A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Prejudice

Prejudice is a scourge. My first husband had prejudices. He was white, slim and  fit, and he despised anyone who was fat or unfit. He also despised Asian people and used scurrilous names for them as a group, but at the same time he virtually idolised Asian women for their demure and submissive femininity. My second husband had prejudices too: they were more ‘refined’ in that he was prejudiced against people who had prejudices. Now, you might say, that’s not such a bad thing. But his outrage against social injustice was so extreme that if you didn’t 100% agree with his take on a social justice issue, he classified you as one of the enemy, just as wicked as the bigots and oppressers he was opposed to.

Prejudice can be expressed in vile language, scornful looks, unjust treatment, or simply the raising of a supercilious eyebrow. It is often subtle but deadly poisonous, infecting a person’s whole way of thinking and amplifying the depravity of their Adamic nature.

Here are some thoughts about prejudice from a survivor of domestic abuse who wishes to remain anonymous.

One of the biggest misconceptions I had when I got married was that I thought Jack considered me his equal. I had no idea he carried a strong prejudice against women. Eventually, that prejudice turned into hatred. He saw women as a group attacking his masculinity, trying to take his God-given position, trying to exercise power and control over him, while all the time he was the one constantly trying to put those women in their place.

His hatred turned on me. During those days before I left, he kept going on and on about being ‘an emasculated male.’ Why? I had insisted he go to anger management. I said he had a problem and we couldn’t keep on this way. I refused to take any responsibility for his fury or his outbursts.

I wasn’t provoking him, he lacked self control. ‘Lack’ is probably the wrong word – he hated being restrained in any way. He could control himself fine, he simply believed he shouldn’t ever have to.

That woman he met and instantly disliked at the grocery store wasn’t assaulting the male gender when she left the check out line to go get paper towels. She was being rude and obnoxious. It had nothing to do with being female. It had everything to do with being selfish.

I’m sure it’s like a sliding scale, the same way some people carry a deep hatred for a certain race or ethnic group while others just think of them as less-than without even realizing. But it does come out, in comments, in attitude, in word choice and others are aware before we are.

I began to see this from other men, early in my marriage. Mechanics who were rude, refused to speak to me over the phone or call back if I left the message, yet would fall all over themselves when speaking to Jack. A tenant who hated speaking to me about his rent being late, constantly wanting to know when my husband would be home. I came to understand that certain men (not all of course) disliked women and absolutely wanted nothing to do with them if at all possible (unless they saw them as prey, sexual conquests). I understood that. … I accepted it.

But what hurt – what really, really hurt was encountering the same attitudes from those men who I thought were different. My father, my brother, a pastor, a friend’s husband – men I believed were kind men. These guys were fine – as long as you didn’t have a problem.

My father always kept silent about Jack’s treatment of me and the kids, but he made his preference known to my mother suggesting I needed to ‘settle down,’ and going on and on about what a fine, fine man Jack was. My brother instantly took Jack’s side when he found out I’d left, without even hearing the story. He ‘felt sorry’ for him. How could I just pick up and leave after thirty years? Poor Jack. . .

This all pervasive prejudice towards women has caused deep wounds, much deeper than I think we’re aware.

I was raised in the South, born in the early 60’s and lived near a hot spot during the Civil Rights Movement. I was told that colored folks are just like us. Don’t call them niggers, – that’s not nice. They are just children of the same God, saved by grace. And yet, I was also told stories about black men roaming the country side, raping white women. And a story about my grandfather going to prison for killing a black man who crossed him. I knew intellectually that race didn’t matter, but deep down I felt something uncomfortable. I use to thank God I wasn’t born black.

Then as sometimes happens, God intervened. I went to a ladies retreat and a black woman decided I was her special project for the weekend. We ate lunch together, attended meetings, sat side by side and prayed together. She was a treasure, but I felt a hesitancy, deep inside. Sort of an uncomfortable feeling.

On the last day, right before the end of the last meeting, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “confess to her about your great grandfather’s murder and ask her forgiveness – not just for you, but for your family.”

