An Ultrasound of Abuse

"If it's not requiring her (a wife) to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked for one night and then she seeks help from the church." 

John Piper

ansel adams wikimedia commons

Thanks to Hillary Adams, whose video has now gone viral, physical abuse is in the spotlight worldwide.  Just as the ultrasound opened blind eyes to reveal that it's not a blob of tissue — it's a baby — so video cameras are shining the light into some very dark places.   We suspect that with the widespread use of video cameras on cell phones, computers, etc., more evidence of physical abuse will be forthcoming via the internet for the entire world to see.  Hillary's video will likely inspire a trend to document abuse, and we applaud that.

For far too long our society has turned a blind eye toward domestic violence as well as child abuse.  Since we are a faith watch blog, we will keep the focus of this discussion geared toward the Christianity community.  Tragically, in a community of believers that should be a "light on a hill", we have a high profile pastor like John Piper telling abused wives that they should endure "verbal abuse for a season" and tolerate "being smacked for one night".  Take a look.

What if the wife doesn't survive one night of physical abuse?  We saw just how tormented Hillary Adams was in just a handful of minutes by her father as he cracked that leather whip upon her writhing body.  Not only did it hurt her physically, but she suffered tremendous emotional damage.  Obviously, common sense has gone out the window with Piper and his ilk. 

To make matters worse, we have Paige Patterson, two-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, giving wives the following IDIOTIC advice at what we understand was a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood conference (wonder how many women were in the audience to hear his ridiculous story). (link)

“I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy."

"And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis. And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.

And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.”

What is wrong with these so-called Christian leaders? Why is there not an outcry from the pulpit denouncing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse? It’s a very sad day when the secular world seems to care more about the victimization of wives and children than the Christian community. Not only that, why do Christians put up with this nonsense from their leaders?  Is it because these hyper-authoritarian pastors have done such a good job of controlling the flock?

We have been extremely encouraged by John Shore who blogs over at In his post entitled Why Pastors Struggle With Confronting Domestic Violence, he boldly addresses the problem of myopic pastors who either can’t see or intentionally ignore domestic violence.

Here are his excellent observations:

“In response to An Abused Wife Twice Betrayed, a truly disheartening number of women wrote in to relate their own stories of pastors who, in one way or another, advised them to stick with their abusive husbands: to be more submissive, a better sex partner, to pray more, etc.

So I started thinking about the weirdness of so many women having such similar stories, when I personally have never known a single pastor whose moral compass was so thoroughly tweaked that he actually thought it was in any way acceptable for a husband to abuse his wife.

I've known a lot of pastors. And I have real difficulty believing that any one of them, tacitly or otherwise, would ever condone domestic violence.

And yet here were all these women telling me that's pretty exactly what happened with their pastor. And I know those women were not lying, or somehow mistaken about what had happened to them. When a person is writing the real raw truth of their lives, their words take on a simple, clarion integrity that even the most accomplished fiction writers struggle to convincingly fake. There could be no doubting the veracity of these women's stories. Their pastors really had pooh-poohed their fears and concerns, and, Bible in hand, had essentially pushed them back into the swinging arms of their abusive husbands.

Which could only mean that the pastors whom I couldn't imagine doing such a terrible thing—or at least pastors very much like them—had, in fact, done that terrible thing.

But how? How could these good, loving, well-intentioned men give advice that's so manifestly, egregiously, cruelly wrong?”

Bravo!!! A man who gets it!

Shore and his wife came up with the following reasons for this disconnect.

1. Domestic violence is fundamentally unbelievable.

2. Wife abusers are master manipulators.

3. Pastors think spousal abuse only happens in certain kinds of families.

4. Pastors haven’t thought enough about the gray areas between “submit” and abuse.

5. Pastors believe what they preach.

6. Pastors simply aren’t trained about domestic violence.

Shore provides a thorough explanation for each of these points, and we encourage you to read his entire post.

Silence is NOT the answer to the horrific problems of domestic violence and child abuse, and we are grateful to those who are beginning to speak out. We want to encourage victims of abuse to record secretly what is happening to them so others will believe them. We also believe Christians should be proactive in recording the words of pastors who tell them to put up with abuse. Why?  Because these so-called men of God are causing much harm to the cause of Christ when they treat victims so callously. What a poor Christian witness! We condemn ANY pastor who sends a woman back into a home where she is being abused. Shame on them!

Finally, we want to applaud one of our commenters who listened to his wife and discovered that violence is NOT the answer. Warwick wrote the following in response to yesterday's post:

"I now have three kids, with number five on the way (not a typo).

The eldest is 14 1/2. When he was much younger, he did something incredibly naughty. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that I felt it justified the belt. My wife got between me and him, and refused to let me use the belt on him. I eventually relented, but my dad used the belt on me (and a fiberglass CB radio aerial for a while), and it didn’t do any lasting damage to me… Did it?

Older now, and a hell of a lot wiser, I’m glad she stepped in. I’m glad she stood up to my statement that the kids had to fear me to respect me. They don’t fear me. They do seem to respect me, even without me ever using the belt on them.

I saw that video tonight. Suddenly I remember the unadulterated fear, as my father took the belt to me. The terror… And oh how I hated him afterwards. He was never that brutal (only once did it exceed 6 hits), and never after I hit my teens, but I suspect he’d already broken my spirit by that stage.

And now… Tonight I am so very thankful that my wife stepped in all those years ago."

Now there’s a “manly” man! Warwick demonstrates love and respect toward his wife and children, and harmony abounds in their family.

Tune in next week when we cover how John Piper says a woman should lead. By the way, we’re doing just what Piper recommends by addressing the very serious problems of domestic violence and child abuse.

Lydia's Corner:   2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21   Romans 15:1-22    Psalm 25:1-15    Proverbs 20:13-15


An Ultrasound of Abuse — 117 Comments

  1. Pingback: Submission to evil | Civil Commotion

  2. A Friend and civil rights activist says,”hurt people hurt people.My father was the fifth or sixth generation of violent spousal abuse and child abuse. This was early in the twentieth century. They were all part of a devoutly religious New England Calvinist family. I doubt that their pastor ever knew or thought to ask the question about domestic abuse and family violence. Fortunately, my father and uncle ended this evil tradition. Barbara

  3. Dee,

    Thanks for your comment on the last post:

    “There is a tendency for humans to blame the victim for the following reason. Most people look at themselves as “good judges of character.” When a person, that they have deemed good, does something bad, it negate their self-perception. For those in a church with a pastor who does something bad, they must cope with the fact that they chose to follow a charlatan. Some peoples’ egos can’t cope with that.

    Thoughtful Christians understand that all men are capable of great evil. So, when I found a former church, doing something I though was bad, I washed my hands of it, knowing that such is the problem of sin and not a problem with my “judgement.””

    I have never been able to understand why people would blame the victim and also ignore blatant wrongdoing when they see it in someone they know and admire. Your explanation help me to clarify this in my thinking.

  4. Warwick
    We have corrected it. I spent a year in Rhode Island and used to visit Warwick. Thought of that when I read your name. Once again, thank you for your awesome insight!

  5. Deb
    Awesome post. You know, I was just thinking how John Piper would respond if a stranger came into his house and hauled of and slugged him. If he had the opportunity to call the police, do you think he would endure more beatings for one night or, instead, call for help? Looking at him, I do not see him to be the superhero types so my guess is the latter. (If I am mistaken, Mr. Piper, please give us call).

    Yet, he would allow for a woman to get a whacking from the one person she should be able to trust. Why? Once again, I think this is mixed up in a false exegesis of patriarchy along with a fundamental misunderstanding of the pervasiveness of sin. Isn’t that odd? A Calvinista who doesn’t get that even his patriarchal friends have the ability to be guilty of horrible sin.

    Of well, you are planning on doing a post on Piper’s view of women in leadership-they are allowed to lead in the area of women and children. (Yeah, right). So, here are two women doing so. Repent, Mr Piper and others, for your whacked out view on violence. Watch the video of the beating of this girl and take it in. And next time, don’t giggle when you speak of violence and women. It is unseemly and it appears to negate your expressed concern for this issue. “Oh, hahahaha. Another question about spousal abuse”…Good night!!!!

