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Training on Domestic Abuse in Churches: Seminar, Thursday 9/28/17.

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Abuse

PDX Domestic Abuse Seminar, 9/28/17 | RachelShubin.com

The Problem

For the last year and half I’ve kept a short list of resources for domestic abuse victims, and this spring I started working on revising the list to include more churches and faith-based resources. Frequently the church response to abuse situations is so poor that for a victim, leaving an abusive home very often means leaving or being excommunicated from her (or his) church home as well.

Many domestic abuse survivors receive far more loving care and practical help from non-Christians that they don’t know than they do from people who have sat beside them in the pew for years. When that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to remember what the point of church is, and many people who leave never return to any church at all.

Portland is a sizable enough city. Churches that are welcoming to abuse victims and understand the particular struggles they face shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? Churches that have small groups geared toward domestic abuse recovery must be out there, yes? I mean, churches all over the place have resources for drug recovery or grief counseling or divorce. Helping the hurting is what churches are for, right?

Compiling a list of churches that are either up to speed on the unique struggles abuse victims face or that actively have groups geared specifically for them proved to be a far more discouraging endeavor than I anticipated, and the number of churches that actively provide for people in such situations is appallingly small. In the process of looking for churches, though, I came across Pastor Ron Clark of Agape Church of Christ in Downtown Portland. He has been actively working in this field for the past twenty years; teaches Pastoral Counseling and Advanced Pastoral Counseling classes at George Fox, both of which cover a variety of abuse and sexual and domestic violence related issues; and works with his wife Lori on a team that runs clergy trainings three times a year covering abuse, sexual assault, trafficking/prostitution, and pornography.

I emailed Ron and asked him if he knew of any local churches that fit one or both of the above criteria. He sent me short lists for each category (we’ll talk about why they were short in a minute), and we talked a little more about what it means to be a church where victims/survivors can feel safe and why churches that have programs for the abused still don’t always fit into that category. His explanation of the distinction between those two sets is very helpful.

 

From Ron

Churches where victims/survivors can feel safe: Meaning that misogyny is unwelcome, females are encouraged to be safe even at the expense of their marriage, and victims can feel heard. These communities also confront religious leaders who allow abuse to go on in their churches.

We have found that some churches have ministries to the abused but the following problems develop:

  1. Pastors are not trained to help, only a few female counselors.
  2. They have hosted our training but no clergy attend or work with further trainings.
  3. While there are ministries that work with survivors, the pastor either doesn’t preach about DV [RS: Domestic Violence] or still tends to insinuate that divorce is not acceptable to God without clarifying that abuse violates the covenant

This is just our thoughts and does not insinuate that survivors/victims do not receive help. We have had trainings at most mega churches in Portland but we continue to hear from members that they are encouraged to go back to their abuser. While this doesn’t represent the beliefs of all leadership, there still exists a climate that we list as “not safe for those in abuse.” While not threatening it does not tend to confront male privilege, misogyny, or women needing to be safe at all costs.

In an interview for SOJO.net, Ron was asked the following question:

What has surprised or challenged you as you teach this material?

“…our church has partnered with countless agencies and encouraged other churches to host our trainings and have witnessed 2000 people participate in them. However, most attendees are county advocates who want to learn more about working with faith-based clients. Only 5-7 percent have been clergy. I do have a group of ministers who faithfully attend and are now prepared to work with victims, but they are a small percentage of overall participants.”

 

My Thoughts

All of this frustrates me. When I read my Bible, I don’t see Jesus doing any of this. I see him comforting the grieving. Throughout the Bible I see standing up for the downtrodden as a recurring theme. I see the harshest of injunctions levied against violence in both speech (“revilers” in Biblical parlance) and act.

It frustrates me that when I talk to people, they say things like, “Well, I think a lot of times women claim abuse when they just don’t want to be married anymore” and “Well, he shouldn’t act like that towards his wife, but he’s right that her job is to submit to him and she still has to do her job whether he does his or not” and “Well, she’s pretty crazy. I don’t think he’s the problem.”

It frustrates me that people say this when I’ve sat with the wife (or sometimes, though less frequently, the husbands who end up in abusive situations) and talked with her and cried with her and know she has massive, specific, justifiable complaints that are either backed up by witnesses or by the husband’s own admissions or by both. It frustrates me that even when the wife’s complaints are of the type that if anyone other than the person who has promised to love her for the rest of her life were doing them to her, he would immediately be arrested, I can’t defend the wife in any specific way or tell that to the person sitting across from me without breaking the wife’s confidence.

It frustrates me when the complaints are of the type that are completely invisible unless you live with the person but where the domineering behavior is so severe that the wife’s health has spiraled into an entire constellation of stress-related illnesses and mental health struggles so bad that can barely think straight, yet because the results are visible and the cause is not, people see her as unstable instead of as crushed by another person.

It frustrates me when people become so blinded by their own vision of theological perfection that they snip out compassion.

I don’t talk about this stuff in person as much as I did when I first became involved because it makes me angry. I worry that I will end up yelling at someone I care about because I can’t figure out how to graciously tell people to stuff it when they make comments like that, and I don’t think yelling at people promotes any sort of healthy discussion or encourages people to think through things more deeply. Instead I write (often more personal communication than public blogging, but at least some of each), I listen, and I pray.

And next Thursday, I am going to Ron Clark’s seminar on Addressing Intimate Partner Violence From a Faith-Based Perspective so that I can understand better how to recognize bad situations when they cross my path and learn better how to help. Lay people are encouraged to attend the training as well. If you would like to understand the issues and help make your church a welcoming home for those whose own homes are marked by confusion and terror, I hope you’ll come too. Here are the specs:

 

Addressing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) From a Faith Based Perspective

Sept 28 2017 9:00 AM- 3:00 PM

East County Church of Christ
24375 SE Stark St., Gresham, OR 97030

 

Schedule

9:00 Registration and Welcome

9:15-10:15 Sessions 1: Basics of IPV (9:30-10:30)
Dr. Ron Clark, Agape Church of Christ

10:30-11:30 Session 2: Secondary Aggression and Ministry
Stacey Womack, ARMS (Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services)

 

11:30 Lunch available on your own

 

1:00-2:00 Session 3 Panel Discussion: Shame and IPV (1:30-2:30)
Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue Team

2:15-3:00 Session 4: Bridging the Gap Between IPV and Faith Leaders
Dr. Carlos Richard, Tabernacle Church

 

This event is sponsored by the Agape Church of Christ and is a free training. Due to limited seating they ask that all attendees pre-register. There is no charge for this workshop.

 

 

 

This is late notice on my part, to be sure, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner. If you can make it, please let them know asap, but you can still register at the door if you forget (but don’t forget; click that button now and be done with it). If you can’t make it this time but would like to know when the next one comes up, please click here to email the Agape Church of Christ office and ask to be put on the listserv for the next training.

 

Rachel

 

P.S. I also often come across people who seem to think the scope of the problem is being exaggerated. The current data looks much more like it’s vastly underreported, and the stories that are starting to come out from all over have very distinct patterns. Here are a few places to begin further reading. These stories are all consistent with ones I have personally heard myself from Christian women who are or have been in abusive marriages or that I have read from court documentation and survivor stories from Christian women all over the country. 

 

Enough is Enough: Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men – Start here. Gary Thomas speaks at a long-standing Christian conference and is overwhelmed during the break by the quantity of women who come to him describing the horror they are enduring in their homes and asking what they should do. Right now there are 365 comments on this post, and huge numbers of them are from people pouring out their stories and asking for help as well. Take some time to read through them.

An Open Letter to the Church From an Abused Christian Wife – Anna Grace Wood is a Reformed Baptist homeschooling Mom who has been through all of this herself.

