A Conversation for DV advocates during COVID

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COVID has been widely discussed for creating challenges in helping domestic abuse victims now immobilized with the abuser. However, many of the same methods can actually be increased to help victims.

Awareness of what being isolated involves is now more widespread as more people experience it. The abuser is also isolated. And the advocates can get more people to understand the dimensions of this injustice.

Recently I spoke with three advocates about what they have found to be effective for both victims and those who would help them during times of social distancing. Gretchen Baskerville is author of The Life-Saving Divorce; Ashley Easter is a coach, writer, speaker, and founder of The Courage Conference; and Lori Anne Thompson is an Accountability Advocate, helping to demand abusers be held responsible for their actions.

Please comment on this discussion.

A Conversation for DV Advocates during COVID

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Clarifying Concepts: Faith

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“Now faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” I Cor 13:13

Of these three, hope is probably the least vague or problematic for women in destructive relationships. In fact, hope keeps her going. Through the skillful use of intermittent reinforcement, a woman continues to hope  her abuser will change, that if she can just hold on or do more, she will be delivered from the nightmare she is living.

Intermittent reinforcement is the carrot and stick method of bondage. The abuser is romantic, kind, insisting he cannot live without her.  Then some minor mishaps occurs and he flies into a rage that she is the stupidest woman he has ever met. This cycle of escalation-outburst-honeymoon keeps hope alive in the woman. If he can be so loving part of the time, she berates herself, the other times must be her fault. Surely God will show her how she must change to stop this torment.

We all need hope in the good or a better tomorrow to keep going. But this kind of hope relies on a denial of reality. It is too hard to admit that his behavior is deliberate and not her fault.

Love also has many meanings. When an abuser says he loves a victim, he means she seems ideal to use. Other ideas of respect,  honor, compassion, and commitment are not included in his definition, although they are in hers.

But perhaps the most frequently misused concept overall is faith. In fact, six faith concepts are examined in my self-help workbook, Redemption from Biblical Battering, which contribute to a believing victim’s confusion.

So when the word “faith” is used itself in verbal abuse, it is like having all six lobbed at you like a tennis ball machine. The more vague a woman is about what this concept means to her, the more an abuser can use Bible verses or ideas about faith against her.

Faith is often used in six of the verbal abuse categories: countering, discounting, blocking/diverting, accusation and blame, name-calling, and  judging/criticizing.

Below are some of the most popular quotes about faith and some of the ways they are misused as verbal abuse. And some of the ways you can counter these, even if only mentally and not aloud verbally.

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7 – the abuser may counter  your need for answers or accountability by quoting this. You can counter this by explaining your faith is in God.

For it is by grace you have been saved, by faith, and his is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9- may be used by the abuser to deflect if you want some acknowledgement or recognition of your efforts to obey and be productive, thinking this will free you from his insults. You can counter this by asserting you have the gift of faith and don’t boast.

You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2: 24 – may be used by the abuser in the same way to discount your rightful desire for acknowledgement. This is a great verse to turn around on the abuser by citing his works are not developing much confidence in him.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Heb 11:1- may be used to criticize you if you ask for some accountability in his actions. You can counter by you have confidence that God wants you to be respected and loved.

Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. I Cor. 2:5- may be used to accuse you or call you faithless if you ask abuser to contribute his part in the relationship. You can counter that you don’t have faith in the abuser’s  “wisdom.”

You can deal with these tactics? As with all the other tools, maturing your concepts into a clear understanding of what they mean provides a shield against using these ideas to insult or demean you. Combine clear concepts with assertive skills.

Of course, the inventiveness of the abuser in misusing faith concepts is ongoing. But combining clarity of concepts with assertive communication is a shield.

Faith is the evidence of what we have not seen because it is based on what we have seen. That is, we have experience that when we ask for help, we receive it. Therefore when we ask for help again, we can expect to get it.

Faith is not anti-intellectual. Faith is not magical thinking. Faith is not to be placed in people.

Faith is trust that the God in who we live, move and have our being will provide for our lives. God provided an earth that had food we would like before we even knew what we liked or were here.

We trust or believe or have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. If we had never experienced the sun rising, we would not have faith or trust or belief that it would again.

So faith is based on the experience of the nature of God in our lives. It is very personal and not a subject for anyone else to use against us to insult us.

“Don’t you have faith?” “You’re being faithless”  are merely coercive mind games to guilt you into doing what the abuser wants. Your faith is in God, not your abuser and you can certainly feel free to say so.

Your abuser certainly does not have faith, or he would not be trying to coerce you through fear, guilt, power and control.

And if he falls back on that old ploy of his standing in for the Lord, you can say you don’t believe in idolatry.

Have faith and be free!

CLARITY: CONCEPTS AND ASSUMPTIONS

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How Journaling Helps You to Get Free

When I was in an abusive marriage to a minister, I was challenged to work my way through the reality of how my faith was used against me.

Studying communication as well as counseling helped me see the fallacies that my husband was using, both with and without Bible verses.

As women we want to be fair. We want to be responsible. And faith concepts, like all abstractions, are open to a wide variety of interpretations. Our right to challenge someone else’s idea of what they mean is often forbidden.

But both the meaning and the assumptions behind the meanings hold the keys to mental and emotional freedom.

Let’s begin with one often confused: humility.

When I was growing up, stories of the saints being glad to bleed or inflict themselves with pain were glorified. The ideal of not asking anything for yourself was held up as an ideal to strive for.

I had to learn the difference in humility and humiliation.

Our accusers often encourage us to accept humiliation with Bible exhortations to be humble. This wrongful use of these ideas is damaging to us on several levels.

A humble person is not arrogant. He or she accepts their place in the human race. They are equals, neither above nor below others.

One of my favorite sayings is, “The ego is easily offended.”

When around an arrogant person, you often see that they are easily offended. In fact they may look for excuses to feel offended where no slight was intended.

Your abuser may behave like this with you.

Humiliation on the other hand has its purpose in making you less than. It desires to take your strength from you and keep you in bondage to another’s wll.

God did not command us to be humiliated. We are made in the divine image. God desires our well-being.

Any treatment which says  you must accept insults or harm in order to be godly is wrongheaded. You will notice that the one telling you to accept this does not accept it for themselves.

The assumption means unequal power in the relationship. You are not worthy to be treated with the same respect as the one telling you to be humble when what they mean is humiliation. They will make you feel guilty or ashamed for resisting mistreatment. Reject this accusation for the false faith concept that it is.

Other misused concepts are faith, sacrifice, God’s will, and forgiveness.

Which one gives you the most trouble?  Let me know and I will examine it in the next post.

Birth of the Activist Jesus

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I cannot do better than Shirley Taylor’s reflection upon this meaning of Christmas this year. May 2020 see a great expansion in the recognition of the dignity and equality of women. In this way abuse will no longer be taught or tolerated. Follow Shirley’s blog at bwebaptistwomenforequality on WordPress.

“Love is plastered all over many church’s websites. But for most, it is like looking for love in all the wrong places. Jesus came into the world that was having a problem with love, and we still have not fully understood what love means.
In particular, Christian women are still held to a rigid law of submission to all males. December 6, 2015, Southern Baptist pastor Dr. Ashley Ray preached a particularly offensive sermon in which he blamed all of society’s ills on women whose only desire is to live out the equality we were given by God our Creator. He called it ‘feminist rebellion.’ In this sermon he quoted the party line, the same old diatribe that women are far too familiar with.
Where was love in this belittling and hateful sermon? This pastor did not quote Jesus because Jesus did not speak of – nor did Jesus indicate – male supremacy such as this pastor preached. There was no love in this sermon. He has closed his mind to the pro-feminist actions of Christ. Feminists do not want to harm or deny men any position, but male headship leaders choose to hammer down on women.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 has led many pastors astray with this theology of male headship, and in doing so, they have forgotten the Jesus who was born into a world of rules and laws. They have forgotten that Jesus came to call humans to a better way of life – to love God and to love others. Not only in word, but in how we treat each other.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-34)
Bob Edwards, author of Let My People Go, reminds us that Jesus is concerned with human rights, which includes the human rights of women, and we must be, too.
“I don’t discuss prejudice against women in the church as “one of those theological issues we just have to agree to disagree on.” I would not have “agreed to disagree on slavery.” I do not agree to disagree on racism. I will not politely agree to disagree on the devaluation and subjugation of all women by men in the name of God. It’s an injustice that grieves the Holy Spirit and must be addressed as such. The Bible is full of excellent examples of men and women who love people AND tell them to repent of unjust practices. Jesus, for example, confronted the religious leaders of his day for confusing the will of God with the traditions of men. I think we should do likewise.” – Bob Edwards
Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, and to love our fellow-man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellow-man, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.
However, instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to enforce laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.
The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. Yet Christian leaders today want to withhold that freedom for women. They have forgotten that Christianity is about human rights. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).
This Christmas, will you remember the birth of the greatest human rights activist? Will you open your heart to loving women as equals, and not as someone who was created to submit to all males?”

A Second Tool: Labeling

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Abusers deliberately create chaos, bewilderment and confusion. This helps them avoid  responsibility for their behaviors by constantly blaming someone else. Their partners begin to feel they deserve the mistreatment.

They use no-wins, deflection and projection to blame their victims and tell them they deserve the mistreatment.

A no-win demand or double-bind statement is one in which, no matter what you choose, you will lose. Sometimes these are known as Catch 22s.  Biblical battering itself is based on a primary no-win: by  forbidding a woman to leave an abusive marriage and condemning her if she does, she loses both ways. If she stays, she gets mistreated by her husband. If she leaves, she gets mistreated by her church.

Double-standards are related to double-binds. A double-standard means that privilege, ability or power is allowed one person and not the other who is an equal partner. For example, your partner expects to be able to not come home at night but calls you or tracks you from your work to your home and forbids you to go out with friends.

Deflecting means avoiding admitting his behavior by accusing you of not being obedient or some other label not related to his behavior. You may ask him why he is late and he begins to harangue you about the floor needing to be swept. Some men habitually raise their voice and act upset to intimidate their partners so they don’t have to ever explain. His reaction goes beyond what is involved in the situation.

Projecting means that he will accuse or blame you for what is true of him. Margery’s husband routinely accused her of being unfaithful, which created enormous pain for her. She found out years later he was cheating at those times when he would accuse her.

These are common and regular in the daily life of the abusive relationship

Any realistic expectation for healthy relationship will come under attack. It would expect him to take responsibility in the relationship, which limits his power or control. He is only interested in a one-way interaction with you. No-wins, deflections or projections accuse you of not being submissive or obedient. He knows this idea is important to your faith system. These are effective methods to create your sense of worthlessness because you can’t do anything right to please him.

What patterns do you see in your relationship? Are there standards that are hurtful or demoralizing? 

 If a person is regularly “locked into” a no-win about a variety of issues with a person they care about, it will wear them down, which is the purpose. 

Margery donated most of her salary to his “missionary” work yet he screamed if she spent any money. She finally had to face that he wanted to be free to spend money in any way he wanted without any accountability. “God gave you the ability to earn that money,” he said. “You owe it to give it back to God.” There was one standard for his use of our money and another for Margery, that is, she was not to have any use.

Too often the concept of “obedience” has been used to browbeat the women in a relationship. It has been used as a tool for any demand, no matter how unreasonable. Obedience does not require losing your health, your sanity, your peace, your overall ability to care for your children if you have them. Obedience is an easy weapon for a tyrant to wield to get his way without having to justify it. This is not the concept of obedience that Jesus taught.

Take some time to look objectively at what happens when you obey or when he says you deserve the abuse. Often what happens is that, even if you obey, it will not change his abusive behavior to you. That tells you that his main goal is creating fear, guilt and shame to maintain his power and control. It also tells you that you do not deserve the abuse, because you are doing your best to be a loving supportive wife.

Practice redefining and relabeling the accusations and charges made by looking at what is reasonable. This will free you from believing you somehow deserve abuse.

Redefining and Relabeling

List the words or phrases he uses.  For each one, identify the tactic.  These contain broad labels and do not have facts. Example: burning toast does not make you a lousy wife.

Is this a _____no win/double bind _____deflection _____ projection?

You can tell by your lurching gut feeling when these are not true of you. They feel foreign and are not how you behave. An objective observer would confirm this. Challenge each one in your mind by redefining or redirecting them.

Example:  “You never listen to me. I try and try but you keep on being a faithless, unbelieving and disobedient wife.”

Redefine, redirect in your mind: “Is it true that I never listen to him? I agree with him, ask him questions, try to comfort him. In fact, it is only when I don’t agree with him that he says I don’t listen to him and accuses me with these labels.”

“It is not disobedient to be who I am. He said when he married me, he loved me just the way I am. It is not possible for anyone in a relationship to be the only one responsible for the trouble as he says I am. Obedience does not keep him from mistreating me.  He is increasingly demanding I obey him as a god rather than God.”

“What he seems really to be saying is that obeying him means always having things his way, and even if I try that, he still hurts me. This is not the mutual support of a healthy relationship. It is not what God gave as a guide for us.”

Relabel: “When he accuses me of being disobedient, I realize it is because he wants his way all the time. When he accuses me of being faithless, it is because he means I shouldn’t question any of his desires. When he accuses me of being unbelieving, it is because I am not ‘believing’ only his version of things. If he can continue to use my belief in God to make me feel bad or like a failure, it isn’t good for me.”

How often does he use no-wins/double binds?  ______regularly        _______once in a while              ______ rarely

How often does he deflect? ___________regularly  _______once in a while   _____ rarely

How often does he project? ____________regularly_______once in a while    _____rarely

_____Withholding____Countering___ Discounting_____Blocking and diverting______Accusation and blame-______Judging and criticizing ______Trivializing and undermining– _____Name calling_____Ordering– _____Deliberate forgetting or denial– ____Abusive anger– _____Threatening– _____

Which verbal abuse methods are being used?

Is this behavior part of   fear ______guilt ____, shame,____ enforcing power____ or control ______?

Is this behavior part of a belief in  male privilege______, women are morally inferior and cannot trust their own judgement_______, suffering is a Christian virtue, especially for women, ____forgiveness and reconciliation are a woman’s duty.________

Which classic abusive behaviors are happening?

Isolation____Intimidation_____Threats_____Using Children___Sexual Abuse___Economic Abuse___Emotional Abuse___Physical Abuse____Spiritual Abuse______

What parts of your faith experience or relationship with God are being threatened ?

A Toxic Matrix

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Domestic Abuse Syndrome is a recognizable cycle with common behaviors among the men who abuse.*

Women often ask themselves how they become entrapped in their sinister dance of danger and sometimes even death. They blame themselves as they become exhausted trying to resolve problems with their partners.

No one would say that women are taught to accept abuse. But as with many ideas, a failure to follow an idea to its logical conclusion hides the effects that can be drawn from it.

My experience is that cultural expectations about women’s responsibilities contain the seeds and account for the persistence of these traumas. Churches can play an important if unaware role in conveying these expectations.

Outside those churches that teach submission, women won’t hear the actual words that they should accept abuse. However a predator has tools in pervasive messages given to women throughout their lives.

The first message is that their worth is defined by their relationship with a man.

That second message is that the success of the relationship is their responsibility.

Out of these messages come two strong positive expectations that a predator can turn into weapons.

The first expectation is that a good woman helps others.

The second expectation is that a good  woman forgives others.

Helping and forgiving are seen as two primary ways she ensures the success of the relationship. However there is not as strong an expectation that her partner will do the same. Instead she may feel like she has to set  herself on fire to warm other people. The matrix of these messages and expectations create a prison which traps a woman who does not question their all-or-nothing standards

They lead to two strong and pervasive fears: the fear of rejection (abandonment) and the fear of  failure.

Interviews with abusers reveal that they often get their way by threatening to leave the woman. A financially dependent woman is seriously jeopardized by such a threat. A mother with children is seriously threatened.

A man leaving a relationship is often seen as a failure of his partner. The idea of “she can’t keep her man” is embedded in our culture.

A woman who has been raised with a definition of her worth and success based on helping and forgiving will need help seeing the limitations of these ideas when they are presented without exceptions.

We all want to belong and be loved.  Abused women have been betrayed by a partner who said they cherish them. Women who give everything emotionally to their partners are cut to the core if their devotion is not reciprocated. They feel they have failed at their major purpose in life. Some feel they have failed as a woman.

