Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Some mistakes Christians have made

Posted by Hannah at 9:13 PM

Don't forget to click the title for the source of the information here - above.

1. We have fooled ourselves that domestic violence does not happen in good Christian homes - thus we have failed to hear and failed to believe.


My own experience is that when told of abuse by a man I know, I am inclined to disbelief: how can this be true? He is a Christian; I know him and have even ministered and prayed with him. This discomfort inclines me/us not to hear or believe a victim. This leaves both the victims and the perpetrators in some 'non land' -where their experience is somehow not real. Their struggles are not real. What was happening to them, either as victim or perpetrator, was so far off the Christian radar screen, that they were totally on their own, in a sort of terrifying 'non land.'

I am reminded that Jesus involved himself in the reality of life: including the 'unclean', 'the damaged', the 'messed up' and 'the sinning'. We are to draw alongside those within our flock who were struggling with hidden alcoholism, domestic violence, incest, etc.

Like Jesus, we must be prepared to see what is actually happening and to act on this reality, no matter how messy and seemingly unbelievable it may be. The doctrine of sin challenges our own discipleship and also the possibility of wrong in the other person; no matter how 'Christian' they may appear to be.



2. We have clutched at simplistic tools.

The discomfort and inadequacy we pastors feel when faced with this issue - our own discomfort, often rushes us into suggesting simplistic solutions to both victims and perpetrators. We often clutch at simplistic answers, because of our own discomfort. We can suggest solutions like 'forgiving others' or 'God can forgive you' as a way of trying to bring people's pain to an end: to jam the lid back on the box of suffering. Our forgiveness of others and God's forgiveness of us, are two huge life-changing tools that God has given us to enable us to live in a fallen messed up world - but they are too important to use as some lid to quickly remove a mess from view.

Sometimes we have looked after the victim but failed to adequately challenge the perpetrator. We may believe that because we have had 'a word with the offender', wrong behaviour will have stopped. We may even follow-up the victim, but she may have learned from the beatings that followed her last disclosure, not to tell the clergy, so she lies and says it has all stopped. As pastors we may feel self satisfied that we have solved a problem. But the only thing the victim has learned is that you don't speak up, or seek help. Our fault was that we overestimated the power and influence of our 'having a word with him'. Long-term violence is harder to shift than that.



3. The tools we have given perpetrators have often been inadequate.

If we have challenged the perpetrator, the tools we have given him may well have been inadequate. In practice we have assisted him or her to evade reality or the need to do the deep work of change. We have allowed him to weep about how sorry he is, and that he promises it will never happen again, and plead with us to pronounce God's forgiveness over his 'repentance'. We as pastors are utterly convinced that nothing is too hard for God to forgive, and that is true - but we have often short changed on what repentance needs to look like - and that has left women's and children's lives in danger.

What sort of repentance did Jesus evoke? Remember Zacchaeus. He is an example of Jesus' preparedness to deal with the reality of messed up lives. Zacchaeus met and responded to Jesus, and his repentance was more than 'weeping and saying how sorry he was, or promising never to do it again, or pleading with the victims to forgive him'. He stood in front of Jesus and the community he had wronged and gave half of his possessions to the poor and paid back to those he had defrauded four times as much as what he had wrongfully taken from them. (Luke 19:1-10)

Those who looked into the eyes of Jesus experienced themselves as 'fully known', yet 'called to come closer'. Being truly seen by Jesus took your breath away. Tragically, some responded by being angry or refusing to let go of their power and control or turning away sorrowfully. Others took up the invitation to follow Jesus. Zacchaeus was experiencing the love and acceptance of Jesus, who he sensed saw all his mess, and yet still called to him. Because of that Zacchaeus could face reality in all its awfulness, address the damage and take responsibility. And Jesus concludes, 'this day has salvation come to this house.'

An example of true repentance was outlined recently in The Mercury, page 31, Saturday 3 April 2004, entitled, 'Passion for confession', Houston:

A Texas man who had gotten away with murder confessed to police after seeing Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ and talking with a spiritual adviser. Dan R. Leach, 21, walked into a police station after viewing the film to confess to killing Ashley Nicole Wilson. A coroner had ruled Wilson's death in January by hanging was suicide.
'Something (the adviser) said, between that and the movie, he felt in order for him to have redemption he would have to confess his sin and do his time,' a police spokesman said. Leach faces up to life in prison.


This man's spiritual advisor addressed the hard issues. This is a fine example for us.

