abuse

God Can Heal Your Wounded Manhood

I’d never heard a sermon on Deuteronomy 23:1 until last month, when my Puerto Rican friend Luis Roig had the courage to read the text out loud to a group of men in Florida. When he did, one guy gasped and fell on the floor. Several others laughed nervously, and we all drew our knees together and groaned.

The Holman translation says it this way: “No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter the Lord’s assembly.”

Ouch! 

Please pardon the graphic language, but older translations just aren’t clear. The King James Version says, “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” That’s putting it mildly!

Most of us dismiss or ignore this odd passage, either because the subject matter is embarrassing or because the law seems unfair. After all, if a man’s private parts are damaged in an accident, why should he be considered an outcast?

But this verse is relevant to us today because we face a masculinity crisis. In our fatherless culture, many guys struggle with their identity as men, and as a result they feel alienated from God. Meanwhile the church offers little to help men find true healing. Our idea of men’s ministry is to provide food, sports or entertainment while we dance around men’s deepest problems without actually addressing them.

Yet everywhere I go today, I find men who suffer from crushed masculinity. They have been kicked in the groin, spiritually speaking. Their actual anatomy may be intact, but because of poor fathering, lack of affirmation, bullying, family rejection, inferiority or some form of abuse, their manhood did not develop properly. They are men on the outside, but inside they are wounded boys who are afraid to tell anyone how they feel.

Over the years I’ve identified several categories of crushed manhood:

1. Insecurity. Many guys become selfish, driven performers, out to prove their manhood through competition. Because they didn’t get healthy encouragement at home, they become self-absorbed and crave the spotlight. They can appear extremely successful, but inside they are afraid of failure. They find it hard to build healthy friendships, and their wives usually feel used and ignored. In the end, these guys end up in divorce, scandal, prison or worse.

2. Indecisiveness. Some men just don’t have the ability to make decisions. They may have never had a father to encourage them or a role model to learn from. As a result they flounder in their careers, struggle financially, fear the future and feel spineless. Many of these men find Christ, but they live in painful isolation and get trapped in addictions because they lack self-control.

3. Domination. Some men—especially if they were abused physically or even sexually as boys—believe the only way to prove their manhood is to wield power. Violent anger seethes below the surface. If they marry, their wives suffer the brunt of their dysfunction. These men are tormented by secrets, but they cannot take their armor off long enough to admit their problems to anyone.

4. Promiscuity. Sex is a selfish contest for many guys. They try to bed as many women as possible to prove they are “real men.” Ironically, it is their lack of manhood that drives them to hurt themselves and others. Some men who were abused sexually as boys seek to have sex with as many women as possible to prove they are not gay.

5. Homosexuality. It’s not popular today to suggest that homosexuality is sinful. So what if I rephrase the question and ask: “Is it healthy?” Many men today struggle with their core identity as men, and often it is not their fault. They may have never had a father to affirm them, or their father may have withheld affection. Others have gender confusion because of abuse. In many cases, guys experience same-sex attraction because they crave the healthy male attention they should have received from a dad. And they mistakenly think that sex with another man will restore the manhood they crave.

When my friend Luis read from Deuteronomy 23:1, he also shared his painful story: how he had been abused as a child, how he wrestled with his fears and lusts, and how his abuse pushed him to become violent in his marriage. Thankfully, Luis found more than a Band-Aid for his problems when he came to faith. Jesus delivered him from his anger, healed his emotional wounds and began restoring his manhood.

This healing is found in Jesus. Like the Good Samaritan, Jesus pours His oil and wine on our wounds. Like the father of the prodigal son, He throws His arms around us and tells us He’s glad we belong to Him. The unconditional love of Jesus, which is both gentle and powerfully strong, is the perfect remedy for the fragmented masculine soul.

This supernatural healing is available to men today, but we cannot offer what we have not experienced ourselves. We must be willing to trade in our superficial “God bless you, brother!” back-slapping and get real. Men have been painfully emasculated, and they need surgery. Let’s quit denying the problem. It is time for a wave of healing to touch the wounded men all around us.

