Feminism

“Lies Women Believe” review: 167-192

I think it’s possible that we might be over the hump as far as how terrible the chapters can get. The only sections left for the Lies Women Believe review cover children, circumstances, emotions, and the concluding segment. The “Emotions” chapter might be a bit rough, but today’s, compared to last week’s chapter, is a cake walk. Of course, almost anything compared to a doctrine that could kill women seems like a breeze.

This week’s chapter covers what Nancy thinks about children, which means an extensive discussion on, you guessed it, family planning.

IT’S UP TO US TO DETERMINE THE SIZE OF OUR FAMILY

She roots her argument in setting up what I view as a false dichotomy: God is the “Creator, Author, and Giver of life” while Satan is “a destroyer of life” (169). According to her, this means that only people who agree with Satan (shiver) would ever consider not having as many children as God sees fit to give them.

I think there are two problems with this, and I’ll start with the most obvious: according to the typical evangelical position on the Bible, God is very much in the business of “destroying life.” He orders mass genocide and infanticide repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, and depending on which view Nancy takes of Revelation, the incomprehensible death toll represented in the Old Testament will be dwarfed by the End Times. There are plenty of defenses of this “genocidal, infanticidal, pestilential god” (as Richard Dawkins put it in The God Delusion), but regardless of how you go about justifying this, if you believe that God ordered those mass killings, you don’t really have a whole lot of room for this “God is about Life, Satan is about Death” argument.

