Domestic Violence: An Elephant in our Churches

by Ignoring domestic violence does nothing to preserve the sanctity of marriage.

In the United States of America, a woman is beaten every 9 seconds. In the time it will take you to read that first sentance and this one, two women will have been assaulted by somebody they love. 

Forty percent of pastors surveyed by a Lifeway Research study never or rarely address domestic violence from the pulpit, and 22% do so about once a year. 

There's a large elephant in our churches, and it demands our attention. The reason I believe we don't address it is because we hold marriage sacred. As we should. Our fear of saying and doing the wrong thing keeps us silent, and we end up saying nothing. Sometimes, saying nothing leaves victims with no resources and stuck in dangerous situations. 

It leaves domestic abuse victims in the dark with a cloak of shame about them. It makes domestic violence seem rare, when it is anything but. 

In scripture, Abigail had a husband that did something truly stupid. He denied David and his men provisions, and he basically incensed David to the point that he told his men to arm themselves and to descend upon Nabal's men. 

Abigail also readied herself, went to David, and asked him to pardon their transgression and that she was making provision ready. Her actions saved lives. 

A husband does not have the authority to inflict harm upon his wife or his children. Even when children are not directly targeted, the cycle of domestic abuse is perpetuated, as boys learn it is okay to disrespect women, and girls learn to look for partners like their fathers. 

Children who witness domestic brawls are at a greater risk for drug abuse, suffering PTSD, juvenile delinquency, and running away. Domestic violence is not a simple issue, but ignoring it will not help matters.

We hear preaching on female submission in many churches, and it's time we paid attention to the husband's laying down his life with a love that is patient, kind, bears all things, and always looks for the best in the other person. 

There are, at times, within mainstream denominations, a resurgence of male roles that emphasize leadership and responsibility. The fruit born by certain of these uprisings have been hyper-masculine movements that have not left a legacy of love but one instead that pits women as creatures who cannot be trusted and that must be controlled.

It's time we read our Bibles. It's time we read that the Proverbs 31 husband trusted his wife. It's time we read of Elkanah who deeply and tenderly loved Hannah. It's time we read the Song of Solomon, which was hardly a power struggle, but a beautiful and erotic story that took place between two star-crossed lovers.

It's time we stopped looking the other way when we suspect domestic violence has occurred. It's time we stopped counseling women to stay or submit harder or to work harder at pleasing someone who is physically violent. 

And what about that passage about not involving the authorities when two brothers have a dispute? That is not meant to excuse the guilty but is written about civil disputes and not violent crime.

The Bible says the authorities can and will inflict punishment when we do wrong, and it's time we rightly divided the word of scripture. 

In cases where police are not called, 41% of women will suffer physical assault in the following six months. That number drops to fifteen percent when the authorities are called. According to the CDC, 93% of female homicides are perpetrated by current or former partners.

You can find a 20-question quiz here to determine the level of danger you are currently in. It is also known that leaving is the most dangerous time. I don't claim to have all the answers, as I clearly don't. I know that women need support emotionally and financially, and they need people to stand in the gap.

I know that it is time to start the conversation, and we must all be willing to drag this issue into the light and put the burden where it lays: on the abusers. We must not shelter them in our doctrine, empower them in our theology, and cover for them in our dichotomies. We must be willing to educate ourselves on best practices from experts in this field. 

Marriage is sacred, and abusers are the ones not treating it that way. They are using it as a tool with which to beat their wives, and their children, as many men will use it as a means to make things more difficult for a woman if she should choose to leave. 

He can also use the court system as a means to endlessly create problems for his wife. Surely we have a responsibility to the little ones living under such abuse.

If Abigail and Nahum were living today, would we give Nahum a pass and ask Abigail to just submit harder?

Would we condemn her for protecting those under her care, saving their lives by her wisdom?

Would we eschew her or pretend there was not a crisis in our midst?

Would we avert our eyes, telling her headship is absolute?

The scriptures do not condemn her, and neither should we. We need to learn the steps to take after suffering abuse, such as contacting law enforcement and documenting the evidence. We need to support families seeking refuge and give them a safe place to stay and vent their emotions without judgment. 

We take in foster children who are mistreated, how is this any different?

Would we help someone who was beaten up by somebody they were not married to?

We need to do better. Ignoring the topic of domestic violence does nothing to preserve marriages. It's time we held the lives of the least of these as being as important as the broken marriages they find themselves in. 

If you feel you are in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1, and if you have questions, you can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. You can also visit their website here

Stay Gutsy,


Think a woman can't take an active role in her own life and pop the question? Think again!


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