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IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

Back in February, Sen. Marco Rubio explained why he opposed the Violence Against Women Act:

I could not support the final, entire legislation that contains new provisions that could have potentially adverse consequences. Specifically, this bill would mandate the diversion of a portion of funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs.

Rubio has this idea, apparently, that different types of abuse have nothing to do with one another. Not a surprising conclusion in a world that’s determined to paint all abuse as isolated incidences committed by monsters, but that’s not reality. Often, sexual abuse is present in violent relationships.

No one wants to talk about the fact that different types of abuse are connected because that means challenging the very society–ripe with hierarchies that enforce themselves with violence–that we live in.

Today, I’m discussing spiritual abuse as part of a Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week that some fellow bloggers are hosting. Also this week, Rachel Held Evans will be hosting a more general discussion of abuse (which I will be guest posting for) and Elora NIcole will be sharing the anonymous stories of survivors.

With all these thoughts of abuse in general going through my head, I think about how ridiculous statements like Rubio’s sound. As if we can end violence against women without ending sexual assault.

Truth is, the violences that women (and other oppressed groups) face often stem from the same root–a deeper violence that questions the legitimacy of their very humanity.

I don’t want us to miss this point while we talk about the different types of abuse that people face, inside and outside of the church. Abuse happens, and society either ignores or accepts it because there is an assault on humanity that says certain bodies are objects, or are public property. An assault that paints some bodies as worthless, gross, weird, animal-like, sinful, collateral, too sexual, needing to be taught a lesson, etc. 

Religion is far from the only institution that perpetuates this kind of abuse, but spiritual abuse can be a powerful tool for painting some groups as less important than others and therefore “deserving” of violence.

This happens in obvious cases such as the Southern Baptist Church supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or in the many church groups that advocate hitting children who misbehave.

It also happens more subtly in ways that I don’t think most leaders (though when you hear stories like Jack Schaap’s, you wonder…) or church members intend.

Here’s where my own story comes in. I grew up in church and grew up learning many things about myself and about my body and about the way the world is. I also ended up in an abusive relationship when I was 16.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I was physically, verbally, and sexually abused in that relationship, but little thinking about how I was spiritually abused. My ex-boyfriend used my own deeply-held religious beliefs to make me think that what he did to me was okay. It was easy for him to convince me, too, because I had been absorbing abusive ideas from the churches I’d attended my whole life.

I will be writing in more detail about how my idea of who God was affected what I accepted as love. But my churches growing up also fed me dangerous ideas about who was, what my body was, and what my place in the world was.

I was a woman, the church told me, so I had to be passive, meek, submissive, caring and nurturing, and endlessly patient and forgiving. A man, on the other hand, was just naturally aggressive, out-of-control, and sexual. These were God-given traits.

My abuser, knowing this, played on those, even sometimes calling my relationship with God into question when I didn’t live up to my role.

My church also taught me that I was worthless. From the sermons the pastors preached to the books that my youth pastors recommended. Because I was not a virgin I was what the Christian dating book, Dateable, would call “dollar store leftovers.” 

My abuser, knowing this, told me constantly that no one else would want me so I had better stay with him. That I was already impure and couldn’t be fixed so I might as well let him do whatever he wanted with my body.

My church taught me that I was responsible for men’s actions. That dressing immodestly could make men lust after me.

My abuser, knowing this, blamed me when he sexually assaulted me. He told me it was my fault for being too sexy, even in the Baptist school-approved outfit I was wearing.

All violence is connected.

I’m positive that the churches I grew up in did not want their teachings to be used by abusers to support abuse.

Too bad. That’s not how it works.

Those teachings were violence in and of themselves. They did violence to my humanity. And in doing that violence to my humanity, they sent the message to abusers that I did not have to be treated as human.

