Browsing Tag

abuse

Feminism

why aren’t Christians outraged by sexual abuse?

Because I wrote an article for Relevant a while ago (“What Christians Get Wrong about Sexual Abuse“), every so often I get e-mails from their editors asking for pitches on specific topics. This week, they asked for an article titled “Why Aren’t More Christians Outraged by Sexual Harassment Scandals?”, referencing the recent firing of Bill O’Reilly for sexually harassing women at Fox News. I pitched them something, and they published it yesterday.

You can read the whole thing here. I’m a little annoyed at Relevant‘s habit of sanitizing my writing. They removed me quoting Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” line, as well as the word rapacious and various other things. But … considering my first draft included the line “women are just supposed to be animated sex dolls that occasionally do the dishes” (which I cut in later drafts, upon reflection) I may be just a little out of touch with what an evangelical audience can tolerate. Possibly. Have I mentioned lately how much I love you all for reading me even when I’m horrifyingly honest?

The comments so far have been, ehm, interesting. There’s lots of lovely people saying surprisingly lovely things, and a few people who are … goddess bless them they’re just so clueless.

The semester is really close to wrapping up– my last item is due May 5, and then I have the summer off. Sticky notes for post ideas are piling up on my desk, and I’m excited to get back to that. For now, I’m going to enjoy a lone day off and play some Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.

Feminism

Redeeming Love Review: Non-consensual Marriage

Plot summary:

  • Michael gives in to “God,” goes back to Pair-a-Dice for Angel.
  • He discovers that she’s been beaten.
  • Marries her while she’s nearly unconscious and delirious.
  • Then he takes her back to the farm, where she recuperates.
  • Angel tries to learn how to cook and lay a fire, but fails.
  • She tries to seduce him, but he refuses.

***

I’m going to skip most of chapter six, which is mostly just Francine getting Michael back to Pair-a-Dice and the Palace to “get” Angel, where he finds her beaten and nearly unconscious. This firms up his belief that he’s been ordered by God to take her away, but he decides they have to get married before they leave town.

Right now I’m wondering why on earth Francine thinks they have to get married right then. The next few chapters reveals that he’s not intending to have sex with her until she’s not doing it as a “chore,” so there’s no motivation to marry her for that reason. Everyone knows she’s a prostitute, so it’s not to “protect her reputation” (like what frequently happens in other Christian romance novels). So why marry her right this instant, when it’s absolutely clear that she’s in no state to consent to being married and he knows that she wants nothing to do with him?

I don’t want to be so cynical to assume that Francine has these two get married at this point so that Angel is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t want, but there’s no other narrative reason I can see that makes sense. It’s possible she has them get married so that she doesn’t offend the delicate sensibilities of the modern conservative evangelical reader, but as far as story telling goes this is pretty horrible. It’s especially horrible considering the fact that laws of coverture where still in place. By marrying her, knowing that if she knew what was going on she never would have even said “why not?” (note there: she doesn’t say “yes,” and Michael is such an abominable monster where that is good enough for him), he now actually, literally, legally owns a woman he knows doesn’t want to be married to him.

And that’s how this whole situation starts.

There’s one significant issue being woven into these chapters that needs to be highlighted. At several points, Francine gives us something like this:

Angel couldn’t tell whether her sarcasm had gotten to him or not. It occurred to her belatedly that she might anger him and this wasn’t the best time to do so. She swallowed more soup and tried not to show her fear. (105)

and this:

What did he want from her? And why did she sense he was more dangerous than all the other men she had ever known? (110)

Angel’s backstory has made it clear that she’s experienced a lifetime of abuse, and people like me see Angel’s reactions to Michael’s every facial expression and vocal tone as hypervigilance, but frustratingly that’s not an interpretation we can take for granted in Redeeming Love. People like Francine aren’t entirely ignorant about what some of the consequences of abuse might be, it’s just that they look at something like hypervigilance and see bitterness instead. In this story, the reader “understands” that Michael is nothing like the abusive men Angel’s experienced. We’re supposed to take him at his word when he says he’ll never hurt her, that he loves her. Instead, we’re supposed to look at Angel’s mental commentary as a sign that she is bitter, and her own understanding of the situation isn’t to be trusted. She’s over-reacting.

The reality is that the opposite of this is true. In my experience, many Christians, especially those who ascribe to “nouthetic” or “biblical” counseling, take Francine’s point of view: trauma can result in bitterness, and that bitterness can poison a victim’s entire way of thinking … but they couldn’t be more wrong. In reality, victims are usually more capable of spotting abuse than people who haven’t been traumatized. Couple this over-writing of how victimhood is typically experienced with the fact that this section is called “Defiant” and she starts these chapters with quotations like “I am dying of thirst by the side of a fountain,” it’s clear that the reader is supposed to see Angel as stubborn, bitter, and inherently untrustworthy as a narrator.

What makes it worse is that Michael is doing things that are abusive.

“By the way. My name isn’t Mara. It’s Angel. …”
“The name Mara comes from the Bible,” he said, “It’s in the book of Ruth.”
“And being a Bible-reading man, you figure Angel is too good a name for me.”
“Good’s got nothing to do with it. Angel isn’t your real name.”
“Angel is who I am.”
His face hardened. “Angel was a prostitute in Pair-a-Dice, and she doesn’t exist anymore.” (105)

One of the first things an abuser has to do is erase their victim’s innate sense of personhood and their right to their own sense of self. They intentionally strip their victim of their own identity, and replace it with what they want their victim to be.

Then this happens:

“Look,” she said tightly, “I want to start getting up and about on my own. With something on.”
“I’ll provide what you need when you need it.”
“I need it now.” (113)

He does give her clothes to wear in this scene, but it’s brutally clear that he did it because he decided she needed them, not because she said she needed them. Another thing abusers have to do is make sure their victims are dependent on them. Sometimes this takes the form of financial abuse, sometimes they make their victims feel that they’re incapable and incompetent, but it’s all about making sure they can’t leave you. This particular scene is troubling because it’s one of the ones that connects Michael’s character to God’s: a common Christian concept is that God provides us exactly what we need when They decide we need it, and not a second earlier.

