Vyckie Garrison Shuts Down a Domestic-Abuse Apologist June 14, 2012

Vyckie Garrison Shuts Down a Domestic-Abuse Apologist

There is no more perfect a picture of absolute sexism in Christian doctrine than the doctrine of submission of women. There is no more perfect a picture of the horror of this doctrine in action than the practice of encouraging women to stay in abusive domestic partnerships.

Vyckie Garrison wishes she “had more middle fingers with which to express my extreme irritation” at this article written by Darcy Ingraham, and I am more than happy to loan my own middle fingers for the cause. The article itself, which I feel no need to take down on my own, since Garrison has already done it in a thorough and brutal fashion, is simply a collection of Christianisms and word-salad about the importance of maintaining a relationship with God despite the difficulties inherent in the lot He has given you. Instead of offering actual help and advice to people in dangerously scary and notoriously difficult circumstances, the author gives the sort of advice that you might dispense to a small child having playground spats with a young bully (not to downplay the seriousness of schoolyard bullying, but the situations are wildly different and deserve very different attention and action).

Garrison explains:

To begin with the author assumes that only those husbands who abandon their faith become angry, bitter, and abusive — and she offers no help for women whose abusive husbands are fully committed Christians acting in accordance with patriarchal teachings derived from the bible; she quotes random bible verses out of context to convince abused women that they are safe from actual violent abuse so long as they remain close to God; she appears to believe a woman’s display of piety (praying out loud for her abuser and telling him that she is giving him over to the Lord, for example) is the way to truly intimidate her abusive husband and get him to back off; she advises victims not to “make the abuse worse” by reacting to their abusers’ anger (followed by the whiplash-inducing about-face when she admonishes victims to never allow anyone to convince you that the abuse is your fault); and to top it all off, the author encourages abuse victims to take charge of their lives by finding a hobby.”

Nothing but patronizing and wrong-headed advice that puts women more in danger rather than mitigating it. I can’t imagine that an abuser would be particularly receptive to the victim praying aloud for the behavior to stop, for them to learn the error of their ways.

This quote, from the original article, brings up even more questions.

No one wants to be in an abusive marriage, but if you are a Christian woman the decision to leave or stay is not yours alone. The Lord has a plan for you and if you seek His wisdom, He will show you the way. Just know that if He leads you to remain in the marriage, He will be your strength. In “Our Daily Bread” by RBC Ministries, this sentence brings it home. “Assignments from God always include His enablement.”

Ultimately, this is where things really fall apart. In many Christian denominations, women are taught, often explicitly, that valuing themselves and their personal well-being is sinful. Instead, they are taught to submit, submit, submit — first to God, second to their husbands, third to the needs of their children (if they have any). This means that many women in abusive situations must navigate the needs and desires of an imaginary being, then the abuser, then the children, and finally, maybe, themselves.

Garrison says it better this way:

The question which the victim asks herself is no longer, “He is hurting me — what should I do?” — instead, it becomes, “He is hurting me, but God loves me and He knows what is best for my life — if I take matters into my own hands, am I really trusting the Lord?

Maybe I just need to have more faith and to be long-suffering and try to submit more wholeheartedly and sincerely? What would Jesus do? Would he defend himself? Would he give up and walk away? Would he withhold his love and forgiveness?… and on and on and around and around… until the woman is thoroughly overwhelmed and paralyzed by indecision. She cannot even say for sure whether or not she’s being abused, and she never gets around to addressing the only truly relevant question: What should I do?”

Now, to be fair, I don’t personally know any churches that explicitly teach or preach that women should stay in abusive relationships, but I don’t know of any church that doesn’t preach some version of submission of women. When I think in terms of doctrine, particularly when Christianity is so divided and so varied, I tend to think of it in terms of variations on a theme. Here, the theme is submission, and the interpretations run the gamut, just like anything else.

The problem is, of course, that, though moderate Christians would decry the practice of teaching victims to stay with the abuser, they won’t question and discard the underlying dogma. And, lest you would be so hopeful as to assume that this is relegated to fundamentalist or evangelical culture, here’s a screencap of the Facebook page of The Crossing church, snagged by Stephanie Drury of Stuff Christian Culture Likes (unsurprisingly, the post was taken down when they started getting complaints from members of the SCCL Facebook group, and maybe, possibly began to realize how horrible it was. Or they were just trying to clean up an imminent PR nightmare… take your pick.)

“Hip” mega-churches doing mega-awful things and then taking every opportunity to promote themselves… who would have guessed?

I’m kind of with Vyckie on this one; all my middle fingers are spoken for at the moment, and still it’s not enough to express my disgust and rage, for all the people who have suffered at the hands of abusive Christian parents, for all of the women who have been taught that violence directed toward them is simply “their cross to bear,” for all of the men who have missed out on the beauty, joy, and excitement of an egalitarian relationship founded on respect. It is my hope that one day Christian women, even if they never develop an evidence-based world-view, will be able to laugh, darkly, knowingly, back at the archaic time when they weren’t even in the top three of their own priority lists.

