Open Letter to Authors of Christian Marriage Books
Dear Authors of Christian Marriage Books,
Hey! Thanks for reading! First, I want to say thank you for getting all this wonderful material out there. You poured your heart and minds into your marriage theories. It takes guts to write a book. You are REALLY putting yourself out there.
I am sure that you recognize that we, at ACFJ (well, I don’t as much but most of the team) focus our energy on debunking theology that causes bondage. Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts have even written books to accomplish this. And, as a counselor, I recognize more and more each day that much of counseling is correcting theology that keeps women in abusive patterns in their thinking. Theology such as . . . patriarchy, divorce as a sin, etc. I owe a debt of gratitude to authors like Jeff and Barb for helping me sort through my own issues in this area. So, from time to time, we will review books . . . or bring books up that have caused a great deal of harm to suffering women. Your book might be on that list.
There really is no reason for you to listen to me. I do not think I am more special than anyone else. I do have some education and some experience. But, I am hoping that sharing my heart will touch yours.
I am in a healthy marriage now but I was not before. After a few years of continued healing from an abusive past, I can actually pick up a marriage book here and there and draw wisdom from it. That is because I am in a marriage where both my husband and I desire to love each other, to try and to truly resemble the Gospel of Christ and His Bride. However, when I was married to an abuser, your books were ammunition to my very soul. See . . . what we all feel you don’t understand is that an abuser will use anything to guilt and manipulate his victim. Anything. Your books were relished by my ex and ‘c’hristians around me and used to show me all of my shortcomings. They became books of accusations and additional law to the already heavy burden that was heaped upon my shoulders. And this tactic is not new. It is ancient. In fact, the Enemy, himself, used the Word of God (of all things!) to accuse Jesus. So, naturally, wicked men will use anything written by Christians, as well. One member of our ACFJ team recently wrote this in a private thread:
The way I see it, there is no particular doctrine or system of theology, at least not within Christendom, responsible for abuse. Abusers will pick up anything and use it for their abusive ends. Satan did it with God’s word from the very beginning and has not stopped and even used God’s word against Him in the dessert, and it doesn’t get more right than straight from God’s mouth. Abuse is about abusers, not the tools they use, because everything becomes a tool they use. If you see what I mean.
Personally, it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around that fact that most of you do not even address the rampant abuse that is going on everywhere . . . . even in — nay, especially in — the Church. I don’t understand how one can write a marriage advice book without addressing it? Entitlement and abuse are the diseases of our culture right now . . . and their contagion is in the church. Perhaps you believe that people will just understand that your books are for those in healthy marriages. That makes no sense to me, seeing as a very small slice of the population have healthy marriages. Perhaps you assume that the Church does not have many abusive marriages? This, too, is a nonsensical assumption, based on the divorce rates in the Church right now. I cannot speak for everyone on this team (I believe most would want an entire chapter) when I tell you that ALL I ASK is that you put a STRONG disclaimer at the beginning of your marriage advice books at the very least. Like this:
Just like anything else, this book is not meant to be a tool for brow-beating your spouse. This book is only intended to make strong marriages stronger. This book cannot be expected to help heal relationships where either spouse is an abuser.
Then, maybe just a definition of abuse. I like this one:
Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.
While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.
Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed.
I get it. You have poured your life’s work into your theories. You will defend them unto the death. It makes sense. Who would want to go back and undo all of that? So, I ask you to open your heart, please. Toward compassion. I want, very much, to believe that, if you knew — if you truly knew — how many victims are beat down with your life’s work, that you would add an addendum, do a re-print, make a disclaimer at the beginning of the book . . . something. Let the world of Christendom know that you will not contribute to the abuse of those who are oppressed. Now, you know. And I am appealing to your Christ-likeness. Because Christ would never contribute to abuse. He was the very opposite. Indeed, he came to set the captives free.
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Update 18 Aug 2014, added by Barb.
Here’s a good idea! A rating system for marriage books using three color codes on the front of the book:
1) blue is for disappointing marriages
2) orange is for dealing with difficult marriages
3) red (stop sign perhaps??!) is used to identify books dealing with destructive marriages.
[This idea came from a reader’s comment at another post]