Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

Source of book: Borrowed from the library.

I have been meaning to read some Kerouac for some time, but hadn’t quite gotten to it. I suppose the most popular would be On the Road, or perhaps Big Sur. I ended up reading The Dharma Bums in large part because my brother-in-law recommended it, and went so far as to duplicate the hike that forms the center of the book. (See more on that below.)

Kerouac was one of the “Beat Generation” of the 1950s, along with Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. One can think of the “hippie” movement of the 60s beginning with them, and much of the music of that era from the Beatles on down drew inspiration from the Beats. In some ways, though, one has to think of most hippies then and now as bandwagoners compared to the originals.

As a lawyer, I tend to think of Ginsberg and Burroughs in connection with the obscenity trials that their works triggered. A significant development in Constitutional law here in the United States occurred when Howl and Naked Lunch were determined to be protected under the 1st Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court ruled that works which had “redeeming social importance” could not be banned. Thus, descriptions of drug use or sexual acts could not be automatically banned on that basis alone. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Dharma Bums is a semi-fictional book, based on Kerouac’s own younger life when he was part of the San Francisco Renaissance, enamoured with poet Gary Snyder. (Snyder is one of the very few of the Beats still living, probably because he was one of the few who didn’t drink to excess.) The story is a series of connected yet separate episodes, including a fictionalized telling of the Six Gallery Reading where Ginsberg debuted Howl, a hitchhiking trip east to Kerouac’s mother’s house and back, and a stay in a cabin with Snyder, before Snyder left to study Buddhism in Japan. The parts that I found the most fascinating, however, involved, not the city, but the wilderness. Snyder was - and still is - an avid hiker, and dragged Kerouac up and down Mt. Tamalpais (north of San Francisco), convinced Kerouac to work as a fire lookout in what is now North Cascades National Park, and convinced him to take an epic backpack trip up California’s Matterhorn Mountain, in the high Sierra Nevadas.

This last hike was of particular interest to me because my brother-in-law, who is, like Snyder, a natural born hiker, duplicated Kerouac’s trip up Matterhorn. Alas, my schedule prevented me from joining him on that hike. Fortunately, he took pictures, and posted them with the relevant passages from The Dharma Bums. You can see them here, and they are well worth the click.

He and I have, before and since, done some crazy hikes together. For instance, you can read about our day hike to Half Dome in Yosemite National Park here. The year after he climbed Matterhorn, we hiked to the base of the Palisade Glacier (the largest glacier in California) at 12,500 feet.

I dwell on the hiking because that part of this book was thrilling. Kerouac writes brilliantly about the mountains. In the style of his time and movement, the writing is a spontaneous approach, with the tale unfolding as if it was being told orally, made up or recalled on the spot. Or, one might think of it as being completely in the moment, as if you were there, with even the narrator not knowing what would come next. It isn’t a “stream of consciousness,” ala James Joyce, though. It is a narration that pours forth, not the momentary thoughts of the narrator. A key element of this style is the lack of editing. But don’t confuse this with writing that desperately needs an editor. Spontaneity requires practice, and Kerouac worked hard to be able to produce works like this. A great analogy would be jazz - which the Beats worked to imitate in words. A “spontaneous” jazz solo represents hours of practice and a wealth of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic tools close to the hand. “Spontaneous” writing, likewise, comes from the pen of a skilled craftsman, working quickly and with skill.

The Dharma Bums, and Kerouac in general, isn’t perfect. There are times the dialogue seems clumsy, and transitions are often abrupt. I also have to admit that Kerouac would drive me utterly mad in person. As much fun as hitchhiking and jumping trains sounds - at least in the era when you could still do that - the lack of pre-planning, questionable choices, and self absorption was crazy-making even in print. Actually, anyone who knows me would think it laughable that I could ever be a bohemian, let alone a hippy. And they would be right.

And if I could be a hippy, I would probably be like Japhy (Gary Snyder), who at least had a plan, some self control, and a proper supply of food and equipment.

