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).