True Womanhood: Get Abused, Win a Crown!

Christian feminist blogger Caris Adel has been reviewing DeMoss and Kassian’s bible study for women, True Woman 101 Divine Design, which is the same genre as Debi Pearl’s Created To Be His Help Meet. When I write about Debi, I am often told that Debi is extreme, that her teachings are not widespread among evangelicals, etc. As DeMoss and Kassian reveal, however, this is incorrect. (You’ve heard of Kassian and DeMoss on this blog before, in a two-part guest series.) I want to quote from one section of Caris Adel’s review, and then offer links for her whole series.

There are no guarantees, that responding ‘God’s way’ will work.  “How you respond to this man, you must think of it as, ‘this is my response to God’……If the man is asking her to do something ungodly or is interacting with her in a way that’s very harsh and difficult – I’ve counseled women through, you exercise humility, you express your opinions, you appeal in a way that’s gentle, you pray…

IF YOUR HUSBAND IS ABUSING YOU, YOU EXERCISE HUMILITY???  Because abuse is the time to be gentle?!?!?

If he’s caught in a pattern of sin, thankfully Scripture’s given us recourse.  Matthew 18, once you’ve appealed to your husband, you say, I’ve seen this in you and I’m concerned for you, then you take it to your church leadership…” (So, no civil authorities for Christian women?  And nice assumption that church leadership is always a safe place to go.

I’m concerned for you!  Not for me, not for my safety or the safety of my children, or what this violence is teaching our children.  No, my only concern is for you.  W.T.F.

And to women who suffer in these relationships for a really long time, or have been deserted or abandoned, there’s one perspective to offer that can be helpful, and that is, our life is but a breath…it feels very long, I get that, but you have to live with the idea that one day you will stand and look at your savior face to face and you will be rewarded for what you did, not what you changed in someone else…….If you live in light of eternity, you will realize that out of his grace he’s going to give you a crown to reward you that you wear for all eternity…..This light and momentary affliction, which seems very heavy and long, is shaping and sanctifying and molding us, conforming us to God’s image….he uses even the failures and sins of others to sanctify us.  Pressure sanctifies.

Isn’t it refreshing to know that God is sovereign?” (Says the single woman!)

Oh, Nancy.  There are so many things I think about this god.  Refreshing is not one of them.  (Seriously.  ALL.THE.SWEARS)

They also talk about how we shouldn’t intimidate our husbands with our strong-will and determination.  Heaven forbid women have will or determination, especially when it comes to abusive situations.  Their commitment to marriage is so strong that being married takes precedent over being safe

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Stev84

    This a truly horrible thing with fundamentalist Christianity. They don’t think that anything in this life matters at all, because all that counts is heaven. It’s the same reason they don’t give a shit about the environment or global warming.

    • Jeremy Shaffer

      Which would be fine except some seem to really care what happens in this life since they try and enforce their beliefs on others through law.

      • Jayn

        Some would probably argue that they’re trying to help more people get into heaven (a sentiment I don’t agree with, since I don’t feel that doing the right thing, even if I agreed with them on what that was, counts if you’re only doing so for lack of other options.)

      • Richter_DL

        No, it would not be fine. This kind of mindset never is fine. Being an uncaring asshole is being an uncaring asshole no matter what deity you chalk your self-righteous up to.

    • Scott_In_OH

      IIRC, it was this kind of frustration that sparked Liberation Theology among some Catholic clergy. “Hey, just because heaven is going to be great doesn’t mean life here has to suck. Let’s work to improve people’s lives now.”

      Of course, Liberation Theology was stamped out by the hierarchy. Again, IIRC.

    • Richter_DL

      That kind of thinking is exactly one step from a suicide belt, or an airplane to a skyscraper. It’s the exact same mindset.

      • KarenJo12

        Liberation Theology or the “everything will be great in heaven so don’t bother with your earthly life” one?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Huh? That’s not what Liberation Theology is at all. Liberation theology is all about social justice and action. How did it end up in this conversation?