On the other hand, Kerouac may have been a challenge to be around, but he at least had a self deprecating manner in his writing, aware of his faults, and willing to poke gentle fun at himself. The adventures of Japhy (Snyder), Ray (Kerouac), and Henry (John Montgomery - a hilarious professor, who is impossibly unprepared and lacking in common sense) on Matterhorn are amusing in part because of the foibles of each character. It is truly a miracle that the trip didn’t end in disaster.

There is a conversation between Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Snyder that cracks me up. In the Penguin edition that I read, it is duplicated in comic-strip form in the inside covers. The characters as dogs is an interesting idea anyway, but it renders an already amusing anecdote doubly mirthful. The panel on the right is first, followed by the left, in this picture. The characters are (left to right) “Japhy Ryder” (Gary Snyder), “Alvah Goldbook” (Allen Ginsberg), and “Ray Smith” (Kerouac).

The other lines that really stood out to me were all about hiking.

I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling. Ecstasy, even, I felt, with flashes of sudden remembrance, and feeling sweaty and drowsy I felt like sleeping and dreaming in the grass.

That’s the good part of the feeling of hiking in the mountains, and I have experienced it many times. My heart really is in the mountains, as much as I love the beach, the desert, and the valleys. And then, there is the other fact of hiking high and long.

“Although of course we know which way we are going, that big cliff face up there is where our plateau is.”
“Plateau? My God, you mean that ain’t the tip of the mountain?
“Of course not, after that we got a plateau and then scree and then more rocks and we get to a final alpine lake no biggern this pond and then comes the final climb over one thousand feet almost straight up boy to the top of the world where you’ll see all California and parts of Nevada and the wind’ll blow right through your pants.”

If you haven’t already, check out my brother-in-law’s outstanding photos of this spot.

One final quote. On the Mount Tamalpais hike, “Japhy” brings along the food.

On this trip Japhy had brought along a delicious combination for hiking energy: Ry-Krisp crackers, good sharp Cheddar cheese a wedge of that, and a roll of salami.

On our own, the kids and I have discovered that the combination of crackers, cheese, and salami is indeed the ideal hiking lunch, both portable and high energy. We take it along on the vast majority of our hikes these days, rather than sandwiches, which tend to get smushed in the backpack. Fun to find that others had discovered this 60 years prior.

The Dharma Bums was an interesting experience, thrilling for its wilderness and adventure, maddening for the hippiness of some of the incidents, and quite unlike anything I have read before. I agree with a few criticisms of the book. First, do not expect that Kerouac’s version of Buddhism will be anything like the real thing. While the book may be about his journey through that world (Dharma means “truth,” more or less) and he may claim to have various epiphanies throughout, one can expect to learn far more about Kerouac than about Buddhism. Second, the Beats were not exactly feminist, and Kerouac’s view of women in this book is more than a little misogynist. Although, it is hard to say it is more so than the 1950s were in general, I guess. It was the era of the Donna Reed ideal, and women struggled to break into the ranks of writers and intellectuals regardless of whether they were Beats or not. Just don’t expect any signs of early Second Wave feminism in this book. Society may have been a drag to Kerouac, but his reform didn’t extend to getting women out of the kitchen. After all, someone had to take care of all that stuff.

All in all, I am glad I read this book, and can say it was a pleasure. Not sure if I will find On The Road to be as good, since I think the wilderness portions were the best. On the other hand, I am interested in reading Desolation Angels. Another thing for my endless list of books I want to read.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Control: The Reason The Gospel Coalition and CBMW Cannot Actually Condemn Spousal Abuse

‘There are spectrums and varieties of domestic abuse. A good working definition of domestic abuse is “a godless pattern of abusive behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse for the achievement of selfish ends” (John Henderson).’

This is a quote from an article by Justin Taylor (quoting Henderson approvingly) on the Gospel Coalition website a few months ago. The article was in response to an ongoing controversy over the problem of domestic violence in the church - which often goes undetected and unaddressed. As many writers have noted - many of them women - the teaching that women must obey men (so beloved by the Gospel Coalition and much of conservative Evangelicalism) tends to attract abusers, and give them power over their victims.

It is a good thing that the Gospel Coalition felt compelled to come out against Domestic Violence and spousal abuse.

