Tag Archives: Christian

Emily Joy – Thank God I’m a Virgin

Here is a powerful spoken word poem by Emily Joy, reflecting on the idolatry of purity culture. The Youtube byline says, “‘Thank God I’m a Virgin’ is an exploration of the logical consequences of a Christian purity culture that places undue emphasis on the status of one’s virginity, especially female virginity, over against one’s character and heart. It seeks to correct and indict those who would set themselves up as judge of who is in and who is out of the kingdom and community of God on the basis of their sexuality.”

From the upcoming album, “All Prodigal Daughters and Sons”

Get this single on iTunes here: https://goo.gl/DBLzDs

Get this single on Amazon here: http://goo.gl/iRY3BF

Lyrics:
Well thank God I’m a virgin!
Or he probably wouldn’t want me.
I thought as I listened silently
While he told me
That he just couldn’t be with someone
Who had been with someone else,
Which is like 90% of adults by the age of 25,
So your already limited pool is shrinking very quickly,
But don’t let me discourage you.
Carry on.
Tell me how you saved yourself.
How you saved up enough points with God
To buy an unspoiled bride
And you will not settle for less.
Tell me about her white dress,
How it will “mean something.”
Tell me what it means.
Tell me what it’s like to have nothing you regret,
To have made it through life unscathed
By either bliss or pain.
What does that feel like?
Is it very lonely?
Or does it just feel safe,
Like keeping your cocoon heart all wrapped up and tucked away
Hoping to God someday it becomes a butterfly
Before it dies from the frost.
I hope whoever she is,
She meets all your expectations.
I hope enough of her heart is intact
For you to feel like the wait was worth it.
I hope she never knows you wouldn’t have wanted her
If she wasn’t a virgin.
Cause everybody knows a girl is only as valuable
As the men who haven’t touched her.
Only as desirable as the experiences she hasn’t had.
But baby, when you get to her,
She better know what to do in bed.
She better satisfy your wildest pornographic fantasies,
Know all the right ways to move
Body parts she has never had the chance to use.
Cause God would never fail you, right?
You waited on his timing, now he owes you.
Anything less is not the bill of goods they sold you.
So I hope it works out for you.
I really do.
But if it doesn’t, just remember what I told you.
That a heart cannot be divided into pieces
And given away till there is nothing left.
That the greatest gift you can give
Has nothing to do with your flesh.
That love is really just grace.
That a lifetime of avoidance
Does not prepare one for a lifetime of joy and pain.
That “virgin” is not a sexual preference,
Nor is it your birthright.
Baby, your insecurity is showing.
She chose you.
What more do you want?


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors – a place for redemptive dialogue about gender roles in the Church and world, and the plight of women due to sanctified patriarchy. Every human, as a divine image bearer, was designed for dignity and dominion in the care of God’s creation. We all submit and defer to one another, and love one another, avoiding hierarchy for the sake of the Kingdom. Believing in equality for women in the Church is not man-hating, it is restoring God’s intent for how we will live in the Kingdom of God.

If this is not how your church taught gender roles, visit our Fav Links page (at the top of this page) for lots of resources, and explore our archives for more information.

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Best of Summer Link-Up

We have a lot of catching up to do, Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  Once again, it has been a busy summer here in Vacationland.  Thank you for being patient and sticking with Becky and me even when our lives are overflowing with non-blog-related activity.  Every day, we post great links on our Facebook page, and I have just scrolled through to share my favorites here from July and August.  But first, feast your eyes on the scenery around my home in Maine.  Then you’ll understand why it’s such a popular destination!

~  On Biblical interpretation  ~
6 reasons 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems
“A broad principle we might derive from 1 Timothy 2:12 is “bad or bossy teaching is not permitted.”

