Article by Pastor D. Scott Meadows’ article, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism, creates a stir among the survivor community.
I’ve been watching an important sequence of events unfolding in the blogosphere. Pastor D. Scott Meadows of Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) in New Hampshire wrote an article, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism. The catechism is a list of guidelines intended to help wives: “May the Lord use this simple catechism to bless His precious daughters in difficult marriages.” Please note the word “difficult.”
However, after reading the article, it raised some very serious red flags. Barbara Roberts and Jeff Crippen who blog at A Cry for Justice – a blog which deals with domestic violence within the church – published back-to-back articles on Pastor Meadows’ article because they found it so troublesome:
This is BAD – Really, Really Bad – “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism”, by Pastor Jeff Crippen
Here is a brief nutshell of Jeff’s concern:
This is one of the clearest examples of a pastor creating his own traditions and pawning them off onto God’s people as the Word of God. We need to protest this kind of thing loudly, and you can do so by going over to the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog and entering your comments. ~Jeff Crippen
Barbara Roberts rebuts “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism”, by Barbara Roberts
Barbara’s concern with Pastor Meadows’ article is posted below:
If the Catechism were not meant to be used as advice for women who are being abused by their husbands, that should have been stated RIGHT UP FRONT before the Catechism began. The fact that this caveat was not given means that the Catechism will do harm to any woman in a destructive/abusive marriage who is exposed to this post or the thinking it embodies.
It is not good enough to just say in the comments thread that the post was not meant for abusive marriages. That kind of after-mention is one of the reasons we victims of abuse have been so marginalized and trapped in spiritual / scriptural / marital bondage for so long! ~Barbara Roberts
Domestic violence is a serious issue, even in the church. A recent report was released in June of 2014 by Sojourners and IMA World Health: Protestant Pastors Survey on Sexual and Domestic Violence. Take a look at part of the summary of this important survey:
The Survey, perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S., reveals an unrealized potential within churches for the prevention of and response to sexual and domestic violence.
It begins with awareness: an overwhelming majority of the faith leaders surveyed (74%) underestimate the level of sexual and domestic violence experienced within their congregations, leading to infrequent discussions of the issue from the pulpit as well as a lack of appropriate support for victims. Additionally, only 56% of pastors are adequately familiar with local resources that specifically address sexual and domestic violence, creating missed opportunities for victims to access services. And distressingly, the survey also found that even pastors who have handled incidents of violence may not be offering appropriate advice to those who are suffering, potentially doing more harm than good.
It seems that Pastor Meadows meant for his article to apply to all Christian wives who are in difficult marriages.
My question is this: what is difficult and what is abusive?
There was no indication if “difficult” meant abusive or if abuse was a different category not yet addressed, so the assumption by most women would be that his message was written for all women, even those in abusive marriages.
Let’s look at some more statistics:
35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
This statistic is refers to sexual and physical violence. Emotional and spiritual abuse is not mentioned, so that number would likely be increased if those factors were considered.
The next few points from the survey are important as they relate to church and pastoral response to abuse. I have broken the paragraph into bulleted formatting for easier reading and also bolded important points:
- For many women who are religious, one of the first responses to abuse by an intimate partner is to seek help from their pastor or other faith leaders.
- This first disclosure is critical; research consistently shows that the advice of the first person a victim tells will in large measure determine her next steps.
- Women who are religious can be especially vulnerable when abused, because they are more likely to place high value on keeping a family intact or to consider separation and divorce as unsatisfactory (or unbiblical) option.
- Religious women may also have difficulty getting the support they need from their local faith leaders.
- According to one survey, 95% of church-going women report they have never heard a specific message on abuse preached from the pulpit of their church.
These are disturbing statistics. If you are a wife experiencing abuse, you will likely be very alone in your circumstance with very little practical and appropriate help at church. What a tragedy that the very place where oppressed women and children should be cared for and protected the most – the Body of Christ – they are often rejected, shamed, and abandoned!
The position that Barbara and Jeff have taken with the article is that the chosen wording, when read by wives of abusers, seems to imply that wives in difficult or even abused marriages need to remain and trust God to take care of them. I applaud Jeff and Barbara for publicly addressing this issue directly where the article was published. This is not something that should be taken privately when it was posted publicly. This affects too many people.
Before we get to the article, first, let me show you a definition of abuse as stated at A Cry for Justice blog:
Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.
While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.
Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.
Ok, let’s get to the article. For clarity, I will quote from the article in green font. As you read the opening paragraph of the article in green font, try to put yourself in the shoes of a wife in a difficult or abusive marriage in which you see no hope:
Providentially, many Christian wives are married to unbelieving husbands.
I have big issues with the very first word. Right off the bat, it looks as if Pastor Meadows is saying God is responsible for women marrying unbelieving husbands. To use the word “Providentially” implies this is God’s Sovereign plan. This is a very troublesome statement to those who have been abused. It does not depict a God who cares for the oppressed. There are no warm fuzzies here. This alone can cause one to abandon their faith – knowing that God has allowed and is allowing this difficult circumstance, and that it was in His plan to allow this abuse to continue. This is heart-wrenching. It paints God to be an evil God. Keep thinking this through with me. If God ordained this, then He knows about it and is okay with it. So, who is she (the wife with a difficult husband) to question the lot God has prescribed for her? Basically, this one sentence is saying to an abusive wife: Ladies, it’s just a crying shame that God gave you this lot in life, so suck it up and put your big girl panties on.
This is a great trial for them, especially if the man is very ungodly.
We typically would not expect ungodly men to act godly. But imagine the great trial for those husbands who profess to be Believers, yet abuse. That indeed is a great trial. But what if the man appears to be godly to people who are outside of the home who do not see what goes on behind closed doors?
Pastoral counseling discovers that many of these sisters in the Lord are perplexed about how God wants them to relate to their husbands in such a case.
A wife who is suffering from abuse is in survival mode. Getting through each day is a difficult task, yet this sentence puts burdens on the wife about how “God wants them to relate to their husbands.” If the wife is married to an abusive husband, the husband is the problem. The onus is on the abusive/difficult husband. He is the one needing counsel. The abused wife needs support and practical support.
I have prepared this brief catechism for some guidance, suggesting that she should memorize it and find supporting Scripture references for its counsel, with careful study of those passages.
Pastor Meadows, in his 13-point question and answer catechism, suggests that women memorize and find supporting Scripture references for its counsel. I have problems with this. Pastor Meadows who wrote the catechism, provides absolutely no Biblical references, and tells women to find scripture that back up his own points. Hello? When does a man make his own rules and then ask others to search for scripture to apply them to his own rules? That’s not right. I didn’t go to any seminary and I know that.
Secondly, he wants her to memorize his own personal catechism – catechism which quotes no scripture and includes no other references?
The article then goes on to list 13 catechisms. Here’s an example of one. I think many abuse victims would have nightmare having to memorize this:
Q11. How good a husband is my husband to me?
A11. Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.
Does a rape survivor thank God for her rapist? Really? There are many more examples I could use, but that’s not the whole point of this post. Please read all of the catechism for yourself. And weep.
We are at a crossroads here. Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts and others have expressed their alarm about this article both on their blog, and in the comments. Here is an excellent comment by Pastor Crippen:
Pastor Meadows and others can dance around the idea that it wasn’t written for abused wives, but that doesn’t solve the problem that abused wives will suffer from the teaching and that abusers will use it to their advantage. Barbara reported in her article, and I read elsewhere, that women had left comments which were not approved. For a while, only comments from men were approved. Later on this afternoon within about an hour timeframe, the comments jumped to 83. It was easy to tell which comments were in moderation because I had taken a screenshot. Why were the voices of women squelched at this blog site? Why were abused women originally not allowed to tell their stories? I understand that Pastor Meadows does not moderate the site, but these questions are important to ask.
There are at least a couple of pastors encouraging Pastor Meadows with his article, despite Jeff Crippen’s warnings. Take a look at this abbreviated comment from Pastor Max Doner:
Pastor Meadows – Thank you for your Catechism. It was really well done, it was biblical, and I think it would be a great help to any married woman who was seeking to honor the Lord and His direction for her attitude and conduct in marriage.
Many despise the biblical teaching on the roles and conduct of men and women in marriage, and wish to substitute humanistic criteria in the place of it. I am glad you have not done so.
Your competence in rightly bringing biblical principles to bear on this subject is a credit to your wisdom and maturity in the scriptures. Thanks you for your faithfulness to them.
In this catechism, you only see how women should respond to difficult marriages. We don’t get to hear if the “difficult” husband is held accountable for his sins. But notice all the “biblical” talk in Pastor Doner’s response. CLUE: There is not one Biblical reference in the whole of Pastor Meadows’ article. Pastor Donor is praising the works of a MAN whose catechism does not show faithfulness, wisdom, and maturity, as he claims.
The most obvious ingredient missing in Pastor Meadows’ catechism is love: love for her by God and love for her shown in action in truth by the Body of Christ for her horrible predicament.
Pastor Meadows has said in the comments that he will add an addendum to his article. This, I believe, is a pivotal moment. I’m glad to know that he is reading the comments. Right now he can choose to make a Biblical response in which abusers are held accountable for their sins and abused women and their children are protected and defended. Many eyes will be on this new addendum.
You can be sure that we in the survivor community will be watching and reporting about pastors who decide to defend their friend/pastor because of their friendship, rather than standing on Biblical principles of defending and protecting the oppressed and abused. After scores and scores of people at Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches reached out to their church leaders about abuse, those leaders turned the other way. We saw how well-known prominent pastors and leaders publicly defended and protected SGM’s former president, C.J. Mahaney, because he was their friend. They protected a man who knew about sexual abuse in his church. One man under his watch has now been convicted for sexual offenses against children.
The church must do a better job when it comes to abuse, especially when an abused wife comes to her pastor for help. Pastors who have no training in domestic violence would do well to educate themselves and seek help from those who have expertise. God is a loving God. He wants oppressed and abused women to be defended and protected. Pastors should be leading the way in this:
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. Ps 54:4-7
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.