Oh, and then this:

Michael studied her with patience. She was small and weak but possesed and iron will. It shone from her defiant blue eyes and the rigid way she was holding herself. She thought she had enough to overcome him. She was wrong. He was doing God’s will, and he had plans of his own, plans that kept growing, but he had said all he was going to say for a while. Let her think on it.

“You’re right,” he said. “I don’t own you, but you’re not running away from this.”

He’s saying he doesn’t own her, but he does feel entitled to her. He explains his “plans” in a bit– additions to the house, watching their children grow up– but at this moment there’s something missing from his statement: she’s not running away because he won’t let her. If you’ve read Redeeming Love before, you know that the implied threat there is ultimately carried out.

This is what makes me say that Michael is an abuser: his overwhelming sense of entitlement. That is the single biggest problem that all abusers share. Universally, abusers feel entitled to their victim. They believe that they have the absolute right to marry a woman who’s been beaten into delirium and rename her and threaten her and tell her she’s going to have his kids while she is vocally objecting the entire time. Can you even picture a man who you barely know sitting across from you on a coffee date telling you that you’re going to marry him and have his children and oh, by the way, you keep saying you want to leave but I’m not going to let you?

The fact that Francine and a vast majority of the people who read Redeeming Love think that Michael is an excellent stand-in for God is detestable and horrifying.

Feminism

what hast thou wrought: Christians and Trump

I’ve read a lot of articles about Donald Trump. If you look at my last “stuff I’ve been into” post, there’s about a half-dozen articles on him that represents the best-of-the-best of my reading on the subject. I’ve got a lot of angry-and/or-panicking friends on social media, so I’m inundated with quite a bit of material that represent a gamut of positions. My friends range from hard right, center-right, center-left, and hard-hard-hard-hard-left, and one of the biggest conversation topics shared among all these groups is this question:

How can Christians be voting for him?

I’ve already explained why I think Christians shouldn’t be voting for Trump, but now I’d like to take a stab at why Christians– namely white evangelicals– are supporting him in even greater numbers than they supported Romney. There’s been multitudes of ink spilled attempting to answer this, and the obvious answer is white supremacy. Evangelicals exist as a voting bloc because of racism. Trump with all of his flagrant racism is calling to one of the most basic motivations of the evangelical movement, and we ignore this to our detriment. Another obvious answer is misogyny. He embodies everything wrong with masculinity in American culture– braggadocio, chauvinism, narcissism, anger, insecurity– but it’s appealing to those among us who see powerful women and feminism as an innate threat to their manhood or their sense of social order.

The internet is filled to the brim with articles covering all those reasons, as well as plenty of articles pointing out all the ways that Trump’s actions, history, and proposed policies are antithetical to everything Christians have been saying they expect in a presidential candidate for decades. Like having family values. Or being a Christian. So, a lot of my friends are confused: how is this possible? On top of the fore-mentioned white supremacy and misogyny that are integral to evangelical culture, I’d like to highlight two more elements that make supporting Trump a foregone conclusion for so many evangelicals.

Abortion

Yes, this is also obvious. Wayne Grudem even included Trump’s supposed pro-life platform as a part of his argument for why Trump is a “morally good choice.” What’s been confusing to many of my friends is that Trump’s “pro-life” position is recent and possibly a lie, so how can evangelicals be staking an election on something they can’t possibly be sure of?

The answer is simple: Hillary Clinton is pro-choice, and will appoint pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court. Trump, while perhaps not personally pro-life, will most likely appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.

They have to take that chance. They have to because being anti-abortion is all they’ve got. Modern evangelicals and other conservative Christians aren’t, by and large, holistically pro-life in the sense that they consider human life sacred and inestimably valuable. They’re pro-war, pro-death penalty, anti-healthcare, against policies that could end starvation and hunger, anti-gun control, and many even believe that parents should have the right to murder their children once they’re not, y’know, fetuses. They’re not pro-life in any meaningful way, but they are anti-abortion and pro-birth, and holding onto that position makes them incredibly powerful.

With their stance of being a single-issue voter in their back pocket, they control elections. They get to say who stays and who goes, who gets power and who doesn’t, all through this one platform: overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s the Southern Strategy reborn, and there’s no way in hell that they’re going to let go of this, no matter how deep into the muck and slime and mire they have to go to justify it. They’ve staked their soul on this ground. This is the line in the sand they’ve drawn.

Granted, there are plenty of anti-abortion Christians who aren’t being cynical and hypocritical about this. Their theological system simply cannot let them back down from this political position, because if they were to accept the concept that private faith and public life aren’t necessarily eternally bonded concepts, a lot of other things start unraveling. Or, if they were to shift their thinking about abortion from a biblical perspective, the whole house of cards might come crashing down. They can’t afford to question this, because questioning their stance on abortion means questioning everything. It means reassessing their identity, their character, their morality. It means re-examining almost everything they’ve ever done and said to women, to children, to their LGBT brothers and sisters … to orphans and widows and prisoners.

I’ve done it. It’s painful. Too painful, possibly, for many.

Redemption

The one element that I haven’t seen anyone talking about is the redemption narrative intrinsic to the evangelical faith system. To many of my friends and colleagues, it’s inconceivable that Christians could look at Trump– a man who sexually abused his wife, who raped a child, who harasses women with impunity, who sent Hillary Clinton a death threat— and think yes, this man represents my Christian values. How could James Dobson say he’s “tender to things of the spirit” or Jerry Falwell claim that he “lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment,” much less do so with a straight face? This man is an abominable monster, and yet Christians are flocking to him. How can this be?

The answer is in two parts. First, “Creation, Fall, Redemption” is essential to understanding the evangelical viewpoint. Mankind fell into sin in the Garden, but Jesus promises us redemption and ultimately resurrection. To them, this narrative is woven into Scripture from beginning to end, and our lives reflect this pattern, this Truth about reality. We are born Fallen but can be Redeemed no matter what, no matter when.

