PODCAST: What Are Christian Resources NOT Telling You About Abuse?

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Abuse | 18 comments

What Are Christian Resources NOT Telling Us About Abuse?
Merchandise is Here!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month–and today I thought we’d take a look at what too many Christian resources are NOT telling us about abuse.

It’s another edition of the Bare Marriage podcast, and I wanted to make sure that we had at least one instalment for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (just as we had a podcast about boobs for Breast Cancer Awareness month–October covers a lot of ground). 

To start, I need to say upfront that I firmly believe that it’s okay to divorce for abuse. We didn’t argue that point in the podcast; we took it as a given.

But if you’re struggling with that, you can read this on why Wayne Grudem changed his mind about divorce for abuse, or this post on why I think divorce is sometimes necessary. 

I invited my friend Gretchen Baskerville, author of The Life-Saving Divorce, on the podcast!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

 

Timeline of the Podcast

0:30 Domestic Violence Awareness Month
2:45 Gretchen joins us for the podcast: Is FOTF a safe resource?
17:15 So, how does divorce affect my kids?
20:30 What does ‘life-saving divorce’ mean?
26:20 Identifying Abuse
33:00 Seeing concerning abuse examples in Christian resources
58:30 Encouragement!

Main Segment: What Are Christian Resources NOT Telling You About Divorce?

Focus on the Family and Divorce

Focus on the Family is supposed to be a safe resource for people seeking help with their marriage. But as we look at in this segment, the organization goes to great lengths–and even unethical lengths–to stop women from divorcing abusive men.

We started with looking at Focus on the Family’s take on divorce. This month, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, they’ve had some outstanding articles helping people recognize abuse–even spiritual abuse.

But there’s one thing you may not notice off the bat when you read those articles:

Even though they help people recognize abuse, they do not give people proper tools to deal with abuse, because they do not believe divorcing for abuse is allowed. 

So they’ll say that you separate to get to safety, but the aim should be reconciliation. And if you can’t reconcile, then you stay separated (even though that has tremendous legal implications that put her and the kids in jeopardy).

They don’t advertise this, but if you call in to their helpline, this is what they advise. And on their handouts about divorce, they say the only reasons for divorce are adultery or lifetime abandonment (whatever that means).

Focus on the Family tends to treat all divorces as if they are frivolous and selfish, when we know that over half of divorces are for abuse or affairs.

As Gretchen says, they also misrepresent research saying that divorce is bad for kids ALWAYS–even though this isn’t true.

Gretchen has spent quite a bit of time analyzing Focus on the Family’s articles about why divorce hurts kids, and notes how they misrepresent all of the researchers they quote. Research has found that children DO BETTER if parents divorce in an abusive marriage, and yet Focus on the Family’s articles have encouraged women to stay in those abusive marriages.

 

Gretchen Baskerville is a Christian in the Los Angeles area who has been doing Christian divorce recovery ministry in churches since 1998. As you can imagine, she’s heard many many heartbreaking stories of betrayal and abuse. She’s become increasingly concerned that the church demonizes divorce, rather than recognizing that there are times when divorce can be life saving. 

She is the author of the book The Life Saving Divorce

The Life Saving Divorce

Gretchen Baskerville

The Lifesaving Divorce

How Do Christian Books Hide the Truth about Abuse?

Next, I read some excerpts from Christian books to Gretchen to get her take on the problems.

Christian books can distort abuse advice in one of two ways:

  1. They can correctly identify abuse, but then downplay its seriousness or not tell women (or men) to get to safety
  2. They can describe a dynamic that is obviously abusive, but not name it as such, making people believe they actually aren’t being abused

We looked at excerpts from Love & Respect, Power of a Praying Wife, Married Sex, and Every Man’s Battle.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

 

Focus on the Family and Abuse
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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18 Comments

  1. Shannon

    Why do Christians act like God cares more about the institution of marriage over humans?! Of course marriage vows should not be taken lightly, but I think God wants His daughters to be safe. Talk about misusing the Bible! 🙁

    Reply
    • Laura

      I think a lot of Christians refer to Romans 12:1-2 which says not to conform to the standards of this world. Well, they think only people in the secular world get divorced so Christians should not be like them. As a Christian, I got divorced 19 years ago because of abuse. I admit that for years I felt a lot of shame and that somehow I failed as a Christian. What I realize is that God’s love for me did not change; He’s still the same and He will never leave me nor forsake me. God told me to leave that marriage for my own safety.

