Disclaimer: I do not wish to vilify any pastors or church leaders. Please read this entire blog post before making a judgment.
A reader of my novel, “No Visible Scars” recently asked me, “Is that Pastor Dennis in your book for real? Surely, a pastor wouldn’t act that way toward a woman who is being abused.”
“Unfortunately, that character was based on a true experience. And I could tell you stories….”
The following are snippets of other true stories about some pastors and the topic of domestic abuse:
- A woman was locked in the basement and thrown scraps of food. When she escaped, she asked her pastor for advice. He said, “Well, if you’d lose 30 pounds, he’d like you better.”
- Another woman whose husband refused to let her spend any money, gave her a weekly allowance. He then complained about the cost of groceries and regularly decreased the amount she could spend. Her pastor asked, “Are you giving him regular sex?”
- From the pulpit, a pastor shamed single moms and their children after they escaped from abusive relationships. “If you get divorced,” he said, “your children will end up in prison.”
- A woman related to her pastor how her husband belittled her, calling her ugly and stupid. The pastor said, “I don’t see any broken bones or bruises. The Bible says you should go home, be gentle and quiet and pray for your husband.”
In these scenarios, all the pastors were men. A woman pastor may have reacted differently, may have believed these suffering women and fought for them. Admittedly, some of these situations sound extremely harsh, yet I have heard versions of them multiple times.
Licensed Clinical Social worker, Leslie Vernick, recently taught a webinar titled, “Using the Bible to Rationalize Bad Behavior.”
In her newsletter, Leslie wrote, “Sadly, the Bible has often been used as an excuse to do unintended harm. It’s used to rationalize violence, abuse, ignorance, bigotry, inequality, and sexism—all under the guise of ‘The Bible says this.’”
To be fair, I also know about the following situations:
- A pastor helped an abused woman set up her own checking account so she would have financial options and a plan of escape.
- A pastor in the Midwest helped an abused woman move. He paid for the moving van out of his own pocket, arranged for church elders to lift furniture and bought pizza for everyone after the move.
- When a single mom was being downsized out of her job, a pastor paid her salary for several months.
- A pastor with a kind heart listened to the story from an abused woman, cried with her and counseled her to protect herself and her children—to leave. Then he helped her find a safe home.
All these stories are true. All these women exist and all of them went to their pastors for help.
Some of these women never returned to church because they felt invisible and condemned by the very leaders they trusted.
In the book of First Samuel, when the real Abigail was abused by her husband, God took him out. Nabal died.
God takes it seriously when his daughters are mistreated. Some of our pastors understand and take action.
Those who don’t are playing a dangerous game and someday, they will have to answer for it.
©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Read Abigail’s story in “No Visible Scars.” Then pass it on to a woman who needs to know she is not alone.
Wow! Thought provoking post.
And sadly – especially for the first part – true.
Thanks, Sally !
On Tuesday, May 22, the Washington Post headlined “Southern Baptist Leader encouraged woman not to report alleged rape to police but forgive her assailant.” This woman was a student at a Southern Baptist Seminary where this pastor was the President. In a 2000 audio recording from a conference, [the Seminary President] said that “an abused woman should stay with her husband, praying alongside her bed at night and being ‘submissive in every way that you can.'” Since that first woman spoke up, many more women came forward. The seminary leadership has asked the president to resign.
There are many of us who have thought that this kind of behavior and “advice” is limited to only a few pastors and other leaders and certainly couldn’t be broad spread. That thinking is incorrect. We Christian women need to stand together in support of each other and we need to be brave and educate those in leadership within the Christian churches.
This post is very well-balanced. Rebecca, you have acknowledged the good and the bad. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for speaking truth.