your story and I am SO GLAD you were able to flee!

  • Ryan

    I am a male but in the same situation as described by so many of the women here. My wife is Schitzo-affective, has had to take our 3 yr old to the ER because of her abuse towards him, and I had to spend 3 months (until she was arrested for domestic battery) sleeping in the boys’ room with a bat. Because I was the one to finally file for divorce, I am the one at fault. As the “head of the family” I have obviously failed to provide adequate leadership (Pehaps beating her into submission?) which has led her to stray. Her mental illness is due to a “lack of faith” and, as a good husband, I should lovingly let her stay and beat the crap out of me and both of my sons but provide a shining example of a longsuffering christian husband.

    I’m sorry, but the Jesus that died for my sins will forgive me for getting the hell out. “God will protect you and your sons,” the good pastor says. Maybe God has by granting me the discernment, finally, to get out?

    It doesn’t help that I am a “manly man fireman.” No one takes me seriously that my 120 lb sparrow of a wife could seriously harm me–but they forget that eventually everyone must sleep. Couple this with the fact that she is a RN and knows/has access to drugs that would literally kill you in a heartbeat, and I feel that I am not, as the good pastor says, “blowing it all out of proportion.” My so-called councilling sessions have resulted in me feeling more shamed, humiliated, and guilty than the social stigma of having all of the friends read about it in the newspaper.

    It happens to men, too, I guess, is what the central theme of the rant is.

    Thanks for the forum.

    • DR

      This is such an important comment, I’m glad you wrote it. I’m sorry about your experience and how ill-equipped we’ve somehow allowed our fellow Christians to become in dealing with this. The lack of education we allow because we “have faith” is pretty astounding.

    • Diana A.

      You did the right thing. Your pastor was wrong. I’m glad you and your sons got out.


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