Indispensible: Women Who Plant Churches “It’s hard to imagine a stronger affirmation of women as indispensable church planters than Paul gives the women of Philippi. Church planting efforts multiplied because he broke with tradition to partner with his sisters in Christ.  The mission Jesus entrusted to his church is demanding, so demanding that it requires a Blessed Alliance of men and women working together. In this challenging post-Christian world, we are learning afresh of God’s desire for the partnered ministry of women and men in seeing the gospel embodied and advanced through the planting of new churches. We must reclaim the biblical and apostolic conviction of the indispensability of women in church planting!

~  On how patriarchy hurts men and women  ~
How the Christian ‘masculinity’ movement is ruining men
“The Christian Bible paints for us a view of manhood that is much more complex than these simple stereotypes allow. For every biblical reference to warriors like Samson or Saul, we read of characters like young David, a harpist, who through no power of his own defeated a giant. We meet Simeon, known for patiently waiting decades to see God’s promise revealed. Jesus himself notably refused to fight back, even giving up his life and physical body in a history-making display of spiritual strength.  A closer reading suggests that the Bible’s heroes aren’t meant to be models of outward toughness but exemplars of inner fortitude. So why have so many Christians accepted secular standards of masculinity as the basis for biblical manhood?”

No, Focus on the Family, I do not want to civilize a barbarian
“I think our problem is a society that encourages men to be violent, not that women should be whatever-definition-Glenn-T.-Stanton-has-for-feminine so they can motivate men out of being a malignant cancer. If appreciating a woman’s opinion is life-changing, let men and boys, single and married, respect women and their opinions in every sphere of society – including in politics, in church, in the home, at work and in social settings.”

Why Donald Trump is Good for Evangelicals
“Kinder-gentler versions of manhood and calls for men to ‘man-up!’ and take charge that thunder from evangelical pulpits and appear in books addressing men merely situate evangelicals on the cultural manhood continuum. Such definitions are woefully inadequate and run the risk that men, like Trump, will take things too far. Worse still, they fail to offer men and boys the indestructible identity, dignity, meaning, and purpose that their Creator intended when he bestowed the imago dei on all his sons and daughters.”

Its Not OK, and We’re Not Alright
“Just because not everyone experiences the fallout of an oppressive system in the same way does not mean that the oppressive system does not exist. When someone reduces all the harm, damage, and trauma of purity culture down to something “weird” or calls our responses “melodramatic,” they are erasing us and dismissing our legitimate grievances. This happens because they have had the privilege of living in an oppressive system and not being significantly harmed by it.”

~  On abuse and protecting your children  ~
The Courage Conference – Lynchburg, VA   October 28-29
“Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience abuse in their lifetime, including those in church? And, for the last five years, child sexual abuse has been the number one reason Churches or Religious Organizations have ended up in court.  The Church is often the first place victims of abuse go to seek help and healing. If we are not educated and equipped to properly serve these hurting individuals, we can unintentionally neglect or even re-victimize them. This is why we created The Courage Conference. 

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife –  A Review “Reading this book also requires a willingness to reconsider one’s view of marriage. This is no simple task because her story raises questions regarding deeply held beliefs about marriage roles, male headship, and female submission that many evangelical Christians consider sacred and nonnegotiable. Yet the “silent epidemic” of domestic abuse that concerns Tucker is so dangerous and life-threatening within Christian circles, and so easily concealed, we cannot afford to brush her off and refuse to listen.”

5 Phrases That Can Help Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse
“That’s your vulva.”
“Stop.”
“No secrets.”
“Did you feel safe?”
“High five, wave, or hug?”

5 everyday ways to teach your kids about consent.
1. Ask for their consent often.
2. Teach them that their “no” matters.
3. Model to your child that “yes” can become “no” at any time.
4. Seek to understand.
5. Keep “regard” at the forefront of your mind.

~  On the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate  ~
Someone mansplain complementarianism to me (ormen, what is wrong with us?)
“Because ironically, the greatest argument against this elevated religious view of men—is men. We’ve created a historical body of work reprehensible enough to make Complementarianism laughable. If the abhorrent behavior of men is trying to make an argument for moral superiority, we ain’t looking’ that good, fellas. I think we need to make room at the table and the pulpit and the office, and realize that it’s been a long time coming and it’s a really good thing.” 

