This week was the start of the international campaign of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” (focussing on violence against women and children).
“Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3,000 from 15,000 to just over 18,000.” (EWN News)
According to research, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.
As Christian people, we ought to be at the forefront of condemning any form of GBV.
We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbours as ourselves and to especially care for the weak and vulnerable. Husbands are called to love their wives and be willing to die for them.
Our churches ought to be safe-spaces where victims of abuse receive help, care and support. We ought to assist in reporting any perpetrators of violence to the civil authorities.
I wonder, however, if some of our more conservative churches may unintentionally promote intimate partner violence in their teaching about marriage and divorce?
As I read the CNN article, “STD rates reach record high in United States”, I remembered watching (twenty years ago) the DVD, “Sex has a price-tag” by Pam Stenzel.
Pam, while speaking to high school learners, made the point that condoms may prevent pregnancy, but they certainly don’t protect one from a whole host of venereal or sexually transmitted diseases. Pam’s point is even more urgent today.
No-one ever marries intending to get divorced, but divorce is a reality – even in the church. Divorce can be for biblically permitted reasons or non-biblical reasons. In my experience we are tempted to make two common mistakes in the church when dealing with divorce:
At church we often hear sermons about how to be a godly wife or husband, but not about how to be a godly single person. Many times we seem to esteem marriage only and unconsciously think that if you are not married you must have some issues, hate men or be gay. Churches frequently advertise themselves as family churches – but what if you have no family? Often in churches single people feel left out or neglected. We forget that there were lots of single people in the Bible, with the most famous being Jesus. Singleness is not treated as strange in the bible and it is even in some cases preferred, like in 1 Corinthians 7.
The city of Corinth in the 1st century was like most big cities, very sexually immoral. The city abounded with mistresses, prostitutes, homosexuals and adulterers. It was not uncommon for a man to be married to his wife, have a mistress and habitually visit temple prostitutes. To “corinthianize” was slang for sexually immoral behaviour. The citizens of Corinth would have felt right at home at this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony where Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performed, in an act of public debauchery, “Drunk in Love”. Beyoncé’s song starts with these words:
I’ve been drinking,
I get filthy when that liquor get into me
We be all night, last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding up in that club, drunk in love
A South African cardinal on Monday apologized for offending victims of child abuse when he described paedophilia as an illness and not a crime. While we can agree that those who have themselves been abused (as some priests were) are perhaps more susceptible to becoming abusers themselves, we cannot excuse such deliberate, evil behaviour as simply “illness” or “syndrome”.
Priests know, sometimes even better than most, what is right and wrong. If we go down the illness-path, one day we will be reading of “drunk-driving” syndrome, “hijacking-with-assault” syndrome and “toddler-beating” syndrome.
One of the reasons there is so much sexual exploitation and scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is that priests are burning with lust.