Bound, Chained and Suffering
By Klasie Kraalogies
In my last post, I hinted at the painful consequences of purity culture – a disastrous marriage. It is not my intention to air dirty laundry. But some very basic facts will out. These are not the thrust of this post.
Marriage is forever. No matter what. Only 2 exceptions were allowed – unfaithfulness (in the full, physical sense), and if it appears one party was never a true believer. The latter I have never seen occur. You see, since all of this happened in an ecclesiastical context, with each marriage ostensibly divinely ordered, in a direct, personal manner. “God hates divorce”. And should one of those things happen, the suffering party would have to enter a life of celibacy. The latter is a bit stricter than some, but not unique.
Fine. So what happens when, not too long after the wedding, the gradual reveal begins that the new partner is a narcissist – with a temper problem? Or, as has often happened in other cases, the young wife discovers the husband has a heavy hand.
From the Washington Post, dated May 9, 2018, Hännah Ettinger:
The burden of proof was on me, and at stake was my family’s support, the validity of my faith and my character. I couldn’t win. For him, and many other Christians like him, the only reason to end a marriage is when a partner has been unfaithful and is unrepentant. In my marriage, no one cheated, so there were no “valid” grounds to divorce, no matter how emotionally abusive, disrespectful and unstable our marriage had become.
This set of beliefs has been front and center in the news recently as Paige Patterson, a highly respected leader in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) of churches and the president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was called out for making similar statements about abuse and divorce. Since 2000, he has been recorded advising women in abusive marriages to “pray about it,” “settle it in the church of God,” and “if you suffer for it, and if you were misused, and if you were abused, and if you’re not represented properly, it’s okay. You can trust it to the God who judges justly.” Patterson has responded to the online backlash over these comments by saying that he cannot apologize “for what I didn’t do wrong.”
Think about that. Carefully. Domestic abuse is a major, major issue. Consider the following statistic:
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (NCAD, https://ncadv.org/statistics).
This does not take into account years of mental torturing. And what is even more, children in such relationships suffer, tremendously. But here we have a religious leader who councils those who suffer that, well, to put it bluntly, they should suffer some more – potentially (and understanding something about abusers, most likely) till death do us part.
The longer the abuse continues, the more difficult it is to depart. And even when attempts are made, they are often unsuccessful. Consider that on average, an abused woman will attempt to leave 7 times before it is definite
And now moreover these preachermen lay this burden on top of the abused woman (or man) – that their divorcing will be an unspeakably evil act. From people that confess to believe that God is Love, this is incomprehensible. Fundamentalism is a curse.
I was successful on the second attempt. With strong support and encouragement from my children. It cost a lot – emotionally, physically, financially. Financial security will be elusive for a long, long time. But the abuser is not there. And yes, healing will take a long time… a life time.
But of course – the burdens don’t end there. After the dust settles, the fundamentalists return, urging celibacy.
Prooftexting till the cows come home. Again – where is the love? It is said that the new plague upon the land is loneliness.
Loneliness isn’t only making us sad. It’s fast becoming a public health crisis in the Western world.
Lonely people are more likely to get sick. Chronic loneliness is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is even more damaging to your body than obesity and diabetes and has been linked to high blood pressure, dementia and premature death.
But so what? As long as literal interpretations are adhered to, who cares about suffering? But their own Scriptures judges them – John 13:35.
We will do much better if we care for one another. And that includes supporting those that have to separate or divorce – or find new connections as they restart life.
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PS: If you or anyone you know are caught in an abusive relationship, don’t stay quiet. Don’t continue suffering. It is your right to leave, and if there are children, to take them with you. Forget the preacherman. Forget the “bible-thumping” parents. Forget “family honour”. Do not become a statistic. Also remember: Not all abuse is physical. There are many varieties of abusers, narcissists and sociopaths out there. Be honest with yourself and your circumstances.