Excuse me? The Lord wanted me to tell this beautiful woman how my great-grandfather brutally murdered a black man over a few dollars? How he showed up at the door with a shotgun and blew the man in half, right in front of his family – and killed the wrong man – because ‘they all look alike’? That he only got a year in prison and even that was only because of the brutality of the crime: usually crimes against blacks went unpunished in those days. How this story was retold by my grandmother’s generation at every family gathering, like some kind of badge of honor? Oh no, not going to happen….

But I couldn’t get away. I had to confess this monstrous family secret to someone I had grown to respect and love. God is bigger and He gets His way 🙂

I told her everything. I blubbered like a baby. And then that beautiful saint wrapped both arms around me and prayed all over me, forgiving me, forgiving my family, blessing us all and then repenting of her own prejudice toward white people. We prayed and cried together for the longest time and we both got set free that day. That ‘uncomfortable’ feeling has never returned. Something changed inside me, dramatically from that day forward.

This monstrous prejudice against women needs to end as well. Someday, it will. In glory, women won’t be relegated to washing the golden dishes and serving the men at table. The first shall be last and the last first. Women are co-heirs in Christ. In fact, the Lord chose to identify his beloved church as female: the Bride of Christ. He could have chosen to call us the army of Christ or the Pals of Christ. But He reserved a very special term for the overcomers of the last days, the church who’s made herself ready, without spot, wrinkle or blemish – and called them woman 🙂

23 Comments

  1. Just Me

    My husband is very prejudiced as well. His girlfriend before me broke up with him because of it (smart girl). He was so offended that she said that to him. He was telling me about it, and I said “well, you are prejudiced. You don’t like black people”. He said “I know that! But how dare she say that to me!”

    • Jeff Crippen

      No room for truth. Everyone is expected to play his game in silence.

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Barbara – this really identifies what Christians need to face up to. While we have been screaming about those radical, God-hating feminists, the fact is that there is indeed some truth in their charges against us. We are prejudiced against women. God is not. His Son certainly showed this during His earthly tenure. But we are. And I think that pastors, elders and Christian men who, in our Bible-believing churches, are the leaders, need to come to grips with this prejudice. Prejudice is sneaky. So sneaky that the person with it doesn’t even know it. It sets a grid before our eyes and tweaks our vision.

    I think that if Christian men want to root out the prejudice they have against women, or at least come to see that just possibly it is there hiding in their minds and hearts, they should think about what they feel were they to sit down and have a serious or scholarly discussion with a woman. Let’s say the doctrine of justification as presented in Romans. I’m telling you, there is an instant “one-up-manship” mentality that kicks in and I am trying to see it and fight it in myself. Like maybe admitting that just possibly the woman I am talking to knows as much (shudder, even “more”) than I do about a topic. And then we need to put ourselves in our wives and Christian sisters’ shoes. Just what is it like for them to come to church each Sunday? How do we make them feel? When they say something in a Sunday School class for instance, how do we respond to them?

    • Jeff, I think a huge issue is that the church has been prejudiced against women for a long time. In fact in the culture of the New Testament was prejudiced against women. It is remarkable, then, that we do see the inclusion of women in Jesus’ ministry, the emphasis in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost about men AND women prophesying, and the declaration that in Christ there is neither male nor female. I know there are some passages that are troubling depending in our understanding of them (and some are even questionable that they were in the original manuscripts), but viewed in contrast to the prevailing attitudes of the day, the NT has quite a high view of women.

      Church history has not been so kind to women. Some of the greatest Christian thinkers had horrible attitudes toward women- Agustine, Aquainus, Luther, and many others. I don’t think it was too long ago that pastors would admonish men to beat their wives for disobedience. Today’s teachers may make a great deal of noise about how women are equal, but different, but it was not so long ago that straight up “women are inferior” Patriarchy was the way of the church. And today when someone like Tim Keller dares to install Deaconesses, people barely stop short of calling him a heretic. Just like slavery, this is something we need to own and repent of.  The church has not been kind to women- it has been prejudiced.