The abuser is using an emotional carrot and stick to keep her confused and trapped.

This is what can fuel the cycle of honeymoon – escalation-explosion and makes it so hard to break.

If a woman can take her hurt and sorrow and step back for just a moment, she can ask herself if these two fears are fueling her one-sided struggle to make the relationship work.

She can ask herself if it is realistic to expect anyone to always help and forgive another without any limitation.

She can ask herself if it makes sense that, in a relationship of two people, she is the only one has all the responsibility for making it work.

She can ask herself if it is true that she failed the person who she supported wholeheartedly.

Unraveling these unconscious and unreasonable expectations of women in relationships is an important awareness. Women who cannot be everything to someone have no guilt or shame to bear.

They have not failed. They have simply been operating on false ideas which a predator finds ideal to use in their oppression.

If someone who says they care for her does not honor her needs and wants, that someone is not anyone she has failed. They have failed her.

Expectations of no-limit giving or a lack of personal boundaries create pain for her, no matter who has taught this role. By stepping back, examining the pain can be a doorway to her recovering her worth.

The pain makes it clear it is not failure to not be able to do the impossible. Denying needs does not create love in a relationship.

She can permit herself to be less than everything in a relationship. Reciprocal respect and regard are the foundation of a mutually caring relationship. Abusers have proven they will not provide these while they are allowed to misuse their partner.

*In every study, men are consistently 85-90% of the abuser population.

Charting: Your First Step Out of the Maze

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Charting is a way to begin to distance yourself from the chaos or emotional suffering you are experiencing.

Battering is a cyclic behavior following a predictable path. Some women have even found it follows monthly patterns.

You begin by keeping a record for a week or a month of the episodes in the cycle of abuse: the honeymoon, the rising tension, the triggering incident and explosion, and the lull afterward.

Record what is said, your response, and his reaction. What does he gain from the behavior? What does he do? Do his actions match his stated intents or beliefs?

You will begin to see a pattern emerge. You will recognize methods that your partner uses repeatedly. By seeing the pattern, you can begin to recognize how it is consistently used to create fear, guilt and shame in you for being yourself and increase his power and control to get his way.

With your chart or calendar, keep a list of your faith beliefs that your partner uses against you to justify his mistreatment of you. You may be aware of many of these beliefs, but you will be able to put things together you did not realize before by keeping a chart. You will see that what he does actively works against your wellbeing: physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Many women are surprised at the frequency or severity of what the chart reveals. They were not aware of how very much they are being subjected to.

To keep a list of the disturbing words and behaviors that occur, use the four categories of methods in this chapter. Label what happens as an example of

A. Demoralizing and Accusing Words

B. Denying or minimizing his behavior; one-way relationship

C. Playing the Victim, Refusing responisbility

D. Threatening Behaviors

 What is his payoff for what he does?

 Power – he is able reinforce his place, his desires, right to be the final word, make the final   decision, even if it disregards your wellbeing.

 Control – he is able to prevent or make you do something damaging he wants against your will

 Intimidation – he is able to weaken your inner self, confidence, or one of the four powers of an  adult (mental, physical, emotional or spiritual ability)

 Example:

Monday:  Describe what happened.______________________________________________     

He called me a lazy slut when I didn’t vacuum the floor. An example of A: Demoralizaing and Accusing Words

Check how you were affected: ___Mental _____Emotional _____Physical______Spiritual

What you felt:    ____fear   ___x_ guilt    ___x_ shame ____anger  ___ other: shocked

What he gained:  _____power    ____x_ control  ___x__intimidation

Here is a space to begin your examples. Be sure to identify any of the 4 categories that your experience is part of. (A, B, C, and/or D above)

Monday:  Describe what happened.______________________________________________________________________An example of ____________________________     

Check how you were affected: ___Mental _____Emotional _____Physical______Spiritual

What you felt:    ____fear   ____ guilt    ____ shame ____anger  ___ other

What he gained:  _____power    _____ control

Tuesday:  __________________________________________________________________________________An example of _____________________________     

This damaged my _____mental_______emotional______physical______spiritual well-being

What you felt:  ____fear  _____guilt_____shame____ anger_____other

What he gained:  ____ power over ______control over_____

Continue this way for the week or up to a month. 

