Why Have I Never Heard a Sermon on Domestic Violence? (by Kelly McAvoy)


I’m not talking about the Proverbs 31 sermon. If I have to hear about gold, flax, “clothing my household in scarlet” and waking up early in the morning again, I might become a Proverbs -31 woman, and you don’t want to stick around to see what that means.

I’m not referring to the Valentine’s Day message filled with deprecating jokes about the inadequacy and incompetency of men, after which we get flowers on our way out the door. I’m not talking about women’s retreats, where we are sent to a cabin three hours away to enjoy coffee while refocusing on the simple task of balancing God, husband, kids, work, other family, holidays, vacations, dreams, goals, church, practice, meetings, The Great Commission, and breathing.

I’m talking about the expository sermons on these crazy verses that seem–on the surface–incredibly sexist. If it weren’t for our rock solid belief and knowledge that God is good, perfect, and loving…we would’ve packed up and headed out a while ago.

“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” -Judges 19:25-28

This is gang rape. And while I know that neither the Bible nor God condones sexual assault or violence of any kind, why have I never heard that from your podium? If it’s because it seems to be such an obvious truth, then why do we hear “Jesus loves you” over and over and over?

Why have I never heard a sermon on domestic violence?

Why is the church, by and large, silent on the fact that 1 in 3 women will face physical or sexual violence? If the universal church allowed more women into the clergy, do you think such silence would still exist?

Where are our support groups, Bible studies, messages, songs, and encouragements for those who are the victims of sexual, physical, and mental abuse? Especially when it is in the name of Christianity, such as is sometimes the case with complementarianism.

But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, ‘Come, lie with me, my sister.’ She answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!…But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she was, he forced her and lay with her…Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.’ So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. – 2 Samuel 13:11-12, 14, 20

“He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” -1 Kings 11:3
“It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’” -2 Samuel 11:2-5

Why do you read Scripture during the Sunday morning service and skip over the part where God gave a king one thousand wives and concubines? Why do you not refer back to that, if even for a moment of clarification, as if we are fully versed in the reasons events like that are completely compatible with a perfect God? Had these mentions been of homosexuality or any other “clearly abominable sin,” they would not have gone unexplained.

We don’t know. We are confused. We are hurt. We are cautious. We are curious. Will no one explain these aspects of our glorious God? Because they don’t seem very glorious. If a spiritual leader will not tell me, who will? Don’t entrust us to the trenches of Google, Pastors.

Please forgive what may seem a full-fledged, unwarranted attack. Perhaps I am trying, and failing, to place the blame on anyone within reach for the little girl who will be molested tonight. For the teenager who will be gang raped. I am trying to shout for the woman walking home after dark who will be silenced.

I am overwhelmed with confusion and aggravated. Sometimes I feel like shouting, but all you need to do is speak.



Kelly McAvoy’s current life goal is to get through college without failing algebra. She is not always right, as evidenced by the fact that she swore she would never date back in middle school, only to buy a wedding dress this past September. She says “katchup,” not ketchup–but she knows she’s right on that one. Jesus is her passion, and for now, His calling has led her to writing. She blogs regularly at precariosities.com and if she had a dying wish, it just might be that you visit it. (It definitely would be that you visit it.)

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  • Now this is interesting and the sort of stuff where my heart goes out. What a good question which I hope provokes a lot of thought and action.

  • Here is a WHOLE SERIES OF SERMONS ON ABUSE: DISREGARD THE LAST 3 of the 21 sermons, as the doctrine is not Egalitarian…but the rest is amazing and doesn’t relate his doctrine, but is rather anecdotal, from a former police officer turned pastor…he also wrote a book on abuse that is really great and empowering for women…”A Cry for Justice” by Crippen and Wood. All pastors need to hear his message.

    go to http://www.sermonaudio.com and enter the heading “Domestic Violence and Abuse”

    …it is easier than the link that is just too long… The sermons are from Pastor Jeff Crippen and he appeals to the churches to wake up to this travesty…be blessed ladies…and just avoid the last of 21 sermons if you don’t want to hear his doctrine which, like all sermons on that website, is Complementarian by sermonaudio’s order of their Article of Faith #10 …for which reason I don’t usually recommend that website for Egalitarians…but this series is a must hear!

