Analysis: Paige Patterson’s Teachings on Domestic Violence Keep Victims in Harm’s Way

Paige Patterson, Domestic Violence, SBC, Divorce

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Over the weekend, an old recording of an interview from 2000 with Paige Patterson resurfaced, causing an uproar because of his response regarding domestic violence. Paige Patterson is a prominent Southern Baptist leader and president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

I have been familiar with this recording for several years, but numerous attempts to address this issue have been ignored. Until now – when the world is paying attention to sexual abuse, harassment, and violence against women especially. It’s about time! Patterson caught wind of the responses and felt he was misrepresented, so he issued a statement yesterday (April 29th). As of this writing, both The Washington Post and Christianity Today have picked up the story.

I have taken a close look at the transcription from the interview and the new statement. The old statement is shown in orange font, the new statement is in purple font and indented. My editorial comments are in black. While Paige Patterson has attempted to clarify his position on domestic violence and respond to the recent firestorm, his new statement in his press release leaves me even more confused. He contradicts his original statement. The new statement sounds more like a fairy tale, rather than a factual incident.

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Interviewer: What do you recommend for women who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands and their husbands say they should be submitting?

Old Statement [2000]: That’s an excellent question and let me respond that it depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help.

I would urge you that that should happen only in the most serious of cases. I would cite examples of it, but the examples that I’ve had in my ministry are so awful that I will not cite them in public. That’s enough to say, however, that there is a severe physical and/or moral danger involved before you come to that. More often, when you face abuse, it is of a less serious variety, but all abuse is serious. And there are two or three things I say to women who are in those kinds of situations.

New Statement [2018]: I have never counseled or condoned abuse of any kind. I will never be a party to any position other than that of the defense of any weaker party when subjected to the threat of a stronger party. This certainly includes women and children. Any physical or sexual abuse of anyone should be reported immediately to the appropriate authorities, as I have always done. 

Julie Anne’s comment: Paige Patterson’s new statement says, “I will never be a party to any position other than that of the defense of any weaker party when subjected to the threat of a stronger party. This certainly includes women and children.”  This is not true. He states in his original statement, “I had a woman who was in a church that I served and she was being subject to some abuse,” and he sent that woman back home to her abuser to pray and ask God to intervene. He put this woman’s life in jeopardy. 

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Old Statement: I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help.

New Statement: I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce. I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband. 

Julie Anne’s note: Please note the only mention of divorce is he would never counsel, recommend, or prescribe that anyone seek a divorce. So, this leaves the implication of three choices: 1) they separated for a time and then got together again, 2) the couple permanently separated, or 3) they divorced. However, from his own words, in all of the cases of domestic violence, he has never recommended divorce.

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New Statement: Any physical or sexual abuse of anyone should be reported immediately to the appropriate authorities, as I have always done. 

Julie Anne’s comment:  After the wife showed up at church with black eyes, did Paige Patterson report him to the appropriate authorities?  Even after he came forward in repentance?  There is no indication in the original statement that he reported the man.

***

Old Statement: There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help.

I would urge you that that should happen only in the most serious of cases. I would cite examples of it, but the examples that I’ve had in my ministry are so awful that I will not cite them in public. That’s enough to say, however, that there is a severe physical and/or moral danger involved before you come to that. More often, when you face abuse, it is of a less serious variety, but all abuse is serious. And there are two or three things I say to women who are in those kinds of situations.

New Statement: I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband. So much is this the case that on an occasion during my New Orleans pastorate, my own life was threatened by an abusive husband because I counseled his wife, and assisted her, in departing their home to seek protection.

Julie Anne’s comment: These two examples clearly show that Paige Patterson understands that abuse can be life-threatening.

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Old Statement: I had a woman who was in a church that I served and she was being subject to some abuse.

New Statement: Many years ago in West Texas, a woman approached me about the desire of her husband to prevent her attendance in church. He was neither harsh nor physical with her, but she felt abused. 

Julie Anne’s comment:  The word “some” here is odd in the original statement (orange). What does that mean? Is he trying to say that there wasn’t much abuse, just some? It’s very rare for a survivor of domestic violence to experience abuse all the time. Abuse doesn’t usually happen all the time. It is sporadic, and that is part of why it is insidious – there is no rhyme or reason; it is crazy-making. “Some abuse” is still abuse.

This part is especially important: Note in the recent statement, he says she only “felt abused,” that “he was neither harsh nor physical with her.”  Either she was abused, or she was not abused. The statement from 2018 is not matching up with his statement from 2000 where he states “she was being subject to some abuse.”

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Old Statement: And I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening, I want you to get down by your bed, just before he goes to sleep, get down by the bed and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene. Not out loud. Quietly.” But I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready, because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.”

And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black, and she was angry – at me, and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes, Ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”

And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back. First time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, and he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God could forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today, and it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis.