Churches don’t have to be as cult-like and controlling as Driscoll’s Mars Hill or First Baptist Church of Hammond to be abusive. By using language about groups–whether it’s women, children, LGBT people, or people of different colors, cultures, countries, or religions–that does violence to their humanity, they commit spiritual abuse. And spiritual abuse won’t confine itself to the pulpit. Those abusive words and teachings and ideas leave the church in the hearts and minds and Moleskine notebooks of every church member and are spread throughout society like an infectious disease. 

The church is not the only source of this disease, again, but it is a powerful one because battling it means battling ideas and perceptions about God (something I will discuss more in my guest post for Rachel Held Evans later this week).

A church that claims to worship a man whose purpose was “to set the oppressed free” should be horrified to learn that its teachings are being used by abusers to support abuse.

Is it though? Are our churches concerned about how their messages are received? Are our churches concerned about abuse survivors? Or are they more focused on so-called sound doctrine and on giving “grace” to abusers?

Complementarian evangelical leaders like to pretend that their view of women is something other than exactly what it sounds like. They like to pretend that feminists (with our silly, womanly emotions) are just overreacting, misunderstanding, or twisting their words.

“Real” complementarians practice godly, Christ-like leadership. They don’t dominate or abuse their wives. Feminists just don’t understand what’s really good for them–they don’t understand that complementarianism isn’t about a hierarchy. It’s just about separate roles.

“Equal, but different,” as Mark Driscoll says.

Apparently, this “difference” is enough to keep women out of leadership roles in the church and the family, and often enough to keep them out of the public sphere altogether. Equal but different. Separate but equal.

Of course, it’s a woman’s “choice” to submit to her husband’s leadership. A choice that will be judged by an almighty God with a history of striking people dead and sending them to hell.

But sure, a choice.

Women “choose” (under the threat of Almighty judgment) to submit to their husbands, who lead them lovingly and gently. It’s all good.

They’re still equal.

But, you see, no matter how nicely complementarians say what they believe, a phrase from a George Orwell book always comes to mind:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are

more equal than others.”

Having “liberated” us from the way popular culture and media objectifies, degrades, and oppresses women, complementarian leaders can now objectify and oppress us in other ways with nicer words (and with support from God).

Centuries ago, Christian men such as Martin Luther preached the same beliefs of submission and headship, without the pretense of believing in equality.

The beliefs have not changed. They’re just wearing a mask.

Changing the way we talk about those beliefs does not change their implications.

I want to expose “equal, but different” for the lie that it is.

So I’m going to be doing a short series on the words of a few complementarian leaders, showing how, despite their claims of “equality,” their views degrade, oppress, control and limit women.

I want to talk about Joshua Harris, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll this week. To make this subject less painful,  the leaders will be represented by a puppy, a parakeet, and (of course) a fluffy bunny (respectively).

I may decide to continue with the series beyond that (but long time readers of this blog know how I get with series). If anyone has suggestions of other sermons/books/blog posts by complementarian leaders that reveal the inherent inequality present in complementrianism, or if anyone is interested in writing a guest post on the subject, feel free to tell me in the comments (make sure to include a corresponding adorable animal). 

Because, I believe that, once you strip away the bullshit, the motto of complementarianism could be:

All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others. 


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A follow-up on complementarianism and rape culture

{trigger warning for rape}

This is a follow up to my recent blog post, “Complimentarianism’s ugly relationship with rape”

I recently wrote a blog post in which I proposed that complementarianism benefits from rape culture. This post got me called a slanderer, a totalitarian communist propagandist, and even got me compared to a rapist lurking in the dark corners of the internet waiting to attack innocent men like Douglas Wilson and call them rape advocates against their will. This follow-up post is not for those people. Anyone who would compare calling out rape apologism to rape itself is beyond my ability to reason with. I’ll leave those people in God’s hands for now.

However, I did have several commenters who respectfully disagreed with me and gave me reasons why rather than simply attacking me. This post is for them. In it, I hope to explain my train of thought as clearly as possible, because I still stand by my point and believe I have good reason for doing so.

