Naming the Sin

Zwiebackesser / Shutterstock

Zwiebackesser / Shutterstock

JULIE OWENS had no way of knowing that, within days of saying her marriage vows, she would become a victim of domestic violence. She grew up in a Christian home. Her father was a pastor. Her brother was a pastor. Her uncles were pastors. Her parents had a beautiful and enduring marriage. She was well educated. She was well traveled. And she was deeply in love.

During her honeymoon, Julie quickly realized that her husband now believed he owned her, a belief that would soon be followed by verbal abuse and, toward the end of their marriage, physical abuse.

The abuse began with an irrational jealousy. Then the name-calling began, along with accusations of infidelity. He isolated her from her friends and family. He showed up at the school where she worked as a special education teacher to “check on her.” Later, he started taking the car keys away from her. He even cut the spark-plug wires in their car so that he would always know her whereabouts. He threw dishes at her, disconnected the phone in their rural home, and threatened to harm her, their pets, friends, and even their unborn baby.

Three months into the marriage, Julie knew that his behavior was not normal and the couple separated.

Over the course of the next three months, she went to marriage counseling while her husband went to substance-abuse counseling. In search of help, she spoke with counselors, pastors, and others—yet not one of them ever uttered the words “domestic violence.” Instead, she was told that her husband was dealing negatively with “stress” and that he was “acting out” because he was raised in an abusive family.

Julie believed what the experts told her.

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Ariel Castro: 'I Am a Sexual Predator. I Need Help.'

Ariel Castro

Ariel Castro

Every family involved, every neighbor, even those of us who look on in horror, will be forever stained by this horrific, sustained act. If any human act warrants eternal punishment, this clearly does. As much as I consider the death penalty barbaric, in this case death seems far too merciful. The perpetrator will never breathe a single breath free of shame and disgrace. The sin, by any standard, is beyond the pale. The case makes me wonder what judgement, punishment, and mercy might even mean. And like everyone else, my first impulse is to put as much distance as I can between this ‘sin’ and my own.

But we lie to ourselves if we imagine that our sin is no less ugly in the eyes of God. Is my, or your sin, really so different?

Survivors of Magdalene Laundries Still Waiting for an Apology

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — When the Republic of Ireland apologized to the wayward girls who were sent to the Magdalene laundries for hard work and no pay, Teresa Bell felt encouraged. Surely, she thought, the government of Northern Ireland would do the same.

Nearly three months later, she’s still waiting.

Bell was one of thousands of young girls who were sent to the Magdalene workhouses run by Roman Catholic nuns when she got pregnant at age 16. She worked long hours washing clothes with no pay and little rest; after giving birth, her daughter was put in an orphanage.

Bell never recovered from the shame.

OMG! Kim Kardashian Gains Weight While Pregnant!

Photo via Adam Ericksen.

Mobile photo of gossip magazine featuring Kim Kardashian. Photo via Adam Ericksen.

Last week, a member of my youth group texted me this picture of a pregnant Kim Kardashian. It’s a recent cover from Star Magazine. She added these sarcastic words:

What? How dare she gain weight while carrying another person in her stomach!

My heart broke. We have a big problem of objectifying women in our culture. I’d just written about the Steubenville rape case and the need to finally answer the ancient question “Am I my brother and sister’s keeper?” with a definitive yes. Rape is an extreme and obvious example of the objectification and violence against women.

But what about the cover of a magazine whose central thesis is: OMG, a pregnant person gains weight?

Victims Raise Profile of ‘Spiritual Abuse’

Mixed media illustration, Elena Ray / Shutterstock.com

Mixed media illustration, Elena Ray / Shutterstock.com

SPOKANE, Wash. — Karen Wanjico had no choice.

Turn away from her mother like the rest of her congregation, or be exterminated by God at Armageddon — which could come any moment — with no hope of resurrection.

Wanjico, of Casa Grande, Ariz., was 17 years old when she chose to go with the congregation and shun her mom. Looking back now, at age 49, she says it was the most devastating thing she’s ever done.

After earning a Master of Divinity degree and working several years as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, Wanjico can talk about what happened to her: She was spiritually abused.

Rape Culture: How Our Scorn for Self-Control Drowns Out ‘No’

Balqis Amran / Shutterstock.com

Balqis Amran / Shutterstock.com

It’s easy to look at the now-infamous Steubenville case and see a Penn State writ small — a story of rape in the social-media age. What’s harder to see in Steubenville is ourselves. Yet the moral confusion of witnesses who prevented drunk friends from driving while permitting the assault on a teenage girl too drunk to resist or consent to sex cannot be understood apart from our widespread mockery of sexual restraint.

Self-control gets no respect in the bedroom. Hold back the passions deemed healthy and good? At best you’re quaint and immature, at worst repressed and puritanical. And don’t you dare suggest that possibly a little restraint might benefit those just becoming aware of their newly adult bodies. How dare anyone presume to limit another’s freedom, especially their sexual freedom?

Except in pockets of religious devotion, that’s the prevailing cultural sentiment toward sex and self-control in this country. And we don’t just defend our individual bodily freedom against almost any call to limits; we don’t even seem to believe you can control such desires.

So of course the 40-year-old virgin happened accidentally. It’s virtually a movie cliché that any deliberately chaste character will soon get his or her sexual comeuppance, as seduction or human nature eventually trumps principle.

And therein lies the problem.