      We aren’t going to see changes overnight, but I think the first thing that needs to happen is to given women a voice and listen- and that’s what I think you are doing here. We men just have no idea what it feels like to be a woman in today’s church. We don’t know what feels oppressive  or what is empowering. When I recently saw John Piper talking about how women want xyz (I don’t remember specifically what xyz was) I wondered “how does he know? Did he get that knowledge from scripture, his wife (can she represent all women everywhere?), a poll, or his gut?”

      Even as I read stories on this blog and try to relate to my own situation, I realize how much privelage I have. As I try to make a life for my son and I in the aftermath of a destructive marriage, I still have a great job and a lot of resources. I never had to worry about being physically overpowered or dominated. I barely had the strength to do this much- how can I even possibly relate to women who end up in shelters with no income?

      I have no answers, but I know that the church has fallen down and it’s time to step back and listen.

    • mlieder

      So refreshing!! Thank you!

  3. Little Miss Me

    Oh the many forms of prejudice. Mine was/is prejudiced, but in what’s a really abstract, yet really common way. I suppose it’s the most basic prejudice, really – not liking people who aren’t like you.

    When we lived in a larger city where he had established various groups of friends, it was fine. But when we moved to a small town, he was completely unable to make friends, because he believed everyone was inferior to him because he couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to live there. “People in cities are more cultured, more educated, and there’s more to do.” This was such a pervasive belief that he never bothered to ask anyone why, or get to know anyone in any real way. In fact, in our divorce proceedings he said that I should be the one to move out of the house because I had “more ties to the community,” in spite of the fact that we had both lived there the same amount of time.

    (We moved due to financial reasons and family responsibilities but I always found the small town a better place for family.)

    I always knew that was part of the problem, but this post made me realize that he was doing more than putting me down – he was actually prejudiced against me for doing what normal people do – making friends, contacts, and being a part of the community in which we live. He would deny this, of course, and say that I wasn’t included in “the stupid people around here,” as if that made it all OK.

  4. mlieder

    This is so insightful, Barbara. Thank you. I had never really thought about my ex-husband being prejudiced but it makes so much sense.

    There is a book called “Captivating”. I don’t remember much about the book at all, except where she shares her interesting philosophy that Satan has a particular hatred toward women — moreso than man. She describes the jealousy he might have had in the Garden of Eden. Here he was . . . . . once the most beautiful angel . . . . fallen now (and ugly) . . . and God creates Eve — a woman — beautiful and LIFE-GIVING. She believes he has been working hard to oppress her ever since.

    Another cracker to throw into the pot is that (I believe) men who are up to their eyeballs in pornography have a particular disdain for women. I could probably pick out for you, all the men in the room who are looking at pornography. They behave much like you described your first husband up there. Over time, I am CONVINCED that pornography teaches men how to:

    1. View women as objects and not as created in God’s image
    2. View women as simply something to serve their selfish needs/desires

    But, also, a lot of men BLAME women for their porn problems . . . . believing that they are temptresses and “out to get them”. This, also, makes them women-haters.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

  5. Kay

    I had never tied the prejidices of my ex husband to being part of his abuse. He was extremely predjidice against people of different color, religion and especially toward over weight people.

  6. Pippa

    Barb, I am pushing the like button!

  7. Wow everyone. thanks for your responses. (I confess I feel disconsolate if there are no responses to a post I’ve written.)
    And thank you to the anoymous survivor who gave me her personal story.
    Prejudice. Break it down: it means pre-judge. Like LMM’s husband who pre-judged everyone who didn’t live in a big city. Wow, I live in a small city and there are lots of smaller towns round here which have a good proportion of warm, creative, intellectual, artistic, fascinating, resilient people in them.

    And how could I begin to describe how I feel as a woman sitting in most churches? I feel like my gifts, insights and skills are never, ever, ever going to be used or acknowledged. And I have picked up countless times, when chatting to a man in the coffee-after-church time, that subtle rigidifying in the man’s chest and that shift in his neck and facial muscles that shows: “This woman must not be allowed to know more than me. I have to tell her something that shows I know more than her.”