Read more

The Dark Side of Submission

During a past ministry trip to Hungary, I heard a painfully familiar story. Through a translator, a tearful young woman living near Budapest explained that her Christian husband was angrily demanding her absolute submission. This included, among other things, that she clean their house according to his strict standards and that she engage in sexual acts with him that made her feel uncomfortable and dirty.

This lady was not demanding her rights or trying to be disrespectful. She was a godly, humble woman who obviously wanted to please the Lord. But she had been beaten to a pulp emotionally, and she was receiving little help from her pastor—who was either unwilling or unprepared to confront wife abuse.

I’ve heard so many sickening versions of this scenario. In Kenya, several women told me their AIDS-infected husbands often raped them—and then their pastors told them they must submit to this treatment. In some parts of India, even some pastors believe it is acceptable to beat their wives if they argue with them or show any form of disrespect. And in some conservative churches in the United States, women are told that obedience to God is measured by their wifely submission—even if their husbands are addicted to alcohol or pornography or if they are involved in adulterous affairs.

This distortion of biblical teaching has plunged countless Christian women into depression and emotional trauma. I’m not sure which is worse: the harsh words they hear from their husbands or the perverse way the Bible is wielded as a leather belt to justify domestic abuse. Here are three truths we must uncover in order to solve this problem:

1. Marriage is not a hierarchy. Traditionalists assume that a Christian marriage is defined as a dominant husband who makes all family decisions while the wife graciously obeys without input. Yet Scripture actually portrays marriage as a loving partnership and refers to the wife as a “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, NASB). And the apostle Paul taught that in the realm of sexuality, husbands and wives share equal authority over each other’s bodies (1 Cor. 7:4). In other words, submission in this most intimate part of a marriage covenant is mutual, and this same mutuality is the key to any happy marriage; it fosters respect, communication and an enduring bond.

2. Headship is not a license to control. Traditionalists also cite Ephesians 5:23 to remind wives that their husbands are their “heads”—and they believe this term requires some type of dictatorial control in marriage. Yet the Greek word used in this passage, kephale, does not have anything to do with heavy-handed authority, and it cannot be used to enforce male domination. Neither does it imply male superiority. The word can either mean “source” (as in the source of a river) or “one who leads into battle” (as a protector).

Neither original definition of this word gives room for abuse. Headship, in its essence, is not about who’s the boss. Rather, it refers to the Genesis account of Eve being taken from Adam’s side. The husband is the “source” of the wife because she originated from him, and she is intimately connected to him in a mystical union that is unlike any other human relationship.

3. Men who abuse their wives are out of fellowship with God. First Peter 3:7 is clear: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so your prayers will not be hindered.” Wife abuse is no trivial sin. Any man who berates his wife, treats her as inferior or engages in abusive behavior (including hitting, kicking, raping, cursing at or threatening punishment) will jeopardize his fellowship with the Lord. He will feel frustrated and convicted until he repents.

(And in the same way, I believe pastors who silently support abusive husbands by refusing to confront the behavior—or by telling women to submit to the pain—participate in this sin and could find their own prayers hindered.)

Truly Christian marriages, according to the apostle Paul, involve a tender, servant-hearted and unselfish husband who (1) loves his wife “just as Christ also loved the church”; (2) loves her as his own body; and (3) loves her as himself (see Eph. 5:25, 28 and 33). He stands alongside his wife in faithfulness, and she joyfully respects her husband because he can be trusted. And the two become one.

If we are to uphold this golden standard, we must confront abuse, shelter its victims and provide the tough love and counseling necessary to heal troubled relationships. And we have no business telling women to stay in marriages that actually could put them or their children in danger.

Read more

Hollywood and the Culture of Sexual Abuse

In late 2017 we learned that something really ugly lies underneath Hollywood’s sparkling glamour. Harvey Weinstein, the billionaire mogul responsible for movies including Shakespeare in Love, Chicago and The King’s Speech, was fired from his job and expelled from the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after dozens of women accused him of rape or sexual harassment.

