Consider The Source: Christians Who Give Singles Dating Advice Also Regularly Coach Wives to Stay in Abusive Marriages
In the past, I have discussed how Christians give cliched-filled dating advice to Christian singles.
I’ve written before about how a lot of Christian dating advice is contradictory, condescending, impractical, stupid, sexist, or rude.
I’ve read a lot about how Christians handle women who are in terrible marriages.
I don’t know why it’s not dawned on me until now, but I think another reason anyone – Christian adult singles – should think twice about taking advice about dating or relationships from Christians is to look at how they deal with people who are in marriages that are loveless, abusive, or, in one recent case, people who discover they are married to pedophiles.
In the vast majority of stories I’ve seen online, in support groups for Christian women who divorced their abusive husbands, and in some books I’ve read about domestic violence, the vast majority of churches, and they are usually conservative, do not support these women.
Many evangelical, Reformed, Baptist and fundamentalist branches of Christianity have so turned marriage into an idol, and they so distort what the Scriptures teach about marriage and divorce, nine times out of ten, they seek to save a troubled marriage rather than the people who comprise the marriage.
Ergo, when an abused wife approaches her Sunday School class or preacher for help, most of the time, she will be instructed to stay with her spouse. She will be encouraged to stay with an abuser, submit to him even more, pray for him, and so on. None of these strategies suffice, for they will only enable the abuser.
Most experts on marital abuse (and this includes verbal and emotional abuse, not only physical abuse) whose work I have read have said that most abusers do not change. The only option left for these women is to leave the husband (meaning, usually, divorce).
Churches, though, remain ignorant on how to properly handle abusive marriages, and they will keep telling women in horrible marriages to stay with their husbands.
Most churches and preachers place a premium on keeping marriages together at all cost, they do not care how much you are being hurt, exploited, or abused by your husband.
In a recent story, a church in Dallas disciplined a woman who found out that her husband was a pedophile after they were married. The church pastors were angry with her for annulling her marriage from a pedophile.
A lot of divorced Christian women have said on blogs for abuse recovery victims that they had to divorce their spouse for their mental and – or physical safety, but that their church was still not empathetic. Their churches, they said, shunned or disciplined them – and they were the victim – but showed love and compassion to their abusive husband.
In light of the fact that churches are so unloving, unhelpful, and victim-blaming to women who are already married, who even expect women to stay married to abusers and pedophiles, it is not wise to seek, heed, or take the advice of Christians who issue dating advice.
Take, for example, this following dating advice by pastor Matt Chandler of Village Church. I am not saying every single last comment he makes is wrong, but overall, I wouldn’t give this guy’s dating advice the time of day because he is lead preacher of a church who recently disciplined a woman who left her husband as soon as she found out he is a pedophile:
- (Link): Matt Chandler on Christian Dating
- (Link): Megachurch Pastor Matt Chandler Says Modern Dating Trend Is ‘Goofy,’ Plans to Teach Kids ‘Traditional Dating’ Style
- (Link): 10 Questions on Dating with Matt Chandler
Again, I am not saying 100% of all this guy’s tips are horrible. He may make one or two decent, worthwhile points here and there.
Chandler actually starts out pretty well in his answer to question 10 on the “10 Questions on Dating with Matt Chandler” page, but ends with the lame advice to singles who want to marry to (paraphrasing) “throw themselves into ministry to other women.”
And prior to that, he discourages Christian single women who are tired of waiting for Mr. Christian Right to appear from marrying a Non-Christian.
Chandler starts off well enough by saying,
- First, I just want to totally affirm the desire to be married. I don’t want anybody to ever feel guilty about that desire. I feel like so often, particularly single women — God bless them — they feel like the only message they get is: “Find your contentment in Christ. Isn’t Christ enough for you?”
- And I think that’s such a terrible response, because the desire to get married is a good desire. It may even be a desire woven into them by the Creator of the universe.
He also says on (Link): that page:
- And even when I think of the young woman [who is single who wants to be married] who helped shape some of these questions, she has given herself over to serve the Lord, to write and to teach and to disciple and to open up her home to care for other women and to encourage other women to grow in biblical literacy. And I think that that is what Christ has for them — fulfilling, soul-stirring, soul-satisfying, gospel ministry.
- ….So in all of this, the way I have tried to counsel our singles at The Village Church is to give themselves over to ministry and to serving the Lord.
Son, let’s get realistic here.
I’m in my early 40s. I am done waiting for a Christian man.
I want a man, I want marriage, I want to have sex. I don’t want or need a Bible- lesson- teaching vocation, or Bible lesson teaching hobby to find contentment, or to pass the time.
Me teaching Bible stories to other ladies is not going to fill the husband-shaped hole in my heart.
But I find a lot of Christian advice to ladies such as me boils down to things like that: “don’t pursue marriage with a Non-Christian, just find fulfillment baking cookies for children at your church, or from teaching Bible lessons to women.”
This advice is so very naive and does not really address what single women feel and desire.
(By the way, I am being cynical here but assuming that the reason Chandler tells singles to serve in ministry is that he wants free slave – volunteer – labor in the form of single women at his church.
Ladies, you are most likely not going to get a husband while serving in ministry at a church. Yes, that is how some ladies get men, but most do not. Most churches lack single men. You are better off on dating sites or asking friends to fix you up on dates.)
Also on that page, Chandler downplays that he thinks singles can practice self control, so he tells them not to be alone, and not to watch movies alone together past 11 PM. He suggests they only hang out in public places, such as parks.
Dude, wrong again. I was engaged in my early 30s, spent time alone with my ex fiance, including over night visits, but there was no sexual activity.
And yes, I have a libido, as did my ex. Two adults can control themselves. Two adults being alone together does not equal sex.
You don’t have to limit all your dates to public parks, give me a break.
At any rate, as I was saying, while Chandler may actually have one or two decent tid bits of advice in some of his other interviews, I would not listen to this guy’s advice on dating.
My concern is that Christian singles remember the source, for one thing.
This Matt Chandler guy and his church has a “save the marriage no matter what” view, so that when a woman ended her marriage to her husband once she found he was a pedophile, Chandler and his other pastors put her in discipline and only backed down after much public outcry.
I wrote about that here:
- (Link): Some Christians Have Some Very Strange, Unsettling, Creepy, or Authoritarian Ideas About Marriage, Divorce, or Mate Selection – and they think they should make your life choices for you
- (Link): A Response To J D Hall’s Vomit-tastic Post about Village Church’s Handling of Certain Members, Covenants, and Marriages
Some churches do nothing to help women who are married to abusers, and expect them to stay married to the abuser no matter what. You can read more about that here (this is part 1. There is a part 2 and a part 3):
- (Link): A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in your Church: A Review / Victims of abuse are often discounted by their churches
- The local church is one of the favorite hiding places of the abusive person. Conservative, Bible-believing religion is his frequent choice of facade. Within the evangelical church, women (and sometimes men) are being terribly abused in their homes and marriages. The children of such abusers are suffering as well. And when those victims come to their churches, to their pastors, and to their fellow Christians, pleading for help, well … Victims of abuse are often discounted by their churches (12).
- One of the main reasons that Pastor Crippen wrote A Cry for Justice is that all too often churches, pastors, and well-meaning Christians end up hurting victims and protecting abusers. Here is an example from the book that outlines what happens when a victim comes to her church for help:
- 1. Victim reports abuse to her pastor.
- 2. Pastor does not believe her claims, or at least believes they are greatly exaggerated. After all, he “knows” her husband to be one of the finest Christian men he knows, a pillar of the church.
- 3. Pastor minimizes the severity of the abuse. His goal is often, frankly, damage control (to himself and to his church).
- 4. Pastor indirectly (or not so indirectly!) implies that the victim needs to do better in her role as wife and mother and as a Christian. He concludes that all such scenarios are a “50/50″ blame sharing.
- 5. Pastor sends the victim home, back to the abuser, after praying with her and entrusting the problem to the Lord.
- 6. Pastor believes he has done his job.
- 7. Victim returns, reporting that nothing has changed. She has tried harder and prayed, but the abuse has continued.
- 8. Pastor decides to do some counseling. …
- 9. As time passes, the victim becomes the guilty party in the eyes of the pastor and others. She is the one causing the commotion. She is pressured by the pastor and others int he church to stop rebelling, to submit to her husband, and stop causing division in the church.
- 10. After more time passes, the victim separates from or divorces the abuser. The church has refused to believe her, has persistently covered up the abuse, has failed to obey the law and report the abuse to the police, and has refused to exercise church discipline against the abuser. Ironically, warnings of impending church discipline are often directed against the victim!
- 11. The final terrible injustice is that the victim is the one who must leave the church, while the abuser remains a member in good standing, having successfully duped the pastor and church into believing that his victim was the real problem (21-22).
- It may sound far-fetched, but I know of a woman whose experience fits this to a “T.” This is the all too common experience for many, many women (and some men) in our churches. This should not be so.
Also consider (from (Link): Matt Chandler’s Apology: A Lot of Money Resides on This)
- And herein is the problem. Their theology camps on two highly disputed items of Christian thinking, stemming primarily from John Calvin, who imposed iron rule on the people Geneva when he rose to prominence in the 16th century.
- One is the question of predestination.
- Two is the question of absolute male authority in the church and in the home. According to this branch of Christian thinking, no females may ever serve in an authoritative role in the church. Also, the husband is the undisputed “servant-leader” of the home. Wives are to live in full submission to them.
- Now, there’s lots of talk about “complementarianism” here, and God-ordained male and female “roles” and “spheres” and “gentle and loving leadership.” Nonetheless, the man is in charge. Period. His decisions are final and binding.
- The all-male elders of the church also get to make final and binding decisions upon all members of such church. Keep this in mind: there are NO female voices or perspectives permitted at the decision-making level of any of these churches.
- With those two points of doctrine guiding them, the church is a set up for abuse of the vulnerable however much they may not want this to happen. With only male voices having authority, all prejudice and preference, known or hidden, goes to the male. Second, if you don’t agree with these men theologically, then you are NOT one of the chosen, and thus destined to hell. Thus, they may easily dismiss you with condemnation.
