NASHVILLE (BP) — After professional football star Ray Rice was suspended by the NFL indefinitely for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in Atlantic City, Southern Baptists took to the Internet to give a biblical perspective on domestic violence.
“Often, men who abuse their wives or girlfriends will seek to hide under the cover of therapeutic language, as they seek to ‘deal’ with their ‘issues,'” Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist Russell D. Moore wrote in a blog post for CNN Sept. 10.
“There is no question that a man who would abuse a woman is socially and psychologically twisted,” Moore wrote, “but we should not allow this to in any way ameliorate the moral and public evil involved in these cases. The state should work, at every level, to prosecute the abusers of women and children in a way that will both deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.”
Rice, a two-time All-Pro running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for two games initially, after a video showed him dragging the unconscious body of Janay Palmer, who is now his wife, out of a casino elevator following the assault in February. When an elevator surveillance video showing the actual assault surfaced Monday (Sept. 8), the Ravens released Rice and the NFL handed down his indefinite suspension.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said both the government and the church have a responsibility to confront violence against women. Part of the government’s responsibility, he said, is to make justice “clear and decisive enough” that women will report abuse and not fear repercussions from the men who harm them.
Churches must “address the spiritual and moral realities behind” domestic violence by disciplining men who abuse women and teaching about biblical gender roles, Moore said.
Christians “are the people who believe that every idle word and every hateful act, no matter how covered up in this life, will be brought into the open at the Judgment Seat,” Moore wrote. “We ought to warn men that their cowardly and predatory acts toward women do not escape the scrutiny of God.”
Among other Southern Baptists to comment on the Rice situation:
— Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, wrote that public outrage over Rice’s actions demonstrates widespread acknowledgment that women possess unique dignity which must be protected.
“The justly-outraged response of America to Rice’s abusive act has shown us that though we might ideologically deny that women deserve courtly treatment from men, we still practically believe they do,” Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, wrote in a blog post at patheos.com. “There is something particularly awful, in other words, about Rice knocking out the woman he ostensibly loves. This act of violence is different than a fight between him and a hulking teammate. As many commentators have recognized, a man brutalizing a woman is terrible in a unique way.”
The physical strength of men has been granted to them by God and should be used to protect others rather than harm them, Strachan wrote.
“What would godly men do if they saw a situation like the one Ray Rice created?” Strachan wrote. “They would know, most likely, that if they stood between him and her, they would get dropped, flat out. They would be knocked out. But they would step in all the same. What’s more, they would do so gladly. They would sacrifice their safety and their body and their very life for others. Men stand in the middle. Men get between.”
— Emily Ellis, a publishing team leader at LifeWay Christian Resources, lamented that 42 percent of pastors say they rarely or never speak about domestic violence in their churches, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.
Ellis said the biblical pictures of Boaz covering Ruth with his garment and God covering His people contrast with the video of Palmer lying “exposed and humiliated on an elevator floor.”
“Instead of Rice ‘covering’ her, as God has commanded men to do, he exposed her. He abused her. He misused his God-given strength to harm her,” Ellis wrote in a guest post on LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer’s blog.
— Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, identified 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 as key Bible passages to guide husbands in proper treatment of their wives. Though often controversial, adopting biblical gender roles in the home leads to harmonious families, he wrote in a blog post.
“While our society cringes to see the video of a man striking his fiancée, the solution to the problem is often equally despised. This is because the teachings of Scripture are counter-cultural,” Lenow wrote.
“It is unpopular to tell a man that he should treat his wife as a weaker vessel. It is out of favor to say that a wife should submit to the loving leadership of her husband as to Christ. But I think counter-cultural is the way we should go here. While culture walks swiftly down the path of violence, the words of Scripture call us men to honor, love, and cherish women,” he wrote.
— Alex Duke, editorial manager for 9Marks, a ministry associated with Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., used the Rice incident as an opportunity for evangelism. In an article posted at The Gospel Coalition website, Duke addressed non-Christian sports fans who might stumble across his writing.
“I’m struck by my propensity to, like Rice, hide the truth about myself despite convincing evidence to the contrary,” Duke wrote. “… But there is someone who has all the evidence, all the footage, someone who knows and has seen and can recall every minute detail, frame by frame by frame. I don’t know your feelings about the Bible, but I trust its every word. So I believe the author of Hebrews when he writes, ‘And no creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’
“If today’s technology can watch us from the tucked-away corners of casino elevators, how much more can we be sure the creator of the eye and the giver of sight sees all things? Only repentance and faith in the enfleshed, risen Son saves us totally from our sins, private and public, broadcasted and hidden (Rom. 5-8),” he wrote.
— Joe Carter, ERLC communications director, noted “9 Things You Should Know About Intimate Partner Violence.”
“In 48 population-based surveys from around the world, 10-69 percent of women reported being physically assaulted by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives,” Carter wrote at The Gospel Coalition website. “In large national studies, the range is between 10-34 percent.”
Carter added, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women (22.3 percent) have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men (14.0 percent) have experienced the same. Female victims frequently experienced multiple forms of IPV (i.e. rape, physical violence, stalking); male victims most often experienced physical violence.”
— Jeremy Pierre, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press that an article he published last year may help churches and pastors considering the topic of domestic violence in light of Rice. In the article Pierre urged churches to “promote a culture of safety for oppressed people in the congregation” and discipline abusive men.
“Wives should be reminded that by remaining quiet about abusive husbands they insulate them from the loving correction they need to save their souls from destruction,” Pierre wrote in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. “It is not loving to hide domestic abuse; it will only bring destruction. To the victim as well as the perpetrator. No matter how many times an abuser feels guilty and promises not to continue, without help from others, the pattern will continue.”
Pastors should always alert government authorities in cases of violence and sexual abuse, Pierre wrote.
“Many well-meaning pastors may, in attempt to show grace, treat violence as ‘church family business.’ This is both illegal and foolish. Part of godly authority is exacting the consequences of a man’s actions on him. An abuser must be accountable to the law, regardless of the state of his repentance,” Pierre wrote.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).