40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #21

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28

This post is the twenty-first in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #21: Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands (and vice versa).

This “harmful effect” of Christianity is perhaps tenuously applicable to the Roman Catholic faith.  In that religion, marriage is considered to be one of seven grace-conferring sacraments administered by the church.  Those who participate in a church-sanctioned marriage and later divorce are barred from receiving communion.  Communion is believed to be another grace conferring sacrament.  Being unable to receive grace from the Roman Catholic Church may, according the tenets of that faith, damn a person to Hell or at least result in him being consigned to purgatory for a time.  However, divorce should be considered as altogether different from the type of physical separation intended to keep someone safe from an abusive spouse.  In any case, this author is not an expert who can write authoritatively about Roman Catholic practice with regards to the “sacrament” of marriage without further research.   What this author can communicate, backed by biblical authority, is that Roman Catholicism is a false Christianity.  Nothing it does is harmful effect of “Christianity” but rather a harmful effect of a false Christianity.  From a biblical perspective, what consigns one to Hell is the righteous judgment of Christ, not the act of leaving an abusive husband.

Anyone, regardless of his martial failures or successes, who does not repent of his sin and throw himself upon the mercy of the risen Lord Jesus, will be cast into Hell.  Where marriage is concerned, Christians are expected to treat their spouses with the utmost respect and demonstrate self-sacrificing love in the course of caring for them.  Civil authorities have the responsibility and authority to jail spouses who engage in domestic abuse.  This would, of course, justifiably separate an abused spouse from her abuser.  Furthermore, someone who unrepentantly abuses his spouse is subject to discipline and expulsion from the church.  Such expulsion effectively exposes the abuser as an unbeliever. In such a case, divorce may be a biblically viable (though not preferable) option.

In no case can a wife be told with any biblically authority that she will be forever tortured if she leaves her abusive husband.  Such an assertion, as a “harmful effect of Christianity” is completely unfounded.  The sanctity and commitment of Christian marriage is more appropriately held up as exemplary.  Christian marriage should be a picture of Christ’s love for His church.  Those who are blessed with a faithful Christian spouse are truly blessed.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #22: Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant