Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A review of Battered Into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse In The Christian Home

To be honest, I'm not sure what made me buy and read this book.  I probably bought it after reading about Josh and Anna Duggar.  Though I am interested in religion and the dynamics of religious people, I am not myself very religious.  I also am not involved in an abusive relationship.

Written by James and Phyllis Alsdurf and published in 1989, Battered Into Submission is a book that addresses the frightening domestic violence trend in Christian marriages.  Given that it was published in 1989, Battered Into Submission is not the most timely book on this subject.  And yet, it may be very good reading for some audiences, especially those who think Christian homes are exempted from abuse.

Though this book uses dramatic anecdotes to explain how abuse happens, I mostly found the book rather textbook like.  I was reminded of some of the books I read for my social work degree, except this book includes a lot of Bible verses.  For that reason, I think it's probably best suited for pastors, students, and Christian counselors.  A regular layperson may find the reading a bit too dry.  On the other hand, Christian readers may appreciate that the Alsdurfs include Biblical answers to the most commonly trotted out verses that justify spousal abuse and/or discipline.  The authors also discuss the mindset that many abusers have.

One problem I had with this book is that it's only about wives being abused.  As we all know, abuse is not a gender specific problem.  I guess it makes sense that this book mainly only addresses wives because it was published in 1989 and addresses Christians.  Many religious households tend to be patriarchal, though that is certainly not always the case.  It wasn't the case with my husband and his ex wife, though I strongly suspect the ex was "religious" only because it was a handy tool she could use to control others.  When it comes down to it, abusive males may also be that way because it's a means of being in and maintaining control.

This book came out way before the Duggars were a "thing", though the authors do reference certain Christian bigwigs affiliated with the Duggars.  For instance, they mention Bill Gothard, as well as J-O-Y (Jesus first, others second, yourself last), which is a philosophy the Duggars often espouse.  The authors assert that always putting others before yourself ignores that you have intrinsic worth and also deserve consideration.

The Alsdurfs discuss Malachi 2:16, which is apparently often misquoted--"I hate divorce, and I hate a man who clothes himself and his wife with violence."  Many Christians ignore the second half of that verse, which condemns domestic violence.  Not being particularly religious, I hadn't heard of that verse.  What I had heard of is the verse about wives submitting to their husbands... again, often misquoted as people forget that husband are supposed to submit to God.

Some very conservative Christians may not like that the authors encourage divorce when there is abuse.  Personally, in many situations, I happen to agree with them.  On the other hand, divorce sucks.  I'm glad Bill got a divorce from his abusive ex wife, but it still sucks.  I think it should be avoided whenever possible.  Probably the best way for that to happen is for people to really know each other well before they decide to marry.  And even then, sometimes divorce is necessary.

Anyway... I think Battered Into Submission may be a great addition to a pastor's library, though a newer book might be even better.  As for Josh and Anna Duggar, I wouldn't blame Anna at all if she decided to divorce Josh.  However, I can also see how a divorce could be problematic for both of them.  We'll see what the future holds.

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