I’ll begin by explaining what I feel gives me the right to analyze complementarian culture and to draw conclusions from that analysis. I spent over 20 years of my life as a complementarian. I was told that if I went to a non-Bible college I might get raped. I was taught an abstinence-only education that led me to think I had to apologize when my 320 lbs. ex-boyfriend held my head down and forced me to perform fellatio on him. I experienced these things and countless others. I heard the Bible stories about rape victims taught in a way that implied the woman should not have let herself be alone with a man. I saw the harm complementarian teaching did to me and to others. I sat through countless sermons by countless complementarian preachers. I now am pursuing (and nearly finished with) a degree that gives me the basic skills needed to recognize systems of domination, to analyze patterns that occur within them, and to understand and deconstruct the ideologies that allow these systems of domination to function.

I understand fully that I cannot make an empirical statement about the personal opinions of all complementarians when it comes to rape and rape culture. Nor was that the purpose of my blog post. But I do have the education to analyze certain structures of society, and I do have a deal of  experience in this particular part of society that I feel gives me the right to analyze it. I cannot draw conclusions about whether or not every complementarian leader is a rape apologist. But I can make the claim, with some authority, that complementarianism as a system benefits from rape culture. By that conclusion, I can logically proceed to the idea that every complementarian leader also benefits indirectly from rape culture. 

Let’s talk about rape culture…

I’ll take a few moments here to explain rape culture. It really is beyond the scope of a single blog post to explain rape culture fully because of how deeply it permeates our society, but I’ll do my best. If you’d like to learn more about rape culture, I’d suggest starting here.

In the United States (and in much of the Western world), we live in a society that relies on domination in order to function. No, I’m not just talking about complementarians here. I’m talking about our society as a whole. Americans can call the land that they stand on “America” because of the domination the founders of this country exercised over Native Americans. Our very foundation is laid on domination, and it’s not an uphill climb from there.

The continued genocide of Native people that still occurs today…

Slavery, lynching, and racism…

The exploitation of the working class, here and abroad…

Our wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…

The oppression of women, LGBT people, non-Christians, and children…

Our society has benefited immensely from the oppression of certain groups of people, and therefore, our society often works to perpetuate oppression.

One of the tools our society–all of it–uses to perpetuate this oppression is rape culture.

Rape culture is used, not just as a way for men to control women, but as a way for people in power to control many of the oppressed groups that our society benefits from taking advantage of. Slave masters would rape slave women to keep slave populations in line. U.S. soldiers in Vietnam raped Vietnamese women as a way of demoralizing their enemy. Even our prison system largely maintains its power using the fear of rape.

Though the majority of Americans are not the ones committing these rapes, and the majority of Americans do not actively approve of this rape, those in power benefit from each rape that occurs. The more people fear rape (or fear seeing the women in their lives raped), the more control those in power have over them.

Thus, rape culture is born.

Our comedians joke about rape. Our billboards use it to sell vodka. Our movies romanticize it. Our courts dismiss it. All the while, victims are terrified of reporting because they know we live in a world that doesn’t take rape seriously.

To put it another way, I’ll borrow Beverly Tatum’s “moving walkway” analogy. Her analogy is about racism, but I took the liberty of applying her analogy to rape culture, because I believe it fits with any system of domination.

Rape culture is like “a moving walkway at the airport.” (Tatum) Rape culture is pulling us along as a society of domination. Those in power can stand still on that walkway, ignore the floor moving under their feet, even turn the opposite direction and insist that they despise rape, but unless they are actively running in the opposite direction–away from victim blaming, from rape jokes, from the idea that some groups of people are meant by nature to rule over other groups of people–it continues to pull them along. 

Complementarianism as a system of domination

I’m going to argue now that complementarianism is one of many smaller systems of domination that operate within our larger system of domination. Though I’d guess most complementarians would shy away from the word “domination,” it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince you that, regardless of what nice-sounding words complementarians would use to describe themselves (and indeed, some skip the nice words and go straight for “conquering and colonizing”), the ideology of domination is inherent within complementarian beliefs. 

