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Austin Cline

Rick Warren: Physical Violence Is No Reason for Divorce?

By October 3, 2011

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Rick Warren
December 1, 2006
Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

What do you think about a Christian pastor who tells women that they are forbidden from divorcing abusive husbands who hit them? Well, that's what Rick Warren believes -- and that's not the worst of it. What makes the situation worse is that he actually wishes there were permission in the Bible for women to leave their abusive husbands.

I'd always rather choose a short-term pain and find God's solution for long-term gain than try and find a short-term solution that's going to involve long-term pain. ... [In scripture] adultery is one [reason for divorce] and abandonment is a second. I wish there were a third in scripture.

Having been involved as a pastor in situations of abuse 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 have a right to leave them. ... If you're in this kind of situation I strongly recommend that you take advantage of our lay counseling ministers.

Source: Slog

So Rick Warren recognizes that abused wives are in a dangerous, nasty situation and he's telling them to stay anyway. Warren is putting adherence to his ideology over the health and safety of women, all in the context of a religion which is complicit in the abuse by teaching that women must submit to men.

Apparently, physical abuse only becomes a legitimate reason to leave a husband when he is "habit of beating you regularly." This raises two difficult questions. First, where is the scriptural support for this? Rick Warren is quite clear that there are only two reasons for divorce and "he regularly beats you" isn't one of them. If he can make up a new rule for "he regularly beats you," why not one for "he occasionally beats you"? The hypocrisy here is palpable.

Second, what does "beating you regularly" even mean? Is once a month "regular" enough for Rick Warren and teaching pastor Tom Holladay? Does it have to be once a week? Or once a day? What if the wife is only beaten "irregularly," but it's always enough to leave marks or cause real injury? According to their completely arbitrary and made-up standard, non-injurious regular assaults are a reason for divorce but irregular assaults that cause serious injury should only lead to counseling.

In my opinion, this makes Rick Warren complicit in any emotional, psychological, and physical abuse suffered by women in his church.

But I guess that's only to be expected when someone who has theological training is accorded any sort of authority in areas where they clearly have no competency. You can probably trust Rick Warren to give you an accurate explanation of how his particular denomination traditionally explains or interprets some portion of the Bible; that's all his theological training is good for and that's not much. To trust his advice on anything else is just absurd.

And sadly, he's not even the worst of Christians pastors who are advising women to stay in dangerous situation that might kill them -- and all because they sincerely think that adherence to the Bible is more important than women's health and safety:

In June 2007, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Bruce Ware told a Texas church that women often bring abuse on themselves by refusing to submit.

And Debi Pearl, half of a husband-and-wife fundamentalist child-training ministry as well as author of the bestselling submission manual, Created to Be His Help Meet, writes that submission is so essential to God's plan that it must be followed even to the point of allowing abuse. "When God puts you in subjection to a man whom he knows is going to cause you to suffer," she writes, "it is with the understanding that you are obeying God by enduring the wrongful suffering."

Source: Religion Dispatches

Is it any wonder that in more religious cultures, particularly Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures, women who are assaulted are presumed to have been at fault? Women who are raped are blamed because their clothing or behavior is allegedly too provocative. Wives who are beaten are blamed because they are "provocative" in a different way -- not sexually provocative, but rather failing to properly submit to husbands.

That line of reasoning justifies anyone in a position of authority beating someone who is perceived as insufficiently subservient. It's not a coincidence that authoritarian systems like those being promoted by these Christian leaders also tend to be very violent systems. Authoritarian systems breed violence because they breed contempt for the equal dignity and humanity of everyone. And Christianity is inherently authoritarian.

Rick Warren, I think, has nothing but contempt for the idea that women are equal human beings who deserve equal rights and dignity. If he weren't contemptuous of that idea, he wouldn't tell women to stay in abusive, dangerous relationships. A person who sincerely respects other human beings doesn't encourage them to needless risk their lives like that. Then again, a morally mature person wouldn't do that either.