If only they could have actually brought themselves to do so.

Because this statement comes close, but in the end, completely fails to actually condemn abuse.

On the plus side, it is good to see an acknowledgement that abuse goes beyond the physical. Indeed, the emotional side of abuse is often more damaging in the long term than the physical, because it is calculated to destroy a victim’s self worth.

However, the statement fails for two reasons. First, it fails to grasp that the root of abuse is control, and that therefore, control is the problem. Second, it contains so many qualifiers as to be useless to either identify or prevent abuse.

  1. Control is the root of domestic abuse.

I have worked for the last 16 years as an attorney. As part of my practice, I represent victims of domestic violence (in some cases pro bono), and have also regularly dealt with abusive relationships in divorce and custody cases in general.

A common misconception about abuse is that it is tied to anger. Thus, the formerly common advice to abused women that they should avoid making their husband angry. “What did you do to provoke him?” Even now, abusers are often ordered by the court to take anger management classes. While I believe these classes can be good, simply addressing anger does not address the root issue.

Anger can cause abuse to escalate, but the trigger isn’t anger. It is control. Plenty of abusers get angry, but what are they angry about? (Hint: it isn’t because their partner kicked the dog.) Abusers become angry when their need for control is threatened.

Furthermore, it is entirely possible to be abusive without displaying rage. In fact, the very worst abusers I have ever encountered were never angry. The calm and collected man out to exact absolute control is the most dangerous, because he can toe the line between legal and illegal, between socially acceptable and unacceptable. He can always appear the good guy, while he calmly destroys the psyche of his victim.

That is why, in order to address domestic abuse, we must address the issue of control. This should manifest itself in a few ways. First of all, we need to clearly understand that control is the issue, rather than anger. As a result, we should be able to identify likely abusers by their need and demand for control, rather than simply by their tempers. (Not that having a bad temper is good. But a quick temper is just one manifestation of a need for control.)

This will make a difference in how we evaluate potential spouses, for example, or how we advise our children to pick partners. (More about this below.) This would also radically change how pastors and other church-based counselors counsel married couples. (See below as well.)

2. The qualifiers negate the rest of the statement

Let’s look at those qualifiers: “godless,” “abusive,” and “selfish.” These create loopholes so large that any reasonably competent abuser should be able to justify any behavior to themselves and others.

Here is the sentence without the qualifiers:

“a pattern of behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse.”

That is a more accurate statement of what domestic abuse and violence are all about.

Because with the qualifiers, what do you get?

It is okay to use physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to control your long as you aren’t doing it in a godless manner. Or as long as you aren’t being “abusive” about it, whatever that means. Or as long as you are doing it for “unselfish” ends.

If you think that an abuser cannot justify his control on the basis of it being for the good of the victim, and in fulfillment of God’s will for her, you are naive indeed. Of course he is doing it for her good, and of course he has God’s blessing on what he is doing. Duh! Very, very few people believe they are being evil when they are being evil.

So why couldn’t the Gospel Coalition just come out and condemn the use of “physical, psychological, and emotional means” to exert control over a spouse?

Because it would destroy the foundation of their doctrine, which is that men have a God-given right and responsibility to control women.

To put a fine point on it, “Complementarians” have taught for the last several decades that the key insight that the Bible and Christianity bring to marital relationships is that women should submit to men. They teach that what is wrong with modern society is that “Feminism™” has ruined male/female relationships by teaching women that they no longer need to obey men. Thus, the key “insight” into how to improve marriages is just that: women need to obey men, and everything will be better.

I hate to have to break it to the Complementarians, but this “insight” isn’t original at all.

Rather, this supposed “insight” is something that has occurred to pretty much every single pagan society from the dawn of human history forward. The name for it is Patriarchy, and, until recently, it was the way things were everywhere. (And, to put a fine point on it, it is still the way things are in many parts of the world.) 

And it wasn’t based on some benevolent ideal, but on an explicit belief that males were morally, intellectually, and spiritually superior to females. And nobody felt compelled to claim otherwise, because everyone believed it. 

