What is wrong with James Dobson’s reply to this letter from an abused wife? I invite my readers to analyse and critique the advice Dobson gives.
Note: Dobson’s article was published at his blog in 2015. It appears to have been scrubbed from his site now, but it can be found in the Internet Archive here: A Violent Spouse [Internet Archive link]
Some years ago we discussed Dobson’s response to this woman. But new people have followed the ACFJ blog since then, so it’s worth discussing again. This time I’m just laying it open to my readers: What do you think about Dobson’s advice? And what arguments can you present to refute Dobson’s advice?
Everything between the two sets of asterisks is pasted from Dobson’s blog post. Trigger warning when reading Dobson’s advice.
From the wife of a violent spouse:
Dear Dr. Dobson:
This is an extremely difficult letter to write, but I must have help. My husband and I have been married twelve years, and throughout most of this time, he has had a secret problem. Only I know that he has a violent temper that is absolutely terrifying to me. He is a leader in our church and is a very prominent lawyer in our city. Everyone respects him highly. But when he is at home he is a different person.
At least once or twice a month he explodes over something the kids or I have done to irritate him, and he becomes furious. He yells, throws things, threatens me, and makes an awful scene. If I say the wrong thing or if I say anything, he beats me with his fists.
Last week he loosened three of my teeth and cut the inside of my lip. I really thought he was going to kill me! This happened because I failed to do some errands he asked me to get done. What bothers me is that the beatings are becoming more frequent and more violent as time goes by.
I don’t know what to do. I really do love my husband. He’s a fine man when he isn’t mad about something. He never shows this side of himself in public, even when he is frustrated. No one has any idea he is a wife abuser. I haven’t told anyone, and my husband would blow up if I asked him to go with me for counseling. No telling what he’d do if he knew I was consulting you!
So what can I do? I don’t believe in divorce. I am trying to be gentle and cautious at all times, but inevitably I step on his toes and he explodes again. I’m so tired of being beaten and then having to stay home for days to hide my bruises.
How do I deal with this situation?
The problem of wife abuse is reaching epidemic proportions in today’s families. The violence that is characteristic of the culture around us is being translated into husband-wife relationships and to parent-child interactions. Entire volumes have been addressed to this problem, and I am not likely to add to that understanding in the time and space allotted here. I can, however, offer Laura a condensed answer, which would be the basis for our work if I were counseling her personally.
As I see it, Laura only has four alternatives in response to her circumstance. They are:
1. Remain silent at home, walk on cracked eggs, and be the eternal conciliator.
She is taking this approach now, but is not succeeding. No matter how passive she becomes, she will eventually trigger the anger of her uptight husband. Furthermore, she’ll pay a terrible price emotionally for living on a powder keg year in and year out. For the long term, this is not the answer.
2. Divorce her husband.
As a Christian, I agree with Laura that divorce is not the solution to this problem. Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.
3. Proceed with an “emotional divorce,” remaining married but keeping herself detached and independent from her husband.
This form of “emotional isolation” will shield Laura from psychological pain, but it will make for a terrible relationship. I don’t favor it.
4. The ‘love must be tough’ response.
This is risky and psychologically expensive, but it is my choice and my recommendation. In essence, Laura’s husband is emotionally blackmailing her. He is saying by his behavior, “Do what I wish or I’ll beat you.” She must break out of that tyranny while she’s still young enough to cope with the consequences. This might be accomplished by forcing the matter to a crisis.
Change of behavior does not occur when waters are smooth, as we have seen; it sometimes happens after a storm. I would suggest that Laura choose the most absurd demand her husband makes, and then refuse to consent to it. Let him rage if he must rage. She should prearrange a place to go and ask friends or relatives to step in for assistance at that critical moment. Separate living quarters may be necessary until her husband settles down. He should be made to think that he has lost his wife over this issue, and in fact, I would recommend that she not return until there is reason to believe that he is willing to change. If that takes a year, so be it.
When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has a severe problem and promises to deal with it if she’ll come home, a period of negotiations should follow. One of the conditions for reconciliation is competent Christian counseling for the psychological problem that is now apparent to everyone but the husband. By all means, Laura will need the support of Christian friends and counselors, especially during the time of crisis. And it goes without saying that the entire matter must be bathed in prayer from the beginning.