The women making the charges include actresses Ashley Judd, Kate Beckinsale, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino and Angelina Jolie. And The New York Times, which broke the story, said Weinstein paid off other women after they threatened legal action.

The whole ugly mess also showed us that film industry insiders knew of Weinstein’s behavior, yet they swept it under the infamous Hollywood red carpet. The scandal has revealed a sordid corporate culture in which women are expected to give sexual favors in exchange for career advancement.

This is not the Hollywood blockbuster that film executives were hoping for. But it might get worse, especially since more women are talking openly about the reality of sexual harassment in the movie industry. Actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon and America Ferrera now have admitted they were harassed or molested at one point in their lives.

This week, actress Alyssa Milano asked women to tweet #MeToo if they had been molested, raped or harassed. Since last Sunday, the #MeToo hashtag has been used more than 1 million times on Twitter. And more than 5 million people around the world have engaged in the “Me too” conversation on Facebook.

There are also many Christians who can tweet #MeToo. Followers of Jesus are not immune to this problem. And there have been times when both women and men have been sexually abused or harassed by church leaders. Rather than pointing a judgmental finger at Hollywood, we should use this scandal to start a needed conversation at church about gender and justice.

Here are a few of the points we should cover:

  1. We must stop avoiding the topic of sexual abuse. What we avoid from the pulpit will thrive in darkness. Unless we talk about this uncomfortable topic, victims will suffer in silence in our pews. It might help if local congregations launched their own “Me too” campaigns. Christians need to feel free to admit that sexual abuse happened to them, and churches should offer the counseling and healing needed. And let’s remember that sexual abuse doesn’t happen just to women.
  1. We should create a culture of mutual respect. The apostle Paul told Timothy that he should treat older women “as mothers” and younger women “as sisters, in all purity” (see 1 Tim. 5:2). And he wrote those words at a time when women were viewed as property.

The gospel goes against cultural norms. Today, women should feel safer in church than anywhere else. Yet I have known of male preachers who used sexist, derogatory language in their sermons. I have also known of “Spirit-filled” ministers who groped women in counseling sessions or used their spiritual authority to seduce girls. All churches should provide the training and accountability needed to become abuse-free zones.

  1. We must stop blaming victims when sexual harassment happens. Men have been blaming women for the world’s problems ever since Eve listened to the serpent. When a Christian woman is raped or abused, the conversation often turns to how she was dressed. I’ve even heard believers blame a woman who was abused by accusing her of having a “seducing spirit.” That is hyper-spiritual hogwash.

Let’s make it perfectly clear: Abusers, not victims, are guilty of abuse. I don’t care if a woman is wearing a skimpy tank top or hot pants—a man does not have to exert his power over her just because her skin is showing. He can walk away. Just as Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife, men can control their actions.

It’s sad that many Christian women won’t come forward to talk about their rape or molestation experience because they know a tribunal of Pharisees will point a bony finger at them. I also know a man who was criticized for not fighting back when he admitted to being sexually molested by another man. Why do we kick people when they are down? We need a crash course in godly compassion.

  1. We must launch a revolution in Christian men’s ministry. In many evangelical churches today, men’s ministry often focuses on how to be strong husbands, fathers and leaders. That is commendable, but in our effort to restore “godly manhood” we focus too much on power and not enough on humility. We don’t realize that one of the reasons Christian women suffer so much is that their husbands or boyfriends are so focused on wielding male power that they become brash, domineering, insensitive and even abusive.

Pornography has taught men for decades to look at women as inferior objects to be used and abused. Our corporate culture has taught us that women can be manipulated, seduced and played to our advantage. Locker rooms have taught us to be sexist and vulgar. No wonder we have an epidemic of abuse and sexual harassment.

But we don’t have to be like the world. When a man comes to Christ, he should renounce the culture of exploitation and learn how to respect women and treat them as equals. If we men will take a long look in the mirror, we might see Harvey Weinstein looking back at us. Let’s get honest and repent. Let’s get all sexual abuse and harassment out of the church now.

