Just so everyone knows, its not a sin to challenge Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) documents.
And if you want to defeat my ideas, there are good and bad ways to do that. Don't act like an SJW. Try persuasion.
— Nathan Rinne (@NathanRinne) October 27, 2018
Monthly Archives: October 2018
Note: the content of this post has been significantly altered and updated as of 4:45 pm, Tuesday, Oct. 23rd.
If you only subscribe to this blog via email or blog reader, you likely did not see that you can read the entire text of “What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean?” series in one place (including the piece on the Duluth Model).
Federalist contributor Matthew E. Cochran also weighed in on the series in a recent blog post:
“…when the Church looks to the world for guidance on this issue, she inevitably imbibes a substantial amount of worldly philosophy that undermines Biblical teachings.”
There has also been a very important conversation that has happened, and I have to clarify what I previously said about this meme. Here is what I can say:
Here are a number of other persons commenting on the series on Twitter:
Read entire text all at once here.
Earlier, about this last post, I had given the following preview:
“….finally…I will—utilizing the content from…parts 6-8—make a final evaluation on the usefulness of this document.”
As you can tell from the last post, part 9, you now know that “make a final evaluation on the usefulness of this document” equals “see what happens when one is controlled by the idea that control itself is abuse”. Correspondingly, this also means “severely call into question the ability of the authors and seemingly well-informed and articulate promoters of this document to look at this important issue evenhandedly.”
And in the context of the Western world’s current Christian apostasy.
While, I repeat, there is undoubtedly much that is valuable in these documents, definitions of domestic abuse taken from domestic abuse advocacy groups driven by feminist philosophy are, sadly, that little bit of yeast that leavens the whole lump.
Here are five more examples of what happens when one is controlled by the idea that control itself is abuse:
First, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse lose their ability to think rationally or logically when they sense their own control over the battle of ideas slipping. In the conversation that took place in the private online discussion group, I found it very interesting to see one of the reactions (from one of the document’s authors) to one of my stated concerns about the document, namely the subjectivity involved in determining what is really verbal domestic abuse.
Author: “Apparently[, according to Nathan’s piece,] only physical abuse qualifies as ‘justified’ divorce though…”
Eric Phillips: “Nobody but you has said, ‘only physical abuse qualifies as justified divorce….’ If there is an equation, it’s at most a partial one, since he explicitly said that divorce was an acceptable remedy against physical abuse…you are smart enough to notice the difference between ‘Divorce is acceptable in cases of physical abuse’ and ‘Divorce is acceptable ONLY in cases of physical abuse…’”
Author: “When only the one form of abuse is noted as a justifiable reason for divorce, it does exclude other forms.”
Notice how my concerns about subjectivities are simply passed over, and I am confidently portrayed as saying things I never said, due to the faulty use of logic. And believe me, this kind of thing is not an isolated incident.
Second, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse completely redefine the word “divorce”. Divorce is no longer about deciding what one may do justly in regard to one’s offending spouse, but becomes an act which the offending spouse alone enacts.
In my original post, I had quoted the following from the When Homes are Heartless document:
“…it is important to recognize that sometimes domestic violence or abuse is more verbal and emotional than it is explicitly physical. That does not mean that every example of an angry outburst or a cross word constitutes ‘abuse,’ but it is necessary to emphasize that obedience to God’s laws and expectations is never merely a matter of external conduct. Just as sin flows from the heart (Matt. 15:19), so do genuine obedience and good works. The husband who has abused his wife cannot claim that he is innocent of destroying his marriage since he ‘never caused permanent physical harm’ and, besides that, was a ‘good provider’ or ‘never cheated.’”
I then commented:
“First, all of this is said in the context of a part of the document that is dealing with understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce. What kind of evidence might be required to render these kinds of decisions? It seems to me that the dangers for subjectivity here are immense.”
One of the authors of the document, the same one just mentioned above, took offense to this and explained why:
“This paragraph does not deal with “understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce.” This paragraph deals with the fact that domestic violence is not always physical (a very common misunderstanding), and the emotional/psychological betrayal of the intimacy between husband and wife is what ultimately causes the damage in the relationship. An abuser may contest a divorce on the grounds that they did not abandon the relationship or commit adultery or even physically assault the victim. But that does not release the abuser from culpability in destroying the marriage by abuse, threats, and degradation of their spouse.”
Is this, however, all there is to the story? Almost immediately prior to the part I quoted above, the document says the following:
“Domestic violence always includes either threats or realities of physical harm, but its deepest effects are not necessarily physical in nature. The emotional effect of violence and threats is what ultimately destroys the bond of marriage…”
And in the paragraph right before this (note I was not speaking about one paragraph but simply said “the context of a part of the document that is dealing with understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce”) it says:
“As is the case in adultery or physical desertion, the marriage cannot continue when one person makes it impossible for the two to live as one, effectively forcing his spouse to flee. In domestic abuse, a husband forcibly separates himself from his wife, harming her physically and emotionally, trampling on her vulnerability, treating her as an enemy, attacking her person and driving her away. So the CTCR (Creator’s Tapestry, 2011) has also said: “Some divorces are unavoidable — for instance, where a spouse abandons the marriage, or persists in stubborn infidelity, or physically drives away the other spouse through abuse.”
The argument that this author of When Homes are Heartless is making here is that according to the document, it is the abuser who has caused the divorce per se. I can certainly understand how a person might make this argument, but that, to say the least, should certainly be debatable. Would all those who contributed to this document argue in this way?
In any case, it might seem like the author has a strong case. Immediately prior to the previous quote we also read the following:
“Jesus, in warning that divorce contradicts God’s work in joining a man and woman as one, does so because divorce is also a tragic possibility in a world of sin (Matt. 19:3-9). Hard-hearted sin leads many to refuse to uphold the promises of marriage. They put away the spouse God has given to them and destroy the unity He created. Jesus calls divorce a form of adultery, which He identifies as profoundly destructive to marriage (Matt. 19:8-9) since no marriage can survive one party to the marriage persistently giving himself or herself sexually to someone other than his or her spouse. Jesus’ words indicate that both when a married person violates his or her vows sexually, while still legally married, and when a person ends a marriage in order to (or in the hope of) establishing a new relationship with another person, such adultery destroys marriage.”
I will admit that it makes sense that some would see the document arguing that if a spouse is unfaithful and commits adultery, “persistently giving himself or herself sexually to someone other than his or her spouse” he “destroy[s] the unity [God] created,” “put[ting] [a]way the spouse God has given them,” and, in effect, enacting divorce. The problem with this, of course, is that this is not the way the word divorce is commonly understood among us, or has ever been understood in the history of the world. Adultery, even adultery which is persisted in, is not divorce.
In fact, none of the actions described above alone are sufficient for a divorce to take place, even spiritually. After all, a spouse may choose, for example, to not only continually forgive but also continue to bear with the offending party. Therefore, as Luther says, the offended party may indeed, recognizing the situation, “change his status in the name of God” (LW 28, WA 12: 122-124), but this is not required. In other words, even if we say this person has suffered an “involuntary divorce” in one sense, on the other hand, a real decision, a real action on the part of the offended spouse is nevertheless required, and not only when it comes to divorce as a legal matter.
