What Do You Believe: Christians, Domestic Violence, and Divorce


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“Why doesn’t she just leave?”

“If she won’t leave, then that’s her problem, not mine.

“I just don’t understand.”

I’ve heard people make these statements about abused women.  It’s true, most people don’t understand.

It’s not easy to leave.

Leaving means admitting to the world that you let the one person you should trust the most hit you repeatedly.  In the Bible, this person is charged to love you as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-26). Everyone expresses shock when they learn of the abuse, but they don’t ever see the woman in the same light, again. She might as well be Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter.

Abusive spouses love to use the Bible to support their actions. They focus on Ephesians 5:22-24, though.  Wives be subject to your husbands.  They like that verse, and if their wife is a Christian, they use it to prove they have a right to do with her as they see fit.

But abusers don’t stop there.  They point out that the Bible uses “he” not “she” claiming the Bible states their superiority plainly.

I hate to say it, but the church doesn’t help.  It’s very hard to get a divorce, remain faithful, and continue to attend the same church.  I went from being one of the youngest members of the young marrieds group to an outcast of the group.  I wasn’t married.  Married women saw me as a threat to their own marriage. Single women saw me as unfair competition for the pool of available men.

I no longer belonged.

At this time, believers, good Christian people, presented the following verse to me:

But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32

Their point?  Unless he had been unfaithful and committed adultery, I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

But what about domestic violence?  Is that a matter of unfaithfulness?  I’ve heard some people argue that it is.  I will leave that one to the Bible scholars.

There is so much shame attached to being abused, and within the church, shame surrounds divorce.  Even today.  Imagine what it was like thirty years ago when I got my divorce. Is it any wonder that Christian women caught in an abusive marriage try to stay?  These are the main reasons I stayed with my husband for four years of torment.

Thank goodness, I decided I had had enough.

Many, many years later, someone showed me a new Biblical perspective on divorce:

Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and the Spirit of God lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy and that is what you are.  I Corinthians 3:16-17

My body is a temple for God. Should I remain in an abusive relationship and allow someone to destroy that temple? No!

My dearly loved brothers, understand this:  Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.  Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:19-22

If you look at the directives in the passage from James and combine it with the knowledge that our bodies are temples to God, then how can you stand by and allow someone to beat on you and curse you, to damage your body? How can you expose your children to such behavior?  James says to rid yourself of this filth and evil. He reminds you to be doers not just hearers.

I do not believe God expects any man, woman, or child to live in a life of abuse, especially abuse from someone  charged to love and care for them. I do not believe God expected me to stay for my husband’s good (I Peter 3:1), so that he might be saved through my actions.  If anything, my actions in leaving him probably taught him more about the marriage relationship and God then if I had stayed and continued to submit.

What do you believe?


16 thoughts on “What Do You Believe: Christians, Domestic Violence, and Divorce

  1. I agree totally with all that you have said. As a matter of fact, for all the reasons you mentioned, I remained in a verbally assaultive ‘marriage’ for 15 long, long years, accompanied by sneers and sadistic innuendos. The children were essentially ignored by their father: you can well imagine the emotional toll is has taken on them. It was a travesty for me and for my two daughters as well. I spoke with my Evangelical minister, at the time, after seven years, who told me that it would be a sin for me to divorce…period! I remained another agonizing seven years: by this time, alcohol expanded to other drugs. I sought legal counsel and divorced. This was no marriage. I was clapping with one hand, attempting to make a marriage out of something that had no resemblance to a marriage at all! Interestingly enough, he did not want a divorce. He just wanted to live the way he was living, with the house ( in ruins), as a pit-stop for the life he lived on his own. Year passed. I continued my education, worked as an R.N., and did not remarry for many years. This kind of trauma created in me, an enormous lack of trust in men, among other residual effects. I have since married a minister, a wonderful man who respects and loves me and treats me with kindness and tenderness. The Lord has blessed me abundantly. My favorite verse is…’Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.’ Psalm 116: 7

    • I hurt for you. I managed to get out after 4 years, so I count myself lucky. I, too, took a long time to remarry. I dated a lot of frogs in that time, but I didn’t mistrust men. I had plenty of good male examples to help me realize that all men aren’t bad. I was blessed in that way.

      Also, I’m not surprised your first husband didn’t want the divorce. Abusers usually don’t, but they live in fear of losing their spouses. Life is easy for them if the abused spouse stays because they don’t have to change. They keep on their destructive path and get worse as time progresses.

      God bless the man you married later. He sounds remarkable like my second husband.

      • Praise the Lord for a good man who knows how to treat a lady! And thank you for your kind words. Yes, mine was an extended period of time -but 4 years is too long; 4 months; 4 hours; even 4 minutes is too long to endure volatile, and cruel behavior from another human being, if we deem to call that human!

        I love the following verses and read them on numerous occasions while still in the marriage: Isaiah 55: 12, 13 “You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up. This miracle will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; it will be an everlasting sign of His power and love.” Sincerely, Carole Castagna

  2. I was just reminded that South Carolina has the highest domestic violence rate in the country. South Carolina also sees itself as a Christian state. Until religions of all sects and demoninations stop seeing women and children as submissive (property) to men- as not individuals in their own right entitled to rights as such – abuse will not end. We openly criticize the abuses of the Islamic sects, but Christians are in serious denial about the abuses in their own faith denominations. Abusers are criminals- period.

    • Connie, it’s true, South Carolina does have the highest rate. But so many abusers are never revealed, so it might not be the state with the highest occurrences. It could be the state with the highest number reported. The victims are afraid to do anything, so abuse goes unreported everywhere. The question becomes are we a state with more abusers or are we a state with more people willing to report the abuse?

  3. Continuation of above: My name is Carol Castagna. My website is: http://www.joyspalms.com Always wanted to be a missionary and I prayed for that when I was 14 years old. I was introduced to the Lord at age 5: it’s a beautiful thing to grow up with Him. So now, the Lord provided an opportunity by which I may tell of His love and mercy and grace…over the net! and I praise Him for that! Years ago, in the 1960’s and ’70’s it was unheard of for a Christian woman to divorce and certainly looked-down upon with all the repercussions that you mention. And yes, I know just what it feels like to be Hester Prynne. I was hoping though that in this year of 2015, people had more understanding about this critical issue. It sounds as though many people are still narrow-minded and judgmental. I am sorry, Barbara, that you had to live through that kind of deflating experience. I thank you for writing an excellent account of what domestic violence is like for the Christian woman. Sincerely, Carol

    • Carol, this happened 30 years ago, but I do see this attitude within church members. This is one reason why you don’t find many divorced people going to church. It’s sad because they need us more than ever, which will be part of m next post. If you’re interested in my story up to this point, select The Journey in the tags to the right of the post. I started at the beginning of my story and am progressing through my development of faith.

  4. I have loved reading all the comments and have been enriched by the experiences of women who came out of bondage. Knowing Whose we are, and how He loves us sets the final standard for love… God’s way.
    That’s it…period.

  5. Think victim. Victim’s have genuine reasons to fear leaving. And when the community you live in (church, family, neighbors) does not support you then where do you turn? Especially if you have children depending on you for food and clothing. I hear the term pro life thrown around quite a bit. But it seems to me that the term is restricted to only those in utero. Every one else from infants and children to the elderly in nursing homes are expected to manage for themselves. Society turns a deaf ear and then acts surprised when there is the occasional media blast.

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