Complementarians aren’t shy about the fact that their belief system states that one group of people (men) are naturally meant to rule over another group of people (women). The rhetoric may very from “servant leadership” to “conquering and colonizing,” but the basic idea is the same: something inherent in men makes them more fit to lead, to preach, to make decisions, to run a church or a family or even a country than women. Something inherent in women makes it their job to submit to men (depending on how strictly complementarian one is, women must submit to at least their husbands and fathers. Most complementarian churches require female congregants to submit the leadership of the church to men, and some complementarians believe that women should not be in any positions of leadership over men even in society).

So, if the fear of rape benefits systems of domination, and complementarianism IS a system of domination, logically, complementarianism benefits from rape culture. 

And, like in our larger society, though every individual may not advocate rape, because the fear of rape is so effective at controlling people, many complementarian leaders use it, perhaps not even consciously. Some complementarian leaders–Douglas Wilson, Mark Driscoll, and others–are jogging, even running down the moving walkway of rape culture, demanding that wives don’t deny their husbands in bed, attributing rape to a punishment from God upon feminism, etc. A (hopefully) small minority are actually raping women, as we learned recently when the story of Jack Schaap broke (trigger warning on that link).

The rest? It seems to me that they’re standing there, reaping the benefits of rape culture, occasionally making comments about women’s clothing or participating in subtle victim blaming. Some may even have turned the other way.

But if any complementarian leaders are actually running in the opposite direction–trusting victims, affirming a woman’s bodily autonomy, condemning the systems of power that perpetuate and feed off of rape culture–well, they’re being too damn quiet about it. 


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Complementarianism’s ugly relationship with rape

[Trigger warning: rape apologism]

[Update: I’ve changed some mentions of “evangelical leaders” to “complementarian leaders” to clarify that I am referring specifically to complementarians in this post. I have a habit of using the two interchangeably because of my experiences in evangelicalism, but there is a growing number of awesome feminist evangelicals out there who don’t deserve to be lumped in with complementarians]

Over the past few months, I’ve called out evangelical Christian leaders and bloggers like Douglas Wilson, Jared Wilson, and Mark Driscoll (all of whom made Church Relevance’s list of Top 200 Church Blogs, by the way–these men are extremely influential in evangelicalism) for using rape to control women. Some commenters understood exactly what I was trying to say. Others became extremely offended. I’m still getting feedback on those posts that accuse me of slander, hatred, and lies.

But I stand by my words.

In fact, I’ll expand them to say that most complementarian evangelical Christian leaders use rape to control women. I’m aware that this is a serious accusation, but I stand by it.

I don’t believe that most complementarian Christian leaders actually rape women (although, I hear stories all the time that make me question that belief). I don’t believe most of them approve of rape or like rape. Here’s what I believe and what I am claiming: complementarian leaders, despite their personal feelings about rape, need rape to exist and for it to be a serious threat. 

Many of my critics mentioned that the leaders whom I accused of using rape to control women were totally against rape. That these men had written or preached elsewhere condemning it. I believe my critics. But I want to ask two questions:

1. What does the word “rape” mean to these leaders?

2. How do these leaders propose we solve the problem of rape?

By answering these two questions, I will reveal how rape becomes an extremely useful tool for complementarians. Whether they are themselves rapists (and, again, I don’t believe most are), any group of people who wish to control women and keep women in certain gender roles benefits greatly from rape.  

First, let’s look at what rape means to complementarians.

I will argue that most complementarians have an extremely narrow definition of rape. What is rape, according to a complementarian?

If you want to know the answer to this question, consider what they say about women who have been raped. Consider one rockstar of the evangelical world, Donald Miller (who, as far as I know, is not even a complementarian but certainly reinforces patriarchy in the church with his writings), who once told women to stop trying to claim victim status because “nobody gets drunk and accidentally sleeps with a hamster.” Though the legal definition of rape would say that penetrating a woman who is too drunk to consent to sex is rape, that definition of rape does not meet complementarian standards.

