Friday, August 26, 2016

When Abusers Follow Their Victims to Church

What can we do to protect women and children when abusers show up at church and pose a threat to everyone or deliberately create fear and chaos as they attempt to regain control of victims who have left the abusive and often physically dangerous environments of their homes? 

One thing not to do is evict victims of abuse from our churches, and let's not kid ourselves, that happens all to often. 

Rather, show support and love for church members who are trying to escape the barbarity of abuse by encouraging them to participate as fully as possible with their church communities while taking steps to keep themselves safe--as we do the same. 

Because of the dangerous climate due to terrorism these days, many churches already take added security measures by hiring security guards for their church services. Why not assure women whose lives are filled with terror because of abusive spouses, that their presence is welcome in our churches, that their safety is important to us? Why not ask them if we can allow our security personnel--whether  they are volunteer staff or professionals--to keep an especially close eye on them and their children, so they can relax and enjoy their church experience along with the rest of us? 

Take the time to assure these women that instead of being kicked out of church if their abusers show up to make threats or cause scenes especially designed to control and humiliate them--cause them to be ostracized by their church families--that we will rally around them more determined than ever to show how much we love and support them. 

At the same time, be aware that these men can often pose a significant threat to others, besides their immediate families. Domestic violence calls rank high on the list of the most dangerous calls police officers take in terms of danger to the officers themselves. Do not shrink from calling 911 to have an abuser arrested if he is there to disturb the peace or is in violation of a restraining order. 

Reach out to, and affirm, victims of spousal abuse as they move forward in efforts to create more stable, peaceful, and safe lives for themselves and their families.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Would Mary Fisher and children still be alive if their church taught equality of the sexes?

Three years before Mary Fisher's throat was slashed and a bullet shot through the back of her head (followed by the murders of her two children who also had  their throats slashed) by Robert Fisher, her husband and the natural father of the children, she and her husband had sought marital counseling from their pastor, Gregg Cantelmo, who told authorities that the couple wasn't having any one particular problem. He claimed they were just wondering, "how could they be closer given their schedules?" 

 Given what ultimately happened, I don't buy that, and neither should any thinking person. 

Acknowledging the fact that Robert Fisher has deep seated mental and emotional problems that are beyond the scope of simple pastoral counseling, On this 15th anniversary year of the murders, he is still at large and listed on the FBI Top Ten Wanted Fugitive list. Law enforcement and the courts will hopefully bring legal justice for the murders of his wife and children. But in order that Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher's deaths not be in vain, it behooves us, as Christians, to take a closer look at the situation Mary Fisher found herself in during the years before their deaths and what options she thought she might have had for her and her children. 

We know that Mary was very involved in her church, Scottsdale Baptist Church. And until a few months before the murders, her husband, Robert, had been very involved in the men's ministry there. So it was a completely natural move for the couple to turn to their pastor for help with marital problems before going anywhere else for family counseling. As it turned out, tragically so, their pastor was the only person they turned to.

Robert's issues with control were no secret to those who knew them. According to Robert Fisher's mother, she, herself, had been a "Yes Sir" wife, and she disclosed that she had observed similar dynamics in her son's marriage.

So, Mary Fisher's own mother-in law revealed that Mary had been a "Yes Sir" wife--generally submissive.

Couple Robert Fisher's very serious, very dangerous, emotional/mental health issues with the fact that he attended a church where male headship was taught, and where he was involved in a complementarian men's group where male leadership was the primary focus, and hindsight, being what it is, makes it easy to see that a recipe for disaster was being brewed. Even today, 15 years later, the website for that church describes the men's ministry as a place where men are trained, "to become strong, confident leaders...encouraging each other to be servant leaders to our families..." 

The term "servant leader" is common complementarian code for "being in charge." It means, "Be the boss but be a nice one." 

Christian counselor, Barrington Brennan, has been warning the church for years that when teachings about strictly defined gender roles are brought together with male entitlement and control issues,  a scenario for domestic violence is created. Men are set up to become abusive or violent, and women are set up to take it.

So what we are looking back on, in this 15th year after Mary and her children's brutal murders, is a woman who was no doubt experiencing marital abuse all the while attending a complementarian church on a weekly basis, where she and her husband were taught that the husband is the head of the wife and that, in order to be a good Christian, the wife must submit to his authority. 

We know this because Mary Fisher's pastor, "As a college student...served in leadership at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA." It was under the tutelage of male headship zealot, Dr. John MacArthur, that Cantelmo was trained in the complementarian approach to marriage and family counseling.  

John MacArthur is a patriarchalist who has been involved with complementarianism from its inception, endorsing the anti-woman Danvers Statement and serving on CBMW's Board of Reference. The Danver's Statement defines complementarianism as the position that all women are  subject to male authority. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is dedicated to world-wide female subjugation.

The current bio of Fisher's pastor, reveals that after graduating from seminary, but before becoming pastor at Scottsdale Baptist Church, he "served on the Elders’ Marriage Council and spoke at a number of Shepherd’s Conferences at Grace Church."

