Why Abuse in the Church Makes Me Crazy

You want to know what breaks my heart and gets me angry at the same time? Abuse. That’s it: just abuse. Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse.

My stomach turns at the stories of what people have endured at the hands of their fellow human being, whether it’s a prisoner of war tortured by his captors or a vulnerable child preyed upon by a family member.

It’s what poet Robert Burns referred to as “man’s humanity to man,” in his poem Man Was Made to Mourn. Here’s just that stanza:

Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn,
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Yep. Truth.

But just when I think my heart cannot break any more from the pain and heartache some of my fellow sisters and brothers have experienced, something even more awful occurs: Some in the Church—my beloved family—allow and even accommodate abuse.

for such a time as this rally

Click to learn more about the rally

This is on my mind today as the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in Dallas. I know a lot of Southern Baptists, and by and large, they are great people with whom I can easily fellowship. However, they have been plagued in the last few years with issues regarding leaders who overlooked or tacitly condoned abuse (e.g., here, here, and here).

So today as the SBC meets, they will be greeted with the For Such a Time as This Rally, a protest organized by people concerned about the way women and abuse survivors have been treated by church leadership.

But let’s face it: This isn’t just the Baptists. I’ve heard such stories from other denominations, and they include such actions from church leaders as:

  • Telling a victim they must forgive their rapist or abuser immediately after the crime
  • Stating or insinuating that a victim’s dress or behavior caused their rape or abuse
  • Counseling an abused spouse to stay in a marriage; in particular, telling wives their response should be to “submit to your husband”
  • Advising that abuse be kept quiet so that we won’t hurt the abuser’s family or dilute our witness to others
  • Not reporting abuse to authorities, which is against the law in the US
  • Explaining away abuse incidents in a leader’s past and allowing them to continue serving
  • Not fully investigating abuse accusations against a leader because “I know him, and he’s a good man”

God has a heart for the oppressed, and His people should take up their cause with fervor!

God has a heart for the oppressed, and His people should take up their cause with fervor! #ChurchToo Click To Tweet

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror” (Psalm 10:17-18).

Jesus quoted the book of Isaiah when He came into the synagogue:

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

“Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.‘”

And as Psalm 9:9 says: “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” The Church should be the physical representation of that refuge.

This is a broken world, so evil people will continue to sin against their fellow humans. Man’s inhumanity to man will continue until Christ comes again and God delivers final judgment. Yet we have opportunities to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Man's inhumanity to man will continue until Christ comes again and God delivers final judgment. Yet we have opportunities to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Click To Tweet

We are not all church leaders, but at some point in our lives, we will be faced with seeing or learning about the abuse of someone in our midst. How will we respond?

I haven’t always responded the way I wish I had. In my younger years, I sometimes felt helpless and ignorant about what to do. Which is why I want to encourage all of us to do better — to think clearly about this issue before it happens, to know which side we will stand on, to vow in our hearts and before our God that we will defend the oppressed.

But why is a Christian sex author talking so vehemently about this subject? Well, abuse has always made me crazy. But since taking on this ministry, I’ve heard from many women, and a few men, who were abused. Some as children, some by a spouse, some by a stranger.

All of them were deeply hurt by their experience, but what seems to have really made the difference between those who still feel the wounds and those for whom the wounds became scars is the response to what happened. Were they surrounded by support?

Now, of course the victim has a part in recognizing and reporting the abuse — that is, getting help — but once they come forward, the reactions of others matter a great deal in whether they will be able to find healing and hope.

As Christians, we should be the best at embracing the hurting among us. Because that’s exactly what Christ would do!

I cannot in good faith come here and talk about how to have a great sex life in your marriage without addressing that some have abuse in their past, or their present, that makes this nearly impossible. How can you open up your body to someone in the most vulnerable way possible when your body was damaged and discarded by an abuser? Yes, you can get there, but you must first address the abuse.

So here we are: With an opportunity to reach out to hurting people, to mourn with those who mourn, to be a refuge in the storm. When it’s our turn to stand up for the oppressed or look the other way, what choice will we make?

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5 Tips for Shower Sex

Have you ever had sex in the shower? It’s not the easiest sex move ever, but it can be very enjoyable.

While this is often a quickie, because it is a strange space, it’s a great option to have in your repertoire: good for vacations where you’re sharing space with kids in the bedroom, good at home when your kids won’t leave you alone except in the shower, and good to just get busy when you’re both naked and thinking, “Hey, you wanna?”

