Saturday, January 29, 2011

this is why women know better...

...than to "go to the church" for help in abusive situations.

6 comments:

Quiara said...

And people are confused about my dislike of John piper and my insistence that his theology is harmful, even dangerous, to women.

Rachel said...

Ugh. He makes me feel like vomiting.

Ok...so maybe that's not the most helpful comment. This is, in my opinion, one of the church's most grievous failings-- the insistence that a piece of paper stating that two people are married is what constitutes a marriage, and that it is to be defended at all costs--even at the expense of the person-hood of one of its members (and beyond that, that enduring abuse in a relationship that is supposed to personify Christ and the church is somehow righteous.) The abuse that destroys the covenant has ended the marriage, long before divorce ends the pretense of a marriage.

Argh.

Gil said...

Piper leaves it to us to make some presuppostions in his response to a woman in an abusive situation with her husband. First, it seems she is Christian, hence, her submission to Jesus and husband. Second, the husband is not a believer. If this is the case instead of conjuring up some convoluted mish-mesh of a imaginary scenario than she has ample recourse in the scripture with a measure of judgment left to her discretion.

Specifically, she is living with a non-believer. In Piper's abusive scenario it seems improbable the husband's request for his wife to engage in immorality is just that, a request. We know this scenario is as ugly as it is real and not left to the unwilling spouse to choose to participate.

The biblical import on believer/non-beliver marriages is for the believer to continue in that relationship as long as there is mutual agreement to continue in the mixed belief marriage. This is the point about that measure of judgment on her part. She is the one in the faith who can rightfully declare her decision to terminate the marriage. Her declaration may or may not serve a sideline purpose of a bit of neck whiplash if he were to similarly declare with actions his total rejection of such immorality. Again, it is her rightful decision as a believer and not a matter for anyone or the church to infuse their judgment were she to decide either to stay or to leave.

Piper's imagination runs a bit amok. His scenario about the church intervening in the troubled marriage is as forced as was her abuse. Presumably, she, as a sister in the faith, would understand and receive the counsel of the church, but by what stretch of the imagination, to say nothing of scripture, does Piper expect or believe the non-beliving, abusive spouse is going to accept the instruction of church and the scriptures when these are as much as anathema to him?

JTB said...

Interesting; I'd been assuming the opposite, that Piper was presuming a scenario in which both spouses were part of the church. Otherwise--you're totally right--what sense does it make to say the church should "discipline" the abuser? (plus, how? and how many chances does he get? and what happens to the poor woman in the meantime?)

Gil said...

(Please, bear with me lest I be seen as a thread hacker. ;-)
If the husband were a believer than there is every bit of obligation for the church to speak sternly to him with the full weight of the scriptures he purports to believe. This would (at the risk of sound rude or callous) be no less an open and shut case as concerns the actions of the wife towards her husband. It would not be a matter for anyone or the church to dictate to her whether she opts to stay or leave.

I'll add this which I decided to to leave out on the first post. What makes Piper's scenario of the intervening church so totally unrealistci is not that is it imaginary, but that such action as by those "who are spiritual" (Gal 6) in the restoration of a fallen brother (if the husband were a believer) are so woefully few and far between. Perhaps I am totally wrong on this and I would prefer to be wrong, but that is what is readily discernable in the body of believers too often.

JTB said...

No, I think you're totally right about that--and it's part of why churches are typically not safe places for abused women.

I'll add a link to a site with a page on "clergy resources" a friend on FB recommended--one of the things you can find on there is data about how often domestic violence is addressed from the pulpit (rarely), and other sorts of indicators of general reticence of churches to speak directly about or take action regarding a very pervasive problem--pervasive within the church as well as outside it.

The larger problem in this clip (and why it's worrisome that Piper is such a popular figure) is that--as I see it--his theology actually colludes in the perpetuation of abusive relationships, not only directly in his horrific advice to "endure for a season," but in the way that categorical subordination of women leads to relationships within which women can be treated as non-persons--and instead of Christian belief being a resource for resistance and rebuke of abuse, where scripture and community might be readily used to rebuke an abuser and protect the abused, it becomes a source of abuse itself. Piper tries to ward this off by claiming a woman's allegiance to Christ takes precedence over her husband (and did anyone else catch the Freudian slip "Lord" there?)--but when he gets to the one bit of specific advice to women in his bizarro example of an abusive situation, he tells abused women that even as they opt out of abuse they are supposed to still desire to be able to submit to their abusive husband. That is sick, and worse, reinforces some of the worst psychological effects of abuse (internalization of guilt, etc.) So here, if a woman even manages to reach a point where she's able to reach out for help, what she's told reinforces some of the worst effects of the abuse itself, in the name of upholding the principle of biblical submission.