Kathryn Joyce has a typically insightful article at Double X, on attitudes to domestic violence at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. She quotes some audio clips of Teaching Pastor Tom Holladay (who is married to Warren’s sister), who explains that domestic abuse means regular beatings, not a one-off attack, and that a woman is never justified in seeking a divorce on grounds of violence:
“There’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you can leave them,” said Holladay, but sadly, he concluded, there wasn’t.
Kathryn adds, tellingly:
The clips were removed from the website this spring, in the months after Warren, the casual-Friday face of “new Evangelicals,” spoke at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
This kind of PR-conscious revisionism seems to be something of a pattern with Warren and co.
Kathryn also tells the story of Sheri Ferber, a Saddleback member who asked a pastor for advice about her violent husband; the pastor’s response was to warn the husband about her “gossip”. Ferber seventually separated from her husband, who filed for divorce after reminding her that “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband” (first half of 1 Corinthians 7:4). When Ferber then went on to file a police complaint, she experienced a “slow freeze” and a lack of support when her ex-husband – who originally belonged to a different church and was under a restraining order – joined the Saddleback choir. Kathryn asks Holladay about this; his response is (it seems to me) creepy and passive-aggressive:
“I don’t think I can sit here and call her a liar. I don’t know what she’s been through and is going through. As a church, our goal is healing. It might make her feel good to see her story in a newspaper. It might make her feel bad—depending on how you report it. It doesn’t sound untrue to me, but you’re obviously hearing one side of the story, and it sounds like someone’s added a layer of hurt. We don’t want to go down roads that would hurt this person more.”
Ferber now attends her ex-husband’s former Pentecostal church, and I was struck by this observation:
Ironically, the family that stuck by her wasn’t Saddleback, but [her ex-husband’s] Life Church, which responded swiftly to the abuse by pulling Bradley from leadership and later accompanying Ferber to court: something Ferber attributes to the difference between Baptist and Pentecostal approaches to women’s roles in the church.
Read the whole thing here; Kathryn deftly guides us through the wider context of marriage teaching and wifely submission within conservative evangelicalism.
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