I can offer no guarantees that this advice will resolve Laura’s problem with her violent husband. But I believe it represents the best possibility for success. Let me ask those of you who disagree, what would you advise? Counselors suggesting that this frightened woman remain passive and submissive despite the abuse should have to look into Laura’s eyes and tell her that in person.
I don’t believe anyone should be required to live in that kind of terror, and in fact, to do so is to tolerate a behavior which could eventually prove fatal to the marriage, anyway.
From Dr. Dobson’s book Love Must Be Tough.
James Dobson and showering with boys — by J L Flinch
Franklin Graham must answer for his bullying of domestic violence survivor Naghmeh Panahi — by Darrell Lucus. This article says some pertinent things about James Dobson.
James Dobson on Domestic Violence: Women “Deliberately Bait” Their Husbands — by Homeschoolers Anonymous
A “Gauntlet Down” Challenge to James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Other Christian Ministries of Fame
Comments made on James Dobson and Focus on the Family:
“The Truth About Men” — Isn’t this Horrible Philosophy in the Church? (Comment by KayJay)
A “Gauntlet Down” Challenge to James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Other Christian Ministries of Fame (Comment by Barbara Roberts)
Perception vs. Per”crap”tion (Comment by Barbara Roberts)
25 thoughts on “James Dobson’s article “A Violent Spouse””
Her husband’s behaviour is criminal and escalating. Criminal behaviour should be dealt with by the police. The fact that he did not tell her to leave before he does it again, or suggest she calls the police is incredible. He also neglects to address the impact this is having on her children.
This will sound awful, and I pray that I can make myself understood here. My husband didn’t beat me but he almost drove me to suicide with psychological and emotional abuse. My children didn’t see what he was doing to me. This poor woman has physical injuries and her children have also been abused, therefore exposing him will be easier.
I pray that she’s out and no one else is taking Dobson’s advice.
Well said, Auriel. 🙂 I find your story very believable. I don’t in the least judge you nearly taking your own life because of the abuse your husband was doing to you. I have heard similar accounts from other survivors. Some women do take their own lives because they see no other way out of the abuse. I have also heard an account from a woman who killed her abusive husband. I can’t remember the story in all detail but I remember her saying that her immediate feeling as soon as she was jailed was relief: she felt safer in jail than she had felt for years while living with her husband.
I wholly agree with you that because the woman who wrote to Dobson had physical injuries and her kids had also been abused, it would have been easier for her to expose him than it would have been for you to expose your husband.
Providing she lives through this “last stand” why is it up to her to make him angry once more? Why does he suggest that people get involved after the provocation? Why is the responsibility up to her and the church? This is just plain weird and dangerous.
If she dies what will he say to that? What is with this counseling suggestion? Is it co-counseling? How in the world is a Christian counselor supposed to deal with the manipulative nature of an abuser if not trained? Psychologists are rarely trained to deal with this, they are usually trained to take the abuser at face value which you cannot do. Only a well trained domestic violence clinic knows how to do this.
I’ve never seen a counselor that can understand this issue. And that further re-victimizes Laura. How would Dobson like to get mugged and assaulted, then the judge tell him they didn’t have enough evidence that he needs to go back and get mugged again so they can really understand the issue, but still be in contact with said assaulter and try to repair this relationship that they are in and let’s just fix this rather than calling it a crime which it is.
[Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]
Genius, Sarah. Laughing and crying at the same time. My heart breaks for this woman.
Sarah, I love your suggestion about how Dobson should respond if he gets mugged! 🙂
No wonder it has been scrubbed! Should she have followed Dobson’s advice it would surely lead to her murder. Absolutely disgusting response. This is what people in church don’t understand.. the victim is made to look crazy because the perpetrator is highly respected in public. It churns my stomach. The victim will make too many waves and she will be the one to lose friends and community. While he continues on highly esteemed.
When a spouse is abused, the marriage covenant is broken.
Dr. Dobson’s advice reveals a pathetic lack of understanding and common sense. In effect he is counseling the wife to make her irrantional husband angry and risk life and limb in some perverted sort of tough love. “Force a crisis,” Dobson counsels, and “let him rage.” He demonstrates that indeed the wisdom of the wise is foolishness. But it is worse than foolish. It is delusional, misleading, and dangerous for those he counsels.
