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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John Piper on sex and “masculine leadership”

Trigger warning: rape/sexual assault, transphobia.

So I was listening to a podcast (disclaimer: not feminist, LGB or T friendly, or sex-positive in any way, and only referenced as a source of information and not as an endorsement of the content) about John Piper’s teachings on sexuality in marriage, which discussed the passage below from Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the complementarian bible edited by Piper and Wayne Grudem, a prominent reformed evangelical and complementarian theologian.

This excerpt on what “mature masculinity” looks like in “romantic sexual relations” (what a quaint term) manages to be rapey, hetero and gender normative, transphobic, misogynist, and damaging to female, male, and non-binary sexuality all in one go. I’m not sure I have the strength or stomach to unpack it in full, so I’ll just make some brief comments on the dangerous falsehoods about gender and sexuality in this passage.

Mature masculinity expresses its leadership in romantic sexual relations by communicating an aura of strong and tender pursuit.

This is very difficult to put into words. But sexual relations are so basic to human life we would be delinquent not to at least try to say how masculinity expresses itself here.

It is the mingling of tenderness with strength that makes the unique masculine quality of leadership in sexual relations. There is an aura of masculine leadership which rises from the mingling of power and tenderness, forcefulness and affection, potency and sensitivity, virility and delicateness. It finds expression in the firmness of his grasp, the strength of taking her in his arms, the sustaining of verbal adoration, etc. And there are a hundred nuances of masculine pursuit that distinguish it from feminine pursuit.

What exactly does Piper mean by “forcefulness” here? It’s a very dangerous word to leave undefined when talking about sex, especially given Piper’s insistence that forcefulness, power, strength, etc., and “strong and tender pursuit” are absolutely necessary to “mature” masculine sexuality. The idea that a “real man” forcefully pursues a woman for sex, and that his masculinity is expressed in grasping a woman firmly and taking her strongly into his arms undermines the importance of the woman’s consent – of mutual consent – in a sexual relationship.

It is important to say that there is, of course, a feminine pursuit in sexual relations. This is why the word “initiate” is not an exact way of describing masculine leadership in sexual relations. The wife may initiate an interest in romance and may keep on initiating different steps along the way. But there is a difference. A feminine initiation is in effect an invitation for the man to do his kind of initiating. In one sense then you could say that in those times the man is responding. But in fact the wife is inviting him to lead in a way as only a man can, so that she can respond to him.

Again, there’s a lot of dangerous vagueness here. How does a woman “invite” a man to initiate sex with her? With the clothes she wears? The way she walks? A look? Piper doesn’t say, and his later comment that “mature femininity” means being “sensually receptive (vs. prudish)” gives no more clarity on the question. Without any specifics given, the idea that ‘real men’ pick up on subtle cues that women want to have sex with them veers dangerously close to the misogynist trope that women solicit sexual contact – “ask for it” – in ways that don’t involve, you know, actually asking for or explicitly consenting to sex. To put it bluntly, these are the kinds of assumptions that perpetuate rape culture: that all women want men to “pursue” them sexually; that women want sex even when they don’t say so; a woman would rather leave it up to a man to figure out if she wants to have sex than say so herself.

No amount of semantic gymnastics can hide the fact that Piper is saying “real women” don’t ask for or initiate sex. Women are being taught to be ashamed of wanting to initiate sex, or wanting to be explicit about what they want sexually. Men are being taught to be threatened by female expression of sexual desire, and to be threatened by wanting to be desired. You become less than a “real man” if you want your wife to be explicit about finding you sexually desirable. In effect, any sexual desire not expressed by men for women is to be denied and suppressed. Such arbitrary limitations on the expression of human sexuality are very damaging both to men and women in heterosexual relationships, completely deny the possibility of legitimate non-hetero sexual expression, and erase the existence of people of non-binary gender (i.e., neither or not completely male or female).

It will not do to say that, since the woman can rightly initiate, therefore there is no special leadership that the man should fulfil [sic]. When a wife wants sexual relations with her husband she wants him to seek her and take her and bring her into his arms and up to the pleasures that his initiatives give her.