MacArthur's Shepherds Conferences are leadership conferences for men which stress male leadership [headship] and female subordination.

Complementarian pastors have a woeful record of looking out for the safety of abused wives. In 2009--eight years after Mary Fisher's murder--Rick Warren's Saddle Back Church advised battered wives not to leave violent husbands until after they had been beaten "regularly." Pastoral counsel stemming from MacArthur's and CBMW's male-leadership-at-all-cost-theology could only have left Mary Fisher feeling that in order to be a good Christian, she had few options available other than continuing her miserable, and very likely frightening, existence as a "Yes Sir" wife.


Of course she rarely opened up to anyone. There are reasons Christian abused wives "never really" open  up to anyone. 1.) It can be physically dangerous for them to rat on their abusive husbands to their pastors. 2.) It is humiliating for abused women to admit what goes on in their homes. They are often blamed for the abuse by either not leaving or by not "submitting" enough. 3.) In many churches they simply know what they will be told if they bring up the subject of abuse.

So when and if they finally do seek pastoral counseling, they are generally very desperate indeed.

When the Fishers went for counseling, in 1998, 11 years before the infamous Saddle Back Church "beaten regularly" advice was published, and three years before the murders occured, the complementarian movement had already been in full swing for 11 years. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which stressed male only leadership, had been adopted en mass by the Southern Baptist Convention and many other denominations, including Baptist churches that were not a part of the SBC. With vast financial resources at their disposal, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood had been busy, for just over a decade, flooding the evangelical Christian community with their venomous dogma. Their male headship creed quickly breached denominational lines, and those who had otherwise been doctrinal adversaries linked arms, finding common ground together at the nexus of female subordination. 

This was the climate within complementarian churches in 2001. Mary Fisher was literally drowning in the flood waters of male headship. She never stood a chance. So when we remember the horror of what happened to one Christian mother and her children in 2001, we must ask ourselves, what is the climate today for women in general and abused wives in particular within complementarian Christian churches?

Friday, May 13, 2016

What practical steps can each of us take to help stop domestic violence?

My Interview with Book Lovers Haven where I am the featured author for May 2016

Christians and Domestic Violence


Meet Jocelyn Andersen:Jocelyn is a Christian, a mother, a public speaker and the former wife of a pastor who committed domestic violence against her. She is the author of the books "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence" and "Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System". Jocelyn has appeared on television and radio programs such as The Arthelene Rippy Show, Mainstream Baptist, Free Me Now, WMUZ and WWJC. Please check Jocelyn out online at http://www.jocelynandersen.com.

BLH:  You've authored two books, "Woman Submit! Christians& Domestic Violence" and "Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System". Have you always known that you would write a book? 

JA:    I have always loved writing, and I have always loved books-both fiction and non-fiction. In school, I loved dissecting sentences in English class, and for many years I kept a journal. As a teenager, I wrote volumes of prose and some poetry. As a musician, I have written 50+ songs. It has always felt natural to me to express myself in writing, but I felt I would write romantic suspense novels (and I do have an inspirational fiction work in progress) rather than non-fiction.

BLH:   Please give Book Lover's Haven members a brief (three to four sentences) synopsis of   "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence". 

JA:    Woman Submit is about saving lives. It is for the battered woman herself and also for the family and friends she is likely to turn to for help. The book is written for the Christian reader but non-Christians have written to tell me how helpful they found the book to be. It offers practical advice and some difficult challenges for the woman who is experiencing abuse and gives firsthand insight into the terrible dynamics of being trapped in an abusive relationship along with how I was able to get out-not just from the situation itself, but total freedom from accepting abuse against my person in any form.

BLH:  In "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence," you address an incredibly important topic, one that occurs every nine seconds in America despite the fact that many people turn away from and work to hide domestic violence. A few years ago, abuse occurred every 17 seconds, so it has worsened. How can believing that women should submit or obey their husband lead to the "acceptance" of abuse? 

JA:    Studies have shown that passive behavior (submission) towards an abusive husband does not satisfy the need for power and control on the part of the abuser. It feeds the need rather than satisfies it and actually causes the abusive behavior to increase.

Therefore, preaching that encourages men to rule in their families (no matter how nice the words it is couched in) encourages abuse. Period. The jury has been in on that one for quite some time. Christian psychologist and family counselor, Barrington H. Brennan, has said that strong religious beliefs combined with strongly held views on male leadership and female submission is a deadly formula for violence (http://www.soencouragement.org/deadlyformula.htm).
BLH:  What practical steps can each of us take to help stop domestic violence?

· First and foremost, consider the life and safety of the victim. The batterer is not the one whose life is in imminent danger. The batterers certainly need help but rarely sincerely seek change for their criminal behavior. Take the victims seriously, realize their lives and safety are indeed at risk, and do what you can to help by familiarizing yourselves with resources in your area (victims advocates, shelters, etc..).

· The National Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and information about shelters, legal advocacy, health care centers, and counseling. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Save this number to your phone. It is in mine. Do it right now, before you read another word.

