I have to make an acknowledgment: My home state of Mississippi does not have the best reputation in the world. We rank at or near the bottom in most of the good quality of life indicators and at or near the top in all of the bad ones. One of the negative areas where Mississippi frequently ranks highest is the rate of domestic violence.
When I was a paramedic in Mississippi, domestic assault calls were common and frequent. There was rarely a week that went by that I or another crew working on my shift would not be sent to a home because some dude decided to hit his wife (I acknowledge that men are victims of physical abuse as well, but I do not recall being called to any such situations). I simply could not fathom how such could be tolerated. I can not understand how a man could raise his hand to a woman after he vowed before God and a congregation to love her as Christ loves the church, which is what a reflection of marriage is intended to be.
And then I read this. Knowing that a pastor believes this helps me to clearly fathom how someone could think that abuse is OK and even biblical.
Andy Gipson is the chair of the Judiciary B committee in the Mississippi and has refused to allow the committee to take action on a bill which would have made domestic violence a grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Citing moral convictions, Gipson – who is also a Baptist pastor – refused to even allow the committee to take up the bill. When asked why this is what he had to say:
At a time I think we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together, I have some serious concerns about opening the floodgates any more than they already are. I think the floodgates are already open and this just tears the dam down.”
We need to have policies that strengthen marriage. If a person is abusive, they need to have a change in behavior and change of heart.
How dare he.
While there is certainly room to debate what grounds for divorce should be valid, domestic violence is not one of those issues to be debated. Domestic violence is never OK and should never be tolerated, especially by clergy.
Let me shout this from the mountaintops: DOMESTIC ABUSE IS NOT A CHRISTIAN VALUE!
No pastor should ever ask a spouse to remain with an abuser because divorce is a “sin” or because marriage is intended to be forever. As pastors, as Christians, we should do all we can to help that person get out of that situation (and pastors, in most states we are mandatory reporters and failure to do so can carry jail time).
Scripture makes clear what a marriage is supposed to look like:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33 (NLT)
These words do not sound like a condoning of abuse to me. A man does not love his body with violence, therefore he should certainly not “love” his wife by raising his hand to her. For any pastor to suggest that allowing domestic violence to be used as a grounds for divorce will somehow “open the floodgates” for divorce is just plain ridiculous and inconsistent with biblical teaching.
I pray Rep. Gipson changes his views and realizes that Christ wants better for his children.