Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"It Is THEOLOGY That Makes the Church an Unsafe Place for Survivors & a Haven for Abusers": #ChurchToo Discusses Theological Underpinnings of Churches' Defense of Sexual Predators

In a world where female submission is valued and too much independence is a negative, it's only a hop, skip and a jump to concluding that teen girls and young women who haven’t had a taste of independence are an even better option. 
That's the logic behind "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's argument for child marriage, and it's what pastor and home-school leader Kevin Swanson stated explicitly in his defense of Robertson. 
In a 2014 "Generations With Vision" broadcast, Swanson (as transcribed by Homeschoolers Anonymous) stated, "Hey, these 15 year old girls, 16 year old girls, they may be ready to get married. They don’t have to live these, you know, independent lifestyles." 
As much as some would like to characterize Swanson as a fringe figure, World magazine accepts his advertisements, and his “Freedom 2015” National Religious Liberties Conference counted Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee among its speakers. 
While it is unlikely that men like Huckabee, Jindal and Cruz would defend early courtship and child marriage themselves (although Huckabee did come to Josh Duggar's defense when the story of Duggar molesting his younger sisters came to light), as long as powerful politicians continue to associate with young courtship and child marriage advocates like Swanson, it helps normalize and mainstream those advocates. 
Mike Huckabee, incidentally, is also closely associated with now-disgraced alleged sexual predator Bill Gothard and Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles. 
Gothard, who himself promoted courtship through IBLP and IBLP’s home-school arm, Advanced Training Institute, is currently facing lawsuits after multiple women came forward through the website Recovering Grace to allege a pattern of grooming and sexual abuse by Gothard while they were in their teens. They also alleged mishandling of abuse cases by IBLP leadership. As of this writing, Huckabee's endorsement of IBLP’s prison ministry remains on IBLP’s website.

The problem isn't just that the women of the Bible are largely presented as temptresses, whores, and chattel; it is that they are also depicted as liars. The Biblical seductress Delilah embodies this understanding of women when she leads astray and emasculates the heroic Samson. Delilah is both a whore, as she is paid by the Philistines to discover the secret of Samson’s power, and a liar, as she pretends to care for Samson in order to extract his secret and render him impotent. The upshot of the story, which is entrenched in ancient near eastern mythology in general, in that beautiful women cannot be believed, especially when it comes to the bedroom. . . . 
Modern religious communities that cherry pick scriptures that support existing systems of power bring the dark chauvinism of the ancient world into the present. In a world in which the party injured by rape is the father of the girl involved, can the voice of the victim ever truly be heard and believed?

We need to be unafraid to tie sexual harassment to other forms of violence against women—to see the connections between harassment and the pay gap, the lack of good child care, and the persistence of the second shift. We need to recognize how sexual harassment and racial injustice exist in symbiosis, and to think about how workers' tenuous position at this particular moment in the history of capitalism has enabled sexual harassment to thrive. What we need right now to go along with our '70s-style radical rage (as Rebecca Traister recently dubbed it) is some '70s-style feminist social analysis. 

It's certainly true that many religious communities' insularity, combined with their frequent focus on women’s sexual purity, renders these spaces as particularly fertile ground for sexual harassment or abuse. 
#ChurchToo isn't the first coordinated social media effort to openly critique sexism and other forms of oppression within Christian communities specifically. Earlier hashtags this year, including #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear and Christopher Stroop's #EmptythePews have gone viral, largely but not exclusively among evangelicals.

By a margin of 63 percent to 28 percent, Republicans say Trump should not be impeached even if we know for a fact that he sexually harassed women.

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