Roger Goodell’s words are our own, “We got this one wrong.”
Domestic violence is a reality within our churches and within our pews, regardless of whether we see it. Statistics put those affected by familial abuse anywhere between 20 and 29 percent, with little variance between evangelical and secular. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “Battering is the single major cause of injury to women—more frequent than auto accidents, muggings and rapes combined.”2
Yet the church’s historical response to women in abusive relationships has been reticent at best and anemic at worst. Church leadership often has turned a blind eye to a problem that has become progressively worse by telling women to try harder or learn how to be submissive rather than assisting them in securing the protection they need rather than instructing men on the true nature and responsibilities of biblical manhood, as well as holding men accountable to it.
We are to teach headship, yes. We are to instruct couples on the areas of submission and love. Yet biblical submission never calls for a woman to submit to abuse of any kind. Biblical submission is submission as unto the Lord. Biblical headship involves covering and protection. Any man who raises a hand to a woman or roughhouses her in any way is not living in accordance with God’s definition of headship. The theology of alignment does not only apply to the woman; it likewise applies to the man under Christ (
Because physical abuse in relationships typically occurs in the confines of the home, it has become something that is easier for the church to ignore. If no one else were there to witness it happening, then we can think maybe it didn’t happen; as we saw through the Rice scandal, it often takes seeing to believe.
That is exactly what the Ray Rice video did for us as a nation: It forced us to see something we’ve too long ignored. The Rice video blew the lid off the secrecy of domestic violence and made it real. It put a face on the countless victims who suffer every day. It also showed the deep-rooted apathy that can occur in large organizations, which may be a reflection of the deep-rooted apathy in the leadership of what was put here by Christ—the church—to be the moral compass of our society.
“Forty-two percent of pastors rarely or never speak about domestic violence, and less than a quarter speak to their churches about it once a year, according to the report of a telephone survey of 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.”3 As leaders, we are accomplices to the continuance of familial abuse, whether done against a spouse or a child, when we don’t use our God-given positions to teach truth in its entirety.
So the questions on our field today are: Will we collectively wash our hands of complicity in the continuance of domestic violence within the church and the resultant outcomes in homes across our land? Or will we offer the practical support, path and protection needed by those in situations of harm?
What’s more, will we use our voices, pulpits and platforms to speak openly about a subject that has been quieted in the archives too long?
As they say in the NFL, the tape doesn’t lie. In the body of Christ, should we shouldn’t either. This problem is real. This problem is wrong. It is time we took responsibility and addressed it.
3 ChristianPost.com “Pastors See Domestic Violence as Pro-Life Issue But Rarely Address It” by Anugrah Kumar, June 28, 2014.