IMPORTANT:This page has used Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia in either a refactored, modified, abridged, expanded, built on or 'straight from' text content! (view authors)


Christian groups and authorities generally condemn domestic violence as counter to the general Christian duty to love others and to the scriptural relationship between husband and wife.[1] In a statement typical of Christian church officials from many denominations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in 2002, "As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified."[2] Many denominations have also worked to prevent violence in the home. However, significant numbers of Christian pastors ordinarily would tell a woman being abused that she should continue to submit and to "trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it" and would never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate because of abuse.[3]

Incidence of domestic violence among Christians

Few empirical studies have examined the relationship between religion and domestic violence.[4] Four major surveys of wife assault found no causal relationship between men raised in a "patriarchal system" and incidence of wife assault,[5], and faith groups endorsing hierarchical marital structures do not appear to report higher rates of interpersonal violence.[6]

One 2004 study by William Bradford Wilcox examined the relationship between religious affiliation, church attendance, and domestic violence, using data on wives' reports of spousal violence from three national United States surveys conducted between 1992 and 1994.[4] The study found that the lowest reported rates of domestic violence occurred among active conservative Protestants (2.8% of husbands committed domestic violence), followed by those who were religiously unaffiliated (3.2%), nominal mainline Protestants (3.9%), active mainline Protestants (5.4%), and nominal conservative Protestants (7.2%).[4] Overall (including both nominal and active members), the rates among conservative Protestants and mainline Protestants were 4.8% and 4.3%, respectively.[4] Examining Wilcox's study, Van Leewun finds that the parenting style of conservative Protestant fathers is characterized by features which have been linked to positive outcomes among children and adolescents,[7] that there is no evidence that gender-traditionalist ideology of the "soft patriarchal" kind is a strong predictor of domestic physical abuse,[8] and that "gender hierarchialist males" who are frequent and active church members function positively in the domestic environment.[9]

Another 2007 study by Christopher G. Ellison found that "religious involvement, specifically church attendance, protects against domestic violence, and this protective effect is stronger for African American men and women and for Hispanic men, groups that, for a variety of reasons, experience elevated risk for this type of violence."[10]

Theological patriarchy and Christianity

Feminist Christian theologians such as the Rev. Marie Fortune, Mary Pellauer, and others have raised the question of a close connection between patriarchal Christianity and domestic violence and abuse.[11] However, little evidence has been found to support the claim that spousal abuse is fostered by patriarchal environments and cultures such as traditional Christianity.[12][13] A 1988 study by Donald Dutton found that no single factor explanation for wife assault was sufficient to explain the available data.[14] A study by Dutton and Browning in the same year found that misogyny is correlated with only a minority of abusive male partners.[15] Campbell's study in in 1992 found no evidence of greater violence towards women in more patriarchal cultures.[16] Pearson's study in 1997 observed "Studies of male batterers have failed to confirm that these men are more conservative or sexist about marriage than violent men".[17]

According to theologian Steven Tracy, "The concept of male headship first entered the church through the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23)." St. Paul also states that the husband is head of the wife as God the Father is head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Tracy interprets New Testament teaching on the subject in a way similar to many other modern Christian theologians in a variety of traditions. He points to John 5:18-24 as repeatedly emphasizing that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is one of intimate love. "Abusive men often cite male headship/female submissiveness to justify their abuse. Ultimately, this is based on a perverted assumption of male superiority. Based on John's description of the Father and the Son, human male headship, defined as harsh authoritarian domination of an inferior, is destructive heresy."[1]

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops" "Men who abuse often use Ephesians 5:22, taken out of context, to justify their behavior, but the passage (v. 21-33) refers to the mutual submission of husband and wife out of love for Christ. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body, as Christ loves the Church."[2]

In Responding to Domestic Abuse, a report issued by the Church of England in 2006, suggests that patriarchy should be replaced rather than reinterpreted: "Following the pattern of Christ means that patterns of domination and submission are being transformed in the mutuality of love, faithful care and sharing of burdens. ‘Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ’(Ephesians 5.21). Although strong patriarchal tendencies have persisted in Christianity, the example of Christ carries the seeds of their displacement by a more symmetrical and respectful model of male–female relations."[18]

