The Religious Right Vision of Marriage

Christian conservatives always talk about “defending traditional marriage” – which has that warm, homey, fresh-baked-apple-pie feeling to it – but never make it clear precisely what they’re defending.

This is deliberate, of course, and a clever political strategy: they choose phrases with positive mental associations but otherwise leave their position vague. That way, ordinary people can project onto it whatever idealized notion of a happy family they happen to hold. By this tactic, the religious right makes it sound as if all they want is to protect millions of imaginary-1950s, smiling-wife-and-picket-fence families against the godless hordes who want to take this all away. (How would granting equal rights to same-sex couples take anything away from heterosexual couples? Don’t ask!)

But when Christian conservatives talk among themselves, they’re not nearly as concerned with disguising their true goals. And if we listen in to those internal conversations, we can see exactly what their model of “traditional marriage” is: what they want to defend, and more so, what they want to impose on everyone else. And it bears mention that the ideal religious-right model of marriage and family is nothing like ordinary people’s conception of those things. In fact, most ordinary people would be shocked and revolted by their true plan and desire.

As Exhibit A, I present this utterly horrifying article (sent in by a Daylight Atheism reader – thanks, Stacey!) from No Greater Joy Ministries, a religious-right group. The article, by Michael and Debi Pearl, concerns how good Christian wives should deal with emotionally and physically abusive husbands, and all the cheerful imagery of smiling children on the masthead can’t change the pure, unfettered evil it contains. If you think I’m exaggerating, just wait.

The Pearls’ argument is that divorce is forbidden by the Bible, no exceptions. Therefore, if a Christian woman is in an abusive relationship, it is her God-ordained responsibility to stay with her husband, to obey his every desire, and bear his abuse without complaint or protest.

It’s hard to decide which part of this is the most obscene, but there’s no shortage of candidates. First, there’s this, the eternal refrain of battered wives everywhere: “If I try even harder to please him, eventually he’ll change!”

One day you will wake up, turn your head to smile good morning to your husband, and see the tears of thanksgiving glistening in his eyes as he tells you one more time how much he loves you and how proud he is to have you as his wife.

…This happened because day by day, minute by minute, you chose to believe God’s Word and honor him even though your flesh wanted to scream in anger and defeat. And in that moment of weakness, when you bowed beneath the load, God reached down and gently reminded you to keep on because some day your children will “arise and call you blessed; your husband also, and he praiseth you. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.”

This promised carrot comes with a stick, a none-too-subtle threat to the woman: if you divorce your husband, God will condemn your children to eternal torture.

There is no promise in Scripture to spare your children if you leave your lost husband. I could give you a list of hundreds of godly Christians that chose to leave their unbelieving spouses and then married a believing spouse, had decent marriages, but lost their children to the world and bitterness. I have sat and listened to many say, “We sinned; our children suffered, and we lost them to the world. They hate us. My divorce was wrong. Oh if only…”

It extols the virtue of obedience to an abusive husband and demands that the woman suffer in silence without telling others about her situation (and note the clear implication that the man is also expected to control the finances of both partners):

God says that as a husband looks on and sees the way his wife responds to him, he will be won. He will hear and see her cheerful countenance… He will see her giving up her rights and not taking offense when he knows he has wronged her. He will see she honors him, obeys him, treats him with respect, and serves him with a non-rebellious, non-resistant attitude… He will see she doesn’t puff up and talk incessantly in criticism of him — or others. He trusts her. He knows she is not going to discuss him with her pastor or friend. He sees she is wise with what little money he gives her. She is a remarkable woman, not because she is classy in the way she dresses or looks, but in the way she controls her spirit. She rejoices for an opportunity to bless him, and he knows her heart is good. He tries her; he deliberately tempts her into hurt or anger; he judges her unfairly; he demands things of her that he knows embarrasses her, yet she is in subjection to him in all things.

But if I had to pick the single most insane part of this entire horrifying screed, I’d choose this one. Although the authors say that divorce is never allowable under any circumstance, they do offer one way out for a woman who just can’t take it anymore: pray to God that he’ll kill your husband for you.

There have been occasions, both in Scripture and in our ministry, where a man was so vile that God has killed him. A woman can come to God asking Him to deliver her from a man if he will not repent, but a woman should be sure she has obeyed God in her relationship to her husband, before she asks such a thing.