    • Wonderful! It’s important to recognize that–though few and far between–there are some pastors taking on this important topic. Thanks for sharing, Judy.

  • Kelly, I am hearing you and I identify with the anguish of heart over these things. I couldn’t read the parts of the Bible for many years because of these passages. In fact, this is the first year in a long time that I am reading the Old Testament without skipping passages. An Egalitarian understanding of Scripture is what helps me endure. Albeit, it is still difficult.

    • Leah, I understand. I didn’t realize how much passages like these bothered me until I was sitting in church one day and a pastor simply glossed over a rape, as if it’s not worthy of discussion or explanation. If we believe the Bible is Holy, God-inspired, and wholly true and good, what about these horrible happenings we read about? Praying God would help us see truth! 🙂

      • Funny how men respond to these things…that is why they shouldn’t be running things without female leaders…they are totally out of it unless it is their sister or daughter, and hopefully THEN they take note!

        …Same type of situation in my old church…a 13 year old molested by elder’s grandson…Oh well…(thankfully the courts did not agree).

  • I wonder how much divorce-phobia plays into the pulpit silence on domestic violence. If they start seeing or teaching on DV, they might end up having to level consequences for abusers like divorce. So, they don’t see it in the text and don’t talk about it.

    Especially in evangelical circles, I notice how pastors almost fall over themselves to say that they NEVER suggest divorce even when it is “permitted.” They don’t want to be perceived as too divorce friendly. There’s lot of verses on adultery in the Bible as well that get glossed over in the pulpit, too. I am convinced they are avoided or allegorized to avoid dealing with the ugliness of the matter or to be perceived as being divorce friendly.

    • Interesting thoughts! As a 20 year old who does not feel the call to be a pastor, I can’t even begin to assume I know what pastors go through, or what it’s like to speak to hundreds or thousands of people on subjects as weighty as these. But uncomfortable, awkward, difficult, or confusing as it might be, it needs to be done. Thanks for reading!

  • Great article. Certain verses and passages are given heavy exegesis and a lot of attention year after year. Certain verses and passages are virtually ignored, and they are the ones that are the ugliest and the hardest to understand in view of “God is love.” How was the Levite a GOOD GUY in that story??–is one example. Is the abuse of women not important? is another.

    Thanks for talking about it.

  • I read your post before any comments appeared and I couldn’t respond to begin with. I think because it is such a can of worms and it is these passages that nonbelievers can use to undermine the notion of a loving God. Also because silence has always been my response. Too hard, too painful and too little talked about. Thanks for making us look at this ugly stuff. We women need to wrestle with this stuff on a personal level and reclaim our position as co-created with Adam in the image of God.

    • Andrea, too true. Thank you for sharing your heart. It would be altogether too easy for us to say “Look at the kind of things God allows, and even puts in His holy book!” instead of doing the hard work of looking further into the Word and doing some soul searching. It is hard work, but together as brothers and sisters in Christ we are more than capable of it 🙂 (And with God’s help of course!)

  • It really saddens me that it seems so many are in congregations where God’s Word is either not studied at all when it’s a hard subject or “glossed over” when brought up at all. I can honestly say every congregation I have been a part of in every town I have lived in has addressed all of the passages of Scripture referenced as well as spoke sermons on abuse and violence in the home. I have lived in 7 different towns in which I have attended 9 different congregations, all Church of Christ, and have heard sermons on the issue of domestic violence in each of them. I have also been in congregations of other denominations where all violent Scripture was avoided as was any Scripture mentioning baptism as part of the Plan for Salvation. Any congregation that is a Biblically Sound congregation will cover these hard issues and support women/children (and abused men) without trying to sugar coat or minimize the issue. IF anyone is attending congregations where these issues are not discussed or where passages of Scripture get skipped/minimized/glossed over, please do some reading and research in the to see if other issues are also being avoided. Protect your soul and insure your salvation by taking time to read, 6, and validate everything preached in a sermon. Protect g gy, , and emotionally by validating all sermons. If need be, find a new congregation to Worship with, just make sure wherever you choose to attend is Biblically Sound and any doctrine is Biblically based. I am fortunate to have been raised where these issues were covered. While it didn’t protect me from abuse from my cousins, it did arm me with the necessary confidence/thought patterns to allow me to not feel like I was guilty of something or that I “deserved” to be molested but instead I knew I could talk to my minister and be supported at church even if the answer I got at home was “Scotty wouldn’t do such a thing!”. My heart breaks for every person, whether it be woman, man, or child, who has had to suffer abuse and was shamed, damned, or just not taken seriously.

