Saturday, July 19, 2008

Understanding the Abuse of Victimhood While Showing Compassion to the Abused

Is there any way to measure the significance of the "ripple effect" of those things published on the internet? When Pastor Wade Burleson first posted an article on his blog about the SBC indirectly slapping my hands for associating their professors with the more extreme followers of patriarchy/patriocentricity (of which Botkin Syndrome is a peripheral tangent), I had no idea how far the ripples would flow across the surface of the internet. Bob Allen wrote an article on Ethics and then followed with another, noting my criticisms of Ware's teaching. And the ripples keep moving right along.

Then Dear Dr. Ware spoke in Denton, Texas, stating that women who do not submit properly to their husbands (a concept that could be interpreted thousands of ways) bear some culpability in their husbands actions if they are subjected to domestic violence. Ethics published several articles/ responses to this latest teaching. I expect Christian ministers to say that there is a ZERO TOLERANCE policy concerning spousal abuse, in our society but particularly within Christian marriages. Hurting one's spouse physically out of anger should never be tolerated, particularly in light of the popular Ephesians chapter 5. But Ware did something quite subtle but powerful here: he not only opened a door of tolerance for such behavior in Christian marriage but also for Biblical justification of that behavior.

More ripples ensue. Lyn Harris hosts a blog on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website and took note of Bruce Ware's statements in Denton. She noted me in a blog post in association with this issue and offered me an opportunity to post some blog pieces there as she explores the topic of Domestic Violence. The responses have been very encouraging overall, but someone who appears to have had a bitter divorce began to protest in response to this blog item. I mentioned a particular quote (one that appears somewhere on this blog) from Patricia Love, noting her book on the site. This individual offered his response to the title of Love's book:

Posted by Anti DV at 7/18/08 5:05 p.m.

Wow. Another "syndrome" enabling women to further their careers as "victims". What ever happened to taking control of your own life? I'm not saying that it's easy, but life isn't easy, nor is it fair to both men and women. The difference is that men do something about bad situations without making "victims" out of themselves and creating yet another syndrome where the courts and their appointed "professionals" all make their money and extract their blood under the guise of being "legal". Other options? Try getting yourself out of the situation through already provided resources.

This is a total crock.

If you are interested, you can read his other entries that speak of what sounds very much like a bitter divorce wherein he was not satisfied with the process or the outcome. I would like to post my response to him here, as it addresses many problems that people have with the terminology if not the topic in general. It echos the comment to which I responded in an earlier post HERE. I don't particularly like the terminology or the topic either.

My Response:

"Emotional Incest" is not anything "new" but a specific aspect of less than ideal families characterized by bad circumstances, secret keeping to maintain an outward appearance of perfection, very disproportionate balances of power requiring that family members suffer in an attempt to keep the system going in order to survive, etc. It is a core experience that results in a host of family problems including physical and/or sexual abuse (an outworking of emotional patterns), any addictions, eating disorders, cutting (self-injury), etc. I picked up this literature, posting excerpts from authors on this subject, because of the religious group that gleans from the writings of Bruce Ware and his associates.

I've been overwhelmed by the response from a group for grown children who were homeschooled under some of these beliefs, from those associated with an "underground railroad" of sorts who helps get young women out of these Christian homes (where girls in their 20s are not permitted to leave their homes, drive cars, etc.), and from a newer group of homeschooled girls where they are required to be the "helpmeets" of their fathers. They have no viable means of supporting themselves if they leave and are raised much like the FLDS women. They have been taught from the cradle that leaving these families will destroy them because they will be welcoming God's wrath against them and are eternally damned. They have little perspective or standard of comparison to challenge what they have been taught. If you have no personal knowledge of anything such as this, FANTASTIC! You've been blessed with a life that is free of these terrible experiences, but I don't believe that it gives you licence to dismiss those who have suffered these varying degrees of abuse.

I agree with you that there are abuses of the term "victim." Part of the problem rests with the courts that allow such things to be very wrongfully exploited. This is very much its own type of abuse and can be just as deplorable as the abuse raked upon the many women I've worked with, sitting with them in emergency rooms, courts and their otherwise idyllic appearing homes. Your experience bears significance and should not go unaddressed and unmentioned, but not at the expense of all those who have suffered legitimate physical and sexual abuse, let alone at the hands of their husbands or partners.

Both the example of domestic violence and the unjustified exploitation of "victimhood" is a gross miscarriage of justice, but I don't believe it is an either/or issue. Addressing the problem of Christian ministers remotely legitimizing spousal abuse, however remote his listeners may find his message, does not and should not in any way diminish you because of what you experienced.

May you find your own healing. I also hope that in so doing, you also come to realize that you are not so different from those whom you have targeted here, holding them responsible for injustices that have nothing to do with them. You have more in common with them than you realize. If you are speaking of yourself regarding someone "playing the victim" in court, then consider that you were as helpless in that courtroom and without any recourse as was the woman who I spoke with yesterday who was molested by her father and two brothers when she was 13 - 15 years of age. She was able to seek help outside of her home through the help of a Christian ministry called "New Life for Girls." I'm sorry that you were not able to find the resources that would help you at the time (provided that you are speaking of yourself). There are people who can help you if you are willing to look for them and find them. And I pray that you do. [Read the blog and additional responses HERE.]

As disturbing as this topic of spousal abuse proves, I am also bothered by something else here. Lyn Harris who afforded me the opportunity to write on her blog is not a believer. She actually professes to be a feminist. She studies and writes on this topic as well as on the subject of grief and loss (and she has a New Zealand travel blog as well, so please visit if you are interested). When she first contacted me she noted that she has Christian friends who have left their churches because of the effects of these extreme views about women.

It saddens me, almost as much as this topic, to realize that someone who is not a Christian and a feminist to boot has more compassion to offer abused women in Christian marriages than these "culture warriors" in the SBC. I never dreamed that I'd live to see such a day. How my heart breaks!