This author, however, stopped talking with me after I tried to explain the broader position in my post (which others had no trouble understanding): “I have nothing more to say to you on this. Please don’t tag me again”. Other prominent posters, clearly informed on current domestic violence abuse orthodoxy, also made it clear that they did not want to continue to be a part of the conversation or try to understand my position. Sadly, this seems to be par for the course when it comes to the authors of the When Homes are Heartless document….
Third, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse cannot see that divorce from unhappiness is of comparable seriousness with the matter of domestic violence. When a commenter says (this quote was originally shared in part 3):
“A divorce is hard, heartbreaking, and painful, but usually the divorce in an unhappy marriage frees the unhappy spouse to pursuit 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 have to cry foul. Very foul.
Take a look at part 6 again, and ask yourself “where in the world is the is real concern over the seriousness of this issue” It is not equivalent to the technical term “domestic abuse,” as we have seen above, but the harm, violence, and abuse enacted by such a divorce–or even the threat of divorce–certainly should be of grave concern to Christians in particular and all persons concerned with the common good. In general, as one commentator pointed out:
“Violence does seem like a better term to me [than abuse], as it comes first of all from the concept of ‘to violate’, that is, to treat dishonorably or treat someone in an outrageous manner. Such seems to fit the character of a destructive way of relating to someone; it is not a ‘wrong use,’ it is ‘an outrage’.”
This is especially the case when children are involved. Fathers matter immensely. The lack of a father or father involvement can be connected to all manner of social ills, decreased religiosity in children, and more opportunities for persons to prey on children in this or that fashion. And again, as an online friend pointed out to me: “Forcing a man to pay his ex-wife for the next few decades is a matter of power. Deciding when he’s allowed to see his own children is control.”
Frankly, that people not see the comparable seriousness of this issue is an immense problem. It is pure folly. And I am absolutely convinced Satan just loves that.
The insanity of the whole situation is not lost on me. The people I spoke with on this thread would rather chide me for not being sufficiently supportive (perhaps to some I am even an enemy) of their own efforts to fight domestic abuse—efforts not helped by their own reliance on and parroting of questionable data—than even acknowledge that I made an exceedingly good point. Really, a life or death point when it comes to our life together—our culture, our civilization.
This also does not help one to depend on their judgment.
Fourth, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse will often deny that they believe this, but then also will not think to – or perhaps not be able to when asked to – list reasonable examples of commands a husband might give that are not abuse.
While they might say that they are not controlled by the idea that control is abuse, when asked for examples of situations where a husband might command his wife and not have it be abuse, no answers to this question will be forthcoming. The reason? It is because the way they have defined abuse, the question basically makes no sense, because it focuses on specific things someone might say, how they might behave. Remember, the feminist definitions of abuse they have used — admittedly constructed in order to single out and reign in abusive men — are not concerned with this at all.
What if they nevertheless did attempt to answer to give an answer to this question though? What would happen? Well, a husband might initiate commands that are good and would be beneficial for everyone but what if he does it for selfish motives? Perhaps good commands which seem to encourage harmony are good if the man is “authentic enough” according to the woman’s judgment? (in which case, if the man occasionally resorts to harsh language or even violence, perhaps it is generously interpreted not as “domestic abuse” but an unintentional pattern of “situational violence”). If so, where do we go for our view of authenticity? What about the role of a man’s “impressiveness” in this equation? Impressive people, after all, are not only honored but are deemed “worthy of honor”. And again, where do we go to help us make a judgement? How easy is it for us to rely on pagan and worldly notions of things like this vis a vis Scriptural teaching?
What do we think about this idea?:
God’s highest goal is the equality of His children — that all may be one in Christ Jesus. If one is sufficiently worthy that one will never need to resort to anything which the other might take, rightly or wrongly, to be a command. Commands, after all – even attempts to educate – must always be coercive, and this is not becoming of God.
If you think that sounds alright… if you think that this is the way that we must view God… if you say “how else could we say God is good?,” you have embraced the Radical Lutheran Idol (or maybe, the “Radical Grace” idol).
In other words, Radical Lutheranism and Feminist lines of thought–not the least of all Feminist theology–have a lot in common. Interestingly, neither of these believe in the traditional Christian understanding of the atonement, the insistence that God punishes, even uses violence, because He is Just.
This, I submit, is a pretty important idea — the most important idea in this post. These two problems — Feminist philosophies and Radical Lutheranism –are tied together at the hip, so to speak.
Fifth, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse begin to imagine true things they have seen and heard are dubitable when not shared the way they like (i.e., when the “influence” does not take place in accordance with their standards of propriety). In the third post in this series, I mentioned the following comment that was made about me on the private online discussion group thread:
“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.”
This person also said this:
“Nathan could not have picked a more harrowing, dire conversation to blithely insert himself into.
It’s his freedom to do that. But he shouldn’t be surprised if people don’t appreciate it and aren’t particularly receptive.”
I get the point. Really, I do. That said, even someone like me, who calls himself a Liberal Christian Nationalist and who has embraced identity politics, values truth and is going to insist that the truth matters here.
Did I or did I not, utilizing the Task Force’s document in order to do so, make a very good point in my original post? One which should be clear to anyone, male or female? And one which absolutely demands the church’s serious attention (why not devote a task force to this issue?)?
I submit that all need to wrestle with those questions in their conscience.
I could keep going on here for a while. The remarks shared above simply stick out to me as most representative of the persistently bad thinking which I noted from many persons on the original discussion group thread.
And yet, in spite of this, it is interesting to note the kinds of things that did come up and that were admitted as being of significance:
“[Your] job as a fellow Christian is to hear the story they are telling and help them. If you have just cause that they are making it up, then you might want to take a step back.”
That is certainly not lost on me of course. Nor is the fact that they don’t have to be making anything up for me to “take a step back”. When a society is as sick as ours is, taking steps back is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute occurrence.
Again, I say all of the above while wanting to be supportive of those who would fight against domestic abuse, which I certainly acknowledge is real and is even present among those who would claim Christ. If someone I know and trust were to come to approach me and share that they were being abused, of course my gut impulse would be believe all they say. Even for a stranger, I would listen carefully and assume the best, reserving judgement and skepticism for another time. The same would hold true for a man who spoke to me about being wrongfully accused.
I understand if right now you still don’t understand why I have approached the matter as I have. This is many of you, I know. I understand that you doubt me, don’t trust me, think I am naive, and think that I am actually providing cover for abusers. At this point if you would like some encouragement that I really am on your side but feel discouraged, please take the time to go back to part 5 of this series and to read especially the second half of that post…
I am not convinced that that will change your mind, but it is the last thing that I would like you to think about.
 From the LC-MS training manual on domestic violence:
“If a woman says she is a victim of abuse, refer her to professional resources. If a man says he is being wrongfully accused, refer him to professional resources. Accept everything you hear, even if they are contradictory, as true, even while knowing that everything cannot be true. Refer to domestic abuse resources and professionals.”
They go on:
“It is important to understand that false accusations are rare. They do happen, especially if a couple is divorcing or in a custody dispute, but they do not happen often” (p. 25).
Prefatory comments: This post appears on the Just and Sinner blog this morning as “Male Headship as Domestic Abuse: a Crypto-Feminist Plot in the Church?“. Also, as I already did in part three of this series, I might need to post a trigger-warning to this post, albeit much briefer, here as well.