5 False Assumptions about Egalitarians
1. Egalitarians don’t respect Scripture.
2. Egalitarians are wishful thinkers when it comes to the Bible.
3. Egalitarians don’t understand complementarianism.
4. Egalitarians deny that men and women are different.
5. Egalitarians undermine the church.

History of Complementarianism – Part 1 and Part 2
TWW Commenters Weigh In On Complementarianism
A FUN read full of gems like this John Piper spin-off:

“If a complementarian man finds himself being taught by, or under the authority of a woman, I think he should endure it for a season.”

Mary Kassian Compares Women Who Teach Men in Church to Fornicators
“Kassian’s boundaries are difficult to follow since it appears that she finds loopholes for just about anything so long as she is doing it.”

safe_image

~  On sexism  ~
Are U.S. Millenial Men Just as Sexist as Their Dads?
“Taken together, this body of research should dispel any notion that Millennial men ‘see women as equals.'”

9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women
Let’s finish this link-up with a bit of humor.  It’s funny because it’s true. 🙂

An egalitarian and a complementarian walk into a blog…

I noticed that our post, “The Theology of Empowering Women: Part 1,” which is a transcription of a Kris Vallotton sermon, gets a fair amount of traffic, so I was scrolling down taking a fresh look at it this morning and saw in the comments section this interaction I had with a complementarian.  I want to share it in its own post because it seems to cover a broad spectrum of differences of perspective between the two ideologies, and also the misconceptions that complementarians have of egalitarians.

Your commentary is flawed in several areas.

  • Thank you for your comment, Jed. Can you show us how? This is a transcription, not my own commentary. I welcome yours.:)

    • The first and most obvious is that the author seems to distinguish between the extent of inspiration of Paul’s writings and the writings recorded about Christ.

    • He never says anything about inspiration. He talks about context. Paul was writing letters to specific congregations with unique cultural contexts. He is not suggesting that Paul’s words were uninspired. His words were just what those churches needed to hear – the intended audience for his letters was narrow, not larger like the Old Testament books of law, etc.

    • To generally make Paul’s writings only temporary and cultural has the same effect as destroying their authority which is gained from their inspiration. If one can dismiss Paul’s teaching about headship as only cultural and because of male dominance then the impact of the headship teaching is destroyed.

    • Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t say that Paul’s teaching is destroyed…only an incorrect interpretation of his meaning. Which is a good thing, if you’re misunderstanding someone’s meaning, to come to a right understanding.

    • Of course, there is the rub. What did Paul actually mean? Did he mean what thousands of people, hundreds of commentators over centuries have taught, or did he mean what some recent reinterpretation, in my opinion, diminution, of his teaching is now propounded. Modern reinterpretation is not necessarily better, indeed it could be argued to be worse, than is traditional teaching. If women should now be elders, in spite of hundreds of years of other teaching, then inherent to that teaching is the assumption that all of those commentators and all of those men and women over the centuries have been wrong. That seems to me to be a bit bordering on, if not outright, egotistical. “We now know better than did all those poor uneducated, culturally enslaved, predecessors of ours.”

    • I believe that highly educated people can be predisposed to see something from a culturally socialized perspective. we have deeply ingrained beliefs that stem from our environment and what has been modeled/taught to us. I’m learning that to see an issue from another perspective takes humility, not pride. Here is an excellent explanation of how this happens:https://thebeautifulkingdomwarriors.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/bob-edwards-fascinating-discussion-on-the-origins-of-male-authority-in-the-church/

    • While I don’t have the time now to respond in detail, what I do see is that the question Pilate asked, “What is truth?’ is still very much with us. If when Eve was created God did not intend for her to be a “helpmate” (older English) to her husband, why did the author of Genesis write it that way. If the Holy Spirit inspires God’s word through human authors, then He knows the future and the cultures of the future. He gave a trans-cultural principle in the creation of Eve. She was a helper to her husband. That in itself does not define male dominance, but it does speak to the Christian husband/wife relationship. Sorry, don’t have time right now for more. I do see a very dangerous slippery slope away from truth and inspiration to re-definition from a modern cultural perspective.

