After the high-profile domestic violence cases of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the NFL is speaking out with a new Super Bowl Ad. The commercial features a woman pretending to order a pizza in a call to a 911 operator as the camera rolls over shots of a disheveled home. The operator eventually comes to understand that the woman is trying to ask for help without alerting her abuser.
The NFL created the ad in partnership with No More, an umbrella organization that connects groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
RECENTLY, several highly publicized events of domestic violence have reminded us of the epidemic proportions of relational abuse. While the focus has been on athletes, abuse has taken place from the halls of Congress to the pulpits of churches. We have also experienced, particularly from church leaders, a vocal outcry against such abuse.
This outcry, however, remains superficial, shallow, and disingenuous if we are not willing to challenge some of our dominant theological assumptions that provide the conceptual framework for the maintenance of this abuse.
Many of the early church fathers affirmed the subservient and secondary status of women and even encouraged the “control” and “forceful instruction” of women in order to maintain conformance to what they saw as God’s “relational design.” Even today, some promise to affirm women only as long as they stay in their “God-ordained place.” In other words, women can expect “favor” only when they remain defined by and conformed to a “divinely” decreed order and hierarchy.
Tragically, this hierarchy is established by the curse and the culture—not the creation and certainly not the Christ. When the curse and the culture establish our doctrine, we embrace “snakeology,” not theology. This snakeology distorts the character of God, relationships, authentic manhood, and authentic womanhood.
The revelation of God in creation, Christ, and the Holy Spirit invites us all to experience the breaking of the bonds of the Fall and to celebrate the liberating truth in God’s self-disclosive expressions. The celebration can commence with a return to our beginnings.
THE TESTIMONIES OF the creative event recorded in Genesis provide a core principle related to God’s intent and desire for human relationships, the developing family, and the human community. Men and women are called into a relationship characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and shared responsibility.
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Our shoulders touched slightly like links in a chain, kneeling around a small twin bed, our heads bowed, eyes closed: “ Our Father who art in heaven,” we mimicked, as mama kneeling at the foot of the bed, led us in prayer.
I was four, the second to the youngest child, and the other three were stair steps ahead of me. Hanging on to mama’s every word, we acted as though we didn’t take notice of the sorrow in her voice, the cries that lingered outside her bedroom door just hours ago.
Soon, she would lay in a Philadelphia hospital bed with stitches from the top of her chest down to her navel, and be told to kiss her five babies goodbye because my father had beaten her so badly that he burst both her lungs.
Decades later, I would sit across from her taking notes for Color Me Butterfly, as she told me the story:
I lay there listening to that doctor tell me that I wouldn’t make it through the night, she mused, her face drawn into the memory. I prayed, listened as God spoke to me, told me that I couldn’t let nary a soul touch me—not the doctor, the nurse, not even my own mother and chi’ren. He was gonna see to it that I walked out of that hospital, but I had to trust Him.
Now, as I think back on that day my mother stared into the abyss, as though she could still see the stitches that cinched her chest, I thank God that she was a praying woman.
Across the country, dangerous people with records of domestic violence, stalking, and aggression have no legal restriction keeping them from obtaining guns. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to explore the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence. The hearing discussed major loopholes in the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which successfully prohibited some convicted domestic abusers from gaining access to firearms. Yet even with the prohibitions in VAWA, abusers who don’t share a home with their intimate partner and abusers convicted of misdemeanor stalking charges are free to keep the weapons they have and to purchase new weapons.
“I am here today to speak for my sister Zina. I speak for Zina and her entire family because Zina is not here to speak for herself.”
Elvin Daniel, and NRA member and gun owner, lost his sister to domestic violence with a firearm and testified today in support of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) S. 1290: Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013.
The tragic loss of Zina’s life is not an isolated incident. A study about the relationship between domestic violence and gun violence released by the Center for American Progress highlights how deadly this major loophole can be for thousands of women. The statistics are stunning:
While 2.5 percent of men who are murdered are killed by a female intimate partner, 34 percent of women who are murdered are killed by a male intimate partner.
Of all the women killed by male intimate partners from 2001-2012, 55 percent are killed with a firearm.
More women (6,410) in the United States have been killed by a significant other with a firearm from 2001-2012 than U.S. troops have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the United States, more than 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 4 men) havereportedly experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
These are not numbers that disappears when you walk in to a church. Christian women are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, too – but when is the last time you heard about this issue in a church?
Talking about the pain and fear of intimate partner abuse can seem daunting, but there are resources to help faith communities get started. On Sunday, Nov. 24, faith communities have an opportunity to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence in the aptly named Speak Out Sunday.
For those of us whose mothers have gone to be with God, Mother’s Day is a poignant reminder of loss. It’s a day of prayer, reflection and thanksgiving for our mothers, for the love and nurture we received from them. And it can also still be a day of gift-giving, now in their memory rather than to them.
Some years ago I met the founder of what has become one of my favorite ministries. Bridge of Hope is a national ministry, now with affiliates it serves in seven states. Its model of service is to develop a partnership between a church-based mentoring group, professional staff, and a homeless or at-risk single mother and her children. The goal is to empower women to achieve housing, financial stability through employment, friendship and support, personal growth and wholeness. It’s an inspiring example of how the combination of loving, nurturing support coupled with material assistance can change lives.
Where I come from, girls are married off as teenagers to men they barely know and are expected to spend their lives caring for their husband and children. They are required to cover their hair and nearly every inch of their skin, and to remain behind a curtain at parties and religious events.
Where I come from, if a woman wants to feel her hair blow in the wind or wear jeans or attend college, the courts have the authority to take her children away from her.
Where I come from, you might be surprised to learn, is the United States. Specifically, New York and then New Jersey, in the Orthodox Jewish community.