Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 5:55 PM

Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 1 of 9 Press-Enterprise(Riverside, CA) March 6, 2005, Sunday Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse By Bettye Wells Miller; The Press-Enterprise

Although domestic violence is no stranger to those who gather in churches, mosques and
synagogues, it is a subject seldom broached by clergy or lay leaders.

That is beginning to change.

Most mainline Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church have adopted policies in the
last decade that advise clergy how to respond to parishioners seeking help. Some evangelical
Christians and Jewish and Muslim women’s groups are organizing conferences and training

Two years ago, the California Department of Health Services awarded California State
University Channel Islands $ 596,500 for a Faith Leaders and Domestic Violence Project to
educate religious leaders.

Since 2001, Alternatives to Domestic Violence, which is based in Riverside, has held three
conferences for clergy and lay leaders. The Redlands-based Cops & Clergy Network will focus
on the issue at a Faith and Justice Summit next year.

California Baptist University, a Southern Baptist college in Riverside, has offered domestic
violence workshops for graduate marital and family counseling students for five years. It may
open them to the general public this year.

“Like others in our culture, people of faith are coming to terms with the statistics on violence in
the family setting,” said Nancy Nason-Clark, a sociology professor at the University of
New Brunswick and author of “The Battered Wife: How Christians Confront Family Violence.”

“Walking with women who have experienced violence on the road to recovery is a central role
for faith communities and also, keeping men accountable for their behavior in the family
setting,” Nason-Clark said in an e-mail.

The experiences of abused women vary considerably.
Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 2 of 9 Nancy, a San Bernardino teacher now legally separated from her husband, has found emotional
support from the pastor and congregation of the mission church she attends in Moreno Valley, as
well as an offer of groceries, as needed. However, elders at the parent church in Los Angeles
County told her she should not have left her husband, she said by phone.

Nancy, who asked that her last name not be used because she fears for her safety, said she left
her husband of three years in January because of mental and emotional abuse.

“My husband doesn’t get physical,” she said by phone. “There’s coercion. I have to get
permission to get a haircut. . . . My church doesn’t see this as abuse. It’s being a bad husband,
but it isn’t abuse. . . . I’m scared.”

Church leaders need to understand that mental and emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse,
she said.

“If they don’t deal with it when it’s a little problem it will become a bigger problem,” Nancy
said. “They’re ignoring sin and letting it continue. . . . Part of Christianity is the love you’re
supposed to have. Perfect love casts out fear. You should not have fear in a marriage

When Anita Silvestri could no longer ignore the violence in her marriage three years ago, she
sought help from her Riverside church.

“I didn’t know where to turn,” she said. “I had never told anyone in my family or my friends.”

Members of Calvary Presbyterian Church supported her and her husband.

That experience prompted the Riverside artist to start a domestic violence support group at
Calvary Presbyterian-an effort that her church encouraged and supports financially.

The Rev. Bonnie Orth, of Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network, said some clergy
ask the same question posed by the secular world: “Why does she stay?” The question, she said,
should be, “Why does he batter?”

Domestic violence – from spousal abuse, dating violence, sexual assault and elder abuse – occurs
in faith groups at about the same rate as it does in the general population, experts say.

It is an uncomfortable topic for many. People of faith are no different, say clergy, domestic
violence counselors and congregation members.

“People feel embarrassed or are ashamed,” Silvestri said. “It’s really sad since it can happen to
anybody, from all classes, all education levels, all races.”

Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 3 of 9 BARRIERS AND BELIEFS

One of every three or four women will be physically or sexually abused by a husband, boyfriend
or other relative, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. About 90 percent of domestic
violence victims are women; 10 percent are men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice

Ken Pearce, associate professor of psychology at Cal Baptist, said as many as 20 percent of men
may be abused, based on his experience as a family therapist in Oklahoma.

“There’s not as much violence” by women against men, he said by phone. “It’s more mental or
abuse with words. Men get more explosive; women are not as likely to take weapons or beat up
on partners.”

Misty Jardine, program coordinator for the Yucaipa Outreach office of San Bernardino Sexual
Assault Services, said half of the women in her domestic violence support groups are church-

“There are churches that are supportive of the victim seeking counseling,” she said by phone.
“There are others who don’t condone leaving a spouse because of domestic violence. I have
several clients now who are dealing with that.”

Orth said some clergy don’t understand how dangerous domestic violence can be and routinely
send women home to their abusers.

“They believe the marriage covenant shouldn’t be broken,” she said. “We firmly believe that
domestic violence breaks the marriage covenant.”

Restoring that covenant should not be the first priority in an abusive relationship, said Pearce,
who pastored an independent Baptist church in Oklahoma City before joining the Cal Baptist

“There has to be safety for the woman and accountability for the abuser,” he said. “After that,
maybe there is the possibility of restoration of the relationship.”

Pastors who counsel victims to return to abusive spouses underestimate the danger, Pearce said.

“They’re trying to restore (the marriage) without any accountability and that’s the wrong order,”
he said. “I’m all for restoration, after safety and accountability. . . . I’ve always suggested legal
separation first.”

