The October issue of Christianity Today includes an article by Janice Shaw Crouse on the church's obligation to minister to victims of domestic violence. Crouse recounts data on domestic abuse in the U.S., including the staggering figure that 1.8 million women are abused by boyfriends or husbands. (She doesn't mention the equally chilling statistic that the single greatest cause of death among pregnant women is murder at the hands of their partners.) Crouse also features some (rather vague) anecdotes about how the church has failed in its duty to help these battered women escape danger:
We must face an unwelcome truth: Many of the attacks on the church come from women who have experienced great pain in their lives, either because someone in the church caused their pain or they found the church impotent in response. One woman tells of being counseled to be "more submissive" so that her husband would quit battering her....Yet another describes her abuser as a wealthy, well-respected leader in her church and community. Another woman, in telling about her journey of escape from domestic violence, reports that when she finally found the courage to approach a pastor, he responded: "God never gives us more than we can handle."
Of course it's impossible to know how widespread these pastoral and church failures are, but it's certain that there are some Christians who sinfully pervert scripture to encourage women to stay with partners who harm them. Crouse is right in calling for the church to better support women fleeing abusive relationships.
Crouse's valid points on domestic violence raise questions that she doesn't address, however. What about the men? Crouse neglects to discuss how the church can engage the men who abuse their wives or girlfriends. If some pastors' attitudes toward domestic abuse encourage women to remain in dangerous situations, it could also be possible that these same attitudes fail to deter husbands from harming their wives. Instead of just providing refuge for battered women, can the church also play a role in preventing domestic violence? Crouse addresses an important topic but she only goes halfway in her examination of how the church can intervene.