    • JN, I really appreciate you taking time to interact with me. I understand your concern. I come from a complementarian background myself, interpreting the Bible through that lens for nearly 30 years, as well as through my seminary years. I have only been studying this issue for the past four years after I was baffled by a call from God to co-pastor with my husband. Here is an egalitarian explanation of our understanding of “helpmate” that I found to be very ‘helpful’:). Again, thank you so much for your comments. I am enjoying our conversation!http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/a-suitable-helper/

    • The following Stott commentary gives a deep sense of the Biblical intention of the husband/wife relationship. The stereotypical condemnation of those of us who see equal value but differing roles is unfair and consequently without merit. One needs only to look at the human body to see the differences. If biologically we are different then emotionally, sociologically and spiritually we are different. Why to women want to be men or women want men to become women, as seems to be the case with some feminists and even some Christian feminists? For husbands to fulfill their God-given responsibilities they must be different than their wives. This by definition is complementarian. I know the Stott comment is long but I believe it will be helpful to keep this discussion Biblical not so strongly cultural. There is much more to be said, but this is already too long.

      THE MESSAGE OF EPHESIANS. A Commentary by John Stott.
      Ephesians 5:21-33 Summary.

      Taking the husband first, what Paul stresses is not his authority over his wife, but his love for her. Rather, his authority is defined in terms of loving responsibility. To our minds the word ‘authority’ suggests power, dominion and even oppression. We picture the ‘authoritative’ husband as a domineering figure who makes all the decisions himself, issues commands and expects obedience, inhibits and suppresses his wife, and so prevents her from growing into a mature or fulfilled person. But this is not at all the kind of ‘headship’ which the apostle is describing, whose model is Jesus Christ. Certainly, ‘headship’ implies a degree of leadership and initiative, as when Christ came to woo and to win his bride. But more specifically it implies sacrifice, self-giving for the sake of the beloved, as when Christ gave himself for his bride. If ‘headship’ means ‘power’ in any sense, then it is power to care not to crush, power to serve not to dominate, power to facilitate self-fulfilment, not to frustrate and destroy it. And in all this the standard of the husband’s love is to be the cross of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride. Dr. Lloyd-Jones has a striking way of enforcing this truth, ‘How many of us’, he asks, ‘have realized that we are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement? Is that our customary way of thinking of marriage?… Where do we find what the books have to say about marriage? Under which section? Under ethics. But it does not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement.’
      As for the wife’s duty in the marriage relationship, it surprises me how unpopular this passage is among many women. When it is read at a wedding and it provokes a feminine outcry, I find myself wondering how carefully it has been read and in particular whether it has been read in its total context. Let me spell out five points which will, I hope, demonstrate that it is not the blueprint for oppression which many think, but rather a charter of genuine liberty.