Read more

Jesus and the Scandal of Sexual Harassment

Allegations of sexual harassment pile higher every day in Washington. In late 2017, Senator Al Franken, the Democrat from Minnesota, resigned after being accused of groping women, while Michigan congressman John Conyers stepped down from the House Judiciary Committee because he paid $27,000 to a woman who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.

And then there’s Roy Moore, the feisty Alabama judge who has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a woman when she was underage. When combined with the serious accusations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the Anthony Weiner fiasco, the Bill Cosby trial and the sexual harassment scandals affecting companies such as Uber, the impact is beyond embarrassing. We’ve been hit by a tsunami of shame.

The rug has been pulled back, and now we see the disgusting truth—American women have been mistreated, abused, coerced, disrespected, catcalled and harassed in offices, boardrooms, courtrooms, gyms, film studios and the chambers of the U.S. Senate.

At this point it’s comforting to remember that Jesus Christ had a perfect track record regarding women. Though He lived in a patriarchal culture that viewed women as property, He always respected and elevated them—and He never once did anything inappropriate with a woman, ever, during His time on this earth.

While professing believers in Jesus are not always perfect in this regard, let’s remember how Jesus treated women and make Him our example:

Jesus protected women from harassment. Women in ancient Israel could be accused of adultery even if they were simply caught alone with a man. When the Pharisees brought one accused woman to Jesus, they said they had caught her “in the very act” of adultery (John 8:4), even though they conveniently forgot to bring the man she was with. Jesus refused to condemn her, and no stones were thrown. Jesus doesn’t tip the scales of justice to protect the powerful; He defends the vulnerable.

Jesus looked beyond a woman’s sexuality and restored her dignity. When a prostitute heard that Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house, she came there and poured anointing oil on His feet. The Pharisee was shocked that Jesus let her touch Him, but Jesus looked past her sin to see her need for forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus never undressed a woman with His eyes, yet in total purity He could look inside her and see her heart’s yearning.

Jesus gave marginalized women a voice. Jewish rabbis in ancient Israel didn’t have female followers. Yet Jesus called several women to travel with Him, and they became some of his most loyal disciples (see Luke 8:1-3). Mary Magdalene, in fact, had the privilege of announcing His resurrection to Jesus’ male followers.

Jesus restored the equal value of women.When Jesus came to the house of Mary and Martha, He welcomed Mary to kneel at His feet and take the posture of a disciple—even though women traditionally were not allowed in such settings. When He told Martha that Mary had “chosen the good part” at His feet (Luke 10:42b), He issued an invitation—calling all women to find their identity in Him.

Jesus defended women from discrimination. Jesus went out of His way to speak to the Samaritan woman in John 4. She had been divorced by five husbands—perhaps because she was barren or because of her behavior. Yet Jesus canceled every mark on her record and used her to convince an entire village to believe in Him. In one day, He turned an outcast into a heroine.

Jesus redefined the worth of a girl. Girls were considered inferior in ancient Israel, yet when the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus died, Jesus raised her to life (Mark 5:21-24, 35-42; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56). That miracle reminds us that God doesn’t devalue girls or ignore their problems.

Jesus acknowledged the contributions of women. When a poor widow put two coins worth very little in the collection box, Jesus shined His spotlight on her and told the Pharisees that her gift was bigger than theirs because of her poverty (see Luke 21:1-4). This would have been the verbal equivalent of cold water in the face to the proud Jewish leaders, who considered themselves superior to women. Yet Jesus is not afraid to confront heartless macho pride.

Jesus never used demeaning language with women. When Jesus healed a crippled woman in the synagogue, He called her to the front of the congregation (a definite taboo in those days) and then referred to her as “a daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16), an endearing term that no rabbi would have used for a female. Jesus changed the vocabulary. He didn’t engage in demeaning locker-room talk about women—He esteemed them and gave them spiritual dignity.