Or, consider Mark Driscoll’s recent introduction to his sermon series on Esther, which set off a firestorm on the internet a few weeks ago. According to Driscoll, Esther should have resisted being taken into the king’s harem, even though doing so probably would have cost her her life. Though the legal definition of rape would say that forcing a woman to “have sex” with you by threatening her life is rape, again, this definition does not meet complementarian standards.

So, who can be raped, according to complementarians? What hoops must a woman jump through in order for complementarians to believe that her experience “counts” as rape?

In Jessica Valenti’s book The Purity Myth (which is problematic in some ways but still an important exposition of the evangelical purity movement), she states,

Under the purity myth, the only women who can truly be raped are those who are chaste–and given how limiting the purity myth is, and how few women actually fit into its right mold, the consequence is that most women are seen as incapable of being raped.

Yes, complementarians will vehemently claim that they are against rape. But listen more closely, because when they say they are against rape they don’t mean all rape. 

The woman who got drunk and woke up in a strange man’s bed or the teenage girl whose boyfriend wanted more than just the makeout session she had consented to. The woman in the mini-skirt or the wife who tried to tell her husband no. The woman who shouldn’t have been alone with that man or in that bar or that hotel room, who shouldn’t have been wearing this or doing that. These women can’t be raped because they are already impure, therefore, have nothing to lose according to complementarianism.

If complementarian leaders even admit that these women are victims of rape (which they likely won’t), these leaders will make sure this admission mentions that the victim was not “totally innocent.” The victim did something to “provoke” rape and therefore needs to apologize for her sin.

Secondly, let’s discuss how complementarians suggest going about solving the problem of rape.

Drawing conclusions from the answer to “What is rape?,” we learn that, according to complementarian evangelicals, “real” (shall we say “legitimate?”) rape can only happen to a limited group of women. Other women who claim to be raped are either lying to avoid owning up to their sin, or they need to take responsibility for “bringing rape upon themselves.” 

So, according to complementarians, the most efficient way to stop rape is for women to change their behavior, their lifestyles, or their clothing. 

How convenient that many of these changes women must make in order to “prevent being raped” line up perfectly with complementarian goals and values. 

Complementarians would say that immodest dress causes rape, therefore women should dress according to complementarian standards. They would say that women who express their sexuality are making themselves vulnerable to rape, therefore women should be passive and chaste when it comes to sex–another complementarian idea. They would say that women who spend too much time in the public world are risking rape, therefore more women should stay home, etc.

Some complementarian evangelicals go beyond this to actually blame feminism for the very existence of rape. Douglas Wilson, for instance, believes that when feminists deny men the opportunity to practice “godly” authority over women, men react by taking back the authority that they deserve using violence.

“When we quarrel with the way the world is,” Wilson says, “we find that the world has ways of getting back at us.”

Whether or not complementarians approve of rape, the fact is that many women adhere to complementarian gender roles because complementarian leaders have told these women that these women will be raped if they step outside these roles. Rape is a tool that rapists use to control women, and complementarian leaders (along with many other people in powerful positions) benefit from the fear that rapists create. In fact, they harness that fear in their books, blog posts, and sermons and use it as a tool to keep women in their place.

Complementarian evangelicals rely on rape to keep their systems of power firmly in place.

It’s an ugly, ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.


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Esther, Mark Driscoll, and using rape to control women

 

Queen Esther – copyright 2006 Lilian Broca

[Trigger warning for rape apologism and Mark Driscoll quotes]

Growing up, the book of Esther was always my favorite because it featured two very brave women.

First, there was Vashti. I’ve loved Vashti ever since a grade school teacher came to class dressed up as Vashti and told us the story about how she had been exiled by the king because she asserted herself and refused to dance for the king’s drunken friends. She was a brave woman who claimed her body as her own–rather than her tyrant husband’s–in a day and age where women were viewed as property by most people.