Trump can’t be excepted from this narrative. He’s a fallen sinner, just like the rest of us, and God can redeem him, too. The fact that he’s converting to conservative Christian-style politics is a checkmark in his favor– in a culture where religion and nationalism are horribly mixed, Trump’s promises for “Christians to be powerful again” ring true in their ears. In this only-Republicans-are-really-Christians climate, it’s the only “spiritual fruit” they need. To those who believe that We Are a Christian Nation, Trump’s “Make American Great Again” speaks to their dominionist, theocratic vision for their country.

Secondly… I’m surprised that anyone is surprised.

Yes, Trump is a child rapist. Yes, Trump abused his wife, making her feel “violated.” Yes, Trump has harassed and attacked multiple women. Yes, yes, yes. But if you look around Christian culture, it’s populated by people exactly like him.

Joshua Duggar attacks his sisters and girls from his church, and it’s written off as “normal.” Bill Gothard sexually abuses teenage girls for decades and he’s still the head of a thriving ministry. Pope Francis has participated in a horrific and disgusting cover-up of child sexual abuse, and he even lands a cover on the AdvocatePastors, youth pastors, evangelists, missionaries, priests– they can rape women, men, children, and it doesn’t matter. They’re protected, even given positions of power. They can rape children, be convicted and sent to prison, and still get to write feature articles for Christian leadership magazines. Their churches and missionary boards will cover it up and shelter them.

Christian culture is a haven for abusers.

It’s a shelter for rapists and molesters because of the redemption narrative they cling to. If a rapist or abuser says “I’m sorry, I’ve repented,” anyone who questions that is harshly censored. If a woman wants to divorce her husband because he enjoyed watching people rape children, she’s censored by her church and shunned. Or if your husband “repents” of sexually abusing a child for years, you’ll be the one seen as “breaking your marriage vows” if you decide to leave him. Even if he’s abusing you, according to John Piper you’re just supposed to stick it out. After all, if you listen to Debi Pearl, maybe if he beats you long enough you’ll bring him to a saving knowledge of Christ. Or, maybe Debi Pearl’s too extreme for you– how about Lori Wick, one of the most popular Christian fiction authors?

This is why Trump is succeeding so well among evangelical voters. He’s an abuser, but now he’s converted to their nationalistic, dominionist, theocratic, white supremacist and misogynistic faith, and through that has been Redeemed.

He fits right in.

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Feminism

a new normal: the aftermath of recovery

[content note: trauma, recovery, PTSD]

I’m almost twenty-nine years old. For fourteen years, around half my life, I experienced abuse in various ways. I was physically abused as a child and teenager. I spent my teen years in a spiritually abusive church where I was emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused by almost every significant adult in my life. I was sexually assaulted twice as a teenager. As an adult I was in an abusive intimate relationship– the emotional and verbal abuse was intensified, and sexual assault and rape became the backdrop to my life. I went to a fundamentalist Christian “college,” where the spiritual abuse continued.

I didn’t escape abusive environments or relationships until I was twenty-three. I’ve been out for almost six years, but didn’t really start attempting to work through everything until four years ago, and I didn’t start making any real progress until two years ago. The healing process is slow, and sometimes excruciating. One of the counselors I went to a few times– the one who told me I was a “poisoned well” and I shouldn’t consider dating Handsome— said that healing would be like “unkinking a hose,” and a more understated metaphor I’ve yet to find.

Over the past few years, I’ve met a lot of people with stories like mine. For many of my friends, peers, and colleagues, we spend a lot of time looking for help, looking for things to help our lives make sense. In that search, I’ve frequently bumped into books, lectures, seminars, tapes, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc, that all talk about healing from abuse and trauma. The problem I’ve encountered is that many of those things aren’t honest about what this process looks like.

They’re not deceptive, by and large, but they do tend to leave one with the impression that healing is a gradual slope upward, and that it leads to peace and recovery. They paint a hopeful picture filled with grace, compassion, and love– and to be perfectly honest, I think those sorts of resources are needful.

But, when I’m looking in the eyes of one of my dearest friends who feels utterly lost and confused because “hasn’t it been long enough? Shouldn’t I be better than this?”– or other women who are beating themselves up one side and down the other because they “don’t want to be a victim,” and they want to “move on” … I have to look at them and say that

I don’t think better looks like other people’s “normal.” I don’t think you can move on.

Better looks like me cleaning out my bathtub. A fleck of mold got on my hand, and I started screaming. Handsome came into the bathroom to find me curled up in the fetal position with my hand stretched out as far away as I could get it. He carried me out of the bathroom and washed my hand for me in our kitchen sink while I sobbed, then tucked me into bed and cuddled with me for an hour before I could even talk.

Better looks like me washing my hair before every road trip and packing dry shampoo. It looks like me standing in the shower at a hotel, shaking and trying not to scream when the shower curtain touches me, while Handsome washes my body and I keep my eyes screwed tight trying to pretend that we’re at home.

Better looks like Handsome and I getting ready for bed, and he takes off his belt and folds it in half to he can hang it up– and I jump away from him and cringe. I don’t know what, but something about his hand movements has my body convinced that I’m about to be hit. He’s never even remotely done anything that could make me think he’d ever hurt me– not with his words, not with his hands. But it doesn’t matter. I jump away from belts.

Better looks like me turning off the subwoofer during Jurassic World because the throbbing bass makes my chest hurt and my anxiety spike.

Better looks like me searching all over my house desperately searching for my cat during my Fourth of July barbecue because as much as I know that she’s afraid of the outdoors and wouldn’t have run away while the door was open, I also know that I won’t be able to convince JerkBrain that she’s ok and still home until I see her for myself.

Better looks like reminding myself to eat even when I’m sick, even when I feel like I don’t deserve to eat. It looks like me playing Farm Heroes Super Saga while I chew and swallow the meatloaf for dinner last night while I try not to think about what I’m doing– hoping I’ll manage to clean my plate this time. It looks like taking small portions when I’m out with family so they won’t ask questions.

Better looks like a nightstand crowded with meds that I take, every day, even though every time I swallow the miracle that makes my days survivable a sliver of myself whispers that if I were a better, more consistent, more hardworking person, I wouldn’t really need them.

Better looks like getting toward the end of the day and telling Handsome “I can’t make any more decisions.” I can’t decide what I want to do, what show I want to watch, what game I want to play, what book I want to read, what snack I want to eat, what blanket I want to cover my legs … so he makes all those choices for me because he cares about me.

Better looks like being thankful for flexeril because I don’t seem to have night terrors anymore, at least not that I can remember. I can’t remember nightmares, and I’ve never been so thankful that I don’t have to relive my rapes once or twice a week any longer.

Better looks like fighting with JerkBrain every workshift because I know that my body needs me to be gentle with it, that working my fingers to the bone does not determine my value and worth as a person. It looks like reminding myself that my employer finds my contributions substantive meaningful, even though I have fibromyalgia.

Better looks like nearly jumping out of my skin every time I see someone who looks my rapist at an airport or national monument because as much as I know that the chances are vanishingly small that I’d actually bump into him anywhere, I can’t shake the idea that maybe just maybe he decided to fly somewhere at Christmas that would take him through that airport.

***

I’ve been afraid to paint this particular portrait of my life because I don’t want to be discouraging. What suffering person wants to be told some of this might be forever? I know all those studies that talk about the long-term consequences of child abuse aren’t exactly uplifting. My brain is fundamentally different because of the beatings I’ve received, because of the times he raped me, because of the hellfire sermons I had imprinted into my bones. I have PTSD, I’m an abuse and rape victim, and those realities aren’t ever going away.

This does look better though. It does. Not better looks like me drinking myself into numbness for three days straight and blaring rock music so loud I couldn’t hear myself think. Not better looks like a panic attack making me vomit in a school hallway. Not better looks like not being able to have sex with my partner. Not better looks like waking up screaming.

I am getting better. I’m not the somewhat-terrifying ball of rage I was a few years ago. Some wounds don’t bleed anymore, some scars have faded. I’m genuinely happier, more content, more at peace. But a large part of why my life is so blissful– and I do often think of it that way– is due to the accommodations I’ve made. I take medications. I play smartphone games to distract me from my anxiety and pain. I spent a ridiculous sum of money on my cat, who we nicknamed “Anxiety Sponge” because holding her makes something in my chest unlock. I walk away from my computer and my phone on the weekends and read fantasy books voraciously.

Healing, in many ways, looks like learning to cope. It means finding crutches and using them. I’ve learned, slowly and painfully, that I can’t meet an impossible standard. I’m never going to be like someone who wasn’t abused for fourteen years.

We got a little beat up by people, by life. If there’s one thing I want every survivor to know, it’s that your hurts are real, and they deserve to be treated. Maybe that means surgery, or walking with a cane, or cortisone injections, or whatever you find that works. Find what works and do it. Maybe, like me, it means smartphone games, taking Xanax with you everywhere, and packing dry shampoo so you don’t have to wash your hair in a strange place.

Whatever it is, it’s ok.

Photo by Mitya Ku
Theology

sinful hearts: the consequences of Inherited Sin

One of these days, as I keep promising, I’m going to write an in-depth article on why I’m against the concepts of Inherited and Original Sin, but today I have a migraine that I can’t shake so for now I’m just going to make an observation.

There are many good conversations out there talking about the negative consequences of teaching people that their innermost selves, that the core of who they are, is absolutely corrupt and wicked. I’ve talked about one here– that telling me that I cannot allow myself to trust my instincts caused emotional harm. When you’re utterly convinced that everyone else’s opinion of you automatically carries more weight than what you think about yourself … you’re going to be particularly vulnerable to emotional abuse and bullying.

On top of that, teaching your children to believe that they are horrible, disgusting, repulsive monsters is an inherently abusive thing to do to them. If your theology even remotely resembles the tactics that nearly every abuser relies upon, you need to evaluate your beliefs. My friend R.L. Stollar has an excellent long-form article on this subject, and even though it might take you a while to plow through it, you should. While Stollar is dealing with the way Inherited Sin appears in the fundamentalist homeschooling subculture, the same basic idea– although not taken to the same extreme– is present in the rest of Christian culture and the bulk of Christian tradition, fundamentalist or not.

I don’t need much else to convince me that teaching Inherited Sin is a woefully bad idea, but this morning I saw this come through my private facebook feed:

The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they are when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake.

Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.

I won’t deny that love is hard sometimes. Forgiveness can be difficult. Relationships can be trying. Occasionally, you’ll saw your tongue in half just to keep the peace. People can be careless, thoughtless, and sometimes you’ll find yourself staring at your reflection repeating “she didn’t mean it that way, you know she didn’t, just let it go” while you practice breathing exercises and your heart pounds with frustration and hurt. You’ll even hurt the people you care about, and you hope they have same patience with you.

However, if you are convinced that all people are born with “filthy hearts” and “darkness,” that they’re innately evil, and that it’s your job to “love them in spite of their filthiness” … you’re going to stay with an abuser, and you’re not going to be surprised when someone is horribly cruel or incomprehensibly selfish. You’ll expect it. “Love is patient, love is kind” will exist against a backdrop of believing that every person was inescapably born to be an abuser.

Becoming an abuser isn’t something that happens to people because they were born monsters. Our culture is permeated with millions of tiny little ways that enable abuse, that teach us all that abusing others is how to win, how to be successful. After all, racism and misogyny are really just abuse writ large.

However, becoming an abuser is not our default. It is not the thing we’re born with that only accepting Jesus into your heart can overcome. What happens is the opposite: only a few people become abusers, and they target specific victims. Most of us can cause harm, could even do abusive things on occasion, but the intentionality of abusers is absent from decent people. Most of us don’t want to break down another human being into a tool we can use for our own gratification. Instead, when we look around the world, we generally see people who have a right to their autonomy.

