The Church and Abuse
By Dr. Rocky Ramsey
Senior Pastor, Corryton Church
Today’s Knoxville News-Sentinel (5/10/18) gives half of a page (7A) to an article entitled Women Decry Baptist Leader’s Comments. The article is about Southwestern Seminary President and longtime Baptist leader Paige Patterson. Dr. Patterson has done much good for the Kingdom of God and especially for Southern Baptists, but he may have undone most of it with his callous, ill-advised, unbiblical comments on women being responsible to stay in abusive marriages. Needless to say, in the day of the #MeToo movement (which should be applauded and supported MOST by Christ-followers), Patterson is in some really hot water.
Just one story (there are many). Patterson told the story of a woman who came to him about abuse, and how he counseled her to pray at night beside her bed, quietly, for God to intervene. The woman came to him later with two black eyes. She said “I hope you’re happy.” Patterson said “Yes … I’m very happy,” because it turned out her husband (in Patterson’s mind) had heard his wife’s quiet prayers and come for the first time to church the next day. He most likely was just pretending to be repentant, as abusers do, to keep his rear end out of jail. A wife is to be protected from her husband’s sin/abuse; she is not to enable it by mindlessly submitting to any treatment a sinful man wants to dish out.
Patterson deserves his due. He has done great good in his life. He was one of the architects who turned the Southern Baptist Convention (and its schools) back toward its historic belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. He has served the Kingdom well (for the most part), but past good doesn’t exempt Patterson from present wrong.
Sadly, it’s become common for theological conservatives and liberals to support “their people” no matter what they do. The same is clearly done in national politics. But some of us still have the integrity to believe that right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who’s doing it. When the “other side” gets it right—they’re right (whether we like it or not). And when our side gets it wrong—they’re wrong (no matter how much we hate to admit it). I’ve seen liberals over the years defend a professor who believed that Jesus sinned because they knew the professor and thought that he was a “good” guy. Any person who defends anyone who tries to use God or the Bible to shame or guilt-trip women into submitting to abusive husbands is playing the same game the Catholic Church has played defending pedophile priests.
People of integrity cannot support wrong-doing, no matter how much they wish they could. We’ve all loved Bill Cosby and laughed our heads off at his comedy. His Cosby Show was a great model of what a family should look like. But now we have to come to grips with the kind of person Cosby really is—a sexual predator and serial rapist. I don’t know about you, but I have no interest whatsoever in watching any Cosby reruns or listening to any of his comedy routines.
Jesus raised the bar on the treatment of women. He forgave a woman caught “in the very act” adultery; the Pharisees (who didn’t bring the guilty male for judgment) wanted to stone her. The Woman at the Well had been married five times and was shacking-up with another man when Jesus met her. Rather than condemning her, Jesus offered her grace and a new and better way to live. Some women traveled with Jesus and His disciples. This was unheard of in that day when it was absolutely a man’s world. After Jesus was resurrected, the first person to see Him was a woman.
Jesus taught that love is spelled g – i – v – e. He taught that leadership was servanthood (the greatest among us would be the servant of all). Paul said that men are to love their wives as much as Jesus loves us…that’s the complete opposite of abuse. Controlling (time, friends, money, thought, etc.), dominating, and abusing (mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically, or spiritually) in any way are the complete opposites of Christian manhood, behavior, and love. Just as Catholics failed to protect children, anyone who seeks to shame an abused woman into staying in a dangerous marriage (as Patterson has) is failing to protect women.
Beth Moore is a hugely popular Christian speaker and author. She said this about Patterson:
“It comes down to, once again, someone in the church putting the sanctity of MARRIAGE over the sanctity of a HUMAN BEING. Namely, a woman who is being abused by her husband. And it is quite simply, wrong. Yes, my fellow women, we love our husbands, we honor our husbands, but NO, my sisters, we do NOT submit to abuse. Of any kind.”
A lot of women are speaking up about abuse. Frankly, they shouldn’t get a chance. The demand for change and accountability for abusers should be led by the good men of the church and this world. Ladies should be able to just tell their stories, sit back, and watch good men be warriors on their behalf. I’m committed to being one of those protectors and warriors. Let’s hear from two other such warriors.
Thom Rainer is the head of Lifeway Christian Resources. He said the following:
“There is no level or type of abuse of women that is acceptable. We have been called by God to show honor and respect to all women and girls. And I stand with all who say ‘no’ to any type of abuse of women at any time and under any circumstance.”
I like that...any type of abuse of women at any time and under any circumstance.
Gary Thomas is the author of over twenty books including Sacred Marriage and he's an international speaker. Gary is an advocate for building great marriages and saving troubled ones. He said the following:
“If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists. Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them.”
“Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives. We should confront and stop abuse, not enable it. Wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.”
The covenant of marriage does not give you permission to treat your mate any way you wish. It’s an obligation to treat your spouse the way you should (love, consideration, kindness, gentleness, serving).
Kevin DeYoung got it right when he said, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.” Most people have convictions about divorce that are based upon a couple of Bible verses or what they’ve heard. For a thorough Biblical explanation on why divorce is allowed, check out my message on Divorce, Remarriage, and Adultery. Did you know that God divorced Israel?
I’ve also been one of the few pastors who has addressed the issue of abuse in a message on a Sunday morning. For a real revelation and understanding of the subject, check out my message on Domestic Violence.
I’ve had a lot of respect and admiration for Paige Patterson over the years, but his opinions on abuse are unbiblical and inexcusable. He can admit he was wrong and ask for the collective forgiveness of women he has hurt (some were hurt literally) and men that he has offended. Even still, he should resign his position at Southwestern Seminary and publish a paper or book on why he’s been wrong about this all of his life.