“In conversations with a couple of Christian girlfriends about my situation, I discovered that their Christian husbands were also physically and emotionally abusive. And in October of this year, I met another young woman at a Christmas event who admitted that her Christian husband was also guilty of abuse but mostly of the emotional variety.
“[…] When she sought […] counsel, he said that she should submit to her husband, as the Bible commands women to do in Ephesians 5:22.”
Former journalist Akilah Holder claims that she suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband and pastor in a Wired868 guest column:
I am a victim of domestic violence at the hands of a Christian husband. No, your eyes did not deceive you. Let me repeat it: I am a victim of domestic violence at the hands of a Christian husband.
Amazing, uh? That a professed man of God and a former youth pastor would be physically abusive. Well, it happened. He was.
My husband, a professed Christian, was also verbally abusive, addicted to pornography and an adulterer (who entered into several online affairs).
In conversations with a couple of Christian girlfriends about my situation, I discovered that their Christian husbands were also physically and emotionally abusive. And in October of this year, I met another young woman at a Christmas event who admitted that her Christian husband was also guilty of abuse but mostly of the emotional variety.
My church leaders—two of them anyway—handled my situation correctly but the pastor of the last woman mentioned dismissed her concerns. When she sought his counsel, he said that she should submit to her husband, as the Bible commands women to do in Ephesians 5:22.
I am familiar with that verse. I spent years suspicious of God because of it and I have not the slightest doubt that it is the same verse that my husband—he never mouthed the words but his whole attitude screamed, “I am Lord over you!”—and the husbands of the women I have already mentioned rely on to justify their actions.
I am certain that it is how they justify—to themselves if not to the world—their abusive and inconsiderate actions (it would be completely unreasonable to expect them to admit that they have emotional issues).
What is worse is the failure of some Christian churches to properly deal with the issue of domestic violence, indeed, even to begin to address it. Moreover, these same churches fail to explain correctly the notions of leadership and submission as put forward in the Bible.
As a result, men, born, one might argue, with fragile egos, grab hold of the foolish explanations of submission and leadership offered by some preachers; and women believe that they need only pray for things to turn around (my advice would be to offer up prayers for him—but from a safe distance).
Some women feel obligated to stay in a home with an admittedly abusive mate because their pastor told them to. It is worth asking this question: would these pastors take their own advice or give the same advice to their daughter?
I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that, if my husband had remained in my home, he would have killed me. No kidding. Had he stayed in our home, there is no question that he would have, in a fit of rage, killed me; he was that violent.
It’s not that I want to put my business out there. But it is necessary to confront this issue with a view to rescuing the women who need rescuing and enlightening the men who also need to be rescued though largely from themselves.
For, in the words of American feminist Carol Hansich, “the personal is political.” According to Hansich, the term ‘political’ can apply to other relationships of power in society, not just the one between the State and its citizens.
So yes, there is domestic violence in the Church and some so-called Christian pastors brush it under the rug and advise their female congregants to submit to these beasts. Moreover, their incorrect teachings on submission and leadership as explained in the Bible have turned men into chauvinistic and insensitive tyrants.
Yes, Ephesians 5:22-24 states that women should submit to their husbands and that men are the leaders of their home. But those verses are immediately followed by the commandment to men to love their wives as their own selves, as the Lord loved the Church.
Does anybody honestly believe that Verse 25 was added by accident? In error? Does anyone think it is by chance that it comes immediately after Verses 22-24?
Any half-decent teacher of literature will tell you what every good student of literature understands: nothing is in a book by accident. Every stroke of the pen is deliberate—content, book structure, sentence structure, chapter sequence; it is all deliberate.
So Verse 25 was not inserted in error; it does not follow Verse 24 by mistake. It should not be isolated from its context.
Taken as a whole, the verses talk about women voluntarily submitting to their husbands. Verses 22-28 of the Message version of the Bible puts it beautifully:
“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.”
Revolutionary, huh? A man is required to serve his wife so that she can submit and be her best self. Submission ought to be voluntary. And a leader, as far as God is concerned, is really a servant to those under his care.
So women, no, do not submit to a tyrannical husband. Do not stand by and allow someone to hit you or verbally abuse you. Stand up for yourself, God wants you to. His wisdom is infinite and he thinks a lot differently from what your (I bet) tyrannical and chauvinistic pastors would like you to believe. And that goes for non-Christian women as well.
Priests and pastors who condone this type of behaviour, shame on you! Priests and pastors who pussyfoot around the issue, shame on you. Please stop doing so now. Today.
And you, abusive men, please, grow up!
Editor’s note: In need of guidance and/or assistance with your domestic situation? Feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.