The only slender reed of credit I’ll give this article is that it does say a woman can go to the police and have her husband arrested if he’s physically violent towards her or if he sexually molests their children. But even then, it says divorce is still forbidden, and the woman is expected to stay married (and alone and without companionship, one presumes) if her husband is serving a prison sentence.

The next time you hear a right-wing fundamentalist start talking about “protecting traditional marriage”, think of this article. This is what they want. They’d like to see every marriage and every family turned into a miniature dictatorship, where the man is the king and the woman (and children, one assumes) are slaves, expected to obey him without question and absorb whatever abuse and degradation he delivers without complaint.

Fortunately, we have a better vision of marriage: a harmonious joining of equals, a partnership embarked upon for the sake of mutual happiness. And if one partner is unloving or abusive, that marriage deserves to end, so that the innocent partner can seek the happiness they deserve elsewhere. The fundamentalists’ vision is a nightmare, but we can still prevent it from coming to pass.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    POSTSCRIPT: It’s not too late to do your part to defend society from the rapacious fundamentalists who want everyone’s marriage to be like this. Donate to protect marriage equality in Maine and strike a blow against them.

  • CSN

    But for the tiniest cultural accident we could be in a sea of burkas in highly Christian populations. It’s a lot easier to ignore the oppression when you can’t see it.

  • keddaw

    “How would granting equal rights to same-sex couples take anything away from heterosexual couples?”

    The same way allowing non-American teams into the “World Series” would devalue that.

  • http://www.atheist-pig.com The Atheist Pig

    “How would granting equal rights to same-sex couples take anything away from heterosexual couples?”

    “The same way allowing non-American teams into the “World Series” would devalue that.”

    So, I guess we need a law that would disallow the Toronto Blue Jays from ever getting into the World Series in order to keep the integrity of the sport intact?

  • Ritchie

    Not wanting to be picky, but is it really fair to call this ‘the religious right’s attitude’ rather than just the reprehensible drivel of a particular religious nutjob (though presumably also with the sanction of the website that published it)?

  • http://prostituee.wordpress.com/ Meretrix

    To be fair, many Christians, even right-wing fundies don’t think quite so extremely. From my experience (growing up as a proud fundie with a mother almost as fundie as it gets) there are fundies who do see divorce as an option in extreme cases (which abusive partners no doubt would be). There are fundies who believe in some form of equality between husband and wife (often with the husband having the “final say” if they cannot agree).
    That said, I do of course agree that this is despicable and beliefs like this, especially when people try to have them written into law, must be opposed.

  • http://firstimenovelist.wordpress.com Sean Wils

    I wouldn’t say that the views expressed in that article are universal or even close to it, but they do seem to be disturbingly widespread. The ‘traditional family’ that the religious right are talking about is certainly a conservative Christian one, and in many cases seems to be one where the wife follows proper Biblical protocol in relation to her husband. It definitely is not one in which the children are raised alone for any reason, or where a couple decide to separate for anything other than the most pressing reasons (I’d say ‘they stopped loving each other’ wouldn’t count, which is one of the main problems I have with the “divorce is always bad” crowd).

    As for families involving same-sex couples…well, the religious right doesn’t even consider them families. (Or ‘families’, as they’re called on anti-equality websites.)

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net thoughtcounts Z

    keddaw: Your response might make sense if marriage was a competitive sport. (I don’t even think it does in that case, but I’ll grant it anyway, because it’s irrelevant.) Why do you care what happens in someone else’s marriage? It’s a relationship between two individuals, not a league sport with rankings. Think of it like enjoying a delicious slice of cheesecake. Is it any less tasty if you know your neighbor happens to be eating cheesecake in his dining room too? What if your neighbor’s having a calzone instead? Or just sipping a glass of water? How your neighbor decides to nourish himself changes nothing about the nourishment and enjoyment you get from your dessert.

    Ritchie and Meretrix: This is not the first time anyone’s said such things, and the opinion is probably more prevalent than you realize among fundamentalist Christians. Here is a post I wrote almost a year ago about a radio program bearing the same message. It’s from an organization called Revive Our Hearts Radio, and I heard the show on the same Christian station that plays Focus on the Family programs.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    @ Ritchie: While it is true that not every member of the religious right believes exactly this, it is true that too many believe it, and even more believe similarly insane bullshit.

