Neo-Fundamentalism, Immaturity, Men, & Abuse of Women

I started reading Rachel Held Evans blog recently because of her questioning of her fundamentalist roots. Through reading this blogger I was impressed with some of the comments and began following the blogs of several young women. As these young women began relating their stories of abuse, self-mutilation, addiction I began to see a common thread, neo-fundamentalist upbringing.

These women relate stories of being taught that women are to be subservient to men, that there are specific gender roles that they must adhere to. For several of them the gender role issue made them feel less than because they did not possess the so-called female instincts and their interests were more in-line with male roles. The women who faced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were abused even further by their Christian communities when they told of their abuse. There seems to be a blame the female victim mentality within the neo-fundamentalist community. One young woman was told that being raped was no big deal and she should just get over it. What the fuck? Other women were as hard as the men.

I recently read about a home for wayward girls in Indiana, The Horrors of Hephzibah House. Seems that most of the girls in this “Christian” school are not really wayward, but that most of them had been sexually molested in their own homes. Rather than focusing on the criminal, the perpetrator, oft the girl’s own father, the idea here is that it was the victims fault. These girls are then beaten and psychologically tortured to get the harlot out of them. Yes, girls as young as 12 who have been raped by their fathers are convinced that they, not dear ol’ daddy are the real criminals. Go to the links in the article and learn what former “students” have to say. In the name of being a “good” “Christian”. I use quotes around Christian because I seriously have my doubts about both the people at the school and the parents who would send their daughters there. Some will say it is not my place to judge whether or not these people are actually Christian or not,and they’d probably be right. I can judge the behavior and ideas and they are definitely do NOT represent any Christian teaching or fruit that can be derived from the Bible. This is more in line with those forms of extremist Islam (I am coming to the conclusion that extremist Christianity is no different than extremist Islam except for a name) than Christianity.

Sarah Moon published a blog on the use of the label and slur, “slut”, That’s Not A Slut, That’s A Person. Sarah tells of the instances in which she has seen this slur hung on women and girls. None of the instances she relates does the woman in question fit any definition of the word. Sarah, rightly in my not so humble opinion, says that the use of this slur is abusive and is an example of the ages old and continuing war on women. Sarah calls for us to quit using this word against women, to remove it from the vocabulary, not unlike the use of the word nigger (Sarah doesn’t say this, it is my analogy) because it is hurtful, abusive, and anti-Christlike.

As I read these blogs and articles and the stories of girls who have resorted to cutting, starving themselves, been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused I have to wonder about the culture in which these things arise. All the young women I am talking about have fundamentalist/neo-fundamentalist upbringings. They all faced further abuse when they dared to tell of their abuses. Abuse in the form of, “Oh it wasn’t so bad,” “Well you should’ve done this to your attacker,” “It’s all part of God’s plan,” “Well he IS the man,” “Boys will be boys,” “You need to submit to the males in your life.” When the women told them these things I could only thing of one thing, “The hypnotized never lie,” from We Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. But that would excuse them? If they are adolescents or children, but it sure as Hell doesn’t get an adult off the hook.

