The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why you don’t have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control

The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why you don’t have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control

Author : Helen Paynter
£8.99

Challenges the use of the Bible in validating domestic abuse

This book is addressed directly to women experiencing domestic abuse, and to those who seek to support them, including pastoral leaders, friends and support organisations.

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Title The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why you don’t have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control
Author Helen Paynter
Description

This book is addressed directly to women experiencing domestic abuse, and to those who seek to support them, including pastoral leaders, friends and support organisations.

It debunks the myths – perpetuated by some abusers and, unwittingly, by many churches – which prevent women from getting out of harm’s way. It helps them realise that the Bible does not belong to their abuser but is a text of liberation. Written with careful attention to pastoral issues, it closely examines and clearly explains the relevant scriptural texts.

Details
  • Product code: 9780857469892
  • Published: 23 October 2020
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144
  • Dimensions: 130mm wide and 198mm high

This book is addressed directly to women experiencing domestic abuse, and to those who seek to support them, including pastoral leaders, friends and support organisations.

It debunks the myths – perpetuated by some abusers and, unwittingly, by many churches – which prevent women from getting out of harm’s way. It helps them realise that the Bible does not belong to their abuser but is a text of liberation. Written with careful attention to pastoral issues, it closely examines and clearly explains the relevant scriptural texts.

Helen Paynter is Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence. A Baptist minister and biblical specialist, she has published at popular and scholarly levels, including God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? (2019) for BRF. She speaks nationally and internationally about the interpretation of biblical violence and the abuse of the Bible to promote violence.

‘This book is important. Helen Paynter’s expertise with scripture, her approachability and her engagement with the reality of abuse ensure The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So is extremely helpful, both for Christians who have been subjected to abuse and for those wanting a strong biblical approach to addressing domestic abuse issues. It is both theological and practical and offers an authoritative and ultimately healing approach to scripture for women who have been abused. I know it will make a positive difference to women’s lives!’
Natalie Collins, author of Out of Control: Couples, conflict and the capacity for change

‘I have all too often seen the Bible I love weaponised by men to control and subordinate their wives. The sad truth is that domestic abuse is as prevalent in the church as it is in the world outside. I am deeply grateful for this book and Helen’s detailed study and balanced explanation of the texts that have been used throughout the centuries to “bash” women. It is an academically excellent book, which sheds light on the complex scriptures it covers, yet remains immensely readable. It is thorough and profound and enables the reader to not just wrestle with these verses, but also to consider God's original plan for the relationship between men and women. This book shows the Bible is liberating for women and challenging for some men, and I pray The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So will become a core text for leaders as they learn to recognise and respond to domestic abuse within their churches.’
Bekah Legg, director of Restored

 

Inspire magazine, New Zealand Spring 2021. Review by John Meredith

This book is addressed to women experiencing domestic abuse or coercive control within a church setting and people, including church leaders, supporting women who are being abused. Why is such a book needed? Abuse by clergy has been well publicised but domestic abuse and coercive control within church families is wider than is often recognised. I have painful memories of three daughters asking me not to refer to their father as a loving husband at his funeral. They claimed that their mother, who had suffered from his behaviour, had remained within the marriage only because she felt trapped financially. They said their father, who considered himself a man of Christian virtue, emphasised repeatedly it was a wife’s duty to obey.

It is estimated that around 80% of domestic abuse is never reported. As well as physical or sexual violence, abusive relationships may include various forms of personal or social control, threats, accusations and intimidation. Overwhelmingly abusers are male. Domestic abuse and coercive control will often be denied by men and accepted by their female partners as just the way things are.  

Paynter’s book is arranged in three parts. Part 1 deals with what she terms the weaponization of scripture. Passages in Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Peter 3 have been used as weapons against women. Using scholarly exegesis Paynter shows how even if one believes that a wife should submit to her husband as head of the household this is intended to be within a mutually loving, supportive and affirming relationship. It is argued that to use biblical texts to discourage a woman from divorcing an abusive husband is to contravene biblical teaching about respect for human dignity. And it is a misuse of scripture to argue that Christian faith requires a wife to keep on forgiving an abusive husband, or that pastoral care for a parishioner can be expressed through a sexual relationship.

Part 2 is titled ‘The truth will set you free.’ Abusive husbands strip their wives of power, but Paynter shows how throughout scripture God is for the powerless and oppressed.  Scripture affirms that all people have a God-given dignity. In the gospels women’s dignity is affirmed by Jesus. There is nothing in scripture that justifies the subordination of wives or women.

For too long women have not been believed or have been hushed up. But scripture affirms that God is neither indifferent nor concerned to help anyone exercise power over another. In the light of God’s word injustice will always be revealed.