We have too often underestimated the grip wrong behaviours have in lives. How do we challenge perpetrators of violence to do more than just be sorry, but to face reality in all its awfulness, address what they have done, and tackle the hard work of change like Zacchaeus did? Those who engage in domestic violence are inclined to try to do all this with soft options like flowers and gifts and promises and pleadings for the victim to forgive them. But we need to direct them to where they can get help seeing reality, and using stronger methods of addressing the damage. We need to give them better and tougher tools that hold them accountable for the thousand small decisions, not just the final ones about hitting out in violence. If we don't address the deeper issues of power and control, the next time a perpetrator's buttons are pushed he will respond the same way as before. If we don't address the deeper issues of his past hell when he was serving in Vietnam, or her past hell when she was abused as a child, the next time his or her buttons are pushed, they will lash out again.

Working with perpetrators of abuse is a highly skilled area that generic counselling training does not provide. Centrecare has a program with people skilled in this area to which abusers can be referred. We must work with other professionals.

Another down side of handing out an easy forgiveness to a perpetrator is that after feeling bad for a few moments, they then feel that they have done their work. They have done all that is necessary: they have felt sorry. Now they believe the next move is up to the victim. Let me quote you a story about a Christian minister who regularly sexually abused his daughter before he was jailed. After confessing his crime with tears to a minister in prison, he then held very firmly to the belief that it was now his daughter's Christian duty to come to prison and pronounce that she forgave him. He sent her messages to that affect. By his five minutes of repentance, he believed he had done all the work required of him, and then he was firmly putting back all the responsibility for restoration, back on the victim. We have to be very careful as pastors not to collude in loading all the responsibility to change onto the victim.

There is a temptation for pastors to collude with offenders that their behaviour is nothing more than a matter of private morality. This is a temptation for pastors as we feel we have much to offer in the area of personal morality. Unfortunately, it is in the perpetrators interest to reduce his behaviour to 'just a matter' of private morality. If the church colludes in this sleight of hand, it can find itself, as it did in the matter of sexual abuse of children, ignoring the fact [a] that these matters are criminal behaviours; and [b] that they have very real long term consequences for the victims.

We must deal with perpetrators of domestic violence firmly, in truth, love and equipping them for true repentance.



4. The tools we have given victims have also often been simplistic.

We know the power that forgiving another has, so we can advocate forgiveness prematurely as a solution to a victim's problems. The Bible says forgive seventy times seven. But, does this mean a victim should stay in a relationship and be beaten up seventy times seven? Definitely not!

Let us try putting ourselves in a victim's shoes. Imagine you are a victim coming to the church; your body battered, and your self esteem battered, your boundaries breached time and time again; your sense of personal self and even reality is somewhat shaky; your sense of what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for has been sabotaged for years by a perpetrator who is an expert in power and control; you have been controlled and manipulated into blaming yourself for years - if when you finally come to the church, your spiritual advisor then says to you, 'The perpetrator has said sorry. Now your very first task and Christian duty is to forgive him.'!!

Tell me, is the very first issue this woman or child needs, a lesson in forgiving others? They have often lost a sense of self. An earlier step is to regain a sense of self-worth, and the corollary, that any offence against them matters enormously and is wrong. Usually a victim of abuse needs help in starting a long journey. This includes gaining the confidence to know she matters, and that therefore any offence against her matters, long before she needs to tackle the forgiveness question.

When it eventually does come time to deal with the forgiveness question, we can also make the mistake of implying that forgiveness only has one shape - that forgiveness always means automatic reinstatement. Thereby placing the perpetrator back in the same position from which they can still harm others. I believe it is quite possible to reach a place of forgiveness, while recognizing that it is not healthy to reinstate certain relationships


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4 comments:

Shattered Men on 11:00 AM said...

"My own experience is that when told of abuse by a man I know, I am inclined to disbelief: how can this be true?"


If this author finds this hard to believe, I wonder how hard it will be to realize that half the victims of domestic abuse are...MEN?

I agree that many churches do not want to address this issue but we need to remember that it is the hidden sin that causes the most damage.

I have personally written to many Christian ministries and have had a deaf ear turned to be because I have said that men are abused too. It seems that most churches have accepted the gender feminist myth that only women are abused and only men do the abusing. It would seem that since the majority of the references to gender in this article. this author also believes it.

One large church southwest of Chicago has a ministry to those who have been abused. It only applies to women. I have seen documentation from a man that sought help from this church for domestic violence that showed he was threatened with being arrested if he came on any of the church property again. I guess that will keep men from speaking out.

When I sent this church a letter asking about this, I was told that only one or two men a year sought help. I would not doubt this at all since the word would get out about how they treat male victims.