Esther was always my favorite Bible character. As a kid, I loved her because she was a girl, and the Bible doesn’t talk about many of those. Plus she was brave. She was taken from her home and forced to marry a ruler who was oppressing her people. She was sexually exploited and probably raped, but still she boldly disobeyed the king’s orders, risking her life, and demanded that he protect her people.

In short, both of these women faced the horrors of male domination. Both of these women kicked ass in spite of those horrors.

The book of Esther contains a powerful message. Women disobeying men and saving the world. Women asserting their bodily autonomy. Women who are brave and strong and active and anything but submissive. It’s a message so powerful that some male Christian leaders have to undermine it because it threatens the control that they have over women. 

Mark Driscoll (as always, every mention of Driscoll’s name will have a hyperlink to an adorable bunny. Enjoy) is one such male Christian leader who seems to have an obsessive need to control women. He has recently made attempts at undermining both Vashti and Esther–attempts that make his disdain for women increasingly obvious.

His attempts aren’t original by any means. The only thing shocking about them is their boldness. Where most men are subtle about their attempts to water down Esther and Vashti’s stories, Mark Driscoll doesn’t even try to hide. Here are a few excerpts from a recent post on his website, emphasis mine (you can read the whole thing here if you’re concerned about context. As is often the case with Driscoll, I think the context just makes it worse):

Esther is painfully normal.

Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king…Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line…

He continues:

Esther has been grossly misinterpreted.

Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking…

According to Mark Driscoll, this brave Jewish heroine was “godless,” “sinful,” lacking in character, and just trying to trade in her virginity for a rich husband and a life of pampering.  

What about Vashti, then, who refused to allow the king to sexually exploit her? Does Driscoll praise her effort to fight back against her male oppressor? Don’t be silly. Of course not. In fact, in his book, Real Marriage, criticizes Vashti for refusing to submit to her husband.

Neither of these women can do right, according to Driscoll’s narrative, and that’s just the way he wants it. That’s how he maintains the careful hierarchy he has set up, with him and Cage Fighting Jesus on top. 

Mark Driscoll, like Jared and Douglas Wilson and so many others before them, uses rape to control women. No, I’m not accusing him of actually raping women or even of actively approving of the rape of women. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is retell the stories of two women who didn’t have a chance to say no. 

By retelling Esther’s story, he turns every victim of rape or sexual exploitation into a godless sinner, rather than a brave survivor. By retelling Vashti’s story, he turns every victim of male-on-female domestic abuse into a shrew that had it coming and should have submitted in the first place.

When Driscoll retells these stories, he takes away our heroes and turns them into tools of oppression. He uses them to tell women how to act, how to think, how to feel. He tells women, though these stories, that before marriage they must defend their virginity, even to the death. That failing to defend their virginity, even against powerful rapists, makes women worthless. He tells women that we do not have the right to our own bodies once we marry. That we do not have the right to tell our husbands no.

That before marriage, giving into rape is a sin. That after marriage, fighting back against rape is a sin.

That we can’t win.

That’s the message that Mark Driscoll ultimately  relays to women in his retelling of Esther. That no matter what we do, we can’t win. 

 


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What makes a good daddy–A guest post by Abe Kobylanski

I’m going to be publishing a couple of guest posts this week from some great people! Today, we have Abraham Kobylanski with a belated Father’s Day post, and tomorrow, I’ll be publishing an article by Travis Mamone. Enjoy!

Author bio for Abraham: Abe Kobylanski works at a newspaper like it’s going out of style (it is!). He’s currently between religious beliefs. In his spare time, he has a blog of his own at abekoby.wordpress.com.

I’ve been told that our dear friend, Mark Driscoll recently said something to the effect of, in order for a father to be a good father, he must be a Christian. As I don’t personally follow Driscoll for many reasons, mainly that I disagree with him on just about everything, I can’t actually confirm this is true (Note from Sarah: it’s true. Voldemark states in this article, “in order to be a good dad, you must be a good Christian”).

