Violence and abuse are no strangers to people in Christian families, in fact the rates of violence and abuse in Christian families may be higher than in the general population. That is one of the thought -provoking points in a talk given by Dr. Val Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence University College. Yesterday I listened to her lecture called Shattering the Holy Hush: Domestic Violence and Christianity. Dr. Hiebert suggests that the problem of violence in Christian families may have its roots in the largely patriarchal evangelical church which assigns power and leadership almost exclusively to men and instructs pious women to be submissive to men. Hence women are encouraged to submit rather than admit to the violence their fathers, husbands, brothers or even grandfathers inflict.
Dr. Hiebert says the evangelical church tends to put intact, happy families on a pedestal and anything that would disrupt that vision is surrounded by a kind of ‘holy hush.’ The phrase ‘holy hush’ as a descriptor for the church’s attitude towards domestic violence was coined by New Brunswick researcher Nancy- Nason Clark who has published more than a dozen books about violence in Christian families.
Dr. Hiebert points out that in the geographical area where her university is located virtually every evangelical church is led by a male pastor. It leaves the listener wondering whether statistics about violence in Christian families would be different if more churches were led by women?
I’ve given you just a glimpse into Val Hiebert’s talk, hopefully enough to convince you to listen to her lecture yourself. Dr. Hiebert wants to end the ‘holy hush’ around violence in Christian families. Listening to her ideas and then talking about them with others is perhaps one way we can help her to do that.