  6. Abby
    The same thing happened to me, along with some of my friends. I, too, washed my hands of a situation which caused a pastor to try to prevent me from joining another church. I was amazed how some any people could not conceive of the possibility of pastoral sin. It just has to be a mistake!! I had to think about that situation long and hard and decided it was a pride issue-our egos are tied up in a church membership and our allegiance to a particular pastor or leader.

    You should see the comments and emails we receive when we look at various leaders:Mark Driscoll, CH Mahaney, Beth Moore. These poor people have missed the central message of the Cross-we are all sinners and we need to hold one another accountable. That is why I will always have an undying respect for Pete Briscoe, Wade Burleson and others who understand this issue.

    Oh, btw, starting a blog to record your thoughts and experiences is a great way to force yourself to work it through.One man, in my former church, who was charged with “investigating” our claims, did so, signed off on a silly report and promptly went to pieces, leaving his family, resigning from a large seminary, etc. This man was forced to confront his own life and did not see how this process, that he was involved in, marked and challenged his own life. May God have mercy on him and others.

  7. Barbara

    The other night, I was watching an old episode of NCIS, a favorite show. A man was violently hurting and killing pretty young women. But ,there was a flashback, at the end of the show, to explain it. His mother had abused him when he was very young. As he grew, he never had the help to cope with his rage and acted out his childhood fantasy of revenge as an adult. I teared up, looking at the face of that little boy, knowing how he would turn out as a man.

    You are so right in your observations. Good for your father and uncle. It takes a real courage to end this cycle. Thank you for sharing this important information.

  8. How can the church, as Piper sees it, be a “safe place” for the woman……….if Piper condones her “being smacked” and tolerating verbal abuse “for a season?” How about a little sermon on HOW TO TREAT YOUR WIFE….not another treatise on “submission?”

  9. I noticed something about Dr Patterson’s story. I’m not assuming it is un-embellished, nor that the basic premise (just stay and pray) is at all correct. But even if true: He advised the woman to pray SO THAT THE HUSBAND WOULD NOTICE. Just as he’s just about falling asleep, but not while he’s really asleep, or really awake, or away. She’s to kneel down by the bed–not in her closet. Some might see this as a finely tuned manipulation attempt. Not answered prayer, but THE ABUSER’S SEEING AND HEARING her “quietly” pray “to be seen by men” drove him to church. So manipulation is the real name of the submission game. (And “authority” is the real name of the love game for husbands, btw.)

  10. Appalled
    This story is unembellished. We had the transcript. You can go back and read our original story back in 9/09 in which we called for Patterson to resign.

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing this! When is this crazy way of thinking ever going to stop? Unfortunately, with pride amongst people I don’t think it ever will.

    I taught an online class for a college called Violent Encounters in the Family. I had the students read “No Place for Abuse” by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark. Almost all of the students were surprised that abuse happens among families in the church and the lack of response women receive from pastors.

    It horrifies me that the church allows this to continue. And, with the way that most churches are headed today, I’m surprised that people (especially women) are willing to look past abuse and the way that the church continues to place women in a subordinate position to men.

    Another good book for pastors to read is “Dangerous Marriage” by S.R. McDill and Linda McDill.

  12. justabeliever
    It is tied up in the new patriarchal movement. Didn’t you know that patriarchs can’t be questioned? Authority breeds protectionism for one’s position.It goes right back to the Garden. It is a fight for who is in control. Also, they believe that first step in treating your wife well is to make sure you understand your place. If you understand your place, all will be well, won’t it?

  13. Dee
    Oh, no–I mean the real occurrences embellished by Dr. P. to make it better sermon material, not by you!

  14. Kathi
    Thanks for commenting. There is a subtle form of teaching that begins now when the kids are young. It is based around gender roles. Women are submissive, men are patriarchs. They are also taught that it is wrong to “judge” another person. Obedience to authority is kicked in for good measure. So, when women and children are beaten by a patriarchal idiot who says they must do what the Bible says, women feel guilty for “disobeying.” Then the patriarchal types who run churches also teach them that one should “turn the other cheek” just like Jesus said. This is abusive Christianity. Just look at how Piper giggles when he answers the question. You think he really feels for these women? if he did, he would cry instead of giggle.

    I know of one church in which an assistant pastor’s wife took the children and went home to her parents because she was getting smacked around and then it started happening to the kids. This church is what appears to be an average SBC church. The woman’s parents called the lead pastor and asked him to intervene. Get this-the pastor said they would do nothing until the woman returned to the home with the children!!!!!! The woman had such good support from her parents and proceeded to divorce. Oh yeah, this church would not allow anyone to post the number to a domestic abuse hot line. They were supposed to come to the pastors who would tell the women to stay in the home!!! I frankly think some of these guys are mentally ill.

    Oh yeah, that’s another thing. You shouldn’t divorce an abuser either-Bible sez so. I got a call on our Wartburg phone line from a woman who was being beat up and her pastor said she was supposed to stay with the creep. We got her help and she left the church and lost the abuser.

    Thank you for your excellent book recommendations.

  15. OK, what’s a “season?” One of those wise, theological sounding, undefined, winsome words to say in a pretty way something so very ugly?

    Great exposing article btw. I saw that Piper clip a while ago…giggling…ridiculous. Well, if I were being abused, could I pick the “season?” ‘Cause where I live spring’s the shortest.

  16. Appalled
    Sorry-misunderstood. he sounded very braggadocios , cheerfully describing the woman’s black eye. i wonder if he is all there???

  17. This is an excellent article, but I think he misses one of the main reasons for the “disconnect”. Frankly, he is far too charitable towards pastors.

    I have been in or around the Reformed, Patriarchal, Reconstructionist, and Homeschooling movements (and their various combinations) for nearly 20 years, so I am not speaking as merely an outside observer. I wish what I was proposing were not true, but I have personally witnessed it too many times to count. Reliable third-party evidence is legion to anyone who looks.

    If a pastor confronts domestic abuse (or even identifies a behavior as abuse), it is essentially a challenge to the authority of a father/husband in his home. It means that there is an external standard by which the exercise of domestic authority can and should be judged and to which a man can be held accountable.

    But this would also mean that their own use of authority in both the ecclesiastical and domestic spheres is subject to, and can and should be measured against an external standard.

    Now, this is the one thing that must *never* be allowed to happen under any circumstance! It’s kind of a perverse version of “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. It is also why elders and pastors brought in to address an abuse allegation between a pastor and some part of his flock will inevitably, like clock-work, find in favor of the pastor, even in egregious and obvious examples of abuse.

    Put bluntly, when you believe that the exercise of authority is the most vital element of the pastorate (or parenthood, husbandhood, society, etc.), then the exercise of authority must be protected at all costs.

    Naturally, this is the the opposite of what the NT actually teaches about authority and its exercise. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who follows this or similar blogs….

  18. That Bad Dog

    Wow-awesome comment. You hit it on the head. When “authority” becomes the bottom line, this stuff happens.
    True story: a pastor was being confronted about his role in ignoring a pedophile situation. When confronted, his first response was “What about MY authority.” Kid you not. It was only about him. Can you imagine what goes on at home?

  19. Diane

    I liked the “trajectory” of you “winsome” “observation.” Thank you for the “season” of laughter that you gave me.

    You know, I used to wonder about the song “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks. It’s about a woman who was so severely abused by her husband and the law couldn’t catch him so she knocked him of with some poisoned black eyed peas (It’s the South, you know). The longer I am writing about this stuff, the more I realize how some women feel vulnerable and scared. Hmmm, maybe I will post the you tube video of the song…not very winsome but effective.

  20. I think Dr P was bragging, because he’d successfully predicted how the abuser would respond to the manipulation– with more violence. Kinda “prophetic”. But the ends would justify the means. Maybe pathetic instead. I just remembered Evangelicals aren’t alone in recommending wifely manipulation. I recently heard a Catholic priest on the radio counseling a wife to ask her unfaithful husband what he liked about the other woman, so she could learn how to please him better (or, “learn a trick or two” was my thought).

