The God Squad: Tolerating abuse is not Christian teaching

August 23, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I'm living with an abusive, alcoholic husband who refuses help. Medical doctors have urged me to leave him, but religious friends say I should stay and endure; as Jesus suffered, so can I.

Lawyers warn that one day my husband will kill me. Homeless shelters in the area are above capacity, and the local domestic abuse shelter is being repaired following a fire. I could leave but have nowhere to go, and the economy is not conducive to moving. I realize you can't tell me what to do, but any ideas would be appreciated.

— J., via

A: My chances for having a great day evaporated after reading your heartrending email. I'm deeply concerned for your safety and for the healing of your husband. Since he refuses help, I can only pray that one day, before he hurts himself, you or others, he'll realize he can't free himself from his corrosive illness alone.


What's true for your husband is also true for you. You must take immediate steps to save yourself from his violent, alcohol-induced rages. A safe place exists. The world of protection is not closed to you. Keep searching and you will find people waiting to protect you.

The idea that you must suffer the brutality of an alcoholic husband in order to emulate the suffering of Jesus is not a Christian teaching. Jesus suffered on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Your suffering is an example of those sins. God wants you to save yourself and protect your life.

Read Deuteronomy 4:9 and Proverbs 4:23. The message there is simple and clear, and I pray you will hear it through your agony: Your life is sacred and there's no reason to put it at risk for a man who's threatening his soul and your life. Run for your life. Run fast and run now.

Q: What does it mean to die spiritually? I know God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden, but what happened to their souls? Did they enter heaven or not? Did they even get a chance to sacrifice an animal to pay for their sin? (I am 14 and attend Catholic school in Kenosha, Wis.)

— I., via

A: Thank you for your question and good luck in school this year. You can tell your class that I'd be happy to try to answer any questions they have about religion or other topics.

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