by Debbie Eisenbise
At last month’s National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, spoke to us of faithfulness and of living our Christian witness. This month, Sojourners reminds us that this is a call to peacemaking in the context of our daily lives. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time for us to consider that while “one in three women experience intimate partner violence in their lives...95 percent of church-going women report they have never heard a sermon on abuse preached from the pulpit of their church.”
The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is filled with stories of human relations, stressful family dynamics, and even abuse. The stories of Tamar, Dinah, Abram’s relationship with Sarai when they sojourned in the land of Pharaoh, the complex dynamics between Jacob and his wives, Jephthah’s daughter, all remind us that violence in intimate relationships is not a new thing. Yet God calls us to love in the midst of turmoil, and asks us to be agents of healing and witnesses to the ways of justice and peace.
The call from Sojourners is for churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples to be places of refuge for survivors of violence. But how can the survivors who attend our services know they are safe if we never denounce the violence from the pulpit or state clearly that our doors are always open for healing pastoral care?
An overwhelming majority of faith leaders (74 percent) underestimate the level of sexual and domestic violence experienced by members of their congregations. It is both naïve and irresponsible to believe that members of your congregation are immune from this violence. We know people of faith believe in the sacred worth of women--let's make that extra clear this October.
Speaking out about domestic violence is the work of the church this month and throughout the year.
Resources available online include:
-- a bulletin insert and other educational resources at www.brethren.org/family/domestic-violence.html ;
-- our 1997 denominational statement encouraging congregations and individuals to engage in ongoing advocacy and education concerning domestic violence, download from www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1997domesticviolence.html ;
-- an introduction to the video, “Broken Vows: Religious Perspectives on Domestic Violence,” available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR45maMwabQ ;
-- statistical information from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org .
Additional resources are readily available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233) and 800-787-3224 (TDD), local domestic violence shelters, and the YWCA. Copies of a brochure published by the Faith Trust Institute, “What Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence,” are available for free from Congregational Life Ministries. Please contact email@example.com or call 800-323-8039 ext. 306.
-- Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, serving on the staff of Congregational Life Ministries.