The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9 This month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Domestic abuse or “battering” is a pattern of abuse by one partner against the other, for the purpose of maintaining power and control.
Forms of domestic abuse include physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, isolation or restriction from friends and family, destruction of property, financial exploitation, jealousy and possessiveness, and staking or monitoring of behavior.
Every woman is at risk for becoming a victim of domestic violence. It has no regard for socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion, employment status, physical ability, age, education, marital status or sexual orientation.
According to former Attorney General Janet Reno, “Too many American women live in fear of the very people upon whom they depend for love and affection. Instead of providing refuge, the walls of many homes serve as prison bars.”
The statistics on domestic violence are sad sobering. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
While some men are victimized by domestic violence, 85 percent of victims are women. Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.
So, what should the church’s attitude be relative to violence, particularly within the context of domestic violence? The church in general has had much to say on violent actions in the past, for example, on the question of war.
Although the church historically has advocated “Just War,” and the necessity of military conflict from time to time in eradicating violent and wicked people from the earth, generally the church has been staunchly positioned, at least verbally, against corporate or institutional vio-
The church also has had a lot to say in condemning individual violence and personal vengeance, but has managed to explain violence in the home and against women as a “private” matter between man and wife.
For too long the church generally has evaded its responsibility on this issue. No longer is it acceptable to consign such violence to the bin of “private affairs.” The church has the responsibility of protecting the weak and vulnerable – women, men and children.
The church should do at least three things:
First, recognize the inequalities. Wittingly or unwittingly, the church has perpetuated the myth of male supremacy.
Second, repent of the inequities.
As Christians, we need to face up to the inequities which have existed in the church for so many centuries and the sheer unfairness in its dealings with women.
Christian men in particular should take it on themselves to ask forgiveness for generations of men who down through the years have oppressed, dominated, beaten, battered, bruised and belittled women or consigned them to lives of misery and isolation.
Then the church needs to return to the injunctions.
In other words, get back to and understand more fully what the Bible really says about human equality. In the New Testament, Paul writes that husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loved the church. He infers that when a man loves a woman, he treats her as his own body, and no sober, sane man would intentionally hurt or abuse himself.
It is time for the church to face the issues of domestic violence in the church. If we continue to brush it all under the carpet, we may find ourselves constantly tripping over the lump.
The issue is hardly likely to go away, but we can at least expose it as totally unacceptable behavior for Christians, and perhaps begin to make a difference in the lives of many people, particularly women, by alleviating their suffering and perhaps deflecting future violence.
And so we pray: Gracious God, you created us in your image and breathed life into us, a life you want us to live abundantly. We ask you to free those living with abuse physically, mentally or spiritually, from their oppression, so that they may walk in peace and enjoy a life full of your blessings.
Protect the innocent children who suffer or witness violence and abuse at the hands of the ones they love. Bring them to a safe place where they can begin to heal.
Restore their minds to trust and their hearts to love and their spirits to be free. In the name of the healer and help himself, Jesus…Amen!
The Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com