    At the risk of over-generalizing, it all flows naturally along the following line of reasoning: “God made people, and he made them a certain way; therefore God wants us to act a certain way; therefore we must do these things in this way, and any deviation from this way is wrong; therefore we must fight to legislate these rules, because if those deviants get legal protection, we can’t stop our children from falling into that degeneracy, and then everybody will go to Hell and be tortured forever. This can’t happen, so we have to defend our progeny from their degeneracy, no matter what it takes.”

    The reality of the situation is that people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors. We just aren’t this or that way; marriage is made-up and can therefore be whatever we want it to be; the Fanatical Wrong’s ideas about “what a relationship should be” are based on Bronze Age myths and have nothing to do with actual psychology or social dynamics; their ideas of what society should look like are unrealistic, unworkable, and unhealthy (to say the least); and because they cling so fervently to something based entirely on myth and not at all on fact, their actions and goals may rightly be termed insane.

    I don’t think this is taken as seriously as it ought to be. While we are fighting evil, and discrimination, and prejudice, and hate, we are also fighting insanity. Though the Fanatical Wrong are able to dress themselves, cook their meals, and pay their bills, they are bat-shit crazy in this one little part of their lives, and they want to impose that insanity on all of us. Now, everyone’s at least a little crazy, but the point is that we should try to make sane rules for society that take into account how people actually are, and do not seek to impose this insanely narrow vision of how we “ought” to be, because there is no “ought” in this. There is only how people are, and that includes being homosexual, or polyamorous, or not wanting kids, or whatever; and our laws need to take that into account or we have quite simply taken leave of our senses as a people.

    In other words, opposing the right of gays to marry is nuts. Always and everywhere. There is no sane way to do it, no rational argument for it, and therefore all such actions are categorically crazy. Ebon’s link is just one example of how far down the crazy-hole this kind of thing can go.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    How would granting equal rights to same-sex couples take anything away from heterosexual couples?

    It takes nothing away from liberal minded couples who understand that a same sex relationship has the same intrinsic value as their own. The religious right do not grant that parity and so see same sex marriage as debasing the institution (the institution being more important than the actual relationship as the O.P makes quite clear).

  • mikespeir

    I agree with D. While it’s not true all Evangelical/Fundamentalists teach like this (Even Pat Robertson thinks abuse is legitimate grounds for divorce), I know I was sometimes taught this way growing up.

    BTW, Atheist Pig, do you suppose, maybe, keddaw wrote what he did with just a touch of irony?

  • The Atheist Pig

    BTW, Atheist Pig, do you suppose, maybe, keddaw wrote what he did with just a touch of irony?

    Yeah, you’re probably right. That’s what I get for responding before the coffee has kicked in.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann!)*^

    I wouldn’t object to banning Toronto from the World Series, but I’m still bitter about 1993.

    It’s not like it would matter, anyway. They suck :P

  • Adele

    The Blue Jays suck because the Canadians don’t care.

    @ Ritchie: a significant percentage of fundies – including the ones at the church I used to attend – think precisely the same way as these people. When I was losing my faith, I had an incredibly disturbing conversation with the minister and his wife about divorce. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. They said exactly the same thing as these people – and went even farther.

    I do not live in the Bible belt. I live in Massachusetts.

    These people are not just wrong. They are insane.

  • jemand

    this goes to my point that I believe there is a good bit of sexism mixed in with the anti-gay marriage crowd… their problem is “who’s the wife and who’s the husband?” It just PROVES that truly equal marriages are possible and that the tasks you specialize in marriage need not be not sex-linked. Gay and Lesbian couples are a visible reminder of this, and makes the sacrifices women make and privileges men get in their “religiously ideal” marriages not appear necessary.

    That ticks them off.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    @ jemand: Great point! I forget sometimes that the success of non-religious types is seen as threatening by the religious types who think that their way is the only way (the only moral way, and the only way to be successful). The recent Pharyngula post on Stanley the Barnacle had a comment outlining exactly this principle (short version: science needs to stop dead in its tracks because its success is embarrassing to the pious barnacles, boo-hoo!). I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection.

    Of course it would be embarrassing for any “abomination” to achieve success, and since any one of them could be successful, none of them can be allowed to try. It’s truly horrifying.

  • Caiphen

    I can’t believe that religious people take this stuff seriously. When I was religious, I never did. Most who worshipped with me never did either. But I was never a right wing fundamentalist. Who can believe in a personal God in a world in which this stuff exists?