- …Their [Village Church / Acts 29] very theology gives them permission to condemn others, and particularly permission to condemn a wife who dares to question her husband as spiritual and human equal in the kingdom of heaven.
Would you really want to take dating advice, or advice on how to live life as an adult single, from churches, church elders, church members, and preachers who hold those type of legalistic, uncompassionate, and authoriatrian views about marriage and other topics? They would not have your best interests at heart, but rather, protecting their church’s reputation and their doctrine and system of authority.
Do you really want to take dating advice from a man or church who feel it’s acceptable to force, shame, or pressure a woman to stay married to a pedophile?
And do you really want to take dating advice or how to live life as a single commentary from other preachers, churches, or denominations who counsel and pressure their women members to stay in marriages where their husband abuses them?
If Christians cannot treat spousal abuse or troubled marriages correctly (and they do not), and that they often push and pressure women to return and receive even more abuse from their spouse, they are not sources you should consider trustworthy in how to date and in whom to marry, either.
You are better off making your own choices in life, including who to date or marry.
My only other suggestions would be for you to read books and blogs that teach you what warning signs to look for in a man so that you don’t end up marrying an abusive, self absorbed, or controlling man.
Not all abusers give off warning signs, but a lot of them do, and it would be time well spent to read up on what those warning signs are.
If you find yourself consistently attracting abusers, self centered people, manipulators, or exploiters, you might need to go into therapy to find out why and how to change, so that you no longer attract people who are harmful to you.
And you most likely need to learn how to deal with people at the first sign of them being rude, abusive, or manipulative (you need to learn what boundaries are and how to use them).
If you keep attracting abusers, users, or losers (whether as dates, boyfriends, husbands or platonic female friends), I would guess you might be codependent.
Seeking therapy or reading books such as “The Disease To Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome” by Dr. Harriet B. Braiker might be a good place to start to recover and change.
I would caution you from reading Christian literature, Christian self help books or videos, or seeing a “biblical” (sometimes called a “nouthetic”) counselor, depending on the philosophy involved.
That is, a lot – not all, but a lot – of Christian books and counselors are unhelpful and many are victim-blaming.
There are few quality, non-victim-blaming Christian resources to help hurting, victimized, or codependent Christians.
A lot of Christian counselors and self-help books heavily engage in victim-blaming. Their goal and their approach is often to get you to dwell on your personal sins and then tell you the reason you keep attracting abusers, or the reason you were raped when younger, (or whatever issue you have), is due to your sins and your failing.
They will not hold your abuser accountable but will pin all blame on you, even though you were not at fault. It’s a twisted and warped treatment plan and counseling paradigm, and it will not help you heal and get past whatever issues you have (abuse, codependency, depression, whatever it may be).
My point is, if you choose to see a therapist or read self help books (especially if CHRISTIAN, as opposed to secular), please be very cautious about it.
I have seen a small number of understanding and competent Christian mental health professionals online. I have also seen a small number of understanding, compassionate and competent self-help books (about abuse, depression, other issues) by other Christian mental health professions.
So I am not saying that every Christian mental health professional is to be avoided, but in my opinion, I do think most are dangerous and unhelpful, like 98%.
The majority of Christian books I see by Christian mental health professionals tend to be very victim-blaming. Again, not all of them, but quite a few.
Use a lot of discernment when or if seeking a Christian mental health professional or books by them.
Even in one of the secular self help books I have, the author warns readers of her book that when searching for a counselor (and she has in mind secular counselors though this could apply to Christian ones as well), be cautious, because some therapists, counselors, and psychologists think they know you better than yourself and they will be condescending.
Instead of trying to help you, such therapists will dictate to you what they feel is right for you.
The counselor who wrote the book I read cautions against consulting such arrogant, “know it all” mental health professionals and advises you to keep “doctor shopping” until you find a counselor or psychologist who will respect you and work with you – one who will not order you around, not boss you around.
But the point I want to leave you with is this:
Christians are terrible at advising women who are ALREADY married, and they treat married women like TRASH (they instruct them to stay in abusive marriages), so what makes you think the advice they dish out to single women is going to be any better – or helpful, wise, and loving (it’s not).
Please disregard the majority of Christian dating advice you read or listen to.
Edit. Dec 2016
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Beware <a href=”https://twitter.com/PastorMark”>@PastorMark</a> Driscoll's starting a Real Marriage series <a href=”https://twitter.com/TheTrinityChrch”>@TheTrinityChrch</a> Jan 2017. Why would anyone take marital advice from him? <a href=”https://t.co/dsM1QrwQeF”>pic.twitter.com/dsM1QrwQeF</a></p>— Mark Driscoll Quotes (@MDriscollQuotes) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MDriscollQuotes/status/809791554516828160″>December 16, 2016</a></blockquote>
(Link): Women: Stop Asking Pat Robertson For Romantic Relationship Advice – Whether You Are Divorced or Single – Pat Robertson Replies to Letter from Four Time Divorced Woman Who Wants to Know If God Will Send Her a Non-Abusive Husband