Faith leaders often feel caught between the rhetoric of their particular group and the reality of
families in crisis, Nason-Clark said.

“Groups that hold very high ideals for the family are sometimes reluctant to speak out when
abuse occurs and other times they are at a loss as to what to do,” she said. Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 4 of 9
Yasmin Attar, coordinator of the Faith Leaders and Domestic Violence Project, said workshops
conducted in San Bernardino County and elsewhere in the last year addressed why domestic
violence is hard for faith groups to talk about. Another workshop is planned in Riverside County
this spring, she said.


“The barriers they face often are breaking through the silence and the shame, self-blame, the use
or misuse of scriptures to perpetuate the problem, denial, lack of information or blaming the
victim,” Attar said by phone.

Clergy are required by law to report abuse of children, seniors and disabled dependents, but not
spouses, she said.

The Rev. Woody Hall, senior pastor of Lutheran Church of Our Savior in San Bernardino, and
others said they try to be alert to the possibility of abuse in their congregations.

“I’m always watchful for things I can’t account for,” Hall said.

Faith can be a powerful source of strength and comfort to people in abusive relationships, or a
negative influence, he said.

“The good news is that if a person is part of a community of faith, that can be a support system
for them when they’re hurting,” he said.

Faith leaders need to learn the signs of abuse, acknowledge the danger, and offer physical,
emotional and spiritual help, Jardine said.

“I have had several clients where their church helped them for months to get back on their feet,”
she said. “Often the victim doesn’t have money. Emotional support, meeting with their pastors,
groups in the church supporting them” are critical to healing and recovery, she said.

The Calvary Presbyterian effort is unusual, said Jardine of San Bernardino Sexual Assault

“That’s a huge, amazing step for a church to take,” she said. “They’re letting members know it
won’t be tolerated.”


The religious teachings of Judaism, Christianity or Islam do not justify spousal abuse, although
some men contend that certain texts condone abusive treatment of wives, clergy and women’s
advocates said.
Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 5 of 9 “All religious texts may be used inappropriately to overpower another human being,” said
Kausar Ahmad, a Temecula consultant who has done domestic violence training for South Asian
and Middle Eastern Muslim communities since 1991. “Violence of any sort is unacceptable and
it is not appropriate to use any religious document to justify it.”

Spousal abuse “totally violates Islamic principles,” said Laila Al-Marayati, a Los Angeles
obstetrician and spokeswoman for the Muslim Women’s League. “I do feel there has been
progress, especially among the male leadership talking about it. Ten to 15 years ago people were
in denial.”

Muslim women face considerable pressure to keep the family together, Ahmad and Al-Marayati
said. For many, immigrant status as well as language and cultural barriers can make it difficult
to seek help.

Jewish women are commanded during wedding ceremonies to maintain “shalom bayit,”
domestic tranquility. That commandment sometimes becomes a prison, Rabbi Harold Caminker
of Temple Beth El in Riverside said by phone.

The couple also declares that “God is within that relationship. Therefore if you cause harm to
your beloved . . . you’re also wronging God,” he said.

Domestic violence is “harder for Jews to talk about because for so long it was not considered a
Jewish problem,” Caminker said. “The Jewish home was thought to be a refuge. In the modern
era people are speaking out. We never acknowledged that it did exist. We have to make amends
for our silence because silence kills and we all know it.”

Spousal abuse is a sin, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Roman Catholic
Diocese of San Bernardino.

“God created us and he gave personal dignity equally to men and women,” he said by phone.
“We never advocate a woman staying in an abuse situation. We cannot advocate divorce, but
under such a situation we would advocate a separation. . . . We hope the marriage can continue in
the future.”

Lincoln said his seminary training included instruction on spotting signs of abuse, even when
victims try to hide their injuries.

“It may be necessary that the authorities be called to get the abusing spouse into appropriate
treatment,” he said. The diocese refers couples to Catholic Charities for help, he said.

Some Christian men who abuse their wives justify the violence by misusing the Apostle Paul’s
teachings about submission, said Pastor Felix Jones III of All People Unity Baptist Church in

The Bible does not say that women are to be subservient, Hall said. “That can be destructive to
personhood,” he said. Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 6 of 9
“Scripture says the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church,” Jones said by phone.
“Christ died for the church and submitted himself to that. Loving your wife is not violent.
Scripture also teaches that until we have healed and reconciled with our wives, a husband cannot
have reconciliation and communion with the Father.”

Submission must be understood within the context of love, respect and accountability, Pearce

“Submission is not being run over by a Mack truck,” he said. “We all have to submit to one
another. We also have to be accountable to one another. There has to be a loving and accountable

* * *


Inter religious educational organization that addresses sexual and domestic violence, and
provides training and printed resources. (206) 634-1903

Resource center for information on domestic violence in the Jewish community. Sponsoring an
International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community on March 20-23 in
Washington, D.C.
(800) 343-2823 or (202) 857-1300

A project of the World Evangelical Alliance Commission on Women’s Concerns. The task force
encourages evangelical churches to educate themselves about domestic violence, make houses of
worship safe places for women to disclose abuse, and ensure an appropriate response to abuse.
(661) 746-4748

Provides training for clergy and encourages partnerships between churches and domestic
violence prevention agencies.
(770) 909-0715

A nonprofit Muslim American organization working to implement the values of Islam and
emphasize the status of women as free, equal and vital contributors to society.
(626) 358-0335 Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 7 of 9 * * *




24-HOUR HOTLINE (323) 761-8816

(877) 366-1818 TOLL FREE

NARIKA: 800-215-7308. Addresses domestic violence in the South Asian community.






