Why is Loving You Hurting Me?, by Frederick D. Haynes III is a very touching article about domestic violence in the church. He speaks very clearly about the silent on this issues, and the suffering of those that we pretend are not there.
Well, let me see if I can make this plain by focusing the lens even more. There is no sadder story than the one of Tamar, found in the thirteenth chapter of second Samuel. Tamar is the daughter of King David, and Tamar happens to be extremely beautiful, yet, Tamar soon discovered that the beauty she had going for her ended up being used against her. I think I'll park here, parenthetically, because for some of you, what you have going for you has been sadly used against you. Perhaps it's the way God has blessed you to look; perhaps it's the education you have been blessed to achieve; but whatever the case, it is some gift that God has blessed you with, that sadly, has turned out to be something that haters and others are using against you. This happens to Tamar. The Book says that she is exceedingly beautiful and yet, her beauty gets her in trouble. Why? Because she has a half-brother, by the name of Amnon, and Amnon begins to lust after her. Amnon is so crazy with lust for Tamar that the Bible says: he became sick because of his love for her. Amnon is a sick man because Amnon wants to have his own sister. Sick people do sick things that will infect and affect others who are around them.
You may know what it's like to be sick and you may be doing things that are making you sick. Not only are you making yourself sick, but your "sickness" is infecting and affecting others that you supposedly care about. Not only is Amnon sick, but to heal this sickness, he consults with his street smart cousin, who tells him how to get with his own sister. He lets his father, David, know that he is sick, and he wants his sister, David's daughter, to come and feed him out of her hand. The Bible says that David allows Tamar to go to her sick brother, and when she got there Amnon made her cook the food that he desired. As soon as the food was ready, the Bible says that Amnon had everybody put out; he then went into his bedroom and called in Tamar. Tamar innocently went into the room of Amnon and he raped her.
Can you not hear the helpless screams of Tamar as she says, please don't do this? This is a terrible thing to do. But being physically stronger than Tamar, Amnon because of his sickness, takes advantage of Tamar. Imagine how Tamar must have felt. She must have felt something similar to what Ludacris articulates in the song, "Runaway Love," about poor little Lisa:
Forced to think that hell is a place called home.
For some of you, the one thing you don't want to do is go home. As a matter of fact, for some people the one place they look forward to not going to is home. Some of you spend as much time away from home as you can because of the hell you are catching at home. Why? Because I've discovered that hell is not merely an eschatological destination that you will go to after you die if you are without Christ; hell can be an existential situation that you find yourself in, even if you love Christ. In other words, hell can come to you right where you live. That is what happened to Tamar. Tamar is a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault. I'm dealing with this because sadly and shamefully, domestic violence has become the pink elephant in the living room of the African-American community. Some of us go to church, Sunday after Sunday, not realizing that there are people in our pews, sitting there, silently suffering. Yes, they are praising God, but they are internally shattered and broken by the hell they are catching at home.
Cheesehead in Paradise speaks of a roommate she had in college that she didn't recognize right away as a victim of domestic violence. She speaks of how her roommate changed over time. She speaks of the controlling nature of the abuse, and at times the phony type of love that others offer victims when they ask for help.
And in every story in the Bible where Jesus encounters those who have been victimized by power, Jesus always answers with grace, with love. Not the kind of phony “love” that must beat a person to keep them down, but a love that builds up. Christ always invites a love and a relationship that is about trading places. Christ invites us not to become or create victims, but to lower ourselves willingly to serve another, just as they are serving us. Christ will indeed be martyred, but he recognizes that our call is not to be subservient to our fellow humans to the point of our own demise or victimization, but instead to live in service to others in relationships of mutuality. The power of Christ in the world, and the truth of the gospel are a great equalizer: we succeed together, we fail together. We are faithful together and we falter together.
If I had known then what I know now about abuse and violence and power, I would have probably tried much harder to get my friend away from her boyfriend. But I didn’t. In fact, they got married one week after Blue Eyes and I did, and I lost track of them completely. I do not know if there was ever a transformative moment in their lives, whether he was able to get the help he needed to realize how his own sense of extremely low self-worth, and his endless quest for power in the absence of self-esteem was destroying others around him. I don’t know if she ever fully understood that she was beautiful, strong and beloved as a daughter of God. I don’t even know if she is still alive, honestly. Many women and men who find themselves in those unbalanced relationships do not survive. They fall victim to a love that wounds, that destroys, and overpowers and minimizes. In other words, a love that is not real.
The love for each other to which we are called by Christ—the love which he modeled for us in his living and in his dying and in his resurrection—is a love that asks us to be willing to trade places with others, it asks us to be brave in the face of adversity, and to lean unto Christ when we cannot be brave. It affirms that we are created good and strong and beautiful and that we are beloved of our creator. It requires that we remember who we are and Whose we are, so that we never misuse power against others. It behooves us to deal gently with those who are victims and to trade fear for justice in the lives of those who victimize. It challenges, it builds up, it accepts the love of another, it transforms. And it never hurts. Thanks be to God. Amen.