That day can’t come fast enough.

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  • Marguerite

    “No one wants to be in an abusive marriage, but if you are a Christian woman the decision to leave or stay is not yours alone. The Lord has a plan for you and if you seek His wisdom, He will show you the way. Just know that if He leads you to remain in the marriage, He will be your strength.”

    Ugh. Worst advice EVER.

  • NickDB

    I wonder if “I prayed for help and God told me to shoot him in the head” will be considered a valid defense if one of the ladies trapped in this situation finally snaps.

  • Georgina

    Oh dear, oh dear, what a shame this women has been so badly brought up.

    I expect she even believes that the special frying pan (the one with the heavy iron base) is actually for frying eggs in?

    Although I am equally disgusted with the church, I don’t actually expect any better from them. Con men do what con men do best – con people out of their cash.
    But that the women in her life are not standing next to her is very, very worrying.

  • Having once belonged to such a church, this ‘sage’ advice is not surprising. Even when I was deeply involved in church, I had problems with the attitude that women must “… submit to your own husbands as to the Lord…” passage of scripture. As to the Lord. Really. As though the husband is lord over the woman. 
    And this passage of scripture is the basis for many a bad marriage. Marriages filled with abuse, infidelity, disrespect, and apathy. 
    I fought against my husband, my church members, and my parents concerning this issue. I won. My husband wised up. We both left the church. My relationship with my parents became strained, then practically non-existent. My dad has since passed away and whenever I speak to my mom on the phone, much of her conversation centers around complaints she had about my dad while he was living. 
    My dad was not a bad man, but he could be an ass. And he frequently used the ‘submit’ passage of scripture to assert his authority. 
    I bristle each time I read a friend’s post on Facebook or hear of yet another incident that espouses this flawed piece of dogma. 
    Most people who know me know that I am an open and outspoken atheist. Some of them come to me whenever they have complaints about their church or some other aspect of their religious life, or whenever they are looking for a friend that will support them whenever some aspect of their lives wanders outside the boundary of their religious beliefs. And I oblige them. 
    Churches/preachers, such as those like Real Life Church in Weston, WV, who harbor abusive husbands, cheating husbands, and sexual deviants (as long as they’re men), will quickly judge and turn their backs on or shun the women in their congregation for lesser sins.
    I have no patience or respect for such dogma and I will openly speak against churches and believers who hold this belief to be good and endorsed by God. 

  • Wanda

     Probably not, but oh goodness, I like that! 🙂

  • L.Long

    People state that marriage is religious ad gays are not …. etc.  But the state took over the legality of marriage just because of the excessive abuses of the religious marriages and how women are usually totally screwed by marriage….Anthro101.

    But it goes way beyond religion, look at how girls are raised!  Look pretty-play with dolls-act nice-don’t fight, yada yada yada.  Yes my daughter did all that stuff, learns ballet and at 12yrs knows how to kill within 5secs, gives numerous martial arts demos and   WAS NEVER BULLIED in school.  As a side benefit she also did not have any teen sex cuz the boys were all scared of her and would not date her.

    She also has 5 cast iron frying pans that are kept in easy reach.
    So does her Mom!

  •  Now, to be fair, I don’t personally know any churches that explicitly
    teach or preach that women should stay in abusive relationships

    Just look up Rick Warren’s advice on this issue.  Or any Southern Baptist Church’s advice on it.  My own pastor preached a series on marriage and divorce. He rubbed his hands together as he noted that the only Biblical “out” for divorce was adultery.  I listened intently to every word.  “Ladies, I’m sorry, but abuse is not a Biblical reason for divorce.”  That was the end of that.  No resources for help in the instance one might find themselves in that situation. No elaboration whatsoever. 

  • Sindigo

    Why is it that I’m never surprised that no matter how despicable an aspect of human behaviour, someone somewhere will be using the Bible as justification for it?

    As I’ve had cause to say elsewhere on this board today; if I were the all-powerful creator of the universe and I was going to leave a magical instruction book to my creation as a guide not only for how to live their lives but also how to avoid eternal punishment I would make damn sure that it wasn’t so easy to misinterpret.

  • Formercorvguy

    It just might in Canada, Our supreme court is currently hearing a case to decide if it can be considered self defense in a case where a woman attempted to hire a hit man to kill her abusive husband.

  • eonL5

    Amanda said: “…but I don’t know of any church that doesn’t preach some version of submission of women.” I haven’t been there in many years, but I expect UU churches do not follow this doctrine.

  • Fsq

    Sickening. Just sickening.

