Note to put in the bulletin: “Safety is very important to us. We all expect to be safe. When we are in our cars, when we are at work, and most of all when we are in our homes we expect to feel secure. Unfortunately, there are dysfunctional homes where the relationships manifest there provides no sense of safety or security. Today we look at one such home and reflect on our homes and our church as we seek to make them safe places.”
I remember when I first moved to Collegedale in 1981 there was a big deal being made about a wedding, Diana would become a princess. We watched the wedding and it was an event of worldwide interest. Diana married Prince Charles and became Princess Diana! It is great to be a princess.
I talked to my granddaughter last night, McKenna – she turned 3 on Monday – she was wearing plastic high heals, a crown on her head and a purple tutu and she kept asking her mother if she looked like a princess.
My grandkids love to watch the Disney cartoon about Cinderella. Everyone loves a story of rags to riches and particularly a rags to princess story.
The tabloids of England love to speculate about the sadness in the story of Princess Diana. There are rumors and reality of all kinds of abuse she suffered in her relationship with Prince Charles. And of course we all know of the tragic death of that princess.
Today we look at a story of a princess. Unfortunately, it is not a story of a rags-to-riches princess but more like riches-to-rags story. It is a sad story about how one princess suffered abuse – and the results of that abuse.
The princess I speak of was a daughter of King David. Her future was promising. She was beautiful and … well let’s hear the story from the Bible.
Reader’s Theater: 2 Samuel 13:1-22
Renee Baumgartner – reader (giving personal insights) and Southern student
Maria Sager – Tamar and former Southern employee
Alex Spearman – narrator and Southern graduate
BJ Taylor – various male parts and Southern student
The Bible is not afraid to lay out all the warts and wrinkles of Bible characters. (How many biographers today would be sued if they actually told the whole story about the people that they write about?)
This story in 2nd Samuel is the unvarnished picture of some pretty bad characters and some huge problems.
The Bible talks about real issues and problems.
That is a good thing about the bible – it doesn’t cover up problems.
Have you ever heard the expression, “is there an elephant in the room?” It is an English idiom for an obvious truth or issue that is being ignored. It is based on the fact that an elephant in a room would be pretty hard to overlook, but people still chose to be silent about it and pretend it is not there.
I wonder if today we have an “elephant in the room.”
Is there an “elephant” in the church?
Is there an “elephant” in your home?
Is there a taboo subject that is not brought up for fear of the consequences?
Note what Absalom says in verse 20 of 2nd Samuel 13
“Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” Absalom says, “Be quiet my sister.”
Don’t talk about this elephant. It will damage your father’s kingdom.
Maybe if we don’t talk about it, it will go away.
Absalom says, “Don’t take this thing to heart.”
As if this shameful attack on the purity of her person is to be ignored like a headache. “Just take an aspirin and you will feel better in the morning.”
David was furious. Furious, but he didn’t do anything – morally paralyzed by his own history of shameful abuses … and the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children.
So here in the Bible, we find the tragedy of abuse and its destruction clearly portrayed without rose tinted glasses. “Be quiet now my sister!”
And so from time immemorial, the shame of dysfunctional families and abusive relationships is hidden in the dark recesses of family secrets to protect family reputations, only to perpetuate the dysfunction from one generation to the next.
“Be quiet now!” Don’t talk about the elephant!
Not only are dysfunctional families sucked into holding family secrets but dysfunctional churches hide behind Pharisaical masks of spirituality.
We might be tempted to say:
Well it was a different society back then.
Women were treated differently back then.
That is true, all the more reason for us …
in our enlightened world
in our “after Christ” world
in our “after the beatitudes” world
in our “after the two great commandments” of “love God and love your neighbor as yourself”
…as we should be appalled and devastated by any statistic that indicates that among Christians there is abuse.
Last month the Catholic Church settled a lawsuit in California for a record $660 million, with 508 victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. (So far the church has paid more than $2 billion in settlements and legal judgments, to victims of sexual abuse and their families.)
I would be surprised if some Christians of the Protestant persuasion did not feel a sense of hidden satisfaction when they heard of the problems of the Roman Catholic Church as it relates to sexual abuse by priests. Unfortunately, we have the human tendency to look to the problems in others while ignoring them in ourselves.
