Stockholm

I learned about something new today from what someone posted to me on Facebook. It’s called Christian Domestic Discipline. The focus is on “disciplining” one’s wife, including physical disciplining: that is, they advocate spanking. Now if they were simply advocating some odd Christian version of BDSM, then that would be fine and kinky. But that’s not what the site is about. Instead, despite repeated denials (which in itself kind of raises red flags) they seem to actually be advocating domestic violence and try to argue how it is a good and biblical thing. They use a whole raft of verses to try to justify their point of view and lifestyle.

It reminds me of stuff I’ve seen on MEMRI.org that is common in the Muslim world: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1478.htm and http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/440.htm

I don’t know how much more strongly I can state it: beating one’s spouse, spanking one’s spouse, “disciplining” one’s spouse is simply wrong and is domestic violence. It is evil. Besides just being peculiar.

The website I saw was painful to read and there is so much wrong with it that it becomes overwhelming to talk about it all. So instead, I’ll focus on foundational principles: when one thinks about how spouses are to relate to each other, Jesus made it really, really simple:

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:25-28)

It’s a passage I rarely see ever appearing in traditional excuses about how spouses should relate to one another. Instead, as with this site, they misuse the passage in Ephesians 5 about the wife submitting, missing the beginning verse that all Christians are to submit to one another, and that in fact it is being used as a synonym for love–which is the core of the biblical message after all (Jesus said it’s the theme of the Bible–see Matthew 22:36-40). Based on what Jesus said about love being the theme of the Bible, the basic interpretive principle for understanding it is not so tough: if you read a passage and you think it’s telling you its okay to do something that isn’t love, then you’ve misinterpreted it. Start over.

This Christian Domestic Discipline site misuses and ignores the context of just about all the biblical passages they reference. For instance, one person wrote this in an essay on the site: “Part of the curse was that Eve would no longer easily follow her husband, but rather would want to control him.”

This is flat out wrong–though I’ve seen the interpretation before. It is not a possible interpretation, even if a certain large church in southern California thinks so. There is a word in Genesis 3:16 that is being interpreted by that essayist and others to mean “desire to rule over” –which is nonsense. The other usages of the word in the Bible refer to sexual desire. Not quite the same thing. The curse on the woman was pain in childbirth. Despite that, she will still enjoy having sex. That’s all it is saying.

Another weird one used in the Christian Domestic Discipline website was how they applied Proverbs 13:24, about using a rod on children. The word “rod” is metaphorical for discipline (and we see it used that way in quite a few OT passages). It is not to be understood as meaning that it is good to take a big old stick, perhaps a curtain rod or a large wood dowel, to your children. Even those who advocate corporal punishment for their children, for the most part, do not take the passage about using a rod literally. Instead, they reduce the “rod” to their hand or a switch.

Another passage that these people seem to miss is from Paul:

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:3-4.

Notice: the husband does not have authority over his own body: it belongs to the wife (and vice versa); again that whole mutual submission, not lording it over one another, and, you know, love. The other odd thing I noticed on this website was their emphasis on proper “authority.” That has more to do with something out of Bill Gothard’s Basic Youth Conflicts than it does the Bible. They simply don’t understand what they are talking about, in my estimation about much in the Bible.

And one final thing: people who are in abusive relationships commonly justify the abuser’s behavior and find ways to explain that it is really okay and they deserve it. That’s the feeling I got in reading through this website.

“Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes ‘strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.’ One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be a threat.” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome )

And of course the whole premise of the site about Christian Domestic Discipline is incredibly misogynistic: it is degrading to women. They obviously believe that women are less than men and in need of a man’s help in order to become good and proper and to behave as they should. There is no recognition that women are created in the image of God and are equal to men. There is no recognition that women are adults.

Of course there are those who might argue that the only reason women want to work outside the home, get careers and the like, is because the feminist movement has filled them with wrong-headed dreams and aspirations. Those darn feminists are the ones who’ve made women unhappy and dissatisfied with their “proper, God-given roles” in the home.

Uh huh.

Like the slave holders of a different era, who complained that “If it weren’t for those durn abolitionists filling the n**s with wool-headed ideas they wouldn’t be near the trouble; getting them all riled up about liberty and equality and who knows what other gosh durn foolishness!”

The reason a woman might like a career and be dissatisfied fulfilling the role of a slave is because she is a human being, created in the image of God, with the same common ideals and aspirations, hopes and fears, that fill the male half of humanity, since woman, too, is as much a part of humanity as man.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, regarding slavery, that it was quite easy to realize it was wrong: ask yourself, would you care to be a slave? If the answer is no, then that tells you slavery is wrong. Likewise, if you ask yourself, “would I care to be ‘disciplined’ like a dog or other animal? (which is how Christian Domestic Discipline seems to treat women)” If the answer is no, then that tells you it is wrong. If a man wouldn’t like the restrictions placed on women in some churches and other places, then he should know just from that it is wrong. You see, it violates the Golden Rule: do to others as you’d have them do to you (see Matthew 7:12).

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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