    The abuse is bad enough, but encouraging women to stay in the relationships, and then just “pray” to find the way…..this…THIS is why atheists are angry!

    And the section where the “advice” is to pray before beddy-by time, and then a promorotion for a mega-church event, like the woman is really setting uop her social engagements at that point, it really illustrates how out of tune, and ill these fuckers are.

  • If you leave your abusive relationship, god will kill a puppy.

  • Sindigo

    I couldn’t agree more. When religion is used to subjugate more vulnerable members of society is when I feel it should be expunged from the Earth totally. And usually I’m a little more reasonable than that. 

    Ah, who am I kidding? Get rid of it.

  • I think she meant Christian churches.

  • I have seen scenarios like that all too often in the IFB movement. When a woman and her children feel as though they need to walk on egg shells to “be a godly helper to her husband” (ie help him not loose his temper), they are put into bondage. If she wants the relationship to heal, she needs to get help asap! There is no reason, biblical or otherwise, to enable abuse to continue. The entire family needs to be liberated. The wife and children cannot transform the husband into a more loving and respectful person. I believe people can change, but it’s not the wife or children’s responsibility to change an abusive husband and father. Being more submissive does not help, it simply enables the abuse to continue. Women need to be empowered and equipped so they can face these challenges with confidence and learn to establish boundaries to protect themselves and their children.

  • Tainda

    As a woman who was in an abusive marriage, this makes me sick to my stomach.  I was young and naive but I knew I had to get out before he killed me.  My personality changed totally after our divorce and I’m glad for it.  NO ONE will ever treat me that way again.

    There is no excuse for violence against someone you profess to love.  These women need to wake the F up and realize no one is going to save them but themselves.

  • Dea

    I really wish there was a dislike button. Imagine the abused women in that marriage and divorce series? How desparate, how sad. I hate this aspect of church dogma.

  •  I don’t have to imagine it.  I was her.

  • Tinker

    There are still some guys out there that can tear even a strong woman down over a series of years and religion can be a tool that they use. My very intelligent, strong and strong-willed sister was in an emotionally abusive relationship for years. She finally manage to rid herself of that dead weight hanging around her neck and did it without religion.

    While I am sure that it will not happen to your daughter, she should also be prepared to face guys that look good on the surface but engage in psychological warfare when others are not looking. As should all our daughters. 

  • Tinker

    This is the worst part of Xtianity in my book. I now realize that man invented Xtianity to keep the sheeple happy. But the part of this invention that tells women they are 2nd class is outrageous. It amazes me that there are so many women out there that are ok with this aspect of their religion. How they cannot see that this and this alone is proof that this is all made up is remarkable.

  • Coyotenose

     And tiny Japanese kittens will cry!

  • A friend in the more churchy part of Washington State was in an abusive marriage to a godly man. She was pretty much told the same thing as above by her pastor – cling to Jesus, god won’t abandon you and will protect you. She visited the pastor again, pulled back her long hair and said, “Is this what God considers ‘protection’?” She had some pretty bad bruises on one side of her face.

    She did end up leaving the godly douchecanoe, but he was never charged. I’m not sure why, and she won’t talk about it. And I’m feeling sick just recounting this.

  • THIS is why people who truly have faith in a loving Creator are angry. God never, ever told women to submit to abuse. MEN told women to submit to abuse, and then figured out that if they said ‘because God wants you to’ that it would sound better than ‘I’m a crazy son-of-a-bitch and I’ll hit you when I want to because I like it.’  I am part of a church that has zero tolerance for abuse and has no teaching about women being submissive (United Methodist). Our pastor is a woman. Women lead all aspects of worship and chair all kinds of powerful committees. We do not sit quietly in the pews while men tell us how to live or control our fertility. Some of us people of faith are angry enough that we are working to take back Christianity from the right-wing fundamentalists. Sure, they’ll always blame their ugly behavior on the Bible. It’s convenient. That doesn’t mean it’s true. I don’t have a single doubt that God intends women to live as equals to men — after all, She made us in Her image. 

  • Stev84

    Actually, even the highly theocratic Puritans recognized that the legal aspects of marriage were a civil matter and left them with the government. They were influenced by Martin Luther in that area

  • Stev84

    Even if they don’t preach it from the pulpit, in those churches the pastors always style themselves and counselors and even therapist. A couple or woman coming to them for advise (which is highly encouraged. In fact secular therapy is decried at great length) would be told exactly that

  • What a first-rate PRICK Ingraham is!Myself, my mom, dad, husband, and niece all offer our middle fingers in the cause of saying “EFF YOU!” to that asshat.  Something tells me that my dogs would offer a paw as well.

  •  GOOD!  Take it back!  You have my support, Sunny! 🙂 

    It’s going to take the voices of both believers and non-believers joining together as one to shout down the stupidity, repression, and hate.

