In this third post, I want to do everything that I can to provide an appropriate trigger warning:
Even if you made it through the first two posts consisting of those “thought-provoking quotes, you may want to stop now.
Why? Because there are plenty of persons—persons who are of no small significant reputation in my church body (the LC-MS)—who think I have already shown in spades that I am not qualified to speak about this issue publicly.
After reading the original post I wrote which touched on the When Homes are Heartless document, and the thread in the private internet discussion group where I ended up asserting….
“I acknowledge necessary and responsible self-defense by divorce, period. I said as much in the post. My concern is to *raise awareness* that the facts on the ground say that wives already–and even regularly–kill their marriages in situations where self-defense is not truly justifiable. And that this is, to say the least, a widespread problem.”
…the main author of the When Homes are Heartless document who, note, “spent vacation time countering [my] nonsense”—made it clear that persons who write articles like mine and stick to their guns are not reasonable and are unwilling to “take the time to listen and better understand the dynamics of abuse.” After all, “It’s quite a difficult topic for the uninformed to grasp.” “When you hear the stories of countless victims as we have,” this person noted, “it becomes much clearer. And when those victims have the courage to speak out in a group training session, others gain clarity, too.”
While this response was from one of the authors of the document, here is a sampling of comments not just from this person, (there were critical comments from a co-author as well which will also be addressed in this series) but also from some of the document’s informed and articulate defenders as well:
- “Women who are in abusive situations get articles like yours (one tied to the abuse document and reckless use of divorce) to stay in the relationship. And if they don’t they are the ones sinning.”
- “You are perpetuating the problem we have in the church of abuse being dismissed, preventing victims from seeking help. I’m sorry you can’t recognize that.”
- “…there are certainly women on this thread who have been abused and [Nathan] isn’t talking to them any differently.”
- “This saddens me very much that a voice such as yours… continues to defend what clearly adds to the abuses that condone abuse.”
- “If I were an editor [addressing Nathan’s article], I’d tell him: “Get rid of the stupid stock photos, drop the criticism of the task force, address the subject in an appropriate manner. He basically made a (maybe) valid point in the most tone-deaf, inflammatory way possible.”
- “Nathan has said he doesn’t take the ‘soft sciences’ seriously. He doubts stats…”
- “I’ll put the cold hard facts of people’s real experiences shared with us against your disdain for statistics any day.”
- “[Nathan is] a man who doesn’t understand what true abuse is. And I pray he never does because I fear that the only way he’d learn is to experience it firsthand, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
- “Nathan, when you equate unhappiness to abuse, or decide that abuse is a construct inside the victim’s mind, you not only do the victim a disservice, but you dishonor God.”
- “[P]ainting every victim with a broad brush that they are just trying to get out of an unhappy marriage is sin.”
- “[I understand you to be saying that t]hose who claim abuse are likely more akin to unhappy than they are abused, but there is a very slim percentage that might have a case for divorce based on abuse.”
- “I discount YOUR claims, especially the unsupported ones you made about women in your original piece.”
- “[Y]ou have no idea what an abuse victim goes through, what type of damage it does to a person and the children. This is why you are getting the reaction you are here. This is why your addendum is not only ill-advised but harmful… Perhaps you didn’t mean for [your original blog post, your addendum, to] come across the way that it did, but it did. I did not misunderstand it.”
“I did not misunderstand [your original blog post].”
That comment, which I get the clear impression most of the above commenters could have seconded, seems like a pretty important one to reflect on, especially when dealing with a topic like this one. Finally, there is this comment, which I think perhaps goes a long way in explaining the kind of reaction that I got on my original post:
“A divorce is hard, heartbreaking, and painful, but usually the divorce in an unhappy marriage frees the unhappy spouse to pursue their “dream”. I am not saying it’s right, I am not saying it’s God-pleasing. But it doesn’t fit the definition of abuse… If someone is filing for divorce and taking their spouse to the cleaners while they are at it, making sure the spouse is destitute, then I might agree that there is grounds for calling it abuse… But if they are just filing because they are unhappy, and they just want to be “free”, is it wrong? Yes. Is it abuse? No.”
I simply share all of this because I want to be very upfront regarding how people of some noteworthiness in the church body of which I am a part have seen me and my approach. And I also take note of the fact that these comments do not necessarily seem to be angry at me, but come from very deeply formed convictions and beliefs. If you read my original post that caused the firestorm and you tend to agree with these comments, you might want to stop reading now. I mean that very seriously.
Again, many would clearly want to warn you about me. In the private online discussion group, when I spoke about being misrepresented and even suggested a pattern of misrepresentation I was simply told the following by one of the main authors of the document: “You’re demonstrating your own pattern here, trust me. As in a pretty low view of women.” More: “I’ll let our full body of work be my last effort at countering your strange attempt at connecting unhappiness to domestic violence” (for more of the “full body of work” see here).
Of course I myself don’t agree with any of these comments above. Nor, I think, do any of the bulleted points above accurately represent me, my position, what I did, etc. In any case, one thing should be clear to all: for the main authors of the When Homes are Heartless document and other voices informed about the dynamics of domestic abuse as well, it is clear that it is impossible for a person to be relatively well informed about the dynamics involving domestic abuse and to take the position I took (again see the linked post above).
Having thought about these matters a great deal over the past several months, I will offer my own view about why this is the case for them near the end of this series.
Maybe you are one of those persons who doubt the judgments shared above. One of the persons who made one of those comments above also made the following comment:
“If Nathan had made the point about encouraging unhappy people to stay married without styling it as an addendum to the task force, then I would agree with him. I wouldn’t even mind the glib tone he took. But by inserting it into the church’s discussion on abuse, it blithely critiques the task force and minimizes the very real problem. That’s where I think he’s very wrong and why I’m not sure if I agree with his point.”
If that is you also, maybe, just maybe, you might want to keep reading. Part 4 coming soon…
 Eric Phillips helpfully made my point using different words by saying that
“it is not wrong for Nathan to tie his article to the document on abuse. Not even a little bit. Because the principles in [the article When Homes are Heartless] will be abused by some women, and because even the women who use them rightly need to examine themselves to be sure that is what they are doing. Does such examination make it harder to leave? Yes, that’s the idea. Should some of them leave anyway? Yes, and Nathan agrees that they should” (italics mine).