Dr. Dobson’s response to Laura’s request for help is actually quite frightening. It is obvious he doesn’t understand the mindset of an abuser, or the relational patterns in the cycle of abuse. There is so much there I have to reply.
He starts out by offering the wife (the abused) four alternatives to resolve the issue and supports the last one as “her best option.” He is at least able to state that staying silent is not a good option. But, he then proceeds to give her a negative view of divorce as if it is the wife’s sole responsibility to maintain the marriage. Even though the wife doesn’t want to divorce, she isn’t responsible for “killing” the marriage, her husband’s abuse is. He states “our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior.” NO! It is the husband’s responsibility to change his behavior. Expecting others to do it by any means only sets up a codependent relationship. Our purpose at that point is to be safe.
He discourages an “emotional divorce” saying “it will make for a terrible relationship”. Is he serious…?!? So the husband’s abuse doesn’t make it a terrible relationship?!? I am speechless at this point. Victim blaming at its worst.
He finally advocates for a tough love approach which would further confuse any abuse victim and do nothing but give the abuser biblical permission and opportunity to continue tormenting and abusing his wife.
Telling her to “force the matter to a crisis” and “let him rage” just ignites the abuse cycle and places the wife in grave danger. Did he not read where she said the beatings are getting “more frequent and more violent”? Dr. Dobson needs to acknowledge that and not dismiss it. He also suggests the wife let the husband “think he has lost her”. What? Why?? So he can go into a frenzied panic solely focused on his wife’s reconciliation and submission to him? First of all, abusers will do or say anything to get their partners to return to the relationship, (remember the frenzied panic). She doesn’t need to get caught up in relational games, she needs to get herself to a safe place. Telling the wife to look for her husband’s “acknowledgment of the problem and promise to deal with it” just sets the wife up to look out for false promises. (think Honeymoon phase)
Another step in Dr. Dobson’s approach suggests the wife seek help and counseling and that there will be “negotiations” for reconciliation. However, what gets overlooked is that almost all abusers graduate “Manipulation 101” with honors. Remember “everyone respects him highly” and he is a leader in the church and a prominent lawyer. Abusers know how to “fake good” especially when they know others are watching. Remember Laura said “he is a different person at home.” It takes training to identify the red flags. Even licensed therapists are taught to avoid counseling couples with active domestic violence. Though I’m sure a Christian counselor means well, it is unlikely they will accurately identify and confront the behavior. More importantly, the biggest fear about counseling couples like that is the counselor has no control over what happens outside of the therapist’s office and behind closed doors.
Safety is Laura’s number one priority. She needs to physically separate herself from the relationship, get herself into individual counseling, and seek legal advice if needed. It might not sound biblical to some, but I believe Christ loves us more than He loves our commitment to a marriage with ongoing sin and abuse that’s slowly killing our mind, body, and spirit. I’m not disrespecting Dr. Dobson, but I think counseling abuse victims is outside of his scope of competence and may be better handled by someone else.
You made many good points in your comment (23RD OCTOBER 2021 – 3:10 PM).
Using your words to sum up my response to your comment….
In your comment, you commented: I’m not disrespecting Dr. Dobson
And to me, your comment didn’t come across as disrespectful.
I agree with you 1000%
Dr. Dobson is a Christian leader giving bad advice to abuse victims. The victim is not responsible for the abuse and has no power to change the abuser. The responsibility for abuse lies squarely with the abuser. Abusers choose to abuse. It is intentional. They believe they are entitled to have power and control over their victims. Her abuser has self control in public. It is not an anger problem. It is an abuse problem! Domestic violence is not a marriage problem. It is a behavior problem. I recommend Laura see an individual therapist who understands domestic violence and see an attorney for life saving divorce for herself and her children.
Hi Monica, for your safety I removed your surname from your comment before I published it. – Barb
Hi Monica, great comment. I love that you bring up that her abuser has self-control and he is making a choice. Your statement, “It is not an anger problem. It is an abuse problem!” should be plastered across every bus and billboard across the country. I think people forget; abusers have control over their behavior when it benefits them! They prey on their victim [spouse, children, siblings] and confuse them into believing they are the reason for the abuse. It is evil in disguise.
