Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Inspire Hope -Speak Up Against Domestic Violence


Wednesday, 15 May 2014

Inspire Hope - Speak Up Against Domestic Violence

Suffering is a theme that runs through the Bible and through the lives of battered women as well.  Some battered women mistakenly believe that they are suffering abuse because of some past sin they have committed, or because God wants them to suffer. Indeed, there are several biblical passages that suggest that suffering is good and will be rewarded in heaven, for example, 1 Peter 4:12-19 suggests that those who suffer will be saved.

The message is complicated further by a theology that says Jesus suffered in obedience to his Father's will. Divine child abuse is paraded as salvific and the child who suffers ‘without even raising a voice’ is lauded as the hope of the world. Those whose lives have been deeply shaped by the Christian tradition feel that self-sacrifice and obedience are not only virtues but the definition of a faithful identity.

John 7:53-8:11: double standards; Ezekiel 18:21-32: The principle of individual responsibility, are two passages ideal for exploring issues of sin and accountability. Perpetrators usually refuse to take responsibility for their actions; like the scribes and Pharisees who bring the woman to Jesus, they are outraged by her behavior, but silent on the subject of their own sins. Ezekiel discusses the need for real and lasting behavioral change – ‘get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!’- in order to be a part of the Reign of God.

Abuse is not the same as normal marital arguments. Abuse is an ongoing pattern of power and control that progressively limits the thoughts, words and actions of the victim, out of fear of the abuser. Abuse is like addiction: it never gets better by itself and it requires in-depth work by the abuser to change his/her way of relating to others. When there is abuse in a marriage, couples counseling cannot help until there is first a change in the abuser and he or she stops the abuse for good.

Christian leaders must teach that theologically and ethically, sexual and domestic violence constitute sin-the physical, psychological, and spiritual violation of one person by another. Any form of personal violence destroys trust in the other person and trust in the basic security of one's world, more so when perpetrated by a person one knows.  

To assert that violence against women is a sin is consistent with the portrayal of God, e.g., in Hebrew and Christian scriptures as one who stands with the vulnerable and powerless and speaks judgment against those who choose to use their power in ways that harm others. (See, Hebrew Bible, Leviticus 19:9-10, 14; Isaiah 58:6-7; Luke 17:1-2).

Christian leaders have not only an opportunity to challenge the theology and teaching in our churches that create an environment in which domestic abuse is acceptable, ignored, or excused but  also to articulate a faith that will provide women with resources for strength rather than resources for endurance. This is our challenge. It is also our sacred obligation. "If not now, when?" (Mishnah, Avot 1:14).