    • Barbara, you should know that to me you are highly valued and I think God is using you in a tremendous way. I have learned much from you, even though I may have never acknowledged that. And the same can be said for many of the women who post in the comments here. I wish you didn’t feel marginalized by men, and some day you won’t.

      And thank you for sharing that- I know those feelings must be very personal.

    • “And how could I begin to describe how I feel as a woman sitting in most churches? I feel like my gifts, insights and skills are never, ever, ever going to be used or acknowledged. And I have picked up countless times, when chatting to a man in the coffee-after-church time, that subtle rigidifying in the man’s chest and that shift in his neck and facial muscles that shows: “This woman must not be allowed to know more than me. I have to tell her something that shows I know more than her.”
      How many times I have encountered this. Puts me off church and the men in it, altogether.

  8. “But what hurt – what really, really hurt was encountering the same attitudes from those men who I thought were different. My father, my brother, a pastor, a friend’s husband – men I believed were kind men. These guys were fine – as long as you didn’t have a problem.”

    Oh yes (weep). My father. A lovely man; a kind if somewhat self-absorbed man. A man who has financially supported me many times in my pot-hole-ridden life. But a man who virtually took my first husband’s side when he abused our daughter. I was so flabbergasted at my dad’s words when he suggested that he be the intermediary hand-over person so my daughter could continue having access to her father.
    I’m sure my dad didn’t realise his words were such a betrayal. He didn’t realise how prejudiced he was. He believed that all kids needed access to their fathers, and all fathers should be able to see their children. And he held this prejudice so deeply and unconsciously that he didn’t evaluate its consequences. If I had followed his advice it would have been disastrous to my daughter, not to mention that I could have been guilty of committing a crime of knowingly endangering my child.

    It took me years to get over that betrayal by my dad. I’m not sure I’ve completely got over it. I kept in relationship with him (I’m good at stuffing feelings) but it hurt hurt hurt. I remember standing in the church office once before a service, doing some photocopying, and the minister’s adult daughter was there. I said to her “You are so lucky to have a good dad.” I don’t think she knew what to say, and she certainly had no idea what I was getting at. Nor did she have the wisdom to ask what I meant. I was throwing out a tiny yellow flag, but she didn’t catch it.

  9. Kay

    My dad also stood up for my husband when we first separated. Part of it was because the abusive man I was married to, tried to manipulate my dad into thinking HE was the victim in all this. He was changing; he wanted his family back together, etc., etc., etc. I was hurt, but I kept telling the truth to my dad every time we had a conversation about what my marriage had been like. After many months, when my abusive husband realized my dad wasn’t going to convince me to take him back, he quit talking to my dad and said some hurtful things to my dad. I think my dad finally understood why I couldn’t go back to my husband. And he has been supportive and loving and kind and helped me in many ways the last 3 years. I really believe if people have not been in abusive relationships, it is difficult for them to fully understand how awful it is!

    • The famous abuser grooming of the allies.

      Until they see it for themselves they don’t believe it until he does it to them. Sometimes they just have to have the experience.

    • Wow! Mine did the same thing! He would abuse me and then leave the house and head straight to my dad’s, my brother’s, or my adult daughter’s to tell them how hard he was trying and how awful I was to him! He portrayed himself as the victim! I’m still always shocked by the commonalities in these guys!

  10. Anonymous

    Barbara, when I first read the post, I thought it was just about the most profound piece I had read in a long time. I didn’t want to hastily comment, as I felt like I would ruin the “atmosphere”. Almost like staring at a beautifully decorated cake, not wanting to cut it up, for fear of ruining it! Well, not quite, but you know what I mean…

    I never thought my ex was prejudiced against women or other races because he had convinced me that he was so concerned about these groups. He went out of his way to help women and other racial groups. However, I did experience a lot of cognitive dissonance due to the way he treated his female family members, and increasingly, people of other races would comment about his racism. I would defend him, having been groomed to be his great defender and sympathizer.

