The Church and Violence against Women
Male violence against women is a real problem in our culture, one the church must address. Our responsibility here is not simply at the level of social justice but at the level of ecclesical justice as well.
We must teach from our pulpits, our Sunday school classes, and our Vacation Bible Schools that women are to be cherished, honored, and protected by men. This means we teach men to reject American playboy consumerism in light of a Judgment Seat at which they will give account for their care for their families. It means we explicitly tell the women in our congregations, “A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.”
Church discipline against wife-beaters must be clear and consistent. We must stand with women against predatory men in all areas of abandonment, divorce, and neglect. We must train up men, through godly mentoring as well as through biblical instruction, who will know that the model of a husband is a man who crucifies his selfish materialism, his libidinal fantasies, and his wrathful temper tantrums in order to care lovingly for a wife. We must also remind these young men that every idle word, and every hateful act, will be laid out in judgment before the eyes of the One to whom we must give an answer.
In the public arena, Christians as citizens should be the most insistent on legal protections for women. We should oppose a therapeutic redefinition of wife abuse as merely a psychological condition. And we should call on the powers-that-be to prosecute abusers of women and children in ways that will deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.
Whatever our views on specific economic policies, we must recognize that much economic hardship of women in our age is the result of men who abandon their commitments. We should eschew obnoxious “welfare queen” rhetoric and work with others of goodwill to seek economic and social measures to provide a safety net for single mothers and abused women in jeopardy. We should join with others, including secular feminists, in seeking legal protections against such manifestations of a rape culture as sexual harassment, prostitution, and sex slavery.
An abusive man is not an over-enthusiastic complementarian. He is not a complementarian at all. He is rejecting male headship because he rejecting his role as provider and protector. As the culture grows more violent, more consumerist, more sexualized and more misogynistic, the answer is not a church more attenuated to the ambient culture, whether through a hyper-masculine paganism or through a gender-neutral feminism.
Instead, the answer is a truly counter-cultural church, a church that calls men to account for leadership, a leadership that cherishes and protects women and girls.