Religion and abuse
Nearly 170 years ago, on July 19, 1848 a political and social movement was born in the United States of America and circles the world. Three hundred persons, including 40 men traveled by horse-drawn wagons and by foot, from up to 50 miles away, to Seneca Falls, New York to protest the legal bondage of American women and to demand full equality. It was the first women’s right convention in the world to demand greater civil liberties for women, including the right to vote and to get an education. They came together to rewrite the United States constitution and to sign the Declaration of Sentiments which proclaimed that all men and women were created equal. During this occasion the Declaration of Sentiments presented a list of evils against women. It said: “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”
Here are a few of the facts stated in the Declaration of Sentiments, the last one of which I want you to note carefully. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton speech on July 19, 1848)
• He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
• He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men — both native and foreigners.
• He has made her, if married, in the eyes of the law, civilly dead.
• He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education — all colleges being closed to her.
• He allows her in church as well as state, but in a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church.
This was 170 years ago in the United States of America. It is sad to acknowledge that it was just about 56 years ago that women in The Bahamas were able to vote and own property for the first time.
Domestic violence and the church are two terms that should not be linked.
Unfortunately, today we know that there is an undeniable correlation between the teachings of the church and the prevalence of violence in our homes. As the Cross is the center of Christianity — bringing hope, peace, and certainty of salvation, ironically in my opinion, religion has always been and is more than ever the core fueling agent to the development and perpetuation of violence in our families today. Violence in the community then is a direct result of violence in families.
Could it be so that in fact we are facing a painful formula for violence? Family plus the church equals violence. Or is it more realistic to say family plus religion equals violence. In reality, it is the false teachings of the church, or false religion, which I am suggesting is one of the fundamental causes for family violence. Thus, here is the formula for violence: When rigid family practices and teachings are combined with rigid religious beliefs and practices, there is always violence. Note here the term “violence” is being used to mean “abuse.”
The very agent that was designed to bring healing and comfort — the church — must then re-examine its teachings, traditions, and practices that support the baser passions and drives for greed of power and control. The church can be, and should be the most reliable agent for healing and restoration. The church must be a loud voice against family violence.
Dr. James Alsdurf in his book “Battered Into Submission” states: “As long as the church is quiet in a world which resonates with the cries of abused women, it is failing in its ministry of reconciliation. It is simply functioning as a sounding brass, and a clanging cymbal. The church is called to bind up the bruises of women who have suffered not only from the violence of their spouses, but all from the passive violence of a church which has failed to recognize their situation and intervene on their behalf.”
Passive violence is the type of violence that has created pain in our families and which has divided them, weakening them to the core. There must be an unlearning and re-educating about family values and relationships.
Haki Madhubuti states: “There must be a liberation of the male psyche from preoccupation with domination, power hunger, control of patriarchal culture. This requires commitment to deep study, combined with a willingness for painful, uncomfortable, and often shocking change.”
Why has violence over the years burst the walls of our homes? Is it because the church has been reluctant to take sides? Or is it because it has taken sides with the perpetrator and not the victim? Telling her she must stay. Not believing that her “loving” husband could be doing those things she claims he is doing.
“If the problem of wife abuse is one of evil, the church can no longer avoid taking sides. A love which intends to be effective in terms of God’s kingdom cannot avoid taking sides,” says theologian Jose Bonino. In fact, the church will be in collusion with evil if it does not stand on the side of the victim. Only when it becomes an advocate for the oppressed can it fulfill its prophetic role. (Alsdurf)
I believe that the misuse of religion is the core reason for family violence today.
All Christendom agrees that greed for power and control began in heaven with Lucifer.
He began the first political campaign and persuaded one third of the angels to come on his side. He was then thrown out of heaven. He wanted to be like God. He wanted more power and control. He knew that the only way he could reach Adam and Eve would be to try and appeal to the idea of more knowledge and power, thus they would have greater control over their lives. And he was successful. We know the rest of the story. At the center of the reason for all the painful atrocities in the world today are two words — power and control. The greed for power and control is very contagious. It has revealed itself over the millenniums through slavery, racism, rape, intimate partner abuse, marital rape, incest, totalitarianism, fascism, communism, sexual abuse, patriarchy, matriarchy, etc. All of these atrocities or forms of abuse have two things in common — the use and misuse of power and control; someone or a group of people takes advantage of someone or a group of individuals they feel are weaker or less important than themselves.
This has developed over the millenniums the idea that women are not more than sexual property. No where in history you can find a school of thought or any institution developed to teach that men are sexual property or inferior to women. However, every effort has been made these past 6,000 years to teach us that women are to be servants and in reality, inferior to men. We must put an end to this. We must believe and teach that women have under the law and by design, equal voice, vote, authority, opportunity, access, and protection.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit: www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980.