New Statement: I suggested to her that she kneel by the bed at night and pray for him. Because he might hear her prayer, I warned her that he could become angry over this and seek to retaliate. Subsequently, on a Sunday morning, she arrived at church with some evidence of physical abuse. She was very surprised that this had happened. 

Julie Anne’s note: In the original statement, Paige Patterson stated that he knew this woman was subject to “some abuse.” He sent her back home to her abuser, knowing full well that he would likely abuse her, and even warned her about it. Remember, in both statements, he acknowledges that abuse can be severe and even life-threatening. And on the new statement, he said:  “I will never be a party to any position other than that of the defense of any weaker party when subjected to the threat of a stronger party.” In both old and new statements, he concedes that he did send this abused wife back to her abusive husband. Paige Patterson is not being truthful in his new statement. 

This is horrific. What kind of pastor, counselor, person in a position of trust sends a victim of abuse back to the abuser knowing and even telling the victim that the abuser will likely cause harm? This is like playing Russian roulette.

In the new statement, Patterson says, “She was very surprised that this had happened.” I find this hard to believe. She knew he was abusive, and Paige Patterson had warned her husband could “seek to retaliate.” This sounds like a made-up story.

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Old Statement: And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back. First time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, and he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God could forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today, and it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis.

New Statement: But I had seen her husband come into the church and sit down at the back. I knew that God had changed this man’s heart. What he had done to his wife had brought conviction to his heart. I was happy—not that she had suffered from his anger, but that God had used her to move her husband to conviction of his sin. I knew that she was going to be happy for him also. That morning, he did make his decision for Christ public before the church, and she was ecstatic. They lived happily together from that time on in commitment to Christ. There was no further abuse. In fact, their love for one another and commitment to their home was evident to all. She herself often shared this testimony. 

Julie Anne’s comment: Unless Paige Patterson is a prophet, this statement is very dangerous: “I knew that God had changed this man’s heart.” No one knows the heart of God, and it’s foolish to act on hunches when lives are at risk.

I don’t ever recall God using wives getting beaten up to convict their husbands’ heart as Patterson suggests here: “I was happy—not that she had suffered from his anger, but that God had used her to move her husband to conviction of his sin.

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Old Statement: I had a woman who was in a church that I served and she was being subject to some abuse. And I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening, I want you to get down by your bed, just before he goes to sleep, get down by the bed and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene. Not out loud. Quietly.” But I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready, because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.”

New Statement: For sharing this illustration, especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise. However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.

Julie Anne’s comment: This is not true. He clearly sent her back to an abusive situation, telling her to pray for her husband at bedtime, even anticipating that her husband may “get a little more violent.” Paige Patterson, encouraged a woman to go back to a potentially violent situation.

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Old Statement: And remember, when nobody else can help, God can. And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be as submissive in every way that you can, and elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing, he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life. And you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.

New Statement: For sharing this illustration, especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise. However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.

Julie Anne’s comment: In this phrase, “you have to do what you can at home to be as submissive in every way that you can, and elevate him,” he is encouraging her to be at home with her abuser and do what she can do so that he won’t abuse her. Patterson is saying that her behavior can have an affect on an abuser’s behavior. But in reality, there is nothing that a woman can do to prevent abuse – to assume otherwise puts a woman at risk for more harm.

In both statements, he refers to God at work in this couple’s lives. In the old statement, the onus is on the woman to pray, be submissive, and elevate him to make her husband brought “to his knees.” In the new statement, he says, “God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.

That application is very dangerous to women who are in harm’s way. For those women who are trying to please God and trust their pastors or church leaders to guide them spiritually in the midst of abuse, these words often tell an abused wife that she must put up with abuse and remain with her abuser because, “God uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good.”

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New Statement: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a statement regarding abuse with which I agree entirely. I do not believe there is a woman or girl ever associated with me who would allege any abuse on my part. To all who love me and have supported me across the years and to those who have been wounded by these accusations, I express my deepest regret. I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce. But I do greatly regret that the way I expressed that conviction has brought hurt. I also regret for my own family this deliberate misrepresentation of my position as well as the hatred that lies behind much of it.

Julie Anne’s comment: Paige Patterson refers to the statement on abuse from Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In that statement, there is no mention of divorce. In the above quote from Patterson’s new statement, his stance is clear: “I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce.”

Divorce does not appear to be an option for abused wives in Paige Patterson’s world. The focus is “mend the marriage,” but this is the wrong focus. Abuse is not a marriage problem, it is an abuse problem. What if the abusive spouse refuses to change? Does the abused wife have a responsibility for that abuse? Absolutely not. I fear for abused wives who listen to the teachings of Paige Patterson and other leaders who hold similar views. 

Finally, I do not believe that the people who were outraged on social media misrepresented anything. Patterson’s two statements show how he believes women have the responsibility when they are abused: responsibility to pray, to submit and elevate their husbands, and to realize that God uses difficult things to produce good. What we don’t see in Patterson’s words are that women are image bearers of Christ who are loved, supported, and/or protected when they are harmed by their abusive husbands. This must change.

62 comments on “Analysis: Paige Patterson’s Teachings on Domestic Violence Keep Victims in Harm’s Way

  1. Sadly Paige Patterson is a liar. There is no other way to accurately describe it, IMO he should have been fired from any and all SBC positions years ago. Snark alert-(but he was one of the two architects of the SBC TAKEOVER) and sadly that made him exempt from being fired. It is and has been a very sad situation for years.

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  2. I think this is also an obvious lie: “He was neither harsh nor physical with her, but she felt abused.”

    The specific question was: “What do you recommend for women who are undergoing genuine physical abuse…”

    So, in answering the question of how women should respond to “genuine physical abuse”, he remembers a woman who was being abused by her husband and he sends her back to submit and pray, knowing that the situation will probably escalate.

    If this woman was not physically abused, then he was not answering the question of how women should RESPOND to physical abuse. Instead he was saying nothing.

    So, either we must believe that he intended to answer the question, in which case:
    1. The woman was being physically abused
    2. She told him she was being physically abused, and not only did he not contact authorities or tell her to contact the authorities, he sent her back to continue to submit to the abuse.
    3. Not only did he put her back in harm’s way, but he gave her specific advice that he believed would escalate the situation. “he may get a little more violent” (how can someone who hasn’t shown violence or harshness get “more violent”?
    4. When she appeared at the church physically beaten, (which he expected given his advice) he showed no concern for her safety and well-being, and instead focused on winning her husband.

    Now, considering whether to weigh the first statement or the second statement, the first statement was presumably before a friendly audience that was biased in favor of his conclusions on the matter. He would be able to speak MORE FREELY what his real opinions on the matter work. The second statement is before a more hostile audience that is concerned about what seems to be a lack of concern for the victim and abused women in general, so it is less likely in the second case that he would speak what he believes to be the absolute truth and more likely that he is trying to make a palatable answer.

    So, it appears obvious (since he has not REPENTED of his earlier statement) that he believes that God’s call on women in physically abusive marriages is to return, submit and pray for their husband’s salvation, and take whatever abuse they dish out for the higher purpose of converting their abusive spouse.

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  3. Should have edited the thought – there is no other thing I think we can believe. The old statement is very clear that she was being physically abused, and the new statement denies that she was being physically abused. I believe the old statement.

    If a man was never harsh or abusive, how would he think that praying for him would make him harsh and abusive?

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  4. Mark, I’m studying forensic psychology this term. We’ve been discussing witnesses to a crime scene and how our brains process what happened. When we see an incident, we don’t see a fluid thought. We see it in bits and pieces and then over time, we fill in those gaps with ideas, prejudices, thoughts from others, etc, until it becomes a fluid timeline. It’s been 18 years since the original interview. It is quite different from the statement he put out yesterday. I believe the first statement. It’s probably closer to the truth – that is, if it is a true story at all.

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  5. And there it is. I went to SEBTS under his leadership and my ex-abusive-husband took marriage and family classes, of which PP was a proponent. Oh, how my ex reveled in the teachings! What spiritual abuse I suffered because of them! Furthermore, there were two women on campus who were being abused by their husband (studying to be pastors). I went to security and the counseling department and they threw up their hands and told me that there was simply “nothing they could do”. Disgusting.

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  6. Yeah, there was an interesting article about a man who was given the death penalty for setting his house on fire and killing his family. Initially, the witnesses said that he seemed truly upset and was trying to find a way to get in and rescue his family. But, as the suspicion of the detectives turned towards him, the blanks were filled with doubt, and at the time of the trial, they seemed to unanimously think he was behaving suspiciously.

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  7. It is amazing to me that these supposed scholars of the Bible have missed some very important passages on the subject of abuse and divorce. God told the Israelites to divorce their unbelieving wives (Ezra 3). God himself divorced Israel for their unfaithfulness (Jer.3:8). God, through Moses, permitted divorce for “hardness of heart” (Mark 10). God gave us authorities to protect us from evil doers (abusers) (Rom.13:4). And God commands us to “set the oppressed free… and break every yoke” (Isa.58:6).

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  8. Even if the story is true of the woman whose black eyes were, in Paige Patterson’s eyes at least, a small price to pay for her husband’s salvation, it’s still probably confirmation bias. Does he remember the 9 (or 49, or 99) times women were harmed by his advice, or just the 1 in 10 (or 1 in 50 or 100) where it was successful?

    I suspect if we knew the truth the answer would not paint a good picture of Paige Patterson.

