“The Rights of Men”

“We recognize that men are also victims of domestic violence and abuse. We encourage communities to offer the same policies and protection as provided for women in similar situations. We affirm the right of men to live free from violence and abuse and urge governments to enact policies that protect men against all forms of violence and discrimination in any sector of society.

We recognize that men’s role in raising children is in equal importance to women’s and call for equal rights as women in opportunities for parental leave. When parents divorce, men often have less contact with their children. We call for equal access to child-custody, but emphasize that the best interest of the child always is the most important.”

162.III.G, The Rights of Men, The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2016

For today, I wanted to share this excerpt from the Book of Resolutions for a few reasons:

  • Men (and non-binary folks) deserve the same rights as women, including the right to be believed and protected from abusive individuals.
  • Men (and non-binary folks) have an equal role in parenting as mothers. Although fathers tend to have less contact with their children, that unfortunate reality should only occur if it is in the best interest of the child or children. It is possible for situations to arise where men have more contact than women in the parenting process (i.e., when Domestic Violence has occured, when the mother’s judgment is suspect, etc.), even if such situations happen less often and are statistically improbable at this point in our society’s maturation process.
  • The Book of Resolutions is a book of ideals from people gathered around the globe. Together, those individuals representing hundreds of thousands of United Methodists have proclaimed that men have rights and should be protected just as zealously as other victims of Domestic Abuse. If you have gone through this experience, you are not alone and people see your plight.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Judgment and Domestic Violence

“Grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work.”

“Preamble to the Social Principles,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2016.

What are the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church? Earlier in the preamble to the Social Principles within the Book of Resolutions, the Social Principles self-identify themselves as existing outside of church law. The principles “are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions.”

The Social Principles are neither binding by church law nor restrictive of church member behavior. They are a work born of prophetic zeal and idealism which in the end hopefully points us towards a more holistic understanding of the world around us.

Why am I bringing this up during Domestic Violence Awareness month? I would point out at least two things about the paragraph that I originally quoted. 

First, the Social Principles point towards the value of each individual. Yesterday my post pointed out that there should be a place for redemption in the church. Today I wanted to point out that even when redemption takes place, the redemption of another person’s life does not diminish the importance of wholeness and healing in the life of the victims of domestic violence.

Each person has inestimable worth and part of our common work is to affirm that value in the lives of people who have been demeaned, denigrated, or diminished through the sinful actions of others. Victims of Domestic Violence can feel broken, worthless, or even worth less than others. The lives of people who have gone through this experience are valuable and they are worthy of both God’s love and a loving place in God’s community.

Second, I want to point out that this paragraph points out that we both live within the forgiving love of God and are subject to judgment through and by that love. I’m generally not a hellfire and damnation preacher, but I do not deny that judgment will one day come for us all. I believe that God is far more gracious and kind than us, and I also believe wholeheartedly that God’s loving kindness sees and counts every tear and wound inflicted through our broken behavior and actions. 

As a survivor of Domestic Violence myself, there are times when I honestly do not want to be forgiving. In those moments, there are times when I can only move forward by handing my pain over to my loving God. I can let go of a deathgrip on my anger, pain, and hurt because I understand that in time God will take care of things. 

I don’t need to be vengeful for any vengeance necessary is in the hands of a God who is both kinder and better equipped to bring judgment without cruelty. I don’t need to carry anger around in my heart, for the pain which would fuel my anger doesn’t need to rest within me. I can let God care for the situation and move forward with life. 

Judgment may come, but I don’t need to be the judge. Retribution may come, but I don’t need to be dealing it out. I don’t have to do a thing to harm the people who harmed me, for God will care for those who have done wrong. I am a person of inestimable value and I don’t need to cheapen my value by carrying around worthless and harmful things like rage, anger, and hatred. God has those things, so I can move forward with life without worrying about them every day.

If you have been through such pain, I invite you to consider that God both loves you and will one day deal with the sinfulness of the world. There can be  healing and there can be wholeness even after everything that both you and I have gone through. It is not easy to hand over such things to God, but I invite you to consider what life might be like without carrying the baggage of pain, anger, and hatred with you everywhere you go. 

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Place for Both

“We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. We encourage the Church to provide a safe environment, counsel, and support for the victim and to work with the abuser to understand the root causes and forms of abuse and to overcome such behaviors. Regardless of the cause or the abuse, both the victim and the abuser need the love of the Church. While we deplore the actions of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God’s redeeming love.”