  21. Appalled

    he was happy that the abuser showed up in church. This gives rise to all sorts of thoughts. What does “showing up in church” mean? To Patterson it means the abuser is now doing a “good” thing. But I would like to remind him that pedophiles show up in church all the time, as do felons, rapists, etc. It is part of maintaining an image. Seems like Patterson enjoys the “image” of faith as opposed to truly being sure this is real faith.

    i have been in a few churches both SBC, in which the image of faith substituted for a life transforming faith. I would like to find out if Patterson knows the difference.

  22. RE: Piper video

    “This man should be ‘disciplined’.”

    And he should be charged with a crime.

  23. Piper’s words make me sick to my stomach. So why do some pastors fail to stand up for the abused women and children in their churches?

    Cowardice. Plain cowardice. Many probably do not want to get on the bad side of any man prone to violence, so they work to calm the wife down in the hope the mess will go away.

    These pastors are like mini-popes surrounded by yes men who do their bidding. They want to be insulated.

    Also, my wife has said she thinks most men have difficulty conceiving of being overpowered by someone much stronger. A man can usually fight back, but in many cases it is hard for a woman to physically hold her own unless she is armed.

    I hate how Piper opened his talk. He immediately discounted the issue by questioning the type of abuse and how serious it is. No word at all of how evil any man is who would abuse his wife or children. I think Piper has evil in his heart to say what he did.

    I think it would be ideal for a woman to be able to bring an account of abuse to her pastor, but knowing how it goes nowadays, I think that’s a dangerous move. I think she should contact a domestic abuse center and if she’s a Christian, ask to speak with another Christian there.

  24. What makes a pastor, & the members of his church, think that he (pastor) has any qualifications whatsoever to handle such a situation?? Beyond taking the woman and her children to a shelter or other safe place.

    I’m just twisted up inside with angry frustration at the lack of objective thinking. I’m beyond embarrased and ashamed to be associated with anything “christian”. This issue here is one of the main reasons I do not ever call myself a christian. I don’t think of myself as a christian — that’s just an insult to too many of my highest values.


    I have read that Piper and Patterson have never apologized or for these comments. Can anyone shed light on this?

    Have either ever stated or implied that they were incorrect or at least imprudent in what they said?

  25. Anon

    Before I post your comment, could you answer the following question. I cannot get ahold of you by email so I am trying here.
    What crime could he be charged with? As stupid as he sounds, he does not appear to have broken any laws. His comment was general, not directed at a specific situation.

  26. elastigirl

    Neither one of them are noted for their particular humility. Both were erased at one time or another but too many people had downloaded it.

  27. One thing to remember about the Piper video is that is was to answer the question, what should a wife’s submission look like in the face of abuse, or some such rot.
    The question needed to be questioned, not answered.
    When a husband is abusing, why should the wife, or the pastor, or ANYONE be concerned with whether she’s submitting or not?

    The very fact that this question is being asked is proof positive that there is an over emphasis on the structure of marriage and the importance of wifely submission. It is an idolotry of form. The form and structure of the marriage is given more importance than justice and mercy.

    There are far more verses warning about the judgement upon the strong who oppress the weak than there are on the form and structure and marriage. And yet the form and structure of marriage is far more important than justice for the down trodden to men like Piper.

    Piper’s worship of the form, of husband and authority and wife submission, makes him desire to preserve the form at all costs and makes him believe that a wife verbally bowing and scraping to her husband is a beautiful and divine display of femininity, thereby maintaining the form in the presence of abuse. He looks upon it as a beautiful and great sacrifice on the part of a woman to maintain the form when going through the fire of abuse. I don’t think he’s saying it is required so much as he’s saying, any woman who can do this, maintain her submission, maintain her part in supporting the divine structure, that woman is to be praised and held up as a divine picture of biblical womanhood.

    It is nothing short of sick.

  28. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I remember many years ago when I still went to Calvary Chapel, the founder (Chuck Smith) taught from the pulpit that a woman is under no scriptural obligation to stay in an abusive marriage.

    Calvary Chapel also went on to lend both ministry and financial support to various safe houses in the OC where abused women & kids would have a place to escape to.

  29. Dee 12:22 “Just look at how Piper giggles when he answers the question. You think he really feels for these women? if he did, he would cry instead of giggle.”

    IMO, I think the giggle has more to do with his disbelief that real domestic abuse exists in Christian marriages.
    This is one of the lies Evangelicals believe. Many truely believe that domestic violence either doesn’t exist, or exists on such a small scale that these question are really just asked to confuse the issue and question the divine right of husbands to rule.

    The first thing he’s concerned with is questioning the abuse itself, as to whether it’s real or the little woman is just imagining it. Is her husband really abusive or is he just an oaf when it comes to remembering to complement her on her hair or supper. Is verbal unkindness, to Piper, just believing women are oversensitive and don’t understand that their husbands really DO love and appreciate them, they just don’t know how to express it. To Piper, verbal unkindness might be a husband answering “Does this dress make me look fat?” with the wrong answer.

    Also, many men who would never strike a woman or be verbally unkind to a woman unprovoked assume that when another man is verbally abusive or unkind, that man WAS provoked. They don’t get that abusers exist and abuse without provocation. They think a woman being a constant drip is what causes abuse so that is why their answer is, submit, quit being a drip, and he’ll stop abusing and being verbally unkind. Or as in the case of Ware, stop trying to wear the pants in the family, submit, and the abuse will stop.
    To them, the reason the abuse exists is because women don’t understand men, and/or don’t know their places.

    So I think the giggle has more to do with not taking the issue seriously because he doesn’t believe in its existence rather than a lack of empathy. His head is so far up the gender/roles/divine order orifice and he’s so sold on gender/roles/divine order being the solution, he cannot see the facts or the truth of the matter.

  30. Ted said, “Also, my wife has said she thinks most men have difficulty conceiving of being overpowered by someone much stronger.” I agree. A man who spoke at our church several times is an exception. He had been repeatedly imprisoned and beaten by the (communist) POLICE in Romania, for preaching the Gospel and importing bibles. He prayed for his persecutors, but when God gave him a chance at freedom, he took it. Did any pastors counsel him to go back and get beaten some more, out of submission to the “powers that be”?
    Some years after he escaped, he traveled to Tel Aviv, and asked the taxi to take him to a cheap hotel. Before he could get in the door, some thugs assaulted him. Would any pastor suggest at that point he ponder whether or not those beating him were asking him to sin? As he fought for his life, he screamed out, Jesus Help Me (in Romanian). As the muggers fell back briefly in shock, did God trick them into attending church? No! According to our friend, God immediately sent a POLICE officer to scare away the evildoers and transport him to the safety of a not-so-cheap hotel.

  31. I very much agree with Mara’s comment above. It is sick — a very slick sick teaching of these men who hold to this kind of submission. But the part about the husband’command to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her…what about that part? Oh yeah…well, yeah, husbands should do that…yes, yes, yes…but, ya know, they’re only human…yet—the wife still has to submit perfectly to this “only human husband who is not loving her as Christ loved the church”…. endangering her life (and children if any) because THEY interpret it this way? convenient. I say, well, wives…don’t submit in this area, ’cause ya know, you’re only human, and not perfect, so just be not perfect in this area. Sounds good.

  32. Mara
    Well stated. For this type of Calvinista, it is the leadership structure of their vision of God’s army that is going to produce a revolution to show the rest of us how to live. It is sick.

  33. Mara
    I think Piper would be shocked to find out that men around him are abusing their wives but they pretend they are good patriarchs. How many men get picked up for killing their families and the neighbors all say what a nice guy he was. Piper, for all of his bowing at the altar of Calvinism seems not to understand that man is capable of horrendous sin and can cover it up at the same time.When was the last time he read from Genesis 1-3?

  34. Appalled

    Awesome comment. trust me, if Piper was assaulted on the street, he would scream for the police.
    BTW, you will find today’s post interesting. 🙂

  35. Diane
    When the curtain in the Temple tore at the time of Jesus’ death, God became available to all people. A priest was no longer needed. Some of these men want to set up a new priestly class with them in charge and the women subservient. My thinking in this area is in flux and I find myself at theological odds with these patriarchs. It must drive them nuts since I don’t buy their pronounced leadership!

  36. I have enjoyed reading all the comments, and I am coming to the conclusion that the “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” doctrine is another Gospel, not the True Gospel.

  37. My take is that a man who has abused his wife or child has forfeited his right to be called a man and has forfeited any authority he has. Thus, since he is not following the Word in his treatment of his wife or child, the abused is no longer required to submit. He has broken the relationship, and the abused is no longer bound. All that remains is to end the legal relationship between husband and wife or father and child. And any pastor who argues submission to abuse should be barred forever from ministry.

    If the abused were close to my location, I would represent them in getting a protective order, which in Texas can include the abused spouse getting the house, the bank account, a car, and police protection. I would also assist them in getting a divorce or termination the parent-child relationship. One of my good friends is the Exec Dir of a center for victims of family abuse. BTW, family abuse is Texas is typically treated as a felony and does not need the abused to testify to be prosecuted.

    These pastors who advocate submission to abuse are giving the church a black eye, and might should experience one themselves.

  38. Why is this attractive to intelligent, educated women? Not to divert this back onto a patriarch trail…but what kind of personality is attracted to this kind of abusive control? (Those that more or less go into this willingly (YRR) and are not born into patriarchal systems and raised in it.) Is it pride? Does it make a woman feel godly and biblical with a suffering for Christ type of mind to be under this kind of submission? Is it laziness? Is it works salvation–since the CBMW equates a godly submissive wife as fulfilling her God given role– thus to do otherwise would prove detrimental to her salvation? Pride again-in thinking that by one’s godly submissive behavior under every circumstance then she can bring about desired change and God is pleased? So by her submitting to abuse–she really thinks to herself that she is in control and God needs her to do this?

  39. You can tell…I am not a Piper fan, nor a fan of this scripture twisting, perverse religiosity that men like Bruce Ware teach which says if you do not do this “godly” submission, then you are failing in your God given role and are, consequently, a failure in God’s eyes.

  40. Piper: “…and she endures perhaps being smacked one night.”

    Dee: “What crime could he be charged with?”

    Well, if the husband “smacked” the wife, he has committed a crime. In most states, he could be charged with some degree of assault, likely a misdemeanor, unless he caused bodily harm, in which case it may be a felony.

    Domestic violence, hitting your wife, should never be tolerated. Lawmakers in most states agree. Most prosecutors have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crimes of domestic violence, and federal law provides that each state shall give full faith and credit to Domestic Violence Orders for Protection issued in other states,18 U.S.C. §2265.


  41. Excellent post! Thank you for exposing John Piper and Paige Patterson’s callous, ignorant, and extremely dangerous responses to spousal abuse. I feel for women who have been betrayed by Piper, Patterson, and other pastors and thrown back to the hands of their abusers in the name of Jesus.

    Part of me believes it’s possible that the bubble they live in keeps them from acknowledging the magnitude and the real problem of domestic abuse. Mostly, though, I believe it’s an elevation of men, their distorted views of a man’s place and a woman’s place in marriage and the home, and their hardened hearts toward women who are suffering at the hands of their husbands.

  42. Thank you for this article.

    I agree with Dee, these men want a new priestly class.

    I do not agree with this blog on everything, but I have posted a link to your article which I agree with quite a bit of, and also have written other articles warning against the patriarchy movement and Dominionism as a whole.

  43. Pingback: The New Priestly Class: Pastors That Advocate Submission To Abuse « The Reformed Traveler

  44. Such good comments! I’m enjoying reading this thread because it means that hurting people can find help from Christians. Just look at all of these responses!

    15 years ago I was working on my master’s thesis regarding pastors knowledge and views of domestic abuse. For the most part, the pastors that I spoke with knew the law – that they were required to report child or spousal abuse. However, almost all of them did not feel prepared to deal with individuals who were experiencing abuse at home. The sad irony behind pastors who advise the women to stay with their husbands is that almost all states require pastors to report abuse. I’m sure most of them don’t and counsel women to stay home and submit.

    I still don’t think that most pastors are prepared to deal with people who experience abuse. And, I also think that most are “afraid” to go to sources outside of the church for help. We can’t have any outside influences in the church for goodness sake.

  45. Pingback: Taking a Stand Against Child Abuse | Why Not Train A Child?

  46. “…I remember many years ago when I still went to Calvary Chapel, the founder (Chuck Smith) taught from the pulpit that a woman is under no scriptural obligation to stay in an abusive marriage…”

    I applaud Smith’s stance now as I did back then. He listened to his God given conscience rather than some artificially contrived legal proscription from Scripture.

    Why do people swallow Piper’s pronouncements hook-line-and-sinker? What is it in the human psyche that causes people to suspend reason & common sense in favor of black & white ideology?

  47. Ok, i’m calmed down & have untwisted enough now to rephrase my original comment. I apologize for sounding, I dunno, superior when I said “I don’t think of myself as a christian — that’s just an insult to too many of my highest values.”

    I’d like to say it again, but better. Perhaps it goes without saying, but so much of what christianity has become associated with (because of many of its adherents, especially the loudmouths) is ignorant, unkind, insincere, manipulative, arrogant, hateful, and nonthinking / stupid / unintelligent / nonintellectual.

    I’m quite pleased that my standards are higher.

  48. oh, cheez and crackers (as Colonel Blake would say on Mash in the olden days)… I done done it again.

    A final footnote: all who comment here at TWW, along with many others, share these higher standards. Which we should all feel good about.

  49. Deb –

    I have a hard time believing that the “Jesus” who gave us the Beatitudes would tell a woman who was slapped by her husband to “put up with it for a time.” I picture this “Jesus” having strong words directly to the husband who takes advantage of his wife in this way.

  50. Elastigirl

    i like how you used the lower case “c” for christian. i look at this as the sort of faith as defined by men, not by God.

  51. Hi, Dee.

    Yes. “christian”, “republican” — you know, political terms & such.

    I have utmost respect — beyond respect — for God, for Jesus Christ, for the Holy Spirit. It’s just people that mess everything up.

  52. Elastigirl
    How about all the terms that have been co-opted? if I hear that “such and such” authoritarian Pharisee is “winsome”, or Mr Anointed Pastor is going to “unpack” Scripture, I might throw up all over their nice clothes.

  53. Hi Dee and Deb, and all.

    I see a couple of comments have been made about Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel. I wonder if you all have heard of a blog called “Calvary Chapel Abuse” by a fellow who grew up in the home of a Calvary Chapel pastor by the name of Bob Grenier? The blogger’s name is Alex Grenier and he has a brother Paul. His blog is his chronicle of trying to expose the abuse he, his brother, and his mother endured throughout his childhood and his efforts to get justice with Calvary Chapel concerning his abusive father (step father, actually). He isn’t having any success with any of the Calvary higher ups (Raul Reese, Smith, et al). They are all taking Bob Grenier’s side whether passively by letting this go on without comment or action, or actively by defending Bob Grenier and denouncing Alex Grenier and his efforts to get justice.

    It so happens his latest post (Nov 4) is about the video of that judge abusing his daughter.

    Here is a comment he makes under a picture taken from the video which sums up his experience:

    “Godly Discipline”? “Over-spanking”? Or, Child Abuse? Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel Visalia’s Board and Elders call this sort of thing acceptable, by their continuing endorsement of Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor in good standing Bob Grenier. This was mild compared to what happened in our home, but no problem, it’s “In the past”…”Nothing can be done”….”Leave it to the Lord”….”It’s Scriptural corporal punishment”, etc etc. Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel is condoning and facilitating Child Abuse, so is the Visalia Police Department. Bob Grenier is a Calvary Chapel Pastor and VPD Police Chaplain in Good Standing, this moment.

    Alex Grenier met with Smith on September 9th and blogged about it on Sept 24 (Smith had asked him to observe a 2 week period of silence on the matter, which Alex explains). Things did not go well at all with this meeting. The abuser is being protected and the victim experiencing further abuse from the CC leadership due to lack of regard and the attitude that Alex is supposed to let bygones be bygones and stop trying to get justice for this. So while they don’t deny the abuse happened, they do deny that anything should be done about it.