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  9. HEADS UP —

    CBMW’s 2018 Statement on Abuse is different from their 1994 Statement on Abuse.
    I will be publishing a post at A Cry For Justice about the differences.

    In 2010 I published my critique of their 1994 Statement on Abuse. I emailed the key leaders of CBMW to tell them about my critique. Randy Stinson (who was then their Executive Officer of some such title) responded to my email, saying that CBMW would be reviewing their Statement on Abuse.

    The next thing that happened was that around the time Owen Strachan took over the executive officer role, CBMW revampe their website and their 1994 Statement vanished.

    But Mary Kassian quoted it in full, in 2012 her blog post
    https://www.girlsgonewise.com/statement-on-abuse-on-the-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/
    (I have save that link ^ to the web archive, in case it gets scrubbed)

    Soon after Mary Kassian published that post of hers, I republished my critique of CBWM’s 1994 Statement on Abuse:
    https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/11/28/critique-of-cbmws-statement-on-abuse/

    It is now 2018.
    CBWM have just published their new Statement on Abuse (12 March, 2018). They have changed a few things they said in 1994.

    I am so angry they have taken this long to review their Statement on Abuse!

    They ignored me for eight years. They ignored the plight of victims for MANY MANY YEARS.

    Now that #MeToo and #ChurchToo have gained traction, they are trying to play catch up.

    NOT IMPRESSED.

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  10. I didn’t catch this part earlier from the old statement:

    I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help. I would urge you that that should happen only in the most serious of cases.

    And Paige f’ing Patterson is the one who gets to decide if a woman’s life is in ‘enough’ danger, I’m guessing. Based on….whatever.

    This idea that one has to get a man uninvolved to decide if abuse is ‘dangerous enough’ is SO DANGEROUS IN AND OF ITSELF that I cannot handle this.

    This does not track with his current statement. He just realizes his old one is impolitic. Does anyone doubt what he would do in real life? I suspect no situation that has not already put you in the hospital would warrant ‘temporary separation’.

    And what if the man never changes? What if it is always dangerous? Why is divorce considered more serious than attempted murder? How insane is this statement!!

    Wake up, people, and leave these churches. They cannot be trusted with women.

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  11. And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back. First time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, and he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God could forgive somebody like me?”

    Alternate Universe Paige Patterson: “And then I said, ” you should immediately go to the police station and report yourself and take your punishment for these actions. Then ask your WIFE for forgiveness too, as God is not the only one you have harmed. If you are truly repentant you will do these things”

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  12. Julie Anne’s comment: In this phrase, “you have to do what you can at home to be as submissive in every way that you can, and elevate him,” he is encouraging her to be at home with her abuser and do what she can do so that he won’t abuse her.

    He is. Obviously anything a man does is a woman’s fault! Duh! Even the golden state killer only did it because his relationship ended, so obviously we should blame his ex. I am so tired of this.

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  13. I also regret for my own family this deliberate misrepresentation of my position as well as the hatred that lies behind much of it.

    It’s so disgusting the way these pretend manly men, submit to me, I’m the head of the household, dudes hide behind their wives and kids rather than face their own, public actions and statements.

    I’m not going to stop criticizing you because you are married. Grow up.

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  14. It’s probably closer to the truth – that is, if it is a true story at all.

    JA, apologies for so many posts, but this is such a fake story. Maybe someone went home and came back with black eyes one time. Who knows? But I think it’s a fable he concocted to make his point, which was ‘go home and everything will be fine’.

    Which is typical comp garbage, because they can’t deal with the fact that sometimes there are no happy endings here. And they have no answers, because they would refuse you divorce, which is the only answer. So Patterson is stuck making up better sounding versions of the old fable to try and pretend he didn’t say what he clearly said, and he doesn’t mean what he clearly means.

    The twitter praise in light of such clear lies is nauseating.

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  15. Paige Patterson is a trustee at Cedarville University. So apparently, Cedarville doesn’t have a problem having someone sit on their board who blames victims and whose main concern is with preserving a patriarchal society.

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  16. Does he remember the 9 (or 49, or 99) times women were harmed by his advice, or just the 1 in 10 (or 1 in 50 or 100) where it was successful?

    I suspect if we knew the truth the answer would not paint a good picture of Paige Patterson.

    That’s such a great point, James. And what about all of those other cases where the perpetrator didn’t repent. What happened to those women and the marriages?

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  17. Just had a thought relating to the black eyes story; my mom got really, really good at applying makeup, so you could hardly tell. If indeed the woman in Patterson’s story came with black eyes showing, she would be, as far as I can tell, an outlier.

    For my part, knowing that I struggled with “what is a Biblical divorce?” for obvious reasons, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I can’t endorse divorce for abuse alone (physical, sexual, whatever), I have come to the conclusion that if churches would recommend separation and mandatory counseling for the abuser, that you would probably get a lot of divorces anyway. As I saw with my dad, the abuser will tend to go on when he’s not getting what he wants easily, which then is indeed reason for divorce.

    (yes, I know that some churches even deny divorce for the cause of adultery, but I just can’t reconcile that with Matthew or Deuteronomy)

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  18. I’ve come to the conclusion that while I can’t endorse divorce for abuse alone (physical, sexual, whatever),

    Then you counsel extra pain for the abused spouse with the idea that maybe divorce will happen anyway. I had a friend who separated from her husband and didn’t get divorced for years simply because she was afraid if she filed he would react violently. Terrible as that is, I get it. What you said I don’t get.

    This is why I am no longer Baptist. Let’s call a spade a spade, get a divorce when needed, dance in the rain, and admit that we have women ministers, whether we call them directors or not. I am tired of semantics being used to try to be ‘biblical’.

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  19. Lea,suffice it to say that I’m not saying that an abused spouse ought to stay because she (or he for that matter) fears violence if papers are served. Rather, I’d actually suggest that churches would do well to help augment the protection given by protective orders and the police, along the same lines as the motorcyclists who give comfort to child abuse victims by coming to their homes to protect them. For that matter, I’ve actually participated in such an effort on a lesser scale–a young lady I was dating had a former boyfriend who felt he was entitled to her, and I once walked into my room where my roommate and another guy were keeping her safe.

    I get your frustration with Baptists….we don’t always “get” this. In fact, at this very moment, I’m mulling over how to respond to some especially egregious things elsewhere.

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  20. Pingback: Linkathon! - Phoenix Preacher

  21. Pingback: Headline: Abused women need to stay and pray | Spiritual Battles

  22. Bike Bubba are you saying you think women should stay married to the man who sexually abuses them or hits them?

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  23. Pingback: CBMW’s new Statement on Abuse still falls short. #ChurchDV | A Cry For Justice

  24. CH: I’m saying that a woman who is physically abused ought to be encouraged to separate, and that the church ought to help make this happen and also call the abuser to repentance. Same thing if the sexes are switched.

    My hunch is that if churches started to do this, there would be a minority of cases of repentance by the abuser and a majority of divorces. Some divorces would occur because the abuser went on to his next relationship, and some would occur because separation would not be a sufficient financial and safety barrier.

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  25. One more comment here; given that what I’m doing is effectively to say “give the abuser a chance to repent”, that in turn presumes that the leaders of the church know enough about domestic violence to get a good grip on what does, and does not, constitute repentance. If you said “that’s a pretty big ‘if'”, you have my complete agreement.

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  26. given that what I’m doing is effectively to say “give the abuser a chance to repent”

    The abuser has plenty of chances to repent. They can do so from the other side of town or a divorce, if they are sincere. A woman only has a responsibility to take care of herself and her children in such circumstances. She should not have this burden placed on her, of his repentance.

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  27. The abuser has plenty of chances to repent. They can do so from the other side of town or a divorce, if they are sincere.

    Exactly. I’m just saying that my preference is that “from the other side of town” is the first step, and I’m saying that a divorce is probably the most likely next step. I’m not saying that abused women ought to remain in their relationships without a change of address or attitude on the part of their abuser.

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  28. I’m just saying that my preference is that “from the other side of town” is the first step, and I’m saying that a divorce is probably the most likely next step.

    I think the problem here is that by the time a woman asks for a divorce, there have likely been a lot of chances given…way too many. The other side of town is probably going to happen anyway, as a divorce is not instantaneous.

    She probably needs more encouragement to divorce than she needs people telling her to give him another chance. The next chance could be deadly.

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  29. Lea, I’d largely agree. It strikes me from watching such situations–regrettably I know of almost enough to achieve some degree of statistical significance–that a lot of water has generally passed under the bridge before a victim is ready to change addresses.

    That’s part of why I’d encourage churches to encourage and facilitate separation as an intermediate step. It’s one I’ve tried personally with one victim, and another case involved a dear woman from the church I attended growing up whose counsel was involved in at least three divorces. She didn’t like her part in that, but when it’s that or the likelihood of the ER or morgue…..I think she made the right choice.

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  30. That’s part of why I’d encourage churches to encourage and facilitate separation as an intermediate step.

    That is always the first step.

    People need to know there is a second step. And that it is there decision and no one else’s. And that it is not a sin and they will not be judged for taking it. Period.

    Anything less keeps people in bondage.

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  31. Bike Bubba do you think a woman should stay married to her husband if he beats or sexually abuses her.

    Are you saying you think a woman who is being beaten or sexually abused should separate then get back with him?

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  32. CH, once again, no; if you read my comments above carefully, you’ll see that.