SHELTER FROM THE STORM: (800) 775-6055

* * *

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Faith communities are beginning to grapple with the problem of
domestic violence in their midst. Here is a selection of scriptures from Judaism, Christianity and
Islam that address the relationship between husbands and wives.



Teaching: Husbands are enjoined to “love her (wife) as oneself and honor her more than
oneself.” – Yevamot 62 (from the Talmud)

Be careful about the honor of your wife because blessing enters the house only because of your
wife. – Baba Metzia 59a (from the Talmud)

Application: Commandment that women must maintain “shalom bayit” – domestic tranquility –
makes it especially difficult for some women to leave an abusive husband. Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 8 of 9

Teaching: “To save even one life is to save the whole world. To destroy even one life is to
destroy the whole world.” – Sanhedrin 4: Misnah 5

Application: Intervention is required when someone’s life or safety is in danger.

Male/Female Relationships

Teaching: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and
female he created them . . . and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with
flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and
brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my
flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’” – Gen. 1:27; 2:22-23

Application: Men and women are both God’s creation whose perspectives are complementary.



Teaching: “Wives, submit to your husbands as if to the Lord. For a husband is head of the wife
as Christ is head of the church. He is savior of the body. Like the church submits to Christ, wives
should submit to their husbands, in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved
the church. . . . In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself. . . .” – Ephesians 5:22-28

Application: The Apostle Paul’s admonition to wives to submit to their husbands is sometimes
used to justify abusive behavior. Other Christians say the passage was not intended to make
women subservient, but to characterize the relationship between husbands and wives as like that
of Christ’s love for the church.


Teaching: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make
things right in God’s sight.” – James 1:19-20

Application: Violence is sinful.

Male/Female Relationships

Teaching: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the
head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. . . . For man does not originate from woman,
but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the Answering Soft Cries for Help; Inland Churches Enlist Clergy in War Against Domestic Abuse Page 9 of 9 man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of
the angels.” – 1 Cor. 11:3, 8-10

Application: Ranges from putting women in a subservient role to an understanding of men and
women as complimentary creations of God.



Teaching: “The most perfect in faith, amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest
to his wife.” - From the Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad

“And as for those women whose ill-willed rebellion you have reason to fear, admonish them
first; then leave them alone in bed; then beat (or tap or leave, depending on translation); and if
thereupon they pay you no heed, do not seek to harm.” – Quran 4:34

Application: Interpretations range from permitting wife-beating to treating women gently and
with respect.


Teaching: “. . . .Do not take life, which Allah has made sacred, except through justice and the
law. He orders this so that you may acquire wisdom.” – Quran 6:151

Application: Ranges from justification for acts of terrorism to the basis for peace-making and

Male/Female Relationships

Teaching: “And among his signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves,
and you may dwell in tranquility with them, and he has put love and mercy between your
(hearts)...” – Quran 30:21

Application: Ranges from oppressive interpretations under the Taliban in Afghanistan to
encouraging women to attend university and have careers.


Copyright © 2005 The Press-Enterprise Co.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

For my Daddy on Father's Day - I miss you!

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:15 AM

I an thinking of my father this morning - of course being Father's Day it would be understandable! This is my first Father's Day without him. Dad and I had our wars here and there as I was growing up. He had his own issues, but he actually got help for them. He went to doctors for years to help him deal with those. He apologized many times for NOT being the father I should have had. Myself, personally feel that is what a real "man" does. I think when he started to show himself as a human with faults is when our real relationship started. I'm not saying we didn't have one before that - it wasn't all bad! It meant alot that he could admit - unlike alot of us on this planet - his faults as a human.

Below is a letter that was read at his funeral. Keep in mind a father doesn't have to be someone that offered the genes to make you! LOL It can be a special person in your life - friend of the family, Pastor, Uncle, Brother, Step Parent - whomever!

Here is my dedication to Daddy - the special man in my life:

A couple of months ago my father wrote me a letter about some of his last wishes. I could feel the love he had for us coming thru in that letter. I realize that it was a great time of depression for him, but the fact that he thought of us during that time spoke volumes to me.

There were a few nights I wanted to write this letter back to him. I actually started a couple of them, but never sent them. I’m not going to regret it at this point because we all know life happens at times. As I had my alone time with my father before he passed I was talking to him. I told him I love him, and I couldn’t imagine a better father for me. I would do my best to be happy, and I would attempt to help my very independent mother as much as I could. When her time comes I will make sure she was taken care of. Don’t worry about us Dad we have each other. We are very lucky family because we actually love and care for each other. Both my parents are responsible for that. I know in my heart that Dad held on just long enough to see my brother married, and start a new life that he wanted for him for a very long time. He talked to me about that. “If nothing else I’m sticking around until that date! I won’t have to worry as much about him anymore.” He told me.