The consequence of teaching us that we are all born desperately, unimaginably evil is that we won’t be able to recognize true evil when it happens to us. All we truly know is ourselves, and systematically destroying another person’s sense of self wouldn’t occur to us– but we’re all evil, right? So if our partner spends a lot of time telling us how untrustworthy we are, how terrible we are, how we deserve having our possessions destroyed, our body beaten, our souls violated, where is the space to call this abuse in the context of Inherited Sin?

I’m not saying it’s impossible, of course. I was calling my ex an abuser and rapist long before I stopped believing in Original or Inherited Sin. But what I do know is that I told myself love is patient, love is kind when he was abusing me. I comforted myself with the understanding that we’re all Fallen, but God is doing a work in him. I just had to stick it out until Jesus overcame his “Old Man.”

Jesus gave us a tool to help us evaluate doctrine: a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. If the doctrine is good, then the natural outworking and practice of that doctrine will be beneficial, just, and life-giving.

The lived reality of Inherited Sin is none of those things.

Photo by Sophie & Cie
Feminism

surviving complementarianism

Over the past few days, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood held their annual conference, which was titled “The Beauty of Complementarity” this year. I knew it was happening sometime soon, and yesterday some of the people I follow on Twitter started using the #CBMW16 hashtag, or responding to people who were. If you’d like to read some excellent commentary, I highly suggest looking up @miheekimkort and @BroderickGreer. Yesterday, inspired by others using the #CBMW16 tag, I took the opportunity to voice a concept that I’ll probably be shouting about until complementarianism is dead and buried:

Complementarianism is abusive. Removing a woman’s right to self-determination is abuse.

I am currently writing a book that lays out my comprehensive argument on why I’m convinced that complementarianism is an abusive theological model for relationships, but something that I probably won’t cover in too much detail in the book is a pattern I’ve picked up on. If you’ve been with me for the past few years, you’ve seen me do extended reviews on Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll, and Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

As I’ve read each of these books, all of which purportedly give women advice on how to be a proper woman and/or wife, I’ve realized they all argue for the same basic relationship “style.” Helen Andelin is the most direct about it, but the same principles exist in each of these books– and I suspect they’d be present in any book on marriage written from a complementarian perspective.

In short, their advice can be summed up in this: wives are supposed to be cautious.

At some point in all of the books I’ve reviewed, Helen, Stasi, Grace, and Nancy tell women that they are not permitted to have open, honest, and direct communication with their husband. Instead, each of them deliberately tell us to be passive-agressive or manipulative. The words they’ve used for this have been “alluring” or “cunning”– there’s this understanding that we have to “handle” our husbands.

Their explanation for why we can’t just come straight out with our problems and concerns is based on how men will (supposedly) inevitably react to being confronted by a mere woman. Helen repeats all through Fascinating Womanhood that a wife should expect “rage” and “violence” if she were to ever contradict her husband or question his decision-making abilities. Stasi emphasizes how men can’t be forthrightly challenged because that would be “emasculating.” In fact, she blames a woman for her physically abusive marriage because she supposedly “emasculated” her husband by trying to communicate with him. Mark and Grace Driscoll blame Molly Wesley for John making her “black and blue” because she confronted him over what she felt were emotional affairs.

These are some of the biggest names in complementarianism and “Christian living” books. These are men and women talking about how they themselves think the typical complementarian marriage can– and should– function, and it’s plainly abusive. The advice they are giving to complementarian women are survival tactics for abusive marriages.

One of the biggest reasons why a person stays in an abusive relationship is that they’re not really aware of why their relationship is abusive. They think– because their abuser has spent a long time convincing them to think– that the abuse is their fault somehow. If only they could do what they were supposed to. If only they could figure out a way to avoid making their partner angry. If only they were more helpful, or less lazy. If only they understood their partner better, then they could understand how to stop the abuse.

Helen, Stasi, Grace, and Nancy agree with abusers. They think that a healthy marriage is attainable if only the victim could avoid making her husband angry. So they write an endless list of books and articles and blog posts, and host their annual conferences, and preach their sermons, all telling women how to try to survive their abuser. Be more submissive. Be more compliant. Be more obedient. Be more sympathetic to his needs. Be more gentle. Be more quiet. Be more accepting. Be the perfect homemaker. Be a flawless mother.

Blame yourself for the abuse.

Each of these books is, ultimately, an attempt to convince women that all men are inherently abusers. They are trying to convince us that at the core of manhood is violence and rage and a bloodthirsty need for dominance and control. If only we women can recognize that an abusive marriage is unavoidable, then we can get on with the business of shouldering the responsibility for the emotional or physical violence all of our husbands will inflict on us. But not if we do what they say. Not if we’re gentle and lovely and submissive. Not if we give up on our own thoughts and wants and dreams and sense of self.

These are all things that people in abusive relationships try to do. When I was engaged to my abuser and rapist, I did all of these things. I read books like Me, Obey Him? and Lies Women Believe and I ate it all up because it reflected what I was experiencing. He was emotionally abusing me, he was coercive, he was sexually abusing me, raping me, and over and over again he would tell me that it I was to blame, that everything he ever did was all my fault. For years I believed him, and these books all told me the same thing he did: if I did what he (and they) said, then he wouldn’t hurt me anymore. The abuse would end. Ultimately I believed I failed, because when he broke our engagement he told me it was because I “hadn’t been submissive enough.”

All marriage-advice books written from a complementarian perspective tell wives the same exact things that abusers do: the abuse is your fault, and if only you abided by my ever-moving goal posts, it would stop.

Photo by Saorise Alesandro
Theology

“Lies Women Believe” review: 45-62

This chapter of Lies Women Believe (lies we believe “About God”) illustrates rather perfectly what I was talking about in my last post– how Christians taught me that my own heart can’t be trusted because it’s hell-bent on deceiving me. Nancy spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, which is primarily the idea that your life experience cannot be trusted.