This isn’t the first time an influential “Complementarian” organization has struggled to find a way of condemning abuse while preserving the right to control. Back in 2012, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood made this statement:

“We understand abuse to mean the cruel use of power or authority to harm another person emotionally, physically, or sexually.”

Again, a qualifier: “cruel.” So it is okay to use authority to harm another, as long as it isn’t “cruel?”
“Harm” should be sufficient to indicate that wrong is being done. This blogger suggested an alternative:

“A pattern of conduct designed to obtain and maintain ungodly control over another.”

I would go one further by eliminating the qualifier: “A pattern of conduct designed to obtain and maintain control over another.”

If your pattern of conduct is designed to obtain and maintain control over another, you are an abuser.

3. If you believe that women have a God-imposed duty to obey men, you will need a means of control.

I am by no means the first person to raise this question, and many of those that influenced me on this matter are quite conservative doctrinally in other areas. So this isn’t a liberal/conservative issue.

When you say you are “complementarian,” what do you mean by that? It is often hard to get a handle on this. In my opinion, this is generally because “complementarianism” will generally look like patriarchy and gender roles...or it will look suspiciously like egalitarianism.

Leaving aside for now the teaching that women belong in the home, rather than in the workforce (which is often the other teaching of "complementarians" and patriarchists), we are left with a basic question:

Does God require that women obey men or not?

If your answer is yes, then what is the “solution” to the situation where a woman is unwilling to do what a man tells her?

Well, is he allowed to use physical “correction” to compel her to obey? (The answer for most of history was “yes,” incidentally.) What about emotional and psychological coercion? (Withholding of affection, telling her she is sinning, having the pastor lecture her about her duties?) At some point, if she does not cooperate, then some form of “physical, psychological, or emotional” pressure would need to be applied, right?

Otherwise, you have a rather uncomfortable impasse. She does not wish to obey, and he is convinced that she is living in sin for disobeying him.

Without a means of control, there is no “cure” for a lack of submission.

However, there is a potential alternative. What if one simply stopped trying to obtain submission?

Katie Botkin (yes, a “black sheep” relative of Doug Phillips’ crazy co-author of the 200 Year Plan), wrote an interesting article in which she discusses mutuality in the context of consent.

Consent, again, comes into the idea of against your better judgment. If you “submit” to someone only when you agree, it’s not actually submission at all — it’s agreement. If you “submit” when you disagree because you’re a rational, reasonable person and you understand compromise, that’s not submission either. If that’s submission, egalitarian couples “submit” to each other all the time. So, truly, the concept of “submission” only comes into play when one party really doesn’t want to do something.

This is exactly the point. I am in an egalitarian marriage. But many supposedly “complementarian” marriages are actually what we egalitarians call “functionally egalitarian.” In other words, they look like what Botkin is describing: We discuss and come to agreements. We both compromise. And we both work to practice kindness as a guiding principle.

Communication. Compromise. Kindness.

Some use the “Christianese” term of “mutual submission” to describe this, which is okay, I suppose. But outside of a certain bubble, it isn’t that meaningful. For everyday people, what actually makes sense is the triad I named: Communication, compromise, and kindness.

The problem is, of course, that these are exactly the sorts of things that one could hear from any reasonably competent secular counselor. These are the things that we egalitarians do in our marriages. And they are perfectly compatible with feminism, that favorite bogeyman of groups like the Gospel Coalition.

For decades, conservative Christianity has taught that Feminism™  destroyed the family, by telling women they did not have to obey their husbands.

So groups like The Gospel Coalition and CBMW have made a central tenet of their faith that Christian marriages are supposed to look different, and the difference is in accepting gender roles, and hierarchy. Indeed, this has become - particularly for CBMW - a core issue of the faith.

When you eliminate the need for control - by making marriage about communication, compromise, and kindness - you end up with a vision of marriage between equals. Something egalitarians and feminists can approve as well.

That is why The Gospel Coalition and CBMW cannot simply come out and condemn abuse.

Because it would eliminate the element of control which is central to their vision of marriage and Christianity.

    4. Having daughters has made me care deeply about this

Some have wondered why I have expressed a good deal of anger at Evangelicalism in the last year.