Where does the attitude come from that makes it okay to perpetuate the war against women? Some will say that their attitudes are biblical. Have you ever even READ the Bible? I think not. Well, that’s not true I think that they have read it. I think that they have read it with presuppositions about God and the Bible and seeing what they are looking for, which isn’t all that hard. What they are not doing, because it is not possible to approach the Bible for the first time without presuppositions, is not letting the Bible and the Holy Spirit remove those presuppositions. They are not being shaped by their engagement with the Bible (maybe they are reading without engaging). These people lack maturity, Maturity of faith and intellectual maturity, many also lack emotional maturity as well. They hang on to cultural views of women and ignore the biblical view, worse and so very dangerous they bend the biblical view to fit their narrow, immature ideas. Their ideas are their idols and “I’ve got my reasons and to me they’re all true, and I wouldn’t change them, not even for you” Jesus, (quote from Mona Bone Jakon by Cat Stevens). They are stuck because they are immature and cannot engage their faith, cannot ask questions of it, they fear that they will lose it. It would be far better that they lose this narrow, bigoted, hateful, immature faith than to continue in anti-love, anti-Christlike behavior that arises out of such a faith. People will cite a couple Pauline passages to rationalize their beliefs, ideas, and idols. If you are telling me this, I am telling you that you are reading it wrong! Nothing in the Pauline corpus validates your ideas. The Corinthians passage is dealing with a situation specific to that church at that place in that time. The Ephesians passage, do not forget that most evangelical English translations wrongly places a section heading between 5:21 and :22 when in Greek the verb is in verse 21 not in 22. Verse 22 cannot stand alone, it continues from verse 21 where we are all instructed to submit to one another. The charge for wives is no more than it is for every believer. Look how Jesus treated women in the Gospels. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, did you know that the place of a disciple was at the feet of their rabbi? Mary was a disciple. Martha comes along complaining that Mary is not following the custom of the time, not submitting to the traditional place of women, in the kitchen, what does Jesus tell her? Mary chose the better thing, to break tradition, to subvert the societal cultural structure and be a disciple. Paul in Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, neither Free nor slave, neither male not female. What is he doing here? The same thing that John does in relating the story of Mary and Jesus and Martha, he is subverting the social structures that separate. The three main areas of society are dismantled, the religious with no Jew or Greek, the political with no free or slave, and the social/biological with there is no male or female. In this and the narrative from John we see that our common understandings are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. So why do we persist in supporting the structures of this world? Satanic influence? Maybe, but I’m going with immaturity.

Men, when you think that women were created to serve you you are in grave error. Women are not your slaves! They are people endowed with Imago Dei. When you reduce them to objects, when you try to subjugate them you do violence to their Imago Dei. You do this because of your lack of self-respect, lack of self-confidence, because you feel so fucking small that you have to pick on those you deem weaker. Make somebody feel bad so you can feel good. Go get some therapy. And until you can change your attitude towards women you are not capable of a relationship so stay away from the women. And by all means stop abusing them in word, deed, and attitude.

    • moonchild11
    • August 9th, 2011

    I’ve noticed the abuse of women as a trend in fundamentalism as well. I first started my blog wanting to talk about freedom from legalism, but I was still very caught up in trying to be a “Biblical woman” (which was very frustrating- I even questioned whether or not I should have a blog and use it to speak to the church). But as I wrote I found freedom from that mindset. And it’s good to be free!

  1. Sarah I am certainly glad you decided to start your blog. If not for you and your writing I would still be unaware of the situation for women in parts of the church. I had an inkling based on reason alone, but from you and those who have commented on your posts I have been educated in this area.

    So glad you found freedom in choosing to step out of your assigned role as a Martha and take the place of the disciple at the feet of your rabbi.

  2. This is sobering stuff. Though I’m not sure fundamentalism is always a cause for this type of abuse, I do think it can perpetuate it by denial. Fundamentalism can be extremely harmful to personal well-being. It kills, in fact.

    E. Arthur
    Antifundamentalism Society
    http://fundamentalis.ms

  3. Paul

    I have a friend who was repeatedly raped from the time she was 4 until she as an adult by a family member. When she finally worked up the nerve to tell someone, they blamed her for the abuse.

    I wish that was the only story I knew like that.

    It’s not.

    The remarkable thing is that such women become happy, creative, loving, God-honoring people.

    So many people, so many children live in unsafe environs. Shouldn’t the church be the one place where people know they will find safety and comfort?

    • Hi Karen,

      Stories like that of your friend break my heart. How dare we victimize the victim again by blaming her for the abuse she suffered, especially as a child. What a betrayal that must be, I can only imagine, palely.

      Thank you.

    • CJ
    • August 16th, 2011

    I clicked on your link through someone’s blog tonight. This was so well written. I was emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically abused by my ex husband for 13 years. The “church” failed me. I was told it was my fault. Finally, when I realized that I would be dead soon if I did not leave, and that my children would either turn into their father, or be hurt as well, I left.

    I am glad to see that some people’s eyes are opened. Thank you.

  4. CJ, Thank you for sharing.

    I am sorry for the abuses you suffered both by your ex and by your church. I hope that your children haven’t been hurt by their mother having been abused. I am glad that you got out of the situation, I am sure that it wasn’t as easy as people would like to think.

    Again, thank you.

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