The issue of Islam and domestic violence briefly stirred the cobwebs in the heads of Australia’s chattering classes a few years back. First, a Muslim cleric lectured that it was OK for Muslim men to beat their wives into submission, if they refused sex, for instance. Then a pair of Australian Muslim women posted an online video likewise justifying domestic violence with Islamic scripture.

The reaction was swift and furious denial. Much as the chattering classes hand-wave away staggering rates of Aboriginal domestic violence as “because of colonialism”, Islamic apologists followed a similar script. The real problem was that Islamic domestic violence is caused by “Islamophobia”.

Yet when a dodgy study accuses Australian Christians of outrageous levels of domestic violence, and supposedly using scripture to justify it… crickets.

Anglicans are more likely to have been in a violent relationship with an intimate partner in their lifetime than the broader Australian community, a new report finds.

And Christian teachings were being used by some perpetrators of violence to justify their actions, the study, commissioned by the Anglican Church of Australia itself, concludes.

As my Lushy’s Laws of the Media warn, Never believe a headline and when an article claims, “science says…” or “new study shows…”, assume that it doesn’t until proven otherwise.

Be especially suspicious of surveys. Any survey is only as good as its methodology and assumptions. This particular study reeks of dodgy methodology.

The study, the first in Australia to look at intimate partner violence based on faith, finds overall that the prevalence among Anglicans is the same or higher than in the wider community.
It reports 22 per cent of Anglicans say “yes” when asked if they have ever been in a violent relationship with a partner, compared to 15 per cent overall.

Wow, sounds pretty bad. Until you critically examine its methodology.

When the actual scope of intimate partner violence, which includes 15 behaviours such as threats and coercive control, was explained to the 2000 participants, including 825 people who identified as Anglican, the proportion was higher for both groups.

Of course, when the reader sees the headline claim of “a violent relationship”, what are they immediately going to think? Physical violence. Yet that’s not what the survey talks about.

Even worse, the survey “does not address…people who do not have a current or historic link to the Anglican Church”. It further admits that it is a “non-probability survey”. That is, the researchers have selected their samples subjectively, not randomly.

So, in reality, the survey cannot legitimately say anything about the Anglican community vis-à-vis the broader Australian community.

The dead giveaway is the numbers of survey participants: 825 Anglicans out of 2,000. Anglicans were thus 41% of the survey sample. Yet Anglicans only make up 13% of the Australian community.

In other words, Anglicans were over-represented by 300%.

A qualitative part of the study found Christian scripture was used by some perpetrators to justify their actions[…]

Nine out of 10 of the almost 400 Anglican clergy who took part in the study said misuse of scripture by the abuser was implicated at least some of the time in cases they knew about, the report said.

This is the problem with such “non-probability” surveys: this is not data, it’s anecdote. “At least some of the time”. “In cases they knew about”. This is basically “I just reckon” being passed off as data.

The two-year study is the first in Australia by any faith-based organisation to interrogate its constituency about the issue.

The Australian

To damn them with faint praise, at least the Anglican Church is willing to engage in such self-criticism. Unlike other religions which palm off blame on everyone else.

This is not to say that the Anglican Church should engage in similar denial. But the very real problem here is Christians flagellating themselves with apparently unwarranted self-criticism. They risk further hollowing out Western civilisation by pulling down yet another of its foundations.

While they’re so busy being self-critical and “tolerant”, other, far less tolerant and self-critical civilisations are all-too-ready to take their place.

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Damned Lies, Statistics and Self-Flagellation

Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In last decade or...