    Here’s his blog:

  54. Jan H
    We have received a couple of comments over here about CC and abuse. But, as soon as one of those comments appears, we get major freaked out commenters telling us that all is well in CC land and to stay away. You know, the more I hear, the more that concerns me. If you know Alex, please tell him that we would be happy to tell his story here. If the story is told here, it will be picked up by some other blogs as well.
    I’ll try to leave him a message at his blog as well.
    I find stuff like this despicable.It seems that hyper-authoritarian men do not want to admit that other men, cut from their cloth, can abuse children. We have a couple of hot button issues-child abuse and domestic abuse.


    robots…..automatons….replicants…..people can’t even talk for themself, let alone think for themself.

    oh, here’s another one: as soon as people are in church, any reference to doing something together is described using the words “with one another”.

    my husband made dinner tonight — he says time for supper — i better git! (to show my appreciation!)

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  56. From what little I know about abuse at Calvary Chapel, it sounds more than plausible. One of the most authoritarian-ish church “leaders” I’ve ever come across was/is a Calvary Chapel person for many years before taking a position at That Church.

    This individual is, in some ways, a nice person, but very caught up in ideas that made me raise my eyebrows even back then… as in always thanking God for saving us from death and hell whenever said person had an opportunity to pray out loud. The focus was clearly on hell, not on love, redemption, mercy – that sort of thing. The harshness was very grating.

    Very calvinista, in many respects.

  57. I was troubled in seeing John Piper, a man I admired, find it hard to articulate this. I think what is these ministers are struggling with are the few women(wives) that are totally unruly/brutish and trying to make blanket doctrine on submission where the brutish husband feels vindicated. I can remember Luther stood in the way of such dogma in his day. To me submission is not treating the husband as head and even if that the conscience of that head can indeed grow dull. A good woman actually keeps a husband’s conscience sharpened and not overwhelm it. Sadly television sitcoms typically makes the wife look domineering and the husband passive.

  58. Addendum to earlier post. When my father was 14 and taller than his father, he confronted him when he came drunk and said, “If you hit my mother again, I’ll kill you. His father responded, “I believe you would, George.” My father answered, “Count on it.” That stopped the abuse, which my father and uncle ended in their own families. President Clinton revealed he did the same thing to an abusive step father. My question, what is current generation of young boys learning by growing up in churches where women and mothers are blamed for their abuse? Will they in turn be husbands and pastors who believe it is all right to demand this absurd vicious and irrational submission? I am the mother of a married son
    who treats his wife like the queen she is.

  59. The ending the culture of anger starts in the pulpit. I really good Christian counselor pointed out to me in thinking about how often patterns of “malice” anger that are often mixed in with a sermon on Sunday morning.

  60. Numo
    I think some of the leaders of CC were somehow linked to the shepherding movement that gained strength on the tail of the Jesus movement. It seems that so many movements which start out as a revolt against the man, eventually become the man.

  61. Casey

    This whole thing is tied up in a theology of patriarchy which, in some respects, believes that the men are naturally leaders, haven been given this role from God. If God gives it then it should work really well, right? God is not powerless, is He? How does this system work with men who are sinners? Some of these groups have this push/pull. Men are sinners but they are the patriarchs. What is overlooked is the very real problem of sin in relationships which is glossed over. They focus on the “sin” of men not being leaders and ignore the very real sin of pride and ego which is devastating to relationships.

    Piper’s “giggle” says it all. He doesn’t understand it and doesn’t fully realize the extent of this problem. Some men are born passive and Piper may be one of those men who could never picture himself getting so mad that he would hurt his wife. This doesn’t necessarily mean he is more godly. It may mean he was born more passive.

  62. Barbara
    Thank you for sharing that story. Your father was born with a backbone and used it. The view of women and children is changing in today’s Calvinista movement. They preach complementarianism but live strict patriarchy. There appears to me to be a reactionary trend in this regard. I recently heard a woman explain how her father was her head and the father transferred the head role to her new husband when they had a little meeting together. The woman had no say.She was just transferred. It reminded me of the cattle sales in Texas.

  63. Casey
    Agreed. Listen to men like Mark Driscoll who speaks about “punching people or “taking people out.” I just wonder what goes on at home.

  64. Dee – yep, Calvary Chapel has ties to the shepherding movement. No question.

    But that’s for another day….

    As for the “malice” statements by so-called “pastors,” I’ve heard plenty, both from the pulpit and not.

    However, one of the most egregious things I have ever heard was said in a quiet tone of relief. It was about not having to put in an elevator for the handicapped – they’d not been forced to do so by the zoning board. All that was needed was proper access to the building.

    Unfortunately… the sanctuary is on the 2nd floor, and there is literally no way anyone with an assistive device (like a walker) could make it up and down the staircases safely. (Could even be very hard for someone with a cane.)

    But – the sermons and music are piped in downstairs, outside the church offices, so those who can’t make it upstairs can listen.

    Does this sound like forcing people to give up seats and move to the back of the bus to you folks out there? (“Separate but equal,” to put it another way.) Because it does to me.

    Sorry; I’m ranting today!

  65. I also think “malice” is part and parcel of most every sermon out there that pits Us against Them, no matter who They happen to be.

    Living in the world but not being of the world is NOT the same thing as making adversaries of the rest of society, or of automatically assuming that people who “aren’t like us” are adversaries.

    To my way of thinking, there is far too much polarization (and consequent demonization) coming from far too many US-based pulpits and church websites. There is no place for Jesus, let along the good Samaritan, in this kind of thinking.

  66. Numo
    The pastor has become separated from the people. They actually believe they are the new Levitical priesthood without the class or genetics. They are the new Pharisees.

  67. Numo
    I left a message over at the CC abuse site, offering to share their story here. I think a word from an abused person carries much moral authority.

  68. I remember studying something on “biblical” manhood and womanhood in one of my care groups at CLC and thinking “what?!” Of course I could never openly express my thoughts about it, but it was kind of nuts. I think that’s part of why I never married, although I probably am one of the most contented singles I know, but it was a shock to me to see how some women “submitted” to their husbands. And hearing the word “obey” in marriage vows would make me cringe. I’m so glad to be out of that!

  69. Former CLC

    Take a look at the word “biblical” in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.Do you see how loaded it is? If you disagree with the presentation it means that you, get ready for this, deep breath, are NOT biblical. The authoritarian leaders use loaded language. The other one they throw around willy nilly is the word, “Gospel.” Gospel marriage, Gospel parenting, ad nauseum. It you disagree with their particular method for parenting, you must not believe in the Gospel!!!

    Reject this nonsense. Good Christian disagree with one another on parenting methods and gender roles. To tie one side or the other to being “Biblical” is misusing both the Word of God and the Good News of grace.

    I, too, got out of a church that admired much of what SGM stands for although it called itself SBC. And there is life after such nonsense. You can also help many others who have suffered at the hands of abusive ministries. God never lets any experience go for naught. Welcome to the rest of your life!

  70. A woman shouldn’t ever be counseled to tolerate ANY form of physical abuse; whether one smack or simply a painful flick to an ear. Christian, or no, if any woman asked me what to do, I’d say get out as soon as possible and contact authorities immediately. There is no other counsel, and there is no excuse for not doing this.

    The Bible is the infallible Word of God, and the Bible makes clear that as Christians we must look out for the well-being of the poor and oppressed and suffering as much as we are able, and if that means recommending divorce from an abusive husband, then my conscience is clear. I will never be made to believe that the Bible demands that women stay in relationships where husbands hurt them.

  71. Seeks help from the church. Er…no John Piper, seeks help from the COPS! The Church can find out after the fact as far as I’m concerned. My gosh…the church is now charged with legalling dealing with crimes against humanity? I thought that was the whole biblical point of the state and its authorities! No…to the Calvanista, the church is the beginning and end of all authority, and the final say in every aspect of life, no matter how poorly equipped (e.g. sexual abuse). If this moniker wasn’t already taken, I’d change my blog name to No Longer Reformed.

