The phone rings twice before she answers, after reaching for it in her purse, “Hello?” She was on the bench behind me in a moderately packed van used as public transportation in Moldova. Inevitably, I became witness to a conversation that made my heart go out to this woman. And I wanted to scream, “Ditch that man and never look back!”
A Christian pastor and national trainer on strategies to prevent and end situations of domestic violence within faith communities reflects on the most frequently asked question he receives from male clergy and congregation members. He also challenges the commonly held notion that males have been granted special divine privileges to assume headship over females.
The hundred people in attendance at the church auditorium on that Saturday was all part of the congregation’s leadership team: choir members, deacons, educators, senior and associate pastors. The focus of this particular day-long conference was on the unique challenges churches face when situations of domestic violence occur amongst couples worshipping within the congregation.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination.1
Twelve million women in the United States—a staggering 25 percent of all American women—will be abused by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to a recent article in the Hawaii Medical Journal. An estimated two million women in this country are assaulted by an intimate partner every year. The actual numbers are probably much higher because the victims (whom I also refer to as “survivors”) often remain silent, fearing both the stigma associated with abuse and the threat of further violence from the perpetrators. In addition, because verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse don’t leave physical marks, they may be overlooked or dismissed as “not that bad” by caregivers and even by victims themselves. But the pain caused by harsh, sexist language meant to break the spirit is just as real as the pain caused by fists.
The temptation is always there. When discussing gender equality, it’s easy to let righteous anger in the face of injustice eclipse the call to represent Christ well, even in painful disagreement. On the other hand, we can become so concerned with unity in the body of Christ that we are silent in the face of injustice. I spoke with a brother about this struggle. He turned me to the Lord’s Prayer.
John 15:9 affirms that God’s love for us is identical to God’s love for Jesus. Every child of God inherits the throne of God, the Spirit of God, holiness, and eternal life. Anyone who believes, including women, will receive equal authority with Christ. Jesus said, “As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne” (Revelation 3:21 CEB).
Ukuthwalwa. Girls as young as fourteen are being forced to marry men double their age. In some cases, men as old as fifty-five take these virgin girls as their brides. These daughters are abducted and forced to marry a stranger, and then they are raped.
A sad reality of female slavery known as Trokosi or Female Ritual Servitude still exists in areas of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and parts of Nigeria to this very day. I first learned about this reality from a young girl who stood on the terrace of her home and shared with me the stories of the "stolen" Trokosi girls.