      • KarenJo12

        I was replying to Richter DL’s post that said “That kind of thinking . . . ” I can’t tell if the comment is suggesting that Liberation Theology is “exactly one step from a suicide belt” or the “heaven is going to be great one.”

      • Monimonika

        Note that the arrow to the right of Richter_DL’s name is not pointing to “Scott_In_OH”, but to “Stev84″. Just for future reference on how the commenting system works in regards to replies and hopefully a clarification on where the confusion is coming from.

  • Baby_Raptor

    If their god would punish a woman for leaving an abusive husband, he’s no god worth serving.

    • Richter_DL

      Their god is the divine image of an abusive, commaning father. Now what does that say about these people?

      • enuma

        “I only beat the crap out of you because I love you so much, and I get jealous when you talk to other men.”

        “I’m only threatening you with eternal hell because I love you so much, and I get jealous of other gods or philosophies.”

    • Anon

      Adding to that. If he supposedly knows every hair on your head does that mean he deliberately makes some spouses abusive?

      Like a little kid on a big anthill, except instead of the magnifying glass

      “You’re going to be abusive. You’re going to be a rapist. You’re going to council women in abusive marriages to stay in them.”

  • Ahab

    This is why I have no patience for twisted notions of “forgiveness” embraced by fundamentalist Christians. In their eyes, being forgiving and Christlike involves being a doormat, no matter how unfairly, exploitatively, or violently one is being treated. I can’t imagine how many women and children have suffered because of this kind of thinking.

    • JarredH

      Agreed. Even worse, that model of “forgiveness” isn’t applied consistently. Oh sure, lesser people must offer unqualified “forgiveness” to those in authority who have wronged them. But if as a lesser person, you commit some perceived sin against them, those in authority over you will often “forgive” you, but also demand consequences and future accountability.

  • lana hobbs

    There is so much wrong here but one little thing that just annoys is the idea of the crown. Pretty sure no one is gonna be wearing one, that it’s supposed to be layed at Jesus’ feet. I was taught that the better Christian you were the better the crown would be. (But i dont think that is biblical) It’s like competitive worship…

    • Richter_DL

      It’s a crown here and 72 virgins (or raisins, depending) there. No difference, really.

  • onamission5

    “our life is but a breath…”

    So don’t worry your little lady head about the horrific abuse you are living with, never mind the agony, never mind the terror, because when he finally kills you, your misery will end and you’ll go to heaven!
    All. The. Swears, indeed.

  • Trollface McGee

    The crown reminds me of a movie I saw once. Two soldiers come back from the front to their village where another soldier is being buried.
    Soldier 1: “Look at that, a clean nice uniform, medals, flowers. It’s so nice.”
    Soldier 2: “Nice? Nice for who?”
    I wish I were more shocked but this is a culture where abuse is hardly recognised, where a man who masturbates or watches porn is a worse man than a man who beats his kids and wife, where a principle matters more than human lives and suffering. I’m glad, at least with the internet that at least the rest of the world is being exposed to how twisted and sick these “virtuous” cultures really are.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    The idea that anything is okay as long as you can work it around to be “God’s will” is definitely not limited to bad marriages.

    I have seen people (women in particular) ignore their needs about a great many things, big and small, out of the belief that acting too much to change your circumstances is a betrayal of trust in God. I’ve seen people let their coworkers run them over, get burned out serving their kids 24/7, put up with living in places they hate, and more, because they believe that fighting your circumstances somehow puts you down a rung on the faithfulness ladder. The call to martyrdom runs deep in Christian women, unfortunately.

    Now, that’s not to say that one CAN always change one’s circumstances. Obviously there are things like earthquakes and terminal illness and friends who act like jerks, disappoint you, and you can’t always control every single aspect of those things. And that’s where I find faith in God very comforting. But I don’t get this mindset that even if you can change something, you AUTOMATICALLY should avoid changing it just to prove how faithful you are. I don’t think it’s a fair representation of what the Bible says at all.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Demoss and Kassian to abused women: “Oh well, at least you’ll die eventually.”

    What an upper!

