Domestic Violence: WWJD?

This is a real treat– not sure how this one slipped by me. Rick Warren, of Obama Inaugural Controversy fame, is in the news again because his church is using religion as an cover for accepting domestic violence.

On the Saddleback Church’s website, on the main FAQ page, you can click to hear Warren give disturbing answers to a variety of questions–including hives-inducing theories on homosexuality and Judaism. But what I wanted to write about today is the excusing and normalizing of domestic violence in Pastor Warren’s answers. Citing the Bible in response to whether an abused woman can divorce her husband, Warren says, well– no.

“[In scripture] adultery is one [reason for divorce] and abandonment is a second. I wish there were a third in scripture. Having been involved as a pastor in situations of abuse there’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you have a right to leave them. … If you’re in this kind of situation I strongly recommend that you take advantage of our lay counseling ministers. “

Yes, there is something in Rick Warren that wishes God agreed that violence is enough to get out of a marriage. This is extraordinary adherence to the verbatim, “strict constructionist” interpretation of the Bible. Bear with me a moment– if God has given incredibly developed brains, logic, and critical thinking skills to humans– one might extrapolate that perhaps we could use our BRAINS to figure out that consistent violence and abuse of one’s spouse might be grounds enough to violate the love, honor, cherish and protect (etc) clause of their marriage contract. Might the health and life and well-being of a woman be worth breaking a bond with her abuser? Might the abuser be at fault here? And not the victim, for wanting to leave a situation that greatly endangers her physical and emotional self? (note- i’m not trying to be hetero-normative here, but i thought in the context of the Saddlebeck Church and marriage, male/female would be the only partnership)

Again, Saddleback Pastor Holladay explains that one who has been abused may be allowed to seek counseling and separation from their abuser. But to qualify for that separation, your spouse must be in the “habit of beating you regularly,” and not be simply someone who “grabbed you once.” Alternet follow-up question– what exactly qualifies as “beating regularly?”

For those nonreligious or nonChristian readers, the scenario seems absurd, preposterous, and almost laughable if it weren’t so horribly dangerous. But for Christian believers who seek guidance and counsel from this megachurch, these words are serious. They pose a very real danger. Will one forsake their religious beliefs, or adhere to a decision that might compromise their life?

That is why Warren is doing such a dangerous disservice to humanity. There are followers who hang on his every word– some of them don’t really know any better. His antiquated, misogynistic ideas about violence put all his followers at risk.

Christianity shouldn’t get a blanket disapproval from feminism for things like this. But fundamentalism surely can. And where is this “sit down & shut up” attitude more obvious than this?

In our Islamophobic culture, magazines and articles depict sad, scared, veiled, abused Muslim women. Muslim women who are always the victims– but our American women are much better off, right? Not if Saddleback would have its way.

My point here is that extremists come in all sects, religions, & ethnicities. We paint with a clumsy, wide brush all Muslim countries and Muslim women as ‘oppressors v. the oppressed,’ without realizing the nuances and pockets of religious extremism that are responsible for what we see in our media, not something innate in that religion.

For progressive Christians, you must be sorely offended by Pastor Warren’s decrees and opinions,hiding behind your religious books. This is what is happening with extremist pockets of Islam, only its seeds are deeper and more firmly rooted, thanks largely to decades of imperialism & US interference.

Certainly there are many more extreme, hateful churches using Christianity negatively, but I wanted to point out one that has such a large following & enjoys great influence, and has been legitimized by media exposure and inaugural invocations.

So perhaps before “enlightening” people of other cultures and religions, we can try and enlighten some of ourselves.

Religion without humanity is poor human stuff

-sojourner truth.


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