Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, and Spouse Abuse

I’ve read Gary Thomas’s book Sacred Marriage. I found it to be very insightful, and I highly recommend it. I also agree with Thomas’s recent assessments regarding spouse abuse, although I also believe that the ranks of abusers in this are not restricted to men.

Having said that, Deb at TWW raises an issue regarding a common theme provided by Thomas in sacred Marriage: that marriage is less about your happiness and more about your holiness.

On its face, that is true, particularly for the Christian. And in the context that Thomas makes that statement, he does so against the backdrop of the divorce culture in which people often obtain divorces because the marriage is not satisfying their expectations.

Apparently, some pastors have used that to push couples to remain in abusive marriages. And, irrespective of the context in which Thomas made his statements, that is now his fault. Because Christians are too freaking stupid to read and assess for themselves.

How about this?

(1) If you’re being abused, then go straight to the police and FILE THE CHARGES! Don’t provide nebulous answers when asked about what ways you are being abused, and then–after the divorce–concoct a sanctified story about what a maniacal jackwagon he was. FILE THE CHARGES! You’re a grownup, and you need to act like one. FILE THE CHARGES! Did I say FILE THE CHARGES?

(2) If your church believes in discipline, then take your case to your elders/pastoral team. Don’t provide anecdotal quotes, and instead record the meeting. If they want to be jackwagons about it and use control tactics, then publish the video/recording on the Internet and subject them to the largest forum for free inquiry in human history.

(3) If he (or she) is cheating, or resorting to perverted behavior (porn, fetishes, hookup websites, etc.), then take your case to the Church. And, like I said, record the meeting. None of this “I said this, he said that”…get a recording. If they brush you off, publish it on the Internet.

What chaps my hide in this discussion is that we have people–who ought to know better–doing one of two extremes:

(1) Using sound Biblical principles as a pretext for forcing wives (or even husbands) to remain in marriages that are profoundly harmful and even life-threatening.

(2) rejecting those sound Biblical principles by subjecting them to the death of a thousand exceptions.

When a wife, whose husband is downloading child porn, is placed under church discipline for seeking to end the marriage, I’d say the eldership has screwed the pooch.

When a wife (husband), whose husband (wife) is clearly abusive, and the offended spouse seeks to leave, and the elders put the offended spouse under church discipline, then the eldership has screwed the pooch.

When a wife (husband), whose husband (wife) is committing adultery, seeks to leave, and the elders put the offended spouse under church discipline, then the eldership has screwed the pooch.

At the same time, if there has been abuse–and the offending party expresses repentance–then there is nothing wrong with encouraging a couple to seek counsel and attempt to work it out. That would be an application of a sound general principle–the sanctity of the marriage covenant–while accepting that, if the abuse continues, it may not be workable. (And if the abuses are of sufficient severity, then even that might not be a viable option.)

I know wives whose husbands beat them so severely that they ended up in the hospital. One was a friend of mine from college. Her church told her to just submit more and pray for him. He damn-near killed her. Didn’t matter…it was her fault it didn’t work out.

Yes, we know women can be abusive and manipulative. I’ve got horror stories–from within the Church–on that front. And if you don’t think women can’t be abusive, you’re either naive or breathtakingly stupid. (And yes, I’ve seen the men get blamed for those cases, too.)

What we are seeing is a reaping of the whirlwind by a Church that has spent two generations ordaining one of two extremes: (a) a bunch of pussiespastors who lack the balls to stand up to their own wives, let alone the women who sit on key committees in the churches, or (b) a bunch of hyper-patriarchal pricks who might as well be Islamists without turbans.

Having said that, we must remember, in this discussion of marriage and divorce, that the general is not the particular, nor does the particular nullify the general.

Fact is, if you’ve been awake for the last 50 years, then you know what the divorce culture is. The Church MUST confront it head-on. When spouses cheat, then they need to be called on it. When one engages in abusive behavior, we must also confront that head-on.

The issues here are nothing new under the sun, and in fact Paul himself had to address them in his letters to the Church.

11 thoughts on “Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, and Spouse Abuse

  1. excellent.

    the word ‘abuse’ is so mis-handled that it’s become difficult to determine what is true and what is not true. unfortunately, women are the biggest offenders of misusing the ‘abuse’ word. they get around in groups and bad-talk their men … one chirps up and calls something ‘abuse,’ then they snowball it till the truth is buried … and they’ve deluded themselves so that they can’t even figure it out. to add fuel to that fire, pastors/preachers are rarely balanced when it comes to calling out sin between men and women.

    all this causes people to go to extremes when all they simply need to do is deal with the truth.

  2. I’ve made that argument many times–that women get deference that men don’t get when it comes to death penalty crimes–and many of my conservative women friends insist on denying that.

    But the numbers don’t lie.

  3. I have witnessed and have been a victim of domestic violence myself from my brother sometimes when I do something that he did not like.

    Brother was beaten as a child for making a mistake in his homework and often wantonly as if he were an enemy. My Father goes overboard in this regard.

    My Father’s Family are all wifebeaters whose family consists men/women who are violent people in general. They are all divorced.

    My Father’s Father as well as my Father’s Mother are all headcase violent individuals

    I think my Father’s Uncle actually set fire to his Aunt’s bed once. But that could not be confirmed.

    I still hate the fact that I was beaten into a corner and was not able to fight back properly.

    Its like Domestic VIolence is a generational curse that my family inherited. And my constant crying because of the pain finally got God to help save my Soul.

    I do not know but I was crying out for anyone to hear me.

    Although the violence has quieted down somewhat my brother still has terrible anger issues. I think there is something not quite right about him and I would like to know how to deal with him.

    • I’m sorry to hear that. This is exactly the extreme that some of the NeoCals fail to account for.

      This is also the kind of case that gets shoved under the rug due to the frivolous people out there who seek to define abuse down to any time a woman no longer loves her husband. Because, as we all know, it’s always the husband’s fault…

      • I agree. That’s part of the reason why I hate when I am weaker than others. Because I remember the feeling of sheer helplessness of being beaten in a corner unable to effectively mount resistance.

        My reaction is very visceral when I encounter topics like this because of prior experience.

        So forgive me if I seem unhinged.

        I can only pray for my family because only God can change a person’s character.

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