(My regular readers certainly won’t need the teachings in this blog post. This post is for those who reach this blog via search engines. Please, regulars, be my fellow teachers here. Comment to improve on what is said here and to add to it.)
There is actually a thing called “Christian Domestic Discipline”, in which husbands hit their wives when the wife allegedly does wrong, and twist the Bible to call it a Christian thing to do. (Sources here and here.) Of course, this is a covert movement, and the practitioners “convert” others to their activities in secret.
According to a commenter on that blog, Anne Garbozi Evans,
…my research has shown, while it may very well be more frequently popping up in patriarchal circles, it is by no means limited to those congregations. The only type of congregations that all of these wife-spanking people refused to go to were ones that ordained female pastors and taught egalitarianism. Any church that taught complementarianism was fair game for them to attend: their words not mine… many said they secretly suspected they weren’t the only ones to practice wife-spanking. They also heavily discussed how to bring up the topic of wife-spanking to your friend so as to “evangelize” them on the topic. They esp. thought they had a moral duty to tell any friends going through a divorce about wife-spanking as a way to “save their marriages.”
A few years ago, I, Retha Faurie, participated on a Christian™ blog where I mentioned I am still single. One woman, with the religious-sounding nickname of “Mrs Pilgrim,” told me to advertise that I want a “taken in hand” relationship. When I asked her what that was, she directed me to a blog that extolled the “virtues” of husbands physically punishing wives. The idea was deeply disturbing to me. I was a very confused complementarian: On the one hand, this sounded unjust and cruel. On the other hand, the way I understood relationships was that the man is the boss, and that is why Christian women should be very careful to choose a
boss partner that is truly wiser and more spiritual than she is and could lead her and would use his “final decision” power for good. Thank God, I learned a few things about Christianity and relationships since then!
Here are some reasons why the idea is obviously anti-Christian:
1) The Christian way of dealing with sin include confession, restitution and forgiveness – not punishing other believers. There are no “when your brother/ sister/ wife sin against you, hit him/her to punish” verses.
2) “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. (Luk. 22:25-26)” The Christian way to end the power struggle is not by overpowering, but by submitting to one another, by each esteeming the other higher than himself. (Phil 2:3)
3) If the husband enjoys causing the wife pain, he is a sadist. Sadism is as evil and non-Christlike as can be, and sadism should certainly not be fed.
4) If the husband doesn’t enjoy causing the wife pain, why do something neither enjoys?
5) Punishing the wife and not the husband is unjust. God is just. (Deu. 32:4) We should also act justly.
6) Even if you think the man is the leader of the wife, “The man is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the church” (Eph 5:23), would mean not punishing your wife. Jesus does not punish the church. (Joh. 3:17) His most famous act was taking all the punishment the church should have gotten on himself.
7) When the Bible says the man is the “head” the Bible doesn’t actually mean the man is the leader. “Head” – literally the thing on top of the neck – had another meaning range in Greek. If the man is not even the leader, punishing becomes even less appropriate. (If you don’t believe this point, please read on – none of my other points are dependent on this one.)
8) Giving your partner pain on purpose is not in accordance with loving your wife as (you love) your own body. (Eph 5:28) The men who do this do not punish their own bodies when they do wrong.
9) Treating the wife like a child is not conducive to God’s goal of bringing believers to full maturity.
10) If you reason that the wife, despite the unpleasantness, gets sexual excitement from it, then you find it okay to be cruel and unjust for the sake of orgasms. There is utterly nothing in the Bible that says: “Verily, orgasms are more important than justice”, or: “A new commandment I give to you. Even if you act cruelly, see to it that sex is exciting.” Such ideas are totally anti-scripture.
11) If you reason that the wife, despite the unpleasantness, feel closer to you afterwards, you are actually doing traumatic bonding. Traumatic bonding is a symptom of the brokenness of this world. Christ calls men to nourish and cherish (Eph 5:29) their wives, not to traumatize them.
12) If you reason that the way you do it is harmless, remember that even your whispered speaking about it to some people, or the vague idea your teens get of your relationship dynamic, influences their ideas of relationships. They can turn into people more abusive than you are, or easier victims for abusers. It is not right for a Christian to cause harm to a weaker brother or sister. (1 Cor 8:13)
13) Judge, as the Bible uses it in texts like “don’t judge”(Mat. 7:1) or “I don’t judge you either. Go and sin no more” (Joh. 8:11) means to punish someone for their deeds. That is why Jesus, in one breath, could say he isn’t judging and that the woman in that story should stop sinning. God is the judge of the world, God could execute punishment. The husband is not the judge, he should not execute the punishment.
14) “By the same measure you judge, you will be judged.” (Mat. 7:1) If a man hits his wife for things like forgetting to call him by a respectful name, or for leaving the milk out of the refrigerator, how much pain should God give him for every time he forgot to call his wife by a respectful name, or for all the tiny things he neglected?
15) “Do not conform to this world (Rom 12:2a)” – Few things can be more of the “sinful world” than BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, a system whereby sadism and lording it over another person is eroticized and normalized1). Punishing a sex partner is conforming to such practices. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of the mind. (Rom 12:2b)”
Come on, complementarian churches and organizations. If some people you work with get the idea that such terrible practices are Christian, the least you can do is to speak up against it.
1 If a fan of BDSM reads this point, and wants to set the record “straight” to me, please don’t bother. I heard your clichés, listed them, and countered them. This blog is not a place to defend sadism.