The second problem is that deciding not to get pregnant in the first place isn’t a conversation about “destroying life.” It’s a leap to say “Satan wants to destroy life and therefore you should not practice any family planning!” Nancy’s not just talking about hormonal contraception, too, but any form of sterilization or NFP, so this isn’t about whether or not the Pill is an abortifacient (which it most definitely isn’t). She’s trying to get us to believe that preventing life and destroying life are the same thing, but fails.

~~~

She also tries to argue that “A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could become popular” (170). Factually, she’s just wrong. The abortion rate didn’t change significantly after Roe, and any change could be attributed to the reporting differences. What we do know for a fact is that even though reported abortions climbed after Roe, they have been steadily declining ever since.

Also, abortion is old. Like dawn-of-ancient-civilization old. From pennyroyal to quinine mercury to crocodile dung, people have been near desperate not to be pregnant for basically as long as we’ve been getting pregnant. We didn’t need to be “indoctrinated into family planning” to want abortion.

Two more problems with this, and then we’re done.

The process by which most people– even “believers” determine the size of their family is often driven by fear, selfishness, and natural, human reason :

  • How will we ever provide for more children? … What about college tuition?
  • I can’t physically handle more children. I’m exhausted trying to take care of the two I already have.

She lists others, but those two really shine a bright light on how out-of-touch Nancy is. Many people who are having abortions aren’t worried about college tuition, they’re worried about food. Babies are extremely expensive, and unless you’re also willing to subsidize childcare and massively expand WIC and SNAP, you need to sit down and shut up.

As for the second one, pregnancy is dangerous, especially in the US. Many women should not become pregnant because it could kill them; if it doesn’t kill them, it could radically and permanently affect their health. In my case, it is entirely possible that pregnancy could wreck my body pretty bad. With my fibromyalgia and endometriosis, keeping up with multiple children could be more than merely “exhausting”– it could be impossible.

Last problem: she quotes Paul from I Timothy, telling younger widows to “marry,” (171), but somehow oh-so-conveniently forgets I Corinthians 7:8, where Paul also says that young widows should “remain unmarried, as I am.”

CHILDREN NEED TO GET EXPOSED TO THE REAL WORLD

She uses the “greenhouse” argument in this section (175). If you’ve never heard it before, it’s basically saying that children are too delicate and exposing them to “the elements” of “The World” will destroy them. She uses her own life as an anecdotal proof: she was almost totally unaware of major world events and pop culture, and this is why she’s such a godly woman now. In her words:

I did know what few other young people knew. I knew the difference between right and wrong. (174)

Just … the sheer hubris of this is boggling. Also, the idea that children should grow up inside a “greenhouse” that locks out any possible negative influence is a driving force behind conservative religious homeschooling, and if Nancy can use her own life as a “proof” of just how wonderful this “greenhouse” is, I should be able to use my life as a “proof” of how disastrous it can turn out. I can point to my “sheltering” as one of the biggest reasons why I ended up in an abusive relationship and raped.

ALL CHILDREN GO THROUGH A REBELLIOUS STAGE

When I was a teenager, I was solidly convinced that a “rebellious stage” was completely unnecessary, and my lack of experience with one made me better than other teenagers. I knew my place. I knew to respect my elders. I knew that “throwing a tantrum” (read: expressing a healthy emotion, like disappointment or anger) was completely and utterly uncalled for.

I never had a teenage rebellious stage, but what happened instead was I directed all the pent-up frustration, anger, rage, disappointment, fury, sadness, and melancholy inward, and it became an extremely toxic bath that I stewed in for over a decade. Being cut off from the experience of a “teenage rebellion” ensured that I wouldn’t have a healthy way to handle, express, and process strong emotions– and after watching many of my adult friends who grew up like I did try to figure this out, I’m confident asserting that nothing good comes of this anti-teenage-rebellion attitude.

The second disagreement I have with Nancy about this is that while experimenting with drugs and related paraphernalia isn’t a necessary component of growing up in America, individuation absolutely is. One day we realize that we are not our parents, and that’s actually a good thing. I was able to assert my own identity as separate from my parents when I started graduate school, and it was rough having to go through that process so late, as a living-by-myself adult.

MY CHILD IS A CHRISTIAN BECAUSE HE ACCEPTED CHRIST AT AN EARLY AGE

While Nancy is right about one thing– just because one “prays the sinner’s prayer” at four, five, six years old doesn’t necessarily mean anything. As a universalist, obviously I put a lot more stock into “actually bothers to act like Jesus” as my definition for Christian, but I watched other children growing up pray the sinner’s prayer half a dozen times over the course of their childhoods, so it seems obvious that the “sinner’s prayer” when you’re really young doesn’t mean as much as staying committed to the religion as you age.

However, Nancy goes on to give women a meter for determining whether or not their child actually is a Christian, and it bothers me because it’s based on an extremely narrow interpretation of Scripture. She uses various selections from I John, and includes things like “this is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

In a way, I agree with this: if “Christian” means to “be like Christ,” than being like Christ is sort of, I dunno, important. I do my best every day to live as Jesus did– to embrace the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, to take care of those in need, to live a radical life committed to equality and love. I try not to “love the world”– to accept oppressive power structures, to ignore systemic and institutionalized racism and classism, to live by the motto that “greed is good,” to base my definition of success on power and wealth.

