As I noted in my last post, for a husband to be acused of abuse, even with far fetched charges, is to be considered guilty of those charges. The Christian media’s reaction to Pastor Abedini’s wife accusing him of (among other things) sexually abusing her by looking at pornography and abusing her from inside an Iranian prison cell demonstrate this truth.
Religion News Network’s headline reads: Why imprisoned pastor’s wife kept her marital abuse a secret — until now. Having convicted Pastor Abedini in the headline, the RNN article presents Episcopal priest Justin Holcomb as an expert on the subject of Christian abuse. Holcomb explains that women rarely make false charges of abuse (emphasis mine):
[Holcomb] cites research that indicates one in four women will experience abuse in an “intimate partner relationship.” Holcomb advises pastors to talk more openly about domestic abuse, be accessible to abuse survivors, and collaborate with social agencies and law enforcement.
Abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes, he said. “It is extremely unusual for someone to lie about these kinds of claims.”
This would of course be startling news to anyone involved with the family courts, where it is an open secret that women use domestic violence accusations to give them a powerful strategic advantage. As divorce attorney Gregory S. Forman explains in Five Ways to Get a Spouse Out of the House:
Since Domestic Abuse orders are quick and efficient methods for getting a spouse out of the house, they are subject to abuse. Spouses will often attempt to prompt or instigate fights in order to call the police and set up domestic abuse proceedings. Since much domestic abuse becomes a “he said/she said” swearing contest, it is important to protect a client from false allegations of domestic abuse.
Charismanews writes in Naghmeh Abedini Claims Abuse, Halts Public Support for Imprisoned Husband Saeed (emphasis original):
So, many of us are involved here in a way that perhaps we often are not. So it’s worth our consideration about how we respond.
Second, we have to ask, what do we do now?
I think that there are five things we need to do in this situation.
1. We need to care about the accusations and the situation. It matters that a wife has spoken up. We should take seriously any accusations from those who speak up about abuse. Therefore, we are hurting with Naghmeh in this moment.
However, even though he is presumed guilty, we should of course still want to see him released:
2. We still need to care about religious liberty, and Pastor Saeed still needs to be freed. Yes, regardless of what happens going forward, his image is now “tarnished.” He, like all of us, has always been flawed. And no person, regardless of his or her flaws, should be imprisoned for sharing his or her faith.
Shattered Magazine picks up the same theme in Pastor Saeed Abedini Isn’t Perfect, Naghmeh Says, But We Still Pray (emphasis original):
Now, though Naghmeh asks supporters to continue praying for Saeed and his release, she will take time away from the public eye to heal from abuse and marital conflict.
Should We Still Pray For Saeed?
It’s a question that brings Christians to a “What now?” stand off. Saeed Abedini, a pastor we’ve highly regarded for his bravery and unswerving faith in the face of intense persecution, isn’t as perfect as we once thought. Do we reject Saeed because of his moral failure? Or do we continue to support Saeed, a Christian imprisoned for his faith, through prayer and advocacy?
In our disappointment in Saeed and sadness for Naghmeh, it would be easy (and tempting) to forget about Pastor Saeed because of his indiscretions, deeming him unworthy of our support. But we would be forgetting one important thing: Nobody is perfect.
All of this is a harbinger of what we can expect moving forward. Pastor Saeed is presumed guilty of absurd charges, even though he isn’t able to effectively respond to the charges. Further advocacy for his release will therefore mostly be “private” (following Naghmeh’s lead), and those media articles which do discuss his imprisonment will need to focus at least 25% of their copy on the importance of always believing women and the need for pastors to preach on the imminent threat every Christian husband poses to his helpless wife. Another 25% or more of the copy will need to be dedicated to questioning if/why we should advocate for such a man to be freed, with the obligatory final decision that yes, we should, because even though he is a wife abuser we still love him.