Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Distorted Christianity 'causing abuse'

The Times October 03, 2006

Distorted Christianity 'causing abuse'
By Ruth Gledhill

Bad theology and outdated ideas about women are triggars for domestic attacks, a new report finds

MISGUIDED and distorted versions of Christian belief have contributed to domestic abuse in Britain, says the Church of England. And the Church itself has not done enough to protect victims.
The report, which has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says that domestic abuse is as “prevalent among Christians” as among other groups and identifies problem areas in Christian tradition.

It warns clergy that the bride’s traditional marriage vow to “obey” her husband could be used to justify domestic violence as could referring to God as “He” and “Lord”.

Bad theology, such as using the Virgin Mary “to reinforce norms of female passivity and obedience”, has even been used to convince victims to forgive their abusers and not take action against them.

The report criticises the Church of England for failing to challenge abusers and for intensifying the suffering of survivors, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

“Over the centuries questionable assumptions about the relation between men and women, which were supposed to reflect the will of God, have influenced the Church’s interpretation of the Bible, its moral teaching and pastoral practice,” the report says.

“It is a tragic fact that bad theology, in this case a faulty understanding of God and human beings in relationship, can have the effect — whether intended or not — of betraying victims of domestic abuse and encouraging the actions of perpetrators.”

One serious example, the report notes, is how the theology of self-denial and redemptive suffering in the Crucifixion of Jesus has “undermined people’s recognition of the evils being done to them and implanted masochistic attitudes of acceptance, or even celebration, of their afflictions”.

It calls on the Church to distinguish between submission to abuse and self-denial.

The report highlights particular problems in the Old Testament, where the attribution of violent actions and attitudes to God required “careful interpretation with reference to the historical and theological context”.

Entitled Responding to Domestic Abuse, the report was written by a group set up by the Archbishops’ Council and contains new guidelines for clergy on how to deal with the problem.

In Britain one quarter of all assaults reported to the police are defined as domestic abuse. An average of two women a week are killed by their partner or former partners in England and Wales and nearly half of all female murder victims are killed by their present or former partners. Most victims also put up with an average of 35 assaults before calling the police.

The report defines domestic abuse as threatening or violent behaviour involving psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse against adults who are partners or family members.

Examples of spiritual abuse given by the report include telling someone that God hates them, refusing to let them go to church and using religious texts such as “submit to your husband” to justify abuse.

Although most abuse is carried out by men against female partners, the report acknowledges that clergy and prominent Church members have also been found to be abusers. “If the victim is a partner of a member of the clergy, the issues of disclosure are problematic because their relationship is particularly public and usually their home comes with (their partner’s) job,” it says.

The report calls for training for all clergy on how to spot and deal with domestic abuse.

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