      a). The requirement of submission is a particular example of a general Christian duty.
      That is, the injunction ‘wives submit’ (verse 22) is preceded by the requirement that we are to ‘submit to one another’ (verse 21). If, therefore, it is the wife’s duty as wife to submit to her husband, it is also the husband’s duty as a member of God’s new society to submit to his wife. Submissiveness is a universal Christian obligation. Throughout the Christian church, including every Christian home, submissiveness is to be mutual. For Jesus Christ himself is the paragon of humility. He emptied himself of his status and his rights, and humbled himself to serve. So in the new order which he had founded he calls all his followers to follow in his footsteps. ‘Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another.’ (1 Pet.5:5). Should not the wife even rejoice that she has the privilege of giving a particular demonstration in her attitude to her husband of the beauty of humility which is to characterize all members of God’s new society?
      This is specially so when it is seen that her self-humbling is not coerced but free. It must have been very obvious in the ancient world. The wife had no status and few rights, as we have seen. Yet the apostle addresses her as a free moral agent and calls upon her not to acquiesce in a fate she cannot escape, but to make a responsible decision before God. It is this which ‘begins the revolutionary innovation in the early Christian style of ethical thinking.’ Voluntary Christian self-submission is still very significant today. ‘Jesus Christ demonstrates rather than loses his dignity by his subordination to the Father. When a person is voluntarily amenable to another, gives way to him, and places himself at his service, he shows greater dignity and freedom than an individual who cannot bear to be a helper and partner to anyone but himself. Ephesians 5 supports anything but blind obedience or the breaking of the wife’s will. Rather, this chapter shows that in the realm of the crucified Servant-Messiah, the subjects respect an order of freedom and equality in which one person assists another – seemingly by renouncing rights possessed, actually in exercising the right to imitate the Messiah himself…A greater, wiser, and more positive description of marriage has not yet been found in Christian literature.’
      ________________________________________
      The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.

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    • I think it is important to note that the earliest copies of Ephesians do not repeat the word “submit” in verse 22. Paul wrote in vs. 21 to all Christians to submit to one another, and goes on to describe what that would look like in marriage. There were also no verse numbers or titles when Paul wrote his letters, so vs. 21 and following were more clearly connected thoughts. The injunction, “wives submit” was edited later on and does not come from Paul. I agree with Stott’s commentary about mutual submission, which I think this passage in Ephesians is fleshing out.

      I would also like to say that I do not condemn complementarians. I respect your viewpoints and I understand your heart in the matter – you love Jesus! You love God’s Word! You are here talking with me because you care about truth. It would be unjust of me to think poorly of you and not give you the benefit of the doubt.

      And I don’t think the idea is to make men women and make women men. Feminism is about equality between men and women. Egalitarianism is a worldview that believes God’s heart on the matter of gender roles is that there is no more male or female, we are all one in Christ. Not that biologically we are not different, but spiritually God gives gifts and callings regardless of gender, and leadership in the Church is open to women.

    • No male nor female clearly is not a statement of redefinition of cultural roles or Paul would be denying himself. The matter of value is the issue. Men never were more valuable spiritually before the Lord, but you cannot read Scripture and not distinguish role differentiations. You have not Biblical basis to say that all Scripture was tainted by culture and is therefore invalid when the culture changes.

    • I never said Scripture was “tainted” by culture, or that it is invalid when the culture changes. I said you have to consider culture when you are interpreting the meaning of a particular passage. We all read Scripture through a cultural lens, interpreting according to our deeply ingrained cultural associations.

      What would Paul be denying himself of? I don’t think Paul’s spiritual authority came from his maleness. It came from God.

    • Paul cannot both say there is not difference in everything in one place and there is a difference in other aspects in another place.

    • There is the question that first bothered me as a complementarian. If male-only authority is the rule, then why are there so many exceptions to that rule throughout the Bible?

    • What exceptions? If you are referring to the female judge, she herself was reluctant to exert that authority. Almost every principle has a few exceptions. Is there ever a time to lie? The pretend beggars with worn clothes and dried bread lied. The mothers of Egypt lied when they hid their male babies. So, obviously there are exceptions to good principles.

      The clear historical teaching of Scripture is the male headship of the home. The male eldership in Israel. The male eldership in the church. Why does the modern feminist movement believe it has the right to contradict the Bible. Male leadership is not male dominance nor female subservience at its core, it is order. The human body has a head. The visible church in the world has a head (the group of male elders). Why does anyone think that what God prescribed in the Old Testament and described in the New Testament is less acceptable now because we have feminism demanding “equality.” There is no such thing as equality in function. Equal value, yes, but never equal function.