Pretty sure that’s not at all what Nancy thinks, though, not with all her bits about how “homosexuality is an example of a life-destroying practice” (169).

Nancy does what basically every other conservative evangelical does: she take her interpretation of certain passages and holds them up as things every “believer” agrees with, and that not agreeing with her interpretation means that one doesn’t have the “necessary fruit.” It’s a convenient way to dismiss anyone who doesn’t think exactly the way you do.

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  • Beroli

    fear, selfishness, and natural, human reason

    I…is she implying that “natural” and “human” are bad qualities and reason is just as bad as fear or selfishness, or is this presented as a contrast? The sentence organization seems to imply that she’s saying all the reasons she lists are equally and obviously bad.

    • Kennedy

      I think that’s the goal. She sees being human as inherently wrong and sinful, as ungodly and imperfect, so yes. Just as bad as fear and selfishness.

      • Beroli

        I get that that’s what she believes; I’m just boggled that she’d be either sufficiently impolitic or sufficiently confident of her audience sharing her exact and extreme values that she’d be that blunt about a bedrock principle being that everyone should behave unnatural and inhuman. Especially in the same section where she argues that going against her (by her own word, apparently, unnatural and inhuman!) values requires indoctrination.

        • Nancy prides herself on being “un-PC” and “blunt” and all the rest. She’s basically the Christian and female version of Trump.

          And people are just so SHOCKED that Trump is popular with conservatives. /eyeroll

        • Kennedy

          I don’t think she’s at all convinced that they share her exact values, but I think she’s definitely convinced that they should. This makes me think of all the women who post reviews of her books talk about feeling “convicted” and “uncomfortable”. They probably wouldn’t agree with her, if they had any lens other than a conservative Christian one to view her points through. Samantha has talked about this before, but they are anti-flesh and believe every person is inherently bad. So it follows that if you are natural, human, normal, you are also sinful and obviously sin is wrong.

          Nancy is convinced that she is entirely in the right, and is trying to reach out to her weaker sisters in Christ. She certainly thinks she is helping instruct them and lead them in the right direction. I imagine she expects them to feel uncomfortable, not because she’s ridiculously wrong (although she is), but because her spirit-led-truth is so convicting. So she doesn’t see that discomfort as bad or wrong, and if someone claims that her ideas are ridiculous and harmful, she can comfort herself knowing we are just misguided and sin-filled.

          As far as the issue of indoctrination, I imagine there she’s referring to feminism, which is obviously the devil’s spawn.

  • Catnip

    I know I can’t handle having more kids. I have a plethora of health problems (physically, they include arthritis, fibromyalgia, and a genetic condition that makes my joints extremely easy to dislocate; mentally, depression and ADHD and anxiety, at the very least) and I have trouble keeping up with the two I have. (Ok, to be fair, I have trouble keeping up with my youngest; my older son is very laid-back.)

    And that’s why I have a copper IUD. So I don’t have to worry about trying to figure out how to deal with a situation where I become pregnant. People who oppose abortion really should be in favor of birth control… but then women wouldn’t be punished for having sex that other people don’t approve of, so obviously that’s not a solution.

  • notleia

    Sometimes I wonder if my parents had more children than they really had the resources for, financial or emotional, because a great deal of my childhood felt neglected. Some of it for me was middle-child syndrome, but my parents gave the impression of almost resenting any effort they had to put out for us that wasn’t school or church related. They taught me to pretty much never bring up medical problems that didn’t need emergency care. My symptoms of severe anxiety about junior high? Ignored. The weird, pretty much constant menstruation that caused a lot of that? Just wait it out, it’ll stop (it only stopped several months later when they finally took me to the doctor and got me on the Pill).

    I still have FEELINGS about that.

  • I’d like to think I’m doing my future offspring a favor by not having them – so they don’t end up inheriting my fucked up cancer and mental illness genes. I might end up with a kid just like me :/

  • Anna

    I get really frustrated with the attitude of privileging not yet conceived children over the health and welfare of the person and/or family that already exists.

  • Jackalope

    Also, let’s not forget that it used to be that having lots of children was needed or helpful; they were a lot of work when they were tiny, but then they were your workforce when they got older. Now that we’re no longer living in a primarily agrarian society with a lot of physical labor that requires many hands, and instead we live in a place where having a lot of children may mean financial hardship for EVERYONE in the family, having a smaller family size is important for many people. Not that I don’t know people who have big families and for whom that is very important (and I support them wholeheartedly), but complaining about limiting the number of children seems… counter-productive.

  • Sheila Warner

    Individuation.. That’s what the Fundamentalist family and church in which I was reared feared most. As my parents watched what they perceived as a precipitous decline in culture, they pulled my two youngest siblings out of public schooling and put them into a like-minded “Christian” school. Keeping children in line with the tenets of the faith included “spanking” (beating) by adult staffers. Both of my siblings ended up with severe emotional issues. Even though I never went to a “Christian” school, I suffered from bipolar disease which was never diagnosed or treated. At age 60, my own mental health is so fragile that I cannot work. Fear is what kept me in the fold for many years. Fear is what drove us. And, long-term fear has left its indelible mark on me and my five siblings. Toxic is an understatement.

  • Ysolde

    Also a convenient way to sweep aside the injustices done in the past even as injustices are being done in the present.