Cultural Commentary : -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 09:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: Cultural Commentary :
Author: Russell D. Moore

Cultural Commentary1 :

Do Wife-Beaters Need Better Therapy Groups? Spouse Abuse and the End of Sin

Russell D. Moore

Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration Dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Kentucky

It is hard to muster up sympathy for a wife-beater. That’s even true in a culture where everyone is a victim, and lines between good and evil are blurred beyond distinction. After all, is anything more clearly and pathetically evil than a man who would terrorize his wife or, more typically, his girlfriend and her children? Even so, when personal responsibility leaves the arena of public policy, anything’s possible—even victim status for abusive men.

A recent book by feminist attorney Linda Mills, Insult to Injury: Rethinking Our Response to Intimate Abuse, calls for a reform of the criminal justice system, directing policies away from incarceration and toward “intimate abuse circles.” In case you’re not familiar with the concept of an “intimate abuse circle,” think of a small group therapy session where abusers “talk through” the psychological roots of their violent behavior. As lawyer C. Douglas Kerns writes in the March 8 issue of National Review, it is “the punishment no criminal dreads: hours of harmless blather.”

Kerns rightly lambastes Mills’ proposal for its reliance on dubious psychotherapeutic fads, along with its naïve understanding of human nature. “Will ill-socialized men feel anything but contempt toward covens of experts yammering about ‘communication’?” he asks. “Such efforts will indeed earn the contempt of the more inarticulate abusers, most of whom are no strangers to the lectures of well-meaning professionals with degrees in social work. And the crafty, manipulative abusers will learn from these Intimate Circles a new lexicon of buzzwords and catchphrases with which to dazzle judges and probation officers at future sentencing hearings.”

Ridiculous proposals like that of Linda Mills can only come in a culture that has tossed aside a doctrine of sin. As such, the concept of personal responsibility is barred from the discussion of how to address the ugly reality of spousal abuse. Without some understanding of the Adamic fall, society can only understand the wife-beater through the prism of pop psychology. Why engage abuse through criminal sanctions if domestic violence is the result of hardwired genes or a dysfunctional family background? The answer to such abusive men, surely then, is education and, yes, “communication.”

But it is not just the personal responsibility of the abuser that is ...

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