If you’re not familiar with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, one of the most common criticisms I’ve seen of her work is that she is umarried, although she is getting married in November this year. Since she’s spent so many years giving people advice on their marriages (sixty pages of Lies Women Believe are dedicated to it), it does seem relevant to point out that she’s talking about something she’s never experienced.
In a different way, Nancy also feels that her not-being-married situation is relevant. On her “Acknowledgements” page, she says this:
Dr. Bruce Ware — your love for the Truth is infectious. I am grateful for the spiritual covering and protection the Lord provided through your careful, theological review and your enormously helpful input. (11)
Women in Nancy’s position use the term “spiritual covering” as a superficial rationalization of what they do for a living. As a well-known speaker, Nancy inhabits a complicated space where other complementarians want famous women to come to their platforms and pulpits, but don’t want to admit that there’s a flaw in their ecclesiology. The “solution” is to say that women like Nancy aren’t technically “usurping a man’s authority” because they have the spiritual covering of a man. It’s interesting to me that she felt the need for this even though the book is addressed to women– usually complementarians don’t have a problem with this as long as the intended audience is women.
Moving on to the foreword, which was written by Elisabeth Elliot. Obviously I’m not a fan of Elisabeth’s– Passion and Purity is awful, and she’s known for saying shit like “women should be grateful that God made them doormats for men.” That’s a paraphrase, but grateful and doormat were the words she used. So it was unsurprising that this was the first paragraph:
Nancy … has had the courage to plumb the depths of women’s illusions and delusions, of their hopes, fears, failures, and sorrows, so much of which might have been avoided were it not for lies propagated thirty or more years ago– such as “You can have it all,” “Don’t get caught in the compassion trap,” “Anything men can do we can do better,” etc. (13)
Huh. I wonder what could possibly have happened thirty years before 2001? Elisabeth seems unconcerned with facts, since “having it all” didn’t appear in the American vernacular until the 80s and comes with the baggage of Reaganomics and a reductionist and invalid criticism of second-wave feminism; I couldn’t find “compassion trap” in that order anywhere except in this book; and “anything men can do we can do better” is a reference to an Irving Berlin song from Annie Get your Gun, a musical written in 1946.
Yeah, those are all totally lies propagated by second-wave feminists in the 70s. Sure. This passage is important because it highlights what is going to be one of Nancy’s obsessions: how women have been damaged and dragged into “bondage” and “soul-sickness” by feminism (16). I’ve written on how she connects feminism with “soul sickness” before. She goes one step further in this book, accusing “feminist” lies of being the spawn of Satan (accompanied by the typical “Angel of Light” spiel, 19).
But, moving on to her Introduction. She spends some time regurgitating typical evangelical constructs about Eve (she’s ultimately to blame, and Adam went along with it to appease her), but it doesn’t take her long to jump straight into victim-blaming territory:
Many are in bondage to their past. Whether the result of their own failures or the failures of others, their pasts hang like huge weights around their necks. (17)
Most likely, you know other women who are living in bondage, though they claim to have a relationship with Christ. (18)
Bondage is another loaded term that many Christians use; it takes up a similar place as other words like bitterness and unforgiveness. Nancy doesn’t need to define it here, because when she says “bondage” her readers are picturing what she wants: a person who’s still affected by their past in a “negative” way. That I’m still affected by past trauma– that I still have triggers and panic attacks — means that I’m in “bondage.” According to her, that means I’m only claming to have a relationship with Christ. Considering most conservative Christians use “relationship with Christ” as synonymous with “salvation,” Nancy is calling my salvation into question.
I also really hate this equivocation between “our own failures and the failures of others,” especially in the context of “bondage” (which, honestly, is frequently use as a fill-in for rape trauma).
I tried to talk to my last pastor about his tendency to do this, because it is not at all ok to place “abuse victim” and “abuser” in the same sentence like this. That I and my partner were repeatedly ignored (or outright dismissed because “real attenders would understand what he was trying to say” even though my partner had been attending and serving on the sound team for two fucking years … digression) is one of the most significant reasons why I no longer attend his church. Connecting these two and then assigning blame to the victim for “carrying the huge weights” for their abuse is extremely unhelpful and damaging.
But oh, it gets worse:
I witnessed the power of Truth in another situation as I talked to a woman who had become emotionally involved with one of the pastors of her church. When I became aware of the situation, I called her at work because I did not know how much her husband knew. Since she was a receptionist for her company, I knew we might not have long to talk. After telling her who I was, I got right to the point ….
“I have to tell you that you are in a burning house, you are in grave danger. Because this is a desperate situation, I’m not going to worry about what you think of me or about hurting your feelings.” (22)
She called a complete stranger at work and had the gall to say “I don’t care about hurting your feelings.” It’s mind-boggling how she seems so utterly unaware of how inappropriate that is. But, I guess I shouldn’t expect anything different, since it’s a common relationship approach with Christians. It’s also reflective of Nancy’s beliefs:
Some of what I have to say will ruffle feathers. I have made not attempt to be “politically correct” or to merely write some nice thoughts that everyone will agree with. It is my belief that only radical surgery … will get to the root of our diseased hearts and make us whole. Sometimes the Truth hurts; it is rarely popular. But I would not be loving or kind if I failed to share with you the Truth that can set you free. (20)
Aside from the problems with equating actual love and I Need to Tell you Why I’m Right, what she’s done here is interesting in light of the reaction so many people had to her book. In the reviews I read, many people associated how bludgeon-y her writing is and how right she is. Apparently, this is an idea she gave them.
Aish. This does not bode well for the rest of this review.