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.