I agree with what Linda said about Christ loving us more than He loves our commitment to a marriage with ongoing sin and abuse that’s slowly killing our mind, body, and spirit.
The reason that idea sounds unbiblical to some is that many people have been brainwashed by the twisted, mis-shapen doctrines taught and passed on by many professing Christians.
I’ve commented here a couple of times before several years ago although I usually prefer to stay silent. I just had a thought, though. I wonder how many of these professing Christians who twist Scripture and teach abuse-enabling doctrine do so because THEY’RE abusers behind closed doors and they want to be able to continue abusing their families with God okaying it in their minds. Again, just a thought.
Hi Arwen, I’ve had similar thoughts. 🙂 🙂
Please do not post if this rather lengthy missive is out-of-line or inappropriate in any way, it is a bit harsh. This one hit me hard, I’m still shaky from reading but oh, it was an important read.
Thank you for this, Barbara. And thank you Auriel, Sarah, Ruth, Linda, Monica, Arwen2002; I agree with each of you.
I used to like Dobson long ago, before I had the word “abuse” in my vocabulary, but I haven’t listened to anything he says for many years now. Not all Christians are wise, not all are mature, and not all are even genuine Christians. A person can have a heart for the Lord, but because they are ignorant of certain things they can give very bad advice and do a lot of unwitting damage. I cannot say if he is any of these, I have never met him and I do not know him, but I do not listen to him, either.
In order of Dobson’s replies:
Remain silent at home, walk on cracked eggs, and be the eternal conciliator.
“For the long term, this is not the answer.”
Does he mean to imply that in the short term, this IS the answer? To me this sounds like double talk, he prevaricates. Who is he afraid of offending?
He also seems to negate the process abuse victims travel through in their efforts to break free. The walking on eggshells is often tried by many in the beginning, for a time, and it teaches each of us something important. It may be no way to live, and no way to survive, but it just might be a step in learning and understanding more about ourselves, about abuse, and about the abuser.
Divorce her husband.
“As a Christian, I agree with Laura that divorce is not the solution to this problem.”
Oh my goodness! Dobson seriously needs to rethink this one. Why is he, like so many others in positions of authority, so fearful and condemning of divorce? This demonstrates that he does not really understand why divorce was instituted, or by Whom. Is he even aware that God used divorce Himself? Barbara has written an excellent book on this subject, Not Under Bondage, explaining it far better than I ever could. Please read it, twice. I need to read it again as well.
“Our purpose should be to change her husband’s behavior, not kill the marriage.”
Dobson evidently believes that someone, anyone in fact, including a beaten and abused spouse – a ‘punching bag’ if you will who has no voice, has any power at all to change not only another’s behavior but her abuser’s behavior. This belief is either a fantasy, the result of immaturity, or a deception, a flat out lie. For the truth we have only to look at Scripture.
Was Jesus able to change those who truly hated Him? Those who hunted Him? Those who wanted Him dead? He did have the power, but automatons and coerced robots were not what He wanted, so no, He wasn’t able to change those who truly hated Him. That’s why genuine believers are not in the majority. Only those who want Him are willing to repent and follow Him and their behavior changes as a result. One cannot change their own behavior and then decide to follow Christ, it’s the other way around because Christ is what changes us, He is the difference between the old and the new person. Abusers do not want that.
Dobson assumes, incorrectly, that there is a marriage left at all. There is not.
He also assumes that the violently abused victim is the one who will be responsible for destroying the marriage. He doesn’t seem to understand that the abuser, via his abuse, has already killed the marriage. There is no marriage left, it’s done, it’s over, and it’s all on the abuser.
Proceed with an “emotional divorce,” remaining married but keeping herself detached and independent from her husband.
“This form of “emotional isolation” will shield Laura from psychological pain, but it will make for a terrible relationship. I don’t favor it.”
If Laura needs to be shielded from psychological pain, what sort of relationship does he think they have? Will it really make for a terrible relationship? Or is it better than the one they have of terror and beatings? And why, if her emotional divorce shields her in any way at all, is he not in favor of it???
The ‘love must be tough’ response.
“This might be accomplished by forcing the matter to a crisis.”
Oh yes? Do you know what else might be accomplished? Her irreparable damage, her children’s irreparable damage, I’m speaking of physical as well as psychological and emotional, and her death. I know 3 dead women at the hands of their husbands. I grew up with one of them, she was my friend at church and as school. One other was our pastor’s wife – he was a beast and nobody really knew but he always creeped me out. I later learned why, but she died anyway.
“I would suggest that Laura choose the most absurd demand her husband makes, and then refuse to consent to it. Let him rage if he must rage.”
Let him rage? What kind of advice is that? Does he even have a clue what that rage looks like? Has he any idea at all how dangerous this advice can be? And most importantly: Where is that written? This is not Godly advice!
“Separate living quarters may be necessary until her husband settles down.”
Forgive my annoyance, but – you think?
And what does “settles down” mean? Does it mean having a heart change because of Christ? Or does it mean faking peace and manipulating her into living with him again – at her peril?
“I would recommend that she not return until there is reason to believe that he is willing to change.”
If I were to ask all readers for a show of hands, how many would raise them if I asked if any of them, ever, believed their false husband’s lies when he either promised to change or said that he had / has changed? Every one of us, perhaps? I’ll raise mine! My false husband’s favorite line was “but I’ve changed so much! You’re just being so mean…” And what happens if she is willing to return? After a time, it all starts up again, and escalates in most cases.
Ask any competent psychologist with a Ph.D. who deals with abuse victims and narcissistic abuse victims if people ever really change and they’ll tell you no, people don’t change. Since non-Christians know this, Christians should know it even more firmly – but they often don’t. It’s written right into Scripture, yet they don’t see it. I am at a loss.
The only thing that can genuinely change a person is Christ, we all know this, and for Him to do that they need to recognize their need for Him, repent of sin, accept His gift of salvation, and follow Him for the rest of their lives. I believe this can happen, but only rarely, and I’ve not yet seen it.
“I don’t believe anyone should be required to live in that kind of terror, and in fact, to do so is to tolerate a behavior which could eventually prove fatal to the marriage, anyway.”
If Dobson really believes what he said, that “I don’t believe anyone should be required to live in that kind of terror” then why does he not advise her to take her children and leave quietly under cover of night? Why does he not advise her to FIRST get herself and her little ones to safety? Or is he simply giving lip-service and saying what sounds good but has no substance? Texans have an amusing and appropriate phrase for a person that’s all talk and no substance or action: “big hat, no cattle.” If the phrase fits…
Again I ask, fatal to WHAT marriage? There is no marriage, just a torturer and the torturer’s victim. Or perhaps victims.
“Let me ask those of you who disagree, what would you advise?”
I advise seeking out what God has to say about this! While you’re doing that, make your plans, call your local domestic violence / abuse hotline and ask for help, and get yourself and your children to safety! Being abused does not serve God, it wounds Him. If you are murdered, how does that serve God? And what becomes of your children?
God created marriage for people, not the other way around.
God also created divorce as a way out for abused spouses. It is there for a reason, for those who need it like Laura.
God NEVER advises Christ-following believers to befriend, associate with, or stay with wicked people.
In this case, we are advised to not associate with trouble-makers, no matter who they are; non-Christians as well as Christians. If abuse isn’t trouble and if it isn’t divisive, then I need better definitions.
And this is exactly what an abuser is – a child of Satan; demon spawn.
The bottom line in each of these passages is that we are to avoid such people, walk away, have nothing to do with them. These are just a few verses, there are more.
I have seriously questioned Dobson for years now, and I would not willingly associate with him ever. I certainly wouldn’t ask his advice on anything as he doesn’t seem to be able to correctly interpret Scripture. His advice is simply more of the same patriarchal drivel that I have heard all my life – no thanks. It almost killed me. If that’s the best his god can offer, well, then, my God is far, far superior! My Lord came not to enslave, but to set free!
If I seem harsh, it’s only because I felt every word printed here, and like so many others, I’ve lived a great deal of it.
Dear Hope, thank you so much for your well thought out comment. 🙂 I didn’t think your comment was harsh or too long. I think you are a great advocate for victims and survivors of abuse. I hope you keep speaking out. You lay out the arguments and rebuttals so well —— your logic is easy to follow.