But since it is a strange space, how do you really make this work? Here are some quick tips for making shower sex not only work, but pleasurable and satisfying.

1. Safety first!

Make sure you have some anti-grip something on your shower floor, because you don’t want to enter the ER trying to explain that injury. Not that they haven’t seen such things, but I personally wouldn’t want to be the story relayed in the staff lounge later.

2. Recognize that “sex” isn’t just intercourse.

Sex is the whole kit-and-caboodle, including hand-jobs, manual play, oral sex, and intercourse. If you can’t seem to make intercourse work, no worries! Go for the other stuff and enjoy all the sexy sex you can have in that hot and steamy shower.

3. Add lubrication as needed.

Water can wash away some of your natural lubrication, so you may want to add silicone-based lube or coconut oil. Water-based is likely to wash away too quickly.

If shower sex is in your repertoire, keep some close by! Maybe tucked away behind the towels in the linen closet, or in an unmarked container (assuming you have kids who might ask what it is) alongside your hair and body products.

4. Get into a good position.

If you’re going for intercourse, the best position is probably standing with wife facing away and bracing the wall, and husband entering her vagina from behind. But you may have to adjust with squatting, tippy-toes, etc. Another option is sitting down in the bathtub/shower with wife on top. But you can get creative with other ideas too!

Some of it depends on whether you’re in a traditional bath/shower, a larger walk-in shower, or the shower I totally want to have someday where it’s like its own room.

But with permission from the fabulous Christian Friendly Sex Positions, here are examples of positions that might work for intercourse and foreplay:

For intercourse, bracing herself against the wall.

He sits, she squats, rocking motions more than thrusting.

Another seated position for intercourse.

For her performing fellatio on him.

For him performing cunnilingus on her.

Whatever you try — and you can plenty more options at the CFSPs website — I recommended you widen your stance on your feet or knees a bit to keep your balance and use the walls for bracing as needed.

5. Start in the shower, finish elsewhere.

Be willing to get started in the shower and finish elsewhere if needed. Nothing says you have to keep plugging along if you’re having difficulty finishing.

You might have a wonderful time of foreplay or intercourse in the shower, but you need to move to the bed or even the cushy mat just outside the shower to complete the act. I can be extra sexy to move, dripping wet, to another location and make love there too. Like, “We do it here, we do it there, we do it everywhere!” 😉

Those are my quick tips. What have you learned about having successful shower sex? Share your tips below!

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Lots more practical sex tips in my book!

Q&A with J: Do Women Try to Manipulate Men?

“Just tell me what you want!” he says, exasperated by all her hinting and expectations and … well, manipulation. Because that must be what it is, right? Why else would she play games?

This question, more or less, came up in a series of posts written by Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband and The XY Code. You can go read those posts here:

First You Have to Know – The Generous Husband
Why He Thinks It’s a Game – The XY Code
He’s Not As Careful with His Words – The XY Code

I took issue with the word “game” as a description of what’s happening for most women. In addition to commenting, I had a great online conversation with Paul, at the end of which I volunteered to write a post about why women often aren’t as direct in their communication.

Generally speaking, she’s not trying to manipulate him or make it difficult. Most women who haven’t learned a lot about men’s brains and communication style don’t understand they’re being unclear to him. We honestly believe you should be able to see what we’re saying!

Especially because … sometimes he does.

Case in point: My husband, whom I fondly call Spock because he is super-logical and not instinctively romantic, does not pick up on hints. When he tries, he often guesses wrong. However, we stepped into a local furniture/knick-knack store one time, and I commented on how much I loved a particular painting. I thought nothing of it, because I was simply admiring a product at the store.

Lo and behold, at my next birthday my husband presented me with the painting! It now hangs next to my desk:

Creative, fun, and quirky…like me!

I don’t know why that one time he paid attention to my interest and followed through with the gift. But had I not already known the way his mind generally works, I might have concluded that his willingness to meet my understated desires was selective. Some women might figure: Because he did it this one time, why can’t he do it all the time? 

But it’s not fair to take a one-off and try to force that into a pattern. That would be like thinking that one time I made a perfect meal means I could deliver chef-worthy food every single night. (Not.)

