By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach
Domestic violence is much closer to us than we might like to think—it happens in our own homes, our extended families and our congregations. One out of four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime.
Domestic violence is a particularly disturbing crime. Home should be a place of intimacy and safety, a place where we are vulnerable and trust those we love. When that trust is betrayed by acts of violence, emotional pain adds to the physical pain.
Women who experience domestic violence frequently turn to churches for help. Unfortunately, churches are too often unwelcoming. Sometimes leaders even advise women to remain in situations of abuse.
Honestly facing the challenge of domestic abuse requires that we look at what our theology says about power, suffering and the equality of men and women.
Power is a gift from God but it is often abused. Many seek to grab power and use it to dominate others. This often grows out of a fear of losing power. But true power comes when one looks out for the wellbeing of others (Mark 10:42–44).
Suffering must not be imposed. Jesus set a powerful example in his willingness to suffer. As a result, the Christian tradition has long glorified the idea of suffering. However, when one who has power chooses not to use it, as Jesus did, that is very different than when one is forced to suffer. The latter is a perversion of power and clearly contrary to God’s will.
Men and women are equal in God’s sight. While many Scriptures have been interpreted as teaching that men are superior to women, there are also many biblical texts that show that men and women are created equal in God’s sight. An excellent resource on this topic is a booklet, “Created equal,” available through MCC’s website.
This issue of the Memo examines the ways in which U.S. domestic violence policies often overlook the needs of women of color, highlights MCC’s educational resources, and looks at the alarmingly high rates of violence against women in eastern Congo.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One concrete step your congregation can take is to sign a pledge, “Promoting peace at home”.
It takes courage for individuals and congregations to address the issue of domestic violence. But it is vital that we be willing to do so, if our homes and communities are to be safe places for all.