Survivor Story – This is a good example of why it often takes women so long to leave and why people who don’t see what happens behind the doors of the home in question respond as though the wife has gone crazy.

I’m Still Here: On Leaving Abuse and Being Ignored in the Grocery Store – What often happens after one does finally work up the courage to leave (also a reason people stay so long, hoping to avoid being completely ostracized).

#WhyIStayed – Short, personal tweets from women on the crushing ramifications of their finally deciding to leave, and why it took them so long to do so.

‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God – Very thorough ABC News report coming out of Australia, which is currently in the middle of a huge ongoing discussion about the issue of domestic abuse both in the wider culture as well as within the church itself.

 

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Think Your Church is Safe from Sex Abuse? Think Again.

A Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide by Boz Tchividjian

As Protestants, we tend to think of sex abuse cases in church as a problem that doesn’t really happen in our congregations. It’s not our problem. Our people don’t do that or haven’t experienced that. That’s a problem the Catholics have. That’s a problem for those guys way over there. 

The Catholic Reaction

Not only is this not the case, but the cracks are starting to show. While the Catholic church is now entering its third decade of rethinking and reacting to the abuse cases and abusers in their ranks, the very point that hamstrung them initially – that of being a massive, top-down organization bent on protecting themselves – is now working in their favor. The prevention and response policies that they have developed over the years can be organized from the top and then filtered directly down the pole.

My younger two kids are going to a Catholic school this year, and wow! those guys are careful. To do anything at all from helping in the classroom to driving on field trips to volunteering basically anywhere near kids, you have to get a background check and then go to a three-hour training on child safety and protection that requires a refresher with further training every subsequent year your kids attend school. These policies for the school are implemented by the diocese.

In contrast, neither Christian school my kids have attended has required this level of volunteer preparation (or any preparation at all including background checks). Unlike the Catholic organizational system, Protestantism is a slivered mass of denominations and independent churches, none of whom are beholden to or cooperate with each other. When one group produces new policies, none of the other groups benefit, which makes our response time slow and increases the likelihood of abusers falling through the cracks by denomination- or church-hopping.

Help Figuring Out Best Practices

In the process of spending most of the 2015-2016 school year researching and reporting on two specific sex abuse cases in a church setting, which involved an inadvertent crash course in the miserable realities of abuse dynamics, I came across Boz Tchividjian’s organization, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Church Environment). GRACE is a two-pronged organization that both investigates organizations experiencing abuse complaints within their systems (investigations are at the organization’s request) and that provides training for churches on best practices for sexual abuse prevention and response.

Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian (Sex Abuse Prevention) | RachelShubin.com

The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian & Shira Berkovits

Boz himself spent a decade prosecuting sex abuse crimes specifically in Florida and has amassed a board full of other Christian leaders in the field on both the legal and counseling/psychology ends. To aid church leaders in preparing protection policies for their congregations, GRACE has put out a new book called The Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries.

I received a free review copy and have spent the last several days reading it. It’s extremely helpful and covers these and other topics:

—Protecting the children in a Christian environment from child abuse
—The warning signs of child abuse
—Crafting and implement a child protection policy
—Responding to abuse allegations
—Caring for victims of child abuse
—The legal implications and requirements for churches and Christian ministries

While it is easy to think that this material is solely the purview of the Children’s Pastor, that is not the case. Signs of child abuse can be alarmingly subtle, and if a child chooses you as the person they trust enough to disclose their abuse to, that conversation will likely not start off sounding like it’s about what has happened to them. It will start with slightly odd things that are the child’s way of testing whether or not you are a safe person for them to tell. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss it and that child will sink back into tortured silence for years or quite possibly the rest of his or her life (well over 90% of children don’t disclose, and of the ones who do, children who were abused by teachers or church leaders typically wait at least ten years before they ever say anything).

