I’ve been posting links to articles about the whole Saeed-Naghmeh thing over on my Facebook page. For the most part, the comments have been sympathetic toward Naghmeh, but there are some comments that I feel a strong urge to talk about over here on my blog. I’m not going to be Smucker’s Sweet, more Sriracha Hot Sauce, so if you’re the sensitive type, now’s the time to make your exit.
There are all kinds of negative, judgmental comments about the Saeed-Naghmeh situation on the web, and I think there is controversy surrounding this case due to something called Cognitive Dissonance. I want to address three of the recurring comment themes on my own Facebook page:
- People are confused. Why would a Christian woman fight tirelessly for three years to free her imprisoned husband only to admit right before he comes home that he abused her?
- She should have kept the abuse private.
- There are two sides to every story.
People are Confused
The “Innocently” Confused:
I think people are understandably confused. Her coming out when she did was like a curve ball none of us were expecting. Personally, I don’t know what to think.
This person understands why people are confused because she is also confused. The fact that Naghmeh unselfishly, compassionately, and tirelessly worked for three years toward the release of her husband, only to admit before his actual release that he was abusive, makes no sense. She doesn’t know what to think.
What’s sad about this is that when a Christian woman fights for her husband’s human rights and then turns around and fights for her own—it’s thought of as a curve ball. Unexpected. Strange. It throws people for a loop. They don’t know how to think about someone who acts consistent across the board with their worldview. You know—a Christian who actually acts like one.
That’s sadder than sad.
The “Irate” Confused:
NO WOMAN…spends 3 YEARS fighting to get an abusive Husband, out of captivity, something else has happened, or she has been threatened….this is not something that is true, there is no woman that FIGHTS THE FIGHT SHE DID…TO FREE HIM…and then comes along with….oooh by the way, he’s an abuser, and I don’t want him back gasp emoticon huh?!!!
This person is angry. She doesn’t just cock her head to the side and wonder about things when she is confused. She cocks her guns and comes out shooting. She refuses to believe the story at face value. It could not be a simple case of a pastor-husband abusing his wife and a Christian wife behaving like a real follower of Christ by working to free him—and then telling the truth about his abuse in order to protect herself and their children in the same way she worked to protect her husband from abuse. No. There’s just got to be something more bizarre afoot – like, she’s been threatened or something. Because it’s more believable to think she’s been threatened by Isis or the mafia than that she was abused by her pastor husband. Pastor husbands don’t abuse their wives or look at porn for crying out loud. Everyone knows this. No, this commenter doesn’t believe a word of it. “…this is not something that is true, there is no woman that…” does this. No woman acts in a consistent fashion. No woman acts like a real Christian. Not a single one. Therefore, Naghmeh doesn’t either. The commenter knows this to be true. But the woman who actually experienced the abuse is a liar.
The “Experienced in Church-Office-Work” Confused (but not experienced in abuse prevention—hence the confusion).
I’m a little confused and disappointed, as someone who has worked in church offices for over 30 years I don’t understand Naghmeh need for publicizing Saheed’s failures and sins especially coinciding with his release. The personal information that she shared eventually would have been found out but the starting point for all of this mess should have been with them as a couple and a counselor in private. These situations are complicated but they still require a tremendous amount of grace for all involved.
I brace myself when someone starts their comment with their credentials. They are saying, “Heads up, folks. I’m credentialed.” She has worked in church offices for over 30 years, which means she has insights she must share about Naghmeh’s “need” (covert cut to Naghmeh) to “publicize Saeed’s failures and sins.” Not the physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse of his wife. Not the breaking of his wedding vows to love and cherish her. No, because that wouldn’t be fair to Saeed. It’s simply his “failures and sins.” You know, like everyone’s failures and sins. No biggie. Not only did Naghmeh air their dirty laundry, but she did it on purpose to coincide with his release. Like, she plotted the timing to make it even worse for the poor man. She wantonly shared “personal information” – and she “should” have kept it private with couple’s counseling. Because couple’s counseling is what this commenter has seen through her church office windows. She knows about these things. She also knows (and firmly informs the rest of us dork brains who obviously don’t get it) that these situations are complicated. But, to add a spiritual, Church-Office-Worker touch at the end, she reminds us of the tremendous amount of grace required for all involved. Grace, of which she has demonstrated for nobody but herself—and the abuser, of course.
I know I’m getting sarcastic, but this stuff seriously drives me to pulling my fingernails off because these people get away with writing horrific things like this and thinking they are amazeballs. They don’t realize how pretentious they sound. But the thing that really gets my goat is that Naghmeh actually is a noble, humble, and courageous woman, and she is being vilified by the likes of all the Mrs. Awesome Church Office Workers who know exactly nothing about abuse. If they did, they would know that you never do couple’s counseling for abuse. If they did, they would know how horrific it is to come forward and admit you’ve been abused. If they had any sense of justice at all, they would never gush about grace for the abuser and turn their hearts from bestowing grace and compassion on the victim. This particular woman may have over 30 years working in a church office, but she has very little insight or grace for abuse survivors.
