How ‘Not Under Bondage’ came to be written

Not Under BondageIn November last year I featured John Wilks’ review of Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage. I invited Barbara to tell us more about the book and why she wrote it. This is the second of two articles she prepared in response to that invitation.

Barbara writes:

In a previous post, I described my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. How large is the potential audience for such a book? In western countries, the research shows that for women who have ever been partnered, nearly one in four will experience violence from an intimate partner. Although we need more research to establish the relative prevalence for Christians as compared to the general population, we know from pastoral experience that many Christians experience this problem. And research shows that Christian victims stay longer in abusive marriages than unbelievers do.

One in four is an extraordinary figure. Why hasn’t there been more call on such books?

Towards answering this, let me tell you how I came to write Not Under Bondage.

I became a Christian in 1981 but for a long time had minimal biblical teaching and lingering confusion due to my former beliefs. Unaware that Christians should avoid marrying non-Christians, I married an unbeliever in 1989 and we had one daughter. The marriage gradually became abusive and I occasionally took refuge in a women’s shelter.

In 1994 I left my husband and started attending church and Bible study. Child custody was contested but eventually awarded to me, with my husband granted access.

In this first separation, the only book I read about divorce was Laney’s The Divorce Myth. He made no mention of domestic abuse. I was outside his universe. I sought advice from a female pastor who believed that divorce is never right. She said that whenever someone breaks a covenant (as Israel broke the covenant they’d made with the Gibeonites) they will come under God’s judgement. I did not want to disobey God, so I remained legally married (but separated) and thought I would have to stay that way for the rest of my life.

Many victims of domestic abuse have received hurtful and harmful counsel from Christians. This deters them from disclosing the issue of domestic abuse, and from asking for books on the topic. Comments like “What did you do to provoke the abuse?” or “You should try to be a better spouse” blame the victim. “You should pray more” tells the victim to keep quiet about the problem. “You must submit more” tells the victim to comply with whatever sins the other partner chooses to dish out. “God hates divorce” instils dread and guilt. “Adultery is the only ground for divorce” discounts the sin of domestic abuse and sidelines the victim’s dilemma. Such comments make the victims in our midst afraid of seeking counsel, in case it rubs salt in already aching wounds.

During access handovers, I told my husband about Jesus and gave him a Bible. After four years he made a profession of faith and we reconciled as a married couple. The abuse recurred and I separated for the last time in 1999, divorcing some years after that.

When the marriage broke down the second time, I had enormous scriptural dilemmas. What did the Bible say about domestic abuse? I read widely but found (remember this was 1999) no book that sufficiently answered my questions. A few Christian feminists had written on domestic abuse, but the theology did not sit right with me. Many conservative theologians wrote on divorce, but when they mentioned domestic abuse it was only a few sentences, parentheses, or footnotes. Moreover, what they said often displayed lack of comprehension about the scriptural plight of Christian victims of domestic abuse. Nobody seemed really to understand the scriptural dilemmas I had.

I eventually found myself writing a book which was to be called Biblical Answers to Domestic Abuse and would have one chapter in it about divorce. The divorce chapter became a book on its own – Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion – which is now available worldwide. (The other book is yet to be finished.)

I trust Not Under Bondage will help victims, clergy and all Christians deal with the issue more biblically, which should help the problem be less hidden and stigmatised.

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3 thoughts on “How ‘Not Under Bondage’ came to be written

  1. Barbara is absolutely correct regarding all she’s written. I have found no one understands the dynamics of domestic abuse without having lived it. I wish this were not so…yet, it has proven to be fact.

    I was married for 25 years…both ordained into the ministry. However, abuse was present from the first week of our marriage. I’m not talking about a harsh word here or there. There were more concussions than I could count, broken bones, stabbing…and finally being hit in the face with a hammer. This fractured my eye-socket and had broken my jaw.

    All the while my senior “pastor” knew of the abuse. As Barbara points out…I was told to “fit myself into my husband’s plans”…pray more, fast more and 101 other things. We were also involved in missionary work overseas. This was very successful… Only the Lord could have sustained this work…as He was it’s Author.

    Jump ahead a few years…I am now VERY happily remarried to the most amazing guy on the planet. Yet, this is not a deterrant to my abuser. He is still a stalker…and has made it known that he views my husband as an “intruder”. The continual fear this produces is difficult to put into words. It’s like trying to explain an ocean to someone that has never seen anything bigger than a mud puddle.

    The worst was when I found NO help in the “church” where I had labored for decades. Then there was the betrayal of friendships that had spanned decades. (I need to let you know that although I was no longer welcome…this “church” continued to sell my teaching material)

    I’m left with a lifetime of significant health issues due to the years of domestic violence. The only One that stayed by my side during the dark time was the Lord. HE alone sustained me….

    In His Hand,

    Kathryn

  2. Shame on any Christian who advises someone in an abusive situation, to just stay there and be tortured. I don’t know how you can live with yourself, not to help set them free, especially if they turned to you for help.

    John 8:59…”they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself”. Jesus did not just stand there and be assaulted with stones. He hid himself, and anyone who is being abused should do the same thing.

    My advice to anyone who is in any situation of repeated emotional,physical, verbal or mental abuse, is:

    “Get away from the abuse and hide yourself, while you heal and repair your mind, body, soul, finances, and confidence. Get away the minute you safely can. Let the abuser find you gone, and gnash their teeth.

    This is true even if the abuse is disguised as a marriage. Assault & Battery, or bullying, by a partner in the home, is just as much a crime as Assault & Battery from a stranger in the street, and much more of a betrayal of trust.

    Being stabbed and burned??? having your teeth broken, your baby miscarried, or your spleen ruptured??? Shamed in front of your friends or colleagues??? Having your confidence and self esteem systemetically destroyed??? : take a pass on them! God made your body and mind, look after them well, instead of subjecting them to such sins and crimes.

    Never fear, once you get away, you will survive, you be much better off, and it is the Lord who will help you make it through. You have the right to life; that is, the right to a life worth living. So do your children. Seek, and take, all the help, of any kind, that you can find.

    After you leave, you can stay chaste, celibate and single, while the abusive spouse is still alive. You will still be fine, and able to use your God-given talents to do good in the world.

    Don’t delude yourself: sadly, abusers and bullies rarely change. However, pray that your abuser may truly face, and understand, his/her sins and crimes, truly repent, with true contrition, and be saved by Jesus to sin no more. It’s not good for the abuser either, to provide him/her with a victim, colluding in your own ‘punishment’ by staying there and taking it in silence.

    Pity, pray and forgive, avoid revenge, but don’t just stay there and be a punching bag. Oh, and don’t hestitate to report the crime to the police.

    Good luck, and may God bless you. You will soon be able to sing Psalm 124 below:

    A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—

    2 if the Lord had not been on our side
    when men attacked us,

    3 when their anger flared against us,
    they would have swallowed us alive;

    4 the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,

    5 the raging waters
    would have swept us away.

    6 Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

    7 We have escaped like a bird
    out of the fowler’s snare;
    the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.

    8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth +.

  3. Pingback: From Abuse to Freedom: Barbara Roberts tells the story behind Maschil Press « The Christian Bookshops Blog

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