Have I mentioned that it’s extremely disempowering for women (for anyone, really) not to be able to enthusiastically and vocally express a desire for and right to pleasure? And that it’s also disempowering to have to wait around for someone else to figure out how to bring you “up to” pleasure instead of being a full participant in making that happen? Yea, it is.

Consider what is lost when women attempt to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive. It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete.

Oh dear god. First off, super creepy. Secondly, there’s so much wrong here it’s difficult to know where to start.
– Women should decide what exercise to engage in based on what it makes men want or expect from them sexually. Right. Not self-absorbed or misogynist at all.
– Being muscular = being masculine. Implicit assumption: whether or not you are a real woman (or a real man) depends on how you look. This is gender essentialist and extremely transphobic. Gender is a personal identity, it’s not dependent on the presence or absence of muscles, or genitalia, or any other physical characteristic.
– (Real?) Men are constitutionally incapable of having romantic relationships with muscular women, apparently.
– No (real?) woman could ever possibly be interested in having sex with someone without any expectation of or desire for romance.
– Romance is a “feminine need.” Women who want sex without romance are not real women. Men who need romance are not real men. Men who don’t need or want sex, well, they don’t even exist.

Pro tip, John Piper: lots of women are quite fond of sex.


Praying for Japan?

Trigger warning for images and discussion of natural disasters.

Houses swallowed by tsunami waves burn in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11. (Kyodo News/Associated Press; source)

In the wake of the largest earthquake in its recorded history, and subsequent tsunami and powerful aftershocks, Japan is in the middle of a huge effort to rescue survivors, and contain further damage like radiation leaks. The death toll is expected to be in the thousands; countless more are missing, stranded, or displaced, and millions are without food, water, and electricity. Infrastructure has been completely devastated in many areas and rescue workers have yet to reach many of the worst hit regions.

Aid and donations are urgently needed. Some good organizations to support in their rescue efforts include Doctors without Borders/Medicins San Frontieres, which has a local office in Japan and is already on the ground, and Global Giving, which distributes funds to the International Medical Corp, Save the Children, and other organizations.


I’ve been thinking about the issue of prayer a lot lately, and the news of the earthquake has brought it to mind again. I no longer believe prayer works in any traditional sense. Still, for many if not most people, I think it’s a natural to such devastation. It’s a way of reasserting some measure of agency and control when we feel vulnerable, helpless, and out of control. It’s often psychologically reassuring for people being prayed for, if they’re aware of the prayers, but perhaps even more so for the ones doing the praying, especially if there’s little else they can do to help.

But more than that, praying for others – especially strangers or people far removed from us – can be an expression of identification and sympathy based on a recognition of shared humanity. At its best prayer is an affirmation of the dignity and worth of fellow humans – a statement that the people one prays for are worthy of concern and attention. Often, being unwilling as a religious or spiritual person to acknowledge and pray for suffering people is indicative of a belief that those people are less than fully human. Already some remarkably callous people have called the earthquake “payback” for Pearl Harbor, implying that the Japanese are undeserving of American sympathy, undeserving of basic human compassion. There’s a similar sentiment in the tendency of some Americans to be dismissive and even supportive of the oppression of Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. and around the world. Such beliefs are sustained by dehumanizing people deemed to be “other” or the enemy in some way.


(Evacuees stand around Shinjuku Central Park in Tokyo Japan March 11, 2011.)

How someone prays also reveals a lot about how they see the subjects of their prayers. They can pray in a way that affirms others as full people with experiences, needs, rights, and feelings that are just as valid as their own. Or they can pray in a way that centers their own worldview and their own experiences, objectifying the people they are ostensibly praying “for” and making their prayers all about themselves.

Unfortunately, some evangelical leaders have responded to the earthquake in Japan in the latter vein, with opportunistic, patronizing, and self-centered prayers. Al Mohler, for example, tweeted that he is “Praying for the people of Japan in aftermath of huge earthquake and tsunami. May they seek Christ the Solid Rock.” In his Friday podcast he added:

When a natural disaster like this takes place, many questions immediately arise. But as you think about this, keep in mind the fact that Japan is a very secular nation in terms of its worldview. Even though ancestor worship and forms of Buddhism and Shintoism are still in the background beliefs of many Japanese, fewer than about five percent have much knowledge of Christianity at all, and the operational worldview of many Japanese when it comes to the events of everyday life is basically secular.