  72. You are so right in your post, Deb. What does it say when the moral conscience of the world is superior to that of the Church? What does it say that I feel more confident that my child will not be sexually abused in a public school than in a church-run school? What is going on in the world today? How can it be that we are tolerating abuse against women and children?

  73. We rail against abortion and euthanasia, but we won’t rail against the abuse of our own young children and Christian sisters? Read Corinthians! What is love? Where in there could you ever get to tolerate the abuse of those who cannot defend themselves? I’m so grieved over this.

  74. Argo,

    Stay tuned… There’s more to come this week on the topics of child abuse and domestic abuse. You may not hear hyper-authoritarian pastors tacking these issues head-on, but we do!

  75. Argo
    Thank you for your input. Deb will be writing more on this subject later this week from a slightly different angle.

  76. Argo

    i believe it is against the law to cover up a crime. Churches are skating on thin ice here, especially when the day comes when a woman is killed by such advice.

  77. Argo
    I believe that abuse (sexual and physical) abuse of children and women is the silent crime of today’s evangelical church. Piper, Patterson, SGM, and many others are actively participating in this abuse by giving terrible, awful advice. They will stand before God one day and have to make account for their neglect. For such “doctrinally” correct men and groups, they sure miss the boat. What is in their theology that allows them to make light or ignore these crimes? Trust me, it is a theological problem.

  78. A woman shouldn’t ever be counseled to tolerate ANY form of physical abuse; whether one smack or simply a painful flick to an ear. Christian, or no, if any woman asked me what to do, I’d say get out as soon as possible and contact authorities immediately. There is no other counsel, and there is no excuse for not doing this.

    This is extreme and a play on words. What is abuse? I don’t think a ‘flick on the ear’ is going the meet that criteria.

    There is a reality that needs to be addresses – abusive spouses and Christian teaching that encourages abuse.

    BUT – you can’t make absurd statements like that either. Let’s suppose the extreme for grins and giggles the couple is two 10th degree black belts and their idea of fun is to go at it with hand to hand combat. Well, those punches are not abuse. And if they get into an argument and they each throw some ‘light taps’ as part of the argument, it’s not abuse either.

    What we are looking for is uncontrolled anger and physical or emotional force used by one to control the other in an abusive setting. You can define parameters that help you catch or prevent a good bit of that, but not all of it. And making rash statements that make sure you’ll catch all possible abuse will result in a lot of innocent and otherwise good people getting in trouble with the law that should not be.

    Consider in school. A couple of kids are talking too much, so the entire class is forbidden to speak a word, ever. First of all, you’ve just punished a lot of innocent folks to make sure the bad apples don’t get their way. And secondly, the bad apples will just find a way around the rule you made anyway.


  79. Arce – sorry, can’t agree on this one. A deliberate “painful flick to the ear” isn’t “absurd” in my book.

    Abuse is abuse is abuse – and that “flick” is more than likely accompanied by hurtful words and actions.

  80. In other words, the police might not take a “flick” seriously, but does that mean it’s “not abuse”?

    Again – not in my book. Lashing out at someone is lashing out, no matter how it’s done; physical blows are physical blows.

    Context is, as you’ve noted, important, but I just don’t see any reason for hitting, no matter how “lightly,” in the situation being described by Argo.

    A few years ago, Christianity Today ran a fairly decent piece on domestic abuse, and the comments were full of rants about “What [the woman] must have done to deserve this”-type comments, along with assertions that any abused woman was not really “abused,” but was (or is) an abuser by default – she drove her husband to do what he did.

    Sorry; doesn’t wash with me!

  81. Yikes!Apologies, Zeta – I was referring to your comment, not to anything Arce said.

    [still feeling groggy this a.m.]

  82. Numo/Zeta

    Here is the distinction. If it was done to intentionally strike out at someone, a painful flick to the ear is abusive. Such physicality often escalates into more serious physical abuse. So, I would say that, if the painful flick was done on purpose to cause pain, then it is abusive and must be addressed quickly.

  83. Hi Orion’s Belt,
    Sorry, but we’ll have to disagree on this one. My thinking will simply not allow much room for interpreting the circumstances (though, I’m not saying that every instance will result in the same consequences…obviously a flick in the opinion of the law is less egregious than a punch to the face; where I’m rigid is the wrongness of the action, the heart, the intent, and if any woman feels afraid, regardless of the physical contact, I’d advise leaving the relationship). I do not think my statement was absurd at all. Any physical contact of any nature that is violent or some kind of unwanted sexual touching is simply off limits. We are Christians. We JUST DON’T DO THAT. A playful flick is one thing, and accidental elbow to the gut while wrestling or goofing around in a playful way is fine, but when you flick anyone with the intent to cause pain because you are angry at your spouse, that’s abuse to me. A desire to inflict pain upon the “wife of your youth”, the one that you’ve become “one flesh” with is not absurd. It is kind and it is gentle and it is loving.

  84. Numo
    Today’s police are taking this stuff seriously, finally. Years ago, when i was doing public health, frequent domestic abuse calls, in which a wife would not press charges, were written off. No longer. Police have wide latitude to haul people in and have done so, even with some high profile people. You may find our analysis(later in the week) on potential consequences of domestic abuse interesting

  85. Sorry…totally messed up that last line. Meant to say: Being against a desire to inflict pain upon the “wife of your youth”…is not absurd. It is kind and gentle and loving.

  86. Dee,
    You are right about the theology, which is why I won’t identify myself with the Reformed movement any longer, as I understand it. Now, there are several reasons I’ve backed off of it, but this attitude towards children and “submissive” wives is a big one. The problem is that the Reformed Calvanistas interpret the Bible in a way that I would call hyper-literal. They are like people I used to go to grad school with that simply couldn’t think beyond what was on the page. They couldn’t take the basic and good principles and then apply them sensibly, with appropriate modifications depending on the specific case in question. Or, to be cliche, they couldn’t think outside the box. This is what the Calvanistas do with the Bible. They read Jesus’ words in Matthew, essentially, you cannot divorce unless for marital unfaithfulness. And so a woman comes along, “hey, my husband’s beating me every other day”, and they say, “Well, if he’s not cheating on you, then you just have to take it (oh, you can pray for him and be gentle and submissive and go after your own contributing sins, of course)…if you leave, you are sinning, and you are causing him to sin, too.” They lay these unintended burdens on these poor women because they feel it’s heretical to somehow think [gasp] outside of the literal words on the page! But, the Bible clearly states that this is not to be the case. Look at when David ate the consecrated bread! It was against the strict, literal rules…so why did he do it? Because the law was made for man, not man for the law; or as Jesus put it, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The rules are designed to help us, to protect us; but when a “rule” becomes, “you need to stay in a marriage where you are getting the hell beat out of you because it’s written in the Bible”, then it ceases to be the source of protection and help that it was origninally intended to be. Therefore, greater biblical truths MUST kick in, such as: love one another as Christ loved you, love is gentle and kind, feed my sheep, care for your brothers and sisters in Christ, etc., etc. But the “reformed” people don’t see it this way. It is the same fear that drives the YE crowd. Everything in the Bible must work perfectly together all the time in a literal way, and there are no contradictions, no metaphors…the Bible is what it is and there is no critical thinking or common sense needed beyond it, and if you say there is, you are an evil heretic. But his is not how scripture is intended to be used, and I believe the Bible shows us this.

  87. To me, abuse of a spouse is being unfaithful to the marriage vow, just as much as sex with another person other than the spouse.

  88. Hi all,

    I am afraid I’m coming at this from the perspective of one who has a close relative has worked for over 30 years in the social services dealing with abusive family situations. Extreme definitions of abuse result in families being destroyed for no good reason. And one can not underestimate the destructiveness and pain that comes from breaking up even dysfunctional family situations. In a very real sense, for most situations that involve a slap or a flick on the ear, the pain of tearing that family apart is far greater than the pain of the act itself. Further, there are differences in social and cultural contexts, and not all physicality is abuse – as I tried to illustrate by appealing to the extreme of the Karate Couple.