· Physical violence against anyone is a crime. It is not less of a crime just because it happens to be a husband beating a wife. Assault and battery is not less dangerous because it takes place within a domestic family setting. Encourage the victim to protect herself (and her children) and to avail herself of the protection offered through legal channels. Telling a wife she needs to protect her violent husband from the legal consequences of his crime is criminal in and of itself.

·  If a pastor supports God given absolute equality of the sexes, he needs to say so-and often-as it is the need for power, control, and domination that is at the very root of domestic violence. And far too many men are hearing from the pulpit that their place in the home is to rule over their wives and families. Remaining silent on the subject is not neutral. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. There are many physically abusive Christian husbands who go to church every Sunday. They need to hear their pastors, church leadership, and other Christians condemn abuse and physical violence against wives in the strongest possible terms.

· Pastors need to be confronted and asked to stop abusing their positions of influence by preaching against women, which they do by advocating what I call Traditional Role Religion (Patriarchy). All of us can stop tolerating demeaning speech and behavior against women-no matter where it comes from. I was so proud of my son when he confronted someone for using a very common stereotypical racist term that is really a slur against Jews. It is a term that most people have used all of their lives and think nothing of. But my son recognized the seemingly harmless term as part of the fuel that feeds negative attitudes, bigotry, and hatred, against Jews. It is the same with bigotry and hatred against women. It has to stop. I was in a church recently where the pastor made a demeaning, statement against women, and then had the audacity to ask if anyone would give him an "AMEN" to that shameful remark! The church was totally silent. Probably with shock. I took the opportunity to speak up-after all, the pastor did ask.... I said, "No. Absolutely not." I refused to be silent. I did not shout it. I did not make a scene. I simply answered the direct question in as calm a manner as possible. I noticed a couple of people smiling at me in agreement as I spoke out. Don't wait for someone else to lead the way.

·  Raise our sons to respect girls and women every bit as much as we raise them to respect other boys and men. Raise our daughters to respect themselves, and to stand up for themselves against gender put downs and insults. They are always unacceptable.

BLH:  How did writing "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence" and "Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System" change or enlighten you as a writer? 

JA:    Writing these books forced me to step outside my comfort zone and write about things that I did not want to think about, much less write about. I had moved beyond the abuse in my life and wanted to forget those things that are behind.... And I have, with the exception that I cannot keep silent as I witness the terrible suffering of women and families due to what is still very much a contemporary issue (current male headship preaching) that is utterly destroying lives.

BLH:  Your books are non-fiction. Has that made it easier to market and sell the books? 

JA:    No and yes. 

BLH:  Why? 

JA:    I much prefer writing to marketing. That being said, domestic violence is such an epidemic among Christians and in society in general, that people are always searching for resources to help and my book, "Woman Submit...," invariably comes up in the searches that include both search words-dv and Christians. So, it has remained a steady seller ever since it was published.

BLH:  Please share two to three marketing strategies that work for you in spreading the word about your books and reaching your target audience. 

JA:    When reaching out via social media, or anywhere online for that matter, I try to make sure that my readers are benefiting from my LinkedIn, Facebook posts, comments, or tweets. I ask myself, "What's in it for them?" Offline, I have seen some success in marketing to bookstores and shelters through mailing informational book flyers. Sadly, I received very little response from churches from the mailings.

BLH:  What advice do you have for a writer who is publishing her/his first non-fiction book, specifically as it regards finding a publisher or printer (if they are self-publishing) and marketing their first book. 

JA:    Early on, I found an agent who was interested in taking me on as a client but was scared to death of some of my content (Woman Submit). She admitted the content was "gold" (her term) and said my message needed to be heard, but felt she would be blacklisted by Christian publishers if she tried to peddle my book as it was written. I refused to make the changes she suggested as I felt it would take the heart out of my message. She was not a novice. She represents a very respected firm.

We talked for about eight months before she made the decision to decline me as a client for that book. At that point, I chose not to self-publish, so I started my own publishing company, which, in spite of the fact that I owned the company, gave my book a publisher other than myself. It was a good decision for that book at that time.

I used Lightning Source as my distributor and printer for both, "Woman Submit...," and "Woman this is WAR..." There are business costs involved with using Lightning Source. Lightning source only works with publishing companies and not with individual authors. I also have a few booklets published through Lulu.com, and Amazon's Create Space, and Kindle as well. It does not cost the author anything to self-publish using those platforms. I have found the tutorials on Lulu very helpful in formatting and publishing e-books.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Domestic Violence Victims: Are you ready to die?

Should you tell your violent spouse that you are planning to leave if the abuse doesn't stop?  If you do, your chances of dying just increased by 75%. Are you ready to die? 

Listen to this awesome interview with Denise Turney  and Jocelyn Andersen about what we can do to stop domestic violence and how we can help someone who is experiencing abuse.

When Abusers Follow Their Victims to Church

What can we do to protect women and children when abusers show up at church and pose a threat to everyone or deliberately create fear and c...