I have been leading support groups for women impacted by abuse for 17 years. About 10 years ago I led a group designed particularly for Christian women. On about week 7 of the group, one of the women shared that she had been suicidal for years because she had vowed to stay with her husband; “’til death do us part”. She reasoned that the only “way out” of the marriage was for one of them to die. Bit by bit the other women in the group all admitted to having had similar thoughts and feelings. There were 8 women in the group. I came home and I cried.
You see, I am a Christian and my faith is really important to me. I have, in the past, been a leader in the church, serving as a pastor for 11 years. My faith – my relationship with God – has always been a source of support and empowerment for me. To realize that 8 women had been led to believe by the church, that God would rather see them dead than separated made me very sad. It also made me angry. How could the church so devalue a woman’s life? Some elements within the church have put such a emphasis on the “sanctity” of marriage that they have forgotten the sanctity of the lives within the marriage. I wanted to say to each of those women, “I am sorry! I am so sorry you have been made to feel this way.”
Ten years later, I am really thankful to be part of a North American wide network of Christians who are working to end violence against women but I continue to meet women who feel completely trapped by their “Christian” abusive husbands.