Why would any woman want to remain part of a system which explicitly and repeatedly teaches that they are inferior, that they only exist to serve men, and that they don't even have a right to leave an abusive relationship where their lives are in danger because it's their own fault for failing to be submissive enough?

October 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm
(1) DavidABrooks says:

I wonder what Rick’s views are if a wife decides to have her husband arrested for assualt. Would he consider that as not submitting?

October 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm
(2) tracieh says:

I was raised Church of Christ in Central Florida and attended a number of different CoCs. They all taught this same doctrine. The idea was that you were allowed to separate for your own safety, but you were bound in marriage by scripture/god, even if he was hitting you. Yeah, loving god, author of morality and all that, right?

October 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm
(3) Scott Imbeau (Langley BC) says:

The reason he wishes that scripture had a 3rd reason for divorce is because, at least on this one point, he has higher morality than god. I just wish that he’d use that little part of his brain more often.

October 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm
(4) P Smith says:

Hey, let’s not forget Deuteronomy 22:28. If a man rapes a virgin, she has to marry him and never divorce. Without such rules and degradation of women, how would those males ever have sex or get married?

Warren’s attempts to rationalize violence in the home is no surprise. These idiots are all about control.


October 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm
(5) mia says:

And the KJV even states this is mandatory OLNY if the rape is discovered by others. So, as long as nobody knows, it’s okay to rape and make a run for it.

October 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm
(6) Jo says:

What a moron! I hope his wife beats him a new one! God is a dick!

October 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm
(7) Ron says:

Hey, as long the husband adheres to the rule of the thumb which stated that a man may legally beat his wife, provided that he used a stick no thicker than his thumb, I fail to see a problem here. ; )

October 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm
(8) James says:

Since all of these Christians want to institute Old Testament Law, let’s try it out on Rick Warren. For every woman that gets beaten by her husband, Rick has to sit still and take a similar beating. We’ll see how long that lasts. After all, “An eye for an eye…”

October 9, 2011 at 11:05 am
(9) Comala666 says:

I’m not surprised. The Catholic Church canonized an Italian woman who was the victim of domestic violence but chose to stay and withstand the abuse rather than “break up the family”…St. Rita of Cascia…I don’t know what kind of “family” you have if domestic violence is the norm. It is irresponsible to have children witness the physical and mental torture of their mother….Christianity is immoral, disgusting, and terrifying.

October 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm
(10) Comala666 says:

OOPS…I cited Rita of Cascia but more recently, John Paul II canonized Elizabeth Canori Mora, a beaten, abused woman who had been subjected to both physical and psychological violence at the hands of her errant husband, for her “absolute fidelity” to the sacrament of marriage. The Catholic church has exactly ZERO regard for the well-being of women and children.

October 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(11) Sally says:

NO religion does – especially when derived from pastoralism. They’re ALL about ‘controlling the wimmens’ and ensuring that what comes out of our bellies is the ‘pure,’ ‘legitimate’ offspring of the head of the flock!

October 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm
(12) Sally says:

Interesting, Comala666

Would that be the same John Paul II for whom ‘we’ were all cheering when he was bringing the ‘freedom’ of capitalist ‘democracy’ to poor lil Poland, which had suffered under the ‘Evil Empire’ of the USSR?

Would that be the same John Paul II who restored the hegemony of the church over the lives and bodies of ordinary Poles, a hegemony that hits women and children especially hard?

Would that be the same John Paul II who put in motion a series of compensation claims for ‘confiscated church lands’ that have now netted more acreage in Eastern Europe than the ‘evil commies’ originally confiscated?

Nahhhhh, must be someone else…

October 13, 2011 at 11:12 pm
(13) Sally says:

That should have been “…more land in Poland…”

I imagaine the church would have like to claim similar compensation for the lands it once owned in Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine too, but has realized that it has little chance of succeeeding.

December 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm
(14) Harry Mitchell says:

what is even more frightening is they are all right wing Republicans and will stop at nothing in their efforts to make America a Church State

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