Thursday, September 29, 2016
On Saturday, October 8, 2016, the Philadelphia Baptist Association’s (PBA) Domestic Violence Learning Community presents, a domestic violence workshop titled “Institutions: Hiding Behind the Lipstick: Silence No More.” The program takes place at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Germantown (41 W. Rittenhouse Street, Philadelphia) at 11 a.m. This is a free event.
This is a theatrical presentation addressing the institutions of Domestic Violence, including bullying in school, mental illness, drug addictions, incarcerations, religious bondage, and more.
The desire is to continue to educate PBA churches about this epidemic, with the intent of helping "each one, reach one" person who might be suffering from domestic violence in their local congregation.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Sermon focusing on Paul's weakness and God's use of that weakness from 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. If you stick with it, toward the end is a call for Christians to come together against injustice, letting Jesus' love shine through us and God's strength use us.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Due to technical difficulties, the camera was not working today. However, the message is too important not to offer for consideration. Below is the complete transcript of the sermon.
For more on ending violence, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/actively-working-to-end-violence.html and http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/we-cannot-delay-helping-others-while.html
Working for Mercy & Peace
October 26, 2014
This is, without doubt, the hardest sermon I’ve written. Philadelphia Baptist Association has asked pastors to preach this Sunday on domestic violence awareness. While it is not entirely clear what all leads to domestic violence, an often silent and hidden epidemic in our culture and our churches, it is known that conditions leading to family stress ignite it. Right now, economic growth is below normal. Unemployment rates remain too high. Those individuals suffering beneath the poverty line have increased to roughly 50 million, around one in every six persons in our population. As we have seen working with the Interfaith Food Cupboard, the rate of food insecurity is far too high. Opportunities for advancement have dwindled. This is an incredibly stressful environment to live in and fertile ground for domestic violence. According to the pamphlet available from PBA, 2,135,000 women and men are abused annually by partners. Numbers like this can leave us feeling helpless and wanting to withdraw. However, using God’s methods of mercy and peace, as seen in today’s Scripture reading, we Christians can make a difference.
Moses was an extraordinary prophet and leader. Moses had an amazingly close relationship with God. We are told Moses had God’s Spirit, received a divine calling and divine revelation from God. Moses spoke with God’s words. Here was the prophet who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses formed this “stiff-necked people” into a nation. Listening to his father-in-law’s advice, he gave them a judicial system. All of the prophets who came later were compared with Moses. In the New Testament, parallels were made between Jesus and Moses, so powerful was Moses’ legacy. In Deuteronomy 34:10, it is written, “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” No one short of Jesus would be used by God so intensely as an instrument of revelation. God spoke to Moses clearly and Moses saw God’s form without dying.
And yet, Moses, for all his virtues, was a human being filled with human flaws, human fears, and a human temper. In his youth, Moses struck down an abusive Egyptian beating a Hebrew and fled to Midian to evade Pharaoh’s wrath. Later, in the wilderness of Zin, after the death of Miriam, Moses’ sister, at Kadesh, Moses was caught up in a quarrel among his people. They were waterless and sure they were going to die. They were accusing Moses of poor leadership, bringing them to this hostile place. God told Moses and Aaron to command the rock to yield water before the assembled crowd. This would be a sign of God’s power and holiness. Instead, Moses, apparently with temper flaring, proclaimed, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Striking the rock with his staff twice, the water came. God saw this action as Moses’ lack of trust in God and God’s methods, stating, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Moses was neither free of fear nor sin, though God made great use of him.
For many centuries, that judgment, in the face of all Moses did right, has worried scholars. Many explanations have been offered but none seem to satisfy. Right now this is a painful story of judgment, harsh judgment. And Moses was about to die. Will this story be redeemed? There is a modern story about which we can ask the same painful question.
Moses was in a situation of high stress both times when his temper got the best of him. The people of Israel became those famous “stiff-necked people” arguing and abusive when they were stressed as well. Great social stress today leads to domestic abuse, as we have seen. That is the dangerously fertile soil into which the evil seeds of cruelty fall and thrive. Seeking out an explanation for the cruelty involved in domestic violence, I turned to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. The experts there explained that our life’s expectations are “mapped out” early in childhood. Those expectations grow as the years roll by and impact behavior. Generally speaking, if a child received love and care, those are the expectations mapped out for later life and that child is likely to be loving and caring. However, when a child is told constantly and unfairly that he or she is bad and is treated with cruelty and violence, the map of life’s expectations is altered and behavior changes. That child will likely exhibit cruel behavior later in life. Victims become victimizers as they try to decrease painful, pent-up feelings from their own trauma. This awful and wrong cycle perpetuates. Again, this is general. There are exceptions.
Sadly, social attitudes going all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi, the oldest legal documents, have been lax on domestic violence. In the Code, the rights of a husband to discipline a wife and children as he saw fit were affirmed. In time, restrictions were placed on how men might exercise this right. By the 19th century, social reform movements made child and wife abuse less excusable. However, today, while there are laws in every state prohibiting assaults on family members, all too often there is reluctance to enforce them. Batterers are rarely charged and victims are encouraged not to press charges. Worse, victims are often blamed as being complicit in the abuse.
Any community that tolerates interpersonal violence perpetuates it and passes it on like toxic seeds to the next generation. For instance, a 28-year-old contractor filed for divorce from his estranged wife, a wife he declared he no longer loved. One day, cancelling his wife’s home insurance, he obtained the necessary permits and demolished her three bedroom home. Fortunately, she and their three children were away. Quite a few men in the community called this violence “bulldozer justice” and supported the contractor. His community let it be known that violent, vengeful attitudes and behaviors were legitimate ways to end family disputes.