Here is one reason why:

When I think about where my daughters will learn the “lesson” that they should submit to abuse and control, it isn’t the atheists I worry about.

Let’s be honest.

Except for frat houses and the Pick Up Artist community, the voices telling my daughters that it is acceptable for a man to control a woman are coming from “traditional” culture and “traditional” religion.  And the voice they are most likely to hear comes from Evangelicalism, because that is our tribe.

I figure frat boys and PUAs are pretty easy to identify as jerks, at least with a little care. I figure my daughters aren’t that likely to convert to Islam or Mormonism. 

But I do worry that they will absorb these lessons from the church.

The problem isn’t that all Evangelicals are abusers (clearly they aren’t) or that all of them teach the lesson of control. (They don’t.)

The problem is that those who teach the lesson that men have a right and duty to control women feel so darn COMFORTABLE in Evangelicalism.

This is why I bristle when I hear false statements like “Christianity is responsible for reducing domestic violence.” Um, no. Feminism did that. Some feminists were Christians, others weren’t. Some Christians fought against feminism and their efforts to make sure violence was against the law and prosecuted accordingly. Some Christians fought efforts to make divorce available to victims of domestic violence. And some are still fighting on the wrong side of these issues.

Right now, at this particular time in history, here in the United States, the most significant force fighting our efforts to further reduce and eliminate domestic violence isn’t atheists.

It’s Evangelical organizations like the Gospel Coalition and CBMW.

    5. What I want to teach my children

Let’s start with this:

Control is not okay.


If someone starts using physical, emotional, or psychological means to try to control you, get out. That means that if someone ever starts talking about how God wants you to obey that person, that is a huge red flag for an abuser. (Also, for a narcissist and/or a sociopath…or a cult leader...)

If there is an expectation of obedience, then we have a problem. This is why I believe that premarital counseling should address dispute resolution, and seek to identify control issues. Secular counseling usually does. But “Christian” counseling more often than not (in my personal and professional experience) just advises the woman of her duty to “submit” and the man on his duty to “lead,” and leaves it at that. At best, the man is reminded of his duty to “love” his wife. But “love” in this context can easily mean “making her do what is best for her.” Thus, the controlling sociopath can pull the wool over the “counselor’s” eyes. He looks just like someone with orthodox complementarian doctrine.

An interesting discussion that I have listened in on in Christian circles these days is what parents desire in a spouse for a child. A bone of contention arises when someone says, “I would rather my child marry a non-Christian as long he treats her kindly.” Thence the discussion of whether it is okay to marry outside the faith, and so on.

This is a red herring. What is really being expressed here is a legitimate fear that the abusive men are are a problem within conservative religious traditions - including Evangelicalism. Because Evangelicalism is one of the very, very few places in our modern Western culture where it is still okay to seek to control a woman. Abusers are all too comfortable here.

So I do worry about what my kids will hear. And I also worry that I cannot trust others within our tribe to have been taught that control is never okay. Even otherwise decent men may feel pressure to act like “leaders” in the relationship, and otherwise decent women may be expecting “leadership” from their husbands. What my experience in family law has taught me is that neither of these is healthy, and many a relationship has cratered based on these expectations.

    6. How the Church must change

First, I believe that the Church needs to acknowledge that control is the issue. Second, the counseling given to couples needs to change dramatically. Right now, as I have said publicly before, I would never in a million years recommend to a couple to get counseling from a pastor or at a church. It would be best if they found an appropriately licensed professional, of course. But I often think that they would get better advice calling a random person in the phone book.

I have just seen the results of too much horrid advice.

It is not an exaggeration to say that my primary enemy in my fight to protect the victims of domestic violence is indeed the American Evangelical Church.

That is where victims are told to go back and “submit” and “obey” better, so that they won’t be beaten. That is where they are told that he has “repented” so she needs to forgive him. (Classic “honeymoon phase…”) And that is where they are told that he has the right, and indeed the duty to control, I mean “lead” her.

The second part of this is that the church needs to work at identifying controlling people and removing them. Unfortunately, this would mean a lot of pastors would have to go. Not all, clearly, but all too many. The moment one says, “God says you have to obey me,” that should be it.

But this will also mean removing the narcissists and sociopaths from the church - a place where they are often all too comfortable. (Again, the narcissists and sociopaths I have dealt with in my practice have usually been in good standing with their churches - or were pastors. There is a pattern.) I suspect too that if church counselors were actually trained in psychology, they might recognize abusers far more readily. And if abusers knew that they would not be able to fool people at church, they might be less comfortable there.

This story (involving Doug Wilson’s father - himself a pastor) illustrates what usually happens when a victim of abuse seeks assistance from a Complementarian/Patriarchist pastor.  You can see the two problems. First, the abuse is assumed to be her fault because she doesn’t submit. Second, the goal is always reconciliation rather than protection of the victim.

Even thoroughly mainstream Evangelicals, though, seem to be having the same problem. It has now been taken down (WOW, this is a pattern!), but Focus on the Family recently (re)published an excerpt from one of James Dobson’s books, in which he advocates for a thoroughly bizarre response to domestic violence, putting all the burden on the victim. Oh, and it gets even worse. He goes on to explain that women "bait" their husbands into hitting them, and are thus partially at fault for the abuse. I am not making this up, although I wish I were. 

(Kudos to pastors Jeff Crippen, Neil Schori, and Mike Sloan for being willing to take on Dobson for this statement.)

This has to change, and it changes with a recognition that control is never okay, and that the cure for abuse is to remove the abuser from the situation so he can no longer abuse.

Third, I believe the Church needs to recognize that in abusive relationships, the goal should be protection of the victim, not prevention of divorce. For true abusers, I do not believe there is a way to put the marriage back together that doesn’t compromise the victim. At least in 99% or more of the cases, a healthy relationship isn’t going to happen, no matter what is done. I have never seen a man change because the woman submitted more, or tried harder. I have - rarely - seen a man who lost everything finally make an effort. But not until he has lost everything.

Fourth, while controlling abusers are a serious problem, the teaching that women should obey men also harms relationships that otherwise could be healthy. I have read somewhere the opinion that Patriarchy/Complementarianism makes a great man good, and a good man merely mediocre. I am inclined to agree. By making marital dispute resolution about a hierarchy, we deny both parties the chance at mutual solutions to problems. Instead, because it is already pre-determined which party wins, true compromise and negotiation cannot occur.

Perhaps an emphasis on communication, compromise, and kindness as the way to resolve marital issues would help. Unfortunately, decades of teaching that marital problems are due to feminism and the rejection of gender roles and hierarchies have taken a huge toll. Many, even those in “functionally egalitarian” marriages are unable to let go of the old way of interpreting a passage - even if those interpretations were made in a misogynistic era, by those who were unashamedly misogynistic. 

But look at it this way: the identifying characteristic of us as Christians is supposed to be how we love each other. In that most intimate of relationships, marriage, shouldn’t this be even more apparent? If we are to be different, we should be different not because we make marriage into a hierarchy, but because we are more loving as spouses.

Our goal should be that we can communicate and compromise with the greatest of kindness, with no need for control. 


Just a note on gender: I realize that women can abuse men too, although men typically cause more physical damage due to size and strength advantages. However, the way that the “complementarian” worldview damages men is different. Men raised to believe that they should be in control and dominant suffer severe unmanning when they are abused, and it is generally hard for them to admit it. Still, I don’t see men being advised to go back and suffer, rather than end the marriage.

My professional advice, however, would be the same. Get out. Call the police. Protect the children. Don’t go back.


Lest you think that TGC and CBMW are guilty of bad rhetoric, rather than bad actions, a look at the multitude of stories coming out of TGC affiliated churches should be enough. 

Addendum 2-15-2016: This post by Nate Sparks lays out a series of questions for TGC about the epidemic of abuse of women and children that has come to light involving its member churches and its leadership. There are extensive links that are worth checking out. It turns out that bad doctrine does in fact lead to bad results. Who would have thought? 


Just a thought: maybe The Gospel Coalition was afraid of offending one of their regular contributors, Doug Wilson.

This whole article is worth reading, as it brings together so many of Wilson’s horrific teachings. But here is his view of this topic: 

“Second, wives need to be led with a firm hand. A wife will often test her husband in some area, and be deeply disappointed (and frustrated) if she wins. It is crucial that a husband give to his wife what the Bible says she needs, rather than what she says she needs. So a godly husband is a godly lord. A woman who understands this biblical truth and calls a certain man her husband is also calling him her lord. It is tragic that wholesale abdication on the part of modern men has made the idea of lordship in the home such a laughable thing.”

Certainly there is no way a woman could know what she needs. Patronizing much? And we all know women really want to be controlled, right? Actually, Wilson is pretty much the poster child for a narcissistic sociopath, but he says the right things as far as the Gospel Coalition is concerned…

Also note that John Piper, who has said that women are obligated as Christian females to stay and endure abuse, is a founder of CBMW and on the board of the Gospel Coalition. Hmm. 


Just a quick thought: If you look at what Pickup Artists believe, it is actually interesting to see how many of their beliefs about women, gender essentialism, and power are similar to those of the Patriarchists. The goals are a bit different (getting laid for the PUA, getting laid for life getting married to a submissive woman for the Patriarchist), but the root beliefs are often the same. 


Regarding the question of where you find the abusers these days, Katie Botkin also has an interesting question to ponder:

The problem with this gender theology: non-Christian men (or all the ones I know) are kind, generous, and protective of women and children. I grew up thinking that the non-Christian world was a pretty dangerous place, but once I got into it, started traveling the world on my own, started talking to people on my own, I realized I was wrong. Without Christ, men are not just rapist pedophiles out to beat women up — so the answer to being a rapist pedophile or a wife beater is probably not “more Bible verses as told by your pastor.” There’s a lot more to it than that. Without Christianity, men can be, and are, amazing human beings. And, of course, many men within the CREC [Doug Wilson's church] are as well. I know some — I know some really, really wonderful men and women who attend CREC churches.
But the nice people don’t change the fact that I know not-so-nice people who attend or attended CREC churches. I’ll be honest: all of the most pushy guys I’ve known personally — the kind who wouldn’t take “no” seriously, the kind who wouldn’t take repeated rebuffs seriously — attended CREC churches at some point or another. I’ve said this before, but the theology of the CREC enables men to be secure in a certain measure of asshole-ness — just look at the way their Presiding Minister talks about non-Christian women, about how men “dream of being rapists” and how women dream of being raped.

This is one of the issues for me too. I know a lot of nice men within American Evangelicalism. But I also know a lot of nice men who are out of religion altogether. And, on balance, it isn’t even close when it comes to the abusers I have dealt with personally and professionally. With very, very few exceptions, the ones who believe they have the right to control women came out of Evangelical homes, not Atheist ones. One might wonder exactly why that might be...


This one is a late addition, but I just ran across it recently. Nate Sparks breaks down the claim that “not all complementarians are like this” with summaries and links. If you ever doubted that gender roles are considered to be fundamental to the Gospel by these guys...


I’ll close with a personal story.

My wife and I, as regular readers will know, spent time in Christian Patriarchy. (Bill Gothard for me, Jonathan Lindvall for her.) We got married fairly young, and still hadn’t really processed all of our experiences - although both of us were glad to be out and determined never to return to those poisonous beliefs.

In preparation for our wedding, we discussed our vows. Both of us are traditionalists in aesthetic - if not necessarily in philosophy. There is something familiar and classy about the old service order from the Common Book Of Prayer. So we started with the traditional vows.

The question, however, came up of whether we would leave “obey” in there. I had no intention of ever asking my wife to obey me. So I told her she could leave it out if she wished.

She wasn’t quite as far along on her journey toward egalitarianism and feminism, so she decided to keep it.

Being a good egalitarian, I let her have her way.


Addendum February 4, 2016: I think this post is relevant to the discussion. It illustrates the quick pivot to blaming the victim and demanding reconciliation that is endemic to Evangelicalism when domestic abuse is encountered.

Naghmeh Abedini, Franklin Graham, and the Silencing of Evangelical Abuse Victims

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