Domestic violence series IV
Still quoting from the article by Steven Tracy entitled 'Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence'. I find it interesting that I have never heard domestic violence mentioned in the pulpit, in all the years I have been attending church. Why is this?
Some clergy are often silent about what needs to be said, namely that God hates abuse, and that domestic violence is sinful and unacceptable. This message is urgent for the whole congregation, but can be particularly empowering for abuse victims.
In one study of battered Christian women, when asked what they needed most from the church, abused women indicated two primary needs. They said they needed (1) the church’s recognition that violence against women and children is a problem even in the church and (2) a straightforward condemnation of domestic violence from the pulpit.
The condemnation of physical abuse is a dominant theme of Scripture, particularly in the Hebrew prophets. There are hundreds of Scripture passages that condemn abuse and proclaim God’s particular judgment on physical abusers. For instance, one of the seven sins that God hates is ‘hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17).
Repeatedly God declares judgment on abusers, whether they are part of the covenant community (Ezekiel 9:9-10) or whether they are pagans (Amos 1:3-15).
It is very empowering and encouraging for abuse survivors to hear their ministers declare from the pulpit “God hates abuse”; “God promises to judge harshly all unrepentant physical abusers”; “There is never any excuse for touching someone close to you in anger.” These statements are solidly biblical and need to be proclaimed from the pulpit.
Scripture makes it clear that God hates violence and calls his people, particularly spiritual leaders, to be assertive in protecting the abused and the vulnerable (Prov 24:11-12, Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3).
Clergy must take seriously all reports of domestic violence, must never minimize abuse victims’ concerns and must be willing to confront abusers boldly and offer practical assistance to victims.
This includes helping victims of domestic violence to develop a safety plan and access safe housing (community shelters or a family in the church) and assisting with financial needs.