    *offers hand*

  • Dez Crawford

    I’m stuck on the fact that it is the young woman’s FIANCE’.  Just kick him the hell out and break it off.  No messy divorce.  Even if you’re a Bible-is-literally-true Christian, there is no verse in the Bible about submitting to your effin’ FIANCE’.

  •  You are exactly right.  

    Sunny Hemphill wrote:

    “I am part of a church that has zero tolerance for abuse and has no teaching about women being submissive (United Methodist).”

    I actually did not go to my pastor for counseling.  When I did finally did confront my husband about it (he was a deacon at the church), he didn’t want anyone at our church to know about it.  So we chose to go to the United Methodist pastor about the issue.  Don’t get me wrong, he did tell my husband he was wrong, but his advise to me was to stay in the relationship AND in the home.  He was woefully unequipped to handle the situation.  This wasn’t just she burned the toast so he pouted and called her an ugly name. 

    I wrote about the experience here.  Long story short he just didn’t know how to deal with an abusive relationsip.

  • Dez Crawford

    You’re an actual Christian, Sunny — you know, people who follow the teachings of peace and love and caring for your fellow humans — the things  that 2,000-year old hippie dude taught.  I like that guy.   It’s the  Old Testament and the Apostles who screwed everything up presuming God was talking to THEM.  EVANGELICALS, not Christians, use the entire Bible to advance their agenda toward world domination.  It is sick, it is twisted, and these people are not your comrades. 

  • Dez Crawford

    Girls are taught to be submissive when they are still in diapers.  Girls are encouraged into role models of dependence and frivolity by our common culture. Sure, you may want to be a doctor, but don’t you want to look at these clothes and shoes and put on some makeup first?  And why don’t you have a date for the freshman dance?  Don’t you have a boyfriend?  Be nice, nobody wants to go out with a girl who’s assertive.  Parents may not actually say these things out loud, but adults act them out — noisy girls are shushed more often than noisy boys (I can’t recall the study, it was several years back, part of a study that showed boys being called on in class more than girls, and boys without their hand raised being called on more often than girls with a raised hand).   Worst, our culture teaches that while it is desirable to be a bachelor, a woman is not a complete person without a man.   Even intelligent women fall for the programming.  It fills our everyday language: assertive men are “assertive” and “in charge,” assertive women are “bitchy” and “strident.” The easiest way to get even an intelligent young woman to submit to cultural indoctrination is to tell he she is not being “nice.”

  • Sindigo

    Good for you and your church. I knew people like you were out there somewhere. It’s a shame we don’t hear your voices more often.

    I am genuinely not trying to be snarky but what exactly are you doing when you say that you are working to take back Christianity? 

  • eonL5

    I didn’t see her limiting it in any way. But… what ARE UU churches, actually, if they’re not Christian? I actually don’t know. Humanist, certainly. But what do they call themselves, as a denomination?

  • Its sad these people seriously don’t get it.  Even the bible tells slaves that if they can find a way to leave – then do it.  

  • Here’s two more middle fingers offered up to this.

  • I fully support that. I agree with cookie, here’s another hand .  I don’t hate christians , I loath stupid chirstians. There is a big difference, I loath the ones that use some book to do whatever  they want. Kudos to you and your church for following your own path.

  • Unitarian.

    They used to be strictly a Christian offshoot that rejected the idea of the trinity, but now even atheists or members of other faiths are welcomed.

  • That last image is utterly despicable. Here’s a woman desperately crying out to be recognized, comforted, and helped by an organization that is supposed to be the ultimate authority on morality and living a good life… and they kind of laugh her off and use it as an advertisement. That just makes me physically ill.

  • eonL5

    Doesn’t quite answer the question. UU churches I know seem to be all about social justice and other humanist values, but is there any “god centered” doctrine that the UU conference has agreed upon? Do they believe Christ existed and was a son of God? I know they don’t require belief in God for membership, but is that idea still there at all? Or does it depend on the particular congregation?

  • Erp

     No there is no god centered doctrine that the UU association has agreed upon.  They are explicitly non-creedal though they do have some principles (which they are required to re-evaluate every few years)

    The inherent worth and dignity of every person;Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    To be exact some believe Jesus existed and was a great teacher, some believe he is the son of God, some might even believe he is God (they don’t discriminate against trinitarians now), some don’t believe he existed, many believe God doesn’t exist  and it doesn’t matter too much (what would matter is if your beliefs led you to think gays should be imprisoned or women should be silent in church, you could still be a member but you wouldn’t be influential).

    I sometimes attend events at the local UU church and (a) they have a strong humanist subgroup and (b) the Christians within the church are a definite minority (they are also extremely liberal theologically). 

    You might want to google for UU jokes to get a bit of a feel.

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