Mohler later managed to eke out a few words expressing concern for survivors and gesturing towards an obligation to help, but he’s otherwise focused on the theological and religious implications of the earthquake:

We must pray that this horrible disaster may be used to call the people of Japan to the Lord as their only hope and refuge. The nation is still shaped by its Shinto, Buddhist, and Animist roots….when the grieving turns to the hard work of recovery and rebuilding, the true test for American Christians will be whether our commitment to the Gospel of Christ will lead to a renewed effort to reach the nation of Japan with the message of Jesus Christ, the Solid Rock.

John Piper’s “prayer” for Japan is perhaps worse; he asks god to show mercy on Japan even though they don’t deserve it. In fact, none of us deserve it: “We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan…if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment.” Like Mohler, his main concern is that Japanese people would repent and convert to belief in his version of god:

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion…Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

Piper doesn’t spare a word of prayer for the rescue efforts, for efforts to provide the most basic necessities to homeless and displaced people, for the nuclear plants threatening meltdown. He doesn’t pray for the actual Japanese people who have been killed, injured, or traumatized. Neither he nor Mohler has made any public comment encouraging their followers to help Japan, or offering any information on how to do so.

Piper and Mohler are living in some ass-backward world where “helping” in a time of national crisis and devastation involves prayers for conversion, and criticisms of the religious affiliations of the Japanese pass for compassionate and relevant commentary. Of course, they’ll claim that the souls of Japanese people matter more than their bodies or minds or property, and as was frequently repeated in my church, “their greatest problem is that they are sinners in need of a savior.”

These aren’t prayers for Japan. In a sense they’re not prayers at all. They have little to do with the actual victims of the quake, or really with anyone who isn’t a conservative evangelical. Rather, Piper and Mohler have seized upon this disaster as an opportunity to  reassert the superiority of their beliefs, of their god, and their status as god’s chosen elite.*  They’re effectively saying they know what Japan’s “real” problem is, and it’s not that the nation has been devastated, or that people are in pain and shock and need. The real problem is that the Japanese don’t know enough about Mohler and Piper’s god and religion. And as this problem is effectively unresolvable – since they believe as a matter of dogma that prayers for mass conversion won’t (or can’t) be answered – the real message is that they will be saved, while most of Japan and the rest of the world is basically fucked.

They completely erase the voices and experiences of the Japanese people. They completely erase their actual material and psychological needs. They refuse to see them as real human beings, even in a moment like this. They are props.

What’s truly frightening about this is that people like Piper and Mohler don’t have to be evil to believe such evil things. Their view of faith as being in a special in-group chosen by god makes it impossible to see others as full and equal human beings. They can only see people in terms of what religious team they’re on; their dogma obligates them to refuse to take different beliefs and experiences seriously. They can’t stand with the Japanese as fellow human beings. They have to assess where they stand in some imaginary cosmic war, and in so doing they lose sight of them as people. Viewing everything and everyone through that lens alone is inherently dehumanizing. It’s a worldview that strips non-Christians of their humanity so completely that it leads some to see this horrific disaster as “day of opportunity” for Christians and a tool intended by god to “[pierce] the darkness of Japan with His light.”

A truly loving prayer would identify with the suffering of the Japanese people and acknowledge it as unjust and undeserved. It would be accompanied by whatever concrete help those praying could offer. A loving prayer would ask for Japan’s needs to be met on its own terms, not that its people live up to external and arbitrary expectations of who they should be. A loving prayer would show survivors the same respect and concern anyone would want for themselves, even though they aren’t “like us” in ways we might deem profoundly meaningful, because they are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not as pawns in some perverse cosmic game.


“For your good”: Joshua Harris’s “Word to Wives,” pt. 4

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Harris argues that because everyone has to submit to authority in some context (at work, as a citizen), women shouldn’t feel “as though the word of God is picking on you.” Of course, this argument hinges on his audience joining him in the fantasy that “submit” and “authority” mean the same thing in the workplace, etc., as they do in a complementarian marriage.

