Is there a connection between male authority and domestic violence?
I was reminded of this question in a recent email from CBE but it's long been in my mind. When I was researching for a booklet on a Christian response to domestic violence, one of the few publications on the subject was entitled Battered into Submission - which I suppose says it all.
It's a disturbing but important question. I'm sure that those who defend the idea today that God has established different 'roles' for men and women would not condone male violence against women, but it's a connection that has often been made.
Last year there was a conference in the USA aimed at addressing the problem of male violence in Christian homes. It took place on the 162nd anniversary of a conference held in same place, Seneca Falls, where a group of men and women met to demand equality as a way of protecting women and children from abuse in the home and society. So much for those who see 'feminism' and the need to solve the problem of domestic violence as modern issues!
The recent convention continued to draw a direct link between male authority and domestic violence. Women are told to be 'submissive', but for some men are never submissive enough - and this is held to justify their violence.
I'm still shocked just reading about this, despite having worked on the Women's Aid helpline and heard women screaming and crying into the telephone. That was bad enough, but the idea that God's demanding of different 'roles' for men and women can for some justify violence I find horrifying.
It was good to be reminded that back in the nineteenth century it was Christian women like Josephine Butler and Katherine Bushnell who were at the forefront of addressing social issues faced by women and children, and making people aware that it was the social devaluing of women led to male dominance and female submission - which in turn led to both prostitution and the abuse of women.
Bushnell, who was a scholar and missionary, wrote regarding abuse that 'the social evil would never be got rid of so long as the subordination of woman to man was taught within the body of Christians...'
Her book God's Word to Women, one hundred Bible studies on 'women's place in the divine economy', was published in 1921 - and the reprint (available online) is still worth reading!
We need such courageous people in our own day (women and men) who will make this connection, and help Christians once again to be at the forefront of countering social evils and ending the great 'battle of the sexes', to restore the harmony and partnership which we see in Eden.