Sunday, October 1, 2017

Driving through the Gateways of the Mental Burqa

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the surreptitiously misogynistic film, Courageous. It was popular and hated, depending on whether you know anything about the Evangelical Christian subculture's cultic fringe movement that prompted it. The Baptist church that produced the film had an earlier success with a film called Fireproof, and a now defunct 'ministry to families' called Vision Forum tried to cash in and ride along with them. They used these and other films to sell a lifestyle – primarily to Christians who wanted to homeschool. Homeschooling became a gateway for this evolving, anachronistic belief system to introduce a host of other beliefs which weren't quite as wholesome as they appeared on screen. (Read more HERE.)

Most Christians who knew nothing about the subculture found the film to be encouraging and read into it their own interpretation of what seemed like a message of self-sacrifice. (Who would dream that the producers of such a heartwarming film actually promoted men as demigods and women as their ontological lessers, created for birthing and domestic support?) That film became a gateway for the acceptance of this subculture and film genre – and luckily, most people will remain free of its burdens and abuses. To me, it just feeds the monster of the ideology that tries to pass itself off as a healthy approach to family and faith. I have seen the dark side – and it's more akin to the kinder, kuche, and kirche. It was that then unrecognized dark side that prompted the establishment of this blog ten years ago.


My gateway into this world of veiled misogyny really began when I lived in Oklahoma and listened to a radio show with Marlin Maddoux called Point of View. I learned about Howard Phillips (the founder of the Constitution Party) and heard Gary Demar on that show for the first time. It was in the middle of the '92 election, and Rush Limbaugh was in his hayday. They told me what I wanted to believe was true. I'd then move and join a spiritually abusive Shepherding Discipleship church in Maryland. We had our contingents of extra fringy folks there, too, and all of these previous 'ministries' paved the way for our gradual acceptance of Dominionism as a sound Christian belief. My husband started attending local Constitution Party meetings, then known as the U.S. Taxpayer's Party. Eventually, I followed along, especially after we exited our cultic church there. It was 'Christian fellowship,' but it did involve politics.

At the church that we joined there, unbeknownst to us at the time and at that time in their history, the leadership venerated Bill Gothard's teachings (subjugated roles for women). If they had told us that in their membership classes, we would have walked away. Soon after we joined, my husband talked about attending Doug Phillips' 'Witherspoon School,' but they only allowed men into it. We thought this was odd, having no clue that the beliefs that kept women out of that seminar were derived from the very same roots of the ideology followed at our new church. I would learn of all this, first, through the punishment I received for violating the gender limitations for women – after the fact. Eventually, I would learn that the same beliefs were used to facilitate domestic abuse within that congregation, and wives were blamed for causing their husbands to hit them through neglect of domesticity or sex. (This is also a problem for other leaders within these circles.)

And that influence took years and years to peel away, and I still find ideas from time to time that I didn't realize that I'd accepted and has integrated into my life – ideas that came directly from that indoctrination and thought reform to which our church subjected us. The ideas of Dominionism took even longer to root out and weed from the garden of ideas. It so affected my husband that the church that he chose to attend after we relocated again just happened to be the same church that Vision Forum's founder, Doug Phillips, attended. And our same aged peers were acolytes of his, but their gateway was homeschooling. I was still up to my neck in this ideological lifestyle mess, and I was anathema to most because I didn't manage to have children. Because of illness, we barely managed ourselves well, and I would be expected to explain all of this to strangers who would basically demand to know our 'excuses' for our nonconformity. Phillips used the term 'non-normative' to soften things, but everyone in that subculture understood well that the term meant 'sin.'

Many Bedfellows

This past week, Shirley Taylor made note of the film, Courageous, and drew attention to 'A Resolution for Men' that the film introduced (and sold as a companion product along with books and diaries for use in daily life). The analogy of driving a car occurs frequently as an analogy which encouraging fathers to 'take back the wheel' of their families from their wives. Just like my former church, the viewer and reader isn't given informed consent about the true nature of the belief system. It couches things in terms of provision and care, but it fails to stress that all of this is dependent on the husband's AUTHORITY over his wife.

The film and it's related products capitalize on the warm, fuzzy, heartwarming elements that seem to be all about family, God and country, but they don't give all of the details about why women have no authority of their own. John Piper teaches the concept of 'primogeniture,' maintaining that men are demigods for their wives. He and others in the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) teach that Eve was responsible for the Fall of Man.

The Apostle Paul clearly identifies Adam in the Garden of Eden as the cause of the Fall, but Piper explains this away by claiming that women don't have enough authority of their own to be their own moral agents before God. How do you blame and punish an ignorant, hapless child for sin? You blame the parent – the responsible party. In Eve's case, Adam was an intercessor for her before God. (It's really all the woman's fault, so now men are burdened for all eternity with the punishment of losing their places in paradise, due to no fault of their own.) At Doug Phillips' church, they took this idea so far that a woman couldn't partake of Communion unless the host came to her though the hands of a male in her household – even if that male was her young son.

I was criticized harshly a decade ago for asserting that the the experts who Shirley calls out on her blog followed the same set of beliefs as those who crafted Courageous. But Shirley and I saw little functional difference between them then – in what they taught and what the teachings produced. A decade later, that criticism falls moot. John Piper, John MacAruthur, and other heavyweights in CBMW (“a coalition for biblical sexuality”?) have openly embraced men including Voddie Baucham and Doug Wilson – all leaders of what their cadre once considered fringe. I was even asked by a Christian apologist whether I'd actually “pushed” these contingents together by connecting their corresponding dots. I know them. I lived them...or I at least made a the attempt of a lifetime to live among them. No pushing was needed.

Gateways Out!

Shirley Taylor goes on to contrast the initiative of CBMW and the 'Biblical Patriarchy' crowds (who produced Courageous) to take back the proverbial wheel from wives from new freedoms that will be given to women in 2018. While this contingent of Christian men lord authority over their wives as the solution for every problem in American society, Saudi Arabia recently voted to allow women to drive. Their own theocracy has given their women a gateway out!

Shirley traces the same threads that I did which serve as not only a telling sign of the motives of these misguided Christians. It is an embarrassment to Christians who get lumped in with the fringe. Suddenly, the fringe is no longer only at the fringe.

As I have experienced many times, Shirley recalls the question often put to women like the two of us – we dissidents who are more concerned about bringing honor to God as opposed to following someone else's ridiculous lists. She notes,
When I first began my ministry of women’s equality, at a Thanksgiving dinner, a male headship older man asked me who drove the car when Don and I went anywhere. As if that mattered. Don always drove because I didn’t want to, but that had nothing to do with equality. But it does in their minds. A woman was not supposed to be behind the wheel in a marriage or in a car.

She goes on to connect CBMW with the Courageous crowd quite well, pointing out how these folks look to the kinder, kuche, and kirch to correct the ills of society, church, and home.

I applaud those in Saudi Arabia who have parted with their traditions of men to do what they believe is most healthy and beneficial for all of their citizens. They've chosen to let women 'take the wheel' instead of limiting them. My prayer has been, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. May that liberty also make an even greater place of opportunity for the Spirit of the Lord.”
As she faithfully concludes her commentary, Shirley ends with a challenge for the reader to consider whether they truly believe that American women should be taken out from behind the wheel within their Christian churches. Shirley is not averse to driving, and per the title of her third book, she's even raising the hood!  On her blog, she writes:  
Saudi Arabia was the last country holdout in allowing women to drive. The church is the last holdout in allowing their women to “drive.” 
It is 2017. What are you doing for Christian women's equality in your church?

Choosing to abandon the belief system is much easier than what I endured. Domestic violence among my friends and the punishment I suffered personally for supporting abused women (and men, and children) became my gateway out.

Visit Shirley's website to read about her books on women's equality! I challenge you to buy one. She did what I have not been able to suffer. In her writings, she documents in great detail the beliefs, teachings, and efforts of this far reaching, insidious effort with much hard evidence that most people don't wish to acknowledge or believe.

What can you do to help others find a gateway out?