In our age claiming abuse is a powerful tool for wives to punish their husbands. This creates a profound temptation for wives to betray their husbands for any or no reason. Everything is abuse, and for a husband to be accused of abuse is to be considered guilty of abuse. This temptation is most powerful when families are already under strain.
We can see a disturbing example of this in the recent article from Christianity Today: Pastor Saeed Abedini’s Wife Halts Public Advocacy, Citing Marital Woes and Abuse. Pastor Abedini is serving an eight year prison sentence in Iran for spreading the gospel. In a Washington Post op-ed piece on October 23rd, Pastor Abedini’s wife wrote of the abuse her husband faces in the Iranian prison:
Since the nuclear deal in the summer, it is not only more difficult to maintain hope, but the reality of my husband’s situation has grown worse. He remains in grave danger and in need of medical treatment.
Even as President Rouhani was preparing to address the United Nations in New York last month, Saeed was being beaten and interrogated by Iranian guards in prison.
But as the Christianity Today article explains, shortly after writing the op-ed piecesent a series of messages to a mailing list of Pastor Abedini’s supporters accusing him of abusing her and announcing that she was halting her public efforts to have him released from prison (emphasis mine):
In two emails to supporters,  revealed details of her troubled marriage to Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012.
Those troubles include “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” she wrote. The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed’s imprisonment, she said. The two are able to speak by phone and Skype.
Touring the country to advocate for Saeed’s release while coping with marital conflict proved too much, she wrote.
However, even if you accept that looking at pornography is sexual abuse, surely Pastor Abedini isn’t being provided with pornography in the Iranian prison. Yetmade this accusation to his supporters after he had already been in prison for over three years, and claimed that the abuse had gotten worse after he was imprisoned. Likewise, his only contact with Naghmeh has been through phone and skype, so he can’t possibly be physically abusing her from prison either. This leaves the one possible remaining charge, that he has been emotionally and psychologically abusive since he has been in prison. While it is certainly possible that he has said unkind things to his wife while enduring prison and torture, surely Pastor Abedini can’t pose a threat to his wife from an Iranian jail cell. Any way you look at it, it is clear that this isn’t about protecting herself or her children, but about humiliating her husband. ‘s claim is that her reason for broadcasting these things is “to be real”, and to help her husband (emphasis mine):
It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore…
But that does not mean he has not been battling with his own demons which I am believing that he can be freed of…
I wanted to be real and ask you to pray for real things (I have opened myself up to you), but without judgment and without losing your love for your brother Saeed who is fighting for his life in the dark prison. This is what the Lord has been showing me, to love unconditionally the way He loves us. To see the sin, but love the sinner and to intercede for freedom from the sin. And not to give up. Not to ever give up on your loved one. To persevere and to endure.
None of the obvious problems with Naghmeh’s public accusations against her husband are brought up by Christianity Today. They present the allegations without challenge, even though he can’t possibly be sexually or physically abusing her from prison. The article opens with:
For the past three years Naghmeh Abedini has publicly battled her husband’s captors, advocating for his release from an Iranian jail.
Behind the scenes, she also struggled with his inner demons.
No matter how absurd the claim, the husband is presumed guilty merely by being accused. This is true even in an extraordinary situation like Pastor Abedini is in.
Pastor Abedini isn’t in a position to defend himself, and the woman he trusted to fight on his behalf is the one who has publicly attacked him. Along with his faith in God, knowing that his family and other Christians were supporting him has to have given him a source of strength while his captors have tormented him over the years. Knowing that he has been betrayed in this way must now make the torment all the more difficult to bear.
However, as bad as the situation is there is still a chance for Naghmeh to repent. She appears to at least partially understand the magnitude of what she did:
In a statement to Christianity Today, Abedini said she regretted sending the emails, which were written in a time of emotional distress.
This is a first step, but repentance would require truly turning away from this ugliness. Clearly she was in a position of emotional weakness, and the ever present temptation to punish her husband by claiming abuse was something she was not able to resist. If she confesses this, she can not only begin to right the wrong she has done to her husband, but she can also help modern Christians understand the cruelty of offering this temptation in the first place. There is no kindness in encouraging wives who are in pain to lash out to punish their husbands the way we do.