So often, when we meet people for the first time and immediately connect with them, we ask them, "Tell me your story." But sometimes, we only ask people who are like us to tell their stories, preventing minority voices from speaking on their experiences in a safe space.
Recently I was told the story of a 55-year-old woman currently attending an evangelical seminary. This story, and others like it, drive my upcoming research at the Evangelical Theological Society conference.
"Home-schooled girls do not need 'further' education; they should just prepare for being a wife and mother." "A daughter should stay at home and serve her father until he chooses a husband for her." "The daughter is a 'helpmeet' for her father." "Parents should never let their daughter be out of their sight." "Women should never work outside the home." These and many similar sentiments are being dogmatically expressed by leaders of the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
In patriarchy, not only is the misuse and abuse of power justified, it is also institutionalized. But the misuse and abuse of power is abominable to God. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "I have more than enough of burnt offerings...Stop bringing meaningless offerings...Take your evil deeds out of my sight!" (Isa. 1:11-16). Then he solemnly declared in 1:17, "Seek justice, rebuke the oppressors, defend the fatherless and plead for the widows."
As I read the church’s brief report, my anger mounted. We knew that my friend had been abused. But we were now being told by our spiritual leaders, people with no professional training or knowledge on the subject, that she had not been abused.
This prayer challenges us to live into the gospel and make it real for our own day. In the case of domestic violence, this may mean finding ways that local churches and people of faith can do something that will gently and persistently shape the way members view and respond to issues of intimate partner abuse, whether it be in the community or inside the house of faith.
Here is a list of practical immediate ways to make your church a “Safe House.”
One out of every three persons sitting in the pews or chairs in your church on Sunday morning is or has been a victim of domestic violence or knows someone who is currently facing violence. But despite this, domestic violence is one of the greatest sins we never talk about in church. Those who are being abused or have been abused hear a great deal about forgiveness and the redemptive suffering of Christ. They also hear Scriptures that are presumed to teach male authority and female submission.
Christians around the world agree that Jesus is fully God and fully human. Jesus’ humanity makes it possible for him to liberate us from the bonds of sin. At first glance, this central tenet of our faith might seem quite unrelated to many other important concerns, such as the role of gender in the Christian community. But is this the case?