    • Sherri, thank you for reading and for sharing your heart. I’m so glad you have encountered been in respectable, Bible-honoring churches that truly seek to share God’s Word–ALL of it. And while I’m deeply saddened you endured abuse, it’s wonderful that you were able to redeem the situation by holding fast to what you know the Bible and Church teaches. When our churches are only preaching part of the Bible, they are not preaching the Bible anymore. The podium becomes a microphone for the pastor(s) and their personal opinions on what the Bible says.

      I agree, Sherri, let’s take it upon ourselves to make sure what we’re being given as the Truth really IS the Truth!

  • I think that I heard one or more sermons & teachings on this years ago, but not since then. Mkre recently, I have been in churches where the topic is one of many that are addressed but not really addressed. The sermons topics are focused on feeling good, so painful things are “overcome in Christ and we have victory: abuse, depression, anxiety, angst about one’s single state, etc.

  • I think that I heard one or more sermons & teachings on this years ago, but not since then. More recently, I have been in churches where the topic is one of many that are addressed but not really addressed. The sermons topics are focused on feeling good, so painful things are “overcome in Christ and we have victory;” abuse, depression, anxiety, angst about one’s single state, etc.

  • I too am a ‘Kelly McAvoy’. I was supposed to be a girl. I am last born of a family of five with two older brothers. I am male (forgive me).

    I tire of saying ‘I’ but I suspect the backdrop is needed. I am 52 years old and the son of a southern church of Christ preacher… All of my life. I love my parents, don’t mistake this. Still, I sense ‘logic’ and ‘deductive reasoning’ is in the eyes of the beholder. The logic remains the same throughout humanity, I surmise. The premise? That is where all must go to find a mutual stance. If we don’t define our stance at the beginning of the discussion, we can never agree at the end.

    My stance? We are 2000 years removed from the days that Jesus Christ walked on the earth. I have seen complete turnabouts of ‘stance’ in a mere 30 years. It is my belief to consider ALL human concepts of God absolutely wrong. Sorry if your hubris defies this-That simply supports my argument that human hubris is anti-God. There are none good, save God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We humans? Nah….

    So, beyond the sexism of how women are not acknowledged, can we, for a moment, go to the horses mouth and look at 1st Timothy chapter 6? I have also never heard a sermon preached on this. Why? Because male and female alike are slaves and spiritually abused by spiritual leaders. All…every…no exception… EVERY clergy, pastor, leader, ‘angel’. They have ALL fallen the way of the wide path. They ALL love money. They are masters of talk and failures of action. If they give to the poor and visit nursing homes and hospices? Sorry…they are still WAY below the innocent children newborn. Sorry females. Men don’t need female leaders. Sorry males. Women don’t need your leadership. Sorry, God. No one truly listens to you because they cry about their own abuse to avoid the pure terror of being crucified as we’re You. I beg to hear wisdom crying from the rooftop…the sounds of society are so deafening. :/

  • I believe God gave us an honest history. God shows us the evil that occurs as women are marginalized and treated as sex objects. The fall occurred in the break of the Holy Spirit covenant (matriarchal/egalitarian; because the man was to leave mother and father to cleave to wife) marriage love.

    A study shows how things go wrong when women are not loved, honored, and respected: and men become increasingly lust and power consumed proportionately.

    Hearts depart from God.

    And, no, men don’t often preach about how patriarchy has poor fruit in the view, regard for, and treatment of women vs love and respect in one man/ one woman covenant marriage… And how men become hardened in heart as patriarchal power rises.

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