Some are likely to see this post as not sufficiently sensitive or even as insensitive. If sensitivity is what you want, please read part 5 in this series (again if you must) and come back to this post later.
In this and the last post, we will see some of the consequences that occur when persons are controlled by the idea that abuse is ultimately just about control. Put bluntly: control, at least by men, is abuse.
If that is not nuanced enough for you, we could perhaps effectively sum up the matter as follows: If you are a woman, being under authority where your rights are not a prominent part of the overall picture is always abuse, period.
In other words, what we see is that for many in the world of domestic abuse prevention, the real problem is not something like the abuse of male headship. Rather, male headship itself is the problem.
In the last post, I said, among other controversial things, the following:
“And isn’t it easy to see how men specifically might fall into traps whereby they look more to “control” than “manage” (is this just a clever synonym for control the patriarchy uses? What am I–evil man that I am perhaps!–doing right now?) the household, not excluding their wives? Especially when there are in fact Christian wives among them who really are not eager to show them respect (you *aren’t* worthy!), listen to them, uphold their honor and goodness in the eyes of others, apologize for their own selfish and controlling behaviors, etc.?”
Well, even if their wives really do have these problems, men had better be extremely careful. When the highly popular and influential domestic abuse advocate Lundy Bancroft makes it clear that:
- “…you have rights and…they are equal to his” (340).
- “There can be no positive communication when one person doesn’t respect the other and strives to avoid equality” (351).
- “[w]e must teach equality” (388)
- “…abuse comes from…one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another…” (387)
…without talking about just what is meant be equality, one can guess that he probably is not too eager to find room for Christian notions of how male headship might work.
In addition, as one commenter in the private online discussion group (discussed in earlier posts) brought out, men must also contend with definitions of abuse like those from the federal government itself, found at https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence, the summary of which is posted below:
“We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
First, just read my italics above alone–and then just read my bolded words alone–and ask yourself if it makes sense for me to bring these things to our attention and ask hard questions (it does, even as we note that domestic abusers also often do many of these things). I mean, of course, as good Christians, we would never want to influence anyone or blame anyone for anything, would we?
As Lundy Bancroft points out, angry or controlling partners will “frequently tell you what you should think” (xxii), and again, he also uses the word abuser “as a shorthand way of saying ‘men who chronically make their partners feel mistreated or devalued.’” (xviii, Why Does He Do That?, 2002). If someone persists in the belief that they are right, making you feel guilty, that could never be an indication that an evaluation of one’s own thoughts and behaviors is in order, right? Instead, the problem must be the other person! After all, as Bancroft pronounces, presumably anything you might feel is a “guilt trip” is also abusive (347)!
In addition, it is important to note that, as the domestic abuse hotline puts it (presumably, the place where When Homes are Heartless gets its working definition of “domestic abuse,” even though it is not included in this document itself) “making all the big decisions” is also defined as abuse!  Bancroft also works in these grooves when he says “Interference with your freedom or independence is abuse. If he… discourages you from pursuing your dreams… he is trying to undermine your independence” (127). Here, just think of the internet firestorm caused a few weeks ago from a Christian woman, Lori Alexander, making the simple and uncontroversial point that men tend to prefer marrying debt-free virgins without tattoos (see original post here, as well as a couple reactions on the opposite ends of the spectrum here and here).
We also note that “stereotyped beliefs about women’s sex roles contribute to the risk of abuse,” including things like convictions that “women should take care of the home” (120). Nevermind that many women, informed by the Bible, have this conviction. Perhaps they also contribute to the risk of abuse, and are in effect traitors to their sex? Perhaps the remnant of Christian women endeavoring to train young women to be good wives and mothers might want to consider that passages like Ephesians 5 are priming their young charges to be abused?
Perhaps feminists like Bancroft agree with what Richard Dawkins said years ago? That raising kids in the Christian faith is child abuse?
And what, in our egalitarian world, could be more contentious and cause more problems (perceived problems!) than a man like the Apostle Paul? What might having “a respectful and equal relationship with a woman” (Bancroft, xxi) looked like for him? Would his view of marriage pass muster today? Would his view of being a slave of Christ? What kind of sick person, after all, finds contentment and joy in slavery, submission, obedience?
Increasingly, in the Western world, even those more conservative folks who believe that we do need traditional institutions that shape and mold us so that we can make good choices, we nevertheless do not want to focus on, for the most part (remember, I am a Lutheran), submitting to them. We certainly do not want to wildly exacerbate our delight in doing so, at least as a general matter of course.
What, really, could be worse!? I mean, these persons aren’t Jesus, who, of course, we would never hesitate to submit to—at least in person!
And doesn’t Bancroft simply put the icing on the cake when he reminds us as regards the vast majority of abusers: “Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology”? (38)
This post, 9 of 10 in this series, has examined one of the critical consequences of being controlled by the idea that control is abuse.
In the final post, we will examine a few more.
Images: Bill Gothard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bill_Gothard_03.jpg ; Source IBLP staff (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license) ; Mary Kassian from https://twitter.com/marykassian ; Lundy Bancroft from http://lundybancroft.com/
 “Intimidate”: Should I assume that the fact that some men simply are physically and/or verbally intimidating, even if they don’t try to be is taken into consideration here? I’m not feeling very trusting these days. : )
 This was defended then by one member of the task force:
“The diagram didn’t really explain things well with that statement. ‘Making the big decisions’ in an abusive way would be to do so without (and even contrary) to the input of the spouse or without consideration of them or what’s best for the family, but based on their own desires/ plans alone.”
In the last post in this series, I ended with a rather radical statement which could be re-formulated into a claim or thesis (just take out the “it appears that” and replace “what really seems to be”, with “what really is”):
When it comes to what we label “domestic abuse,” which should involve outside help and legal authorities, it appears that in the minds of many (not all) what ultimately matters is not any particular kind of behavior that would qualify as abuse. On the contrary, what really seems to be at issue is whether a person gains “power and control” over situations in the domestic sphere, which in male-female relationships of course often includes one’s partner’s emotions, behavior, etc.
What are some of my reasons for thinking this? First of all, popular and respected domestic abuse advocate Lundy Bancroft spends no time in his book helping persons to decide what are the markers of situational violence vis a vis domestic abuse. This, however, is fully in line with the philosophy of the Duluth Model (see my recent post on this model here), which is the most commonly used method law enforcement uses to deal with domestic abuse issues. As Dutton and Corvo state:
“mandatory arrest policies [where the man is assumed to be the predominant aggressor] are a product of the ideologically driven view that since domestic violence is always strategic, always intentional, always unidirectional, and always with the objective of female domination by men, that it must be contravened by the power of the state. Once one removes this ideological presumption, the rationale for mandatory arrest disappears.”
In addition, Bancroft also tells us that abusers who feel remorse for their actions do so, in part, for an unsatisfactory reason: because they feel they “should be able to control [their] partner without resorting to abuse” (132). Not only this, but Bancroft also says that since a man is unlikely to be harmed, intimidated, or frightened when a woman slaps him, for example, such an act has nothing to do with control and therefore does not qualify as violence or abuse (129, 161). One of the authors of When Homes are Heartless simply states that domestic abuse “is identified by its effects more than certain behaviors” (note the image that led off part 6 as well, from the LC-MS training manual on domestic violence).
