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Abuse

This article is the first in a three-part series in response to the recent Twitter conversations on #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear and #ThingsChristianWomenShouldHear.  In stumbling after Jesus, the church has sometimes faltered. Sometimes, we’ve been the ones holding women’s bruised and bleeding hearts in our fists. And sometimes, for all our good gospel intentions, we've salted the wounds we should be binding.  Sarah Bessey recently launched a conversation about the abusive #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear which morphed into the more hopeful #ThingsChristianWomenShouldHear, initiated by egalitarian advocate Bronwen Speedie. This is the church many of us both love and lament—flawed and holy, mistaken and striving, haplessly human and somehow still sacred. Th... Read more
Recently, my husband wrote about his own journey in realizing that sexual aggression toward women is not about his own moral purity (not all men!), but about the worth and value of women. He was responding to a colleague’s story of a man’s verbal sexual aggression toward her just two weeks ago–in church. My husband writes: “It took me years to realize that such aggression is embedded in the male culture in which I participated daily at school, work, and church. I cannot begin here to unravel that culture but I know that we very much need to do it. We need men to own their culture and the actions it helps to create. We need to call sexism what it is–abhorrent.” Sexism is multi-layered, but we can start unraveling it by acknowledging the simple inte... Read more
Some Christians see logic as the only trustworthy and effective way to communicate and receive knowledge. Unfortunately, there is not enough space in one post to systematically present the origins of this idea. In general, though the topic is a complex one, we can trace this concept from Ancient Greece, which gained momentum during the Enlightenment, through present Western thought. Some critics of Ruth A. Tucker’s book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Violence, have likewise privileged logic over emotion. For example, in their reviews of Tucker’s book, Tim Challies, Melissa Kruger, and Mary Kassian all argue against Tucker’s emotional argument, dismissing it as a weaker approach to the topic of abuse. Challies engages... Read more
If you haven’t yet read Ruth Tucker’s book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, you should. Full disclosure: I have been reading her work for a few decades. It challenged me to reconsider what it meant to be created in God’s image as a female. While I do not agree with all that Tucker writes in her newest book, her methodology and her argument are important to consider. Further, her personal story is invaluable in informing Christians about abuse dynamics. Tucker raises uncomfortable questions for Christians, and painfully shifts the burden of abuse from the shoulders of victims onto the church. For example, some reviewers of Tucker’s book criticize her for not reporting her husband to the authorities for the sexual assault of a minor who was staying in th... Read more
I have never been raped or physically assaulted. That can change at any moment. We’ve all heard the stories. We’ve read the statistics. We know the pain and fear of men’s violence against women. All women live with some level of primary (first-person) and/or secondary (vicarious) trauma due to men’s violence, abuse, and sexism. Experiences of abuse and sexism are not isolated. They happen daily for so many women, sometimes multiple times in a day. That’s a painful reality. I recently did a presentation on rape culture to a church group and diverted from my usual script. I spontaneously spoke about my experience working with victims of sexual violence. I shared how that work has exposed me to the deepest level of pain I’ve ever known. I found myself... Read more
Anne Voskamp recently wrote this on her blog: “When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys—girls will be garbage.” When I was growing up, I definitely heard the phrase, “boys will be boys.” Not in my house—I grew up one of three daughters. But it was a cultural message that I internalized at a young age. Usually, “boys will be boys” was used to excuse excessive rough housing, “playful” or “well-intended” violence, or the destruction of toys or furniture. Before I could name the system that made negative, hurtful behavior a positive expression of masculinity, I wondered why grownups (mostly Christians) didn’t seem overly concerned when a boy shoved his crush on the playground or tugged her ponytail... Read more
Our character as human beings is determined by what we do when no one is watching. When no one is watching, many in the church are watching porn. Pornography has been declared a “public health crisis” by political officials. At least a third of US men self-identify as being addicted to it.[1] In April, Time magazine featured a front-page article exposing the harmful impact of porn on society. Despite this, two-thirds of practicing Christians feel no guilt about their porn use.[2] What does this extreme level of consumption (and lack of guilt about it) say about the condition of the church as a whole? For readers unfamiliar with the state of modern porn—it looks less like sex and more like sexual assault. Unlike yesterday’s softcore porn industry, mainstream... Read more
Recently, there has been a lot of conversation on the relationship between complementarianism and abuse. The conversation was reignited when Ruth Tucker released her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife. Since then, many complementarians have critiqued Tucker’s argument that male headship theology allows for and sustains abuse. In response, more moderate complementarians and egalitarians have lent support to Tucker’s thesis with testimony and analysis of their own. I want to be very clear. I believe that male headship theology makes abuse both more possible and more likely. I believe that power differences between functional equals are emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually destructive. However, I do not believe that all complementarian men are abu... Read more
I remember how embarrassed I was the day I walked into work with a black eye. I dreaded the questions, knowing I would have to reveal my lost battle with lawn equipment, and worrying that someone might wrongly suspect my husband of abuse. I turned on the office lights, sat down at my desk, and interacted with people all day. No one said anything about my black eye. No one, until my boss privately asked about my injury. I told him the whole story of my wrestling match with a weed eater.  I was relieved that the day’s conversations did not revolve around my black eye, but by evening, it really had me thinking. What if I had been beaten? What would it be like live in fear, to be one of the 5.4 million women in the U.S. who are battered each year?[1] I have recently begu... Read more
Since my first week at Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), I’ve heard stories from women who have struggled with their faith in God because they were abused by men. These women were emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abused by husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, pastors, or other men close to them. Their abusers believed that Scripture (and therefore God) gave men authority to monitor, manage, and discipline women. Longing to please God, these women submitted to abusive men, regardless of the cost to themselves. Some nearly lost their lives, others went into hiding. All are deeply wounded. To protect these women, CBE developed a comprehensive privacy policy that predates standards now used by the medical industry. CBE’s first president, Cathie Kroeger, e... Read more

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