But, before we get to that, let’s begin with something I agree with her on:

I have chosen to start by dealing with lies that women believe about God because there is nothing more crucial than what we believe about God. (47)

I say this sort of thing rather often– what we think about God affects what we think about ourselves and about each other. It’s a two-fold reality, I think: if we are created in the imago dei, then who we are as people is a reflection of the nature of God; and if we believe that God is full of wrath and fury and eager to rain brimstone down on us, then that is going to affect our relationships and our views of ourselves. Instead of basking in their love, we’ll spend our days walking around terrified that God is going to crush us for some misdeed.

However, after that, Nancy and I part ways.

The first lie she tackles is “God is not really good.”

In her personal anecdote, she describes God’s goodness not being readily apparent to her when her father died suddenly when she was twenty-one (49). I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t know what it’s like, and I am positive she suffered while she was grieving that sudden loss.

However, losing a parent, while incredibly heartbreaking, is not really on par with a lot of other suffering that exists. It will eventually happen to all of us. Y’know what doesn’t happen to middle-class white-picket-fence-childhood women like Nancy? Dying of starvation. Being forced to marry someone when you’re 16 and he rapes you every day (and yes, that happens in America). Being beaten and tortured by the people supposedly put on this planet to protect you.

This planet is full of so many cruelties, and yes, I do have a hard time with this “God is good” concept most days. The amount of evil so many of us experience every day is … incomprehensible. And I am heartily sick of people like Nancy spouting off on how good God is when they’ve been sheltered from a lot of that evil. Christian culture is extremely insulated– have a physical condition that bars you from going to church regularly? NOT A REAL CHRISTIAN. Have a background that makes you seem “angry” and “bitter” because you just will not shut up about being abused and raped? NOPE.

This ugly reality means that the people we most frequently see at our conferences, on our stages, and behind our pulpits are all sort of cookie-cutter, with a fairly limited set of experiences to draw on.

Event this book enforces those notions. She gives the following in a list of problems we run into:

… a loveless marriage, rejection by an ex-mate, grown children who won’t call home, approaching forty, and not a suitor in sight … (50)

I’m sorry, those things aren’t fun, but they just seem so petty. Really, Nancy? This is your standard for talking about the possible reasons why women might feel that God doesn’t love them?

The biggest problem with this chapter, though, is how she goes about completely redefining the words goodness, love, and need. Her opening salvo is this:

The Truth is, God is good. Whether or not His choices seem good to us, He is good. Whether or not we feel it, He is good. Whether or not it seems true in my life or yours, He is still good. (49)

And quoting from Hannah Whitall Smith:

But faith sits down before mysteries such as these, and says, “The Lord is good, therefore all that He does must be good no matter how it looks. I can wait for His explanations.” (49)

In other words: your personal experience is immaterial. The evidence does not matter at all. Whatever your own eyes tell you, ignore that. This definition reduces faith down to self-delusion. In my life, “how it looked” was a lot like physical abuse, rape, and spiritual trauma so deep I have PTSD from it. But yeah. That’s totally God being so good to me. I just can’t wait to hear them explain it.

She basically repeats herself in explaining why God actually does love us despite any evidence we might have to the contrary, saying it’s inconsequential “whether or not we feel loved” (51). The problem is, that does matter. In my marriage– which conservative Christians keep trying to tell me is a symbol of Christ and his relationship with the church– I can approach my husband and say “I don’t feel loved” and his reaction has to be more than “well, I do, and how you feel about it doesn’t matter.” In a healthy relationship, his response should be something like “oh, what can I do to show you how I feel?”

Except that’s not how conservative Christians are told to interact with God about this. Instead, in this “marriage” we’re supposed to just reassure ourselves that God really does love us even when our lives seem to prove they couldn’t give a damn. Gregory Boyd spends a while talking about this problem in Benefit of the Doubt, arguing that God does want to see us come to them with this. He talks about how Jacob wrestled with God, demanding answers, and how God rebukes Job’s friends for trying to tell him what Nancy’s trying to tell us. Job questions God, doubts God, flings his problems into their face, and God responds.

But, she takes the cake in the next section, on the lie “God is just like my father.”

First, she doesn’t do anything to point out that God is genderless, instead reinforcing an image of a masculinized God that doesn’t reflect the full breadth of Scripture (one of the names for God is “the god with breasts“). But then we get to this:

The God of the Bible is a compassionate, tender, merciful Father … It doesn’t meant He never allows us to suffer pain– in fact, at times, He actually inflicts pain and hardship upon us. Why? Because he loves us. Because he cares about us. (53)

Just … back the truck up.

This is completely nonsensical! This is not love. If you want to inflict pain on the people you supposedly love, you are not loving them. You love some version of them that doesn’t exist and are trying to force them through torture and coercion into being that made-up version. You love yourself in that scenario, and no one else.

It is possible to do something that hurts a person we love, but generally we consider those things to be wrong. They’re mistakes. They happen because we were angry or tired or hurting, and they damage our relationship. The things we do that hurt each other require reconciliation and healing.

Except for God, apparently. They can do whatever they want, they can intentionally hurt us, and it’s all good. That’s what it looks like when God loves us, and please ignore that it flies in the face of common human decency. If we don’t think that’s love, it’s just because their ways are just too “great” for us, too far outside our “comprehension.” When God hurts us, it’s love.

That is the cornerstone of every abusive relationship I’ve ever experienced or witnessed. In order for the victim to stay, they have to be absolutely convinced that the abuse is just a sign of how much they are loved. He flies into jealous rages because he just loves me that much. She starts screaming at me that I’m a disgusting worthless piece of shit because she knows that I’m capable of being so much more and she’s just trying to help me realize my potential.

Nancy is right– what we believe about God matters. It’s just that she believes in an abusive God.