Matthew 7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?i
Take the plank from your own eye.
We must acknowledge “the elephant in the room.”
If in our provincial focus we think only of our community and our truth and our needs; then we are quick to point fingers at other faith communities and their failings. But as a teacher of mine told me many years ago, when you point one finger at another person you have four pointing at yourself.
If one looks at statistics, you find that between 10 and 30 percent of men and women experience some form of “intimate partner violence.”
We might be tempted to say, “Aren’t we grateful that we don’t have that level of violence or abuse in the church!” Unfortunately, studies done among Seventh-day Adventists indicate that the level of abuse among us is no different than what is found in the general population.
This study of SDA’s was funded by The Winifred Stevens Foundation. I received it from Rene Drummii
Lifetime Physical Violence by an Intimate Partner
Type of Assault
Total (anyone reporting at least one of the following)
22.11 - 37.62
Pushed, grabbed, or shoved you
Beat you up
Threatened to use a weapon on you
Used a weapon on you
Those numbers are appalling to me as I am sure they are to many of you. If a conservative view of the statistics holds true, in this church it means that there are a few hundred of our members in Collegedale who are struggling with issues of abuse.
Violence is the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States.iv “According to The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, reported incidents of sexual exploitation have risen dramatically in the last five years. In 1998, the Center received 4,573 reports. In 2003 the number of incidents rose to 81,987.”v “An estimated 1.8 million women are assaulted each year by the men they live with—mostly by boyfriends. Husbands account for only about 2 percent of violent attacks on women; strangers account for 44 percent.”vi We have heard on the national news just a few months ago about the wife of a Tennessee preacher in Selmer, Tennessee, who told jurors in her husband’s murder trial that she accidentally shot her husband, after experiencing years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse at his hands.
Abuse comes in many forms that are not necessarily detected by bruised arms, black eyes or unwanted children.
It is really tragic that the Catholic church would have to say they did five years ago:
“From this day forward no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic Church in the United States,”vii promised Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishopsviii
Physical violence and sexual violence are more obvious but the emotional abuse that is perpetrated in family settings can be as damaging.
The kinds of abuse I am talking about includes:
A dictatorial partner who tells you what to do expecting obedience with no discussion
An insulting partner who swears at you, makes derogatory comments about you or calls you names
A partner who ignores you and discounts your value and accomplishments
A partner who makes big family and household decisions without consulting you
Religious freedom is a core conviction of our church – but we must not only be concerned about the state controlling our religious convictions, we must also be concerned about any behavior that seeks to control another person.
Habitual demeaning behavior as described by the above actions results in the destruction of a person’s self-concept and identity.
There are many ways that the people of God can be abusive.
Religion itself can and is used in abusive ways. Religion can be the drug of choice for those inclined to see the world as a black and white place where anyone who is not one of us is against us.
Religion can be used to impose guilt on another person in an abusive way in a desire to coerce or manipulate their behavior.
The emotional impact of any abuse may result in:
Panic, depression, difficulty sleepingix
Loss of appetitex
Posttraumatic stress disorder symptomsxi
Depression and anxietyxii
Suicide ideation and actionsxiii.
The Bible says in 2 Samuel, “And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.”
Is there anything more tragic? A desolate woman, a quiet desolate woman holding the pain in her heart because there is no safe place! She has no support and no one who recognizes her quiet desperation.
Timothy says in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5:
“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves . . . abusive, . . ungrateful,
. . . without love . . . without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
In the New International version, the word “abusive” is a translation of the Greek word “βλασφημοι” (Blass-femous). You don’t need to know Greek to know that we get our word Blasphemy from this Greek word. How appropriate – abusive behavior toward one of God’s creatures is blasphemy of God.
Timothy says these folks have, “a form of godliness.” This certainly applies to anyone who would be:
abusive at home and kind at church
a different person in the public eye as compared to the private home
Of course that is the modus operandi of the abuser:
Perfect in church – abuser at home
Kind to the neighbors – unkind to the family
Friendly to children – abuser of his own.
It is all about Satan’s original rebellion in heaven, it is all about power and control, one person seeking power and control over another.
Those who abuse may even develop twisted ways of thinking that justify their behavior.
There are those who would suggest that a spouse needs to be submissive.
