confederate statues and the efficiency of the abuser


The Eye , by Tony Tassett, at the Joule Hotel, Dallas  (photo: Andy Bruner)

The Eye, by Tony Tassett, at the Joule Hotel, Dallas  (photo: Andy Bruner)

As a therapist, I listen to a lot of women talk about their experiences of abuse.

One of the things that has struck me lately is how efficient abusers can become.  

Quite often, abusers simply wish to control and feel superior to others.  As long as their stress levels are manageable, and as long as their victim remains a victim, helping them to feel superior and in control, they're happy enough and don't need to break into fits of rage. 

For Christian abusers, fits of rage are problematic since they commonly make the naughty list along with things like witchcraft and debauchery (Galatians 6:20).  Keeping fits of rage to a minimum is necessary to maintain the Christian image, both for himself and others.

Of course, the Christian abuser has the option of the occasional rage-fit when necessary, easily rationalized away by "she wasn't obedient" or "I was under a lot of stress."  

Once he's over it, and everyone has apologized for upsetting him so, he can go back to fuming in his La-Z-Boy, while everyone else walks on eggshells under his silent stares.

I often have wives tell me, in guilty half-whispers, how relieved they are when their husbands are out of town.  

How much fun they have with the kids.  

How they sleep peacefully all through the night.  

How their bodies stop hurting and their hearts stop pounding.

Then he comes back.

"He wasn't even doing anything," she'll tell me.  "He was just sitting in his chair.  Why was I so upset?"

"He's a very efficient abuser," I'll reply.  "He's trained you to be terrified of him, so now all he has to do is sit there, and you're under his control.  In his mind, it works this way: he's just sitting there, and you can't leave him, because there's no Bible verse that says you can leave a man who just sits there.  As long as you believe his narrative, you're his victim forever."

You know what this common domestic abuse pattern reminds me of this week?

Confederate statues.

Those mass produced WalMart hunks of junk that popped up like chicken pox pustules all over the South during the Jim Crow era.  

"They're not doing anything," their defenders tell us. "They're just standing there."

But just like domestic abusers, all they have to do is stand there to maintain the system.  

White supremacists have already done the hard work of creating the abusive system.  

They already stole millions of people from their homes, enslaved them, raped them, sold them, treated them as animals. Were willing to die for their "right" to keep human beings enslaved. Continued, 100 years after the Civil War, to rape and lynch and murder and segregate. Used Bible verses to do it, and created entire denominations that supported their white supremacist ideals. Then shoved those statues in place, efficient abusers that they are, to keep people of color silent and scared and under control.

And when I listen to people of color talk about the confederate statues, I hear the echoes of what my domestic abuse victims tell me.  The feelings they relate are the same.

The sullen sitter in the La-Z-Boy,

the pigeon-poop-stained occupant of the plinth:

they are both the efficient, sociopathic abuser,

purposefully present

to menace and manipulate their victims.

I wonder what this country would be like for people of color, if they did not have these constant reminders of white supremacy?

Would they, like my victims of domestic abuse with their husbands out of town, feel that sense of freedom and relief?  

Would they have more fun with their kids?  

Would they sleep more peacefully at night?  

Would their bodies stop aching and their hearts stop pounding? 

I personally think that is an experiment well worth undertaking. 

As people of faith, who try not to be complete idiots about what's happening around us, it's time to pull our collective heads out of the sand (or wherever else said heads might happen to be).  

Stop letting abusers manipulate the Bible to maintain their systems of oppression.  

Face up to reality, no matter how painful it may be.

Let us be willing to understand, at long last:

Any interpretation of the Bible that results in harm to another human being is a wrong interpretation that props up systems of oppression.

We have to stop enabling abuse, whether it's the specific abuse of one individual or the collective abuse of an entire race.

Instead of acquiesing to the narrative of the abuser,

let us attend to the voice of the victim,

and work for justice and mercy.

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