Submission: Drawing The Line Between Religion And Domestic Abuse

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”- Ephesians 5:22

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Wives Submit– It has become rather conflicting and confusing what the stand and role of the church/religion is in cases of domestic violence in Christian homes.


“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”- Ephesians 5:22

This may be the only verse religious criminals use in abusing their wives.

It appears as though the Bible verse has been misconstrued in many Christian/religious communities of the world.

In conservative areas, domestic violence often has a cultural or religious backing. It is most evident in societies that uphold male dominance and authority.

Several cases around the world, Africa inclusive have presented scenarios where women are emotionally, financially and sexually abused because “scripture says wives should be submissive”.

An Australian Anglican Bishop, Tim Harris also confirms that well-intended bible verse has been overly abused by supposed Christian men.

“It is well recognized that males (usually) seeking to justify abuse will be drawn to misinterpretations [of the Bible] to attempt to legitimize abhorrent attitudes.”

A survivor of domestic violence tells her story
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Submissive means to comply not “comply by force”; obedience “not obedience through violence”. The biological makeup of the women makes them great supporters and partners, not slaves.

Sadly, research has shown that men who are irregular in attending church and practising their faith are more likely to assault their wives and worse still justify their actions with Ephesians 5:22.

On the other hand, regular church attendees and faith faithfuls are less likely to be violent towards their wives.

According to a theology professor, Steven Tracy:

“It is widely accepted by abuse experts (and validated by numerous studies) that evangelical men who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives.”

Most abused women are unfortunate women who are willing to sacrifice to make the union work. I’m guessing that if their violent spouses knew this, putting their well-being into perspective will go a long way.

Often for religious and cultural reasons, most women insist on remaining in their turbulent marriages. From the religious context, the abused is often persuaded by church leaders to stay back in hopes that the abusive partner will miraculously change.

A year ago, Africa shuddered at Jackline Mwende’s story. The Kenyan woman kept enduring to the point when her psychopathic husband stabbed her mercilessly and chopped her 2 arms off over claims of infertility.

So the question now is, where should Christian women draw the line between religious obligation and raw reality? What is the church’s stand on domestic violence?

It is doctrinal that Christians are not divorce fans. However, a separation may be helpful. Core and practising Christians would have to understand that if your life and those of your children are threatened, then a break is in order. While you are at it, prayers, psycho-sessions and any other efforts for reconciliation are encouraged.

Though not speaking for everyone, but some divorcees are not in that status by choice. Regardless, the stigma for Christian women from conservative locations is still strongly present.

It is very one-sided and appalling that domestic violent culprits ignore the rest of the Bible passage that says:

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.”

Whatever happened to these often omitted verses? It’s not world war 3. When you need to constantly remind your partner that you are not “mates” and that your word is final, then someone is really being too immature to be in the marital union.

The church and religious institutions can help by speaking up against it. They can also work hand in hand with the government to hold these abusive Christian men accountable for their crimes.

Taking it back to the scriptures in the Mary Magdalene narrative, where the woman bears the brunt of a sin that took two to commit; it will be worth it if the church in our time will help to see to the sanctioning of these abusive men.

This article was written by Amara Onuh and it originally appeared on

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