This summer, I had a conversation with a classmate about what he called “an overly literalistic reading of much of Scripture.” I replied that I never see ideas like that in a positive light. I always feel like that is telling me that I cannot trust something in the Bible. So, I am probably one of those from the camp that favors a literalistic reading of Scripture.
However, this classmate’s comment helped me to remember an exchange I had with a Christian professor. She was a very vocal opponent of the use of corporal punishment for disciplining children. During one of her lecture-rants, I chirped up, “But the Bible says: Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will draw it far from him (or her) Proverbs 22:15.” This professor quickly responded that a “rod of correction” does not necessarily have to mean an actual rod, but that a “rod of correction” can actually mean a word spoken in correction.
Open any Facebook, Hotmail, or Yahoo! page in the last few weeks, and you will see trending stories of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Both NFL players have been in the news for domestic violence (child abuse and spousal/partner abuse). Now, read the comments on any of these stories and you will see sentiments run from both ends of the spectrum: from outcry and disgust to the call for leniency and privacy. And, while questions remain about the NFL’s handling of the events, further questions arise regarding how our culture, our church, views domestic abuse. There are so many advocates on both sides of the issues. As one example: when is spanking discipline and when is spanking abuse?
Tearful, impassioned, on-camera speeches from Cris Carter (sports analyst) and Hannah Storm (sports journalist) also have helped to humanize the blight of domestic abuse. Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice certainly are not the first professional athletes, or celebrities, or mega-church pastors accused of inflicting abuse on a spouse/partner or a child. Still, what are our churches doing to help when it is happening within our own congregation? Are we able to see the warning signs of abuse? Is our church’s pat-answer to a Christian wife, who is on the receiving end of abuse to, “Go home and submit” to her husband? Or, are our churches equipped to minister to families entrapped in domestic abuse? Are we able to point people in the right direction for available resources?
What the CRC and NFL have in common is that both organizations are learning, and need to continue to learn more, about how to handle domestic abuse.