It’s easy to misread one another if we don’t make an effort to understand the inherent differences in our communication styles, which come from our backgrounds, our personalities, and our gender. Not all of the stereotypes will apply to your spouse, but it’s worth asking whether such things are true.

And give one another the benefit of the doubt when your spouse says you misunderstood their intentions. Yes, if you said X, it would mean Y. But for your spouse, saying X might mean Z. Because we think and communicate differently.

Again, I believe God made it this way because, to have a good marriage, we’re then forced to let go of our selfishness, aim to understand our spouse, and stretch ourselves in loving them. The way Christ modeled.

But let me back to the original question: Do women try to manipulate men? Sure, some do. But most of the time, if a wife’s dropping hints and thinks her husband should pick up on them, she’s not trying to manipulate him. She’s lived her life learning how to pick up on subtlety, and her brain is even hardwired better for this task, so it’s difficult to understand why he can’t. Especially when, as I pointed out, now and then something does stick for him.

Meanwhile, ladies, take those moments as a treat, but try to be more direct with the men in your life. I hear from a lot of husbands who feel frustrated because they want to give their wives what they want, but their wives won’t tell them and the guys cannot figure out the hints. Because men are hardwired that way and learned that communication style.

Look, a lot comes down to verses like these: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). What would it look like to devote yourselves to one another in communication? Would it be one of you getting his or her own way? And what about honoring? Can we honor one another’s way of looking at things and work together to reach understanding?

Let’s not accuse each other of intentions that aren’t there, but rather work through our differences to reach unity.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Now please go read my guest post at The Generous Husband: Why She Communicates the Way She Does (and It May Not Be What You Think)

Also check out a great podcast episode I just listened to: The Art of Manliness – The Male Brain

And a great one for wives to read: You’re Not Allowed to Complain About Not Getting What You Didn’t Ask For (It’s more balanced than the title conveys.)

Plus one more: Is It Manipulation? Motive Matters from The Forgiven Wife

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5 Marriage Bed Tips from the GDPR (New European Union Data Regulations)

If you work on a website, you’ve probably heard of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) the European Union recently put into effect. It’s a series of measures designed to ensure the privacy and control of one’s personal data when they interact with a website, including a blog like mine.

To be compliant (some of y’all live in the EU), I’m adding some stuff to my site. But I just cannot bear the thought of tossing out all that legalese language at you. Instead, I’m going to explain a bit about how I handle your data while making it informative and empowering for your sex life.

You ask: What on earth does the GDPR have to do with my sex life? Well, keep reading!

1. Have you fully opted in?

One major focus of the GDPR is making sure everyone who’s contacted by a company or organization opted in. In the United States, you have opt out, which is why when you buy something on a website, you receive emails from them until you unsubscribe.

Since it obviously stinks for someone to use your personal information to stalk you until you buy something more from them or enter the Witness Protection Program, opt-in systems are much better. Which is why I have one. You have to ask to subscribe to my blog, and then you should receive a follow-up email confirming you really said you wanted to hear from me. And you have choices to receive my blog posts, my newsletter, or both.

How about your marriage bed? Have you opted out? Or opted in? Are you stalking your spouse into “putting out” or inviting them to subscribe to some great content? Hey, no one wants duty sex, and one of the best things you can do for your sexual intimacy is to opt in — all the way in.

2. What’s your privacy policy?

You can read mine right here, and it basically says I won’t sell or share your information; I send you only what you ask for; and any marketing I do is simply telling you about resources I recommend, including affiliate linked products and my own books.

But how about a privacy policy regarding your marriage bed? You see, husband and wife should agree on what is and isn’t okay to share with others. I certainly have some suggestions in that regard (see How Much Should You Share about Your Sex Life? and What Should You Share about Your Sex Life with Friends?), but the important aspect is that you two agree.

Also, if you ever sext one another or have revealing or suggestive photos, you should take care to keep them confidential. If you’re not on the same page with your spouse on privacy, may I suggest the more private spouse’s view wins out. You can keep talking the issue, if you think you have a good point, but don’t intentionally cross your spouse’s line.

3. How is your data used?

If you comment on my blog, all others see is whatever name (or initial) you use, your website, and your comment. I see that stuff, plus your email and an IP address that means nothing to me. I don’t do anything with that information other than moderate and respond. If you subscribe, your data is stored by MailChimp in a list according to your preferences so I can then send you what you asked for. Your data does get compiled and analyzed in the aggregate, to produce website statistics I can then use to know how it’s going and to target ads on Facebook (I’ve only done this twice in 7+ years) to people who might want to know about my books. But you’re not tracked individually.

Meanwhile, how do you use the “data” you provide one another in your marriage? When your spouse shares how they think or feel about sexuality, do you treat that information with care and respect? Do you use that data to harass them (like some unscrupulous websites have done), or to build a better relationship?

If you want your spouse to open up to you more about their challenges with sexual interest, their likes and dislikes, their desires and fantasies, then you need to demonstrate that you care about the information they give you by treating their beliefs and feelings with openness and respect.

4. Can you correct or erase your data?

Two GDPR rights are covered here with the right of rectification (correcting erroneous information) and the right of erasure (making your data go away). Multiple times I’ve had someone ask me to change their name or some small bit of content within a comment, or to simply to delete a comment altogether. That’s fine by me, so I just make the change and move on. Likewise, you can always unsubscribe from one of my lists, using the handy-dandy button provided at the bottom of each post or newsletter, and voila! your information is gone.

But let’s be honest. Isn’t this one of the hardest commands about love in the Bible? “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Our spouse is going to blow it sometimes, and we need to let them correct the mistake and/or erase the record.

That’s true regarding sexuality as well. It could be baggage from before you got married that you’re still holding onto. It could be their poor phrasing of sexual initiation or doing that boob-grab thing most wives hate so much. It could be any number of misstatements, actions, or histories that make it hard for you both to move on. If you’re in the thick of a problem, of course you don’t just hit the delete button — you address the issue. But many times, we really could correct the situation or give more grace.

5. What security measures are in place?

My website is hosted by a tech company that specializes in website security. Indeed, one of its owners has worked as a “white hat hacker,” identifying and fixing potential security breaches for companies. Also, every company that ever accesses my information (MailChimp, social media sites, etc.) has its own security measures. I won’t deal with someone who cannot prove to me that they are committed to keeping my and your information safe.

As for marriage, if you ask me what women really want, my answer these days is always security. It could be physical security (a strong, protective partner), economic security (the breadwinner and provider), emotional security (affection and commitment), spiritual security (spiritual leadership or encouragement), or any number of other aspects of men that attract different women. But I think security is key, because women need to feel safe to become vulnerable.

But this is true for both husbands and wives regarding sex, where we open up ourselves to one another so completely. We need to know our marriage bed is a secure place to be — that it’s exclusive between husband and wife, that it’s free from porn and erotica pulling our minds away, and that we set one another as the standard for beauty and lovemaking. When we feel that deep security, then intimacy has a place to blossom.

Long story short: My data and privacy policies are all about Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” And if we really lived that out, moment by moment, regarding our marriage beds, we’d probably all feel more secure, more loved, more intimate in our marriages.

Maybe you should discuss your own policies for the sexual relationship with your spouse this weekend. It’s not mandatory (like the GDPR), but it’s a good idea.

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Are We Afraid of #ChurchToo?

In case you just woke up from a two-year coma, there’s this thing going on called #MeToo, an international movement against sexual harassment and assault. It’s got its own Wikipedia page now, which explains how “Me Too” was first introduced in 2006 but popularized as a hashtag in 2017 following allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that he harassed and assaulted multiple women.

Since then, not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of women have shared their #MeToo stories, and I’ve both written about it and discussed it with my fellow podcasters on Sex Chat for Christian Wives.

But lest we think the problem is with Hollywood or Washington, D.C. or just secular culture itself, consider how this movement has reached down into our churches and revealed heartbreaking stories of the mistreatment and abuse of women.

Hashtags like #ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual have allowed women to share their stories of being harassed or assaulted by men who were supposed to be acting as their brothers in Christ. Dozens of men, at the highest levels, have been accused, many with convincing evidence or testimony.

It’s been heartbreaking to see that not only have we failed in this area, but we’re late to the party, so to speak. Why isn’t the Church forefront on the issue of respectful treatment of women?

Why isn't the Church forefront on the issue of respectful treatment of women? #ChurchToo Click To Tweet

We have example after example in the Bible of women receiving privileges uncommon for the time they lived, and our Messiah, Jesus Christ, repeatedly modeled how much he valued women.