Social Issues

how Josh Duggar is getting away with it

[content note for discussions of child sexual assault]

Before we get started with today’s post, I’d like y’all to read these two pieces, especially if you’re not aware of what came out yesterday:

What you Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report” by Libby Anne
Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?” by Kathryn Elizabeth Brightbil

Libby Anne and Kathryn address many of the things I would have said, which I’m thankful for because now I can focus on making a broader point that I think applies to conservative evangelicalism as a culture and not just the Duggars as a family.

~~~~~~~~~

A close friend of mine has spent most of her adulthood in Spanish-speaking countries. During a recent visit, she told me a story about what it’s like to make the adjustments between languages. She was working with a bus ministry at her church and had to deal with a rambunctious boy who was invading the personal space of other children, including touching them without their consent. In order to try to reign him in, she wanted to tell him to “stop bothering her,” but what came out was “stop molesting her.”

In Spanish, the word for bother is molestar.

It was an amusing anecdote, but then she made the point that English tends to soften concepts that Spanish doesn’t. As a culture, we call what Josh Duggar did to his victims child molestation; even though we understand the connotation of the phrase, it doesn’t have the clarity that child sexual assault does.

Our culture is set up in almost every conceivable way to harbor abusers.

For example: racism, sexism, and any other form of systemic bigotry is, essentially the abuse of one people group by another. Individual white people benefit from a system that abuses people of color. Certain men receive benefits from rape culture, which allows the worst among us to take advantage of everything we collectively believe about women and sex.

Another way that our culture allows abuse to flourish is that we refuse to really deal with what is actually happening. Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

But, in our culture, abusers can “apologize,” and that becomes the headline. And, as Kathryn pointed out, it makes the victims look bad in Christian culture if they don’t immediately “forgive.” We saw this with Sovereign Grace, and we’re seeing it now.

This is why I never use softening, minimizing language. I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.

The words we use matter.

~~~~~~~~~~

The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity” kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame. The Duggars belong to an even more nightmarish subculture than I was exposed to, since they follow Bill Gothard. If you’re not familiar with ATI/IBLP, this is what Gothard teaches about sexual abuse.

Counseling_Sexual_Abuse

That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

In ATI/IBLP, if they received any “counseling” at all (which seems unlikely, considering Michelle Duggar said that Josh’s “counseling” involved helping a family friend remodel his house), it would have been laser-focused on figuring out what the victims did “wrong” so they could be shamed for it.

This is what purity culture does. More than anything else, it silences victims.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not” by Sarah Moon
Josh Duggar and the Purity Lie” by Sarah Posner
Josh Duggar and the Problem of Easy Forgiving” by Mary DeMuth

Photo by Vincepal
Theology

a #meninist sums up my childhood in the Biblical Patriarchy movement

[content note for descriptions of physical abuse, extreme misogyny]

If you haven’t heard of the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, you should definitely check it out. Most of the time I don’t have the stomach to pick through the misogynistic underbelly of the internet, but they do all of that for me, putting it in one somewhat-more-manageable post, broken up with entertaining commentary.

I read their “Furious about Furiosa” post, which gathered together the collective outrage of MRAs who are upset about Mad Max: Fury Road. I grew up adoring the post-apocolyptic campiness that were films like Waterworld and Mad Max, so I’ve been keeping track of Fury Road, although I’ll probably just rent it when it comes out. Something that intrigued me was that the producers asked Eve Ensler (who created the Vagina Monlogues) to consult, and she worked with them to make sure the themes and characterization were handled appropriately.

I was laughing, shaking my head at all the vitriolic nonsense, until I got to this:

The only way back is to begin punishing ambition in our daughters and in all female children. They need to be physicall­­y and psychologically disciplined to be servile and deferential and they unfortunately need to have it beaten into them that they should NEVER trust their own judgement and always seek guidance and permission of their male headships.

My daughter would be turned out with nothing but a shirt on her back if she so much as looked at a college website or played with her brother’s educational toys.

She would be belted to the point of being unable to sit if she exhibited confidence in decision making.

I don’t want my wife to step foot out of the house unless her every dime and minute spent can be accounted for and executed in conjuncture with my approval. My daughter will exude obedience and timidity for whoever her future husband is and it’s imperative that all Christian Men demand nothing less within their own homes. Playtime for feminazis and the left is over. This is our world and our heritage to protect. Let the cultural war begin!

I do in fact implement this in my own home and practice what I preach vehemently. I have a daughter and sons and they are being raised to know that they are unequivocally different and 100% not equal. My wife is from a highly devout family and she was cowed long ago into obedience by her powerful, alpha father. I kinda won the life lottery.

That was posted by user “TS77RP1” on the Return of the Kings forum, one of the MRA/red pill hubs, and something you should only google if you are feeling extremely mentally and emotionally prepared.

I couldn’t laugh at that because … that was what I was taught. Oh, TS77RP1 is being for more bluntly and explicitly honest about what the people in the biblical patriarchy/Quiverful/Stay-at-Home-Daughters movements want to accomplish, but that’s all. He’s just being honest. He’s not trying to cloak what people like Michael Farris (of HSLDA and Parental Rights) and Doug Phillips (of now-defunct Vision Forum) teach under a fog of “but the husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the church.” The velvet glove came off at this particular forum, but this is the end game.

You hand this over to John Piper and Wayne Grudem and Douglas Wilson and they’d be appalled, horrified, and repulsed; there would be much arm-waving over how they’re nothing like TS77RP1. Except… they teach the subordination of women and the headship of men based on nothing except sex. They might not resort to “belting” their daughters, but they do tell wives to stay in abusive marriages. They do tell women to submit to husbands who aren’t loving them “biblically.” They do say that men “conquer” their wives.

Currently I’m researching a project that compares the beliefs and justifications of abusers to the beliefs and justifications of complementarians … and the more I dig, the more horrified I become. There’s more than just the occasional overlap– the justifications for complementarianism and the rationalizations of abusers are the same.

TS77RP1 just said it out loud.

