Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Are you in an abusive relationship and at times it seems there is no way out? Are you being made to feel guilty by family members, friends or spiritual leaders when you try to leave and they tell you that it is your duty and spiritual responsibility to stay?
Far too many women, and even some men, are being held hostage in abusive relationships. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic when the emotional stress and fatigue are at a national high, many are in a double whammy. Some who need to escape the abuse are being hit with religious fanaticism on two sides – first, they are being told that if they take the vaccine it will be a lack of faith in God; second, they are being told that if they leave their abusive partners, they will be breaking their sacred marital vow and evading their divine responsibility. What a dangerous entrapment!
Why are so many people giving such a bad name to the church and Christianity? This is not what a loving God and Christianity is all about. There are many people who have suffered far too long. They need to break free. Domestic violence, and now religious fanaticism, have become the death knell to sensible living for many. In a previous article, I wrote: “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.”
One of the big problems creating this mess is the way we are teaching our boys and men. Again, utilizing sacred scripture, many leaders are teaching our males that being in charge of someone, in particular, women, is their divine calling. Hence, there is an emphasis on male leadership over women and very little on male leadership with women. One of my favorite quotes is by Haki Madhubuti, an educator and co-founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept Development Center, USA. He states: “There must be a liberation of the male psyche from preoccupation with domination, power hunger, control of patriarchal culture. This requires a commitment to deep study, combined with a willingness for painful, uncomfortable, and often shocking change.”
It is my view, that if we do not start this change of our views and practices, we will continue to have more domestic violence. We will continue to keep women entrapped in their state of religious fanaticism and cause many unnecessary deaths due to COVID-19. We will even impede emotional and psychological well-being due to the requirement of abused women to adhere to foolish and false religious practices. We must stop making a mockery of faith, religion, and God.
If you are in an abusive relationship in your home or church, I encourage you to break free. Seek help. Call a professional to guide you through the steps of recovery. I want to remind you that you are not alone.
There are some people who are reading this who are suffering in silence. No one knows their pain, neither how they are being cornered in the dark rooms of control, psychological and spiritual abuse. They want to break free but do not know how to. Some do leave but are literally hunted down and forced to return. What makes it even more difficult is that many of the abusers are well-liked, kind to others, and are gentle giants in public. No one believes their stories of abuse by such “wonderful” people. Many church people’s responses to the complaining victim would be statements such as, “He is not that bad; he is so nice to everyone”, “You are not telling the truth”; “What are you doing to make your husband do that to you”; “You need to be there for him, so stop thinking that way”; “He is a respected leader in the church so do not do anything to damage that.”
There are some men, even male spiritual leaders, who demand sex from their partners. They threaten them with scripture texts and physically force themselves on them. One hurting wife once told me in tears, that when her husband was through raping her, she had to call a friend to rush to the hospital for help. Another told me that her husband would pick the locked bathroom door while she was in the bathroom and himself upon her.
Many women in these very painful relationships are ashamed to seek help or to tell their stories to others. Dear readers, it is time to break the silence. It is time we speak out against all forms of abuse and spiritual fanaticism. They are cancerous wounds that are metastasizing too rapidly in our society.
I appeal to church leaders to examine their own views and teaching that are doing more damage than good to people. Dr. James Alsdurf and Phyllis Alsdurf in their book “Battered Into Submission” write: “If the problem of wife abuse is one of evil, the church can no longer avoid taking sides.”
Theologian Jose Bonino says “A love which intends to be effective in terms of God’s kingdom cannot avoid taking sides. 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.”
Let’s start believing abused people. Far too many are literally trapped into painfully dangerous relationships. They need your help.
• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com, call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.