Christian theology and counseling abuse victims

Individual Pastors and other Christians are sometimes criticized for counseling victims to passively accept abuse in the way that Jesus and the martyrs accepted suffering.[citation needed] The Church of England's report, Responding to Domestic Abuse states that the two circumstances are different. "First, there is the purpose of such suffering. Jesus and the martyrs accepted avocation to suffer as a consequence of bearing witness to the love, truth and justice of God. ... [I]t is not convincing to find redemptive value in passive acceptance of [domestic] abuse and violence." Second, domestic abuse victims often lack the freedom of Jesus and the martyrs.[18]

Christian pastors or counselors should not advise victims to make forgiving the perpetrator the top priority "when the welfare and safety of the person being abused are at stake", the report advises.[18]

One mid-1980s survey of 5,700 pastors found that 26 percent of pastors ordinarily would tell a woman being abused that she should continue to submit and to "trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it" and that 71 percent of pastors would never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate because of abuse.[19][20]

One of the Salvation Army's missions is working with victims of domestic abuse. They offer safe-housing, therapy, and support.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Tracy, Steven. "Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse". Christianity Today (February 2003).
  2. 2.0 2.1 "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (November 12, 2002). ISBN 157455509X.
  3. Alsdurf, James and Alsdurf, Phyllis, Battered into Submission, Wipf and Stock, 1998, as cited in Tracy, Steven, "Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse", Christianity Today, February 2003, accessed January 24, 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Wilcox, William Bradford. Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands. University of Chicago Press (2004), p181-82. ISBN 0226897095.
  5. "If patriarchy is the main factor contributing to wife assault, then the majority of men raised in a patriarchal system should exhibit assaultiveness. However, given the four major surveys of incidence of wife assault that have been implemented to date, the vast majority of men are non- assaultive for the duration of their marriage (Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz, 1980; Schulman, 1979; Straus and Gelles, 1985; Kennedy and Dutton, 1989).", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  6. "Also, studies of the general population do not appear to suggest that faith groups that endorse hierarchical marital structures report higher rates of IPV [Inter Personal Violence] (Brinkerhoff, Gradnin, & Lupri, 1992; Cunradi, Caetano, & Shafer, 2002; Ellison & Anderson, 2001; Ellison, Bartowski, & Anderson, 1999).", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  7. "He concludes that conservative Protestant fathers’ neotraditional parenting style seems to be closer to the authoritative style—characterized by moderately high levels of parental control and high levels of parental supportiveness—that has been linked to positive outcomes among children and adolescents.", Van Leeuwen, ‘Social Sciences’, in Husbands & Larsen, ‘Women, ministry and the Gospel: Exploring new paradigms’, p. 190 (2007).
  8. ‘The upshot is that we have no evidence so far that a gender-traditionalist ideology—at least of the soft patriarchal variety—is a strong predictor of domestic physical abuse.’, Van Leeuwen, ‘Social Sciences’, in Husbands & Larsen, ‘Women, ministry and the Gospel: Exploring new paradigms’, p. 190 (2007).
  9. "Gender hierarchicalist males—at least those who have frequent and active church involvement—turn out, on average, to be better men than their theories: more often than not, they are functional egalitarians, and the rhetoric of male headship may actually be functioning as a covert plea for greater male responsibility and nurturant involvement on the home front.", Van Leeuwen, ‘Social Sciences’, in Husbands & Larsen, ‘Women, ministry and the Gospel: Exploring new paradigms’, p. 190 (2007).
  10. Ellison, Christopher G. "Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence". Violence Against Women vol. 13 no. 11 (2007).
  11. Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore (2001). ""Let the Children Come" Revisited: Contemporary Feminist Theologians on Children". In Marcia J Bunge. The Child in Christian Thought. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 462. ISBN 0802846939.
  12. "‘Wife abuse, many feminist theorists believe, is fostered by a patriarchal culture. Indeed, some feminists assert that patriarchy is the major cause of wife abuse [see most recently Catherine Clark Kroeger and James Beck, ed., Women, Abuse and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996)—ed.]. But after carefully analyzing numerous studies of violence among married and cohabiting couples, psychologist Donald G. Dutton [“Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy,’’ in Violence and Victims Vol. 9, No. 2 (1994): 167-82] has concluded that “no direct relationship exists between patriarchy and wife assault'’’ and that, therefore, feminists will have to find another explanation of wife abuse. [Emphasis ours].", Patriarchy And Abuse: No Direct Link’, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (2.2), 1996.