Now I can envision someone immediately sliding this discussion into one of gender roles in the Church. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. Indeed, I’m not “egalitarian” — rather, I believe God specially tasked men to lead in their churches and homes. But we don’t need to debate that issue for us all to agree that mistreatment, harassment, and abuse of His children is against God’s will.

Our Lord is a champion for the oppressed: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).

But we have done a poor job of standing up for people who have experienced oppression by other Church members. What stops us from acting as God clearly wants us to act? What keeps up from holding harassers, assaulters, and abusers responsible for their actions? Are we afraid of the #ChurchToo movement?

I think some are. Fear is the only explanation I can think of the unconscionable silence and suppression we’ve seen in some church circles.

Fear of Weakening Our Witness

What if people find out that some who appeared to be upstanding Christians actually mistreated fellow sisters in Christ? Will they reject the message because its messengers are flawed?

Leaders who told victims to stay silent about their abuse or mistreatment often suggested that the good of the Church itself or the Gospel of Christ outweighed the damage done to an individual.

Look, I’ve seen firsthand that when a prominent minister is ruined, some congregants do indeed go out the door. But what we rarely acknowledge is the number of believers who quietly slip out year after year because their safety and wellbeing were not given the value they deserved. A number of people would still be in church but for our inaction in the face of their mistreatment.

Instead, let’s remember this:

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5)

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:4-7)

Let God take care of His Church, and let’s do all we can to take care of His people.

Let God take care of His Church, and let's do all we can to take care of His people. #ChurchToo Click To Tweet

Fear of Ruining Related Lives

Let’s say a minister sexually harassed women, abused someone, or encouraged suppression of truth, and that’s bad — but if he’s hit with a scandal, what happens to his wife and kids? Don’t we owe it to them to keep their lives from being ruined? I’ve heard this reasoning as well, and I get it. It can come from a place of compassion … but also fear.

And we’re fearful of something happening that’s already happened. This person already violated his marriage vows, let down his family and parishioners, and/or discarded Christian ethics. It’s a done deal — by the perpetrator. Whether we recognize it or not, it’s still there and impacting the people in his circle. Indeed, many times when bad news comes to light, those around finally have an explanation for something they sensed was wrong long before.

Now, of course we can handle the situation very poorly. (I’ve seen that too!) But in those cases, it’s not the truth itself that does damage, but rather us caring more for gossip or judgmentalism or some other non-Christian approach. We can aim for the right thing and go about it in the wrong way. But how we aim for the right thing, the right way? Seeking truth and justice, while showing Christ’s compassion to all those affected by the truth — that was going to come out someday, somehow. Wouldn’t it be better for the family to have a Christ-like community to fall back on?

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).

Fear of Finding Out Who We Really Are

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Anyone who’s been in the Christian faith for long knows this verse and likely has it memorized. We share it one another to remind ourselves that we all need a savior, the Lord Jesus. And sure, we buy it — that we are sinners. Thus, we talk about sin and repentance, but what happens when we are really faced with the sins of someone in our congregation? We become very uncomfortable.

Admitting that someone we trusted was abusing power and hurting people means that we were fooled at best and complicit at worst. Moreover, what if we peel back the layers and find more terrible stuff underneath — by this person or others in our church? What if looking deeper shows us that we aren’t who we thought we were?

King David’s son Amnon raped his sister Tamar, David’s own daughter. 1 Samuel 13:21 says, “When King David heard all this, he was furious.” But you know what David did? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. David didn’t want to acknowledge the poison in his own family, the person his own son had become. And it cost both his family and his kingdom greatly, with ruined and lost lives.

If we don’t look deeper, we don’t have a chance to save victims and change oppressors. We don’t let God do His greatest work of redeeming people.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:8-11).

Why am I talking about all of this now? Likely because of recent events regarding upcoming he Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not Baptist, but I hardly believe that their denomination is alone in having issues with the treatment of women. The movement isn’t #BaptistToo, it’s #ChurchToo.

And even those who aren’t in leadership need to decide where we stand. When we hear or read credible accusations against a church leader, what’s our gut reaction? Do we recoil in fear, encourage silence, remain with the status quo? Or do we value all individuals involved, seek out the truth, and pursue righteousness and justice?

I for one am 100% ready to defend the Church on its core message, regardless of what the world thinks — including my ongoing commitment to sharing God’s perfect design for sex in marriage. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:15). But I will not defend oppressors, no matter who they are. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

(Amos 5:24).