    • Here are some more exceptions: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-propriety-of-women-with-authority/. This article talks more about N.T. female church leaders:http://godswordtowomen.org/pastors.htm. And this is an excellent post about women’s leadership in the early church:http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1988/issue17/1706.html.

      I would highly recommend reading this article by Dr. Walk Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, on the Biblical teaching on women:http://www.cbeinternational.org/files/u1/resources/14-kaiser-pdf.pdf.

      And here is an article on Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:21-33: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-main-point-in-eph-5_22-33/.

      Also, this article on “Kephale and Male Headship in Paul’s Letters.: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

      I strongly disagree with you that Egalitarians (this is not a feminist movement) believe they have a right to contradict the Bible. People have had different views on many issues since the beginning of Christianity. Egalitarians are not demanding “equality” because of a new cultural viewpoint on the Bible, they are demanding equality because they strongly believe God’s design is not hierarchical, that hierarchy is a result of the fall. They are trying to work with God towards reconciling the world, abolishing the effects of sin. I am sharing these articles to demonstrate the Egalitarian perspective. It doesn’t come from an agenda but from an interpretation of Scripture. Both complementarians and egalitarians have a high view of Scripture. In fact, we have a whole lot in common. Just not the idea of male-only authority.

    • Dr. Walt Kaiser is a fine scholar. I however do not agree with his interpretation of the Genesis passage. Without that interpretation his extended arguments are much weaker, if indeed they can be maintained at all. The fact still remains that all the elders of the OT and the NT were men. All the description of responsibilities in the NT are for men. Paul does not say the elderess should be the wife of but one husband. He does say the elder should be the husband of one wife (technically, a one-woman man and not a one-man woman).

    • As you said, it comes down to interpretation. We can continue to go back and forth, but we are coming from very different perspectives and it is unlikely that either one of us is going to change our mind today. I was hoping more than anything to demonstrate that egalitarians are sincere followers of Jesus and that this is not a matter of rebellion towards God and His design. Jesus prayed that we would have a spirit of unity, and I believe that you and I can still affirm each other as brother and sister in Christ and go on with genuine love for each other despite our differences. I appreciate your interaction here on the blog and hope you continue to be a reader.

    • I have no problem with fellowship as open doors make such possible.

      What I do have a problem with is that there seems to be a willingness on the part of egalitarians to assume that we complementarians have a low regard for women. I don’t think that is fair nor do I think that women who are complementarians are in any way, for that reason, limiting themselves.

      The matter of headship is not only a Biblically correct thing, it is a freeing thing. As Christ is the head of the church, we are freed to respect his responsibilities toward us. As the husband is the head of the wife, she is freed to allow him his role. If his role is filled with love, it is not an onerous thing. It does bring order to the home as the head brings order to the body and as Christ being head brings order to the church body. If she “reverences” her husband, he will be strengthen and able to lead in a humble godly way as he should.

      But as you say, we will not likely persuade each other. Minds that are made up are hard to change.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn’t assume negative things about other people. Egalitarians should not assume complementarians have a low view of women, and complementarians should not assume egalitarians have a low view of Scripture. Because you know what happens when you assume something? You make an “ass out of you and me.”:)

      Thanks again and God bless.

    • URW


      Please Follow our blog if you enjoy learning about gender issues in the Christian Church, and “Like” us on FB for related posts from around the web.

      Also, I had to Google “URW” – in case you are also unsure what that means, it is “You’re welcome.”  I appreciated having this very civil conversation with JN!