Then tally what number of time in each category you were diminished:

____A: Demoralizing and Accusing Words

____B: Denying or Minimizing His Behavior; One Way Relationship

____C: Playing the Victim, Refusing to Take Responsibility

____D: Threatening Behaviors

Now take some time to review what you have learned. Summarize it here:

Using the tool of charting strengthens you in these ways:

  1. Gives you perspective on what you are experiencing
  2. Shows you you are not crazy; reaffirming your inner knowing
  3. Provides measureable “data” that you will use later in assertive communication
  4. Begins to create a sense of control as it distances you from your abuser’s insanity and chaos

I hope readers will share what they gained from using charting as a first step on their way out of the maze of abuse in the name of God. Your words are a sacred power you can wield for your redemption.

How Churches Painted Themselves Into a Corner (And How Equality Can Get Them Out)

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We looked in the last post of some of the reasons that churches across the doctrinal spectrum have been slow or reluctant to help the 1 in 4 women of faith in their congregation who are in destructive relationships.

Churches derive their power from their claim that they represent Christ’s message on earth.

Their history is one of organizing and transmitting the legacy of Jesus Christ in the world.

Jesus is presented as the Savior, the One Who, once followed, takes our heavy burdens upon Himself and provides a never-ending source of support, love and forgiveness.

Indeed, the claim is that once people accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will be redeemed – made new. A transformation is to take place. A new birth, a new creature is now operating in the world.

What happens to the church’s message when this doesn’t happen?

In the slide toward political power and social approval, churches left themselves without recourse when members fall short, not in small human foibles, but in gross behaviors which even non-believers may not condone.

Such is the current fallout with sexual abuse and other extreme violations of human dignity. Discussing views on how the church got sex wrong will be held for another post, but the dilemma the church faces over members who fall below a decent not to mention Christian claim to character is a major challenge.

If the standard of character transformation is no longer a sign of accepting redemption, the church is left with the watered- down tea of social pressure and lip service.

When not just members but leaders are shown to have fed upon the fold rather than nourish them, the party line is left with nothing but condemnation. Sin becomes the focus and not relationship with God. Cries of “kick them out” arise. There is no mercy for the twice-sinned. Members turn upon each other. Traumatic house- cleaning commences.

The application of forgiveness of sins becomes problematic when narcissistic manipulation protects the predator and condemns the victim. This is the reverse of what Jesus taught. Protecting the institution becomes more important than genuine repentance but this is only cliff hanging.

The church is left with the dilemma of admitting they have been a sham show or closing ranks. What would Jesus do?

Here we are left with His disdains for the hypocritical religious leaders of his day. He did not mince words for them and instead preferred people who knew they were in trouble, needed help and were grateful when they got it.

Mock repentence in order to hold onto to position and power are not Christ-like. When churches encourage a view that we are better than those who are unsaved, they have painted themselves into a corner if the betters are less than the lowers.

The window out of the corner is to abandon the false foundation and start over.

The foundation crumbled when a static rather than a dynamic view of salvation was used to build.

In the static view, salvation remains outside the person and he still remains a worthless person, relying on Jesus outside of himself for viability. Eternal groveling is required. “Rejoicing” in what Jesus has done for me or to me, not in me, is the membership card. It becomes a system that praises suffering and death. Emotional pathology can be encouraged as pain becomes pleasure. There is glee in righteous gore.

In the dynamic view of salvation, Christ within is the hope of glory. An original worthlessness is not required to grow into a fullness of life. Indeed Christ is followed because of higher dimensions of being human. God’s Spirit lives in each person and is pleased with growth and development, harmony, peace, and continual well-being. God is not anti-human. Christ shows what is possible and invites people to do it.

In this view of salavtion, church members are not focused on social status and political power (externals) and concentrate on the power of  compassion for fellow human beings who hold Christ within (internal). They don’t hire “professional Christians” to do their faith for them or tell them the right way to do it.

That’s what Jesus did.