The practical effect of this is to be perfectly in sync with the Duluth Model’s primary goal. This is not to stop all actual violence or all forms of behavior that might seek to control others but rather to “change societal conditions that support men’s use of tactics of power and control over women.”.
And this is the critical point. Again, no one should deny that abusive individuals desire a distorted and unsavory kind of control—one which subjugates others primarily by intimidating actions, even by threats and promoting fear. And yet, note well that in the popular framework that has been established for determining domestic abuse, it is easy to see how simply being effective in gaining control of situations, and hence, to some degree, of ideas and people, might also appear to be abusive. Perhaps, as one man has put it “…the intention to degrade another person’s decision-making situation…is…the essence and the essential immorality of manipulation” (italics mine). .
To some degree, of course, it is entirely understandable that human beings are on their guard about this. We live in a fallen world where people do not act as they should. In an ideal world—and Christians know in the world to come—there would be no need for someone to attain a “good control” and order—which cannot but subjugate—because all would not only know what makes for good order, harmony, etc., but would also be eager and able to do it in Christ’s strength. Even when hierarchies of this or that sort in heaven will certainly still be involved (as we will remain creatures and not all heavenly rewards will be the same!).
So, we see that this issue of control is absolutely critical. In that case, work with me on this for a minute…
Is it not a good thing that we will be in awe of a person, even fear a person, who can effectively handle and master this or that? And don’t all of us, men and women, seek out others who will help us get our lives under control? Who will help us create the conditions of salutary order and harmony that we long for, what the Old Testament calls “shalom”?
And going along with this, does this not mean that we all need certain persons, at this or that time in our lives, to help us get control of ourselves? To snap us out foolish thinking and attitudes, helping us make better or even the right decisions? And isn’t it easy to see how any parent—and hence any spouse—might be tempted into a particular behavior whereby it seems all the persons around them are able, somehow, to find peace, quiet, and order?
And isn’t it easy to see how men specifically might fall into traps whereby they look more to “control” than “manage” (is this just a clever synonym for control the patriarchy uses? What am I–evil man that I am perhaps!–doing right now?) the household, not excluding their wives? Especially when there are in fact Christian wives among them who really are not eager to show them respect (you *aren’t* worthy!), listen to them, uphold their honor and goodness in the eyes of others, apologize for their own selfish and controlling behaviors, etc.?
And, again, to ask all of these questions is by no means to justify the kinds of horrific violence that sometimes takes place in homes, earning official labels like “domestic abuse”. Nevertheless, even when we who practice wisdom do have a situation that most all of us agree needs outside intervention (by the way, who is the wisdom of the “wise ones,” who controls the controllers, if not God?), the following question arises:
Is what is classified as domestic abuse usually really about controlling another person, or is putting the matter like this really just a way of masking the real issue?
Is this ultimately about control or is it ultimately about one’s desire for some kind of status and respect, even if it is, to say the least, an unhealthy desire for status and respect—one that is out of all proportion and leads to all kinds of evil?
Now might be a good time to briefly address this important issue of respect. After all, in reading a book like the one from Lundy Bancroft, it is likely the devout Christian reader will be confirmed in the conviction that a) all persons need respect but it seems to be especially important for men, and b) men infected by sin crave respect in both disordered and inordinate senses: many give into their flesh and not only often want respect for actions that are sinful or less than ideal, but also think it is their due in amounts that are out of all proportion.
For example, Bancroft writes that abusers assault their partners’ self-esteem, attempt to control their behavior, undermine their independence, and show them disrespect (77) all in order to meet their need to be brilliant and charming (111). They want to be desirable and the sole object of attention and service for a fantasy woman of their own imagination–not wanting her to really be “an independent human being” in any sense (118, 141 ; see also 148, 154). And again, abusers are largely unaware of these “self-focused fantasies” themselves (111) or their own insecurity for that matter (117).
Even so, even in light of all of the above, one would also be wrong to say that there is something wrong or sinful with men wanting respect. Or for that matter, saying there is something wrong with the abuser’s conscious or unconscious recognition that it is very difficult for a man who is not only skilled in provision, but also strong, desirable, and impressive to have or gain the respect of a woman, be she pagan or Christian. Especially in this day, when voices in the church increasingly exalt women and degrade men (see Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day sermons for example), warn women of not submitting to their husbands lest they make them an idol (see here to), and teach that Christian women will tend to be attracted to best Christian men (see here also… not so much movie stars or romance novel heroes I guess!), men have an uphill battle on their hands.
Therefore, if any man senses a lack of respect or even contemptuousness from a woman what should he do? It is a difficult question, but it makes sense to a) think about how men, in general, display value, hence earning respect from others and increasing their attractiveness (while there will be variations on themes from culture to culture, there are indeed themes rooted in the fundamental essences of male and female), b) search the Scriptures to seek clues about male-female and husband-wife relationships (and wise Christian men as well), and c) to pray for faith and wisdom for one and one’s spouse or future spouse.
I am not going to deny the importance of a) (and c) but for this series of posts, as can be seen, I have largely been making allusions to b).
And it will be alluded to in the next post as well, as we begin to talk about the implications of being controlled by this mindset that abuse is really all about control.
 Also, notice how one of authors of the When Homes are Heartless document defines domestic abuse:
“Domestic abuse is a deliberate pattern of behavior used by a person in an intimate relationship to intimidate his or her partner and thereby gain or maintain power and control over the other person.”
This person points out that [this is] also the definition of abuse that the task force uses in the referenced paper[, that is, Where Homes are Heartless]. It appears in other documents on the LC-MS website as well.
In the fourth post of this series, I gave an example, shared in a private online discussion group, of a situation where a man was verbally abused by his wife, who clearly intended to “denigrate and demean the husband. One might also reasonably say to hurt and diminish the husband”. Even though this was a pattern of abuse, it seems that in a case like this the critical point is that any control that is achieved is not achieved by intimidation.
This person who defined “domestic abuse” as such also further explained by saying: “It doesn’t quite work to say that ‘namecalling’ is abusive, because sometimes it is not. When it is done as part of a pattern of behavior with the intention to denigrate and demean someone with whom you’re in an intimate relationship with, it’s probably abusive.” I note the “probably”. Presumably, from this, we can say that, a) it is often (but not always) the case that an intention to “denigrate and demean” one’s partner is usually done with the intention (consciously or not) to intimidate and thereby gain power over them, or b) a) name-calling of husbands is not always abusive because they may not be intimidated.
Another core question is this: can the browbeaten man who, finally deciding to stand up for himself, restrain his wife from hitting him by grabbing her wrist? One would think. Still, Bancroft says that restraining someone or grabbing them is “physical aggression” and “even if it happens only once” it should be reported immediately (128), and this kind of language is found in some state laws. Note also that in Bancroft’s view that men who say they are battered most often are the perpetrators themselves (45, 97). His view is not unique. This is in fact the assumption of the Duluth Model, the most widely used model for law enforcement intervention when it comes to domestic abuse.
 From the AlterNet.org article: Here’s How to Tell the Difference Between Persuasion and Manipulation
“Complementarians endorse wives smashing the family china (a “godly tantrum”) or threatening to leave and take the children, or using denial of sex (here and here), in order to gain power and control in marriage. Wives who do this are presented as being forced to take drastic measures by their disobedient husbands. Yet these very same acts would be considered abuse if a husband were to do them. The difference between abuse and he had it coming comes down to who both the Duluth model creators and complementarians think should rightly be in charge. The fundamental difference between the two groups in this respect is the Duluth model creators are honest about their feminist objectives, while complementarians claim to support biblical headship.”
 Here is evidence from Bancroft that this is, for him, the main issue: “Abuse is the product of a mentality that excuses and condones bullying and exploitation, that promotes superiority and disrespect, and that casts responsibility on the oppressed (386)… abuse comes from…one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another” (387). We must teach equality” (388).
 As one person on the thread put it:
“I think I disagree with part of the link’s description of domestic violence in that it argues that the primary element in it is power. Power, of course, does play a role, but psychologically [–] I do not think that it does subjectively. Violent men rarely do violence because they generically wish to ‘exert power’. Usually they are violent because they interpret slights, small insults, perceived acts of deferment etc. as somehow insulting, and respond to such insults with a demand for respect through violence. This is why men are violent to other men, and I reckon they are violent to women for similar reasons” (italics mine).
 We are told that abusers typically have a real sense of superiority. That said, it is also said that:
“Alternatively, the abuser might have a deep-seated sense of inferiority. Perhaps he was abused as a child, with the result that he has difficulty making friends or seeing himself as worthy of love. This type will have a tremendous sense of worthlessness. He may have difficulty believing he has attracted this spouse. His sense of worthlessness will lead to tremendous fear of abandonment. He will be constantly on the alert for signs of her unhappiness or any indication of discontent, which would confirm that she doesn’t actually love him and will soon be leaving him. Her unhappiness enrages him (confirms his fear). His abuse is an attempt to convince her that she is worthless, so that she won’t leave him (8, LC-MS Training Manual).”
Of course, a “sense of worthlessness” and a “tremendous fear of abandonment” will also tend to feed off and reinforce one another. Not only this, the problems created by this downward spiral will no doubt be worsened by the fact that women tend to not be attracted to men who lack confidence, are afraid, or even, are not exciting enough: who are too predictable (boring) and do not vigorously engage–and perhaps even steer–the world as they know it the way they would like them to (wait – “does that not sound like the typical abuser?”, you might think…)
What Leslie Vernick writes about in her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage is hardly uncommon:
Anna perched on the edge of her chair, her hands folded neatly in her lap. When I asked her to tell me why she’d come to see me, tears sprung to her eyes. Embarrassed, she grabbed a tissue and dabbed her lashes so her mascara wouldn’t run. “I don’t know why I’m crying,” Anna stammered, her lip trembling. “I should be more happy. I have a great life. My husband is good with the girls, generously provides for our family, and is overall a nice guy.”
“So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“I guess I thought we’d have more of a connection. I don’t feel that spark for him. I don’t know if I ever did. And…maybe…I wonder if I had waited, I could have done better. Now I dread the thought of spending the rest of my life with him.”
As Anna and I talked, I learned she grew up in a tumultuous home filled with chaos and conflict. When she met Mark, he personified stability, strength, and security—something Anna never experienced growing up. Mark was a committed Christian, which in Anna’s mind made him magnificent husband material. She loved being taken care of and feeling safe, but she hadn’t considered some of his other qualities like his reserved nature, his quietness, and his lack of adventure. And now, although she’s snug and secure, she feels lonely, bored, and trapped.
Anna’s marriage is not destructive, but it is disappointing and painful for her. She’s not sure how to continue or even if she wants to. Yet she knows to end her marriage for these reasons would crush Mark and her children, as well as dishonor her vows to God and to her husband. Anna feels vulnerable and confused and miserable. She wants to trust God and she desperately wants to be happy in a great relationship. She can’t imagine having that with Mark…” (7-8, bold mine).
In much of the literature about domestic violence today, we are told to never try and distinguish between domestic abuse and situational violence.
This raises the interesting question of whether the experts in the field are able to distinguish between what some call “situational violence”—which again, is considered normal and acceptable—and what others call “domestic abuse”—which is grounds for restraining orders or worse.
Let’s consider another hypothetical example.
Domestic abuse advocate Lundy Bancroft forthrightly states: “[I do not believe] that every man who has problems with angry or controlling behaviors is abusive” (Bancroft, xiii). So what if a man, for instance, continues to get angry on occasion with his partner, semi-regularly saying rather hard things that could potentially be construed not to have been consciously manipulative, but nevertheless to have effectively gained “control” of a situation at this or that time?
Even as afterwards, he apologizes about his anger, bad choice of words, etc. again and again?
In other words, this just seems to be a part of his personality that comes out not only in the home, but also with close friends while playing basketball, colleagues at work, etc. How, in a case like this, is what is just a regular pattern of his behavior to be distinguished from a pattern of “domestic abuse” which should involve outside authorities? That is, not just any occasion of “coercion and disrespect” (Bancroft, xiii), but a pattern of manipulating others that involves, for instance, all manner of deception?
This is made much more complicated by the fact that neither conscious lying nor anger are necessary for one to be an “abuser”—the kind of person who, practicing “domestic abuse,” requires outside intervention from the authorities (hence Bancroft’s descriptions of the abusive Mr. Right, The Water Torturer, Mr. Sensitive, The Victim, etc., spoken of in the previous post). In great tension with his statement above, Bancroft defines an abuser as “any man who has recurring problems with disrespecting, controlling, insulting, or devaluing his partner, whether or not his behavior also involves more explicit verbal abuse, physical aggression, or sexual mistreatment” (xiii). Further compounding the difficulties is the fact that men who are abusers also feel real remorse, are not always aware of what they are doing, and even unconsciously deceive themselves. As Bancroft notes:
“When one of my clients says to me, ‘I exploded’ or ‘I just lost it,’ I ask him to go step by step in his mind through the moments leading up to his abusive behavior. I ask, “Did you really ‘just explode,’ or did you actually decide at one point to give yourself the green light? Wasn’t there a moment when you decided that you ‘had had enough’ or you ‘weren’t going to take it anymore, and at that instant you gave yourself permission, setting yourself free to do what you felt like doing?’ Then I see a flicker of recognition cross my client’s eyes, and usually he admits that there is indeed a moment at which he turns himself loose to begin the horror show” (Bancroft 36).
Presumably, according to Bancroft, those who just get angry in “situational violence” are more authentic in a sense, and would not be able to have a similar recognition. Clearly, matters such as this need to be explored and explained more. In any case, what sticks out to me about this paragraph above is the author’s implicit admission here that there is a sense which, at least until he helps them see, “they know not what they do”. This comes through in other parts of the book as well. Bancroft also states that “much of my work as a counselor involves helping abusive men to become conscious of, and face up to, their real reasons for choosing to behave as they do” (114). As he puts it, while their behavior is primarily conscious, “the underlying thinking that drives the behavior is largely not conscious” (113, see 223 as well).
At this point, let me be absolutely clear again. I think it is very important for us to look at this matter deeply, and to question and challenge Bancroft. At the same time, I will affirm that in spite of the difficulties we are presented with here, it is nevertheless fully understandable that we would want to draw a clear distinction between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In other words, between problematic actions that nevertheless fall within some normal range and those that demand extra help and intervention.
