Saturday, June 17, 2023

Following Bruce Ware's Primrose Path to Domestic Abuse (Part II: Turing Violence Against Women into God's Gender Justice )

Wife beating became the last straw issue that drove me out of the #ShinyHappyPeople Church (#SHPC) I'd once attended. I had no idea who Gothard was when we joined, but I knew when we left.

Over time, I would learn that the ideology demanded that:

  • Wives obediently submit with a quiet and gentle spirit to any maltreatment their husbands dished out

    • The same went for sex, too. Whatever, whenever he wanted.

  • All marital discord be assigned to the wife as the root cause.

  • tWife beating always be considered a breach of duty or neglect on the part of the wife

  • Wives "just let love cover her husband's sin against her" so that her properly yielded submission could magically convict/cure/rehabilitate her husband. (That's the wonder-working power of submission if you get it right. If you didn't get results, you weren't doing it right.)

  • Husbands were never held accountable because if a wife does her job right (sex and submission and supper), the Bible (per Bill Gothard) guarantees the system to work.

And the women were told that by suffering, per Gothard's teachings, God would reward them with special spiritual power and those Pacman-like Grace Points that all people get as consolation for suffering and humiliation. God really gives it to the humble. That's how you overcome when your husband cracks you good in the jaw or the eye.  It's the same with sex abuse, too. You get an ethereal, spiritual power as Godls own consolation prize that helps you through. If you look at it that way, your abuser is just heaping up blessings for you. (Don't forget that you have to ask forgiveness from your abuser and then repent of your part in it all, or you won't get your points!)

Racking up grace points through domestic abuse was such a blessing for so many women in my old #SHPC that I would learn that we had a unique, mid-week cell group just for domestic violence couples. Domestic violence both propelled me from that church and motivated me to speak about domestic violence within Christian religious systems.

Speak Up at Your Own Risk

When I found an opportunity to reveal to people what went on in my former church and those like it, I cited several Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) doctrines as a part of the culture that helped birth and sustains those #SHPC beliefs. 

Bruce Ware found many lucrative opportunities within CBMW, and he became an evangelist for the idea that women were the "derivative" or the "indirect" image of God. Man was created as the direct image. Woman, because she was made from man's "source material," becomes once removed from God, according to Ware. 

For citing criticism of this concept and asserting that this dehumanized women that Bruce Ware became known for, I suddenly became a controversial figure. Many Southern Baptists complained that I'd also wrongly lumped them in with the #SHP. They found this very offensive, even though they teach the same primary ideas to justify the same types of abuse. 

Note that CBMW is a parachurch organization, as is Bill Gothard's religion of #SHP. Neither are denominations nor churches, but they cater to Christians, claiming to offer them tips and tricks, and insights so that they can succeed at Christian living. Like the Duggars' system, CBMW also teaches that nothing in life works if women don't submit to men. Hmmm. It is all about authority and submission in both systems, and gender rules and roles are the central focus if not the whole point.

The Pitfall of Domestic Abuse that the Indirect Image of God Creates

Consider that acting out aggression against a subordinate or a smaller kid on the playground of life takes advantage of an imbalance of power. Bullies on playgrounds have been exploiting this since there have been places to play. It reduces the chances that they will suffer retaliation or punishment at the hands of a greater foe. Always pick on someone who can't do you much harm, right?  Kick the Dog Syndrome operates on the same principle in some respects. You can't yell at or kick your boss or a peer at work to discharge that extra frustration you might feel, but an irritable person can go home and vent their spleen by kicking their dog. The dog forgets and likely won't strike back because they're dependent on the bully for survival.

When #SHP add to the status of that derivative, less-than status of women, they set up a system that paints a target on a woman's back. The religion says that women can't independently discern morality and require an overseer. Women aren't even their own free moral agents, and both #SHP and CBMW teach that women are responsible for original sin. It's not fair that their punishment had to fall on men. Wives almost become eternal children; they never grow up and become wise. (Well, men hope that they don't get wise.)

Now imagine what might happen when these leaders feed and foment frustration in men and blame shift responsibility for it onto women. There's a name for what results when resentment stews and blame is rehearsed. It creates a hostile attribution bias that moves beyond the idea that aggression towards women is not just easier to get away with. Punishment may actually be a type of divine justice. After all, women got men thrown out of paradise. And it's the same thing nations do to justify killing one's enemy during war. You define those enemies as dangerous animals – barely human at all.  It's traumatic to kill a human.  It's easier to kill an animal that deserves death.

Remember: We Christians are fighting a culture war now.

Do you remember that older man with that long, ratty, grizzled beard in the Shiny Happy People Docuseries that was swatting dolls with a stick? That was Independent Fundamental Baptist minister Michael Pearl. Michael and his wife, Debi, teach that a wife is her husband's greatest and most insidious natural adversary. If I were a married man, I would always sleep with one eye open if I believed this. They claim that a wife's natural disposition aims at conquering her husband and taking all of his authority for herself. She can barely restrain herself from wanting to be him, so she's driven by the constant urge to dethrone him and enslave her husband.

The Wages of a Woman's Sin

A few weeks after I posed this argument to expose the abuses of the #SHP everywhere, Bruce Ware, the evangelist for the derivative woman concept, preached at Denton Bible Church on June 22, 2008, and made this very argument, but he claimed that it was God's divine order.

It validated what I'd said and vindicated me.

Oh, wait. I'm the woman here. I forgot the rules. The consensus from the hegemon of gender under that Dominating Behavioral Context demanded that everyone who wanted to do business had to claim that Bruce Ware was right about everything. They don't let those sounds get out of the silo.

Want to know how Ware did it?

Read more in Part III

And come back next week for Part IV.