My last two pieces at A Life Overseas have addressed the topic of domestic abuse. After writing those articles, I've heard from a number of women (missionaries) about the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse they've suffered in their marriages.
Those stories make me incredibly sad.
But there is another element that almost every one of those stories has in common: a really terrible response from Christian counselors and pastors, when they reached out for help.
Unfortunately, that is a story I hear over and over and over from women: they're in a bad situation, and people who are Christians in positions of power make it worse.
For some unknown reason, the conversation turns almost immediately away from the abuse the woman has suffered to what she must do to follow the letter of some law these people have created in their own minds. ("You can't have a physical response--leaving--unless you've actually endured physical abuse." Where is the verse for THAT?! Nowhere! It's completely fabricated!)
For some unknowns reason, abusers are almost never held accountable for their abuse, while women are told to keep submitting and praying so that their husbands will treat them better.
That makes me incredibly angry.
I don't even have words for how angry that makes me. One night a couple of weeks ago, I said to Andy, "I need to know more cuss words. The ones I've got are insufficient."
Let me put it into parable form for you, because I think it fits right in with the Parable of the Good Samaritan out of Luke 10:25-37.
I'm not making this stuff up. It's what women have told me in the past few weeks. Not even from clients of mine; just women who've reached out for someone to talk to about the abuse they've endured.
Read it and let me know if you've got better cuss words than mine.
Now the counselors of the law came to Jesus and said, "What should we do with all these women who complain that their husbands are abusive to them?"
And he said unto them, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?"
And answering they said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself."
And he said unto them, "Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live."
And they said unto Jesus, "Aha! We have told these women to return to their husbands and love their husbands as they love themselves! We have justified ourselves in the eyes of the law!"
But Jesus answering said,
"A certain woman went down with her husband from America to A Place Overseas, to serve as a missionary, and as they traveled, her husband began to berate her continuously, and to mock her person and ideas, and to speak abusively to her at every turn.
"And by chance there came down a certain counselor of the law that way; and when she saw the woman, she spoke strongly to her that she should walk on with her husband, praying for him, and submitting to him, that he might be won without a word.
"And so the woman journeyed onward with her husband, whose verbal and emotional abuse continued to increase when he saw that the counselor of the law would not require him to take responsibility for his own behavior.
"And likewise, another counselor of the law passed by, and came and looked upon the woman, and spoke strongly unto her again about her responsibility to cause her husband to treat her kindly.
"And again, a third and a fourth counselor passed by, and spake words of admonishment to the woman regarding her failure to cause her husband to treat her kindly, until her spirit was grievously wounded and she was left half-dead emotionally.
"Then came a pastor and his wife to journey along the same road, and the woman appealed to their wisdom for aid in her plight. The pastor and his wife spoke unto the woman, saying, 'Return again unto thy husband, who is a good man, a missionary even. Pray and submit, that he may look upon you with kindness.'
"When the woman showed forth bruises upon her arms, where the man had begun to hold her, to prevent her from escaping his rages, the pastor and his wife spoke again unto her, saying, 'We do not allow a woman to speak. Pray and submit.'
"At last, the couple came again to America where the woman insisted upon consulting, once again, with counselors of the law provided by her mission agency. And weeping, she cast herself at their feet, begging for mercy.
"And her husband spake unto the counselors, saying, 'Behold this woman, who overreacts with such emotional outbursts. Forsooth, she hath bipolar disorder or borderline personality. Something is wrong with her.'
"And the counselors, being deceived in their own minds, scorning the pain of the woman, and being taken in by the man, required the woman to pay for an evaluation by a psychiatrist, a man who prescribed medication and recommended healthy boundaries--not simply following the Mosaic law--as a path to healing.
"The psychiatrist looked upon the woman with amazement for all she had suffered, and had compassion on her, for he saw that her sorrow was great, and her PTSD had increased by journeying with her husband who abused her, and by enduring much admonishment at the hands of many counselors and pastors of the law.
"And the psychiatrist recommended resources to the woman, and showed her the places where healing might be found, at local shelters for battered women, where doctors and lawyers and therapists didst contribute their hours, pro bono, to care for women who had been abused."
Then saith Jesus unto them, "Which now, of these, thinkest Thou, was neighbor unto the woman who fell among the abusers?"
And the counselors of the law said, "He that shewed mercy on her."
Then said Jesus unto them, "Go and do thou likewise."
If you're suffering from abuse, please seek help from a credible source.
People who tell you to go back and be abused some more are not credible.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, with resources available at the website as well.