My parents showed me what true love was. Sure they didn’t always agree and YES they had their fights. Growing up with a democrat and republican in the family made for some very INTERESTING dinner conversations. My mother showed her love and commitment to him in her care. He couldn’t have had a better caregiver. She would say she was doing this or that because Dad liked it that way. I remember as a child little things like she didn’t wear nail polish because he didn’t like it. I know that seems strange and small to most as an example, but she always treated him with respect is what I’m saying. He would crack me up after all these years when he would buy her something, and he COULDN’T STAND waiting until the birthday, Christmas whatever it was to give it to her. He was so excited about his “find” he could barely contain himself. He had to call EVERYONE to tell them about the gift also. That used to tickle me so much! “I know your mother doesn’t want me to spend this money, but eaandfaith I just couldn’t HELP myself!” he would tell me. There was little self-control in that arena when he came to her. “She will just have to take it back if she gets that mad at me!” he would say. One gift was never enough, and when he went WAY overboard she got things with a card signed by the CATS of the household! He would always tell me how lucky he was to have her. My father was very verbal about his love and commitment to my mother. Mom showed her love and commitment with fewer words, but the actions made it just as loud as his. Different styles but the same ending – they truly cared for each other. Respect for each other was the name of the game, and they always had that for each other. People could learn a lot from their very special relationship.

My father got such kick out of the grandchildren! L was first, then M and A – then came J, then E and finally D and G. He loved you all so very much, and I hope if nothing else you learned to see his gentle nature and true love he had for all of you. He was so proud, and he couldn’t have loved you more! You didn’t know the father I knew, but I knew my father would have moved heaven and earth for you all. That was just the man he was. I hope one day you realize how very lucky you were to have such a fine man in your life for such a short period of time.

I will never forget my father’s humor. It was strange at times, but he could always get me to giggle. He had a very unique way of looking at the world, and a lot of times I wish more people would view it like he did. He would tell people when he had money it would burn a hole in his pocket. He was always very generous in that way, and with his time also. Sure he would buy things for himself, but it wasn’t unusual to get a gift from him for no special reason. He just wanted you to have it. When people were in trouble he had this drive that he must do something about it. If nothing else he would pray for them.

No one in the family could question if they were thought about. My father would worry himself to death at times – sometimes over nothing. He told me weeks before his death, “Eaandfaith if everything is fine in the world you know me….I will search for something to worry about. I think worrying is ingrained in me or something.” Boy isn’t that the truth! I remember me sitting at his deathbed, and wanting to say more than I did, but I was afraid if I say too much because his thoughts would wander to worrying instead of letting go. Sounds silly now I guess because he might not have even heard me because I had already asked the nurses to pump up the meds so he would sleep with no pain or realization of where he was. I guess I figured it would be my luck he would hear and worry! I asked God to forward the message once he got there for me. I have to laugh because I bet he is up in heaven “WORRYING” NOW instead! He will always be with us in that way. I know he will never let go. I have to laugh because he will be known as the “worrying angel” up in heaven.

I learned a lot from you Dad! It was always comforting to know that I always had you in my court. I could always lean on you, cry with you, vent with you, and laugh a lot too. I was extremely lucky to have someone that loved me as much as you did. I never questioned that. I will miss your giggle, and your teasing, and all the smarty-pants comments you love to drill me with. I will always treasure the memories of your humor and love.

I love you Daddy!! You will be missed! You were always the type of person no one could forget after meeting you. You will always be a very special and treasured person to me.

With all my love from earth to heaven,


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Experiencing the Resurrection

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:10 AM

Experiencing the Resurrection
"Jesus Is Different"
by Nancy Edwards
(**Please note that this article is the third one on the page of the link supplied above)

Whenever someone hurts us it is helpful to go through a process that involves acknowledging the pain, holding the other person responsible for their behavior, grieving our losses, and then taking responsibility for responding to what has happened in a way that promotes health and life. When the painful deed is done "in the name of Jesus" there is at least one more important step to take: we must separate what happened to us from who Jesus really is. We must come to know in our head and our heart that Jesus is different. We must not let people who bear His name or use His name keep us from really knowing and enjoying Him. If we do we have lost more than our innocence, our dignity, or our security. We have lost the hope of getting it all back and then some—we have lost the hope of being brought back from the dead and being intimately connected to the only One who will ever love us enough.

If you have been hurt or abused by someone who either through word or deed confused what they were doing with who God is, you may struggle in some unique ways.

You may have a hard time trusting God.
You may have difficulties relating to God either as Father or Son depending on who hurt you.
You may feel angry with God, afraid of God, or have a hard time having God seem real.
You may be uncomfortable in many church settings and feel as though you are different from most people.
You may have left church or left God.
As Linda mentioned in the last issue, each person’s healing is unique. I cannot tell you for sure how to see Jesus more clearly and separate Him from what has been done to you. I can only say for sure that I know He is different, and that He is worth getting to know. Here are a few things that may or may not be true of your own personal journey.

You may need a season of withdrawing from a formal religious setting to spend time alone with just God.
You can expect and invite a time of real honesty with God, pouring out your hurts, your anger, and your fears. If you are to experience God as different you must know that He can handle all of who you are in a way no person ever has. His unconditional love for you is rooted in who He is, not what you do. He is safe. The Psalms are great reading for this time of your healing.
If you have a hard time reading the Bible, be assured that God both understands and that in time He will restore your ability to find life, joy, and hope in its pages. Try picking a short simple truth to focus on during the day (Jesus is different) until you are able to spend time in the Word again.
Choose to be with and share with people who understand and accept your journey. People who are not afraid of your need to pull back for a time so that you can embrace God anew.
When you are ready, seek God earnestly with a conviction to know Him as He is. Take a fresh look at the Jesus in the gospels, at His message of grace, and at what He says about you as His sister and God’s child. We have resources at the SPM office to help as well as volunteer mentors available to support and guide you along the way.
No matter where you are in the process, try to remember that God understands, that He is patient, and that He yearns for you to come as quickly as you can so that He can be to you all that you need and want. Be patient with yourself, but do not delay in finding and enjoying Him for who He is. He is who you have been looking for all of your life.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Shepherding the Wounded

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:59 AM

Shepherding the Wounded
"Compassion Not Religion"
by Nancy Edwards
(**Please note that this article is the second one listed on the link for the site!)

There’s a concept scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments that for years I have passed over without much consideration, but of late it has caught my attention. It reveals a surprising principle that I believe may give some insight into the dilemma of Christians not being very much like Christ. In its briefest form it appears in a short phrase quoted by Jesus in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7:

"I desire compassion not sacrifice."

In Matthew 9 the Pharisees confronted Jesus about eating with tax gatherers and sinners. His response: "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." In Matthew 12 the Pharisees again admonished Jesus and His disciples, this time for picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus points out from the scriptures a higher principle of what it means to keep the Sabbath and in the midst of His argument says, "But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent."

Both times that Jesus quotes this verse (from Hosea 6:6), He is being accused of being irreligious, of missing the mark, of doing something wrong. Both times His accusers were the orthodox, conservative religious leaders of the day. Both times Jesus’ response reveals that in spite of their great efforts to do what was good and right, they had become blind to the heart of God and the life-giving principles in His word.

Expanded versions of this same scripture help us to understand what it is that God doesn’t want: religious activity separated from the core realities of our faith. Empty religion that allows us to think we are on track when we are in fact far away from what God wants for us. Shadows without reality. Form without substance.

"‘ What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty (goodness, kindness, faithfulness) is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early…For I delight in loyalty (goodness, kindness, faithfulness) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.’" (Hosea 6:4, 6)

Religious practice during the time of Christ included such things as public worship (sacrifice), defending orthodoxy, ministering among fellow believers, and maintaining moral purity. Things really haven’t changed much in 2000 years. The real question is, are we more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees? Be honest, whom do you identify most closely with in the Matthew passages? Jesus, who was violating the expected norms of the day, or the religious leaders, who were defending the status quo and confronting a dangerous and apparently unorthodox teacher?

What is it then that God wants? What does He desire of us more than our worship, our service, our orthodoxy, and our morality? What is it that can begin to transform all of these things into what James calls, "pure and undefiled religion?" God’s surprising answer is COMPASSION. It seems that compassion is so much a part of the heart of God, that He considers having compassion for others a mark of authentic faith. Amazing!

The Hebrew word most often translated compassion is racham, which means to love deeply, have mercy, and be compassionate. It is derived from rechem, the word for womb. The Greek word for compassion in the New Testament is spagchnizomai, and means to be moved in the inward parts. When Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, the Greek word spagchnizomai is used in place of the Hebrew word, chesed, which can be translated goodness, kindness, or faithfulness. It is most often used to describe God’s heart toward His children. It is His faithful lovingkindness. In the gospels Jesus is described as being moved with compassion. "Indeed, compassion is such a deep, central, and powerful emotion in Jesus that it can only be described as a movement of the womb of God." (Henri Nouwen, Compassion)

Compassion is what God experiences when He looks at you. He is moved in His inward parts, He loves you, He longs to demonstrate His goodness and kindness toward you. He desires that you accept and enjoy all of who He is. When He asks us to go and learn what it means that He desires compassion not sacrifice, He knows our path will lead us first to experience the fullness of His compassion toward us before we can experience genuine compassion toward others.

As you continue to meditate on the meaning of this verse in your own life, I would like to suggest that you consider the following:

Confess the unattractiveness, the hurtfulness, and the emptiness of being religious. Become willing to admit that your honest desire to know God has degenerated into ideas, rituals, and attitudes that are more consistent with man-made religion than a personal relationship with God. Acknowledge your weakness and propensity to leave that which is truly attractive for that which you can control. Offer the sacrifice of humility and brokenness to God and to those whom you have hurt. Experience afresh God’s compassion (faithfulness, mercy, kindness, and goodness) toward you.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me, do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee…For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (Ps. 51:10-13, 16-17)

Practice the presence of God instead of religion. Exchange thoughts about God for talks with God; busyness with stillness, and intellectual pride with awe. Answer first the question that Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" before you think about feeding His sheep.
Hang out with Jesus. Be changed by being in His presence. Become fragrant.

