Religion and violence
Impact of religion on spousal abuse
Church of England Report:
The Church of England, which is the province of the Anglican
Communion in England, issued a report titled "Responding to Domestic
Abuse, Guidelines for Pastoral Responsibility." It was created in
response to a motion at the 2004-JUL General Synod, which called for national
guidelines on domestic abuse and for dioceses to consider how they could work with other agencies
and "speak out against the evil of domestic violence."
The report was launched
at a news conference in London by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt. Rev Graham
James. He said he hoped the new guidelines would break down the silence and
secrecy surrounding domestic abuse. It has been backed by the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He accused the church of failing at "many points"
to protect people who are vulnerable to domestic abuse.
The report concluded that the Church of England, and perhaps by
extension at least some of the other Anglican Communion provinces, are in a
state of sin:
"The Church has not only failed at many points to address
the processes that lead to domestic abuse but has -- intentionally or
unintentionally -- reinforced abuse, failed to challenge abusers and
intensified the suffering of survivors."
The report contrasts "life-giving" theology which could help the
Church reduce spousal abuse with "misguided" or distorted versions of
Christian belief which has actually contributed to the problem.
Some of the problems in church teaching cited are:
The portrayal of God's power in "unhealthy and oppressive
Attribution of violent actions and attitudes to God, mainly
in the Old Testament. The report says that these require "careful
A view of the historical relation of God with humanity in
terms of domination and submission.
Uncritically referring to God as male.
A spirituality of "self denial" in which the abused
person is urged to forgive the perpetrator and to not take remedial action
against him or her. 1
Immoral passages in the Old Testament:
The Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) does contain many passages which
involve actions that would be considered highly immoral when judged against
today's religious and secular systems of morality. For example there are
passages in which God ordered or committed various actions:
||God committed many acts of genocide, including the flood of Noah, the
execution of each of the first-born of Egypt, and ordering the eradication of the
residents of Canaan.|
|God executed persons for looking at/into the Ark of the Covenant, and
looking back at Sodom out of curiosity.|
|God executed a person who prevented the Ark of the Covenant from falling and
|God killed 70,000 Hebrew males, and probably a similar number of
females, because a census was taken which God ordered.|
|God killed thousands of Hebrews because they wanted to worship in a
|God ordered the mass murder of men involved in inter-faith relationships.|
|God ordered the mass murder of Hebrews who wanted a more representative
||God executed Onan for practicing an elementary form of birth control.|
|God promised in the Ten Commandments to punish the children,
grand-children, etc. of sinners.|
|God established many laws of Moses:|
|A law requiring that some hookers be executed by being burned alive.|
|Laws relating to permanent human slavery of females, and temporary
slavery of males.|
||Laws permitting the raping of female prisoners of war under controlled conditions.|
In addition, there were many events recorded in the Old Testament which were
done by humans:
||Elijah ordered the assassination of 450 priests.|
||David committed genocide of the Geshurites, Gezirites, and Amalekites.|
||Laws required some raped women to be either stoned to death or to be forced to marry their rapist.|
Details of these events and more.
It would seem to be a very difficult task of "careful interpretation"
to somehow remove the violence from the acts of oppression, injustice, abuse, mass murder, and
genocide from these biblical passages as the Church of England report
recommends. It would seem impossible to retain the image of a loving, caring
deity unless these events are written off either:
|As myths unrelated to real events, or|
||Of real events contrary to the will of God that were misreported.|
Negative review of the report by a Roman Catholic source:
LifeSiteNews, a pro-life, Roman Catholic information source took a dim
view of the report. They stated on 2006-OCT-04:
"The report, ... condemned the Christian spirituality of self-denial,
calling it a factor in discouraging victims of spousal abuse from seeking
"The report is meant for Anglican clergy as a guide for the use of
'gender-neutral' pronouns in Sunday services. It says that 'uncritical use
of masculine imagery' encourages male violence against women, a precise
replication of extreme anti-Christian feminist academic thought. The report
suggested another of feminism's central doctrines that the nature of
Christian marriage itself tended to enforce a sense among husbands that
their wives are property."
"The Daily Mail quotes Graham James, the Anglican Bishop of Norwich, who
said that abuse victims
'... can be locked into a belief that they deserve the punishment
that they receive and they link that with the theology that they hear in
church where Christ is victim ... Maybe even that they think their
suffering has redemptive quality to it which justifies it in some way'."
"In a section called, 'God as Abuser?' the report claims, ''The
divine'human relationship may be conceived in terms of domination and
submission at the expense of grace, mercy and patient love'."
"Today's Daily Mail carried the outraged responses of Christian clergy
who said the report is itself a grave distortion of the true Christian
doctrine of self-denial and sacrifice."
"Simon Calvert of the evangelical Christian Institute think tank, said,
'They appear to suggest seriously that we should ditch many centuries of
Judaeo-Christian teaching because of some half-baked feminist theory'." 2
Related essays on this web site:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Viewing God as male 'contributes to domestic
abuse' says Church," Daily Mail, 2006-OCT-02, at:
- Hilary White, "Male Pronoun for God Encourages Wife
Beating Say Anglicans," LifeSiteNews.com, at:
Copyright © 2006 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-OCT-05
Latest update: 2011-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson