Welcome back to part 2 of this series.
As I mentioned in part 1,
“this 10-part series of posts, set to run mostly at my personal blog (theology like a child), will dive into some of the sources and philosophies that helped inform the When Homes are Heartless document—as well as my critiques of those sources and philosophies.”
For those of you looking for a bit of a roadmap on the series, I am going to:
- address the question of my own fitness to deal with the topic (part 3)
- note some of the key questions the When Homes are Heartless document raises (part 4)
- talk about why the issue of domestic (and sexual) violence is particularly important for Christians (part 5) and then,
- deal with the pitfalls believers might unwittingly fall into as they attempt to “take on board” what is considered the best secular thinking on the topic (parts 6-10, more of a roadmap for these will be coming up later)
At this point however, we are still simply offering thought-provoking quotes to prepare us for the ensuing parts that will come later.
First, Mary Pellauer, Ph.D, ELCA Lutheran, and author of a 1998 ELCA document on domestic abuse:
“I will suggest some theological changes we must make in order to have a theological position that can more adequately stand against domestic violence. Some themes we must remove or renounce; others we must strengthen or extend. Incorporating the perceptions of survivors is essential to this work. Those who have not lived in family terrors often believe that their understanding is normative, or should be normative; it may be surprising to hear how different survivors’ perceptions and needs are. Ultimately, it is my contention that deep theological thinking and reformation are necessary for the church to further the healing and prevention of domestic and sexual abuse. I will offer four specific theological proposals for renewal: peace, baptism, authority, and sexuality; I will offer four ways of seeing the world that the church needs to renounce: medieval social theory, patriarchy, biblicism, and a theology of the status quo, the belief that whatever happens, no matter what, is God’s will (2,3).…”
“I am certainly convinced that God is not male; that the image of God as male serves to shore up male dominance and androcentrism; and that the image of God as male conceals from us many important things about God and justifies the ways of patriarchy to us. The plethora of war-like images that tumble out of the tradition, whether in Scripture or hymns, could never have developed in such profusion if the church had said over and over again that God is our Mother. For many survivors, Ntozake Shange’s line, “I found God in myself and I loved Her fiercely,” may have an enormous healing power, especially if they realize that it occurs in the aftermath of domestic violence. But Shange’s line may also shock, disorient, excite or even sometimes frighten survivors, especially if they have never had the self-worth to imagine that God could have so close a connection with them. It would not hurt our churches to image God as exclusively female for, say, a couple of decades or so, and then to pause to evaluate what we’ve learned in the course of such an experiment… (italics mine)…David Blumenthal’s Facing the Abusing God…composes prayers for Jewish rituals that parallel the people’s asking for God’s forgiveness and insisting in turn that God ask the people for forgiveness…As a survivor, I found these… petitions to be moving. They touched some part of me that I did not know needed to be touched. (38-40, italics hers).”
John Warwick Montgomery, writing about how in the 16th and 17th century, the churches of the Reformation attempted to more fully enact the Bible’s teaching when it came to the matter of divorce and remarriage:
“The…Lutheran doctrine can be formulated in the following terms: (1) Marriage is ideally for life and any marital breakup is the result of sin. (2) Only one legitimate “cause” of divorce is recognized in Scripture: that of adultery. Here the innocent party has the option of staying in the relationship or of divorcing the guilty partner. (3) Malicious desertion by an unbelieving spouse constitutes divorce per se; here, the innocent spouse is freed from the marital bond by the desertion, but may choose to wait for the return of the deserting spouse and a reestablishment of the marriage with that person. (4) In the case of desertion, “unbelief” does not mean that an innocent spouse is freed from marriage only if the deserting spouse is a professed non-Christian; conduct utterly inconsistent with Christian profession may properly relegate the deserter to the functional status of unbeliever for the purposes of terminating the marriage. (5) Desertion may be actual or constructive, the later consisting, for example, of physical abuse or antisocial conduct of such seriousness that it forces the couple apart, or irrational refusal to enter into sexual relations (thus separating the couple on a fundamental level). (6) Even when neither adultery nor malicious desertion has occurred it is conceivable (but rare) that a divorce can be ecclesiastically recognized on the ground that, though an evil, it is a lesser of evils. (7) Whenever the divorce is theologically legitimate, remarriage is likewise legitimate and may be performed in the church and according to church rites” (125-126, Christ Our Advocate).
Writer for the website, the Federalist, Matthew Cochran, speaking of the limits of tolerance in the political sphere:
“[W]hen one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms. If you sign a contract to buy a car, and the dealer refuses to turn it over you, you aren’t “sinking to their level” by refusing to hand over your money. If you contract an employee who never shows up for work, you aren’t “repaying evil for evil” by withholding his wages. The same is true when dealing with people who are deliberately uncivil to civil people — it fundamentally changes what the rest of society owes them.”
 OK… I will sneak in a comment here. When one respects Christian beliefs and norms good marriages—meaning marriages that have a large role for real love and trust—will be the foundation of a healthy and flourishing society.