  • Ellen

    Many years ago, in the midst of horrible emotional and mental abuse from my “Christian” husband, I suspected that he might be abusing our young daughter. I was a mess myself and didn’t know what to do or who to talk to for help. So I turned to a woman at church whom I admired. She advised me to go the Matthew 18 route. That’s right. She told me to confront my husband MYSELF. And if he was repentant, to forgive him and go on from there. Of course he said he was repentant (it wasn’t that bad, nothing really happened, etc)! And because I was an emotional basket case myself because of his abuse, I was unable to see that he was lying. My child was too young to tell me differently. So it went on for many years and ended up including four of my five children. Churches and church people have no clue of the dynamics of domestic abuse, and what it does to a woman caught in it. Telling her to confront the abuser on her own is asking for more abuse!

  • Suburbint

    This just makes me ANGRY. When my mother finally got up the courage to go to go to church leadership, they were already well aware of the issues in our house due to my very close relationship with the youth pastor’s daughter. They took what I said with a grain of salt (angst ridden teenager who is probably exaggerating was their train of thought) but when my mom went to the pastor, they realized that everything I said was absolutely true. Our pastor told my mother that he thought the modern church’s stand on divorce was far too narrow, and he and some other elders went to my father, called him out on his behaviour and set up a weekly counseling/check-in with him to see how things were going. Wouldn’t you know it, shortly thereafter my father found an “incredible job opportunity” across the country and dragged us all from AZ to CT.

    All that to say, when you are living in an abusive household, life doesn’t feel like it is “but a breath” and the hope of a crown in heaven means nothing when your abuser uses scripture to justify every aspect of the abuse. Every day feels like an eternity and the Church is grossly lacking in not only resources to help abused women and children, but the tendency to turn a blind eye and/or blame the problems on the woman is ludicrous at best and deadly at worst. When will modern evangelicals realize that complementarian theology breeds horrific home situations? Separate but equal failed miserably in the US, why on earth would it work in the Church? Oh wait, I just remembered: it’s because men run the show due to their superior genitalia.

  • Cykey

    An Assembly of God minister assured me that should my abusive husband kill me, I would have a special crown in heaven for my faithfulness to my vows. I was eighteen years old, married three months. Thankfully, I didn’t buy the BS.

  • TLC

    SO MUCH HORROR here! If the whole concept of “submitting” works at all, it works ONLY when BOTH partners practice it. Men are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Unfortunately, most men don’t read that far. And certainly an abusive man isn’t following this!

    From 1 Corinthians 7:17: “(But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)” Isn’t it amazing that if you can get a divorce because you’re a believer but your spouse isn’t? But if you’re both believers and he’s beating the hell out of you and your kids, you have to stay? What happened to living in peace?

    • Renee

      Thats a pretty big IF….

    • Mogg

      I spent 15 years of my life in a church which actively used this verse as an excuse to break up marriages where one partner was perceived by the leadership to be rebellious, a little too talented or ambitious, or in some other way a danger to complete domination by the leadership. The “approved” partner was generally allowed to remarry within the church, and the non-approved not only divorced and left with a mindest that divorcees are sinful failures, but also cut off from all family and friends.

  • Miss_Beara

    Everything will be all better once you are dead!

    My heart hurts for the women and children in these situations. Nobody to go to except church folks who give out scripture verses as help and telling them they will be rewarded after their husband kills them and possibly their children as well. They just don’t say it in those words. They fancy it up a bit and tell them they will have a special crown in heaven.

  • wmdkitty

    Oh. My. Ceiling Cat.

    Granted, I’m less surprised (or shocked) than I am deeply, deeply disappointed and depressed that there are women who buy into this notion of the perfect submissive doormat of a wife.

    I want to go and rescue all of these women. I can’t. But I want to.

  • Renee

    Wow. Horrible. Just. Horrible.

  • Don Gwinn

    They’re not just teaching women that they have to take abuse (and a lot of other treatment that’s not abusive but also not fair or even reasonable) from men. They’re also teaching little boys that people who teach them not to mistreat women just don’t understand how God made them . . . . that they can’t help it . . . that they should do their best, and however short they fall of treating women decently, that’s just their burden to carry.
    They’re not doing the boys any favors.

    • onamission5

      Indeed, the takeaway that kids from abusive homes get is that this is what loves looks like. Love looks like being degraded or degrading. Love looks like imposing your will or having someone’s will imposed upon you. Love looks like feeling or causing pain. Love looks like hurt and terror and breaking things when you’re angry, or having your things broken. Love looks like never being satisfied or never being able to live up to someone else’s demands of you. Love looks like making excuses for bruises, hiding, walking on eggshells, or demanding that eggshells be walked upon.

      • Don Gwinn

        Yes. Libby Anne keeps pointing out this effect in Debi Pearl’s writing; every time she talks about any kind of independence in a woman, even something as mild as reporting abuse, she frames it as “dominating” the relationship, and the woman is described as “domineering.” That’s just not what those words mean, but given Debi’s experience of marriage, it may be all she knows.

      • onamission5


        It took me decades to learn to reframe my independent and capable nature as something other than what I was told I was– domineering, stubborn, willfull, rebellious, pig headed, obstinate, and other negative descriptors that still make me balk when I hear them– and I wasn’t raised in a terribly abusive environment, at least not between my mom and stepdad. Abusive, but not in the way that people think when they think abuse. Abuse directed at we kids and called “discipline.” Gaslighting directed at women and girls, the full burden for navigating relationships placed on our heads and called “submission.” My folks didn’t subscribe to any particular doctrine, they picked and chose from all the crap out there and tailored it to suit them. It still set me and my sister up for future relationships where our voices were diminished, our needs subverted, our perspectives invalidated. It still set us up to seek out partners who’d “put us in our place” because neither of us knew what a healthy, egalitarian relationship looked like. I got out sooner than she did, but not without my own scars, both literal and emotional.

        I shudder to think what kind of men my folks could have raised, had they had the sons they wanted, and had those sons internalized the messages my sister and I did.

  • onamission5

    I keep coming back to this. I keep coming back because of my sister. During the peak of the abuse in her marriage, she was considering divorce so joined a local church, thinking that she needed to have a supportive community around her to help her through her difficulties and insulate her from the backlash from her husband. She started reaching out to our mom, who lived on the other side of the country, and asking advice from her, too, because our mom is an abuse survivor and my sister hoped she’d recognize the symptoms.

    The church members told my sister unilaterally that she needed to submit to her husband better, that divorce was a sin, that she ought to stop making her husband so angry. Our mom told my sister that she ought to work on her own issues and figure out why she was so confrontational and rebellious against her husband.

    My sister stayed another three years.

    In the end, when she did file for divorce, the church kicked her out, declared her a prideful sinner who ought to be glad anyone had deigned to marry her at all given her history, and turned its back on her. Our mom declared ignorance, that if she’d known just how bad it was she would never have advised my sister to stay. Rewriting history, that. She knew. Husbands don’t slam their wives arms in doors if they’re good people and if my sister, who’s a pro at hiding pertinent details of her life, had opened up to our mom with that information, if our mom knew my sister at all, if she remembered her own abuse as well as she said she did, she should have known that things were worse than described. I knew. From a thousand miles away I knew. The one pair of friends my sister had who hadn’t been swayed to her husband’s side, they knew. It’s always worse than the victim lets on. Anyone who has been through abuse or witnessed abuse will know that.

    Three years. She stayed for three more years because she wanted to be good with Jesus, because she was so beaten down that couldn’t leave without support from her community, and support for her was not forthcoming. It’s luck alone that she lived.

    • Feminerd

      There are no words. That’s just awful.

  • Captain Cassidy

    I have this crazy idea in my head about a collaborative relationship between people where everybody is an adult and works for the combined best of them both, where life’s not a constant fight between an oppressor and a victim as they struggle for dominance and the honoring of their respective needs one battle at a time. In other words, the polar opposite of the fundagelical conceptualization of marriage.