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Trigger Warning for intimate partner violence/verbal abuse and spiritual abuse

I’m on a guest-posting streak apparently, because today I’m over at Dianna Anderson’s blog talking  about images of God for her Account and Countenance series.

I look around me, years later, and I see a Church that is terrified to look its theology in the face. I see a Church that is somehow okay with having two drastically different definitions of love—one for humans and one for God. I see a Church that holds God to a different standard than they hold human beings.

I see a Church that thinks it can do this and still speak out against abuse and to me, it will never make sense. I can no longer listen to a pastor call abusers evil and then turn around and sing a hymn to the wrathful, jealous God who can save even a helpless, hopeless, worthless wretch like me.

These dueling definitions of love have to end. God doesn’t get God’s own definition. God doesn’t get to do whatever God wants and call it love.

Read the rest here! 

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Some humans are more equal than others: John Piper on spousal abuse and submission

I’m doing a series on complementarianism’s manipulative claims at promoting equality. You can read the intro here. The first entry, on Joshua Harris, can be found here.

When I first left the tiny bubble of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church and stepped into the larger (but still restrictive) bubble of conservative evangelicalism, I learned that I was supposed to love John Piper.

However, even though I was still a (fairly rebellious) conservative at the time, John Piper’s view of women prevented me from becoming that evangelical Christian who’s always putting quotes from Desiring God as her Facebook status (instead I became that feminist that won’t shut up about bell hooks, but I digress).

I’ve never been much of a Piper fan and videos like the following are why:

For those of you unable to watch this video, I’ll share the “highlights (though I really encourage you to watch it, because I cannot describe to you Piper’s non-verbal communication, but I believe it suggests he sees this as a completely abstract subject. He chuckles at parts and that really reveals his character and attitude toward women):”

What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?…Part of that answer’s clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here–how serious this is. Is her life in danger?

This man and his hand motions, I swear.

This man and his hand motions, I swear.

He then goes into a rather confusing explanation of his belief that a woman’s submission to her husband is not absolute because she must also submit to God. This explanation includes awkward hand-motions. If a man is “calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly” then

She’s got a crisis of submission there, of course. To whom do I submit now?

Yes, abuse is a “crisis of submission.”

Should she “go along with” her husbands abuse and submit to him? Or submit to God? Piper says she must humbly explain that she would love to submit to him, if he wasn’t requiring her to sin (apparently being abused is a sin).

If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church…[The church then must] step in, be her strength and say to him, “No, you can’t do this.”

Piper’s words speak for themselves. And for years, people have been outraged by them. Kind of hard to keep up the pretense of complementarianism being good for women, when one of its biggest proponents is saying women should endure abuse for a season.

I guess John Piper realized this and recently decided to “clarify” his words (and four years too late. How many women in those four stayed with abusive husbands in part because of this man’s words?).

His “clarification” reveals the pattern that I discussed in the intro to this series. Complementarians take words and ideas that are actually very clear, and insist that they don’t mean what everyone in the world naturally thinks they mean.

John Piper might have said that women should be submissive even in cases of abuse, and should endure abuse for a season. But don’t misunderstand exactly what he said! Here’s a clarification!

Frankly, I see this as insulting to his critics’ intelligence.

His “clarification” does clear one thing up though. It makes it clear that, under no circumstances is a woman allowed to stop submitting to someone.

Sure, she can’t always submit to her husband. Not just because she shouldn’t have to put up with abuse, but also because, as John Piper said in his first sermon, submitting to abuse is a sin! His clarification makes this same point:

In expecting his wife to quietly accept his threats and injuries, he is asking her to participate in his breaking of both God’s moral law and the state’s civil law.

This isn’t about her escaping from suffering. It’s about her fleeing the temptation to “sin.”

And does an abusive man lose his right to lead? Can a woman stop submitting to her husband when he starts to abuse her?

Yes and no. But mostly no.

According to Piper:

A wife’s submission to the authority of civil law, for Christ’s sake, may, therefore, overrule her submission to a husband’s demand that she endure his injuries.

So, a woman never gets to stop being submissive. But since she must also be submissive to civil authorities (and feminists have pointed out time and again that civil authorities abuse women too), sometimes that responsibility to submit can overrule her responsibility to submit to her husband.

But she’s still to remain submissive to this man that decided to “smack her around for a season.”

This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.

As Dianna Anderson points out, this “legitimate recourse” isn’t about stopping the pain she’s suffering. It’s about helping her abuser “see the light.”

The woman doesn’t get to divorce her husband. She gets to submit to a system that has done its share of abusing women (or she can submit to the church…but same difference, right?) while she waits for her husband’s leadership to be restored.

His being an abuser does not disqualify him from leadership. His leadership is merely suspended for a time.

How many abusers flock to Christianity when they learn that they will be treated like kings? I’ve met a few in my day.

All humans are equal.

But some humans have an unconditional right to leadership. Other humans have an unconditional responsibility to submit.

Some humans are more equal than others.


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Never going back

Trigger Warning for Abuse

I used to be in an abusive relationship.

Once, I broke up with him, and he threatened to kill me for it.

I was in his car, and I told him I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He decided that if I wouldn’t be with him, I  couldn’t be with anyone. So he gave me the choice:

Change my mind and stay with him, or he would crash the car into a telephone pole.

I forced him to take me home that day by threatening him with a crowbar I found on the floor of his car. But there were more threats. And eventually I gave in.

I chose to stay with him, and the threats stopped.

Because he “loved me.”

And as long as I loved him back, he would never hurt me.

No one can stand here and tell me that my ex-boyfriend gave me free will that day. No one will ever convince me that I had a real choice in this situation. My options were stay with a cruel, vengeful man, or die.

No one can convince me that this was love.

In fact, I don’t think any of you would even try.

We recognize this kind of behavior in humans as cruel and hateful. We’d tell our sisters, our daughters, our friends to run from men (or women) like this.

But what if God acts like an abusive boyfriend?

What if God gives us only the choice of a life spent with a cruel, vengeful God or a life spent in hell?

We call that free will.

What if God uses violence to punish those God loves when those people do not love God back?

We say, “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”

Yet we still say God is love.

God is good.

But this God that the Evangelical church taught us to believe in, if this God came to earth as a human, he would have been my abusive ex-boyfriend.

But I don’t believe in that God anymore.

I believe in a different God.

My God did come to earth as a human. But that human didn’t look at all like my abusive ex-boyfriend.

That human was Jesus.

And Jesus loved. Real love–not this controlling, abusive, hate that we’re so used to assigning to God. Real love.

Believe in the vengeful Evangelical God if you want. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments section. I know some of you will.

But I know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I know. And I can tell you what one looks like. A relationship with the Evangelical God? Yeah, that’s abusive, and I’ve escaped that abusive relationship.

I’m never going back.