Dear Church: It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abusive Men

Late last night, the link to an important, powerful article came through my feed on Facebook. The title (used here as my post title, as well) was enough to hook my interest. I’d never consciously thought such a specific thing, but before I even clicked through I knew the author, Gary Thomas, was absolutely right.

I’ve seen it — that enabling — with my own eyes, in my own situation, at my own (former) church. And plenty elsewhere, too.

To read the article in full, click HERE.

But whether or not you feel driven to take in the whole essay, which is approached from a Christian perspective, there are several noteworthy passages that I can’t leave unshared.

“If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

“This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.”

“When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.”

“I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his first wife left him.”

Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused and never treated as playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.”

This article only scratches a surface. Mr. Thomas approaches the topic as if the men in question might acknowledge their wrongdoing and be honest about circumstances and their behavior. This typically isn’t going to happen with an abuser—especially if the ball is passively left in their court—as there are powerful disorders and distortions at work. He will ignore and hide the truths, even lie about them to avoid any accountability, also paving the way for his continued misbehavior.

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photo borrowed from the original article on ForEveryMom.com

But this writer is absolutely right to call out the church and its leaders, for not confronting their men and for not demanding humility and guiding change, real change. It’s right for this writer to call out the church’s followers, too, who are often too quick to turn a blind eye and make uninformed assumptions, as well as harsh, mislaid judgments toward the women/victims.

Why aren’t we protecting the women, instead siding with the men? Why do we so easily offer blind acceptance when swift consequence is warranted? Why don’t we loudly demand that men own up to their behavior or else?

Awareness and advocacy and education can be so powerful, and those efforts must be present in church homes as much as anywhere else.

I’ve done a lot of research, and therapeutic efforts (we’re talking intense, long-term therapy) for rehabilitation are only successful a scant 10% of the time—and that’s for the few who actually recognize a problem with need for change and put forth authentic effort to begin with. First must come an internal awareness, and those who perpetuate the abuse inherently fight that awareness, day-in and day-out. There is usually no hope, and this is heartbreaking.

These norms and staggering statistics won’t begin to shift until or unless others — whether someone in a position of authority, like clergy or law enforcement, or everyday folk like you and me — begin to call out and hold abusers accountable for their incredible wrongdoing.

Until abusers are told (and told and told and shown) that we aren’t going to allow it anymore, nothing is going to change.

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