Today, even men who occupy the highest offices in the land have proven to be sexual predators. It’s obvious we need a new role model when it comes to how to treat women. I nominate Jesus.

Read more

The Shameful Secret of ‘Christian’ Domestic Abuse

Last Saturday, police responded to a call from a home in the tranquil Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. Inside they found that Lyuba Savenok, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, had been stabbed multiple times. She was pregnant with her third child. Both died that morning.

Later, Lyuba’s husband, Yeveginy (“Eugene”), confessed that he had killed his wife and fled the house with his kids. They are now in the custody of family members while he awaits trial.

This cute couple with the adorable son and daughter attended a large evangelical church. It was later reported that Lyuba had filed for police protection from her husband when they lived in the Chicago area. She told authorities that Eugene hit her repeatedly, gave her a bloody nose, pulled her hair and once broke a window in a fit of rage.

Police were called to the Savenok home last August, where they learned that Eugene had hit his wife so hard on the back that bruises were evident. He was supposed to answer for that crime in court this week. Now he will be tried for murder.

We all know domestic violence goes on behind closed doors in this country, even in the suburbs. But what is tragic is that it goes on in Christian homes—and this sin is rarely addressed from our pulpits.

Because I have many friends in Russian-speaking churches in this country, I was horrified to hear of the case of Lyuba Savenok—who was from an Estonian heritage. But when I talked to some of my Slavic friends, I learned that domestic abuse is a shameful secret that people only whisper about at church. It is seldom confronted.

“My sister was raped, drugged and hit for 17 years,” one Slavic woman from a midwestern state told me. “I have witnessed emotional abuse, physical abuse and a lot of sexual domination—even the use of drugs—to control women. I think there should be a wide investigation into abuse in the Slavic community.”

One woman from Florida said when her friend sought help from a pastor after being in an abusive marriage for 20 years, she was told to submit to the cruelty. “They told her to become a better wife, and that might change his behavior,” she said.

Some of the people interviewed for this article were even worried about using their names because it is considered inappropriate to talk about abuse in the Slavic church.

“When abuse is brought to light, it is swept under the rug because religious practices have priority,” said one Slavic Christian woman from California. “Unfortunately, church leaders are not equipped to deal with this issue.”

Research shows that domestic violence is rampant in Russian families. And many Slavic women are afraid to even report abuse because their husbands have threatened to hurt them if they do. Tanya Levchyk, who started a Facebook group for Slavic Christian women, said it is past time for Slavic pastors to deal with the elephant in the room.

“Many times Slavic women are afraid to voice their fears because of the great emphasis that is made on reputation in our community,” she said. “They feel they will be ridiculed instead of protected, and it will always be their fault simply because they are female.” Levchyk’s Facebook group now reaches 14,000 women.

My Slavic friend Paul Muzichuk, 31, who has done missions work in eight countries, said he believes the death of Lyuba Savenok should serve as a wake-up call to church leaders—both in the Slavic community and in the wider body of Christ.

“My heart is broken for Slavic women who hide in abusive relationships and hidden pain,” he said. “Fear, religious pride and the Slavic ‘macho’ attitude needs to be confronted so Slavic women can be set free from years of abuse.”

Stephan Karnauch, who grew up in a Slavic home in New York, said it’s past time to expose the painful truth of abuse and to teach men how to treat women with respect. “By exposing this truth we will finally be able to protect families and we will equip our children how to be godly spouses, parents and lovers of Christ,” Karnauch said.

We need to face the fact that Lyuba’s murder doesn’t just represent an issue among Slavic believers. For years American pastors have been telling women to “just submit” to abusive husbands without realizing that such advice can actually provoke more abuse.

Instead of misusing Ephesians 5:22 (“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”) to put women at risk, we should be using the Bible properly to warn abusers that God strongly opposes men who view their wives as inferior. First Peter 3:7 warns a husband that his prayers will be hindered if he does not honor his wife “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.”

Let’s have the courage to pull the rug back. Let’s confront abuse, heal its victims and stop twisting Scripture to protect abusers.

