So… I just finished this book. My head is swirling with all sorts of thoughts. I’m only hoping I will be able to articulate my thoughts in a way that will make sense.
First, I want to address the subject of abuse in general. This book appears to point the blame to certain belief sets, traditional/cultural backgrounds. One thing that I have learned over the years about abuse (of any sort) is that more often than not, it is opportunistic. The idea that to be abused means you will abuse, or that if you are an abuser means that you were abused… was sold to us on a silver platter. Which makes it all the harder to understand abuse when it seemingly comes from out of the blue.
From my perspective, it appears to me, that it is not religion that creates abuse but abusers who find themselves a place to hid in religion. Just recently an article was published where a pedophile explains why he sought out the church to groom his victims. The church, Christians, were generally more naive and more trusting. They were less skeptical or more likely to put their guard down. In the same, I see abusers finding this same type of refuge. They can look for wives who are more apt to have an aversion to divorce. They can find wives (or husbands) who are doe eyed at the appearance of the Christian they are betrothed to, brushing aside negative signs as immaturity. What I do not see are instances of innocent people, tainted by scripture, who turn into abusers. Instead, I see abusers who take refuge in the church, and twist scripture to justify their abuse.
In my circle of friends and acquaintances, the adjectives they use to describe their belief set vary. Complementarian. Egalitarian. Quiverfull. Fundemental. Catholic. Methodist. Lutheran. Non-Denominational. Etc… etc… etc. And guess what, all of them can share of instances where abuse exists in their denomination or group. It happens. Just like we will find people who become homeschoolers to hide abusing their children, we do not blame every homeschooling family as being abusers. In fact, quite the contrary.
What is very interesting about this book, is that the author wants to put the blame square on the shoulders of one particular group, complementarians. It is the one thrown under the bus the most often, and I can understand why. This is where her ex-husband identified himself. However, that doesn’t mean he was the poster child for all complentarians on how to treat their wives. Having a complementarian bend myself, I don’t see my husband – or any of our friends – in the pages of her book. In fact, I have heard very vocal Pastors and noted figures in the complementarian world speak strongly against abuse.
None of these comments are to imply that her abuse was not real, or wrong. As you read through the accounts, I feel that the red flags in this relationship were pretty evident aside from however he wanted to label himself.
I absolutely abhor abuse, and to hear of it happening in the church and being dismissed is enough to make my skin crawl. I really feel like this could have been a stronger book had the author chosen to address those issues more directly. Instead, I feel that more time was spent trying to blame the behaviors on a particular belief set. Of course, that is not to say that she doesn’t hold him accountable for his actions. Blame was being cast on a whole group of people – historically to present time – as shaping him into the person he became. The idea that he bought into a certain definition and it fashioned him into an abuser. The reality, by her accounts, is that the behaviors predated his “convictions”.
I would have loved to see the author address abuse in the church, by calling it out for what it really is. Evil. Wolves in sheep’s clothes, hiding in the church, sitting in the pews next to us, wooing us with their appearance of goodness… all the while anger, hurt, malice, and loathing eats away them. Evil people who are only able to put on the show long enough, before their true colors come out. Then, let’s address the ways the church has failed to help the abused across the board. Because abuse in the church is not limited to a particular denomination, culture, or group. Help the reader learn to identify the victims in their church, advise the church on how to deal with accusations or evidence of abuse, and forewarn other readers on what red flags they need to be watching for.
There was so much finger pointing at particular targets of blame, I would find myself caught up in those moments… and losing the heart of her position. I also felt like I was reading two different books at the same time, one about domestic abuse in the church and the other lobbying against male headship. There are many women who are living happily under male headship, that are not voiceless… not abused… not without important roles in their church and family. It’s just too broad of a brush stroke being painted.
Truth is that we can have male headship without battered wives, just as much as we can have illusions of equality that are truly a facade. Abuse is a heart (heartless) issue, where we can’t just pin down the blame to explain it away. There are too many people raised in abusive homes that didn’t grow up to perpetuate abuse, and there are too many people raised in wonderful homes that have left parents wondering how their child could have gone so wrong.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, please reach out for help. There are people who will believe you, and do what they can in order to get you to safety. However, if you need assistance from an outside agency, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.