He continues with an even weirder and more disturbing comparison:

We know from other parts of the bible, ephesians chapter 6, that male and female children are called to be subject to their parents.  Isn’t that right?  All the parents said “Amen!” [Laughing]  You know, I just was thinking about the fact that I’ve never heard of any scholar challenging the teaching in the NT that children are to obey their parents.  I’ve never heard that.  No one’s ever questioned those passages.  And you know why?  Because by the time you’re old enough to be a scholar, you’re probably a parent, and you want that to be true.  There’s no question that that’s the word of God speaking right there.  Well I mean, the ultimate example of authority as Christians is that we’re all under the authority of Jesus Christ.  We all call him Lord, we submit to his lordship.  So my point here is that authority is not a bad thing.

Once again, he’s arguing for analogies between relationships that are fundamentally not comparable. To compare a relationship of a minor child, dependent on parents and whom the parents have a responsibility to protect, to a marital relationship between two grown adults is all kinds of messed up. This is a particularly disturbing comparison given the very draconian and in many cases abusive approach to parenting that complementarians generally endorse. In SGM, which I don’t think is all that exceptional in this regard, one of the major goals for parents is to train children to obey immediately, completely, and cheerfully.* If any one of those factors is absent, it’s not true obedience. Practically all parents use corporal punishment from a very young age (as early as 1 year, or even earlier) and with high frequency: spankings using implements, as often as once or more a day.

So comparing a woman’s “duty” to submit to her husband with a childs “duty” to submit to parental authority is not only problematic by definition, it’s also quite alarming when you take into account that many complementarians define parental authority as having total, unquestioned control over their children’s behavior from infancy through adolescence and often beyond. What does it say about complementarianism that it presents this kind of relationship as analogous to a relationship between spouses? Bad news.

It does occur to Harris that authority can be abused, but his concept of “abuse” is a bit…strange:

Now it can be misused. It can be abused, and I just want to qualify all that I’m saying here today in saying that we are never called as Christians to obey authority when it calls us to disobey our ultimate authority, which is God and his word.  And so if the government commands us to disobey God, we obey God.  If our employer tells us to do something that violates God’s word, we obey God.  Even if our parents, the God given authority of parents, if they tell us to do something which violates God’s word, we are called to respectfully and humbly obey the Lord instead of them.  But in the majority of cases authority is something that is a blessing to our lives, and it’s something that God has given for our good, and without it there would be untold chaos, and misery in this world.

Joshua Harris thinks it’s very important that you understand you should never submit to authorities if they order you to sin. Because that would make God mad. That’s what “abuse of authority” means under this fucked up theology. As for abuses of authority that involve ill treatment or coercion of behavior that isn’t “sin,” well. Harris doesn’t seem terribly concerned about those. Priorities! The important thing is that GOD isn’t offended. Sound familiar?

If [a husband’s abusive behavior is] not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church”. – John Piper

ALSO. It is very important that you understand that without authority there would be untold CHAOS and MISERY in the world. UNTOLD and unprecedented. You know, fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

I mean what the hell. Does Joshua Harris remember he’s talking about MARRIAGE here? Does his audience remember that? Here he is talking about a relationship between two people, and suddenly the future of civilization and the fate of the whole world hangs in the balance. It’s not only an enormous leap in (il)logic, it’s incredibly manipulative of his audience. That such an absurd argument is accepted as literal gospel is a testament to the incredible level of thought control that exists in SGM and similar evangelical church cultures. Such “reasoning” suffices only in a context where people have been trained to completely ignore logical fallacies and to accept whatever their leaders say without question.


*If you can stomach it, here are some of SGM’s teachings on parenting. Each message has a PDF outline that accompanies it – spares you from having to listen to the whole thing, thankfully.


About that “not degrading” submission thing . . .

It boggles my mind that complementarian pastors like Joshua Harris stand in front of congregations that admire and respect them and have the audacity to claim that what’s expected of an appropriately submissive wife isn’t degrading.  These men know what submission entails.  They know it’s a lifestyle with both explicit and unspoken rules that dictate attitudes and behavior in every aspect of marital and family life.  There’s not a chance that any of these men wouldn’t consider it degrading, as an adult, to “show respect” to another person in the way their wives are expected to “respect” them.