I really like this thing you said:
“The walking on eggshells is often tried by many in the beginning, for a time, and it teaches each of us something important. It may be no way to live, and no way to survive, but it just might be a step in learning and understanding more about ourselves, about abuse, and about the abuser.”
I put my hand up to having walked on eggshells for years. So many ‘c’hristians encouraged me to walk on eggshells in my first marriage. The Family Court Orders did not help either. Those court orders set me up for many more years of numbed and fear-packed confusion before I could find a way out of the fog.
Those years of walking on eggshells in that marriage did, eventually, teach me some things about the nature of abuse, my abuser, his tactics and strategies. And what I learned, in the end, did help me disentangle from his mind control. But the pain of those years! The years and years of pain and fear (for me and for our daughter) before I was able to put together and utilise what I had learned and get free…
I now can look back and say that when Jeff Crippen and I were co-leading this blog, I walked on eggshells sometimes with him. But in the end I stood up to him by refusing to comply with his unjust directives.
Society conditions women in particular to walk on eggshells. I’ll make that personal — I believe that society conditioned me to walk on eggshells. One example: even though the prestigious Presbyterian Ladies College where I did my secondary schooling gave lip service to the idea that females can be strong minded, bold, brave and innovative, they muzzled and crushed me when I actually showed some of those qualities. Yes, I was a very rough diamond and quite rude at times (and miserable…suicidal), but the teachers and the principal had no idea how to handle me. They had no idea how to teach females how to be assertive against foolishness and hypocrisy.
I have always had sharp antennae for foolishness and hypocrisy. That school ended up rejecting me. Wiped their hands of me. I came away from school with only two strong skills of interpersonal responses: (a) how to walk on eggshells — my family, society and schooling had taught me that —— and (b) how to rudely react to foolishness and hypocrisy —— I had taught myself that, and neither my family or the school taught me how to temper that reactivity or how to be assertive without disrespecting or wounding others.
In your comment (4TH NOVEMBER 2021 – 7:39 PM), you wrote: Please do not post if this rather lengthy missive is out-of-line or inappropriate in any way, it is a bit harsh. This one hit me hard, I’m still shaky from reading
I didn’t think your comment was out-of-line, inappropriate, or harsh….and I’m sorry it hit you hard and left you shaky. (I can empathize….I’ve had things I’ve read hit me hard and leave me shaky.) And I did not think your comment was rather lengthy (different people have different ideas on what they consider lengthy)….I thought your critique of James Dobson and his article was detailed and excellent.
In the same comment, you commented (and quoted):
(Bold done by me.)
I laughed when I read your phrase “you think”….I could hear the “Ya think?!” that I, and you, and so many others say (or might say, or want to say) when they hear someone (James Dobson, in this case) state the obvious.
Thank you Finding Answers, for such words of encouragement! You are an encourager, did you know? That is a wonderful gift!
God Bless you,
I am nauseous reading his response to this woman’s abuse! I am also angry. I lived in domestic violence for [almost 4 decades]! I grew up with a dad who was domestically violent and then married a man at 19 and stayed for [almost 2 decades] because of dangerous advice like what is given here. Oh, my heart hurts for women stuck in this nightmare and the further abuse they receive from their church to remain or feel at fault.
I am working now to form a local support group for women and to educate the churches on this delicate but yet important matter they are neglecting within the church. Advice like this is sickening and coming from a survivor it’s also triggering.
I pray this woman was able to find sound and correct doctrinal advice to safely remove herself and her children. This hurts my heart! God is crying tears over his daughters and the twisting of his word to condone such abuse. Thank you for what you are doing to educate and bring light onto this darkness.
I have already shared your blog with a woman stuck in abuse. She reached out to me today asking if she grounds to divorce her spouse over abuse. I sent her several resources, your blog included. I wish I had known of this when I was in my younger years of marriage with him. It would have saved me so much pain and trauma.
[Details airbrushed for safety and protection. Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]
Hi Hurting Heart,
For your safety and protection, I have changed your screen name to Hurting Heart, as the name you submitted with your comment might have been too revealing. If you would prefer a different screen name, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For your safety and protection, I airbrushed some of the details in your comment, and added some paragraph breaks to enhance readability.