A Different Kind of Christian had Advent sermon about domestic violence.
He uses the term, 'levanten la cabeza' which I looked up and mentioned it meant 'lift his head'
Levanten la cabeza. When facing the worst of life, up unto the end of the world, levanten la cabeza. Christians are to be characterized by an attitude of hope, active hope. Levanten la cabeza.
This commandment is important for us today, because many of us already know what it is to live in a destroyed world. For many in our society, in our family, the world has already come to an end. Their world has been torn down by poverty, by racism, by sexism, by depression, by disease. So many in our society live in a destroyed world. This command has deep meaning for those facing a world destroyed: levanten la cabeza.
When we encounter systems that seek to destroy our humanity, or the humanity of our neighbor, levantando la cabeza, lifting up our heads, is a radical action. Levantando la cabeza means confronting the systems that sinfully seek to deny our identidad, identity, as beloved children of God. Levantando la cabeza means standing up for our rights, and the rights of others. Levantando la cabeza means hoping actively through seeking justice, through pursuing education, through organizing. Levantando la cabeza means claiming our social identity as God’s beloved community, and enacting the justice and love that characterizes that community.
The commandment has social implications, and also personal implications. We have a responsibility to allow the command to levantar la cabeza to transform the way we live our personal lives, our family lives. When we find ourselves in places of depression, of unemployment, of sickness, Jesus commands us to levantar las cabezas, to live into our identity as children of God, beloved creatures.
Whatever attitude or person desiring to negate our identity as beloved daughters and sons, querida/os hija/os de Dios, is sinful. There are few people I have more respect for in life than my friends who have stood up, who have levantado la cabeza in the face of domestic violence. They have claimed their identity as children of God. They have said, you cannot treat me this way for I am a beloved child of God. I am inspired by their courage. I believe this is the kind of action Jesus commands when he says, “levanten la cabeza.”
Today we begin the church season we call Advent. We begin what we call “a season of expectation.” What Jesus’ command, to levantar la cabeza, says to us is that as we wait, we hope. Esperamos con esperanza. We have a commandment that guides our attitude about expectation.
We lift up our heads, because we already know the end of the story. I don’t mean I know the end of the story specifically. I wish I was one of those preachers who could prophesy the end of the world for you. I wish I could point out exactly who was the antichrist, and give you the hour and time of the second coming. I could make a lot more money that way, like the writers of the Left Behind series have. I could sell images of the last things. People love talking about the end times.
Must Christian Wives Submit to Domestic Violence? By Patricia Backora
Some misguided Christian ministers advise, or even COMMAND abused wives to stay with their husbands, even if they or their children are in danger. Did Jesus set the example for this?
EEENO's World had a nice article about Thanksgiving. How one of her relatives volunteers at a domestic violence shelter, and how she had also thought about doing just this.
For the record, I have no idea why this type of abuse brings up such strong feelings within me--I didn't witness it growing up, and am not a victim myself. I saw a video on domestic abuse in my college "Women's Studies" course, and it absolutely chilled me to the core. That feeling has haunted me ever since. Such a feeling of utter helplessness. Horrifying. It's a vicious cycle---children who have witnessed domestic violence most likely will either choose a partner who is abusive, or will become abusers themselves. And so it continues....
I once heard a pastor say that everyone has a calling (obviously), but if there's an injustice that you just can't STAND, then there's a reason, and you have an obligation to take a stand to fix it. Makes sense to me---people are naturally more effective and successful in areas that they're passionate about. So, I've got some work to do.
Back to Thanksgiving. The woman at the party was telling me how one of the kids she'd worked with sent her a card with that famous starfish story about how although throwing one shore-stranded starfish back into the sea may just seem like a drop in the bucket, to that one starfish it means everything! The girl wrote that she "was that one starfish".
As I was sitting there sipping my coffee in a warm home, surrounded by happy people, children's laughter, pets, and a 2-table dinner spread, it suddenly hit me: We have SO MUCH to be thankful for in this country. Now, I know this. I KNOW. We hear it constantly. At Thanksgiving we're supposed to think about all of the things we're thankful for, blah blah blah, and I do. But this year, sitting there in the warm house, thinking about how some people have to walk for two DAYS just to fill a rusted pail with muddy water (that will eventually make their waiting family ill), how some children spend their lives scavenging through garbage dumps and will never have the simple luxury of squishing a playdough shark, how many people in the world would have DIED from the sinus infection I was getting over (when all that was needed to clear it was a $12 co-pay on some easily accessible antibiotics that I didn't even have to get out of the CAR to obtain--thank you drive-thru pharmacy), the true meaning of Thanksgiving hit me. THANKS.
To those who have been given much, much is expected.
I hope you enjoyed my list of 5 articles that I found regarding domestic violence and the church.
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