I have a weird relationship with speaking out on things. I have no trouble ranting to my friends about things. But actually putting it out into the world of social media isn’t something I usually do. I’ve wanted to write about my experiences at college and some I have, but it’s been a slow process.
I spoke out yesterday when I saw that my former university had asked Saeed Abedini to speak at their chapel service.
If you don’t know, he is a pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for years until being freed earlier this year. His wife, Nagmeh, advocated for his release for years until five months prior to his release, she stopped her advocacy, speaking out about abuse in their marriage and filing for legal separation upon his release.
The church at large has always dealt horribly with domestic abuse, separation and divorce. So many are afraid to speak out in support of one person, they want to see a family unit stable. They think that with God, every marriage can be saved. Some segments of the church think that partners should stay with their unrepentant abusers.
The messages on social media when my friend spoke out were asking for forgiveness and grace for Saeed. That we are all capable of sin. Praying for the reunification of the family. The problem: Saeed does not seem interested in doing what it takes to reunite his family. Nagmeh wants to seek individualized counseling for them both and that was not something Saeed was willing to seek (that’s my understanding at the time of this writing, based on a report from Nagmeh herself). To reunite your family, you HAVE to be be willing to do everything possible to fix not only your marriage but your own flaws, your marriage cannot work otherwise.
I have always had a contrary view of divorce from the christian worldview (because I kinda had to). I see how it is, at times, necessary especially in cases of abuse. Or when a partner does not want to continue the relationship. Separation and divorce is not an easy decision. Leaving is not an easy decision. Often, it comes after years of trying and working hard in your marriage, only to realize there’s no way to make it work anymore. And I’ve only learned this anew over the years. To quote a woman upon her own separation, “You never go into a marriage thinking you’re going to get divorced.”
And I wish more Christians realized that. When I hear Nagmeh’s story and see the people urging her to see her family restored, I think of my Mom. Of my aunts, my best friend and the strong women in my life. I think of them being in a situation like that and hearing those words. It breaks my heart.
So Saeed Abedini, a known abuser spoke at Liberty University. But I guess it’s ok because he spoke on the persecuted church. I guess it’s ok because they prayed for his family. I guess it’s ok because his wife’s story of abuse doesn’t matter– we have to pay attention to his side of the story, right?
I hope one day, this kind of thing no longer happens in the church, because it’s the opposite of everything God stands for.
Recommended reading: A former professor of mine wrote an article about the christian double standard of how they treat domestic abuse, which I highly recommend.