Read more

How I Found Healing from Sexual Abuse

When I was a boy, something shameful happened to me that I never, ever planned to talk about publicly. During a summer visit to a youth camp in Alabama, an older boy whom I considered a friend took me into the woods and abused me sexually. He then brought me inside a boathouse near the camp’s lake for more experimentation.

The abuse wasn’t penetrative or physically painful, but it inflicted a deep emotional scar. It was as if my 7-year-old soul were branded with a hot iron. I never talked about the incident with anyone after it happened. I buried the trauma so no one would know.

I was glad when my family moved from Alabama so I would never have to see that camp or the boathouse again. Yet the memory followed me like a shadow. It produced self-loathing, fear of exposure, sexual confusion and deep inferiority. As a teenager, I spent lots of energy trying to convince my friends I was OK—yet deep down, I still feared I was hopelessly broken.

Thankfully my healing began at age 18, just before college, when I asked Jesus to fill me with the Holy Spirit. God stripped layers of shame off me as I heard the Father’s voice and experienced His unconditional love. By the time I got married and started a family, the shadow of abuse had grown faint.

I found more healing when I told a few mentors and friends about the abuse. I was afraid they would recoil in disgust and reject me (most abuse victims expect that response), but they expressed only love and affirmation. Transparency brought freedom. Yet a thin layer of shame lingered. Even though I was involved in full-time ministry by that time, I battled thoughts of disqualification. I seemed confident and successful to others, but I didn’t like myself.

Then a few months ago, after I relocated to Georgia, I realized the camp where the abuse happened was only 90 miles from my house. When I told this to my friend James, he suggested we go there to pray and find more closure.

As we drove onto the camp property, I felt uneasy. It had been 50 years since the incident, yet the place looked exactly like I remembered it—except for two things: The ranger’s house, where the older boy lived, was gone, and so was the wooden boathouse. Only a faint outline of the foundation of that building was visible next to the lake’s edge.

James and I stood on the grass and prayed in the Holy Spirit. No one else was on the property. James asked me to remember again what happened on that spot. Then he added: “The Lord was there when this horrible thing happened. Ask the Lord what He is saying to you.”

My arms were folded in a defensive posture. Maybe after all these years I was still protecting my heart from the pain. But in that peaceful moment, I could see the inside of the dark boathouse, with life jackets, ropes and canoes hanging on the walls. I saw Jesus standing near a frightened little boy. He said: “I will not let this stop you.”

Those words lifted a few hundred pounds off my mind. Jesus wasn’t scolding me, scowling at me with disapproval or writing me off. He had come to my rescue. He was defending me. He was promising me that the enemy’s plan to destroy my life would not prevail.

I knew from that moment that my experience with abuse had absolutely no control over me. The sting had been removed.

I basked in His presence for a few moments, looking out over the lake and remembering that I had learned to swim there during my summer visits. Then I asked James if we could visit one other location. We got in my car and drove to a church in Montgomery, where I gave my heart to Jesus at age six.

When we pulled into the parking lot of Dalraida Baptist Church, my heart leapt. Unlike the old camp boathouse, the church was still there. In fact, a huge new sanctuary stood in front of the old building where I was baptized. The old sanctuary was now the youth ministry center.

“This is amazing,” I told James. “The place where I was abused is gone. But the place where I began my relationship with Jesus is thriving.”

God spoke to me powerfully that day in Montgomery. He showed me that what defines my life—and what controls my future—is not the ugly blemish on my past but the precious faith I embraced when I chose to follow Him. And he reminded me of the truth of Isaiah 54:4a, which says: “Do not fear, for you shall not be ashamed nor be humiliated; for you shall not be put to shame, for you shall forget the shame of your youth.”

What about you? If you’ve experienced sexual abuse, you don’t have to hide your secret or drag the shame around. Jesus knows your pain and your embarrassment. He does not reject you or keep you at arm’s length. Bring your shame into His presence and let His strong embrace heal your wounded soul.