This is the thing.  Complementarians shroud submission in misleading and vague terms like “respect” and “courtesy” and “affirming leadership” – obscuring the reality of what it means to live, day to day,  as a submitted wife.  It’s a miserable, and yes, a degrading way to live.  There’s plenty of evidence of this at sites like No Longer Quivering and Razing Ruth, which document the oppressiveness of Christian patriarchy in wrenching detail .  Of course, many complementarians would object that these are extreme examples (which is sort of true), and that the leaders in these communities are extremists (also sort of true) who “don’t really understand” what submission means (yea, this I’m not buying).  Real godly male leaders don’t rule harshly, the way the men in these stories do.  They don’t condone abuse or expect women to be doormats.  Ok, whatever.

This doesn’t hold up if you look more closely at the teachings of more “moderate” complementarians  like Harris and John Piper.  And it definitely doesn’t hold up if you look at the books they recommend as “godly” resources on female submission.

Take, for example, Nancy Wilson’s The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman.  Here are just a few of Wilson’s claims about what submission means for married women:

  • A woman shouldn’t go on a trip without her husband’s permission, because she is her husband’s helper and can’t help him if she’s not with him. (55).
  • It is the wife’s job is to cheerfully submit to her husband’s decisions on all matters, including decisions about how many children she should have, about family planning, about child-rearing and education, and to support and help him in these decisions. (44-6; 60-1).
  • A woman should only say things about her husband to her friends “that would please him to hear her say” (48). She should never share his flaws or mistakes with anyone, unless they are drastic enough to require pastoral or police intervention.  She is always required to talk about her husband with respect, no matter what – so basically, a woman has to “show respect” to her husband even if he’s, say, an abuser or a pedophile (28-9; 34).
  • A woman should not work to provide for the family, even if her husband refuses to work or they are in dire financial circumstances, unless the husband deserts the family (50-52).
  • A woman’s body is like a garden tended and owned by her husband.*  She is obligated to have sex with him whenever he wants, and to make sure that he enjoys it.  It is a woman’s job to keep her husband constantly satisfied sexually:  “A husband is never trespassing in his own garden.” “Your breasts are his to enjoy.” The wife should keep her husband “so completely sexually satisfied” that he is “like a wet noodle” – ewww.  (89;91-2)
  • Women who are victims of rape or sexual assault are obligated to forgive the perpetrators – meaning no matter how much trauma they might still be dealing with, or how triggering they might find sex, they shouldn’t “make [their] husbands suffer” by denying them sex (94-5).

This is a book that SGM leaders recommend to engaged and married women; it’s a book that I was given as part of our premarital counseling at an SGM church.  It’s a book that teaches women that God wants them to cheerfully submit to being a man’s slave and sex toy.  Joshua Harris knows this is what women in his church are being taught is “biblical womanhood,” and yet turns around and asserts that this isn’t degrading.

This is what complementarians really mean when they go on about “servant leadership” and “joyful submission.”.  What complementarianism often means is enduring verbal, physical, and/or sexual abuse with a “gentle and quiet spirit.”  What it always means it that a woman has little to no say in decisions that intimately affect her and her children.  What it always means it that women have to “joyfully” suppress any emotion, desire, or dream that is contrary to their husbands’ wishes.


* This is followed by rather hilarious passages in which she says “Some women need to recognize the fact that they must tend their own garden.” and “Let God tend your garden.”


Christian patriarchy hurts men, too

I read a summary today of a sermon by Randy Stinson on, ahem, how it’s necessary for boys to get “bumps and bruises” and be indoctrinated with “warfare language” in order to avoid raising them to be “feminized,” “weak, soft, and ineffective” men.  Stinson is the president of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an influential evangelical complementarian organization that also includes John Piper and CJ Mahaney (Joshua Harris’ mentor) as part of its leadership.  Some highlights of his comments:

“We are raising our young boys to be way too soft, way too careful, as if the ultimate prize in our parenting of boys is to get them to 18 years old and say they never got hurt, nothing bad ever happened . . .. They never experienced pain. They never experienced disappointment. They have just had a wonderfully smooth life,”

“What you’ve done, you have handicapped that boy for the rest of his life,” Stinson counseled. “He will be a weak, soft, ineffective man.”