PrimeTime recently had a Basic Instinct segment in which they showed a man being battered by a woman. They started this segment with much more realistic statistics by saying over 800,000 men will be abused by a woman this year. This is far from the 5 to 10 percent we always hear about. I contend that even this figure is low as unbiased sources show it is equal.

http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2741047&page=1

If you read the ABC message board associated with this, you may notice that some abused men said they did not know why they did not reach the breaking point and lash back at their abuser. I do contend that this is when many women do get severely injured. It is when the man they are beating gets tired of being beaten and hits back.

The Violence Against Women Act offers no protecting for an abused man although we can see there are far more then we are told. There are no shelters for them to go to, no free services, no automatic charges pressed against their abusers. There is no equal protection given them that the United States Constitution is suppose to afford all of it’s citizens. I contend that unless we do look at both sides, more women will be harmed in the long run.

Do some research and see for yourselves. One place to start is RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) http://www.mediaradar.org

They have on their web site several special reports on domestic violence and how the Violence Against Women Act is destroying our homes and families and the need to assure that the problem of domestic violence is treated in a balanced and effective manner.

Pastor Kenneth Deemer
Director Shattered Men
Web site: http://www.shatterdmen.com
Interactive Group: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/shattterdmen/

h on 5:02 PM said...

Shattered Man – Thank you for responding! I can understand your frustration!

Since people and churches don’t acknowledge domestic abuse at all at times, and I can understand why you would think they would REALLY have a hard time dealing with it on the male side as well. The stereotypes out there for men are real for a lot of people, and when the media portrays a story (as you mentioned) about a woman their reactions are normally, “Well that is just an extreme case! Things like that don’t happen all that much!” If they can’t acknowledge it in any true form – I can only imagine how much harder it is to accept that this issue is NOT a gender one!

I can’t speak for the author, but I’m not sure I would agree with you stating he couldn’t accept this happening to men just because he didn’t mention them. I did read a lot of “perpetrators/victims” which don’t indicate to me the author would sway to one gender over the other. Could I be wrong? YES! I have found for the most part (Remember I did say MOST) that people that actually “get” domestic abuse can accept this happens to everyone! I’m not talking the person that has read a couple of articles in a magazine or seen a program on TV. It’s my personal opinion if they can’t – they don’t grasp the concept of domestic abuse in any real form! We hear stories of abused children (and that includes boys) by mothers – WHY would people think those mother’s don’t always abuse the men in their lives as well at times? Seems rather insane to me if they can’t grasp that! The only reason I use that example is because you hear about it in the media! I do see more and more people that write on this subject at least start to touch on this not being a gender issue. Its abuse issue! The actual numbers will come out in time, but acknowledgement must come first! From what I have read it seemed to happen that way when people started to protest about this happening to women. The numbers came later.

We can both I’m sure come up with horror stories about how churches handle this issue. Its just plain SICK! Their grasp on this subject – it seems to me – is less than the secular world I hate to say. Remember the roles the church tends to push a bit to push in a twisted form, and I’m sure that is part of issue why they can’t accept this happening to men. Remember KINGS of the castles don’t get beat up by ‘weaker vessels”. STEREOTYPES!

I read the article you linked to, and I will admit I didn’t get to the message board. I remember seeing a similar scene with actors when the man was bullying the woman, and people just walked on by also. I’m sure in more cases due to stereotypes the woman would be helped more often. Responses towards either gender aren’t what it should be, and that is SAD! I’m not sure if it is fear, I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to get HIT either! For myself I think I would have called 911 instead of approaching her out of fear of my own safety. I think a lot of states are changing their domestic abuse laws to not sway towards just one gender. There was a TV program (I can’t remember the name right now) that stated when states did change their laws regarding gender there was indeed quite a few woman now going to jail for domestic abuse now also. I hope it’s a manner of time in which they all change it. Maybe if they mentioned (in the states that haven’t change the law regarding gender) why basic assault charges aren’t being pressed against the woman attacking, and how that isn’t as effective because of the dynamics of the thing could help. I don’t know to be honest! All I know is a lot of the dynamics are the same for either gender, and it shouldn’t be a gender issue!

The injustice towards most on this subject is sorely overlooked! The ignorance just blows me away! The minimizing and the downplaying shows the denial people wish to live in, and until that changes I doubt laws for either gender, shelters for everyone, etc will some into play. The world has their head in the ground on this subject. They know what domestic abuse is, but they truly don’t see the destruction in any true form that is leaves behind.

Shattered Men on 9:40 PM said...