Egalitarians on Twitter using #CBMW16

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood just wrapped up their T4G (Together 4 the Gospel) conference yesterday.  The conference was headlined by prominent Evangelical pastors and there was a separate women’s conference headlined by prominent complementarian women.  The theme was “The Beauty of Complementarity” and sessions included “God’s Design for Women,” “Bound for Life: Following Your Husband Through Life’s Challenges,” “Raising Godly Sons,” “Fitted for Flourishing: How the Bible Creates a Happy Home,” “Workers at Home: The Temptation to be ‘Mom Plus,'” etc.  According to CBMW, their hashtag #CBMW16 was used 2.4 million times throughout the conference, as attendees live-tweeted quotes and reflections…

…and as egalitarians responded with challenges to complementarian theology.  I am sure it was frustrating to the CBMW that they could not control the Twitter-sphere the way they could control the mic at their patriarchal conference.  Here are some of my favorite egalitarian tweets:

 


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The Courageous and Wise Naghmeh Abedini

Abedini_Statesman_Jones

“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.  Most people describe emotional abuse as being far more painful and traumatic than physical abuse.  One only has to read reports of prisoners of war to begin to understand the traumatic effects of psychological warfare using emotionally abusive tactics–and this is when the behavior is perpetrated by one’s enemy.  When the abusive behavior is perpetrated by someone who promises to love and cherish you, it is even more devastating and destructive.

Leslie Vernick, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, campaigned vigorously for three and a half years for the release of her husband from an Iranian prison.  She has always displayed tremendous grace and a brave, beautiful spirit.  Saeed’s imprisonment was unjust, cruel and horrifying, and thousands were praying and advocating for him.  Iran finally released Saeed on January 16th and early this week he was back home in Idaho and has been reunited with his parents and children.

But not Naghmeh.

In November, Naghmeh wrote a personal email to prayer partners explaining that she would be halting her advocacy of Saeed on grounds of emotional and sexual abuse and his addiction to pornography.  Her confidential message was leaked to the press and suddenly their marriage has been put under the glare of public scrutiny.  I have been following this story all along and have seen support and love expressed to Naghmeh on her personal Facebook page, and also disgusting, cruel comments on articles from unsympathetic Christians who are disappointed that Saeed’s reputation has been tarnished.  Even ugly speculations that she has fabricated this story so that she could move on to another romantic relationship.

I am so proud of Naghmeh.

It is not easy for a victim of abuse to speak up.  I can only imagine that she has brought her abuse to the attention of others from time to time over the years only to receive minimal or no help.  She was not trying to “out” Saeed as an abuser.  She was desperate for relief from the emotional torture.

Sadly, much of Christendom continues to operate under the oppressive system of patriarchy.  Men are given privilege and women are subjugated and the conditions become ripe for abuse.  Yesterday, Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis said, “I have stated publicly and in my classes that white patriarchy reigns virtually unchallenged in cultural evangelicalism….Patriarchy has evolved to maintain and protect the illusion, for men, that we are entitled to be obeyed and served.”

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

There are women in your church who are victims of domestic violence.  If your church doesn’t talk about domestic violence, it is probably even more prevalent.  Is your church a safe place where victims are heard, violence is condemned, and brothers and sisters in Christ are encouraged to love and submit to each other mutually?  Would Naghmeh receive support or shame if Saeed’s abuse came to light in your faith community?

Are you being abused by your partner?  You are worthy of safety and sanity.  Please look to Naghmeh’s courage and follow her example of seeking the help that you need.  It is not on you to protect your abusive spouse from the consequences of his sin.  It is not on you to hold a marriage together that has already been broken by abuse.

Yesterday, Naghmeh released this statement that is both gracious and honest:

Dearest Friends,

Saeed landed in Boise yesterday and had a wonderful reunion with the children. They will be spending more and more time together in the coming days. I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed. Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.

I am so thankful for the thousands of people who have responded to my pleas… and helped work toward Saeed’s release. His imprisonment was unjust, and was an extremely difficult ordeal for him and all of us who sought for his release. I worked tirelessly night and day toward that end for three-and-a-half years. Nothing has made me happier than seeing Saeed freed from his chains and in American soil. Thank you for all of you who stood with us and made this happen.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred. Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

I long more than anyone for reconciliation for our family and to be united as a family. Since Saeed’s freedom I have wanted nothing more than to run to him and welcome him home It is something I dreamed about the last 3.5 years. But unfortunately things did not work out that way and our family has to work through reconciliation. I want our reconciliation to be strictly based on God’s Word. I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse. Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage.