But if it is, it’s not the first time I’ve heard a Christian in an authoritative position assert that sentiment.

When I was in college, at The Ohio State University, as a pretty devout Christian, who was pretty deeply involved with the Southern Baptist ministry on campus (I know, let all eyes roll) I was told something similar during a Bible study. I don’t particularly remember what the subject of the evening was supposed to be, as honestly, I remember zoning out and thinking about other stuff quite often during Bible studies, but the subject turned to love, I believe. And the group leader told us that love that doesn’t come from God isn’t true love. To translate for the uninitiated in cheesy, confusing Christianese, that means if you’re not a Christian, you don’t know how to love.

As my father is an atheist, even devoutly Christian me took offense at that.

I took my turn to speak and tell the group that my dad isn’t a Christian, but he treats my mom and me with so much love. I was in college because he chose to pay for it. He has a pretty good job, but it definitely took some saving and planning ahead for him to be able to afford all that. And he worked his ass off for it. That’s just one example of how loving my father was to me.

The group leader said that my dad might do good things for us, but without God’s influence, he wasn’t being the head of the household God called him to be as a man and leading my mother and myself in God’s direction, so that meant he wasn’t really loving the way God instructs us to love.

I disagreed with him wholeheartedly. As I respected the guy a lot, it was pretty difficult at that point in my life to do so. He honestly was a pretty good guy, but I think a bit misguided by some sketchy doctrine and whoever was above him in the SBC food chain.

And, he had never met my father anyway.

When I was younger, I looked up to my father a lot. Even though my mom, who was and still is much more devout than I am, kind of warned me about him because he wasn’t a Christian, I liked him a lot.

That’s because he was a very important part of my life. He always treated me with love and respect. Yes, he would correct me, but only in the interest of my own well-being.

As I grew older, and I started making my own decisions, as with any kid in their developing stages, conflict arose between my parents and me. But as my dad began to see I was a bright kid and not about to get myself into any serious trouble, he trusted me more and more to make my own decisions, even if he didn’t agree with them. And, at several points, he told me that I seem to be satisfied with those decisions, and that’s why he was able to trust me.

I tried to be a good Christian when I was growing up, and even though Dad didn’t agree with Christianity, he never said anything negative about it to me. And even though I made some decisions he didn’t agree with, he always supported me.

Like when I quit piano lessons (something I actually regret 13 years later) because I was trying to get involved in activities at school, and I became more interested in the drums. He supported me.

When I wanted to go to Thailand for a Christian mission trip with my college group, he supported me. He even bought me a digital camera for the trip.

My father always accepted me despite my obvious flaws and always encouraged me to overcome them, even in the few times I didn’t. He always pushed me to be better than I am, but never held me to some unreachable standard.

He was always happy to impart wisdom to me and help me think things through.

It is obvious to me that my dad has always wanted me to succeed, and he never hesitates to tell me how proud he is of me, even at times when I’m not particularly proud of myself.

And he’s always happy when I succeed. He expects me to succeed, not as some sort of ego extension, but just because he thinks that highly of me. And even then, he always seems impressed with me.

As my perceptions of God have been changing quite a bit recently, I’d have to expect that if God exists and is truly good, then all love must come from God in some manner. If that’s the case, then it’s just another example of God’s overwhelming greatness and the love God has for us.

I hope that assessment is true, but whether or not, I don’t think calling yourself a Christian has all that much to do with how you love people or how good of a parent or spouse or lover or friend you are.

Honestly, I don’t know where love comes from, but I know my dad loves me and the rest of our family.

And I hope to follow his example, regardless of what I believe.


