Twenty to twenty-five percent of women in America are abused by their husbands or live-in partners in a given year. While I would like to believe that those figures aren't directly borne out in the church, the shocking frequency of such behavior means that most of us, at some point or another, will know someone who encounters it.
Ron Clark, a minister with several years of experience working with victims and abusers, has written Freeing the Oppressed: A Call to Christians Concerning Domestic Abuse (Wipf and Stock) to acquaint the church with a problem we've had difficulty responding to. He has seen many secular agencies lose hope in the church as a positive advocate for the abused. Beyond accusations of irrelevance, in some instances the church has been seen as part of the problem. Battered and broken women have turned to their congregations, only to be told that Christian submissiveness and forgiveness require them to go back to their abusers. In some cases, when women have left their abusive husbands, the church has abandoned them, leaving them facing a crisis not only of health and heart, but of faith as well.
Clark's book is an extremely helpful introduction to what constitutes "domestic violence," issues that the abused face, and how abuse affects families. He highlights that when children even observe verbal or physical abuse, their emotional and physical development is stunted, leading not only to increased anxiety, but often to post-traumatic stress and learning and cognitive disorders as well.
Clark offers a theologically sensitive portrait of God's concern for the victims of abuse, especially in the context of the covenant of marriage. He explores what it means to be male and female created in God's image. He notes ...1