  13. "While relatively few studies have been conducted which specifically assess the relationship between religion, patriarchal beliefs, and abuse, most of the studies that have been conducted do not support the global feminist hypothesis. For instance, a comprehensive meta-analysis of various studies showed that adult male batterers could not be differentiated from non-abusive men on the sole basis of traditional (patriarchal) gender attitudes. 41 D. B. Sugerman and S. L. Frankel, "Patriarchal Ideology and Wife-Assault: A Meta-Analytic Review," Journal of Family Violence 11 (1996) 13-40; see also Lisa Jeanne Battaglia, "Conservative Protestant Ideology and Wife Abuse: Reflections on the Discrepancy between Theory and Data," Journal of Religion and Abuse 2 (2001) 31-45.", Tracy, ‘Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (50.3.580), (2007); he also notes ‘While patriarchy may not be the overarching cause of all abuse, it is an enormously significant factor, because in traditional patriarchy males have a disproportionate share of power’ (pp. 582-583), and ‘So while patriarchy is not the sole explanation for violence against women, we would expect that male headship would be distorted by insecure, unhealthy men to justify their domination and abuse of women.’ (p. 583).
  14. "During the late 1970's a number of single factor explanations for male assaultiveness toward women were proffered. These included sociobiology, psychiatric disorders and patriarchy (Dutton, 1988). Dutton (1988) argued that no single factor explanation for wife assault sufficiently explained the available data and proposed instead a nested ecological theory examining interactive effects of the broader culture (macrosystem), the subculture (exosystem), the family (microsystem) and individual characteristics (ontogeny).", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  15. "Only a minority of batterers are misogynistic (Dutton and Browning, 1988), and few are violent to non-intimate women; a much larger group experiences extreme anger about intimacy.", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  16. "If feminist analysis is correct, we should expect greater violence directed toward women in more patriarchal cultures. However, this prediction is not supported. Campbell (1992) reports that "there is not a simple linear correlation between female status and rates of wife assault" (p. 19). Female status is not a single variable.", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  17. "‘Patricia Pearson (p. 132) points out: That men have used a patriarchal vocabulary to account for themselves doesn't mean that patriarchy causes their violence, any more than being patriarchs prevents them from being victimized. Studies of male batterers have failed to confirm that these men are more conservative or sexist about marriage than nonviolent men. To the contrary, some of the highest rates of violence are found in the least orthodox partnerships — dating or cohabiting lovers.", Correy, ‘The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence’ (2002).
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 The Archbishops' Council. "Responding to Domestic Abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibilities". Church House Publishing (2006), p19. ISBN 100715141082.
  19. Alsdurf, James and Alsdurf, Phyllis, Battered into Submission, Wipf and Stock, 1998, as cited in Tracy, Steven, "Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse", Christianity Today, February 2003, accessed January 24, 2007
  20. Grady, J. Lee "Control Freaks, and the Women Who Love Them". New Man magazine (Jan/Feb 2001).

Further reading

  • Joanne Carlson Brown and Carold R. Bohn, ed. (1989). Christianity, Patriarchy, and Abuse: A Feminist Critique. New York: Pilgrim. ISBN 0829808086.
  • Annie Imbens and Ineke Jonker (1992). Christianity and Incest. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0800625412.
  • Carol J. Adams and Marie M. Fortune, ed. (1995). Violence against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0826408303.
  • Marie M. Fortune (1991). Violence in the Family: a Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers. Cleveland: Pilgrim. ISBN 0829809082.
  • Carolyn Holderread Heggen (1993). Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches. Scottsdale, Arizona: Herald Press. ISBN 0836136241.
  • Anne L. Horton and Judith A. Williamson, ed. (1988). Abuse and Religion: When Praying Isn't Enough. Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books. ISBN 0669153370.
  • Mary D. Pellauer, Barbara Chester, and Jane A. Boyajian, ed. (1987). Sexual Assault and Abuse: A Handbook for Clergy and Religious Professionals. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 0062548107.
  • Rita-Lou Clarke (1986). Pastoral Care of Battered Women. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. ISBN 0664240151.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.