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Why I’m not signing a petition against Mark Driscoll

*Trigger Warning for rape and spiritual abuse (but don’t worry–if you get upset, just click on any mention of Driscoll’s name for an adorable fluffy bunny)*

In case you’re not as obsessed with the Christian blogosphere as I am, there’s been a petition going around asking Liberty University to keep Mark Driscoll from speaking there. When I saw the petition being circulated by several progressive bloggers, you know this radical feminist had to check it out. So, I clicked, and I read and…

(are you sitting down for this?)

I’m not going to sign it.

Go ahead and check your calendars. It’s not April Fool’s Day. I mean it. I’m not going to sign that petition and let me tell you why.

First, let me share with you some of the text of the petition, found, in whole, here.

How would your founder Jerry Falwell respond to a preacher who taught this in his writing and speaking?

“In conjunction with the rhythm method of birth control, it is possible to use anal sex as an option.”

“Jesus Christ commands you to [perform oral sex on your husband]…

Some of you are sitting here going, “Is this happening? Is this really happening?” Yes it is. [Laughter from audience.]…And he says that, “Your vagina is a garden.” It has wonderful smells and it has wonderful tastes. It’s a garden. . . . He talks about how much he loves her vagina. Many women feel awkward about this. The husband needs to tell the wife, “It’s beautiful. It tastes well. It smells well. You keep yourself well. I enjoy it. It’s a garden to me.”

I see only one problem with the words of Mark Driscoll that are mentioned in this petition (and it’s a huge problem) and that is the line, “Jesus Christ commands you to [perform oral sex on your husband].”

My response to this line is a resounding f*** you, Mark Driscoll. Because, this line is advocating rape. Using a woman’s religion to hold her head down when she doesn’t want to perform a certain sex act is NOT consensual sex. Threatening a woman using her religion is just as wrong as threatening a woman using a gun. It IS rape. And Driscoll influences thousands of young Christian men–he is teaching them to use Jesus to rape their partners.

It’s hard to put this sickening thought aside, but I’m going to for a moment. Because the rest of Driscoll’s words that are quoted in the petition actually do not advocate rape. They actually advocate healthy, positive, consensual sexuality.

Why can’t more Christian leaders do this?

How affirming would it be for a Christian gay male couple to hear that the sex acts they were participating in were not inherently perverse, as some in our culture would believe? How freeing would it be for any couple wanting to try new things to know that Jesus wasn’t going to strike them down for getting a little freaky in the sheets (note, though. Anal sex is not really a reliable alternative to birth control like Driscoll claims. Use a condom, you crazy lovers!)? And, as a woman living in a world where the word “vagina” is banned from Christian bookstores, I can tell you first hand that it would be extremely liberating if my genitals were not treated as taboo and dirty.

But other Christian leaders aren’t doing this. The only man who is doing this is also teaching men to use Jesus as a date rape drug.

Mark Driscoll is taking beautiful, healthy, positive sexuality and lumping it in with rape. That absolutely disgusts me.

So why am I not signing this petition?

Because the writers of this petition are doing the same thing.

As much as I would love to see Mark Driscoll be held accountable for his deplorable words, demonizing healthy sexuality at the same time is only going to set us back, Christians.

I read this petition and I hear, “Anal sex? Gross! Isn’t that what the gays do?” and “Why is he talking about vaginas? Eww! Who does he think he is? Rachel Held Evans?”

This isn’t right. By demonizing these sex acts along with the command from Jesus for women to give out oral sex, the writers of this petition are, like Driscoll, equating rape with sex. And world…

Rape does NOT equal sex!

We need leaders who can tell the difference between healthy sexuality and rape. We need leaders that are neither Mark Driscoll nor Jerry Falwell in their approach to discussing human sexuality, who stand up and say that rape in Jesus’ name is wrong, but that consensual sex acts, even if they seem abnormal to some, can be positive and healthy and fun.

We can fight Driscoll’s misogyny by being more clear and open about healthy sexuality and by comparing it to Driscoll’s harmful power-hungry, coercive means of manipulating women. Putting healthy sex in the same category as rape only perpetuates the problem. No more blurring these lines. The ends here do not justify the problematic means.