    Racism is a type of contempt. It feels like abuse, and the effects are no different to the those of intimate partner abuse. No wonder indigenous races often display what is mistaken as hysteria or hypersensitivity or anger – just like the types of characteristics often attribtued to victims of domestic violence. Then they get blamed for the effects of violence, like they deserved the treatment they got. Of course, if you happened to be both a woman and of a race at the bottom of the rung, you are really in a vulnerable, oppressed position.

    Thanks for the post, Barbara!

    • Thank you, Anon. 🙂 🙂 🙂
      “Racism is a type of contempt.” So true. And what you said about your ex is interesting. Maybe some (many?) of these abusers go to extra lengths to portray themselves as having positive attitudes to the very groups they secretly have contempt for.

      I heard a twice-over victim tell me, just after she’d been bashed by her second partner, that when he and her were first getting together he said to her, “I despise men who beat up women. They’re the lowest of the low.” She thought she’d finally found a good man.

      He enticed her with a pack of lies. He didn’t despise men who beat women: he despised women.

  11. Wow! I am sitting her feeling light-headed and have pins and needles all over my body. Barbara, this is PROFOUND! I had not made that connection! I read Captivating and did the study book shortly before my abuser left. I recognized the impact it had on me and my ability to continue to take his abuse. But, you and your anonymous contributor just sang an angelic song (I swear I can hear it right now as the lightbulb has switched on in my mind) and made everything clear for the first time! My father and brother hated my husband but sided with him when he left me and refused to even speak to me. It took my dad three weeks to call me (they both lived a mile away from me!) and then made the comment that he and my brother had discussed “whether Sissy was divorcing them just like she’s divorcing Richard” because I had not called them after Richard left. My brother and I have never regained a relationship. He has stated that we never will. All three of those men are (my dad was; he passed away in April) EXTREMELY prejudice. Every other nationality was given a horrible name. My brother and husband wanted to kill and torture two men for their religious practices, lumping all religious people into certain categories and using derogatory names for them. What was really ironic with my dad’s extreme prejudice was that his dad had mixed race ancestry! He confessed to me after the birth of my fourth child that he was always scared to death when my mother or I had been expecting that we’d end up with a throw back. I also never understood my own tendency to gravitate toward people of color. Now it makes total sense! Somewhere deep down in my psyche I recognized women and people of color were all lumped together in their ugly worldview! Wow!

    Barbara, we, the followers of this blog, acknowledge your gifts, insights, and skills. You have changed our worlds! God has used you mightily in our lives, and He isn’t done yet!

    • Thanks; I’m making sure the anonymous author of the post also gets your appreciation. XX

  12. Finding Answers

    Barb wrote: Prejudice can be expressed in vile language, scornful looks, unjust treatment, or simply the raising of a supercilious eyebrow. It is often subtle but deadly poisonous, infecting a person’s whole way of thinking and amplifying the depravity of their Adamic nature.

    I don’t know where to begin….

    I grew up in an environment where prejudice of one form or another was endemic. Some was “in your face”, some subtle and insidious. Even as a child, I remember encountering people and wondering why they din’t fit what my family was trying to teach me. The “label” felt wrong…

    Judgment was practically my family’s middle name.

    Over the years, I have searched myself for any hidden bastions of prejudice, correcting any errant strongholds brought to the surface. Now, I plead with the Holy Spirit to search my heart and convict me of whatever false teachings remain.

    What follows is a partial list, and some categories overlap:

    Women
    Women in “non-female” roles
    Anyone who is not white
    Anyone perceived “lower class” in comparison to them
    Anyone perceived “less educated” in comparison to them
    Any man who didn’t act “macho / manly / assertive”

    The battle seems to go on forever, evaluating and weighing the evidence against me.

    From the original post to the final comment, I hear words expressing hidden hurts, wounds only partially healed. For each person my heart aches, knowing and understanding the pain of being on the receiving end.

    I face another conviction, a “label” I’ve unknowingly faced all my life and only recently owned.

    Victims / survivors of abuse

    Maybe the hidden prejudice kept me from seeing the light sooner.

    Maybe I am blame-shifting to prejudice.

    Mea culpa.

    There is no excuse.

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: