There's Domestic Violence in the Bible. Let's Talk About It. | Sojourners

There's Domestic Violence in the Bible. Let's Talk About It.

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At Sojourners, we often ask ourselves “What conversation does the church need to be having right now?” and “How can we help contribute to that discussion?”

After more than 40 years of ministry, it’s clear that we must have more open and honest conversations about domestic violence in our churches and communities. 

Given the alarming rate of sexual and domestic violence in our midst, chances are you, your loved ones, or those next to you in the pew have either directly experienced trauma and abuse or know someone who has. Whether it involves threats, coercion, or sexual/emotional/physical abuse between intimate partners or spouses, domestic violence is a reality that must be addressed by people of faith.

However, according to our Broken Silence: A Call for Churches to Speak Out report, faith leaders underestimate the prevalence of violence and abuse in their own communities, and often do more harm than good by giving inappropriate advice to those who are suffering.

This is unacceptable.

Bruised and battered in body and spirit, many victims of domestic violence are looking to faith communities for guidance. We must do more to make sure our congregations are safe spaces for survivors of abuse. And that starts with naming the sin of domestic violence in our churches and examining how our own sacred texts have been misinterpreted to condone such abuse.

This October—as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month—we’re featuring a new online series called Troubling Texts: Domestic Violence in the Bible. With thought-provoking commentary from experts, pastors, and emerging scholars, we'll take a hard look at how scripture has been used to justify domestic violence.

Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School, powerfully launches the series by unpacking the economic, verbal, and physical violence in Judges 19:1-30; human rights lawyer and seminarian Allyson McKinney wrestles with the rape of Tamar in the context of familial relationships (2 Samuel 13); Rev. Dr. Carolyn Davis, a policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, connects the dots between guns and domestic violence through the lens of 2 Timothy 4:2-4; clinical psychologist and scholar Rev. Tara Samples explores the violence of “intimate enemies” (Psalm 55) and forgiveness in the context of abuse (Luke 17:1-4); Megan McCabe, a doctoral candidate in theological ethics at Boston College, examines domestic violence and marital submission (Ephesians 5:21-23); gender justice advocate Katey Zeh discusses the cycle of abuse between Sarai and Hagar in Genesis 16; and Pastor Phil Haslanger wraps up the series with a call to action to preach and talk about intimate partner violence—no matter how hard it gets.  

It is our hope that this series will provoke deep theological engagement and equip faith leaders with more resources to end domestic violence, to offer healing to those in abusive relationships, and to cast light on how scripture can be used as a tool for liberation, not oppression.  

Follow the series and journey with us as we seek to provide healing and hope to the church. For in the words of Rev. Haslanger: “if we keep silent, if we ignore the human cost and spiritual degradation of domestic violence, then we are failing the people we are called to serve.”