¶161.II.H. “The Nurturing Community, Family Violence and Abuse” in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016

What does it mean that the church is a place for both the abuser and the abused? This question resonates deeply with me as a survivor of Domestic Violence. Can there be space in the church for both me and the person who tore me to shreds?

Yes. The short answer is that the church absolutely must be broad enough for both the abused and the abusers. Although I have my issues with the imperfect nature of the Book of Resolutions, to the best of my ability I understand that the church must make room both for those who need redemption and for those who lives need to be redeemed from the places of desolation, sorrow, and shattering.

Why? Wouldn’t it be easier to lean into the more judgmental parts of scripture? Although I generally refer to the larger section of the scriptures as the Hebrew Scriptures, can’t God “go Old Testament” once in a while with the fire, flames, and what not? Won’t God bring damnation to those who have hurt people deeply to the point where it feels imprinted on the soul? Aren’t there places where the wicked find out that they can’t have their cake and eat it too?

Absolutely those places exist in scripture. Honestly, my soul rests better at night knowing that such places exist in the theological life of the church. That being said, we can do better as a people than rely on damnation as our first recourse to sin in the world. Who among us is without sin in their lives?

Once upon a time, most of us crawled on the earth as toddlers. Each of us grew up in the same world that was filled with imperfection and brokenness. Some of those who abuse were once the innocent ones being abused. Some of those who abuse walked down dark roads none of us would choose to walk.

Would we want to be left to our own sorrow and judgment after we went on such a journey? If there truly is a chance for redemption, would any of us truly ask for redemption to pass us by? Would we want to suffer when grace might lead us back to life and lifegiving ways? Is that what we would want if we walked down such roads in those shoes?

We are called to love one another. We are called to treat each other like we would want to be treated. We are called to live lives filled with the unmerited favor known as grace. Judgment belongs to the Lord and there may come a day when judgment falls, but between now and then we are called to lives of faith, hope, and love.

Yes, that means that my abuser may one day shelter under the wings of the God that shelters me. Yes, that means that the Holy Spirit may need to sit us both down one day or keep us under opposite wings of the divine Mothering Hen (Mt. 23:37).

Should such a day come, I will ask God to help me to make room, even if I still have moments where the tears flow and I ask for God to “go Old Testament” every now and again. I will stretch for God as I believe and ask God to help me in my unbelief.

Even after such a moment, I do have to state clearly that forgiving and making room for an abuser does not justify abusive behavior, ever. Also, let’s be absolutely clear that I don’t need to be the person to bring my abuser back into the community of life. While I may give my blessing for their restoration, I do not feel the need to do it myself. If you have been abused, it might not be your responsibility either.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Complete Personhood

It can be easy to overlook the underlying issues that exist when considering the effects of Domestic Violence within the family. One issue that can be easily overlooked is how acts of Domestic Violence can affect the wellbeing of others. It may seem overly simplistic, but the simple things are often those most often overlooked.

As stated in other posts this month, the folks over at DomesticViolence.org wisely share that “Domestic violence shows itself in a number of different forms, whether it’s punching, slapping, choking, or threatening, manipulating, yelling and many others.” They are absolutely correct when they state that such acts are never okay, but why?

I like to rely on the wisdom of others as a United Methodist minister and as a person. One document of living wisdom from the ecclesial world is the Book of Resolutions, which is a collection of non-binding statements which often express the ideals and sentiments of the church as gathered every quadrennium (except for 2020) since 1792. The process of holy conferencing has not always been perfect, but the theory behind acts of holy conferencing remains sound (in my opinion).

The 2016 Book of Resolutions is an imperfect document created by a people who believe in striving towards perfection. The principles of Holy Conferencing helped to create this imperfect document. Even imperfect, the imperfections of this work do not preclude it from holding wisdom. The 2016 Book of Resolutions states in the section on the family within “The Nurturing Community” in ¶161.II.B. :

“We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children. We also understand the family as encompassing a wider range of options than that of the two-generational unit of parents and children (the nuclear family). We affirm shared responsibility for parenting where there are two parents and encourage social, economic, and religious efforts to maintain and strengthen relationships within families in order that every member may be assisted toward complete personhood.”

