Creflo Dollar Incident Shines Light on Domestic Abuse

Creflo Dollar Incident Shines Light on Domestic Abuse

THE SUNDAY AFTER: After being arrested for allegedly beating his teen daughter, megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar appeared before his Atlanta congregation to deny the charges. "Raising children in our culture of disrespect is a challenge," he said.

Pastor Creflo Dollar did the expected during his first sermon after being booked on charges of simple battery, family violence, and cruelty to children. He repeated his denial of his daughter’s accusations that he choked, punched, and slammed her down during an argument.

You can view the address here, but in short, Dollar read from a prepared statement that was likely signed off on by his legal defense team.  Dollar said:

• He is the true victim, not his 15-year-old daughter.

• He should not have been arrested.

• The police are irresponsible for photographing an eczema mark on his daughter’s neck.

• The news media and other accusers are evil and blowing things out of proportion.

• “The enemy” is trying to discredit him in order to block his message of grace.

Dollar concluded by quoting Psalms 35 to explain his situation and the likely result: “Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about…Take up my case my God and my Lord…”

The most revealing part of his address was when he seemed to go off script a bit.

“I’m a human being and, you know, I’ve had to do a lot of praying and my family has been very supportive,” he said. “Because when I feel like an injustice has been done, I get angry. And yet I respect the law.

On some levels, I can surely appreciate where Pastor Dollar is coming from. As I’ve written previously, rearing teens can be very difficult. Depending on their personalities, they often have a sense of entitlement, they think they know everything, and with hormones raging they can be outright nasty. My wife and I have been there with our three children, of which the youngest is our 19-year-old daughter. As a dedicated father, I know rearing a daughter can be particularly challenging. You worry about them being harmed even more than you do your sons. You have to be more careful and sensitive when correcting them.

Even when correcting my sons physically, my point was to calm them down and show them that if I really wanted to hurt them I could. Being an athletic 6-foot-1 inches and more than 200 pounds, I often needed to think twice before dispensing any sort of physical punishment. And if one of the kids deserved physical correction, it was often safer for them — and better for the parent-child relationship — for their mother to do it, especially if it was our daughter. Still, regardless of their gender, your teens can make you snap, but as a parent you MUST maintain control, lest you cross the line.

What set most people off in this Pastor Dollar case is the accusation that he choked punched and slammed his daughter. Child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

Only the Dollar family knows if this situation rises to the level of abuse. However, watching his well-meaning congregation give him a standing ovation, and reading the many comments here on UrbanFaith misinterpreting the scripture “spare the rod, spoil the child,” I wonder about a dangerous message being sent to people who are truly victims of domestic abuse: The church isn’t much of a sanctuary for help.

Domestic child abuse is a serious problem in America. According to the Administration for Children and Families, there were 3.3 million child abuse referrals involving 5.9 million children in 2010.

Some published reports estimate 25 percent of churchgoers have experienced domestic abuse. This means that among those clapping vigorously in support of Pastor Dollar, there were sufferers of domestic violence. There are people suffering in my church and your church. YOU may be suffering in silence.

I know personally teen girls who have suffered domestic abuse at the hands of men in their homes. One in particular attended church religiously, but felt no one in the church would believe her because her stepfather was respected in the community. So she suffered in silence. Girls in these types of situations often become women who enter abusive relationships. Even when married to men who are not abusers, these women have wounds that scar their marriages. They need counseling.

As this situation with Pastor Dollar unfolds, what message are true victims of domestic abuse hearing?

Perhaps this unfortunate incident will provide Pastor Dollar and other church leaders around the country the opportunity to offer a word of grace to the silent sufferers in their midst.

Wil LaVeist will discuss this article and the topic of domestic abuse on his radio show tomorrow, Wednesday June 13, from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Listen to the live stream on Hampton University’s WHOV here:

Taking Back the Summer

Taking Back the Summer Urban FaithIn Chicago and cities around the nation, our youth are dying in the streets. As public officials brace for a summer spike in violent crime, some are even calling for military intervention. It’s time to stop the madness and address the root of the problem.