In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing. I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved. I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.

I love you all. God will see us through. Thank you for your prayers and support. We need them more than ever.

Love

Naghmeh

Please pray for Naghmeh as she walks this difficult path to healing and freedom.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  As Saeed has broken free from the chains of an Iranian prison cell, may Naghmeh break free from the chains of emotional abuse and move forward into living an abundant life with Christ.

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If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need “to establish boundaries as you work toward healing,” here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
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Myths about Domestic Violence

I wanted to share these excellent posts from TrueLove Homes with you:

MYTH #1: Domestic Violence only happens to poorer, uneducated women
MYTH #2: Domestic violence doesn’t affect that many people
MYTH #3: Abuse only constitutes physical injury
MYTH #4: Substance abuse causes domestic abuse
MYTH #5: Once we (fill in the blank), he will no longer abuse me
MYTH #6: He’s saved so he must be safe
MYTH #7: If it’s that bad, a victim of domestic violence would just leave
MYTH #8: The abuse must not have been that bad or she would not have returned to him
MYTH #9: All victims of domestic violence get custody of their kids
MYTH #10: Upon leaving an abusive relationship, life gets better

factsaboutdv

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Chapter 1 – Something is Radically Wrong

As I promised on our Facebook page, we will blog ragamuffin gospelalong with our small group discussions of Brennan Manning’s book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” Amazon’s number one best-seller under the category of Christian Discipleship.  Now is the perfect time to pick up a copy – it is on sale!  Last April, I blogged about listening to Brennan Manning’s sermons during Lent and how I was impacted by his message of God’s unconditional love.  You can read that post here.  Our group is meeting the first and third Fridays of the month, slowly discussing “The Ragamuffin Gospel” chapter by chapter.  So April 3rd we talked about chapter 1, “Something is Radically Wrong.”

This chapter in a nutshell is talking about American Christianity’s tendency to talk grace but walk works.  We preach a Gospel of grace – “the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on Calvary” (pg. 15) – but our lives tell a different story.  We have “twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper” (pg. 16).  We are all striving, striving, striving for approval from God and from our faith communities, emphasizing personal effort over grace.  There are different classes of Christians, where some are given special status because of their works and charisma while others are ignored altogether for their ordinariness.  We hide our darker side from each other and live in a constant state of “existential guilt…[and] Sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency.  Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut” (pg. 17).

GUILTragamuffin guilt 1

This was the word that we danced around the most in our conversation, and I have been keenly aware of its presence in conversations with others over the past week.  Guilt is a huge issue for men and women alike, but from a woman’s perspective, I see how guilt has become a perpetual state of being for many of us.  Yet our feeling of guilt–that we are not doing enough as Christians, as parents, as spouses, as family members, as employees, as citizens of the world–is a blatant rejection of the gospel of grace.  The solution is to admit our “shadow side” and accept that there is nothing we can earn by works.  All is a gift.  We must find our identity in our acceptance and love from God and not in how we perform.  Manning expresses this beautifully in this quote from page 25:

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes.  I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play games.  Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.  As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes.  It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches.  For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift.  All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.  While there is much we may have earned–our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love.  We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh.  We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.  This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer.  Even our fidelity is a gift.  “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”  My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

ragamuffin guilt 2

Let me leave this post with a few more quotes:

“Justification by grace through faith” is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.”  He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change.  He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us.  He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners.  False gods–the gods of human manufacturing–despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do” (pg. 20).

The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there.  No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle (pg. 23).

As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me.  When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed.  God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am.  Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him.  I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness (pg. 23).

Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted (pg. 28).

Often I have been asked, “Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?”  It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes off Jesus.  Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel.  Because  justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table” (pgs. 30-31).