¶161.II.B. “The Nurturing Community, The Family” in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016

The final statement of that section speaks to a family that ideally helps each person to become whole in each part of their personhood. Although the facets of human life are philosophically debatable, the aim for families to help each person become whole in body, spirit, and soul is an admirable aim.

What happens when we take the people in that system and shatter the dynamics between the members? Can a person be whole in spirit and soul as their body is covered in bruises? Can a person have a truly healthy body when their spirit is domineered and diminished by another person who should be nurturing them?

It is very easy to stand in judgment over situations where there is domestic violence: Are people being too sensitive? Couldn’t that person just say something? Shouldn’t they just stand up for themselves? Isn’t that person just asking for it?

It is easy to dismiss domestic violence from the outside, but from the inside things may not be so easily dismissed. Why doesn’t the person with thirty pounds of muscle just walk away from the person hitting them? Maybe they are frightened, threatened, or intimidated. Even if we never know why such a situation exists, it is still important to stand up for the ideal that every person should be provided a chance to be a whole and complete person.

Wholeness looks different from person from person, but each person should have a chance to live into their own personhood. Just like with the Book of Resolutions, things may not be perfect yet, but today is a good day to begin to work towards a more perfect tomorrow.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Let us Ramble: “The Natural World”

Okay, so today I wanted to put out a blog post that addressed something I hinted at in yesterday’s post. This is more educational than pastoral. Teaching is a part of the role of a pastor in the United Methodist Church, especially in times of crisis. Yesterday I wrote about fear. Today I write about applying faith to action.

Our world stands at a precipice. We have rushed up to the edge of a cliff and are looking off the edge. There is a need for wisdom and discernment in the world. A voice needs to cry out with wisdom! In a world with a thousand and one opinions for every person, there should be some place we can turn when things are out of sorts to find a consensus of wise minds. Yes, the Bible is one such place to find guidance, but nuclear weapons are not mentioned by name in the scripture.

Thankfully, the United Methodist Church meets for holy conferencing every four years. While I am not always a fan of everything that comes out of General Conference, there is one resource that I believe best expresses the heart of what good holy conferencing can create. Unfortunately, not many United Methodists read the words of our Book of Resolutions. The Book of Resolutions are non-binding on people within the church and as such are free to express our most passionate ideals while not forcing churches in wildly different circumstances to engage in the same behaviors.

Here’s what the 2016 Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church (¶160.1) says about “The Natural World:” (my underlines)

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of nature and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.

As United Methodists have gathered in Holy Conferencing, we have come to the conclusion as a global body that there are some things we believe about the world around us. We believe that this world is a world that is entrusted to us but does not exist entirely for us. Our planet has a natural heritage this planet possesses that abuses have caused us to damage and debilitate in some cases. Plants, creatures, and the earth itself all consist parts of God’s creation. We are called to care for this earth as caretakers and stewards.

While there are people who still argue about and around climate change, the vast majority of people understand that the deployment of nuclear weapons would be a damaging act that would do a massive amount of harm to the earth, the plants, the biosphere, and the creatures including humans. United Methodists believe that the way we treat the world can jeopardize the natural heritage entrusted to all people and all who live upon and in the world itself. As a people, we cannot abide the concept of nuclear war and the ramifications it has on human and natural life. We have the technology and we have the ability to develop non-technological responses (e.g. diplomacy, sanctions, isolation) to deal with tyranny without resorting to nuclear exchanges.

The suffering which would take place as the result of a nuclear exchange would be massive. As people of faith, there are many things we can do. We can pray for our leaders and for other world leaders. We can study peace-making and begin to create a culture of peace-making that can influence challenges like these in the future. We can also write or call our representatives in this earthly nation and ask them to express displeasure (and abject horror) to other leaders in the world about the possibility of a nuclear exchange.

Regardless of feelings of helplessness, questions of efficacy, or doubts about our own abilities, it is the obligation of stewards to care for creation. We are stewards of creation and we have an obligation to seek a way forward which will care for creation in the face of nuclear annihilation. To do anything less would be an abdication of our responsibility as caretakers of a planet that has given us all of the great elements that provide us life.

A Collect for these days: “Holy God, You are the One who stitched this world together. Knit together Your caretakers in action, deed, and love through your Holy Spirit so that we may work together to keep this world from being torn asunder through the most brutal and violent of forces. We pray these things through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”