Evangelicals, Let’s Talk About Violence Against Women

October 5, 2018
Posted in Blog
October 5, 2018 Editor

Evangelicals, Let’s Talk About Violence Against Women

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Evangelicals, Let’s Talk About Violence Against Women

October 4, 2018

by Kristin Du Mez

photo above: Kavanaugh Family at the The White House – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

WN: When

half of all white evangelicals think Brett Kavanaugh should be confirmed even if Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault are true. (An NPR/PBS NewHour/Marist poll conducted last week, 48% of white evangelical Christians believed he should be appointed to the highest court regardless; an additional 16% were unsure, leaving only 36% of white evangelicals who would apparently have a problem with an unrepentant perpetrator of sexual assault serving on the highest court of the land.),

then Houston (or God) we have a problem…

Over the years, I have often found myself wondering just what planet fellow “Christians” (?) have grown up on, what scriptures they in fact are reading, and what Christ they are following. (Christ himself warned about many false claims about himself (Matthew 24:23).) The article highlighted below endorses such wonderment.

excerpts:

In part, evangelical political identity coalesced around opposition to feminism (among other things). When feminists championed legislation to curb violence against women, evangelicals’ first instinct was to oppose it. But there was more to their resistance than knee-jerk reactionary politics. Evangelical identity was (and is) based in a gender system that makes violence against women easier to dismiss, excuse, and deny.

This statement is sure to provoke opposition from evangelicals themselves. After all, evangelicals have long championed “family values,” and at the heart of family values is the idea that men are called to protect and provide for women and children. In this way, the protection of women is at the very heart of evangelical self-identity.

Why, then, do so many evangelicals seem so bad at it?

Is this simply a matter of perception? Is this an unfair portrayal of evangelicals by a hostile, liberal media? Just another example of pervasive and pernicious anti-Christian bias, of the persecution Christians put up with, day in, day out?

Or, could it be that the things evangelicals do in the name of protecting women actually end up endangering them?

Over a century ago, evangelical women themselves began to suspect that Christian theology—or, rather, the misappropriation of Christian theology—facilitated the abuse of women in Christian communities.

Bushnell and Southard, however, remained minority voices. The majority of evangelicals in the twentieth century preferred to uphold a patriarchal gender order, defend it as God’s will, and even situate it as a nonnegotiable requirement of the Christian faith. This explains why, in the midst of the recent deluge of abuse allegations sweeping through evangelical communities, someone like John Piper could confidently blame the abuse of women on an “egalitarian myth,” not on the unequal power relations evangelicals have imposed on women and men. For evangelicals like Piper, complementarianism—which enshrines male authority over women in church, home, and society—is the solution, not the problem.

Multiple assumptions are at play here, and dangerous ones. Rather than granting women greater legal protections against harassment and abuse, they prefer to ascribe to husbands and fathers the power to protect women. But by placing such trust in patriarchal power, there is little recourse when those very men betray the women they are ostensibly responsible to protect. For some evangelicals, this scenario is simply unthinkable. For many more, their default setting is to believe men, not women, when allegations of abuse surface. And to blame women, not men, when women do come forward.

Where does this sort of thinking leave evangelical women and girls? In Sex and the Soul, Donna Freitas discovered an alarming inability on the part of evangelical young women to identify and resist sexual assault. The evangelical purity culture, a product of these patriarchal teachings, has left women ill-equipped both to exercise their own sexual agency, and to identify abuse when it takes place. (Freitas finds a similar pattern among women immersed in the secular “hook-up” culture on college campuses as well).

It’s worth noting that evangelicals are not speaking with one voice on this topic. Forty-eight percent of white evangelicals support an unrepentant perpetrator of sexual assault, but 36% find this unacceptable. Women like Beth Moore, Jen Pollock Michel, and Karen Swallow Prior (and many men, too) are speaking out in defense of sexual assault victims. Initially cautious when it came to the Kavanaugh allegations, Pollock Michel was stirred by what she heard at the hearing: “I don’t know how you hear that as a woman without feeling the complete horror and panic of that moment,” she explained to the Washington Post, referring to Ford’s account of the alleged assault. “As evangelical Christians, we say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. I think it really is a moment for us to be asking ourselves as Christians about our own kind of hunger for righteousness.”

As in the past, this view seems to be the minority view. But those who dismiss the abuse of women must confront the fact that, in doing, so they not only harm victims and enable abusers, but they also imperil any future attempts to witness to the gospel of Christ. And isn’t that the whole point of being “evangelical”?

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  1. [1]Katharine Bushnell, the subject of my first book, put it this way: “The crime [of sexual assault] is indirectly the fruit of the theology, since if theology teaches the enslavement of woman to man inside the marriage relation; that law of sin which forbids its regulation by law at all—causes this abuse and injustice to leap the bounds which a mistaken theology would throw around it to keep it within marriage relations… Men cannot make unquestioning, obedient slaves of wives only—sooner or later the iniquity of slavery will be visited upon the head of unmarried women also; for iniquity knows not the name of restriction.” Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below. Katharine Bushnell, the subject of my first book, put it this way: “The crime [of sexual assault] is indirectly the fruit of the theology, since if theology teaches the enslavement of woman to man inside the marriage relation; that law of sin which forbids its regulation by law at all—causes this abuse and injustice to leap the bounds which a mistaken theology would throw around it to keep it within marriage relations… Men cannot make unquestioning, obedient slaves of wives only—sooner or later the iniquity of slavery will be visited upon the head of unmarried women also; for iniquity knows not the name of restriction.”
  2. [2]Madeline Southard, a Methodist preacher and women’s rights activist, pointed to the problem with defining women primarily in terms of their relationships to men, rather than as individuals in their own right. It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions. Madeline Southard, a Methodist preacher and women’s rights activist, pointed to the problem with defining women primarily in terms of their relationships to men, rather than as individuals in their own right.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.
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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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