Read more

Don’t Swallow the ‘Red Pill’

Zach and Amanda (not their real names) were happily married and attending a growing church on the east coast. They started a family and got involved in ministry. Things were going well for this young Christian couple. But then Zach took a major spiritual detour.

He swallowed the Red Pill.

You may not know anything about this infamous pill, but you need to learn fast before it affects marriages in your church. Some Christian men today have come under its influence, mainly through the popular Reddit online discussion site.

At first Amanda noticed her husband was developing odd attitudes about women. He would talk about how “all women” are highly emotional and how they want to manipulate men. Then Zach began to play mind games with his wife: ignoring her, blaming her for everything or cutting off sexual contact for days to teach her a lesson.

Then he started demanding total submission from Amanda. He began quoting 1 Peter 3:6, which says that Sarah called her husband Abraham “lord.” Meanwhile he would sometimes call his wife stupid if they argued.

“It was definitely mental and psychological abuse,” Amanda says. “His love was conditional. He would say, ‘You need to follow me completely, and then I will give you what you need.'”

Finally, Amanda couldn’t take it anymore. She began to fear that Zach might abuse her physically. “I was constantly crying. I was miserable and depressed,” she told me this week in an interview. Although Amanda is not ready to give up her marriage, and she hopes for restoration, her trust in Zach is shattered, and she has started seeing a counselor.

The Christian community needs to be on the alert for the influence of the Red Pill movement because it’s developing a cult-like following. It is described as a “men’s rights movement”—which sounds benevolent enough—but the fruit of this movement is anything but right.

Many authors over the years have advocated a men’s movement, including Robert Bly, Rollo Tomassi or the Christian blogger known as Dalrock. But Red Pill has taken the philosophy to the level of a religion. The Red Pill discussion site was launched in 2012 by Robert Fisher, a congressman from New Hampshire who describes himself as both preacher’s kid and atheist. He hid his true identity on the site for a few years, but he resigned from his government post last month after his connection to Red Pill was revealed.

The movement is much bigger than Robert Fisher now. The site has 200,000 active subscribers. It promotes the idea that there is a “war on men” in modern culture and that the only way to fight back is to demand total submission. It even preaches that all women secretly want to be dominated because they are inferior. Some of the most outlandish tenets of this patriarchal online cult include these:

  • Despite what feminists say, women don’t want equality or respect—they want to be dominated by a strong man.
  • Women today should spend more time on their personal appearance and less on work or education because men are not attracted to intelligent women.
  • The stereotypical American woman is a “self-entitled brat” who has been influenced by “feminist hogwash.”
  • All women are alike. Red Pill advocates invented a buzzword, “AWALT,” to explain this concept. It means “All Women Are Like That.”
  • Men should consider male-dominated trades because mechanics, electricians and plumbers are able to avoid negative female influences in the workplace. Men in a corporate culture or in academia risk being emasculated by women.

The actual name of the movement is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which the character Neo takes a red pill to tap into the dark secrets of the universe. Followers of Red Pill are urged to open their eyes so they can see that women have collectively joined together in a global conspiracy to dominate men.

Fisher, who started Red Pill to help men navigate “the woes of dating in the American culture,” certainly does not espouse Christian ideas of holiness or decency. Part of Red Pill’s philosophy is to help men conquer women sexually. Fisher wrote in 2013: “I treat women like they’re subordinate creatures, and suddenly they respect me.”

Another tenet of Red Pill involves “negging,” a flirting technique used by pick-up artists. Men are encouraged to use low-grade insults or offensive teasing to undermine a woman’s self-confidence—so that she will ultimately be more vulnerable to a man’s sexual advances.

Believe it or not, Christian men today are embracing these crazy, unbiblical ideas. They think God wants them to be crude, abusive and dominant—even though the Bible calls husbands to be humble, kind and compassionate models of sacrificial love (see Eph. 5:25-30).

If anyone around you is taking this Red Pill, warn them now. If anyone in your church is promoting these toxic ideas, don’t let them spread, or you will face a crisis. Now is the time to teach men that godly masculinity isn’t about bossing women around or acting superior.

