Of the many calls, emails and letters we receive at Focus on the Family, those involving the tragic subject of spousal abuse are among the most heart-wrenching. They’re also inquiries that demand an unequivocal response with no room for misinterpretation.
I raise this issue today in light of the current controversy involving Southwestern Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson. The former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Patterson has been rightly credited with helping lead a conservative theological revolution within the denomination at a time when progressives were attempting to liberalize the understanding of Scripture.
But in late April, a recording of an audio clip from a conference in 2000 surfaced, and Dr. Patterson’s comments on a situation he dealt with involving domestic violence became a heated topic of conversation among Southern Baptists and beyond.
While equally committed Christians hold vastly different perspectives on exactly what should happen within the Southern Baptist Convention in this situation, I want to address how we advise women in violent home situations, as many pastors and those involved in ministry are being asked to explain where they stand on this crucial topic.
On this point, let me be clear: the attitude toward physical violence in marriage must always be one of zero tolerance. If a woman feels that she or her children are in potential danger, her primary concern should be safety – that’s the message Focus on the Family would give to her, and that’s the counsel we’d hope pastoral staff would offer, as well.
There’s more to be said, and I encourage you to read the entirety of a Q&A on our website that reflects our approach to questions we receive on the subject.
And if you or someone you love is in a situation where physical violence is present in the home (and there’s not an immediate, present danger where calling 911 is necessary), I invite you to call Focus on the Family’s counseling staff at 1-855-771-HELP (4357). Our licensed counselors have talked with women (and some men) facing abuse and are able to offer helpful, compassionate advice and clear next steps that many in these situations have followed.
The conversations launched as a result of Dr. Patterson’s remarks aren’t easy, but it’s vital we have them and that victims of domestic violence receive the level of care and concern they deserve when they turn to Christians for help.