    Now, to the example (flicking the ear) – I actually was referring to the generalization that any such ACTION constitutes abuse and also the generalization that ANY abuse deserves to be reported to the authorities and is reason for a woman (or man) to leave the relationship.

    I disagree. Abuse, in the literal and most technical of definitions occurs in every human relationship. Did you ‘abuse’ your husband or wife by yelling at them for not taking out the garbage? Not one of us loves perfectly. Most of us express anger frustration, lashing out in various forms. There is continuum of actions that involve the manipulation and control of our spouses, and there is a (fuzzy) line somewhere on that continuum that, based on our CULTURE and UPBRINGING defines what is and is not abuse. And we can only, in the case of the LAW, deal with the most serious edge of that continuum without creating an oppressive and abusive law enforcement system.

    Flicking on the ear can be an aggressive act. But it would depend a very great deal on the context and force of the action whether it was abuse. For every women who ever experienced such to ‘leave her husband’ is absurd.

    What about men? If my wife thought I was looking at a pretty woman on a beach and slapped me on the thigh – or flicked me on the ear – is that ‘abuse’? Should I leave her? I can tell you I would not. I wouldn’t think twice about it. It would be neither threatening nor even evil on her part from my perspective.

    So how could one make a LAW that such is ALWAYS abuse? How could one counsel a spouse to leave a partner (and all the turmoil that creates) if ANY such action occurs given the turmoil such a breakup also produces?

    Now, I can see how a flick to an ear if sufficiently powerful and painful, and if accompanied by sufficient anger and aggression by the offending party could be threatening (primarily in terms of what it might escalate to later). But such must be dealt with case by case. I’m addressing the idea that one can generalize a fixed response of leaving over that specific action or anything like it. You can’t. Indeed, I would hazard a guess that actions similar to a flick on the ear are somewhat common (especially female to male), and in our society there can be no discrimination of that sort (it can not be both ok for a woman to flick a man on the ear yet a criminal offense for a man to flick a woman on the ear)

    So I’m sure I’ve raised yet another controversial bugaboo for dee on her blog – and hopefully it won’t send too many folks into utter shock. I certainly am against spousal abuse, and find the comments by both Piper and Page ignorant, but I think one has to be very careful to bring the authorities into a family situation only when there is a clear threat to the well being of the family members, or when there has been a clear violation of the law.

    And one also needs to keep in mind on these borderline issues, the ones that are in the gray areas of culture and upbringing, that are not in themselves clearly illegal, that it is best, if at all possible, to preserve the family unit rather than to break it up. If counseling and hard work by both parties can resolve the conflict and open up doors to more productive ways to deal with conflicts, then THAT is the best way to go.


  89. Zeta

    For those who are reading, Zeta is a dear friend and is one of the kindest men I know. So I get his heart in this matter and can vouch that he is not advocating any sort of abuse. In fact, he would be the first to defend a child or spouse in such a situation.He is far nicer then me, btw.

    I think he is upping the ante and looking at exceptions to the rule. For example, I do know that some spouses, seeking divorces, will claim child abuse by one parent in order to obtain custody of the children. There are also some instances in which a spouse will claim they were abused in order to punish the other partner. We are all capable of great sin.

    However, I think the majority of people here are not arguing from the exception but the rule. If either a child or spouse is scared of a parent/spouse, then there is high likelihood of abuse. Fear is a factor in assessment. I did followup for several years as a community nurse. One can sense the fear in either child or parent.That usually correlates to extreme verbal abuse or physical abuse. It is rare to see fear in mild situations.

    There are groups that offer counseling for abusers and those resources should be utilized. However, the first thing is to remove the person who is being harmed (or conversely the abuser) from the house. Reconciliation should not happen immediately, even if the person is in therapy and claims to have changed. Having worked with alcoholics, one know that the recidivism rate is enormous and usually occurs within the first couple of years. Similar statistics can be found for abusers. Permanent separation, on the order of years, might be viable option. However, it is incumbent on the abused person to make that decision. It is perfectly appropriate, in fact, it may be preferable for divorce in these situations.

    In my years of following these situations,, usually called in as a result of an ER visit or police intervention, I did not see one case in which the abuse was faked. When it reaches the level that people are going to the pastors for help, it is highly likely that the situation is out of control and has been for a long time.

    What if the situation is confusing? Separate the parties and get them counseling from a competent interventionist. Rarely is a pastor trained to counsel and assess abuse victims unless they have had special training (and no, I do not mean a one shot conference).

  90. Arce
    I concur with you. i would add addiction to drugs/alcohol as another definition of unfaithfulness. For these, drugs are the new mistress.

  91. Hi Zeta,
    I might be a little confused; this happens, so forgive me. 🙂 I’m thinking that our perspectives, in terms of the points we are trying to make are a little different; which, maybe we are not “debating” just “stating”.

    I agree with most of what you posted; and I don’t mean at all to imply that I think you were condoning abuse. Not at all! I agree that instances of “painful” physical contact, may not all necessarily result or call for the exact same level of response, eg. divorce, separation, or law enforcement intervention. I understand that the necessity for such serious responses will depend on many things, and indeed, perhaps the culture of what is acceptable (though, Biblically speaking, I cannot see where it would be okay in any circumstance to intentionally inflict physical pain upon your spouse, but I suppose that is debateable…if there are verses to the contrary, I’d like to examine them). So, though I may classify something as abuse (where you may not, necessarily) it doesn’t mean that I’m calling for the same drastic response in each case. I’m not saying that one flick of the ear necessarily requires a police report; what I am saying is that I find it inappropriate in any situation, unless striculty jocular, and could be a warning sign in a relationship that worse things are coming and that concern may be warranted. Certainly if there was fear or discomfort on the part of a party involved, then that could very well be an abusive relationship and I would counsel that person to tell someone.

    Here is where I disagree with you: I do not think it appropriate, nor would I ever, I like to think, slap or flick my spouse hard enough to inflict pain for any reason, even for looking at someone of the opposite sex, or any other “sin”. I would not do this, and I would not expect my wife to do this. We simply do not physically interact this way, and I do not think it’s acceptable. Now, I suppose that if both parties are OKAY with it, and mutually understood in the context of their relationship, then, well…it’s their marriage, I suppose, but one would need to be very clear that it is in fact okay, and if the other person says it’s not, then one would need to cease immediately (or never start), or I would classify that as physical abuse. Also, I would not and do not yell at my spouse for not taking out the garbage; I do not criticize her for not doing this or that, or demean her verbally. If there are patterns of concerning issues in our lives, then we approach each other in gentleness and respect and discuss it. If an impass results, we get counsel from respected friends; ultimately, I may decide to relent, and have, or my wife will relent, and she has. We try very hard to not scream, or yell, or degrade. Now, are we perfect? Of course not, but here’s another thing. I do not believe that an instance of “yelling”, or “criticizing” should evoke the same amount of concern as an instance of punching or slapping one’s spouse. I think that physical abuse is much more concerning, and the consequences, in general, much more severe for a single instance. Certainly patterns of yelling and degrading can become abusive, but when you cross into the realm of physical assault, I believe that is quite a different level altogether. I would never lump them into the same batch when discussing abuse.

  92. Also, I would like to add that when I was very young, my father abused my mother physically and verbally. They got divorced, and you are absolutely right, Zeta, the pain and damage even on our dysfunctional family was very severe, and we had consequences for years, and, frankly, I still do hurt emotionally from the divorce. However, I would keep all of the pain and hurt and suffering from that divorce rather than have my mother back in that physically abusive relationship for one more little minute. And that’s the absolute truth.

  93. Hi, Zeta.

    RE: “in our society there can be no discrimination of that sort (it can not be both ok for a woman to flick a man on the ear yet a criminal offense for a man to flick a woman on the ear)”

    I understand what you are saying in your overall comments. I just wonder about this comment above. A woman can do such a thing and it would be very nasty, indeed. But not threatening. A man doing such a thing, who is generally taller, bigger, with more muscle mass is entirely threatening.