"The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal." (Henri Nouwen, In The Name of Jesus)

Extend to others the compassion, kindness, goodness, and tenderness you have felt in the presence of God. Be careful, in fact consider restraining yourself from speaking or acting in the name of Jesus unless and until you experience genuine compassion for the person you are about to address. Identify with their experience until you are moved at the center of your being. Wait until you feel more similar to them than different from them. Let genuine compassion craft your response.
"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard." (Isaiah 58:5-8)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Taking An Honest Look

12 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:56 AM

Taking An Honest Look
"When 'Christians' Aren’t Like Jesus"
by Nancy Edwards

Jesus is one of a kind. No one else is like Him. "Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself…I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary." (Napoleon)

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the light of the world. He came to offer living water to thirsty people and eternal life to those who knew they were dying. He came to seek and save the lost, to heal the sick, and to set captives free. He preferred the company of an honest sinner to the self-righteous or religious. He so confounded and agitated the religious conservatives and liberals of His day that they conspired together to get rid of Him, but many who had felt rejected by those same leaders followed, trusted, and loved Jesus.

He treated women in a way no man had before or has since. "Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature. But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day." (From an essay written in 1938 by Dorothy L. Sayer entitled, Are Women Human?)

Jesus is extraordinary but many that call themselves by His name are at best very ordinary, and at worst downright evil.

"Robert Tisland, described as a mesmerizing, pulpit-pounding preacher, schooled his wife and children in unwavering subjection to his tyrannical demands. The children were beaten with regularity because, Lucy said, ‘he expected perfection from all of us.’ Even included in those beatings was twenty-five-pound, seven-year-old Mark, left blind, deaf and brain-damaged from a stroke. Dying of encephalitis, the child held a special place in Lucy’s heart. Managing his fourteen-hour-a-day schedule was solely up to her."

"On May 4, 1983, Mark died and Robert was relieved. Mark was an ‘imperfect child,’ he reasoned, and Lucy had been responsible for his illness because of some sin she had committed.

So, when she went into the bedroom to cry over the loss, he beat her and then again on the way home from the funeral…"

"In fourteen years of marriage, Lucy was pregnant nine times and the family moved nineteen times. ‘He didn’t consult anyone,’ she recalled without emotion. ‘He was my husband, and I knew I was supposed to follow his decisions. You get married and the Bible says you are to obey your husband. Right from the start he was the boss…’"

"The beatings, which began ten months after their marriage and during her first pregnancy, were always in response to Lucy’s lack of submissiveness, Robert told her. Despite the violence he bragged that there were no problems in their marriage. After all, his wife did all the cleaning and baking, polished his shoes, hung up his clothes and served him his food, which he was free to dump on the floor if it in any way displeased him. She never left the house without checking with him, didn’t drive without his permission and had only ten to twenty-five cents in her possession for a phone call. Lucy never wore slacks or make-up, except when he permitted it in order to cover a bruise. And although he was her husband, Robert was referred to by Lucy as ‘Pastor’ or ‘Sir’." (Battered Into Submission, by James and Phyllis Alsdurf)

Other scenarios may seem less extreme and yet they are so dissimilar to Jesus and so dishonoring to His name that an honest look is still enough to send us into a state of profound sadness. Parents, spouses, pastors and Sunday school teachers who use the name of Christ to control, manipulate, confuse, and neglect those whom God has placed in their trust. People who justify their own selfishness and cover their insecurities by distorting biblical principles that were meant to protect and give life, especially to the weak and vulnerable. People who empower their destructive styles of relating by using "God words" to defend their hurtful ways and deflect accountability. Such were many leaders in the days of Jesus for whom He had piercing words of rebuke.

"‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.’"

"‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!’"

"‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’" (Mt. 23:14, 23, 24, 27, 28)

Even less obvious are those of us who are at best ordinary. Good people who are not really very good at all: still so different from Jesus that an honest look should send us to our knees to ask for forgiveness and help.

Jesus is good and pure; our motives are always mixed.
Jesus speaks words of life; we speak words that protect our own sense of reality.
Jesus loves sinners and judges sin; we judge sinners and ignore sin.
Jesus is wise; we are dogmatic.
Jesus sees people’s hearts; we see their defenses.
Jesus is very attractive to needy people; we are often the last place they would come.
Something is wrong. To say that the followers of Christ are not just like Jesus is to state the obvious, but to realize that we are as dissimilar as we are is an oxymoron. The impact of our condition on others is that we hurt them and hinder them from seeing and trusting Jesus. The implication for those who have been hurt by us is that they must learn to separate who we are and what we have done from who Christ is.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

We Are a Safe Haven

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 3:03 PM

We Are a Safe Haven

(The Church Responds to Domestic Violence)
A Seeking Peace with Justice Sunday at Lexington UMC, Lexington, MA
A Sermon preached by the Rev. Susan J. Morrison on October 14, 2001
A Reading from Luke 13:10–17... the story of the bent-over woman who is healed by Jesus.
October is Domestic Violence month, a time when we are asked to break the silence about Domestic Violence, learn more about it and renew our commitment to providing victims and perpetrators with the emotional, physical and spiritual care that they need.

