Christians are jumping on the bandwagon to ‘help the abused’. James has something to say about that.
If a brother or a sister is without proper clothing, or destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace; may God send you warmth and food – and notwithstanding, you do not give them those things that are needful to the body, what help is it?
Pure devotion, and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversity, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
(James 2:15-16; 1:27, New Matthew Bible)
#Metoo and #Churchtoo are giving rise to many new “advocates” in the Christian community. Churches, Christian leaders and Christian journalists are getting on the bandwagon pronouncing this or that ‘wisdom’ about abuse and ‘how to respond to abuse’. But a lot of what they are saying and doing is naive, misinformed, under-informed or simply ‘image management’ for their own reputation
When churches and clergy are doing image management, it is designed to get victims and their supporters to shut up. And to get the secular media off the churches’ backs. And they’re also getting on the bandwagon hoping it will protect them from being sued for their previous malpractice.
The bandwagon. The plethora of ‘advice to victims’. All the virtue-signalling: “Hey everyone! We are setting up a ministry to the abused!”
It feels a little similar to the problems that victims of domestic abuse have with DV centers in the U.S.A. The secular DV support centres in the US will convince the victim that she is not safe at home, but they either will not or cannot provide much if any support once she leaves.
I personally know of several Christian victims of domestic abuse who are currently homeless. I know women who are living in trailer parks. Some are couch surfing. Some are desperately looking for a room to rent. These women have to keep their true identity hidden on social media. They try to go under the radar as much as possible because many abusive men are skilled at stalking their targets on Facebook and other social media platforms.
These women have no one from their family of origin or their former church who is astute and trustworthy in supporting these women. So these women don’t have the normal network of friends or family that non-abused people have. Some of them are at high risk of being killed by their abusers. And these women almost always have health problems…from the longterm abuse they have suffered. Physical ailments. Plus complex PTSD. And they don’t have much money. They may be on food stamps. They may be working for very low pay. They may not be able to work because of their physical disabilities and ill health. Some of them have had their phones hacked or tampered with by the abuser. Some of them don’t feel safe to use email.
Many of them are so easily and frequently triggered by insensitive remarks from others (including other Christians) that they might have only a few minutes or hours each few days where they have the mental space and physical energy to take action to change their situation for the better.
So I want to ask this:
Do people who advocate for victims of abuse bear any responsibility to assist in the support structure for the victims?
Because the structure is NOT there. And while I’ve described the situation in the USA, the support structures for victims in other countries are sometimes as bad or worse than the USA. Australia seems to be a bit better than the USA, but there are many many countries where it is far worse. Think of the third world! And it is going to get worse. …possibly very soon as more women are educated through the various campaigns which are springing into mainstream Christian media because of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.
If churches are going to get on the bandwagon and start offering ‘ministry’ to the abused, they need to —
- learn from our website and other experienced advocates how to do it
- provide financial assistance so that victims can carefully and safely get safe from their abusers without having to crawl through the fire of homelessness, poverty, untreated health problems, etc.
- not assume that they know enough to be able to control or direct how the victims should use the financial assistance.
Most of these get-on-the-bandwagon people are not nearly skilled enough yet to advise victims what to do.
We do not tell victims what to do. We give them information and we spread before them options and ideas they might like to consider. We encourage them to read what we have on this site. But we do not tell them what to do. We encourage victims to make their own decisions in their own time. We trust that with the understanding of true Christianity which they can gain from reading things on our site, they will become better and better able to reject unbiblical (victim-entrapping) teaching. And thus they will be more and more able to be led by the Spirit.
God is able to guide each victim of abuse in the way that will be best for her.
And I’ll rephrase that for the male victims, so I don’t offend anybody. God is able to guide each victim of abuse in the way that will be best for him.
Pastors and church leaders, please read this: What are the most important things for me to know about domestic abuse?
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