The words of a prominent Southern Baptist leader (made several years ago but brought to public attention in the last few weeks) has caused a firestorm of anger, accusations, debate, and defense. The leader essentially said that in the case of physical abuse, a woman should rely upon prayer and the help of the church and stay in the relationship.
He was wrong.
I believe in marriage and the family. I believe in prayer. And I believe that the church can and should help strengthen marriages.
But I also strongly believe that a woman should get out of a physically abusive relationship immediately. And she should stay out until her spouse has sought and received real help. I’m not counseling divorce. I’m saying that a woman in an abusive relationship needs to protect herself. There will be time later to talk about reconciliation, but she shouldn’t be reconciled until there is real evidence and an established pattern of change.
An apology is not enough. Tears and deep regret are not enough. Promises are not enough.
The truth is that in a huge majority of cases–even when apologies, tears, and promises are offered–the pattern repeats itself and the abuse becomes a cycle. And usually the cycle grows worse each time around.
Women, my advice is simple. Get out of an abusive relationship until help from outside the family is sought and received. It’s good that you want to believe his apology. It’s appropriate to believe his tears are real. It’s loving to believe his promises. But an abuser needs to do more than apologize, cry, and promise to be different.
Men, my advice to you is also simple. I know that your apologies are sincere, your tears are real, your shame is genuine, and your promises are heartfelt. But you need outside help. Start with your pastor. Go to the classes and counselors he suggests. Join a men’s group. Make deep and honest changes–before you try to talk your wife into coming back.
My prayer is always for reconciliation. But no woman should feel that she has to stay in an abusive relationship. It’s not the right thing. It’s not the Christian thing. It’s not a helpful thing.
My advice to this Christian leader at the heart of this firestorm is also simple. Rethink your words and your advice. Repent of your remarks. You’ve backed down somewhat from your original statements, but you didn’t go far enough. No woman should feel like her church is leading her to stay in an abusive relationship. And as a leader, you need to make that abundantly clear.
This blog was inspired by a friend and church member–and a fine human being–who is a DACA recipient.
You can call them “dreamers.” I like that.
Or you can call them “DACA recipients,” though that sounds overly bureaucratic.
But let’s not call them aliens, which makes them sound weird and otherworldly. And let’s not call them illegals, which makes it sound like they’ve purposely committed a criminal act. They are in our country due to a choice made by their parents or other adult family members without their input and through no fault of their own.
So how about we just start by calling them human beings? And expand that by adding that they are human beings in a tough situation?
And then we can, as Christians, look for a compassionate response to their need.
For they really are in a tough situation. They came to our country young. They’ve grown up as “Americans,” but without all of the rights of citizenship. They’re paying a price for decisions others made. Their status is uncertain. Their options are limited. Their future is not secure.
To leave them in their current situation doesn’t fit with my Christian understanding of compassion and justice. And neither does deporting them.
Please understand that I’m not talking politics in this blog. I’m not making a pro-or-anti statement about the Obama administration. I’m not making a pro-or-anti statement about the Trump administration. I’m not proposing a solution to the overall immigration situation in our country. I’m not speaking for-or-against a wall on our southern border in this blog. And I’m not speaking as a Republican or Democrat, a conservative or a progressive.
I’m trying to separate my political thoughts on the larger situation and trying to come up with a Christian response to a particular group of people, popularly called “dreamers.” I’m speaking as a Christian, and attempting to give a Christian response to a tough situation.
So with that lengthy introduction, here’s my Christian response:
It is not fair or just or compassionate to force a group of people to live in fear of being deported when they have not committed an illegal act. It’s not fair or just to leave them with an uncertain future and a second class status.
My understanding of Christian compassion and justice means that we need to treat them with respect and dignity. We need to allow them to stay in this country while Congress works on a solution. And Congress and the President need to give them an honest path to citizenship in a reasonable length of time.
Make it tough if you want. Put requirements on them. Insist that they get an education or serve in the military, pay their taxes, learn a trade, get a job, and stay out of trouble. The dreamers I’ve met and talked to are already doing those things and would be perfectly willing to meet reasonable standards.
If our country really does want to be just, fair, and compassionate there is no other real response. If we really do believe in “liberty and justice for all,” here is our chance to show it.
It is the right thing to do. It is the Christian thing to do.
And I encourage other Christians–regardless of their political persuasion–to stand with the dreamers and demand an appropriate, just, and compassionate response from our leaders.
Earth Day (April 22) isn’t normally considered a Christian holiday.
I think it should be.
The Bible starts off with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Unfortunately, the Christian world has spent way too much time and energy arguing the specifics of that creation, and too little time caring for it.
Did God create everything in a literal seven days? Or was each day symbolic of a much greater time period? Is the Earth a few thousand years old? Or did the universe come into being several billion years ago. Were Adam and Eve literal human beings made out of the dust of the Earth? Or did God guide evolution to create human beings?
I’m not going to answer those questions in this blog. My point is that we spend so much time arguing the specifics, that we ignore the meaning of that first verse and the implications of it.
The meaning is obvious: God created our entire Universe and it is beautiful. It is His handiwork. From the far-flung galaxies to the desert mountains just beyond our valley, God is the Creator, the designer, and the one that brought it all into existence. And it is incredible.
The implication of that truth should also be obvious. If God created the Earth and put us here, we should take care of it. We should work hard to keep the air, land, and water clean. We should set aside natural areas for future generations to see and enjoy. We should protect the animals, the fish, and the plants that God made. We should clean up our trash and remove the pollutants we’ve put in the air, in the ocean, and on the land. We should reduce our waste. We should slow down our use of natural resources so that future generations (meaning our grandchildren and their grandchildren) should still have plenty. We should support government and community solutions to clean up rivers and oceans, to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, to reduce waste, to recycle whatever we can, and to promote sustainable solutions for energy and the environment. We should minimize our footprint so that the handiwork of God can be more clearly seen.
Maybe we should stop arguing whether-or-not mankind is having a negative impact on the Earth and the weather. It has become obvious to any one that wants to take a hard look at the Earth that we have too much garbage in the ocean, too many pollutants in the soil, too much carbon and soot in the atmosphere, and too many chemicals in our air.
Why argue about how much of an impact it is having?
If it’s polluted, let’s purify it. It it’s dirty, let’s clean it up. If we made a mess, let’s restore it as best as we can to the way it was.
Does that sound like an environmentalist?
Because I am an environmentalist.
Not in the sense that I worship the Creation. I don’t. I worship the Creator. And since it is HIS creation, I feel a strong sense of stewardship for the Earth and everything in it that God has created.
I am an environmentalist. A Biblical Environmentalist. Because God created our environment.
Happy Earth Day!