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence is like the bent-over woman in our Gospel lesson this morning. Emotional, physical and spiritual abuse causes one to be crippled, unable to stand tall and be the whole person that God intended. There are too many of God's beloved people who are abused, bent-over human beings. It is reported that more than 2 million American women are assaulted by their partners each year. 95% of known victims of domestic violence are women; a small percentage of men are violated by an intimate or former intimate partner. As many as 3 million children witness acts of domestic violence each year. Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity employer, for it crosses all levels of income and education, all colors, classes, and creeds.

Let us refresh ourselves by understanding the meaning of domestic violence. Just what is it that causes the victim to be so bent-over? Rev. Anne Marie Hunter, colleague and friend and founder of the Safe Havens program offers a comprehensive definition.

Domestic violence, she writes, often has a physical component. It is kicking, hitting, dragging, punching, shooting, knifing, bludgeoning. The hospital emergency room says that domestic violence is the black eyes, the chipped teeth, the broken bones.
But domestic violence can also be verbal. It can be name calling and constant accusations. Partners are called stupid, fat, ugly, lazy, irresponsible and childish.

Domestic violence is isolation. Victims are systematically distanced from friends and family so that their dependence on the abused is maximized. Phone calls are monitored. Visits with family and friends are prohibited.

Domestic violence is emotional abuse. It is constant surveillance, constant undermining of one's self-image. It is threats to children, family members and pets. It is love that is always conditional, always scarce, always unpredictable. It is abuse that is followed by contrition, apologies, tears, and promises to change that never materialize.

Domestic violence is financial abuse. Victims are kept from spending money that they earn, or are not allowed to work outside the home. One is always expected to bring back a receipt and change.

Domestic violence is also sexual abuse. It includes sex that is unloving and abrupt, forced and lacking warmth, love or affirmation.

Domestic violence is spiritual abuse. When one's self esteem is broken, one's spirit is broken, also.

In final analysis, domestic violence is control...complete, domineering control over another person. It is not so much a series of isolated incidents, but a daily reality in which the abuser gets the victim to do what he wants, or give him what he wants, or act the way he wants.
It is no wonder that like the woman in our Gospel narrative, the victim of domestic violence becomes bent over, quite unable to stand up straight. And just like the healing hands of Jesus, it often takes outside intervention to bring about change and to encourage choices to be made that result in healing and new life. Acting on behalf of Jesus, I believe that the church can play a major role in that intervention, helping the victim to be set free from the infirmity of domestic violence.

But just as Jesus' contemporaries found fault with his actions and choices, so too there will be criticism from the victim's family and friends. “Now isn't a good time to leave” the voices say to the victim. “How will you support yourself?” “Shouldn't you just stay in the relationship and try harder?” But like in our Gospel lesson, these voices of reason become shamed even as the victim, who has lived a life of shame, is released from her shame and she stands tall, ultimately set free from the violence that has crippled her for so long. The analogy seems appropriate, doesn't it? A bent-over woman is healed of her ailment.

For us, today, the focus is on the church and it's role as the body of Christ, acting, as Jesus did, to help release the victim from oppression and mistreatment. And so I would like to ask two questions this morning:

1) Why should the church be involved in this issue of domestic violence?
2) What does it mean to be a “Safe Haven?”
Why should the church be involved? Isn't this a social issue that could and should be managed by social agencies? This congregation understands well that wherever there is injustice, God calls upon the church to get involved. In the arena of domestic violence, the church must be an instrument of justice and help to break the silence about this issue of violence and abuse.
For many years the church, unfortunately, has not been very helpful in dealing with the problem of domestic violence. Clergy, especially, have given unhelpful advice. Spiritual leaders, when confronted by the issue, have told women “Just work harder at being a better wife. Submit yourself to your husband. Scripture says he is the head of you, as Christ is the head of the church. Pray, so that you can endure this time of trial. God will never give you more than you can bear. Divorce? It is a sin. You must do everything possible to keep your family together.”

As a result of this pattern and history, victims choose not to confide in their pastors. As Rev. Robert Owens admits: “I think there's been a conspiracy of silence in the church regarding domestic violence. Victims are ashamed, embarrassed, and fear that their pastors will condemn or reject them, or encourage them to stay in an abusive relationship. Women fear that male pastors will side with the husband.”

Fortunately the church has had a wake up call and recognizes not only the importance of being a source of help in domestic violence situations but realizes that training and new understanding of scripture and theology are called for. Programs such as the Safe Havens Family Violence Prevention Project provide that critical training for interfaith households of faith.

In his book Domestic Violence — What Every Pastor Needs to Know, Rev. Al Miles cites a story of domestic violence that illustrates the importance of the church being aware and intentional about its response to the injustices of abuse.