The “Suspicious” Confused
My thing is why would she fight so hard to get him back here just so she could divorce him. There is more to this story then what is being said. I believe Satan can use good for evil. Was she cheating on him while he was away and doesn’t want to confess to him. A lot of time when humans are doing something that they are hiding and are going to be found out they will go on a defence mode and makeup a story to cover up a fact of truth. It is in our sin nature to do that. I say sin nature because even though we are saved by grace we still have a sin nature. We still have choices we make. So this is why I say there is more to the story.
Where do I even begin with this one? First of all, where did divorce come into the picture? Nowhere have I seen any intimation that Naghmeh is in the process of divorcing Saeed. This commenter is making that up, like an exaggeration to stir up the pot even more. Then she announces her suspicions that there are undercover conspiracies here. Maybe she’s been talking to Mad Lady up above? Onto the next fantastical line: “Satan can use good for evil—?” This is sort of a sick twist on Genesis 50:20 where Joseph said what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. So let me just state clearly: Satan doesn’t have the power to take good and turn it into evil. Period.
And then the next line? It just gets sicker. While Mad Lady calls Naghmeh a liar, this one says maybe she’s an adulterer to boot! Yeah. That’s it. If domestic abuse makes no sense, then call the victim an adulterer, and all the pieces start falling together. This lady is just making up crap off the top of her head and vomiting it on Facebook. But then she goes on to give a mini-sermon about the sin nature and how it all works, you know, for the rest of us naive people who just take a reputable abuse victim’s word for it. A victim with a police record of her husband’s abuse.
After reading that one, I needed a drink and a smoke.
She Should Have Kept the Abuse Private
I would never defend the abuser and blame the victim ever; [yet here I go] but I really have a hard time seeing why it was necessary to make all of this public, especially at this time! She can go through everything she is currently doing to protect herself and the kids without owing a single person anywhere an explanation or insight into their personal lives. She is doing exactly what the Pastors at our church would want her to do if she was a member of our congregation, protecting herself and her children, they would have Saeed get counseling and take many steps to earn his family back but not ever would they condone making a public example out of your spouse!
And this one:
I was badly abused growing up and in my marriage, I would never cover up for an abuser, but I do not think it is appropriate to discuss other people’s lives in this manner. Discussing abuse is important but these are real people. Talking about them behind their backs is not Biblical, it is spreading rumors and judgement we are not authorized to give since we cannot know all the details. To say abusers do not change is also very closed sighted. God is a mighty God and can change the heart of any man. Personally, I choose to let God handle this as He sees fit and to trust that He is an awesome God.
I don’t agree with keeping domestic abuse private unless the woman wants to keep it private, and even then, I think keeping evil under wraps is always a bad choice in the long run. There is a boat load of shame associated with abuse, and most of the time the woman keeps silent simply because it is tremendously embarrassing on many levels. She often doesn’t want her abusive partner to get in trouble or be embarrassed either. When the pain of dealing with the abuse becomes greater than the pain of “telling” – she finally comes forward. It is a huge hurdle to overcome, and often after coming forward she isn’t even believed by many people, as we can see from the comments. This is also a fear victims have while still keeping quiet. “If I say something, who will believe me?” Especially if her husband is a public figure or a pastor or leader of some sort. I have personally seen this more times than I care to count. It is a horrible injustice heaped upon a woman who has already likely endured years, even decades of injustice at the hands of a spouse.
Saeed and Naghmeh were public figures. Saeed had already pled guilty to domestic abuse in 2007, so this wasn’t “out of the blue.” Criminal activity isn’t a private matter, it’s a concern of the state, and domestic abuse is defined in many states as a distinct crime. It is known at some level no matter who is involved, but certainly when you are a public figure, if you choose to engage in criminal activity against family members, the public may eventually find out about it. I don’t see this as a negative, but rather a positive. Why? Because it exposes and brings evil to light, and that is never a bad thing. Evil thrives in darkness. Evil wants to remain hidden. When we expose the deeds done in darkness and set captives free, we act as ambassadors of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alternatively, when we seek to hide evil and cover it up, we are playing right into the enemy’s hands.
The first commenter was right that Naghmeh doesn’t “owe” anyone an explanation, yet she is choosing to be up front and honest in spite of the negative kickback she no doubt anticipated she would be forced to endure. She is laying herself on the line in order to bring an evil to light and get help for herself, her children—and Saeed. Yes, the only hope for an abusive person is if their abuse no longer works in their favor. Even then, very few abusers repent and turn their lives around. That is a well known, well researched fact that anyone who works in the field of domestic violence knows. Google it. Look up all the literature at your local library. This information is free.
As far as “talking about them behind their backs” – and spreading rumors – yes, there are a lot of sick rumors (she is an adulterer covering for her affair, she is being threatened, etc.) started by Christian women like the ones quoted above, and these are ridiculous, based on nothing but a chunk of boredom between two thick slices of over-active imagination. But having intentional conversations for the purpose of educating the public on different aspects of abuse, encouraging prayer and emotional support for Naghmeh, and exposing an evil that hides in our churches, is a very “Biblical” thing to do, in my opinion. I think the God of justice and truth approves. And I think this is likely Naghmeh’s hope as well.
Back to the idea of God changing the hearts of abusive men. Can He do this? Yes, of course He can. And once in a blue moon, a man repents and is transformed. But God can also raise people from the dead. That doesn’t mean if your child dies, they will be raised in your lifetime. God doesn’t control us like puppets. He doesn’t take every abuser and turn them into Gandhi. People make their own choices, and more often than not, abusive men don’t change because they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. They are liars, and their most faithful believer is themselves. That’s why Saeed can say with a straight face full of conviction that his wife is lying. He doesn’t believe that what he’s done is all that bad. His wife is making a mountain out of a molehill. What’s her problem? Abusers always make the victim out to be the bad guy. Always. And abusers, especially ones that claim to be Christians, often look like incredibly benevolent, charitable people. Just one more reason it is so difficult to extract oneself from their web.
Finally, I want to address this last comment: Personally, I choose to let God handle this as He sees fit and to trust that He is an awesome God.
Seriously? I hope that if you are ever mugged in a dark alley, and someone comes along and sees it, that they don’t say that.
I hope when you see your child running into a busy street that you don’t just stand there calmly with a smile and say that.
I’m glad people like William Wilberforce and Oskar Shindler and Mother Theresa didn’t say that.
We are supposed to be salt and light in a tasteless, dark world. We ARE the hands and feet of Christ. His awesomeness is seen when we act as His ambassadors on this planet, not when we say, “I’ll let God handle this mess. I’ve got better things to do.”
There are Two Sides to Every Story
It is true that there are two sides to every story. That is why Jesus died for both Naghmeh and her husband, and all of us. None of us deserve what Jesus did for us, but they (as well as all of us) need privacy, grace, and a chance to allow God to be glorified. The Bible tells us to be careful HOW we judge. In this situation, we have one’s word against the other’s. None of us has been in their home behind closed doors. None of us knows what has really happened. Only they know. Only God knows. It’s none of our business. Let’s leave the future of their marriage not up to Naghmeh, not up to Saeed, but up to God. Let Him use His power and glory for an outcome for only HE knows what is best!! I have seen adulterous and abusive marriages restored with God’s power. Nothing is impossible for Him. Instead of butting our noses in where they don’t belong and making conclusions we don’t have the right to make, let’s let God take care of it.
We have one’s word against the other. Let’s look at the two “words” we’ve got. On the one hand we have the word of a man who has pled guilty to domestic abuse in the past. On the other hand we have the word of a woman who endured the abuse and yet also worked for three years to get that man freed. If you do just a surface study of domestic abuse you’ll find out that the vast majority of the time when a woman comes forward with claims of abuse, she is telling the truth. (Article: Is it Wrong to Just Believe Abuse Victims?) Naghmeh is coming forward not only with claims, but a past, recorded history on public record. I think we can use our common sense here. It is possible, but unlikely that a past victim is lying and a past abuser is telling the truth. So if you’re going to err one way or the other, why err on the side of a man with an abuse record?
This commenter makes sweeping claims of having seen multiple abusive marriages restored. I’d like her to substantiate those claims, because I’ve talked personally or online to over 100 women in abusive marriages, and not one was restored. I’ve talked to counselors on the front lines, and they have testified that it is extremely rare. The literature and statistics bear this out. I’ve watched online training videos done by Chris Moles who goes all over the country training church leaders on how to deal with domestic abuse in their churches. He has worked directly with abusive men for years. They can change, but most often they don’t. That’s just a fact. So when a commenter makes wild claims like this, I tend to wonder if she is telling the truth herself.
To call Saeed an “abusive man” based on naught but an accusation is presumptuous. We always have to be innocent until proven guilty. Anything else gives accusers too much power. I think Franklin hit the nail on the head when he said there are two sides to every story.
Saeed IS an “abusive man” by his own admission. So calling him one is not presumptuous. And the part about accusers having too much power? Yeah, that makes total sense. We wouldn’t want to give abuse victims too much power, now would we? (I almost lost my cookies all over my laptop when I read that one.) And no, Franklin didn’t hit any nail on the head. The cliche that there are two sides to every story is true. But he was communicating that the sides are equal and equally valid. And of course, they aren’t. When it comes to abuse, one side is wrong, and if you say the evil side is equal to the victim side, you are siding with evil. That’s just the bottom line. Naghmeh’s story is that she was abused. Saeed’s side is…what? She deserved it? She’s lying? Either way, Franklin chose sides when he said there are two sides. And so did this commenter. And it wasn’t in favor of believing or helping Naghmeh.
I could be wrong. There’s a chance (the size of ant poo) these women are right – and Naghmeh is an adulterous, lying, revengeful, vindictive, wanton creature of the night being threatened by Isis, and when it all comes out, I’ll eat crow. That’s okay. I’m taking my chances and putting my money on Naghmeh.