Saturday, February 18, 2006

Physical Abuse

I made a comment today on the Better Bibles Blog,

As far as authority in marriage goes, we hold that that is a private matter, subject to the absence of abuse.

To tell the truth I wasn't thinking too seriously about it. However, I have since heard for the second time this week of a case of physical abuse. I am also aware of another case of psychological abuse. I cannot talk about this freely as some of these people are connected to me.

However, I can mention a brief conversation that a group of us had with our pastor the other day. He said that the church did not marry divorced people, and I reacted, thinking that this was very conservative. Then he continued, "except in the case of adultery, abuse and abandonment, in these cases the marriage has been broken by the other partner."

In Canada the abused partner does not have to lay charges. The police may be informed by a neighbour or anyone who is aware of the abuse. The police arrest the abuser and the crown charges the abuser with assault. If it is a first offense the abuser does not usually get a criminal record.

If a woman is being abused and neither she nor others who know this information do anything about it to stop it, they are contributing to a crime in the same way as if you saw someone steal and did not do anything to stop it. This is an extremely serious situation.

If I see someone physically harming someone else and I decide to pray for that person but do not take immediate action to stop it I am in the wrong. If I saw someone drowning would I pray for that person or attempt to use a physical means of saving them.

I realize that it is very difficult for some people to accept that there is no other way, but there is no other way. Everyone should have read at least one book about abuse so that they can be prepared for such a situation. Every church needs to be informed.

Here is a list of books as a good start.

The Battered Wife

No Place for Abuse

Christian Men who Hate Women

Domestic Violence: What every Pastor Needs to Know

About my opening comment, I said it carelessly. There is a statistical correlation between physical abuse in marriage and beliefs about authority and submission. Read Headship with a heart. I believe that a hierarchical relationship in marriage is simply wrong. Submission destroys intimacy. I can't imagine what the purpose is. Fidelity is something I understand.

Some people may be able to interpret authority and submission in such a way that it does not destroy the marriage. Common sense simply steps in and protects them. But on the whole I believe it is a great danger.

Personally I am not too interested in dissecting the many different possible meanings of headship. I am not a marriage counsellor but a pragmatic person. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will never reform your partner without leaving, accept that now. If, after a period of separation, things change then by all means discuss starting over with a professional counsellor.

I may be talking mainly to women, but I do know that men can be the victims of abuse as well, if not physical then psychological. They must leave the marriage and/or get counselling.


Ruud Vermeij said...

I personally do not believe that kephale in the verses 1 Cor. 11:3 and Eph. 5:23 has anything to do with authority. The former verse is in a rather obscure context and the latter is in a context of mutual submission and practical applications of that submission in worldly structures (slavery!)

But I think churches should not prescribe what is a private matter (each couple should be able to live up to their own believes.) Therefore churches should be sensitive for these beliefs on pastoral and ceremonial moments (so be carefull with preaching obedience and leadership in a wedding service).

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I do agree with you that this is a prviate matter and normally I would not talk in these terms. But I have seen too much grief. Too much abuse. What do you mean when you say "so be careful with preaching obedience and leadership in the wedding service." It is not clear. Do you mean "it is okay" as part of the ceremony, or do you mean "it is not okay?"

Ruud Vermeij said...

I mean that it is okay if the couple agrees. But if the private beliefs of the couple are unknown or opposite to that of the church or minister, one should do better avoiding the subject. The same is valid for pastoral situations. It has happened that someone came with a problem and then was confronted with a vision on marriage, though the pastoral problem had nothing to do with this persons marriage... (I hope I made myself clear, be patient, for I'm not native English.)