Kara has been married to her husband, Rich, for sixteen years. Devout Christians, they both attend church regularly. Kara and Rich have a teenage son, and Kara describes her husband and son as “the great loves of my life.

Despite Kara's deep love for her husband, she told a coworker that Rich has abused her throughout their marriage. The disclosure was prompted by an incident that had occurred the week before. “I'd overcooked Rich's steak,” Kara explained to her coworker. “It was so stupid of me; I can't do anything right. After sixteen years of marriage, you'd think a wife would know that her husband likes his meat medium rare, not well done.” According to Kara, Rich then called her “fat and stupid” and threw the steak in the trash, and left home to eat supper at a nearby restaurant. On other occasions, Kara said Rich derided her for being overweight...Kara revealed that Rich also had pushed, slapped and spit on her from time to time. Her husband's actions and words hurt deeply, she admitted. Still, Kara blamed herself for Rich's behavior.

“It's all my fault,” she lamented. “If I were a better wife, is I weren't overweight and so stupid, Rich would have no need to say and do such awful things to me. Besides, he always apologizes for the bad mood he say I put him in and afterwards, buys me orchids and takes me out to a nice dinner. He says that as a Christian wife I must forgive him.” Rich also prefers not to treat her the way he does, Kara told the coworker, but says it is his “Christian duty to take authority” over her and to “correct” her when she is wrong. “My husband tells me the Bible demands that a man rule over his wife,” Kara explained.”"So when I'm out of line or do stupid things, then Rich has to put me in my place. Otherwise, my husband says, he's not truly a man of God.”

Kara's coworker encouraged her to seek help from a professional trained to address situations of domestic violence. The coworker also recommended that Kara speak to someone who understood what the Bible actually teaches regarding how a man and woman should treat each other in marriage. The battered wife was reluctant to follow up on either suggestion. The day after Rich threw his overcooked steak in the trash, Kara explained, she went to see a male pastor who is also a counselor at a Christian counseling center. This minister told Kara “any woman who stays with a man who abuses her must either like being abused or she must be exaggerating her claims.” The pastor also urged Kara to bring her husband to the next counseling session. “This will allow me to determine who's telling the truth,” Kara said the minister told her.

The coworker asked Kara if she had sought help from her own pastor. Kara said she hadn't. Pastor Lee was loving and sensitive, but Kara feared that the minister's close relationship with her husband would bias him. “The pastor may side with Rich,” Kara worried, “because my husband always presents himself as being this loving and respectful Christian leader around other people. Or, like that Christian counselor, Rev. Lee might think I either like being abused or I'm exaggerating.”

Afraid, and yet needing emotional and spiritual guidance, Kara decided to confide in her pastor. Fortunately, Pastor Lee had taken some domestic violence training. Meeting with Kara at the church, the pastor told his battered parishioner that she had not done anything to deserve the abuse Rich was inflicting upon her. Domestic violence has nothing to do with whether or not a woman is a good wife, Christian, or cook; nor does it have anything to do with a woman's weight, intellectual capacity, or her either exaggerating or liking abuse. No one deserves to be victimized, the minister insisted. He also assured Kara that God loves her exactly the way she is.

Appropriate training, sensitivity to the complexity of the issues involved in domestic violence, and awareness of the network of agencies prepared to assist victims of domestic violence put the church in a helpful and hopeful place regarding this issue.

Hopefully, it is clear why the church should be involved. Based on that understanding, the Lexington UMC sent a team of four to the Safe Havens Family Violence Prevention Project last year. The team attended approximately 25 hours of training and gained new perspective on the dynamics of family violence; the impact of domestic violence on children; the dynamics of batterers -their need for counsel, care and rehabilitation; teen dating violence -intervention and prevention; law enforcement issues; and the healing process for survivors. As a result of this training, the Lexington UMC has joined a growing network of churches, synagogues and mosques that are known as Safe Havens, places where victims or perpetrators can come for counsel, advice and referrals. Safe Havens are intended to be what their name implies — a place of safety where confidences can be shared and where holy listening takes place.
I most appreciated the number of care givers that we met, those equipped to help victims and batterers deal effectively with domestic violence. As a clergy person, I feel much better prepared to listen, to counsel and to make referrals for anyone involved in abusive relationships.

I hope that soon we can hang posters in our bathrooms, so that both of our congregations as well as all of the people who use this building throughout the week can be aware of telephone hotline numbers and other resources. I would hope that these could be translated into Korean and Spanish as well as English.

Let's support programs that will heighten our awareness about the issue.
Let's talk with our partner church, St. John's Korean, and learn together about the dynamics of domestic violence.
Let's talk with our youth about violence and teen dating.
Let's continue to support the marvelous and significant work of the Safe Havens project.
Let's welcome people from agencies and organizations that can teach us more about this issue.
Yes! Until domestic violence is eliminated, let us continue to make a commitment to take seriously this issue and to be the body of Christ that offers intervention and healing so that those who are bent over will be able to stand straight and be freed from oppression and injustice, eager to praise God, who is the Source of hope and justice and unconditional love.

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