The Scope of the Sex Abuse Problem

What about scope? How many people are we talking about? Estimates by the Department of Justice are that 1 in 4  girls and 1 in 6 boys will be abused by the time they turn 18. So, yes. That’s 20% of your congregation since many of those kids are now adults dealing with the after-effects (which don’t look tidy either, by the way. The effects are often so severe that I’ve started thinking that in many cases the resultant mental illness would be more accurately described as mental or emotional injury). If your congregation has 200 people in it, that would be forty of them who have experienced some form of sexual abuse (and that’s probably low because it’s more common in church than even in the general population, and 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as religious. Abusers love churches. Churchgoers tend to want to believe the best about people, so they are very slow to believe someone could actually do such a thing, and are often overly quick to forgive even when abuse is discovered.).

What if 20% of your church was victim to a natural disaster or a targeted scam or industrial poisoning? What if the employment rate in your church was 20% or if 20% had cancer? Would that be discussed from the pulpit? Would we be talking about how to support those 20% and show them love and care? Would we be talking about Biblical responses and how Jesus loved, believed, and cared for the hurting and grieving? You bet! But we don’t do that with child abuse or really abuse of any kind at all. And so it goes unnoticed, unchecked, and the people suffering leave, unloved. The scope of the problem in the Protestant church is at least the size of the problem in the Catholic church (and no, celibacy for priests wasn’t the primary problem. 80% of abusers are married men. Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not provide a protective or curative effect). For the last five years in a row, sex abuse of minors was the top reason that churches were sued.

This is our problem. We are culpable. We are responsible both for our own turning away from victims in the past and for turning towards them in love now and in the future. We are responsible both for protecting children and the vulnerable and for handling abusers Biblically by turning them over to God-appointed authorities, which in the case of criminal activity means the police. We can do better. We have to do better. We shame the very Gospel when we don’t.

For further reading, start by clicking through all the links in this article and reading Anna Salter’s book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders

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Holy Women Who Hoped in God – I Peter 3:5

Holy Women Who Hoped in God - I Peter 3:5 | RachelShubin.com

Image Credit to Ariel Lustre

I’m tired. After reading yet another round of blog posts about wives submitting, submitting more, and oh yeah, are you really submitting enough, I’ve just had it, particularly when the hypothetical situation presented in the post has all the hallmarks of being an abusive one. I’m not going to link to the particular post because it’s irrelevant. It’s not an anomalous post. It’s the same post I’ve seen over and over for years with different fictitious names attached to the made-up characters.

Is your husband throwing things and screaming obscenities at you and the toddlers? Submit more, be extra sweet to him, and tell everyone how great he is. That’ll soften his heart and fix him right up. See? I Peter 3 says so, particularly verses 5 and 6 (substitute Eph. 5:22-23 or Colossians 3:18 if you need some other passages to cherry-pick from. I’ve written on Eph. 5 here). If it’s an Abigail situation, you can leave, but right up until he tries to kill you or asks you to do something illegal, the Bible says you have to obey him and win him by your quiet demeanor. Out of the entire compendium of Scripture, I can’t imagine why these verses are the ones that get shoved at heartbroken, terrified women, but that’s a topic for another post (which I am working on).

Anyway, this particular post went with the I Peter passage for its proof text, and verses 5 & 6 caught my eye:

 

So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.

 

A couple years ago I did a fair amount of research on Sarah, which I’ll go over in Part 2 (the cross-reference here is hilarious), but this time around I got to wondering about the “holy women who hoped in God.” Hmmm, what holy women are we talking about? If the Biblical ideal is a gentle, quiet, submissive woman who cheerfully obeys her husband’s every word (or father’s or whatever authority is around) even if she disagrees with it, and if Peter is pointing his readers to their examples here, then there should be examples to follow of women like this all over the Bible, right? Shouldn’t be too hard to find. Let’s take a look at most of the prominent and some of the obscure women of the Old Testament who that are either generally thought of today as good examples or who are referred to in complimentary terms elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s find all the submissive women!


Rebekah?

No. Rebekah goes directly against Isaac’s wishes to give Esau the inheritance after the Lord specifically speaks to her while the twins are in the womb and tells her that the elder with serve the younger. God tells her that Jacob is the one, but Isaac wasn’t going with the program. After Rebekah tricks Isaac into giving Jacob the inheritance and gets Jacob out of the county before Esau kills him, not only is she not censured for any of this deception, but she is one of only three people in the Bible mentioned as willing to “take the curse” on themselves for the sake of God’s chosen people. The other two are no less than Paul and Jesus himself (fascinating article by Anne Vyn about this point and the rest of Rebekah’s story here).  (Genesis 27:1-28:2)

Rachel?

No. Jacob consults her and Leah both on whether to move or not even after God tells him he has to go. Jacob makes no commands, demands, or even requests for them to go with them. He explains the situation, and then his wives mull it over and respond that this is acceptable and coincides with their own reasons for going. The conversation ends with Rachel and Leah telling Jacob, “So do whatever God has told you,” which sounds very much like permission and assent that they will go as well. It’s an excellent example of mutual cooperation, and this is in a situation where God clearly commanded him to go! (Genesis 31:1-16)

Tamar?

HAHAHAHA! No. After her husband dies and his next brother down gets himself all smited up for sleeping with her and then purposely doing the pull-out routine so he doesn’t have to provide her with an heir as was the legal deal at the time (can’t be sharing the inheritance!), Judah (Tamar’s father-in-law) refuses to fulfill his promise to give her his last son so she can bear a child. Choosing the obvious solution to the problem, she dresses up like a prostitute and tricks Judah into sleeping with her without him figuring out it was her.

When she gets pregnant with Judah’s child, he tries to have her executed (by burning!), but she turns the tables on him when she proves the child is his. Not only is she not censured in any way for this, but Judah specifically says that her behavior is more righteous than his. And… not only that, but their son ends up in the line of Christ, and Tamar herself is the first of only three women that Matthew mentions by name in his genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 (not counting Mary).

Have you ever heard a sermon on Tamar? I haven’t, although now I really want to. I woke up this morning with a whole theory about her story, which at first blush seems like a super weird one to be pointing at and saying, “Yeah, that woman was great!” Anyone else heard a sermon on this Tamar (not the other one, David’s daughter who gets raped by her brother)? (Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3)

Israelite midwives?

No. They disregard royal edict and save bunches of boy babies from slaughter. (Exodus 1:15-22)

Jochebed (Moses’ mother)?

No. She also disregards royal edict and saves baby Moses by sending him down the river in a basket to hide his identity, which is a terrifying option just to consider. (Exodus 2:1-3)

Miriam?

No. She was brave even as a child when she arranged for Moses’ mother to nurse Moses for Pharoah’s daughter after Pharoah’s daughter found baby Moses in a basket among the reeds (Exodus 2). Later she was a Prophetess and a pretty big deal of a woman, leading alongside Moses and Aaron after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Managed to get her own song into the Bible. (Exodus 15; Numbers 12)

Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah?

Never heard of them? They were Zelophehad’s five daughters who convinced Moses to give them a portion of their father’s inheritance after he died instead of passing it all on to their uncles. These women are mentioned five times in the Old Testament. (Num. 26:33; 27:1-7; 36:1-12; 1 Chr. 7:15; Josh. 17:1-6)

Achsah?

Don’t know who she is either? Achsah was Caleb’s daughter, who requested an inheritance of land from him. When he agreed, she then asked him for that other part over there with the streams on it too, which he also gave her. (Josh. 15:16-19)

Rahab?

No. Rahab was a hooker from Jericho who become traitor to her own people by protecting the Israelite spies. She manages not only to not get herself killed by either side in the process but saves her entire family as well. She too was a direct ancestor of both King David and Jesus, and Rahab the foreign-born prostitute is number two of the three women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5)

Ruth?

Weeeeell, acting on a little plotting advice from her mother-in-law, Ruth secures herself a new husband by snazzing herself up, putting on perfume, and then sneaking over to the threshing floor on threshing party night after Boaz is fed, properly wine-ed up, and asleep, which means she can curl up beside him on his hay bed and ask him to marry her when he startles himself awake. She is the third and last woman to get a nod in Matthew’s genealogy. Did I mention that Rahab was Boaz’s Mom? The guys in that family seem to like strong foreign women who graft themselves into Israel. Interesting that these three women – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth – are the ones who make it into the genealogy (Ruth 3; Matthew 1:5).

Deborah?

No. Deborah judges Israel faithfully and leads it to success in war. Her reign is followed by 40 years of peace, and she is the only judge with such a strong record. Even though Barak was the general, Deborah called him out when he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, and Barak even begged her to come along to the battle even though she said his glory would be given over to a woman if she did (see Jael below). Deborah, not Barak, called the army to advance, and Barak took direction from her. Oh! Also, she’s married, and her husband doesn’t really factor in to the story at all. Presumably he doesn’t mind her having the highest position in the land and doing such a bang-up job at it. (Judges 4-5)

Jael?

Uhhh, super no. She violates her husband’s peace treaty with King Jabor, Isreal’s enemy, by cracking open Jabor’s top general’s head with a tent peg. This earns her a big section written about her exploits in a victory song! (Judges 4:215:24-27)

Hannah?

Barren Hannah prays for and is granted a son (Samuel), whom she brings to Eli the High Priest at age three to lend him to the Lord for the rest of his life. Hannah tells her husband Elkanah what she plans to do (it’s not phrased as a question), and he tells her to do what seems good to her. Like Jacob and Rachel, this passage also comes off as marital cooperation (in both cases with the husband deferring to his wife). (1 Samuel 1-2)

Abigail?

No. Abigail completely disregards her husband Nabal’s wishes to repay David rudely for the good David has done to Nabal’s shepherds, doesn’t have any kind of conversation with Nabal about his behavior or her plans to go directly against his orders (it specifically says she doesn’t tell him what she’s planning to do) but unilaterally decides to go off and take care of the problem herself. Then when she gets to David she doesn’t bother even trying to preserve Nabal’s reputation or speak well of him but chucks him right under the horse’s hooves and tells David that Nabal is worthless and foolish. This all manages to prevent her entire household from getting wiped out and results in her becoming wife to King David after the Lord strikes down Nabal ten days later. (1 Samuel 25)

Huldah?

Heard of her? She was a prophetess of enough renown that when Hilkiah the High Priest finds the Book of the Law, doesn’t even recognize it, and sends it off to King Josiah who has never seen it either, Josiah sends emissaries with the book to the prophetess Huldah to find out what’s the what. None of the men there seem too buzzed by the fact of her authority regarding Scripture including the King, the High Priest, and her husband; and they all take her seriously when the word she sends back to Josiah amounts to “God says you guys are toast.” (II Kings 22:3-20; II Chronicles 34: 8-33)

Esther?

Ahhh, Esther. After being kidnapped and groomed to extra-beauteousness for an entire year with a whole bunch of other pretty girls, Jewish Esther goes in to the king who thinks she’s the super-fanciest and makes her queen; however, she can only go back into his presence at his request. After discovering that the king is planning to wipe out all the Jews in the entire country, she risks her own life by going in to him anyway and manages to talk him out of genocide. I think Esther is probably the closest to the ideal submissive wife, but that raises the question Why is the supplication method of a teenage, captive, kidnapped girl whose erratic husband threw out the last wife and whom it was illegal for her to go talk to unless her husband invited her now the suggested marital model for free, adult, married women? Weird that she was so submissive!

Esther’s situation would be similar to a young Christian girl getting kidnapped by ISIS and then married off to the unstable head warlord who is plotting to kill off all the Christians in the entire country. Asking your husband to maybe not do that in the most submissive, demure way possible would be absolutely advisable. Doing so any other way and even doing so at all are both likely to end in death. Escape is not an option. Is this in any way similar to a free, adult equal explaining her desires, requests, or complaints to her counterpart (wives are at least ontologically equal, right?)? Is this the model for our Christian spousal relationships? Also, she doesn’t listen to her husband’s authority. She bypasses him entirely and listens to her uncle. (Esther 4:11; 5:1)

The Proverbs 31 woman?

While she is usually held up as the ideal wife, several things about her don’t exactly fit the party line. While she is a capable manager of her home and kind to all, she is also shrewd in business and real estate, and the word translated “virtuous” here is translated as “valiant” or some other word denoting strength all the other times it is used in the Bible except for twice in Proverbs when referring to women and once in Ruth where it is often translated “excellent” (I’ve written about this here). Nowhere does it imply that her capabilities are subject to or dependent upon either her father or her husband. It does, however, say that her husband prospers because of her.


So, what example is Peter trying to get across to the women he’s writing to by pointing them to the holy women of former times? Is it unilateral obedience in all circumstances? I don’t think so. None of those women had a clear “Yes, sir” relationship with authority in which they operated solely as an obedient subordinate.

Some of them went directly against their civic rulers (Esther, Moses’ mother, the Israelite midwives, Rahab), some against their husbands or other males in their household (Abigail, Rebekah, Tamar, Jael), some of them were rulers or in authority themselves (Deborah, Huldah), some operated on a cooperative give-and-take with their husbands (Rachel, Hannah, Sarah), and some just waltzed up and boldly explained what they wanted or needed (Zelophehad’s daughters, Achsah, Ruth). You could argue for many of them that the times they act counter to what they’ve been told is when they are directly asked to sin, but I think that overlooks some interesting occasions.

Arguably Ruth could have seen Naomi’s plotting as sinful and said no but didn’t, and many of these women seem to have relationships with their husbands that appear unconcerned with who is supposed to be submitting to whom. I think Peter is trying to tell the women he’s writing to that there is a balance between cooperation and resistance, and both are viable options depending on the circumstances.

Most of the teaching I’ve heard on these women over the years, which has been extremely minimal for most and none at all for the rest, has been quick to point out that each one was an exception. Deborah was the only woman judge. She was an exception to God’s design, and therefore nothing to aspire to. Rebekah was tricky. Esther and Ruth are both ok. They both do what their uncle and mother-in-law tell them to do, and it works out. Oh, and Abigail. Oddly, that story doesn’t really get much fuller explanation because of those pesky talking bad about her husband and going behind his back bits.

What I see when I look at this is not a list of exceptions. It’s a pattern. It’s a pattern of valiant women, strong women who put themselves in danger to protect others, who stand up to people when God tells them to regardless of whether that person is their husband, king, or enemy general. It’s a pattern of cooperation when possible and resistance when cooperation is impossible. It’s a pattern of God’s protection and provision. It’s a pattern of women of courage and faithfulness. This is our legacy and our inheritance. We are mighty women of God, holy women of old. This is who we are.

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

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Response to a Trapped Wife

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Abuse

Daughter, Mother, Sister, Friend – How would you respond to one of them if they came to you for help? (Photo by The Guigo .en, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Doug Wilson recently posted a second article in his Open Letter series, this time to a trapped wife. I’m not going to repost the entire thing here, but I did have a few thoughts on his post. Here is his original article: Open Letter to a Trapped Wife; and here is my response:

Continue Reading

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Reponse to a Reviling Husband

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Abuse
Response to a Reviling Husband | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Last weekend Doug Wilson posted an piece on his blog entitled “An Open Letter to an Angry Husband.” This topic seems to cause all kinds confusion on what constitutes an appropriate Biblical response, which I think is because so many people struggle to define it. Continue Reading