Fundamentalism linked to intimate partner violence
- Published on 27 July 2010
- Written by Derek Michaud
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Christianity has a long association with patriarchy and the domination of women by men. Biblical passages such as Ephesians 5:22-23 – “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (KJV) – have long been used to justify the cruel, even violent, treatment of women by men, especially between intimate partners (both married and unmarried). These tendencies, along with other elements in many Christian theologies, have led to the development of feminist theologies, some of which have found the misogynistic elements within the tradition so pervasive that they have progressed beyond Christianity entirely to become “post-Christian” in outlook. “Religion” is thus often reasonably suspected of compliance with, if not of actually causing, the abuse of women. One might expect to find a link between religiosity and domestic violence given this background in the theological literature. However, a recent study has found that Christian fundamentalism in particular and not religiosity in general is associated with higher rates of intimate partner violence.
In a study of U.S. college students reported in the Review of Religious Research, J.R. Koch and I.L. Ramirez found “that general religiosity, measured as belief in God, strength of religious faith, church attendance, and frequency of prayer, was not associated with violence approval, psychological aggression, or intimate partner violence.” That is, subjects who were particularly religious were not any more inclined toward violence than less religious subjects.
The trend did not hold, though, for Christian fundamentalists, who were “positively associated with both violence approval and acts of intimate partner violence.” Interestingly, however, fundamentalists were not significantly more predisposed toward psychological aggression than non-fundamentalists were.
While the radical feminist critique of Christianity as hopelessly patriarchal rests on a far broader critique than the supposed links between Christian religion and violence toward women (after all, nonviolence does not equal equality!) this research does seem to suggest that the character of one’s Christianity plays a strong role in one’s attitudes toward intimate partners.
Additional research will be needed, however, to test the notion that religiosity itself may not play as important a role as the specific form that religiosity takes. Research is also needed on the potentially positive affects of religion when it comes to domestic partnership relationships. Moreover, while this study found a correlation between fundamentalism and domestic violence, such behavior is decidedly not limited to fundamentalists, or even to the religious more broadly.
For resources for the prevention and understanding of intimate partner violence (“domestic violence”) see here.
Reference: J.R. Koch & I.L. Ramirez, 2010, “Religiosity, Christian Fundamentalism, and Intimate Partner Violence among US College Students,” Review of Religious Research 51(4): 402-410.