    The major point where I may disagree with some here is that I’d recommend a time of separation instead of proceeding directly to divorce. Apart from the possibility of genuine repentance and reconciliation–and sadly, I’d have to agree it’s not that likely–I’d argue that the abuser will generally end up taking the second step to divorce by moving on relationally or by attempting to use the legal bonds which still exist to further abuse his (her) victim.

    I also concede 100% that most churches are going to need an attitude adjustment, to put it mildly, before they’re able to shepherd that process well.

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  33. or by attempting to use the legal bonds which still exist to further abuse his (her) victim.

    Honestly, you can see that this is possible even probable outcome of your recommendation, but would still recommend it????

    Why not recommend divorce. If the abuser really does change, and she sees it and believes it to be true two or three of five years down the road, and wishes to, she can remarry him. Why not counsel that???

    Like

  34. I would say it is because you are trying to get them divorced without counseling her to get divorced. This is silly, and harmful, as you yourself see! Why not just cut to the chase?

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  35. Lea, good question. My answer first of all is that abuse isn’t firm Biblical criterion for divorce, though I concede that it generally represents a broken relationship.

    Practically speaking, we start with the reality that if we want to get a victim to safety, I would guess a certain portion of victims will be more willing to separate than to divorce. The approach has the chance of getting more victims to safety.

    Also, I would guess that more offenders can be brought to repentance if they see that they have at least a ghost of a chance of restoring the relationship. Having watched up close, divorce leaves a mark that time does not erase, and one’s approach can soften or harden the heart of the offender. We need to choose carefully.

    Going further, more churches are going to sign on to help if they’re at least offering a chance of reconciliation. The Gospel is all about the repentance and renewal of sinners, not their summary execution.

    Finally, the FBI data I’ve seen, as well as state by state data, indicates that domestic violence (really including everything from dating violence to violence in marriages by definition) is actually 2-3x higher among unmarried couples than among the married. In that light, divorce could end up being like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    So as I see the data, everything points to the notion that encouraging separation first is actually safer for the victims.

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  36. I grew up in a house with a wife beating father and a father who mocked sexual abuse of women and girls. I wanted to leave and never see the man again.

    “divorce leaves a mark that time does not erase,”

    So does wife beating, listening to your father’s misogynistic trash talking of women and girls, and all forms of sexual abuse.

    “abuse isn’t firm Biblical criterion for divorce,”

    Which is why I believe the bible was written by men like Ariel Castro and Doug Wilson; and not any loving empathetic good God.

    ” I would guess that more offenders can be brought to repentance if they see that they have at least a ghost of a chance of restoring the relationship.”

    More of that good old Christian mentality that the “man” matters and the woman does not.

    “Going further, more churches are going to sign on to help if they’re at least offering a chance of reconciliation. The Gospel is all about the repentance and renewal of sinners, not their summary execution.”

    I am so grateful I have washed my hands of Christianity, Christian men, and churches.

    “Finally, the FBI data I’ve seen, as well as state by state data, indicates that domestic violence (really including everything from dating violence to violence in marriages by definition) is actually 2-3x higher among unmarried couples than among the married. ”

    It is interesting that the church going, bible quoting, conservative, married Christian men in my family beat their wives much more than my unmarried cousins beat their girlfriends. I don’t believe you Bike Bubba and I am starting to wonder if you and KAS are not the same person.

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  37. @Lea

    I grew up in Bike Bubba’s ideology and these men see a woman divorcing her abuser as the woman winning and the man losing. In this ideology, women are never to win and men are never to lose to women. But, none of this is their fault, they have God and the bible to take them blame for their selfishness and misogyny.

    These kinds of men have sexual abuse so belittled in their minds they believe a victim of sexual abuse could be happy and live without a stomach ache while living with and having to listen to the voice of and look at the face of the man who sexually abused them.

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  38. Here’s a link regarding the domestic violence rate. You can also check FBI and state databases.

    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jcrim/2014/897093/

    https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ipv9310.pdf

    And really, CH, I’m on your side, though I don’t agree with you in every point. The core of our disagreement is really the question of which steps are going to get us closer to the goal–fewer victims abused, more victims finding a safe place, more offenders coming to repentance, more people in good families. If you were to sum up what I’m saying, it is that going directly to divorce is an “all or nothing” proposition that inhibits all of this for obvious reasons. Immediate resort to divorce is, IMO, the relational equivalent of the President reaching for the nuclear “football” instead of talking to ambassadors when crises arise.

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  39. Also, I would guess that more offenders can be brought to repentance if they see that they have at least a ghost of a chance of restoring the relationship.

    This is the exact opposite of what the experts say. They pretend repentance maybe until they get someone back, and then do exactly what they did before. That’s pretty much the best you can hope for, generally.

    My answer first of all is that abuse isn’t firm Biblical criterion for divorce

    I completely disagree with this read on the bible. You are looking for a If X, then Y kind of list. That’s not what the bible IS.

