Last week I called pastors to engage in conversations concerning the epidemic of domestic violence by acknowledging the severity of the problem, recognizing our own blindness to the systemic nature of violence against women, and taking stands publicly. I was encouraged by the responses of fellow pastors to the need. I know many are disappointed in the church in this regard and rightfully so. We have done a poor job in the past. We have not arrived. We still make many mistakes. But the progress I observe is encouraging. Reading some of the e-mail responses to last week’s post reminded me of just how far many friends and I have come in just a few years.
- Churches that never discussed domestic abuse are reading, learning, wrestling with, engaging, and yes, making mistakes as they build Biblical policies and practices which serve victims well. This growing process has literally saved lives. PTL
- Training ministries that previously, rarely addressed domestic violence, and sometimes offered poor or counterproductive advice, are transitioning to healthy, honest, and humble positions on these issues. PTL
- When domestic violence impacted members of a pastor friend’s church, he wisely sought help and education from the local shelter. He understands the basic issues. Seeing the great need for understanding in the church, he strongly encourages me to write, speak, and educate. PTL
- A local parishioner joyfully shared that on Mother’s Day her pastor, a friend of mine, made a clear direct statement to men in the congregation about domestic violence. PTL
One Common Mistake
There are many more examples of how the sleeping giant is awakening. There is more work to do. I will never condemn a pastor for addressing the problem. In fact, l praise those who do. At the same time, I will offer to help them clearly and more effectively speak truth. Yesterday I tweeted appreciation to Dr. Tony Evans for speaking to Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship regarding the sin of domestic violence.
I commend Dr. Evans. If I were attending that morning I would have been clapping the loudest, shouting “amen,” and possibly ordering t-shirts emblazoned with, “Submission never means Abuse!” More pastors need to make definitive statements from the pulpit. That said, if I could, I would also want to sit with Dr. Evans and offer advice along with my thanks. In his remarks, I believe Dr. Evans has room for improvement. The most significant misconception needing correction is one many tend to have when beginning this work. That is evidenced when people indirectly hold the victim accountable by saying things like, “don’t allow yourself to be subject to that.” That phrasing places responsibility on the victim rather than the abuser. When our only instruction to abusive men is to walk away, run away, or fly away, we risk reducing his responsibility to simply fleeing trouble rather than evaluating his privilege and motives. I believe Dr. Evans and the men of Oak Cliff can make a difference in their community as they call abusive men to account and non-abusive men to stand with their sisters.
What else should be said?
In addition to the many inspiring things Dr. Evans said, I encourage us to speak of domestic violence as a men’s issue. I encourage us to address all men, not just those who abuse. Perhaps our message should echo that of James Brown, NFL commentator, who scored big time with his words to men when he said:
*I want to thank a friend from ACFJ for patiently editing this piece. Your help really clarified and sharpened this post.
What do you think?
Can you see the Church becoming a vehicle for change in addressing violence against women? What will we as pastors need to do/learn in order for the church to be the safest place on the planet?