. . . A “therapeutic” model that eliminates competition and rough play among boys has created a generation of 20-something males that are the “most self-absorbed generation in American history.”

Stinson said that has spawned an industry of things like male skin-care and hair-color products that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. (Associated Baptist Press)

OH NOES, you guys, the only thing more self-absorbed than a woman is a man who moisturizes!  Watch out for those male skin and hair care products, they’ll turn your little dudes into lady-men!  Wow.  These folks are completely oblivious to how ridiculous and immature such statements sound to the rest of the world.

Stinson’s comments demonstrate that in addition to insisting on hierarchies of privilege and oppression based on biological sex, complementarianism and other forms of Christian patriarchy also insist on rigid policing of gender expression and identity.  Christian patriarchy teaches boys and men that relational, physical, and sexual dominance and aggression are the only appropriate expressions of “true masculinity.”  It teaches boys and men that displaying gentleness, vulnerability, interest in beauty, and really, any trait or pursuit coded as “feminine” makes them lesser men, or not “real men.”  It warps and damages boys and men who, naturally or otherwise, conform to this extremely narrow and rigid definition of masculinity, and mercilessly discriminates against  boys and men who don’t conform to this standard.

“Men solve problems. They fix stuff. They get stuff done,” he said. “When we give men such weak assignments — we put them on the bereavement committee and the flower committee and the grounds committee and the fellowships committees — give men a God-sized task that they know requires a man.”

He also called on churches to “bring back warfare language.” . . . “The Bible is all about warfare, from Genesis 3 on,” he said. . . . .”We don’t talk about battle and warfare, but we’re in one,” he said. “Let’s just reclaim the language. Keep reminding our men they are in a battle and maybe they will start acting like a warrior.” . . .

[On a boy raised to be “weak”] He’s not going anywhere, and he’s not going to pursue your daughter, because he’s weak and scared and has no godly ambition. When he gets knocked down he’s not getting back up. He has no godly resilience.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a person of any gender having a naturally assertive or even dominant personality.  But the constant expectation that a “real” man always has to be “hard,” “strong,” or in control places an incredible burden on men in patriarchal communities, even those who naturally tend towards “traditional” expressions of masculinity.  There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that our cultural discomfort with men who express strong negative emotions besides anger and aggression, or express interest in “softer” or more creative pursuits, makes men more prone to serious depression and puts them under huge amounts of psychological and emotional stress.

Worse, Christian patriarchy indoctrinates men into being obsessed with having power, and to think of wielding power and authority over others as defining their maleness.  It teaches that males are in constant need of something or someone to dominate in order to be “real men.”  As a result, relationships between patriarchal men and anyone who is coded under patriarchy as being of inferior status are inherently imbalanced and dysfunctional.  While women and children are taught to be submissive, subservient, passive, and silent even in the face of suffering and abuse, men are taught that they must always be aggressors, always in charge, and never vulnerable.  This pushes an exaggerated and incredibly limited version of masculinity on men that makes it impossible for them to sustain healthy, functional relationships with women and children.  It pushes male assertiveness and dominance to the point where it becomes oppressive and often violent (psychologically, physically, sexually).  It fosters an environment where abusive men are protected and enabled while their victims are forced to keep silent.

These are some of the real, tangible ways in which patriarchal gender expectations harm men who conform to them.  In the next post I’ll talk about about how patriarchy marginalizes and oppresses people who don’t conform to these expectations.


John Piper: Wives should “endure” abuse “for a season”

*Warning* – people who have been abused may find this post triggering.

Let’s get this blog off the ground.

A while ago I came across a video of John Piper, a complementarian pastor and theologian, addressing the following question: “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?”

Here’s part of Piper’s response (italics are all his emphasis, bolded are mine):

Part of that answer’s clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here . . . .

If this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly – group sex, or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin.  Then the way she submits – and I really think this is possible, it’s kind of paradoxical [sic].  She’s not going to go there.  I’m saying no, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove [sic], even though the husband is asking her to do it.

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader.  I think God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that.  It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership.”  And so – then she would say – “But if you would ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t – I can’t go there.”

Now that’s one kind of situation.  Just a word on the other kind.  If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

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