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A Spiritual Battle between Good and Evil?

Aug 28, 2010 — Categories:

Is addressing domestic violence a spiritual battle between good and evil? This is the question I received last week from a colleague. As I pondered this question, I sent a note to several other colleagues for their input. I think the answer we all agreed to is “yes and no.” Or as one Muslim colleague said, “Essential and not sufficient.”

Is addressing domestic violence a spiritual battle between good and evil?

This is the question I received last week from a colleague. As I pondered this question, I sent a note to several other colleagues for their input. I think the answer we all agreed to is “yes and no.” Or as one Muslim colleague said, “Essential and not sufficient.” My Protestant colleague said, “As long as we are not referring to the spiritual battle as the only battle.” It is an interesting question for people of faith who do work to end domestic violence.

My caution when I first read the question was, “Uh-oh, is this the effort by a Christian to spiritualize domestic violence?” In other words, is this the “pray about it” but take no action approach that we still hear too often in some quarters? It is sometimes tempting to describe a persistent, destructive reality like domestic violence in the starkest possible terms: good versus evil. I think we are tempted by this because we are really trying to answer the question, “How can someone use violence to control a person they love?” Why do such things even exist?

This is a question for theologians, ethicists, social scientists, and others to ponder. For me, I can “explain” the reality of domestic violence knowing that brokenness creates more brokenness. And brokenness that is nurtured in an environment of entitlement and acceptance of violence in relationships and families becomes a disease in our communities. When I ask my colleagues who work with male batterers, why do men batter, they consistently say, “Because they can.” This is the bottom line; it works and no one stops them.

But we also know that individuals choose to use physical, sexual and psychological force to control an intimate partner. For example, many people who are survivors of childhood abuse or who witnessed domestic violence in their families do not grow up to repeat the behavior. They make a choice that they don’t want to perpetuate this pattern in their families. I think this is the spiritual part of the battle: being able to seek spiritual resources and support to make it possible to choose a different path.

Another colleague reminded me of an old story said to be told by a Cherokee grandfather. I want to honor the wisdom of this story:

One evening an elder Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, “My son, the battle is between ‘two wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The elder Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

May God give us the strength to feed the good wolf even when the bad wolf is demanding the food.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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Good or Evil?

Posted by Brenda at Sep 02, 2010 12:17 PM
As a survivor of a 23 year long abusive marriage, I believe that I can attest that DV is in fact evil.
You must remember that God has given each of us "free will." Battering a spouse, girlfriend, child or anyone is a clear and deliberate choice. The batterer chooses to batter due to a heightened sense of "entitlement" and s/he continues to batter because they get away with it.
Remember also that the battering does not necessarily end just because the relationship ends. I have been separated from my abuser for almost 7 years, divorced 4 years, and he has found other creative ways in which to batter and terrorize me. He still seeks out every opportunity to verbally abuse and harass, inflict emotional terrorism, and control financially. He knows exactly where the line is between legal and illegal and he hovers just above the illegal. This is not an extension of love. To continue to perpetrate such abusiveness over a long period of time is not a 'battle' between good and evil; it is evil, straight up.
For this reason, I choose not to use the term "intimate partner" because to me 'intimacy' infers a loving relationship. A man and woman who love one another are 'intimate'. Anyone who batters their partner is definately NOT in love. Why would a person deliberately, consciously choose to batter someone they love? They don't. They batter someone they either despise or at the very least feel indifference toward.


Posted by Lilly at Sep 22, 2010 05:34 PM
my heart breaks for Brenda. i know how the batterer continues to get at you. even though it was the hardest thing to do, i broke away from him and rarely speak to him. as a matter of fact i only see him when our adult children have a family event where they want both of us to attend, and then i stay away from him, surround myself with other family members, and rarely engage in any form of communication with him other than hello & good bye.
Brenda, do EVERY THING possible to get completely away from him! don't give him any more opportunities to hurt you. no matter how hard this might be for you, in the long run you will find your peace again. i did!

Cherokee grandfather story

Posted by linda at Sep 22, 2010 05:36 PM
Thank you for this story, Marie! It's good to read and hear American Indian wisdom. Not everyone thinks of him or herself in terms of Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I'm one of them, and I love to hear various spiritual or religious beliefs and stories that help heal and bring life to a diversity of people and communities. I also think that anger can be used in either healing or destructive ways. It can function like a sharp knife that can either injure or kill, or like a surgical knife that can be an instrument of healing and health. It is how we choose to use it that really matters.. My guess is that the anger that the Cherokee grandfather meant had to do with the destructive expression, rather than channeling it to do good in the world. Thanks for your hard work, Marie!