Thursday 3rd November 2022
In my last post in this series I talked about the Christian image of a violent God, and how that provides justification for male violence.
Not content with portraying God as violent, some of our theology also portrays God as coercive.
If the church is the bride of Christ, then Christ is a coercive and controlling husband.
How often are we told “don’t do this” or “do more of that”?
How many rules do we believe God imposes on our lives, from what we eat, who we have sex with to what we wear?
How often do we hear that we don’t meet God’s standards, don’t measure up? Aren’t good enough? This is the constant refrain of the abusive husband towards his wife. (I will be looking at more of that in the next post.) Today I want to talk about the way abusive men coerce us into relationships with them, how they then coerce us into staying in the relationship, how it’s really difficult to leave, because we’re so frightened.
Fear. One of the best weapons in the abusers toolbox.
And in the churches toolbox too.
A few hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church realised that the fear of hell would be a great way to keep bums on seats, and now, much of Christianity is focused on a transactional relationship between God and mankind where humans “accept Jesus into their life as their personal saviour” and in return God “saves” them from hell (which he created to send them to)
Again, the cognitive dissonance is strong as we believe in the free gift of God’s grace, as long as you believe the right thing- which doesn’t sound too much like grace to me.
We position this notion of how salvation works as a gift, but in reality it’s a threat. If it’s “believe in me and I’ll save you from hell” then it’s also “don’t believe in me and you’re going to hell.” Much like when the abusive man makes what he considers to be the romantic cry of “if I can’t have you nobody can” or “I’ll never let you go, I love you so much” We all know those statements are really threats, and sadly many of us know only too well the fear they illicit and the impact they have on our choices. If I remain in an abusive relationship because I’m afraid he’ll kill me if I leave, then it can hardly be described as “love” or as a free choice to remain in that relationship. Surely then, if I “believe” the teachings of a particular faith, or I agree to “a personal relationship with God” because this will save me from eternal torment, then how can it be described as “love” “grace” or “choice”?
It’s coercive control. It’s not a “relationship” it’s a contractual agreement. And if we worship a God who coerces and manipulates then tells us it’s “love” then why would we have a problem with coercing and manipulating others in the name of love, or why would we see anything wrong with our husbands doing it to us?
Of course we love him. We’re scared not to.