The Levite’s Concubine: Domestic Violence And The People Of God -- By: Elaine A. Heath
PP 13:1 (Winter 1999) p. 10
The Levite’s Concubine:
Domestic Violence And The People Of God
The Reverend Elaine A. Heath is an ordained pastor and a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She is also a long-time member of CBE.
Domestic violence is the number one health threat faced by women in the United States today. It accounts for more deaths than automobile accidents, muggings and rapes combined.1 During America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the number of women murdered by their intimate partners was equal to the number of U.S. military personnel killed in battle.2 In 1981 researchers Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz estimated that at least one third of all wives in the United States are beaten during the course of their marriage.3 By 1987 researchers upped the figure to a “conservative estimate” of half of all marriages experiencing episodes of violence at some time.4 At least ninety-five percent of domestic violence is male against female and it is rare for violence in a marriage to be an isolated episode. Violence is usually a pattern in the relationship.
Most telling of all for the church, in traditional, patriarchal marriages where the husband is “head” and the wife “submits” there is a vastly greater chance that the wife will be battered.5 While domestic violence is a sin6 that knows no racial, economic or social barriers, the highest rates of domestic violence are found in patriarchal relationships. Church-sanctioned patriarchy is one of the primary reasons that women remain in violent relationships.7
The essay that follows is about the phenomenon of domestic violence among professing Christians. Domestic violence is an evil which must be named and owned by Christians individually and collectively. The church cannot afford to continue to ignore domestic violence and to sanction ideologies that feed domestic violence. To do so is to tell the world that the good news of the Gospel is bad news for women, a message that is patently false. How can the church be a prophetic voice against injustice in the world if it tolerates and even perpetuates violence against its own daughters? The words of God through the prophet Amos confront the church today:
I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt ...
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