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  40. divorce leaves a mark that time does not erase

    Abuse leaves a mark that time does not erase! Divorce is just acceptance of reality. Divorce is the only way to even began to heal.

    Think not of the abuser but the abused first.

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  41. @Lea – I grew up in Bike Bubba’s ideology and these men see a woman divorcing her abuser as the woman winning and the man losing.

    This is a very interesting perspective.

    I do want to echo what others have said and say that I appreciate your voice here. I was not abused, but I’m a generation removed from it. This conversation is important and I have no patience for men who would shackle women to their abuser based on a misunderstanding of Christianity.

    If I believed that were real Christianity, I would reject it, as you have done.

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  42. Here’s a link regarding the domestic violence rate.

    Your data is irrelevant. Leaving a couple married does not fix abuse!

    The people who work with abuser say they generally do not see the abuser change. The only cases where they do are with men who are unable to keep a relationship. What you counsel is the opposite of that.

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  43. “I’m on your side” No you are not. We are on opposite sides.

    “Immediate resort to divorce is, IMO, the relational equivalent of the President reaching for the nuclear “football” instead of talking to ambassadors when crises arise.”

    I believe you just get something out of women having to be under men’s authority and a woman escaping makes you uncomfortable.

    Men who hit their wives or sexually abuses their wives do not deserve a second chance or deserve to have their b*tts kissed. But, I am not a man, like you are, so it really really hurts me. And unlike you, I don’t get anything out of coddling and pampering abusive fathers and husbands.

    My mother was abused and demeaned. She should have immediately divorced my bottom of the barrel father. Not separate and give a church time to baby him and coddle him and manipulate her into staying with him. The abuser deserved to be divorced; the victim deserved to escape and never have to see the abuser again.

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  44. “Your data is irrelevant.”

    Especially since women and little girls who are brainwashed and trapped in conservative Christianity are told their whole lives that if they tell anybody about any abuse they will make God mad, make Jesus cry, cause other people to go to hell, they will go to hell, and Jesus will stop blessing them.

    These people don’t know one-fourth of the garbage that is heaped on women and little girls trapped in conservative Christianity and conservative Christian fathers and husbands have arranged it this way.

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  45. Men who hit their wives or sexually abuses their wives do not deserve a second chance

    Indeed. Holla for the boys in the back. You hit me, I’m gone.

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  46. The people who work with abuser say they generally do not see the abuser change. The only cases where they do are with men who are unable to keep a relationship. What you counsel is the opposite of that.

    Nope. Read what I wrote carefully. Restoration of the relationship occurs upon repentance, so my counsel is EXACTLY as you state it ought to be.

    Another thought is that if indeed “standard practice” is to simply recommend divorce, then the separation option hasn’t been tested. Provide a link to your data if you believe this is wrong, but my impression is that the hypothesis that’s been tested is simply (a) divorce vs. (b) no change in residential situation. No surprise that (b) doesn’t get results, as it exerts no pressure.

    Again, I think that data that exist leave a lot of room for the possibility that a lot of abusees would separate but not divorce, and that a lot of help could be forthcoming from churches that share that reluctance.

    Regarding that, you’ve noted that repentance today is rare; again, that’s repentance in our current system. Maybe….it’s time to check our assumptions and be open to trying something new?

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  47. Provide a link to your data if you believe this is wrong, but my impression is that the hypothesis that’s been tested is simply (a) divorce vs. (b) no change in residential situation.

    You have not studied this issue deeply enough if you think that. Most women leave SEVEN times before they leave for good. They return and it gets worse.

    Your counsel is return. My counsel is leave, divorce. IF he shows repentance you can remarry. Why is this not considered as an option? Is it because once she truly gets away for good, she is unlikely to be swayed by false promises and he is likely to get bored and find a new target, that is if he doesn’t kill the old one?

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  48. Restoration of the relationship occurs upon repentance

    Which, never happens.

    Stop this pie in the sky thing that I cannot stand from comp men that an abuser will ‘change’ and deal with the reality of this.

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  49. Bike Bubba, you seem to have a lot to learn here. And there are plenty of people trying to teach you.

    Immediate resort to divorce is, IMO, the relational equivalent of the President reaching for the nuclear “football” instead of talking to ambassadors when crises arise.

    Uhm, no it’s not, although I’m sure many abusive spouses would like to paint it as such. I think a much more appropriate analogy would be the amputation of a leg or arm. If that appendage has become gangrenous and a danger to the rest of the body, the only sane and responsible choice is to cut it off.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that while I can’t endorse divorce for abuse alone (physical, sexual, whatever), I have come to the conclusion that if churches would recommend separation and mandatory counseling for the abuser, that you would probably get a lot of divorces anyway.