    Even a man making a gesture or the very beginning of an agressive stance, like making a fist or the tensing of arms and shoulders in the heat of the moment, is terrifying. I’m speaking as a 5’4 female.

    And it’s not only a matter of physical size and muscle mass. I’m generalizing, but in my observation men are bigger and louder and more aggressive in their “essence”. I think it’s not unusual in a family conflict situation that as soon as dad enters the picture a new threatening or fearsome component is added to the mix. Perhaps the words “threatening” or “fearsome” are somewhat too strong — but something close in meaning is valid.

  94. I do not believe a man should hit a woman, except perhaps in self-defense, and then the goal should be to stop the violence not expand it, so that grabbing and hugging the other should be the tactic of choice if possible.

  95. elastigirl:Hi, Zeta.

    RE: “in our society there can be no discrimination of that sort (it can not be both ok for a woman to flick a man on the ear yet a criminal offense for a man to flick a woman on the ear)”

    I understand what you are saying in your overall comments. I just wonder about this comment above. A woman can do such a thing and it would be very nasty, indeed. But not threatening. A man doing such a thing, who is generally taller, bigger, with more muscle mass is entirely threatening.

    Even a man making a gesture or the very beginning of an agressive stance, like making a fist or the tensing of arms and shoulders in the heat of the moment, is terrifying. I’m speaking as a 5’4 female.

    And it’s not only a matter of physical size and muscle mass. I’m generalizing, but in my observation men are bigger and louder and more aggressive in their “essence”. I think it’s not unusual in a family conflict situation that as soon as dad enters the picture a new threatening or fearsome component is added to the mix. Perhaps the words “threatening” or “fearsome” are somewhat too strong — but something close in meaning is valid.

    I understand EG, men are in general, bigger, stronger, more threatening. Their voices generally command more authority and they are generally more aggressive. This is how we are made. I am sure this is a factor in Paul’s admonition to husbands (which receives no end of disdain) for men to treat the woman as the ‘weaker vessel’. It isn’t the same when a 5’4″ woman of 125 lbs hits a 6’2″ man of 195 lbs as it is when the situation is reversed.

    But our laws are not allowed to make that difference LEGAL. We are not allowed to recognize that when a man berates his wife it’s generally a little different that when the women berates her husband – it is more physically threatening. They might have comparable effect psychologically (though generally in different arenas), but the man is scarier. fear is the usually dominant component when a man is hostile to the wife. It is less likely for the man to actually be afraid of the wife if she is acting out the same kind of physical attack (well, unless she has a knife, baseball bat or gun, or he is 5’4″ 125 lbs and she is 6’2″ and 195 lbs).


  96. elastigirl has it down. It is VERY scary to have someone 6-‘ tall start tensing, even looking threatening, when you’re shorter (and likely even if you’re not, unless you have a black belt in karate or tae kwan do).

    I have experienced a physical attack of this kind, though in my case, it was instigated by an adult relative, not a bf or husband. The end result was STILL terrifying. (I gave you the right heights, btw.) It took me a while to be able to drive after the incident, when it was still very fresh in my mind.

    One of the most frightening aspects of the whole thing: the person being attacked has NO control over the abuser. You cannot stop them unless you have serious combat/martial arts skills, and even then, it would still be difficult if there is a mismatch in height, weight, strength and muscle mass (i.e., 99% of the time, imo).

    I will go a little further and state that the attack I experienced started with me being backed up against a wall (no escape) and then physically forced (pushed, shoved and dragged) out of the relative’s house. I am VERY fortunate to have escaped serious physical harm (I could have ended up with broken ribs, a broken arm, smashed-up face and more). But even so… the bruising I did experience (minimal) was like a stab to my heart every time I noticed it.

    And that’s why I think a deliberately painful “flick” (not in horseplay, but intended to hurt and demean the other person) is just plain WRONG. Applies to anyone in a position of power (parent – child etc.), not just husband/bf – wife.

  97. But our laws are not allowed to make that difference LEGAL.

    ??? It is just plain common sense, Z. (btw, I’m not upset with you – just feeling a bit like ranting today.)

  98. Hi Numo – I didn’t quite catch your drift there.

    It is just plain common sense.

    not making the difference legal OR
    that the man is the scary one most of the time.

    Oh – and I understand the ‘just feeling like ranting’ How do you think I get myself into these discussions? 🙂


  99. No matter which way we all wanna slice it here, sooner or later there will be a legal decision handed down regarding the clergy and the reporting of abuse. A high ranking Catholic bishop in Kansas City has already been charged with complicity in a sex abuse scandal in his diocese.

    It’s only question of time before some poor woman in an authoritarian/patriarchal religious sect (protestant) winds up dead after one too many times getting the poo-poo beat out of her.

    God forbid that this happens!!! Piper and others are often touted as being such smart cookies? We’ll see if they’re smart enough to sniff the winds of change and avoid the shoals the Catholic church has run aground on.

  100. Muff
    There will be a death if this stuff is being taught. Deb is going to write about this issue tomorrow.

  101. Hopefully they’ll realize as the health insurance companies did that it’s far cheaper to authorize the procedure than to pay out a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit.

    It’s too bad the analogy has to be put into such crass and banal terms, but maybe they’ll start to realize that it’s better to send a molester/abuser packing than to jeopardize a whole ministry.

  102. Muff
    How ministries can protect the abusers is beyond my imagination. Is it possible that they are playing Christian? What is wrong with their hearts?

  103. When you’re taught that your human heart is wicked, deceitful, and totally depraved, you take that to the bank with no if(s) and(s) or but(s). Imago dei only goes as far as they say it does.

  104. Muff,

    What an important observation about those whom we label as Calvinistas. This is the problem with this brand of theology. Sin sniffing is a compulsion, even after they become Christians. Instead, the focus should be on Jesus Christ and our intimate relationship with Him.

  105. Dee: How ministries can protect the abusers is beyond my imagination. Is it possible that they are playing Christian? What is wrong with their hearts?

    In many cases it’s not really that simple Dee. There are several factors that muddy the waters. But I’m not going to go too deep into what those might be – I’m not trying to excuse bad or flawed actions. But I will say this.

    Many, many times in my life I have thought I knew about something when I really didn’t. Seminaries turn out children to lead congregations and make decisions in situations like this based on book learning that is often itself wrong. Some seminaries won’t even take an individual who has real life experience – I know for sure some missions organizations won’t. They are looking at the number of years of service expected and other financial issues rather than the quality of that service.

    We can’t judge the heart itself, the real standing of the man/woman before God. Remember King David was a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed adultery, then had the husband of the woman he took killed to get him out of the way! Yet this guy was in the end a truly Godly man, a man whom God hand picked and whom God honored in spite of all that.

    So it seems to me better to attack the deeds. Call them on the table for ignorance, mistakes, bad doctrine etc, but let God figure out if these deeds spring from them being wolves vs. ignorant or stumbling sheep.


  106. Zeta
    i agree with you. My question was merely a plaintive cry for those so hurt by abuse. I sometimes simply do not understand. The three years I spent in public health nursing, following up on child abuse situations left me emotionally drained. Slowly I healed over years. But, man’s inhumanity never ceases to amaze me. And the cold hearts of some of the modern pastors is disconcerting. There seems to be too much emphasis on doctrine (and you know I care about good doctrine) and a deemphasis on compassion. There is also an emphasis on the “godly leadership” of those in charge even when their actions belie that very title.

    Where are the pastors who love their congregations as opposed to look at the church attendees as a means for indoctrination?

  107. Muff
    It is an odd thing. We preach the utter depravity of the human heart yet we seem to overlook many things that we like about one another. People who sacrifice to serve others, friends who care, people who make us laugh and see life in different ways. There is good in this world. That is the Imago Dei. Man needs God but man also has a longing in his heart for justice, love, kindness, etc. Man can be selfish but some men give up their lives for others-look at the firefighters in 911, our brave troops. , the mother who shielded her child from the tornado and died. Total depravity does not fully explain this world.

  108. Eagle
    To the defense of your old self, Piper, in his early days, had some good material. Times have changed and he has become more rules based. So, maybe you were thinking just fine. i hope so because I like some of his old stuff.