3. Chris Moles gets the gender issues right in domestic abuse & Christianity
I honour Chris Moles for how he deals with the gender issues in domestic abuse. Here are five good things he says on gender and gender differences.
1. He says that men are much less likely than women to live in fear.
He rightly points out that a man can do certain behaviors to his wife and she will feel afraid, intimidated, diminished in her personhood; but if a wife does those same behaviors to her husband he will probably not feel afraid. The husband might get annoyed, frustrated or angry, but he won’t feel fearful. (F 16:50)*
2. He says that domestic abuse is a men’s issue.
This is a men’s issue; men need to be talking about it. “Silence is approval, is it not?” (C 23:25)
The vast majority of abusers are men – and he gives reliable statistics to back that up (C 22:57)
85% of victims are going to be female – it’s higher in intimate relationships than sexual assault, but actually the greatest number of male victims are victims by other men [by] childhood sexual assault. So if you want to talk about male victims I’d be happy to do that but where 70% of them are victims of other men. That’s why I keep saying it’s a men’s issue. (F 57:32 -58:11)
He calls on men to not remain silent about the issue, and to not collude with the abusive men.
I believe if 20-25% of men in our churches are perpetrating violence then the other 75-80% ought to stand up and say “Stop it!” And one of the reasons why the church doesn’t differ from the world is that we, the men who do not use abuse and violence, are quiet. Or we collude. (L 19:19, and he says pretty much the same thing at N 39:17–40:14)
But I do wonder why Chris didn’t say that in his book. His book would have been much better if it had included the above paragraph. Video (L) was uploaded to YouTube in April 2014. Chris’s book was published in 2015. So why Chris didn’t include that paragraph in his book is beyond me. I do wonder if he was ‘walking the fence’ to not get male readers off side. If so, I think that was cowardly of him, because he let victims down by not directly confronting the generality of men in the visible church.
3. He says men ought to use their power to uphold women, rather than lord it over them.
This is one of Chris’s best points. He affirms Jesus’s teaching that power should be used to serve, not to dominate. And he shows that Paul conveyed the same thing when teaching about how husbands should treat their wives. (C 26:54)
Even better, he spells out how some complementarians have conveyed a false idea of complementarianism:
Complementarians inadvertently or deliberately have presented a view of hierarchy that is more consistent with the world than with scripture. … We haven’t accurately shown the world that the Jesus actually turned that on its head and that complementarianism is not about top-down power over, it’s about bottom-up power under. Our hierarchy is not about power, it’s about responsibility. … So that when Jesus talked about headship he is not talking about oppression he is talking about freedom. And freedom come when those with power sacrifice, not when those in power press down… (C 20:50)
Complementarity is not necessarily the problem, but our practical theology is. (Q 50:09)
Chris uses Greg Boyd’s phrase “Power Over vv Power Under”. He says “power over” is self-promotion and self-uplifting at the expense of another, whereas “power under” seeks the wellbeing of others at the expense of self. (M 63) He teaches abusive men that Ephesians 5 calls husbands to Christ-centred obedience, so they demonstrate “power under” in their marriages not “power over”. (M 65) Much of (C) is an explanation of the abuse of power by men in marriage.
Some have argued that violence in the home is just as damaging no matter who the perpetrator is. Yes violence in the home is unacceptable, but I do feel that men should be held to a higher standard in part because of the potential damage they can inflict. No matter how much we wish to be gender neutral in our culture, the fact remains that men are stronger than women.
Coming from a complementarian perspective, I do believe that certain roles are fulfilled on the basis of gender. God has given a certain level of responsibility – and for that matter – power to the husband. We should not shy away from these realities but view them through the lens of Scripture, especially the words of Jesus. “… Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant… ” (Matt 20:25-28) …
The heart of pride longs for power over, but the heart of Christ calls for power under. … we husbands are to use our power to support, protect and communicate that we too are dependable and responsible with the power we have been given. (M 72-3)
It amazes me that we within the complementarian world really dismiss this issue. It’s almost as if domestic violence is the only issue where we demand mutuality. It drives me nuts. The idea that we want distinct roles and distinct functions, until there’s an accusation of domestic violence then all of a sudden “well, everybody’s angry and everybody’s violent, women are this and men are that.” Well that is totally inconsistent with our theology! Why is this all about mutuality, when in the scripture it’s all about responsibility? (A)
When abusive men quote “wives submit to your husbands,” Chris asks them why they are reading their wife’s mail, rather than reading the parts of Ephesians 5 that are directed at husbands. (M 70)
4. He talks about male privilege, and the way society is prejudiced against women who report being abused.
The conscience of our culture is in such a way that I think it is – the culture likes to call it privilege – I think it lacks some weight to it. But I do think there are blind spots that people of tend to be in positions of power. So if you are accustomed to getting things a certain way or you are accustomed to being this homogenous group where everyone who looks like you gets what they want, you kind of become blind to the areas in where it’s less then advantageous for a minority. And this happens with men and women quite a bit. Where I don’t really see the perpetrator. And if the victim acts crazy, throws a fit, or is sinful, our response – our response as men in particular, and culturally as a whole – tends to be to focus our attention on victim. ‘Look at her,’ ‘Look what she’s doing.’ When it [what she is doing] may very well be resistance. …And I think that has happened a lot. (E 37:15-39:00)
5. He describes how women usually take responsibility, while men usually resist taking responsibility.
Chris has a part time job working for his state / county government. In this job he facilitates Domestic Violence Intervention Groups. Most of these groups are for men who have abused their female partners, but some of the groups are for women who have used violence against their male partners. All the participants in the state-run groups are mandated to attend by the justice system. So Chris has experience of both genders in these groups: men who abuse their wives, and women who use violence against their husbands.
Chris says the women typically assume guilt for the things they have done wrong in the relationship and even for things which are not their fault, whereas men typically resist confessing their guilt and instead shift the blame.
My experience with women’s groups has been that when women come into our group, or when women come into [private] counseling who have been victims, they own everything they’ve every done. “Yeah, I hit him. Yeah, I slashed his tires. Yeah, I did this.” All sinful. All things that need to be addressed.
I don’t what it is about us guys. Men’s group–it’s like pulling teeth. The first things, generally, not always, out of my guys’ mouths is: “She hit me. She slashed my tires.”
It’s amazing how many victims will assume guilt for everything. Do they need to own their sin? Yes, don’t hear me say that women don’t sin. You all know better, hopefully. But it is amazing how often victims have been associated with guilt for so long in their homes that they just naturally gravitate towards it. (B 50:06–50:54)
Our Chris Moles Digest has links to all the posts in this series, and a legend for the cited items.