Thursday, February 23, 2012


I read several blogs about marriage and male/female relations. I also dip into the Focus on the Family forums when I'm completely desperate for entertainment or nursing a terrible mood that I need to improve by comparing myself to those poor unfortunates. (I really do actually have a lively interest in psychology and counseling. I'm not just enjoying a particularly nasty and impersonal schadenfreude.)

Reading today's tales of woe brought home to me how secular my thinking is becoming. The particular threads I read were all started by women. All chronicled staggering emotional/verbal abuse, incredible financial irresponsibility, and rampant, unrepentant adultery. The advice was all gentle and supportive, with many pious wishes for spiritual renewal in the offender. I got mad. That is the worst advice anybody could give to people who are suffering like that. I could tick down most of the however-many thousand threads in there and change those peoples' lives with two lines: "S/He is abusing you. Leave." (And if I really wanted to do the cruel-to-be-kind thing, I could add "You can leave now, or you can leave later with an STI and an extra child you can't afford.")

I believe this is one area where the Church is failing her people. Yes, Christians should follow the procedure for rebuking a wayward brother. Yes, Christian spouses should be patient and longsuffering. I don't dispute any of that. I believe the Bible gives the correct procedure for dealing with habitual and unrepentant sin. However, I don't believe that enough people are told that when their spouse is that sunk in sin, stupidity, and selfishness (SSS), they are too far gone to be reasoned with. When your spouse is that far gone, they no longer see you as someone toward whom they have any obligation. They don't see you as human, in fact. You are merely an inanimate object that exists only for their convenience. So when you protest, demand pastoral mediation, and Christian counseling, they are as astonished as if their toilet started complaining about its ill-usage while they were sitting on it.

With that in mind, it's clear to see how the normal Christian platitudes about redoubling prayer and submission reinforce the problem. Staying in the home, suffering in silence, trying to love someone out of their sin gives the offender absolutely no reason to change. After all, you're contributing to the problem because you seem to be putting up with it. Your very presence is used against you as tacit acceptance.

So to anyone who's suffering like the people in those forums, please take care of yourself and your children first. Leave the abuser to stew in his/her juices. Pray fervently and let the Lord deal with him/her. Maybe your marriage can be restored after a time. But you should consider whether your abusive spouse needs to see the power of the Lord when his/her passive "toilet" suddenly grows legs and walks out.

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