Photo by Amy McTigue
Theology

"How to Win Over Depression" review: 88-112

In the two chapters I’m going over today– “The Place of Anger in Depression” and “Self-Pity and Depression”– Tim makes an argument based on commonly held attitudes among evangelicals and fundamentalists. As I’ve talked about in the past, the common understanding in Tim’s circles is that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions– and the “bad” ones are sinful. In my experience, there are two emotions in particular that seem to be universally reviled in evangelicalism: anger and self-pity. He is building on that assumption, relying on a typical evangelical’s willingness to accept the claim that all anger and all self-pity is sin. That claim becomes the foundation of his argument that all depression comes from sin, because he believes that everyone who becomes depressed were angry and self-pitying first:

A number of individuals with whom I have shared this [claim that all depressed persons are angry] have challenged me, but on further questioning and closer examination, we established the problem [of anger] without exception. (88)

At last we have come to the primary cause of depression … Of one thing I am certain: if the mental thinking patterns of self-pity is not arrested, the person is hopeless. (97-98)

Tim also does something else: he makes his argument unfalsifiable.

I have repeatedly noted that non-depressed people seem to accept this diagnosis [of self-pity] easily. Even individuals usually prone to depression, when not depressed, seldom argue. It is the depressed themselves who seem to rebel against it. (97)

And with that one sentence Tim does what Christians have been doing for millennia: he sets up his argument with the claim that anyone arguing against him proves him right. If I were to approach Tim with mountains of research and personal stories of how depression and self-pity aren’t automatically connected, he would dismiss me outright with “of course you would say that: you’re depressed.”

It amuses (and infuriates) me how people like Tim claim to take the Bible so seriously and yet are completely willing to ignore anything that doesn’t support the argument of the moment. For one thing, Tim says that anger is always sinful (93), and he quotes Ephesians 4:30-32 to support that, arguing that those verses teach that anger always “grieves the Holy Spirit” (92). Except it’s bitterly ironic that he passed over verse 26 to get to there. In case you need a reminder, Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry and sin not.” That does seem to imply that it’s at least possible to be angry without sinning.

The fact that the rest of the passage includes things like “wrath” when God themself is often described as “wrathful” punches gigantic holes in Tim’s argument, but he desperately needs Christians to skip over the parts of the Bible that don’t agree with him; without that, he can’t rhetorically link anger and sin with depression.

But all of the above isn’t even my biggest problem with this chapter. My biggest problem is that he is incredibly formulaic in his approach to this problem (93-96), and in order to be this reductionist he has to but on blinders as big as barns. People are not formulaic. Problems like depression and mental health aren’t formulaic and simple (an argument he anticipates on 98, calling it an “excuse of the intellectual”).

There are many things that I am angry about. Some of the anger is appropriate, some of it misdirected, and it’s my job as a human being to wrestle with that. Anger isn’t always the correct response, but sometimes it is. Sometimes there are money-changers in the temple. One of the things that I am angry about is the fact that there is so much abuse and violence in the world, and I am utterly confident in the assertion that abuse and oppression make God angry, too.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hopefully I’ve already established why linking depression with self-pity is wrong– and hopefully that’s obvious as the noses on our collective faces. However, Tim doesn’t even have a consistent definition of what he considers to be self-pity. To most of us, when we hear “self-pity,” we think of someone who sees themselves strictly as the victim of other people or of circumstance and absolutely refuses to take any steps whatsoever that could help improve their life or emotional well-being.

That is Reason #1 that “self-pity” doesn’t fit as a description for people who are depressed: we rarely see ourselves that way. If anything, it’s the exact opposite; the bone-deep conviction that we are worthless tells us on the daily that we are the ones responsible for everything being so miserable– not other people, and not circumstance.

However, Tim only works with that definition half the time. The rest of the time he confuses it with things like entitlement:

One brilliant but depressed scholar I know holds a Ph.D. and has developed a world-renowned reputation. He had as a young man offered great promise and was expected by those in his field to excel. Having a problem marriage, he drifted into serious patterns of hostility toward his wife. These, in turn, caused him to indulge in the habit of self-pity, which demotivated him. After years of such thinking, he came in for counseling. Having written few articles and never finishing a book, this brilliant man had wasted the creativity potential of a lifetime. Naturally he blamed his wife instead of himself. “If it hadn’t been for that woman, I could have realized my potential.” (102)

On the surface, this seems to fit “self-pity”– the man in this story blames his wife for his failures. However, that’s because Tim doesn’t acknowledge the realities of abuse or abusers, and he skips right over the red flags. I believe that this man had a huge entitlement complex– he believed he deserved to have everything he wanted, and like every other abuser on the planet felt entitled in his relationship with his wife. When his wife turned out to be a human being, he resented her for not living up to his expectations. She was supposed to help him be this accomplished scholar– she didn’t, so it’s all her fault.

The fact that Tim never once acknowledges that abuse can play a part in causing depression crops up over and over again. He tells a story of a young woman who wanted to be a virgin when she got married, but had sex with her husband before their wedding. Tim had this to say:

Self-justification is a natural defense mechanism against self-condemnation, of course, so it was easier to blame him than share the responsibility. Before long her hostility produced self-pity, and finally she became depressed. (103)

If you’ve been around here for long, you should recognize what’s happening there. A woman came to him angry and upset that she and her husband had sex– “blaming” him for taking her virginity. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for a woman to willingly consent to sex and then be upset about it later, but those women don’t usually refuse to acknowledge their part in it. Considering that this was the 60s, I’d bet the moon that this young woman experienced some form of sexual coercion– and it’s possible she was raped.

Later on we get this:

One depressed woman spent most of her time in the counseling room dissecting her husband … Knowing the counselee’s husband as I did, fully aware that he was surly, inconsiderate and unkind … I proceeded to explain that the greater her problem, the greater her grace … Instantly the woman snapped, “I’d rather have a kind husband than the grace!” (106)

Her husband wasn’t even kind. That is basic introductory-level human decency, but Tim doesn’t even address the reality that her husband is an jerk, but instead insists that God will use his behavior to “instruct” her.

The reason why Tim can’t address or acknowledge abuse as a cause for depression is that he knows that it would make his theory monstrous. Saying that we need to “count it all joy” and that “trials” are the way we “grow up spiritually and emotionally” (106) turns into something horrific when you say it to a child that’s had bones broken by their father or a woman raped by her husband. “You need to count your rape for all joy because that’s how you’ll mature” is a horrific nightmare of an argument, and he knows it.