Part 3 includes three personal addresses: to those trapped by an abuser, to church leaders and to the perpetrator. Abused women are urged to have a safety plan and a helpful list is provided. Church leaders are encouraged to listen, to name what is wrong and never to promote gender roles or a theology that creates a sense of male entitlement.

Domestic abuse and coercion are a travesty of relationships and the subordination of women is a biblical distortion. As stated on the cover this book debunks myths that prevent women from getting out of harm’s way. By helping clarify how church leaders need to act to protect women from abuse and free them from guilt and fear the book is a valuable pastoral resource.

Reviewed by John Meredith

 

Baptist Times 18.11.20. Review by Jenni Entrican

This is an important book, and even more so during this time of COVID pandemic when levels of domestic abuse have significantly increased. As the title suggests, it is clear that specific interpretations of the Bible are used to validate totally unacceptable violations against women by their partners. Helen names this as ‘scripture being weaponised against women’, and her aim is to show that the Bible does not support the abuse of anyone.

It is an important book too because of the hidden nature of domestic abuse, particularly within Christian communities who believe that ‘it doesn’t happen here’, or that it is simply a relationship issue where counselling can help, or that it is the fault of the person being abused who needs to deal with low self esteem, or forgive the abuser. If this sounds simplistic, the reality is that these reactions are not uncommon, and thus perpetuate behaviour that is so contrary to God’s intention for humankind.

Thus, Helen’s book, addressed primarily to those suffering abuse, but also to those who support them and church leaders, does an excellent job of unpacking, both the whole sweep of the Biblical narrative, as well as specific scripture passages which are used to validate abusive behaviour. She addresses the Genesis account of the creation of men and women and their relationship; Paul’s exhortation to submit to one another, alongside the revolutionary injunction for men to love their wives as Christ loves the church; truths about what forgiveness looks like; how Jesus viewed and treated women and what God’s heart is for those who are abused.

She finishes briefly by addressing those trapped by an abuser, church leaders on how they can support such, and lastly, she addresses someone who is an abuser.

This book, standing alongside other important books, has an important place in recognising and helping us to deal with what is a hugely important Kingdom and justice issue. It is time for us to grapple with the reality of violence and coercion of women within society as a whole, and particularly within the Christian church.

In one way it is not an easy read as Helen draws on the lived experiences of women who have been in contact with her and we should weep at their stories. However it is carefully crafted to be both deeply theological, yet simple to read. I highly recommend reading this book and offering it to others, as a resource, but also to bind up some very real wounds.

As I have travelled through the UK and Europe these past five years as Baptists Together and European Baptist Federation Presidents, I have met many fascinating and wonderful women, but I have also been aware of how often women are not given the opportunities to use their gifts freely. The more I hear and read of the way the female gender is treated worldwide, the more my heart cries out for more books like these, and for more people to engage with issues of gender justice. 
 
Jenni Entrican was European Baptist Federation President 2017-19, and is a member of the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Racial, Gender and Economic Justice 2020 -2025

Review by Kate Lemon, Services Manager One 25: a Bristol based charity supporting women who have experience trauma, helping them to 'heal and thrive'.

This book is crucial in opening up conversations about domestic abuse within the church. For a long time domestic abuse has not been recognised and this has left women who were being abused isolated and totally unsupported. Moreover this system protected perpetrators of abuse. 

Helen Paynter’s book plays a vital role in demonstrating that abuse happens everywhere, including within Christianity, that it is not acceptable and crucially that the bible does not advocate abuse.

I also support the audiences that the author has targeted: 

- Women who are experiencing domestic abuse and coercive control: this is so important. They need to know that their voices are heard and their experiences recognised as part of the church community. They need to see evidence that the bible does not advocate the abuse they are experiencing. 

- Others in the Christian community who accept, allow or ignore instances of domestic abuse, and particularly church leaders. They are the people in power who need to listen to women and acknowledge what is happening in their church, community and the wider world. They are the people who must put in systems to challenge and stop domestic abuse at a local, national and international level.

Helen’s detailed explanation of what the bible states and what this means is essential in challenging the discourse around women’s place and safety in society. Her position as a knowledgeable minister and biblical specialist gives clear authority to this element of the book.

As well as victims of domestic abuse and church leaders, there are other target audiences for this book: the Christian community as a whole, including volunteers, pastoral assistants and lay leaders. I would also add academics who train ministers and Christian workers, to ensure that this topic is covered in training and staff development. And finally, academics and researchers who study gender politics, women’s rights, sexual violence and abuse, and coercive control. 

My key takeaways from this book are these:

First, the overriding message that God is for all who are oppressed and that includes women experiencing domestic abuse: God is for them and supports them. God does not advocate their abuse nor condone it.

And second, the safety plan: practical list of what women should do if they are planning to leave their abusers in order to keep themselves as safe as possible.

Reviewed by Kate Lemon, Services Manager, One25