“She didn’t know her place.”
“She was not respecting me as her head.”
They might take, “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18); and distort it without reading the other scriptures:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21);
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25);
“Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28).
There are those who would suggest that the man is the boss.
“She has trouble planning her day, so I need to tell her what she is to do.”
They might quote the scripture that says Abraham commanded “his children and his household after him” (Gen. 18:19 KJV); and distort it without reading other scriptures such as:
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .” (Matt. 20:26-28).
There are those who would suggest that marriage justifies any sexual behavior.
“We are married after all and she must satisfy my needs.”
They might take “do not deprive each other” (1 Cor. 7:5 NIV), and distort it to justify anything without reading other scriptures.
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife” (1 Cor. 7:3, 4 NIV);
At the end of the day there is no excuse, no justification for abuse in a marriage relationship or in any relationship. There is no excuse for any kind of control of one person over another. Free will must be available to all of God’s creatures.
Even with children Ellen White says, “The effort to ‘break the will’ of a child is a terrible mistake.”xiv Anyone who reads the scripture and takes seriously our Lord’s mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves or Paul’s hymn describing love’s behavior in 1 Corinthians 13 can’t justify any abusive behavior.
So – what to do?
The first step in dealing with an “elephant in the room” is to talk about it. I hope I am taking that step for you today. I hope that church recognition of the extent of the problem will enable you to talk about it in your home. This is a sermon I want you to talk about around the dinner table.
Are their ways that you are experiencing abuse in your home?
Maybe not physical but emotional
Maybe controlling behavior
The sermon title is: “Quiet No Longer.” Don’t be quiet about it! Don’t allow the “Absalom” brother or relative to say, “Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.”
The time for being quiet has past. Let no one be intimidated into the submission of quiet desperation, for fear of disgracing a name. The time for silence is over – take heed from the bible itself, for it was not silent.
But who can I talk to?
Where will I find safety?
What will happen to me?
There are resources. A number of resources have been listed in your bulletin – review them.
What if I know of a situation? Matthew 18 indicates that you should talk about it to those who can do something. In the case of child abuse the law requires that you talk about it.
What happens in someone else’s family IS YOUR BUSINESS, if we are to be a community of faith that cares for each other that loves each other!
I thought of a number of ways to end this sermon. Usually I might look for some story that would warm your hearts and leave you with a positive feeling. I even thought, for those of you who are old timers, of creating a Fenton Forest Story, but that did not seem appropriate.
I guess I just want to say:
There is hope.
Jesus came to provide healing.
Healing is available today.
The Gospel is open to the abused and the abuser.
God’s grace is sufficient and abundant.
BUT you have to act, you have to do something!
Do something so that the sin of the fathers will not be visited upon the children unto the 3strd and 4th generations. You must speak out. You must talk about “the elephant in the room.”
Your church is a safe place to speak out, you are loved here and there is help here. Don’t live lives of quiet desperation whether you are abused or an abuser – there is help. The sunlight of open communication will be a good step toward chasing the cockroaches of abuse into the corner.
i The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Mt 7:1-5
ii Social Work and Christianity Vol. 33 (3) Fall 2006 PP 233-251 by Rene Drumm
iii 1 Tjaden, P. & Thonnes, N. (November, 2000). Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence against Women Research Report: Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2 Coker, A. L., Smith, P. H., McKeown, R. E., & King, M. J. (2000). Frequency and correlates of Intimate Partner Violence by type: Physical, sexual, and psychological battering. American Journal of Public Health, 90(4), pp. 553-559.
3 Schaefer, J., Caetano, R., and Clark, C.L. (1998). Rates of intimate partner violence in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 88 (11) pp. 1702-1704.
iv Chicago Tribune, 1/110/93. "To Verify," Leadership
v Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky; source: "Child Exploitation Reports Soar" USA Today (2-27-04)
vi Janice Shaw Crouse, "Facing an Unwelcome Truth," Christianity Today (October 2005)
vii Promised Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conferernce of Catholic Bishops
viii (USCCB), after the bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by a vote of 239-13.
ix Humphreys, Lee, Neylan & Marmar, 1999
x Leserman, Li, Drossman, & Hu, 1998
xi Silvia, McFarlane, Soeken, Parker, & Reel, 1997