Christian families are not exempt from this crisis. Some years ago, Methodist church women were surveyed and 68% revealed they had experience with abuse. Domestic abuse is a crisis facing peoples of every social and economic class, every ethnic group, both genders, all ages, and every faith. Like our story from Deuteronomy, at this point it feels like terrible, harsh judgment and leaves us in a quandary as to what we should do.
It is easy to imagine ourselves standing on some high mountain, looking longingly off into a promised land, but unable to reach it.
While this is a story of God’s judgment, it is even more a story of God’s mercy and peace. In the Bible, among the nation of Israel, the infirmities of advanced age were often used to portray God’s judgment against the people. Weakness is the result of sin and rebellion. And yet, Moses, a man of 120 years was clear-sighted and vigorous. Moses’ past actions may have denied him direct access to the Promised Land, but God’s judgment is further muted by his treatment of Moses at the end. God is very gentle with his faithful, dedicated, if sometimes prickly servant. God grants Moses a rare delight. Ascending Mount Nebo, some 2,600 feet above sea level—there’s vigor in a 120 year old for you—God provides Moses with a view of the entire Promised Land as no mere mortal could. Moses sees in detail the future homes of the various tribes of Israel. God reminds Moses, “this is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob …” when the tour is finished.
The promise was about to be fulfilled. God shows mercy to Moses and Moses receives that mercy with acceptance, receiving also God’s peace.
Throughout Moses’ long life he responded with a range of emotions to God’s calls. At times Moses was filled with self-doubt and fear, then with bravery in the face of great danger, and even offering up a gentle reproach to God to calm things when the people were at their worst. Just once did he stumble as God’s prophet, at Meribah, as his impatience and temper rose with his people. One scholar wrote that since Moses was a model for his people for all time to come, the price Moses paid for that lapse was high. Yet, when God’s justice collides with God’s mercy, as it did here, mercy prevails. In the end, the text even suggests God may have buried Moses God’s-self, providing a final moment of startling closeness in the relationship between God and his prophet. God helped Moses with his final mile on this earth. The text suggests, in Moses’ quiet observation of the Promised Land and his ending without complaint that Moses had serenity in the face of God’s mercy and peace. It is a hopeful end. How might we use those great qualities of mercy and peace today to change lives and offer hope to those struggling with domestic abuse today?
Last week Paul asked the Thessalonians to do the “work of faith and labor of love” by imitating Paul’s efforts among the church. This week, in this story of Moses, we can see ourselves imitating the ways of God, the ways of mercy and peace. We can also take the message away that, even in the face of the turmoil created by domestic violence and the circumstances that aggravate it, we should continue to have faith. God’s great age of the peaceable kingdom will come and we can strive for the mercy and peace it represents in the here and now, seeing it from afar like Moses from Mount Nebo. Like Moses, we may not live in the Promised Land in which such violence is finished forever, but we can work toward it. We can have faith, like Moses, that God will guide us in our work.
From this Scripture lesson we can also take the lesson that while our efforts might not be complete, like Moses we can pass them on to another generation and have our work continued, just as Joshua continued Moses’ work with the people of Israel. Using God’s example of mercy over judgment and peace over wrath, we can contend with domestic violence. This never appropriate behavior is criminal assault. It includes physical and emotional abuse and neglect. The intent is to control others in the relationship. Victims include children and adults, males and females, the single and the married. Domestic violence takes on many forms, including name calling, putdowns, isolation from family and friends, withholding money, preventing partners from getting or keeping jobs, actual or threatened harm, assault, stalking, and intimidation. There is much we can do to help work against this crisis. Churches like ours can provide emergency help for victims. We can help victims get the legal, medical, and social help they need through persistent advocacy on their behalf. When no emergency centers are available, some churches have developed host home networks for temporary safe housing.
We can also help victims and families recover from long-term effects of abuse with guidance to counseling services and by sponsoring support groups. We can offer violent families the chance to build positive bridges with others, breaking their isolation for a healthier way of life.
As a church, we can also offer up nonviolent images of family life so needed today. We can provide family-life education programs that offer instruction on non-abusive ways of parenting and conflict resolution. Pastors are offering up premarital and post-marital counseling to address domestic violence prevention.
Further, we can work to reduce social stresses that are flash points for violence. We can work, reaching out with mercy and using peaceful methods against sexism, racism, poverty, and hunger, poisonous soil from which domestic violence grows. We can also speak out against domestic violence, making others aware of this crisis, and never supporting violent actions like “bulldozer justice.”
American Baptist missionaries Ray and Adalia Schellinger, and their partners in Tijuana, Mexico, are working against domestic violence there with Deborah’s House, a shelter for women and children escaping severe domestic violence fostered by a harsh economy paying less than $1 an hour that demands 50-60 hour weeks, and offers no child care—when work can be found. At Deborah’s House, women learn the sewing business. Working together, these women form a business that allows them to make salaries three times higher than factory rates, allowing them to spend more time with their children, and frees them from violence. Ray and Adalia also provide counseling for abusive men, guiding them toward different, non-violent ways.
Using God’s approach of mercy superseding judgment and peace instead of wrath, we can work against this terrible crisis of our age. Dedicated to this effort, we can make a difference.
©2014 J.B. Snyder
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality, or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.
Help IS Available:
National Help Line: 1-888-7HELPLINE
Twenty-four Hour Domestic Violence Hotlines
Philadelphia County (All Domestic Violence Services): 1-866-723-3014
State and National:
PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
National DV Hotline:
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline:
Legal Aid Services for Montgomery, Bucks, Chester & Delaware County:
1-610-275-5400 (press 3)
Help for Batterers: