Friday, January 23, 2009

Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome

There is a domestic violence epidemic within the church, according to a report by Kathryn Joyce, of Religious Dispatches.

Enduring a physically abusive relationship has developed into a feminine virtue, Joyce and others argue, just as "submission" has come back into fashion. (See here, here, here, here and here, for the latest in this season's most popular virtue.)

Joyce focuses on the published teachings of Saddleback Ranch (since it has our attention), and the stories of former "submissive" wives Jocelyn Andersen, author of Women Submit! Christians and Domestic Violence, and Danni Moss, an activist who shares her story of abuse in her blog.

In web clips posted on the Saddleback website, teaching pastor Tom Hollaway, explains that he would offer women the option of divorce in the event that a marriage becomes violent if there was “a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.’” But, since there is not, Hollaway is declaring biblically-induced impotence.

Moss and Andersen have each found ways to reconcile their belief in the Bible with their painful experience of its silence. Moss says that abusers are making idols of themselves when they declare that their wife is anything but good. Andersen views the abuse as originating in Eden, when Adam refused to acknowledge his own sin and instead projected it onto Eve.

Joyce concludes with this thought:
Perhaps what’s most compelling about the existence of these seemingly contradictory stances on women’s rights, submission, complementarianism, and abuse is the fact that complementarian teachings and domestic violence are both large enough issues within the evangelical church to give birth to such an array of approaches. These including such nascent theological attempts—neither quite feminist nor complementarian—to help give biblically literalist women a safe exit.
On the parallel topic, Joyce's addresses the "patriarchy movement" from the perspective of the 2008 True Women Conference and warns:
What a conference of this size means -- along with the publicly-declared ambition to gather exponentially more women -- is that the biblical womanhood movement is getting organized.
So what is the proper response? Should feminists and those concerned about abuse form an alternative biblical womanhood movement? Should we argue that these organizations are reading the Bible all wrong? Can we only fight Bible Bending with more Bible Bending?

UPDATE: Bishop Williamson, one of the four ex-communicated bishops that Pope Benedict has recently embraced, has said that trousers on women "are an assault upon woman's womanhood and so they represent a deep-lying revolt against the order willed by God." In another letter, Wiliamson wrote that the same "wrongness of women's trousers" can be attributed to women attending university: they both represent the "unwomaning of woman."

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