The Bible’s Nonabusive Intention for Family Relationships -- By: Catherine Clark Kroeger

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 25:3 (Summer 2011)
Article: The Bible’s Nonabusive Intention for Family Relationships
Author: Catherine Clark Kroeger

The Bible’s Nonabusive Intention for Family Relationships

Catherine Clark Kroeger

Catherine Clark Kroeger, founder of CBE and PASCH, was an evangelical stateswoman. This article is adapted from one of three chapters she authored (and another co-authored) in her newly published book Responding to Abuse in Christian Homes (House of Prisca and Aquila series, Wipf and Stock, 2011). It is reviewed in this issue of Priscilla Papers. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.

In Saint Paul, Minnesota, during the 1970s, the first shelter in the nation opened “for battered women,” a phrase I had never heard before. This was not all that was happening in the city.

At the same time, the Civic Auditorium in Saint Paul was filled to capacity as a supposed expert held forth for a whole week on how to build constructive relationships within the family. At the time, he was enormously popular with the Christian public. The event had been widely promoted by churches and parachurch organizations, and I, too, had been encouraged to attend. I sat there, along with many thousands of others, watching as the “expert” drew a diagram of a man and woman standing side by side in a dating relationship. Then, while sketching the downward swoop of an arrow, he explained that, after marriage, the woman dropped below her husband to a servant status.

There followed another cartoon of the husband as a hammer pounding down on the wife, who was depicted as a chisel hacking away at the children. There were as well other symbols that were harsh and violent, such as the military image of a chain of command. I could not bring myself to attend the last two nights, but friends told me that they were present when women were instructed to praise God for their husbands even when they were beating them.

Within the following week, I was speaking with the Christian education director of a church located near a psychiatric hospital. There, a single psychiatrist was treating three patients who required hospitalization as a result of their attendance at those meetings. Another therapist told me that he, too, had been busy treating both male and female clients in the aftermath of that particular program. Time moved on, and the “expert” lost a good deal of his popularity, but some of the impressions that he created lingered on. Was it not the Apostle Paul who warned us “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6)?

I attended another event, this time at another church in Minneapolis. Here, another family life expert explained how he had repeatedly knocked his teenaged son to the ground in order to gain his compliance. This was followed by an example of having f...

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