Real men aren’t macho, abusive or controlling. Real men don’t put women down or feel threatened by them. Real men don’t compete with women; they are happy to be equal partners with them. Real men don’t swallow the Red Pill.

Read more

Break Free From the Patriarchal Spirit

Mexico is a violent place for women. When I visited the city of Monterrey a few years ago, a pastor’s wife named Estér told me she visited a hospital every month to pray for one or more women who had been seriously injured by their husbands. In some cases, the victim was a minister’s wife.

“It is so common here,” Estér told me. “The pastor’s wife just goes home from the hospital, puts makeup on her bruises and never tells anyone what happened.”

Last week, I traveled to the city of Querétaro in central Mexico to speak at a Christian men’s conference. During my visit, I learned that a new wave of domestic violence has hit the country. It is estimated that at least seven women are killed every day in Mexico by their husbands or partners.

And the violence is becoming more deadly due to increased rivalry between drug cartels. Women are often used as pawns by gang leaders to inflict revenge on each other.

Two years ago, more than 7,000 women had been reported missing in Mexico, half of them under the age of 18. Domestic violence is often the reason Mexican women try to sneak over the U.S. border.

How can we respond to this tragedy? Of course, we should provide shelters and counseling for female victims. But the most effective strategy is to go to the root of the problem—by confronting the men who abuse. And this must start in the church, because Christian men often abuse their wives and then justify their behavior with Bible verses.

For too long, the evangelical church has ignored the problem of abuse, and this has enabled abusers. We insist on teaching that men have some kind of God-ordained power to be “priests of the home”—when Scripture actually teaches that all Christians—male and female—are priests. (The Bible actually never calls husbands “priests of the home.”)

God never intended marriage to be about hierarchy, domination, control or abuse. If we are ever going to stop abuse in the church, we must teach men to break free from a patriarchal spirit. We must take these three scriptural steps:

  1. Treat your wife as an equal. It’s true that God asks women to submit to their husbands; yet in the same passage in Ephesians, husbands and wives are instructed to submit to each other (see Eph. 5:21). Paul taught that married people have authority over each other’s bodies (see 1 Cor. 7:3-4), again stressing the concept of mutual submission. And Peter warned husbands that their prayers would be “hindered” if they do not treat their wives as “fellow heir[s] of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, NASB). If wives are fellow-heirs, they are equals!

The gospel not only restores human beings to a relationship with God, but it reaffirms the dignity of women and their equal value. When a husband understands this and treats his wife with honor and respect, his marriage will reflect heaven.

  1. Serve your wife selflessly. Many Christian husbands ignorantly think Scripture gives them the right to boss their wives around, bark orders, demand sex or manipulate them with threats. They interpret the verse “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23, MEV) to mean that they can sit in their recliners like kings while their wives do all the housework and take care of the children.

That is not a marriage, it’s slavery. In God’s kingdom, “headship” is not dictatorship—it is servanthood.

Paul introduced a radical concept: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). This is the opposite of a cocky, macho attitude. A husband who loves Jesus will get out of his recliner and help with the dishes, play with the children and share the burden of family responsibilities. A husband’s love should be sacrificial.

  1. Encourage your wife’s spiritual gifts. I’ve known many Christian men over the years who kept their wives under tight surveillance. An insecure husband doesn’t want his wife to further her education, start a career or assume any leadership role because he views her as inferior (or maybe because his wife’s success exposes his weakness). Yet God’s desire is for a husband to be his wife’s biggest cheerleader. The man who was married to the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, praised his wife—not only for her virtue but also because of her success in the marketplace (see Prov. 31:28-29).

The Holy Spirit has the power to subdue the male ego. But we will never overcome the crisis of domestic abuse until we begin teaching the gospel of gender equality and challenging Christian men to swallow their patriarchal pride. Let’s quit promoting erroneous religious notions about male domination and get back to what the Bible really says about equality, mutual submission and honor.

Read more