The Church and the Abuse of Women -- By: James Alsdurf

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 03:1 (Winter 1989)
Article: The Church and the Abuse of Women
Author: James Alsdurf

The Church and the Abuse of Women

James Alsdurf

Phyllis Alsdurf

“We received a phone call last night from our 19-year-old daughter, married to a 22-year-old Christian man. She called to tell us that he has been abusing her physically since almost the first week of their marriage. Because the Lord had opened our minds to some of the misconceptions and false teachings which are prevalent in our evangelical churches on the subject, we had the presence of mind to say, ‘Pack your bags, we’re coming to get you.’ I guess I am so concerned and even frightened for the church, because a very short, few weeks or months ago, my own response to this situation might well have been the widely accepted view of the wife submitting under any and all circumstances. I shudder to think of the results for our daughter if this had actually been the case.

* * *

“In my position (as a social worker) I deal with battered wives and children as well as abusive husbands and fathers. Many of my clients are Christians. One of my cases involved a soft-spoken woman, wife and mother of two small children who has very recently separated from a man who regularly and viciously beat her and her child. She remained in the relationship largely because her pastor and many people in the congregation strongly advised her to forgive him, remain with him, and pray. Unfortunately, this woman’s family, also Christians, strongly beseeched her to stay and preserve her marriage. For her, leaving her husband meant going against the advice of the only family and friends she knew.”

* * *

As one might expect, much of the research in the area of wife abuse has been done by feminists, some of whom themselves have been victims of wife beating. They speak with an understandable bitterness and anger toward a society so insensitive that it only publicly acknowledged the plight of battered women decades after having established laws to prohibit the abuse of animals. And often they have given up on the hope that change will come through social institutions such as the church. Rather than seeing the church as part of the solution to the abuse of women, they almost unanimously perceive the church as a big part of the problem. For some, like author Terry Davidson, the animosity toward the church is rooted in memories of deep personal pain. In her book Conjugal Crime, Davidson tells how her father, a pastor and pillar in the local community, beat her mother for almost 20 years.

A hypocritical environment prevailed in our household. In his job, my father played the role of the man of God, and we dared not to do anything to spoil that image. Yet he also believed that he was right to torture my mother, and that if I were a good daughter, I would agree with him. I never saw any evi...

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