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relations, Lutheran Services for the Aging, Salisbury, N.C.

A theology that heals When Jendusa-Nicolai told one for- mer pastor what was happening at home, what she heard was frighten- ing. “I remember going to him and saying, ‘This marriage isn’t going to work.’ ” His response? “You do what you have to do [to make it work],” she said.

Congregations can be ready to

offer spiritual care to people who have been abused. “Sometimes peo- ple who’ve been through domestic abuse have to educate their pastors,” Kerkes said. And pastors must be open to hearing and believing. “If you bring your story of abuse to the church and if your pastor doesn’t listen, find another one who does,” she added.

Theology influences our under- standings of each other and abuse. As the church, as people of God, we must be careful not to glorify suffer- ing or sacrifice. “God does not want anyone to be a victim of domestic violence,” Clemente said. To someone undone by the sin of domestic abuse, frequent reminders to “bear your cross” can be deeply harmful, not to mention misplaced. We are called, instead, to remind people who have been abused that God dearly loves them and desires that they have abundant life, free of suffering. As Jesus tells us: “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Lutherans may want to discuss ways that Martin Luther’s theology of the cross (that God is with us in the deepest forms of suffering) can be a positive force in the lives of people who are abused, while taking seri- ously the ways that it might reinforce someone’s idea that they should sim- ply accept the suffering of abuse. The reality of domestic abuse can

also challenge us to take a second look at the ways that images of God affect various people and communi- ties. Attention to the wide diversity of scriptural descriptions for God may afford many people the pastoral care they need.

For example, in addition to images of God as King or Ruler, we can also speak of God the Protector who says in Psalm 91: “I will cover you with my pinions; under my wings you will take refuge; my faith- fulness will shield you.” We can also speak of God the Powerful, the God in the whirlwind who comes to remind the suffering Job that answers to some of our deep- est questions are simply mysteries. We can talk about Jesus, Our Friend, who weeps with his friends, Mary and Martha, as they suffer through their grief.

And we, as God’s family, can walk with people living with domes- tic violence as they journey toward hope and healing.

“Jesus would sit with the people in their pain and suffering and that’s where we need to be,” Clemente said. “[Domestic violence] is an issue of people exerting power and control over other people. But there is space for hope and healing. We are the community of faith and we are called to do justice.” 

For immediate help

• National Hotline for Domestic Abuse: 800-799-SAFE (7233); TYY 800-787-3224;

• Domestic violence organizations: Professionals at local organizations can often explain what resources are available, including training, counseling services, shelter, support groups, batterer rehabilitation pro- grams and assistance with obtaining a legal order of protection.

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