Dear Abusive Men In The Church

Dear abusive men in the church,

I so often feel like berating you, but in what follows I actually want to give you a compliment of sorts.  You are succeeding in changing hearts and minds about a key issue facing the church of Jesus Christ today.  Where theologians and pastors have tried and failed, you are really making a difference.  Faced with your contributions to thinking about this issue, I and others often don’t stand a chance.

I wonder if you even realize how successful you’re being at changing the thinking in the church about women in church office.  I’ve tried to make the case that God’s Word doesn’t change.  I’ve argued that Paul’s teaching on this matter isn’t culturally bound, but instead rooted in creation.  Others have tried to argue the opposite.  Both sides come up with exegetical arguments from the Bible.  But look at you!  You don’t even need the Bible.  All you have to do is beat down on your wife and children.  All you have to do is physically, psychologically, financially, or sexually abuse your loved ones, and you’re doing a far better job than anyone else of arguing for women in office.  Man, you seal the deal.

After all, your wife probably doesn’t feel comfortable talking to a male elder or pastor about what you’re doing to her.  If your church is like many, they’ll probably take your side.  They’ll think your wife is over-reacting.  They’ll listen as you gaslight her with some mental illness or other.  The church will continue to insist on her need to submit to you as the head of the household.  If she contacts the police or a lawyer, they’ll put her under discipline rather than you. And you’ll just keep doing what you’re doing under their “umbrella of protection.”
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Wes Bredenhof | “Dear Abusive Men” | June 12, 2023


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11 comments

  1. While I do not condone abuse, I am not certain how abusive men are going to come across this letter.
    In my experience (limited as it is), abusive men tend not to read things like this. It’s even implied in the letter that they don’t hold themselves accountable to God’s Word, nor do their elders hold them accountable.
    I guess I’m curious as to the purpose of writing it, as it reads in a similar manner to things I’ve seen wherein social activists are shouting into their own echo chamber.
    I am not making any accusations here, but I am curious as to the purpose of this letter.

    • Sam,

      Strangely, abusive men do read online articles. They sometimes know that they are abusers. These articles get shared with abusers and victims of abuse.

      Wes, Mike Kruger, I, and others have dealt with abusers in the church, and we are writing about these issues to help others deal with the problems and sins involved.

      Even in the case that abusers did not read this, it does perform the function of illuminating the problem and informing officers and laity, so that they can act appropriately

    • I intended the letter as a rhetorical device — my target audience is the whole Church. The whole Church should know that, as long as we don’t take abuse seriously, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to women in office.

  2. What I would like to know is how “abuse” is defined. It is a very elastic word that is becoming more inexact every day.

    Yale University (my alma mater) is under a consent decree with the DOE to release all its “sexual assault” statistics and findings–so we have a rare look at not just anecdotal data but a whole universe. In order to get “sexual assault” incidents up to anything close to what the rhetoric says, Yale has defined “sexual assault” to include “unwanted words” and “unwanted looks.” I am not making this up.

    So I do wonder exactly what “abuse” is in this and quite a few other cases.

  3. I know of a man, several years ago now, that was a church member and abusive at home. Lost in his narcissistic, pornographic, alcoholic sin, he took things out on his confrontational wife, who would not put up with said behaviors. She left him after the children grew up. He’s alone now in a small apt, no friends, a reader of blogs. He provides for her, at least, perhaps to keep the conscience quiet.
    Whilst I believe he’s found hope and change through his local church and personal prayer, the consequences linger through painful memories of an old life, recalling hurts done to a wife and small children’s development in various emotional ways.
    I believe it’s good to share these things as lots of people read them.

  4. Women can definitely be abusers of their husbands & children, as well as spiritual abusers in leadership positions within in the church, although this rarely makes the news. It is a sin problem, not a gender problem.

    • That is very true, and they prey on meek men who seek to take care of their wives. Especially true of the narcissistic – both genders. The worst cases Ive been acquainted with the man is the abused. But usually it’s the women who are mistreated.

    • I have some ‘skin in this game’ as my ex-wife was just such a person. However, such as she do not have powerful influences in the Evangelical-Industrial Complex backing them up and demanding that their victims ‘submit better’. It is a sin issue, but in terms of sex disparity, Mr Bredenhof is right.

  5. A very good discussion here on Glory cloud episode 169 – Meredith Kline Applied – Abuse in the Church – YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku5lSFlkx_4

    I like their definitions especially @ 3:43
    “maltreatment of people, using them for your own gain, and their harm”
    and @ 4:32 “abuse must include intent”
    Then finally @ 58:04
    “Using of people without any care for how it’s affecting them, just for your own needs.”

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