Even Rihanna Speaks Up

This edition of Pop & Circumstance is all about the “youngins” — from the tragic tales of Precious Jones in Lee Daniels’ latest film and Rihanna’s triumph over domestic abuse, to the underage vixens of Gossip Girl. Join us as we take a look at the young stars who are making headlines — and, at times, making many of us adults a little nervous

Got Courage?

Got Courage? for urban faithIf following Jesus has become a boring, monotonous experience for you, as it has for many of us, perhaps it’s because we’re afraid to act on what we claim to believe.

In my last column, I wrote about feeling the rumble of spiritual revolution within my own mind, heart, and soul, and hearing the faint whisper of a battle cry from others as well. Well, the fires of uprising within me are still being stoked, most recently by Gary Haugen in his book, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian. I read it two nights ago and felt like I had found a good friend who understands exactly where I am. Our conversation began with these words:

Is it okay to bore grownups with the gospel? I ask the question because I sense among many Christians today a subtle but deep discontent. I don’t think they would call it boredom because that sounds too flippant, but I do sense a powerful but largely unspoken sense of disappointment in the way their Christian life is turning out. ..[A]t the end of the day we thought our Christian life would be more than this — somehow larger, more significant, more vivid, more glorious. But it’s not. Driving to church on Sunday feels a bit like Groundhog Day, the movie where Bill Murray’s character is forced to pathetically relive exactly the same day over and over again.

…It had seemed like following Christ was supposed to be a bold adventure of power and beauty and singular importance, but the reality that keeps emerging appears to be something very different. And in very deep ways, it’s disappointing.

He had me at “discontent.” And he kept my attention as he led me through the rough terrain of rationalization, generalization, and self-pity that stands between me and the life of true adventure with the Master I so long for. Excusing my milk-toast mediocrity by blaming circumstances, or reasoning that a lot of other Christians feel this way and manage to make peace with it, or feeling sorry for myself don’t cut it. At the end of the day, I’m forced to deal squarely with the harsh truth: I’m just afraid. Maybe you are, too.

I’m afraid to let go of the ordinary because it’s what I’ve known. But I’m beginning to realize that while ordinary has been a companion, it’s never been a friend. Using our talents and gifts in a way that we can control, in arenas with which we’re familiar, is not the path to overflowing living that we’re all called to. It’s the path to … Well, what we all experience. Predictability. Boredom. Wanting more.

But how do we get from here to there?

Maybe like me you have an education, ministry experience, drive, and passion. Yet I’m asking as the rich young ruler did, “What do I still lack?” Quite simply, courage.

Haugen, who is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, posits that the remedy for this kind of restlessness is to abandon the desire for comfort, safety, and certainty. I see that these things keep my feet firmly planted in what Haugen refers to as the “Christian cul-de-sac of triviality and small fears.”

Sure, we see grave and glaring injustice and know that it’s evil. We can intellectually condemn violence and oppression. But we need to take action. And that is the heart of how he describes courage: taking action even when it is scary and hard, and especially when what we’re moving toward is dangerous and could potentially overtake us. Haugen’s battlefields involve fighting for justice against aggressive evil and violent oppression. Sex trafficking of women and girls, property pirated away from widows, and modern-day slavery — these are his pathways to courage.

It sure sounds exciting, but maybe a little too exotic for most of us. We’ve got bills, laundry, fundraisers, deadlines, children, church, and bad hair days to contend with. But it’s great that someone is taking these things on, right?

Perhaps there needs to be a smaller beginning. If you frequently visit this website, you’ve read articles about Black teenagers living lives of sexual degradation; the brutal death of a teenager at the hands of his neighbors and classmates; urban children being educated in substandard schools; and the urgent need for healing and restoration in our communities. Have you ever responded in any way to anything you’ve read?

I issue a “courage challenge” to every visitor to this site: 1) pick one issue represented by an article, 2) pray about it every day for seven days, and 3) email a friend and ask them to do the same.

We can each find our own pathway to courage, and Jesus will direct us to and meet us on the path. By taking my first step on my path, I see Jesus walking into a brothel, crack house, or slave trade business and bringing freedom to people trapped by the evil of their oppressors.

The most shocking thing of all? Jesus looks like me. And He looks like you, too.