And, in spite of the difficulties mentioned above, Bancroft’s book gives us even more reasons for thinking we should do this (even as, unlike him, we can see the same kinds of problems in many women as well). After all, he notes that the default orientation of those who abuse is to believe “that the problems [in one’s relationships] are all the woman’s fault and that he is the real victim” (29). If things go wrong, it is not his fault, but his partner’s (118). Not only this, but he has a “core attitude,” which he “never explicitly states and may not even be aware of consciously himself: ‘You have no right to object to how I treat you’“ (125, see 224 as well). “Notice whether he does a lot more than his share of the talking, listens poorly when you speak, and chronically shifts the conversation back to himself. Self-centeredness is a personality characteristic that is highly resistant to change” (118). This means that upon being confronted by their actions abusers are likely to attempt to justify them, as they often have full knowledge that their particular actions have a chance to be interpreted as having been within proper limits.
Certainly, being able to diagnose things like this would give us more confidence that the experts are able to determine what really is “situational violence” vis a vis “domestic abuse”.
That said, when it comes to some situations how sure can anyone–even an expert—be? While there are situations most all of us would probably agree on, there will be grey as well. What about these grey areas? Here, I think the critical question is this: are we willing to reflect on why the powers that be—those activists who are driving this matter forward largely because of their willingness to get involved—have framed the issue of “domestic abuse” the way they have?
What am I getting at here? This:
When it comes to what we label “domestic abuse,” which should involve outside help and legal authorities, it appears that in the minds of many (not all) what ultimately matters is not any particular kind of behavior that would qualify as abuse. On the contrary, what really seems to be at issue is whether a person gains “power and control” over situations in the domestic sphere, which in male-female relationships of course often includes one’s partner’s emotions, behavior, etc.
More on this in part 8.
“The salient point about remorse, however, is that it matters little whether it is genuine or not. Clients who get very sorry after acts of abuse change at about the same rate as the ones who don’t. The most regretful are sometimes the most self-centered, lamenting above all the injury they’ve done to their own self-image [or their own sense of how they would like to be]. They feel ashamed of having behaved like cruel dictators and want to revert quickly to the role of benign dictators, as if that somehow makes them much better people” (see 132-133, italics his).
“As we review the stories of my clients throughout this book, you will observe over and over again the degree of consciousness that goes into their cruel and controlling actions. At the same time, I don’t want to make abusive men sound evil. They don’t calculate and plan out every move they make—though they use forethought more often than you would expect. It isn’t that each time an abuser sweeps a pile of newspapers onto the floor or throws a cup against the wall he has determined ahead of time to take that course. For a more accurate model, think of an abuser as an acrobat in a circus ring who does ‘go wild’ to some extent but who never forgets where the limits are” (Bancroft, 36).
One of the more harrowing moments Bancroft describes is the man who intentionally bruises his wife on her legs, where others will be sure not to see it (204).
Getting into very serious business in this post, part 6.
Again, this series is not the first time I have written in a way that touches on this topic of “heartless” homes. That, in fact, is why this series exists. You can read the first and second times I did so here and here respectively. And again, as a part of this 10-part series that examines the philosophies informing modern domestic abuse prevention, I am also talking about what I learned after posting those first two articles and from the responses of those who criticized me.
This post, specifically, will ask the question: “What do the authors and promoters of the When Homes are Heartless document believe about men in general and Christian men in particular when it comes to abuse?” Let me be clear from the outset. In one sense, it really doesn’t matter what the authors believe. What is most important—especially when it comes to the long term—is what finally made it into the documents produced by the authors.
That said, given the conversation I was in about this document that is certainly not all there is to say, and the things I think are worth exploring will be looked at closely in the next three parts of this series. Here I will specifically talk about some of the details about the deeper beliefs and commitments of the document’s authors and promoters.
Finally, in the last two posts, I will—utilizing the content from this and the next two posts (parts 6-8)—make a final evaluation on the usefulness of the When Homes are Heartless document.
Let’s jump to the …
Beliefs of the document’s main authors and promoters….
[please note: all of these beliefs cannot necessarily be attributed to all of the members of the Task Force creating When Homes are Heartless. What follows were opinions shared in the private online discussion group by persons countering what I had done with the document. These were contributing authors and informed supporters of the document. In any case, for whatever reasons, none of these comments were challenged, or held in check by, said authors and supporters]
The point of my initial post was to jump off the When Homes are Heartless document, which dealt with domestic violence, in order to raise awareness of another widespread problem: the willingness of many people, namely women who are not abused, to initiate the violence of divorce because they are unhappy in their marriage. If abuse is, as I heard from one commentator, “the breaking of a commandment grievously, consistently, and without true remorse,” (this person was speaking of domestic violence) what could be more abusive than severing and remaining severed from what God has joined together because one is merely unhappy?
Again, in doing what I have done here—this should be quite clear—I do not need to deny or minimize the importance of confronting domestic violence per se. Hence the point of my proceeding as carefully as I have thus far in this series, with my first five posts (part 4 most likely being the most upsetting so far). In like fashion, even as I am approaching this matter critically, it certainly does not mean I am asserting that more or less unambiguous situations of “domestic abuse,” which require outside intervention including the law, can never be discerned nor that they should not be dealt with in effective ways. I suggest that a simple acknowledgement of those facts could have made for a much more productive conversation.
One of the persons who was on the Task Force which produced the When Homes are Heartless document immediately responded to my post by saying: “Seriously? You equate *unhappy* spouses with those who are being abused?” Another, after hearing me talk about how I knew of no situations of domestic abuse personally, said, among other things “An unhappy marriage in no way equates to a violent marriage”. These, to say the least, are very strange reactions that are not easily explainable.
And I’d say things went downhill from there. In the process however, this is what I learned from the top minds behind the document – and those who vigorously promote it:
- “How common is domestic abuse? Very. 1:4 women and 1:7 men will be in abusive relationships.”
I was told: “….you admit your inexperience with the issue. Sorry, do you see how what you write continues to lack credibility as a result? The LCMS utilized CDC statistics, as they are considered reliable in the field.” The survey where this information comes from specifically says the following:
“About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime” (2).
Besides the fact that the CDC notes the limitations of the available data on this issue, do those touting these statistics understand that those of us with a science background find good reason for agreeing with the “factual feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers that several of the numbers claimed in this particular survey cannot be justified? Among other things, Sommers is very critical of the way this study handles just one aspect of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, saying in the Washington Post:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hailed the report for giving “a clear picture of the devastating impact these violent acts have on the lives of millions of Americans.”
In fact, what the study reveals is the devastating impact that careless advocacy research can have on truth. The report proposes an array of ambitious government-sponsored “prevention strategies” and recommends “multi-disciplinary service centers” offering survivors psychological and legal counseling as well as housing and economic assistance. But survivors of sexual violence would be better served by good research and sober estimates — not inflated statistics and sensationalism.
The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics….
(Sommers debunks more feminist-inspired claims, including more having to do with domestic violence, in Time magazine)
Sommers, who is a political liberal and feminist, goes on to make some devastating arguments vs. the CDC’s “careless advocacy research”. Can one at least fully agree with her concerns and also not deny that domestic abuse is an important problem that should be dealt with? Is it important to engage her concerns and attempt to rebut her arguments? Or, is one taking her position simply invincibly ignorant—or worse—and worthy of scorn and contempt?
I read the entire 124 page study and thought that, overall, given its size, it should have provided a better and bigger picture of the issue, providing more information necessary for promoting intelligent and careful thinking. As it stands, I think the study leaves far too many questions and gives far too few answers.
For example, even if these numbers are to be trusted—something I again concede only for the sake of argument—why doesn’t it make clear that that even the relatively serious incidents of “domestic violence” included in the 1:4 and 1:7 statistic—perhaps being completely extraordinary and unique occurrences—would not necessarily earn the more serious label of “domestic abuse” (where an expert would insist that the recipient of the violence should involve outside authorities and secure ongoing help)? As it stands this is very confusing – as is clear from the quote I used to head off this section, even one of the authors of the When Homes are Heartless document was evidently thrown off by this. Again, to make this clear, the definition of domestic abuse that the Task Force is using hinges on a “pattern” whereas the CDC stats may involve only a single instance of violence sometime during one’s life.
And why is this study not at pains to make clear that the statistics do not imply that every fourth man or every seventh woman is a perpetrator of domestic violence (again, this might only be “situational violence” and not “domestic abuse”), which many more marriage-minded persons especially might assume after hearing such numbers? (multiple women may have experienced this violence from one man with serial relationships, for example).
Finally, what justification is there for persons believing that each kind of community one might imagine to survey will look more or less the same? (the impression given by the straight 1:4 and 1:7 numbers). For example, lesbian relationships tend to be the most abusive of all domestic relationships, and many of the 1:4 numbers for women can be attributed to these stormy pairings. Not only this, but what reason is there for believing that domestic violence occurs at rates in the church, or more specifically, the LC-MS, similar to the general population, even “though it doesn’t present itself nearly as much in the church as we wish it would due to guilt and shame” (as one told me)? One commentator made her opinion very clear: “I ask you the next time you sit in church just count out every 4th female and every 7th male. It is right under your nose.” And one of the authors of When Homes are Heartless made clear her unwavering conviction about the current statistics and their wide applicability as well: “What we have heard only scratches the surface of the true picture in the church. Sadly, attitudes such as are on display here [note: that would be me] only drive victims further underground within the church.”
- Divorce out of mere unhappiness is not necessarily abusive. Unhappy persons cannot be guilty of abuse qua their unhappiness. Real abusers do their deeds not out of unhappiness—or even anger—but only in order to gain power and control over the victim.
First, again, in order to understand this position we must note again that there is a critical distinction being assumed here between “domestic abuse” and “situational violence” (and both of these might be generically labeled “domestic violence” ; see part V) Again, “situational violence” is said to typically involve anger, come on suddenly and unexpectedly, and is not part of a pattern to control another person. And again, one might want to agree with the commentator who sensibly pointed out, “situational violence in a domestic setting is domestic abuse!” (and yet again, I nevertheless concede the language only for the sake of argument, but the *abuse* of the language here is worth pondering and I think may have deleterious implications).
Second, in addressing the main point of this position, the best response here is from Eric Phillips:
“If it tears someone’s heart out and turns his/her vows and fondest memories into a lie, that’s abuse, or the word doesn’t mean a thing. Not to mention, there’s almost always the _threat_ of divorce beforehand, which _is_ a continuing manipulation.”
One commenter on the thread also said this:
“The divorce isn’t used to garner power and control because once the divorce is final, there is little power or control to be gained… If you want to keep power and control, you stay married. This is why it is usually the victims who file for divorce and not the abuser….”
The empowerment, however, is believed to be in the autonomy. Not only this, but divorce laws favor women when it comes to both property and children. Therefore, it is misleading to say that the violence and abuse of unjust divorce is not about power and control at all. It may not be about attaining those things within the legally-constituted marriage as regards one’s spouse (at least insofar as we are talking about a direct kind of power and control) but it may very be about power and control. As an online friend noted to me, “Forcing a man to pay his ex-wife for the next few decades is a matter of power. Deciding when he’s allowed to see his own children is control.” This is very different from the power and control that takes place within a marriage where, according to the LC-MS training manual, it is possible that a man abuses because he “struggle[s] with a sense of inferiority and fear abandonment.” In this case, the abuser does abusive things (you know, doing stuff like breaking things, making her sleep on the couch, denying her sex, leaving with the children, or threatening divorce — oh, hold on a minute…) because he wants the marriage to continue.
- Even though a distinction between “situational violence” and “domestic abuse” is assumed (“Situational violence in a domestic setting is not domestic abuse. They are two different things and the dynamics of the relationships are also different”), there appears to be little concern that certain situations might be badly misinterpreted by purported victims without sufficient knowledge (and/or captured by their own illusions) or even maliciously taken advantage of by them
Bancroft notes that “it’s true that almost everyone does yell at one point or another in a relationship, and most people, male or female, call their partners a name from time to time, interrupt, or act selfish and insensitive” (123). The issue here is that even if situational violence—violent words or actions arising unexpectedly out of anger, for example—is not technically “domestic abuse,” it seems likely that it could potentially be construed as domestic abuse. One can see this in chapter 4 of Bancroft’s book where he provides profiles of different kinds of frightening abusers, some more frightening than others: the Demand Man, Mr. Right, The Water Torturer, The Drill Sergeant, The Terrorist, Mr. Sensitive, The Victim, etc. While I don’t doubt that these profiles could be helpful in some cases to help women recognize that they are in fact experiencing domestic abuse, in other cases it seems likely Bancroft’s generalizing could leave impressions that would, in the end, lead to the accusation of those who are not really abusers in the sense of “domestic abuse”.
Again, even if what some call “situational violence” is not technically “domestic abuse,” there is the potential for persons to insist that a relationship in which certain actions occur occasionally—just often enough to make an imaginable case for a “pattern”—is neither safe nor healthy. As Eric Phillips points out, “there is an objective difference between a tendency to make insensitive remarks and a campaign of remarks calculated to wound and degrade, but it would be very easy for an angry woman, knowing the former isn’t grounds for divorce but the latter is, to get ‘creative’ in her accusations.” And as Bancroft notes, even if your partner has never hit or sexually assaulted you, if you are frightened this is enough in some states to seek legal protection (162). As the LC-MS training manual on domestic violence states “[a]cts that cause the victim to fear for her safety count as physical abuse”. Bancroft again: “you will need to form your own conclusions about whether your partner’s mistreatment of you has become repetitive” (129).
I must be absolutely clear here. There is no doubt that many women and many men are abused in such a way that we should insist on outside intervention, even outside intervention with legal authorities. And, in this case, it is good that they do make this judgment, a judgement they we should all wish they would never have to make. This also means, for example, that the woman who says “He really doesn’t mean to hurt me. He just loses control” or “He’s scared me a few times, but he never touches the children. He’s a great father” (Bancroft, 3) may indeed be seriously underestimating her need for help. And here, several of the resources provided by the LC-MS, including the When Homes are Heartless document and more, contain very important information to have access to.
That said, let’s continue to think about these kinds of things very critically…
 Some, but not all of the beliefs discussed here are either repeated directly or alluded to indirectly in some of the LC-MS’s documents here. I have also done a post dealing with my concerns about the intrusion of feminist theology into the church through the domestic abuse issues in a post here.
 This was further explained:
“By piggybacking on the document and stating that the definition of abuse is completely subjective, questionable, and needs 2-3 witnesses to be even brought up…and then equating verbal/emotional abuse with God’s good law for us and being called “fat” by children, he does equate the two issues with one another.”
Another then defended me with these words:
“If there is an equation, it’s at most a partial one, since he explicitly said that divorce was an acceptable remedy against physical abuse. And if his main point is that unjustified divorce is _itself_ an act of abuse commensurate with many of the things the document discusses, the “piggybacking” makes sense.
He did not say that domestic abuse ‘needs 2-3 witnesses to be even brought up.’ That’s a misrepresentation, as far as I can tell. And perhaps the definition isn’t subjective, but it’s quite open to subjective abuse. Yes, there’s an objective difference between a tendency to make insensitive remarks and a campaign of remarks calculated to wound and degrade, but it would be very easy for an angry woman, knowing the former isn’t grounds for divorce but the latter is, to get ‘creative’ in her accusations.”
To this was met the following reply:
“And victims rarely seek a divorce eagerly, many have to be convinced to see the abuse in the relationship and to leave for their own safety. The decision to divorce is not an easy one to make even in that situation. Any angry spouse seeking to creatively justify their divorce would pretty quickly demonstrate their true intentions, I’d think.” (italics mine).
 We go on to read: “While slapping, pushing and shoving are not necessarily minor physical violence, this report distinguishes between these forms of violence and the physical violence that is generally categorized as severe.” Furthermore, “[n]early 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported at least one impact related to experiencing these or other forms of violent behavior in the relationship (e.g., being fearful, concerned for safety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, need for health care, injury, contacting a crisis hotline, need for housing services, need for victim’s advocate services, need for legal services, missed at least one day of work or school)” (2). On page 8 we read that the survey “Gathers information from respondents on a range of long-term physical and mental health outcomes that may be associated with the experience of violence.” One is left unclear whether or not the study cares to know if any of these situations show an actual pattern of “domestic violence,” a.k.a. “domestic abuse,” or simply harsh “situational violence” — or how it might attempt to distinguish these two things.
More: “Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively)” (2). On page 10 we read: “Psychological aggression, including expressive aggression and coercive control, is an important component of intimate partner violence. Although research suggests that psychological aggression may be even more harmful than physical violence by an intimate partner (Follingstad, Rutledge, Berg, Hause, & Polek, 1990), there is little agreement about how to determine when psychologically aggressive behavior becomes abusive and can be classified as intimate partner violence. Because of the lack of consensus in the field at the time of this report, the prevalence of psychologically aggressive behaviors is reported, but is not included in the overall prevalence estimates of intimate partner violence. Expressive psychological aggression includes acting dangerous, name calling, insults and humiliation. Coercive control includes behaviors that are intended to monitor and control an intimate partner such as threats, interference with family and friends, and limiting access to money” (italics mine). What this means according to the methodology, questions, and answers obtained by the survey, of course, is that the actual numbers of people experiencing “domestic abuse”—that is, incident demanding outside intervention and the law—are in all likelihood much higher than 1:4 and 1:7 (the amount of people the survey says experienced at least one incident of serious domestic violence).
 From the executive summary of this study:
“Our understanding of [sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence] has grown substantially over the years. However, timely, ongoing, and comparable national and state-level data are lacking. Less is also known about how these forms of violence impact specific populations in the United States…”
 Another person on the task force, after reading my post, said that “I’ve got hundreds of stories to your 2 that have actually happened within the church. Sorry, your claims are still invalid.” My point here would be that it does not surprise me that this person, being at the epicenter of this issue, has hundreds of stories about domestic abuse. I don’t doubt this, and I don’t even need to doubt any of the stories she has heard in order to state that the “1:4 women and 1:7 men will be in abusive relationships” statistic is at the very best misleading, and is certainly liable to be abused in all kinds of ways (the undoubtedly higher statistics about other kinds of physical violence and “psychological aggression” as well could also potentially be used to argue for “domestic abuse” in order to justify unjust divorces). I maintain that the lack of caution in presenting these statistics by both the CDC and the task force only serves to discredit both groups, to make persons even more suspicious, and to throw the important information and accurate information that they do have and that we do need to hear into doubt.
 In the LC-MS training manual, we read “Situational violence can be quite severe, resulting in injury or even death. It also can cause serious damage to the emotional health of those involved and can cause severe harm to the relationship.” “Can” is the key word here.
Also note that while threats of violence may not be categorized as physical violence in this study, these can be categorized as physical or “domestic abuse” which, in many states allows victims to go and seek legal protection. Always watch your angry words, lest anything you say be construed as a threat.
 “Situational violence” is akin to the way most scholars used to understand domestic violence, prior to more recent theory. Leslie Vernick, writing in her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, calls this “situational violence” “reactive abuse” and helps us to begin to understand the new distinctions:
“Reactive abuse occurs when a husband or wife or both are unable to manage their negative moods, the frustrations of life or their tempers in a mature way. As a result, when situations are provocative or there is stress, an eruption occurs. In reactive abuse, a person doesn’t stop to think about the wisest way to handle a difficult or irritating situation; he or she just reacts. We criticize, curse, yell, threaten, throw things, belittle, punch, slap, and even murder…(39) It can be difficult for pastors helpers, and even trained counselors to tell the difference between reactive abuse and…controlling abuse. The abuse behaviors look similar, but the underlying heart issues are not. An important distinction is that in reactive abuse the destructive person is not seeking to control his wife or to broadly exercise decision-making control over her. That does not minimize the lethality of reactive abuse. When we become flooded with negative emotions and don’t know how to control ourselves, we can cause a lot of harm… (41) Threats and force should never be used to make the other give in. When that happens, it is controlling abuse and it’s destructive” (42, see 42-43 for a good example of the kind of control she has in mind).
 “Really, divorce is often a legal formalization of the disintegration of the marriage that has already taken place.”
 The LC-MS training manual on domestic abuse says the following:
“In contrast to physical and verbal abuse, which are explicit and hard to deny, emotional and psychological abuse can be subtle, allowing the abuser to deny or disavow its cruelty and hurtfulness (e.g., “You’re too sensitive” or “You misunderstood”). It might entail comments that are somewhat plausible and can be attributed as mere “truth telling” (e.g., “You’ve gained a lot of weight” or “You’re not as attractive as your sister”). It might be unnecessary or relentless criticism…”
 Lest anyone think that woman might actually do such things, one might consider whether we are better behaved in public vis a vis our spouses, for example, and take this situation into consideration.
 It goes on:
“This might include preventing a victim from leaving a room or the home, or locking the victim out of a room or the home. Threats of violence can be categorized as physical abuse. These include both verbal and nonverbal threats directed at the victim, such as threatening to kill her, pointing a weapon at her or pointing a fist in her direction. Abusers might threaten to harm children or her relatives. Abusers frequently threaten to harm or kill themselves (e.g., “If you leave me or if you tell anyone, I’ll kill myself ”).”