      Reply
    • A2bbethany

      I was reading through reviews, the 1 star of Sheila’s new book and I saw one that I found amusing. She was ranting in a long review about how removing the headship idea somehow destroys the core of Christianity. Because of the metaphor of christ and his church the bride. I think she could have done some more digging and not felt like that.

      (I found it amusing because a person i used to follow on YouTube had actually done that. Decided that hell wasn’t real and was trying to explain her new beliefs. Even though that completely destroys the gospel…..if you can’t say why christ died then you have gutted Christianity. And she couldn’t)

      Reply
  2. Laura

    Even the church highly discourages divorce. Over twenty years ago, my now ex and I went for marriage counseling at our church. I recall the pastor/counselor telling us that divorce should never be an option. How ironic, because he was on his second marriage.

    Over a year later, my husband started sexually assaulting me in my sleep and for my own safety I left. I certainly was NOT going to get any counseling from church because of the belief that divorce should never be an option.

    Years later, I talked about my divorce in a women’s Bible study at a different church I was attending. The pastor’s wife, who led that Bible study, had told me that if he and I received good, godly counseling, our marriage could have been saved. What I wanted to tell her but knew I couldn’t was that this “godly” counseling through church would probably have told me that divorce should never be an option.

    I don’t think many pastors are qualified enough to do marriage counseling. I’m grateful that my current pastor admits this and does not attempt to counsel marriages in crisis.

    Reply
  3. Susanna Holbrook

    Okay, I have to ask: you guys have gotten after Gary Thomas and others for citing old research… but your guest here uses old graphs and says, “We have known this stuff since the 90’s!”
    I know she isn’t attempting a scholarly work here, and context matters, but when IS old research acceptable to cite?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Actually, Judith Wallerstein’s research was considered pretty groundbreaking, and is still largely the standard, because there aren’t that many longitudinal studies of the effects of divorce on kids. The point of using that graph is that it’s from the very research that Focus on the Family is using to defend people staying in destructive marriages–but they’re cherry-picking from the very resources they’re citing.

      That’s why–we’re just trying to show you what they’re leaving out. This is all from the very people, the very books, the very articles that Focus on the Family cites on their website saying that divorce is always worse on kids.

      Reply
  4. Codec

    Divorce is indeed a sad thing.

    I have seen it save people from abuse and destruction.

    I think people have an image in their head of what spousal abuse is. Something like Marlon Brando in A streetcar named desire or what The Joker does to Harley in the classic that is 90’s Batman.

    Emotional manipulation is foggier to picture. Gideon Graves in the scott pilgrim novels is one example.

    I find it scary. I find it scary how people can abuse others even themselves.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Nathan

    “Why do Christians act like God cares more about the institution of marriage over humans?”

    Probably because we think of marriage as being instituted by God as a way for us to unite. Also, during the wedding we promise God to be together forever.

    Some, sadly, have taken this to an extreme and believe that God cares more about the concept of marriage than the people in the marriage. That’s why people are often told, no matter how cruel he is, no matter how abusive he is, no matter how much he hurts you, YOU STAY IN THAT MARRIAGE FOREVER, because that’s what God wants and that’s what your promised God.

    Hopefully, we can overcome this limited vision.

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    On the topic of cherry-picking from research, can we have a medical doctor (Keith?) or psychology grads (Rebecca & Connor?) talk about how oxytocin is NOT ONLY released during orgasm, but also during breast-feeding, same for fathers who cuddle their children, and people cuddling their pets… I’m getting so tired of Christians weaponizing oxytocin – if the wife is merely being pleasurelessly penetrated, she’s releasing a lot more cortisol than oxytocin, so don’t tell her to have sex for the oxytocin! (I’m referring to Gary and Deb’s book here.)

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Cortisol release, huh? Well, THAT explains a lot of stuff for a whole bunch of us.

      Reply
  7. M

    “This is soul-less sex in which the angry person just needs a body–any body–to work out their issues.” Someone who becomes sexually aroused by anger has a BIG problem! Run! Thank you for exposing this regrettable passage in Thomas & Fileta’s new book.

    Reply
  8. Sara

    Ugh. I remember coming across this article and feeling devastated for my children that I had left.

    I’ve still seen more and more similar. And honestly have still found myself torn.

    Ultimately I left for the sake of my children. The mother the emptiness was turning me into. And the hope that my children would learn that a marriage like I had was NOT ok. I was terrified for my daughters to be in the type of marriage I was in, nor did I want my boys to treat their wives the way I was being treated.

    At the time we separated my mother told me I was the only one that could love my husband the way he needed. I believe she’s changed her tune on that, but it still weighs so much.

    Reply

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