Dear Hurting Heart, I wish you all the best with forming a local support group for abused women. Thank you for taking the time to express your anguish and your anger.
I have pretty much given up trying to galvanise church leaders about this topic. I’m tired of ‘Bible teachers’ who teach about divorce but will not listen to the survivors who have become advocates. I could name some of those ‘Bible teachers’ by name, but I’m tired of trying to expose them.
Thank you so much for the open conversation. Regarding the situation described, my recommendation to the abused woman would be to leave at once and go to a shelter with her children. Next time he might accidentally kill her. As he is well respected by the church and community I would expect not much if any support or to be believed even from people in those areas. You might face hurt and hardship when people don’t believe you. Hopefully later there might be medical evidence released which would persuade people. If the situation was not so dire already, I would definitely advise the abused to confide in trustworthy people from the start. Once out of denial that the abuse is happening I would also keep records of all incidents and quietly get medical evidence as well e.g. going to doctor or emergency and having photos and x-rays taken. If possibly done safely I would place a hidden camera that would record sound and picture as proof for your claims. I would organise a ‘go pack’ maybe to be located with someone trustworthy so if you have to leave in a hurry they would have your most important documents, evidence, family heirloom etc. When you are abused and in fight / flight / freeze response brain processing function slow down. Sometimes you don’t think of all the wise things that could be done. But I think just doing some of these things would give a sense of agency so one doesn’t feel so powerless. These are just my immediate thoughts, but wanted to put them here if anyone reading is in this woman’s situation. And I’m sure others will have a more professional opinion.
Another commenter here made my other thought, that “marriage is for man, not man for marriage”. John MacArthur, who has made concerning comments featured on this site, actually gave a great sermon from Mark about the Sabbath and keeping it. Jesus made the point that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Pharisees had been criticizing Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, and he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?”. I wont comment more on this as I don’t want to say anything unbiblical, but hopefully you can fill in the blanks.
Much love to those who are suffering. And thank you for this space to dialogue. I was hoping to find a resource from a Christian perspective. It is so good to read the comments. If it was not wanted to address the issue from a practical standpoint, no worries, I was just concerned no good, practical advice was given the woman. Mine might not be right so completely fine if you don’t publish this comment. Might even be better if you don’t as it makes me feel vulnerable just putting it out there. 🙄 Thanks again.
Hi Walking in the Dark, thanks for taking the time to comment. I think your practical suggestions for the abused woman are really good. 🙂 🙂 🙂
While I understand your feeling vulnerable by “just putting it out there”, I don’t think that what you wrote would have put you more at risk from your abusers. I honour you for sharing your suggestions for abused women. Because of your courage, you will most likely be blessing other abused women. So thank-you!
You mentioned that you heard a John MacArthur sermon about the Sabbath which you thought was a pretty good sermon. People like MacArthur (celebrity preachers) might have interpreted and taught some parts of scripture and doctrine quite well. However, they have also understood and taught some parts of scripture quite poorly — with the result that they have perpetuated and prolonged the prevalence of interpersonal oppression and abuse in the church.
Over the years, some fans of John MacArthur have tried to persuade me that MacArthur has preached well on abuse and divorce. J.Mac fans have sent me links to teaching by MacArthur where MacArthur said divorce might be grounds for abuse in some cases, or that the wise thing for an abuse victim is to separate from the abuser, or that God never condones or endorses abuse. But whenever I send these fans more material by John MacArthur which shows how J.Mac has taught poorly on abuse in other places, the fans never want to continue our discussion.
One or more instances of good teaching does not erase the sin of many instances of bad teaching. Leaders will be judged more strictly than ordinary believers who are not leaders. If a leader has done bad teaching, the right thing for that leader to do is publicly confess what he or she did wrong, publicly retract the bad teaching, and publicly state what he or she now believes to be the correct scriptural interpretation on that topic.
Here are some posts which shed light on John MacArthur’s poor teaching regarding domestic abuse.
What is the purpose of marriage? Is it to display Christ’s love for the church?
Focus on the Family & John MacArthur spout “God hates divorce.” And do they accept correction?
More on Abuse from John MacArthur – Double Aaaargh!
Billy Graham, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul are some of the “Untouchables” in the visible church