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Why do Christian Husbands Abuse Their Wives?- Part One
Question: Dear Sir, my husband is a leader in a popular church in the Bahamas. We have been married for more than fifteen years and for the past five years he has become very abusive. He was first emotionally abusive, then physically abusive after he was chosen to serve in an outstanding church position. The church members do not believe that he is abusive because he is so "nice" and popular. The members often make me feel that I am the problem. Why do Christian men abuse their wives? Need help.
Answer: Dear Friend, Christian men physically and emotional abuse their wives because of several reasons. The first reason is that they can. Yes, generally men are taught that it is all right to be rough and mean, including those men who are spiritual leaders. Society has allowed men to be abusive to their wives and families. When we hear of a man abusing his wife, often the question is asked of the women "what did you do to make him get so mad?" Or "You need to be more understanding of your husband." Even when a woman is being physically or emotional abusive toward her husband/partner she is made to believe that she is in the wrong and not her husband. Women are to be quiet, soft, sweet, gentle, passive. Men are indirectly and directly encouraged by their mothers and fathers to always be in charge and in control of situations. Bahamian wives are taught to brush aside any aggressive behavior of their husbands, and accept it as normal. This behavior usually grows into patterns of physical and/or emotional abuse. In other words, we excuse the loud, boisterous, cold behavior of men. We support the idea the men must have an outlet for their energy. In fact, women are often told to "feed their husband’s egos." Usually, it is in essence adding fuel to the fire. The egos of men are often fed so well by ignorant, submissive wives, that their husbands have become overweight, angry, savage beasts. Men who are overweight with an inflated ego, greedy for power and control. It is now time that wives put their husband ego on a diet, a diet of humility and compassion. Unfortunately, I have discovered through my counseling experience and research, generally Christian men become more abusive, aggressive, and greedy for power after they claim to have had a "spiritual renewal" or a "re-commitment" to Jesus.
This leads me to another key reason Christian men are abusing their wives. For many men Christianity seem to encourage abuse against women and children. Wife abuse. The Christian home. Two terms that should be mutually exclusive. Tragically, however, they are not. Why? No single denomination is immune from this painful scourge. Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Presbyterians, Church of God, Methodists, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventists, Charismatic, Conservatives, and Liberals, all have suffered and will continue to suffer from this dilemma of family abuse we call domestic violence. Wife abuse doesn’t occur just in families in which husbands are unsaved or alcoholics, where mothers work outside the home or couples are only nominally Christians. Many abused women are married to church leaders, deacons, or pastors. For years in the Bahamas we have heard many stories about men and Christian leaders hurting their family members. Uncles are raping nieces, father are molesting daughters, husbands are beating wives. We are together to blame to for the ongoing onslaught of these behaviors because we have refused to deal with them. We have often covered them up to avoid "embarrassment and shame" or to save the "reputation of the man." Meanwhile, we are losing the reputation of our churches, local communities, and country. Shame. Shame.
What, in these Christian homes, was conducive to abuse? Outstanding researchers Christy Telch and Coral Linquist give an important clue. "They learned that violent couples "have more stereotyped sex-role attitudes and more traditional views of marriage." They stated that "when a very legalistic, highly traditional world view is adopted by men who have ‘exaggerated needs for dominance vis-á-vis their wives, poor verbal skills to enable them establish such dominance, poor access to their emotions, exaggerated anxiety about relationship issues,’ and difficulty with intimacy, such factors can provide fertile ground for the emergence of violent behavior. In other words, Telch and Linquist support my own findings that men who believe in strong traditional families values are more abusive to their partners and family members. This behavior is fortified by preaching that accepts all sorts of cultural assumptions about what "headship" means. There is a use of scriptures as ammunition for their misuse power. In those circles where wives are taught to submit blindly to their husbands’ every deed and word, where ministers peach strongly against divorce without consideration for the circumstances involved, and where dominance by the husband is seen as his "divine right" and responsibility, the sin of wife abuse can exist unchecked, say James and Phyllis Alsdurf in their book Battered in Submission.
I have worked with Christian leaders, pastors, and lay persons from many denominations and the stories and excruciating. John, an adult son of a deceased Christian pastor, with tears, told his painful story at a prayer support group I conducted. His father was an outstanding, well-respected minister and church administrator for about 45 years. However, he habitually sexually molested all of his children, including the son, and physically and emotionally abused his wife. John indicated that no one knew about their pain, it was a family secreted. They were constantly threatened to keep it a secret. His father was protected by the church and he had two personalities: warm and affectionate in public, and cruel and mean in the home. I have discovered that the reason we do not hear about abuse conducted by whom I believe are who most abusive individuals in society (church leaders, pastors, business executives, police officers) because these persons are in position to cover it up and we help them do it. If you could look inside of all homes in the Bahamas today, I am sure you will find that those suffering from the most abuse are those professed to be Christian homes.
Wake up Bahamas, wake up men. Let us cry out against the abuse. Let us stop covering up. Victims who are Christians often stay in abusive relationships because Scriptures, that are quoted and interpreted from the pulpit, seemingly give them no other option.
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Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your personal use, friends, seminar, or meeting handout. You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary. Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-323 8772. Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved. Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist. P.O. Box N-896, Nassau, Bahamas. This Web page last modified: May 02, 2005 . firstname.lastname@example.org
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