H,

Thanks for your reply.

I realize we can not know 100% how the author feels about men being abused, but from dozens of contacts with dozens of "Christian" ministries, If I were a betting man, I would place money on it being fully one sided.

I did want to make a comment on the original entry regarding "We know the power that forgiving another has, so we can advocate forgiveness prematurely as a solution to a victim's problems"

Forgiveness does not let the person being forgiven off the hook for wrongdoing. God has still declared that we will reap what we sow. Forgiveness helps the one that was abused more then the one forgiven. If we do not forgive, the abuser is still in control...control that we give to he or she ourselves.

It may be interesting to know that although I am very involved with this ministry, my own son was assaulted by his daughter’s mother. She threw a heavy glass at him and then assaulted him with a broom. Of course, this was not the first time abuse occurred. It was the first time it became physical. My son called the police and showed the bruise on his shoulder. She was not arrested. I have had several police officers admit that if he had been the abuser, he would have been arrested, as the state would automatically press charges.

Many state attorney generals will not prosecute women for domestic violence. Several of us have this straight from some of their offices. Given this, is it any wonder that we do not see the real situation in domestic abuse?

I have seldom seen any conflict between two adults where BOTH have not added to the conflict, yet how often do we blame only ONE side?

I ask each one to think for a moment…. if you are blamed for something that is not your fault how do you react? Do you not tend to become angry? We do not need to always place the blame, we need to find solutions…and the best way to do this…is to look at BOTH SIDES!

h on 10:35 AM said...

“””I did want to make a comment on the original entry regarding "We know the power that forgiving another has, so we can advocate forgiveness prematurely as a solution to a victim's problems" Forgiveness does not let the person being forgiven off the hook for wrongdoing. God has still declared that we will reap what we sow. Forgiveness helps the one that was abused more then the one forgiven. If we do not forgive, the abuser is still in control...control that we give to he or she ourselves.”””

I do agree with what you are saying about forgiveness. I think the author was speaking of how the church tends to advocate forgiveness for the wrong reasons. “He/She said they were sorry, and it is your Christian duty now to forgive so you two can go on!” There must be something WRONG with the victim if they can’t forgive on command like we say they should! They use this line of comments to push for the reconciliation right away, and they can sweep this off their plate for now! Its one of the symptoms I like to call part of the “holy hush”!

I do agree we need to look at both sides. Abusers as you know do tend to be a little twisted in their mindset towards things. YES there are good ways and bad ways of engaging in their nonsense at times, but unless both seek help in different forms the cycle will keep turning! I don’t think most people understand the entitled mindset of an abusive person, and the real reality of their true insecurities – and that includes victims! It seems at times their ignorance makes the whole situation worse! No one is perfect and we can all be downright ugly at times! With abusive personalities I find that resolution most of the time is not an option, and instead of disengaging we push for resolution with this person and we never realize they are truly incapable giving that! That makes things WORSE! Yet there is no easy way of disengaging either!

Abusers and victims need different kinds of help, but unless they see it, want it, and are willing to work on the issues separately – the cycle may continue in their lives. I realized for myself that I had issues that caused me to go down this road, but as I have started to heal and grow. God changed me into a person that is much better than I used to be! I see where I went, and I understand WHY it happened for the most part. It isn’t easy, but it’s needed. I couldn’t have got here if I spent the whole time blaming someone else! LOL It would have been easier I guess, but my growth wouldn’t have been there! I see my part in this equation, and I have accepted it. For a while I felt awful about it, but I had to realize I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. My growth is far from finished, but I’m a heck of lot better off now than I was!

This article reminded me of the simplistic ways people attempt to cure things! FIX THEM! Make them go away! It would be nice if it worked that way, but it doesn’t! I have to admit some of the items I can say for myself I would have agreed with sometime ago! I was also very ignorant of this subject! This subject – and it doesn’t matter what gender it is – is very ugly and uncomfortable! There are no easy answers, and there are no pat solutions. You just can’t place things in a nice neat little box, as the church tends to want you to believe! I don’t think they do it to be mean – they are just uneducated. I think the word is starting to get out how this also happens to men, and just like there are people that say it can’t happen at all – there will always be people that reject the notion of this with men. It’s frustrating, but I’m not going to concentrate on them! I want to seek people that are willing to listen, and maybe they can pass the information on. Maybe they can reach the people I can’t! There will always be those that will never accept, but I THANK GOD for the ones that do! Hopefully enough of us will educate people, and things will be better for victims now and in the future. Education at this point is the only weapon we have, and with God’s help EARS to listen!

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