    I’m sorry, but did you just say, “abuse alone“? As in, “only hurting her”? I keep hearing John the Pied Piper say that, and it makes me uncomfortable.

    And when you say, “you would probably get a lot of divorces anyway”, do you mean filed by the abusing spouse? Yes, that might happen in some cases (such as your father), but if the abusive one chooses not to divorce, he (or she) can inflict a lot of additional pain on the suffering spouse if she (or he) isn’t allowed that option.

    You might be aware of some of these issues, but for those who aren’t, Deanna Holmes, who has a background in law, has outlined just a few of them very succinctly in this recent Twitter thread:

    Restoration of the relationship occurs upon repentance…

    Fine and dandy, Bubba, but how can we be sure whether such a man has truly repented? Abusive personalities can be very skilled at feigning penance, and you’ve already admitted that pastors and church leaders are often clueless to this reality. Even if the fakes can be weeded out from the sincere, how much time would be required to prove that repentance? Six months? A year? More?? During that whole time, if the abuser has no intention of repenting or divorcing, he can still do immense harm to his spouse, even if they’re living apart (as detailed above).

    In order to make the best decision for themselves, abused spouses need to know all of their options. If they’re told that divorce isn’t one of those options (or, they’re not informed that it is), then they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. If churches insist on withholding this info for doctrinal “reasons”, they simply will never be trustworthy places for women or children, or even for good-hearted men.

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  50. Pingback: Paige Patterson and a culture that breeds a generation of abusers – by Rebecca Davis | A Cry For Justice

  51. Uhm, no it’s not, although I’m sure many abusive spouses would like to paint it as such

    I think the fact that we are talking about divorce rather than abuse itself as going nuclear tells you how much abusers have manipulated the public.

    Abuse is the nuclear huge thing. Not divorce.

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  52. Bike Bubba is a fan of Doug Wilson. I doubt you will ever convince him to be on the side of the beaten or raped wife over the side of the wife beater/wife rapist.

    “Abuse is the nuclear huge thing. Not divorce.”

    You will never convince a comp man of that. Abusing one’s wife and children is every Christian man’s God given right. And if anyone is talking about it; it is a sign wife and kids are not being fully submissive to big thug daddy.

    My comp father told me, “rape is not that big of a deal.”

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  53. BB, I was interested in the OT verse…

    “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.”

    So, now the question is whether a Hebrew wife had more rights than a female slave. I would say that the way we interpret this is not narrowly, but seeing the big picture. The big picture is that domestic violence is a breaking of a covenant. In this case, there is a covenant between the slave and the slave owner, and the slave owner breaking his side of the covenant, by causing injury to the slave, causes the covenant to be broken and the slave goes free.

    In the very same way, domestic violence breaks the marriage covenant. The wife is set free based on the covenant violation of the husband. So, divorce, while not something that ought to be forced on the couple, is a recognition of what has already been done, not a step that the wife takes to break the covenant. Get it? The wife CAN choose to reconcile and restore the relationship, but again, the church ought to be careful that this is done out of true reconciliation and not fear and encourage both husband and wife towards a relationship that is without fear.

    My comp. upbringing was primarily focused on who filed for divorce and not what happened in the marriage. It was the person who “gave up” on the marriage that was the guilty party of destroying the marriage, because, apparently, it was the legal technicality that made a marriage and not what the relationship looked like.

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  54. One comment and I am done: This is not a thought experiment. These are real situations that involve real people being abused, and having to live with the consequences of what they are told to do. Sometimes the priority is NOT to save the marriage, but to save the people in it. In my opinion separation with the intent of reconciling is leaving that door open just a crack for an abuser to do what he (or she) does–lie and twist the truth so that they can maintain control over their spouse. Even if the abuser does repent, guess what? They are not entitled to get that spouse back! The onus here is being put on the wife to leave that door open, to remain bound to someone who has shown themselves repeatedly to be absolutely untrustworthy, to put her life/healing/safety on hold for an undetermined length of time. And don’t tell me I cannot read, or I misunderstood. Actually, no, I don’t understand how anyone can think that physical or sexual abuse is somehow less serious or divorce-worthy than adultery. If your conscience allows you to beat or rape your wife, you are very far gone. Miss me with that @#$%^. Whew. Rant over.

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  55. This is not a thought experiment.

    Yes. Emphatically yes. I share your frustration, especially as all the thought experimenting and stay and pray advice seems to come from people who know they will never have to live it.

    Real lives and souls are at stake. Any decent person will attempt to love those people enough to protect them. And no one is obligated to stay with someone who hurts them. No one. Period. Done.

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  56. Pingback: Paige Patterson on Domestic Violence: Audiofile Transcript and Resource Links | Spiritual Sounding Board

  57. Pingback: Domestic Violence, Ministry, and Controversy in Conservative Christianity: A Guest Post on Historical Context and Perspective | Spiritual Sounding Board

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