As I explained before, all too often the topic of domestic violence is raised not in a good faith effort to protect against real abuse, but as a club against husbands to bring them into submission. The concept of a husband as head of household is unbearable to feminists, and framing the ordinary husband as a rabid potential abuser who must be held in check (lest he terrorize his innocent and defenseless wife) is the feminist’s most effective tool in destroying the concept of headship. This is as true for Christian feminists as it is for their secular counterparts.
Joel and Kathy Davisson are so over the top and farcical in applying this method that they come across as more of a caricature of it than serious practitioners. But nevertheless they are serious, and if you want to understand the mechanics of how feminists go to war with biblical headship, study the Davissons first. Once you see the mechanics of the tactic used so brazenly and clumsily by the Davissons, the more subtle and sophisticated use of the tactic by more mainstream Christian feminists becomes transparent as well.
No matter who is using it, the key to the effectiveness of this tactic is in putting the defenders of biblical headship in a position of trying to explain why they aren’t either abusers themselves or supporting abuse. This move clears the table of the biblical relationship between husbands and wives, and dares those who aren’t at war with the Bible to try to plead for space to allow even a little of the biblical framing of marriage back in. The begging and pleading is doomed to fail, as the feminists have entirely reset the frame and created new rules for the game:
Prove that the Word of God isn’t abusive and sexist, and that you aren’t really just a monster hiding behind the Bible!
The defenders fail before the first word has left their mouths, because they fail by accepting this frame. No amount of pleading or earnest assurance will placate the new spiritual authority and convince them that the portions of the Bible which offend them actually mean what they say. Abuse is the Christian feminists’ nuclear trump card against headship, and they play it with impunity.
34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Commenter Zundrah responded with an amusing rationalization before clumsily playing the abuse card:
My minister once told me – the women were seperate from the men. One side of chapel male – one side all female. Apparently the women would shout out to their husbands for answers on queries. I personally don’t believe that though (who would shout out in church?) But seriously… let’s be honest, the writer of this letter is obviously abusing women. Unfortunately, that is common in churches especially back in those days!
Hope women are not hurt by this – remember that jesus did not say that. A human man did but not our Lord christ who loves us unconditionally!
This mixed tactic of denial while half heartedly claiming abuse wasn’t effective though, and several other commenters grudgingly stated that the passage indeed appeared to mean what it says, and that it related to the spiritual headship of husbands. Zundrah gathered her composure and replayed the abuse card, this time with feeling:
Hmm, well excuse me but I will not hear this. Christ said love you neighbour. He did not say “34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission.”
Christ said “come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will grant you peace.” How ever he did not say “Women are second rate and should be submissive even if their husbands batter and abuse them. Christ clear single message was; LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS THE FATHER LOVES YOU! He would never say to women “be submissive”. Submission is what a dog does when you kick it! Not women of eve that God made with his own divine and loving hands. Think before you say so little on a very sensitive subject. Some women who read this might have been raped at some point of their lives. So to just say to them “be fully submissive” sounds very malicious and pure evil to me!
This was much more effective, although ultimately some of the men commenting were able to bring the conversation back to the long established Catholic reading of the passage. Throughout the discussion Zundrah follows the standard Christian feminist pattern of throwing out mutually exclusive explanations for why the verse in question should be ignored. She started with the funny story about wives calling over to their husbands in another section during the middle of the service, and then moved to the argument that it meant what it said but that it needed to be disregarded because some women have been raped. Ultimately she signs off on another woman’s explanation with a heart felt “Amen!”:
It doesn’t mean anything. At least not for todays christians, it was just speaking about the people that lived thousands of years ago. God left this in the bible to show us how things have changed.
The important thing to remember when you encounter women like Zundrah is none of her arguments have any real meaning, and shouldn’t be responded to as if they were a logical and/or sincere discussion of the Scripture. She is furious with this part of the Bible, and what comes out is pure emotion imitating the form of a logical argument; it isn’t an attempt to discuss the issue logically.
This tactic tends to be even more effective on Protestants, and Focus On The Family has an entire series of articles on “emotional abuse” by Mary J. Yerkes. She introduces the topic in Understanding Emotional Abuse, explaining that churches are teeming with abusive husbands who need to be kept in check:
While statistics are elusive, experts agree that emotional abuse—for mostly women, but some men as well—have reached epidemic proportions. And despite its everyday occurrence, few of us recognize it, identify it or even do anything about it.
Elsewhere she explains:
Emotional abuse is rampant in our culture, and Christians are not immune.
In Emotional Abuse in the Local Church she quotes another woman:
“In the pews of every church, including yours, are women who are victims of abuse,”
She explains that the problem is abusive men twisting Scripture:
In regards to abuse within marriage, some misinterpret Ephesians 5:22 to justify abusive behavior.
She offers as an example the same piece of Scripture which enraged Zundrah at Catholic Answers Forums. We learn of one abusive husband named “Mark” who abused his wife by quoting the hurtful verse:
Although Janet had questions, she remained silent in order to “submit” to her husband. Like many abusers, Mark distorted Scripture to manipulate his wife’s behavior.
Just as the secular feminists define a man who holds traditional gender roles as abusive, the Christian feminist warns women that a traditional reading of the Bible is the tell tale sign of an abuser. Christian wives need to be ever vigilant, lest they become abused. In Healing the Wounds of Emotional Abuse, she offers “biblical principles and practical tips for healing”. Chief among these is the importance of recognizing your Christian husband as an abuser.
If you are reading this article, chances are you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship.
This is where the biblical approach becomes so crucial:
Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the reality about a potentially abusive relationship. Admit you are being abused and recognize the damage it has done.
The other key approach for wives is to recognize the danger of submitting to their husbands. This traditional (and therefore twisted) reading of the Bible overlooks the Bible’s real wisdom for wives, the need to set boundaries:
Set appropriate boundaries. In the excellent book, Boundaries—When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, explain how and when to set appropriate, biblical boundaries.
I’ve offered just two examples, but once you recognize the tactic you will notice it everywhere. The problem with the tactic is it makes it impossible to have an honest discussion of either biblical headship and submission or how to respond to actual abuse. It is a pungent emotional stink bomb designed to clear the room, and it is incredibly effective at this. Our best tactic against this is to recognize it for what it really is and deal with it accordingly.