In this post, as we gear up to talk more about the philosophies which have influenced the LC-MS document When Homes are Heartless and what they mean, I want to reiterate what I said before several times.
Most importantly, this:
“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.”
That is what I said at the beginning of the private online discussion thread where I posted my original article which jumped off of the When Homes are Heartless document — before that heated discussion really took off.
If you are going to continue to read this series of articles, and especially if you are going to comment on this series of articles, I urge you to read that statement above again and again (and maybe again). Please understand that you are not dealing with a person who insists that, when it comes to domestic and sexual abuse, “everything is OK.”
Clearly, everything is not OK, and yes, the problem goes way back. I wholeheartedly affirm this. I am highly sympathetic to the Udo Middlemann quote I shared in the first post of this series, thinking it highly important and worthy of our deepest reflection and meditation.
Still with me? Good. Decades ago now, the very influential Christian psychologist Paul Tournier confessed in his book The Violence Within words that might very well get him arrested today:
“Well-brought-up, reasonable, kindly people, gentle as lambs, can suddenly break out into brutal violence, in words, thoughts, or deeds—and it happens more often than you would imagine… I have on occasion slapped my wife, and I have often spoken to her in the most wounding terms. I might try to reassure myself with the thought that is was only a passing accident, a mental aberration, when I was no longer myself in the heat of the moment—something soon put right! It would be more honest to say to myself that is was I who did it, and to see that it reveals an aspect of myself that I find hard to recognize; that I am much more violent than I care to acknowledge.” (quoted in “Battered into Submission,” Christianity Today, June 16, 1989)
Nowadays, whether Tournier would be labeled a perpetrator of “domestic abuse,” a pattern of abuse meant to gain power and control of someone (this need not involve anger or physical violence), or just someone caught up, now and then, in “situational violence,” an “an unfortunate [and unplanned] but singular incident of violence” arising suddenly and unexpectedly from situations of stress leading to anger, it doesn’t matter – at least according to the LC-MS Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Task Force (italics mine, Identify, Understand, Intervene: Training Manual on Domestic Violence, 3 ; document found under “Training” here)
After all, even if you think you really know someone or a couple, even one act like those Tournier describes may very well indicate that a pattern of abuse is present.
As the training manual of the LC-MS says, “it is not up to you to make the distinction” and “you should NEVER attempt to make this distinction”. If you do this, you might defend a perpetrator of domestic abuse, which by definition demands outside attention, legal attention. Therefore professional help with experience and expertise—and teeth—should always be sought. This, importantly, does not mean pastors and church workers, as this training manual is for them, but rather police and health-care professionals (see Identify, Understand, Intervene: Training Manual on Domestic Violence, pp. 3-5).
In any case, while many of us grew up in homes where we most certainly did not have to deal with such things, many have had to deal with much worse. As Lundy Bancroft notes:
“We need to take a large step back in time for a moment, to the early part of Freud’s era, when modern psychology was born. In the 1890s, when Freud was in the dawn of his career, he was struck by how many of his female patients were revealing childhood incest victimization to him. Freud concluded that child sexual abuse was one of the major causes of emotional disturbances in adult women and wrote a brilliant and humane paper called “The Aetiology of Hysteria.” However, rather than receiving acclaim from his colleagues for his ground-breaking insights. Freud met with scorn. He was ridiculed for believing that men of excellent reputation (most of his patients came from upstanding homes) could be perpetrators of incest.
Within a few years, Freud buckled under this heavy pressure and recanted his conclusions. In their place he proposed the “Odeipus complex,” which became the foundation of modern psychology. According to this theory any young girl actually desires sexual contact with her father, because she wants to compete with her mother to be the most special person in his life… Psychological literature is thus full of descriptions of young children who “seduce” adults into sexual encounters…” (Why Does He Do That?, 279)
The disturbing legacy lasts to this day. Judith Levine’s Harmful to Minors: the Perils of Protecting Children From Sex, published in 2003, is particularly interesting here. Levine is very confident, for example, that pre-school level child-on-child sexual exploration is not really harmful to minors (see, e.g. pg 183). One of the things that sticks out like a sore thumb to this father is Levine’s desire to eschew any discussion—serious or otherwise—of any real sexual boundaries as it relates to age, person, place, etc (see p. xxxii, where she actually calls this an “obsession”). Entitled to sexual pleasure (xxxv) “child…sex can be moral or immoral” indeed (p. xxxiv) and kids can make their own decisions (p. 17). I get the distinct impression that if kids could just be given economic assistance, good health care, and good rather than bad sex—perhaps with experienced adults who know how to give them a good experience?—sex would be “no problem” and be like any other form of “recreation”. To say the least, there is a qualitative difference when it comes to this kind of sexual abuse and sexual abuse in general, which to be sure, is horrible enough to contemplate.
And this horrifies me, as I know it does many others, even many non-believers. And yet I think: what if someone like Freud had had Christian convictions? And before any reading this laugh too hard, thinking of the open and festering sores of Christ’s church, let me add this: I am horrified that any who would call themselves Christians would do such things or let others get away with the same.
And here are two key points I want to make to round out this post:
First, the facts of domestic abuse are indeed a problem. That said, the worldly philosophies that often life behind the framing of the issue are also a problem (this series is just about ready to get deeply into this).
Second, just because a person questions your particular approach to these problems, whether it be documents like “When Homes are Heartless” or #MeToo, does not mean that they want to “cover for abusers” or not seek some kind of real viable reform. The issue, for me and many like me, is to slowly (yes, don’t focus on that word) and surely (focus on that word) seek reforms that are fair, work, and are able to be sustained in the long term, all while bringing people’s hearts along with the changes in the laws.
If that is not clear, and you go on to read the rest of the series of articles and hate it, I urge you to consider asking me more questions about the previous paragraphs, and *not what follows from this point*.
In the next part of this series I am going to talk about what I have learned about the beliefs of those who wrote the When Homes are Heartless document.
 Again, 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 WHAH] 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.”
 Note “Situational violence can be quite severe, resulting in injury or even death.” (3)