One year blogaversary

Trigger warning – sexual abuse, spousal abuse.

Today is, more or less, my first blogoversary. I published my first real post on Are Women Human? one year ago today. That post was about John Piper’s advice on how women who are being abused by their husbands can still “submit” and affirm their husband’s leadership and should “endure” abuse “for a season.”

Comparing that post to my most recent post on child sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries, there’s an obvious common denominator of Christianized patriarchy. Piper’s response to abused wives and CLC and FCC’s responses to abused children and their families share in common an assumption that the world should be ordered around the belief that  the authority of straight, gender conforming men over all other human beings should be universal and unquestioned.

Women should “endure being smacked around for a night” so as not to “disrespect” or be “unsubmissive” to to their husband – their leader. Children who have been abused should be sent away from home so that their molester fathers can “stay in the house as the head of the household.” Survivors and their families should shut up and tell no one about the abuse or the identity of the abusers so as to preserve the reputations of the men “leading” the church. Everything is set up so that men who abuse (not that only men abuse) are coddled, protected, enabled.

This is all about Christian patriarchy. It’s all about defending a worldview that God cares about straight cisgender (white) men more than anyone else, that they are worth more than everyone else no matter how disgusting or evil their behavior.

The devastating effects of these teachings on queer people, trans and gender variant people, women, gender people of color, and children are many. And As I’ve written over the past year, this kind of Christian patriarchy is incredibly toxic to men as well. It imposes a standard of perfect leadership and providing that no man can ever live up to. It teaches men that they aren’t “real” men if they don’t live up to this standard, if they are not able to dominate everyone around them (including other men) and thus turns everyone into challenges to be subdued. It primes men to lash out at any threat to their complete control over others with anger and abuse.

As I’ve blogged about these issues over the past year I’ve become even more convinced that they are entrenched, pressing issues that desperately need addressing. To a lot of people, the effects of Christian patriarchy might seem far removed from their lives. But the reality is that Christian patriarchy is just a more explicitly articulated, more extreme, spiritualized form of plain old patriarchy. Its response to rape is a theology that enshrines and sanctifies rape culture. Its response to female, queer, and trans sexuality and bodily autonomy is bigoted, paternalist, and based a belief in the supremacy of straight gender normative white men – just like our culture at large. The only difference is that in Christian patriarchy straight  cis white men are held up as spokesmen and stand-ins for God, who is presented as the ultimate possessive, angry, abusive patriarch.

As I wrote in my introduction to the blog a year ago, many feminists and progressives who haven’t had much contact with evangelical communities don’t fully understand the context for evangelical teachings on gender on sexuality:

I decided to start this blog because I noticed that, while there are a number of blogs and books out there that bring attention to issues of gender and sexuality in traditionalist Christian communities, most are written either by people who are still in these communities or very similar ones, or by people who have never been part of these communities.  Many of the blogs by evangelical Christians speaking out against patriarchy in the church still support homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity.  Meanwhile, non-evangelical feminist and progressive critics of religious patriarchy are often puzzled by evangelical beliefs, or don’t take them seriously.

As I read more about Christian patriarchy, I was frustrated by the lack of resources that balanced a feminist and progressive perspective on Christian patriarchy with understanding and empathy for people who grew up in patriarchal communities.  I wanted resources that situated Christian patriarchy in the broader context of gender and sexual discrimination, but also addressed why these beliefs can be appealing, and recognized that it’s a long and often arduous process to work to root out these beliefs from one’s life, and to learn to think about gender and sexuality in more humane and loving ways.

I hope and think what I’ve written over the past year has contributed in some small way to illuminating these issues from a feminist and theologically informed perspective, but I’m also very aware that there’s so much I haven’t touched on yet, much more to be said, much more work to be done. I’ve found writing here to be incredibly fulfilling work and am looking forward to another year of doing it.

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16 Comments on “One year blogaversary”

  1. “not that only men abuse”

    My older son’s mother as well as some of my own experience illustrate that well, but I get your point and focus.

    One of the more disturbing things I discovered was that even the “softer” forms (as in our SBC church) create a toxic environment. Even when both parents reject that aspect, don’t live it, and even explicitly deconstruct and counter such teachings, your children still absorb some of it from the spiritual air they breathe. I remember how shocked I was when I first realized that had happened. My wife and I assumed we had a much greater impact and as long as we countered it, that was just a little sideshow we could discount and largely ignore. It’s a lot more insidious than that.

    • Grace says:

      I think there’s a lot of work to be done on women and abuse. My feeling, having known a number of abusive women and people who have endured abuse from women, is that women are a lot more likely to get away with certain kinds of abuse – ironically, because of misogynistic gender essentialism. I know a lot of people with very emotionally abusive mothers who still face a lot of pressure to “go easy” on their moms or have a closer relationship with them than is healthy – just because they’re their mothers and we romanticize motherhood to such a ridiculous and unrealistic degree.

      Completely agree about toxic environments having an insidious impact over the long term. That’s been my experience. My family was rather unusual for SGM on women’s issues, for example, and for years I thought I was immune to internalizing certain messages about my gender because I only got them at church, not at home. Turns out this is not true – I internalized a lot of misogyny and self-hate over my gender, but it took me years to recognize it for what it was.

  2. Kate says:

    Looking forward to another year of it. :)

  3. Congratulations on your blogaversary! I look forward to another year of insight into these issues.

  4. acme64 says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading more!

  5. lorinda says:

    Congrats, Grace. New to your blog, and I’m appreciating your intelligent, gracious approach to difficult topics.

  6. “This is all about Christian patriarchy. It’s all about defending a worldview that God cares about straight cisgender (white) men more than anyone else, that they are worth more than everyone else no matter how disgusting or evil their behavior.”

    I wonder if this has to do with the way that they view gender and gender roles. Man and woman comes first, and your personality falls under that, within the boundaries of those two genders. So the closest and most personal definition you’re allowed to have of yourself, aside from god, is your gender. So…I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this anymore. But maybe it contributes to an “us” versus “them” mentality, in which no matter the crime committed it will always be an attack on “us” (straight cisgender white men) from “them” (everyone else.)

  7. Jenny says:

    Congrats on your one-year anniversary! Your posts have given me as a Christian a lot to think about. It’s a coincidence that you mention Piper and spousal abuse because I blogged a little about this yesterday. As Jesus said, the Gentiles lord it over their subjects, yet that’s what we see Christian men, those told by Paul not to be harsh with their wives, doing. It’s no wonder that so many young men leave the faith in disgust, and so many young women opt out of marriage. I hope things turn for the better soon.

  8. Mark says:

    Happy to have had you blogging for the past year, and hoping for many more years to come!
    It is terrifying the amount of support and attention groups like these are getting… people are still truly convinced that if there are economical and political problems it is a divine sign of disapproval from god. Of course, that view is being endorsed more and more by politically conservative groups, the wealthy, and institutions like corporations. If people believe this, they will seek help in powerful patriarchs of the church, instead of getting involved into politics and learn to replace politicians that work only for themselves and their wealthy friends. Patriarchy is not a conspiracy, it is a way of living that allows those in power to remain in control… As Foucault once said, power with capital “P” does not exits. What exists is a series of small powers that start at the family in an ascending spiral that ends up in leaders and politicians… a patriarchal model of household and church ultimately assures the preservation of the status quo, and gives those in control more room to become richer, less under public scrutiny, out of the law, and, essentially, do as they please. It is a shame that the simple mention of “patriarchy”, a word that has become satanized, seams to scare people away, making a serious political discussion very difficult.

  9. Amy says:

    I love your blog, Grace. Keep writing! I learn so much. :)


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