The church must not go away sorrowful, like the rich young ruler, when asked to follow Jesus. Nor should they organize around  power which becomes the lure for scam artists. Rather they must reclaim gender equality in leadership and use consensus to create community so that everyone is empowered and no one is excluded. There are models, such as recovery groups, that emulate the early house churches.

Being human is not what backed  the church into its corner. Pretending superiority is: members better than outsiders; men better than women. A static view of salvation leaves people fighting over manna. It is horrible to see a church torn apart as finger pointing becomes more vicious. Hurling attacks about who is the “genuine” follower is not the path of peace. Neither repentance nor forgiveness are acts that can be commanded on schedule.

Once trust has been betrayed, it is better for the hurt and the ones who hurt to receive therapy and healing and maybe not together. Often the church will have to disband. It takes time. If we are graced, a genuine group of people who want to follow Jesus will reemerge. Love is the doctrine.

The 30 pieces are never worth it.

The Battered Women of Faith: Reality vs Myth

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Do you wonder why church leaders or members don’t help the 1 in 4 abused women of faith in their congregations? Here are 4 possible reasons.

Myth One: She’s weak.

Predators are drawn to idealistic, strong and caring women. The church can be a field day for them to find potential victims. Believing women want to help others, relieve distress, give (too many) chances, and share their resources.

Rather than being weak, the Christian woman’s ideal of forbearance or perseverance will keep her trying to figure out how to change herself or help her abuser.

Those who criticize her for these strengths are not taking into consideration that these are the very traits she has been raised to display and are overlooking the fact that the church does not support her being any other way. Instead they are more likely to tell her to repent.

Myth Two: She’s Unintelligent

A mature faith is not blind but too much reasoning and questioning is not encouraged in some dogmatic churches. Indeed, believers are urged to “lean not unto your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) or “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways  my ways, says the Lord.” (Is. 55:8) 

Abusers or controlling church leaders are quick to discourage a woman from questioning. Indeed the above verses can be used to discourage her from questioning her husband or pastor.

A woman has to defy what she is conditioned to do in many churches. She has to question, trust her intuition and inner voice, and grow in her faith in spite of resistance from members or leaders as well as her abusive husband.

Myth Three: She just needs to be a better Christian wife.

Domestic violence is not a marital problem. It cannot be healed with marital counseling. It is the deliberate subjugation of a person to mistreatment by a narcissist. He only uses God, faith or the Bible because he knows it’s important to his victim. It’s another tool. He is not trying to follow any of the faith demands he is screaming at his wife to follow.

Pastors who are more concerned about saving the marriage or advocating for the husband  more than the safety of the woman are playing the predator’s game. The doctrine of wifely submission will be used against her in counseling sessions.

Domestic violence may occur within a marriage but it is not about the marriage.  The woman is a hostage in her home. 

 Domestic violence is a man’s problem. Any other approach that focuses on her changing misses the mark. She has not failed in her marriage. In fact she is probably overdoing in trying to comply with unreasonable demands that dismiss her as worthy of the most basic humane consideration.

Myth Four: She can always leave.

Churches who are afraid to allow for divorce are more  interested  in their church’s reputation than solving this problem.  They have painted themselves into a corner because divorce is often the only reasonable action.

Going no contact with an abuser is necessary since he interprets any contact as an opening for mistreatment. This is an identifiable diagnosis – Narcissistic Personality Disorder – and the Bible is not an adequate one-size-fits-all solution in these cases.

Members who continue the conspiracy of silence, shun the woman, or want to enforce Bible study and  repentance are only re-traumatizing the abused.

Those who ask why she doesn’t leave are the very ones who will not help her. Understandably they do not want to bring violence into their own homes. But there are many ways to support women short of  taking her in.

Redemption from Biblical Battering: Your Path to Faith-Based Freedom is one of those ways. Using it or similar resources to guide a small group study or having it on hand to give to distressed women is an effective way to open and continue a conversation to help. Holding men in the church accountable is also a first step.

Another way is to refer the suffering woman to Suzanna’s Sisters, a secure Facebook group where women can communicate with licensed counselors who understand  religious domestic abuse or survivors who have been where they are for support. Contact the author for access or to schedule a presentation or training.