    I think I should become a feminist.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    There are fundies who believe in some form of equality between husband and wife (often with the husband having the “final say” if they cannot agree).

    I’m willing to concede, Meretrix, that not all Christian fundamentalists are quite as extreme as this. But I submit that if the husband always has the final say when both partners disagree, then that is not a relationship of equality at all, but just one more form of female subservience.

    When I was losing my faith, I had an incredibly disturbing conversation with the minister and his wife about divorce. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. They said exactly the same thing as these people – and went even farther.

    I’d like to hear more about that, Adele. As disturbing as I found this article (could you tell?), I would find it even more disturbing to think that even this hasn’t plumbed the depths of insanity. What could your former minister possibly say that was worse than all this?

    While it’s not true all Evangelical/Fundamentalists teach like this (Even Pat Robertson thinks abuse is legitimate grounds for divorce), I know I was sometimes taught this way growing up.

    You know you’ve really gone off the deep end when Pat Robertson is the voice of reason. I certainly won’t argue with him on that point; still, one thing we should keep in mind is that these people, as insane as they are, are following what the Bible says.

    In the New Testament, Jesus is emphatic that the only possible justification for a Christian to seek divorce is infidelity – and that’s if you accept Matthew’s softened version, whereas in the corresponding verses in Mark and Luke, he prohibits divorce under all circumstances. In no gospel or epistle is emotional abuse, withholding of affection, or any such thing cited as a permissible reason for divorce. If your husband doesn’t cheat on you, it’s your God-given duty to stay with him, no matter how badly he mistreats you in other ways. It’s the plain truth that this viewpoint, horrifying as it is, is the straightforward result of taking the Bible literally and obeying what it says.

    this goes to my point that I believe there is a good bit of sexism mixed in with the anti-gay marriage crowd… their problem is “who’s the wife and who’s the husband?” It just PROVES that truly equal marriages are possible and that the tasks you specialize in marriage need not be not sex-linked.

    I think you may well be on to something, jemand! The fact that same-sex marriages violate the traditional fundie conception of gender roles – and threaten to show that that conception is obsolete and unnecessary – is very likely part of the reason the religious right opposes them so fervently. Like the Republicans and universal healthcare, Christian conservatives aren’t afraid that same-sex marriage will be a disaster to society; they’re afraid that if gays and lesbians got married, they’d be good at it!

  • StaceyJW

    Anyone that thinks this is not a. typical, growing, ideal in the fundie community needs to read:

    “Quiverfull, Inside The Xtian Patriarchy Movement” by Katherine Joyce.
    (Terrifying- PLEASE read it if you care about the future of woman and children, and seperation of church/state)
    Also check out;
    http://www.nolongerquivering.com
    To read an insiders experience with the patriarchy movement.(Bonus- she deconverted because of an ATHEIST)

    The problem with these extreme fundies is that they ARE influencing many more moderate groups, while actively seeking political power. You don’t have to believe that physical abuse is ok to push the idea of biblical based female submission and male superiority. This is the logical conclusion of following the bible literally.

    These xtians are just like fundie Muslims- even though they say they are different because they don’t “command woman”, the women is to offer submission freely, as a “gift” UGH

    Thanks Ebon, I’ve been wanting to see you write about this for awhile.

    Staceyjw

  • mikespeir

    In no gospel or epistle is emotional abuse, withholding of affection, or any such thing cited as a permissible reason for divorce.

    That’s sorta true. Many teachers take this

    1Co 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

    as a special case where permission is granted to divorce and remarry. Others do not.

  • Alex Weaver

    That’s sorta true. Many teachers take this

    1Co 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

    as a special case where permission is granted to divorce and remarry. Others do not.

    Does the context indicate that this verse is even talking about marriage?

  • Lynet

    If you’re trying to critique the whole religious right, you really need to do it on the basis of more than one article. That said, I don’t need to be convinced that a lot of fundamentalist religious groups have disturbing ideas about the role of women in a marriage.

    Nitpick:

    In the New Testament, Jesus is emphatic that the only possible justification for a Christian to seek divorce is infidelity. . . . If your husband doesn’t cheat on you, it’s your God-given duty to stay with him, no matter how badly he mistreats you in other ways.

    Actually, those verses only apply to men divorcing their wives, which says something about the society of the time.

  • jemand

    @ Ebonmuse, I’m not Adele, but here I quote from a woman posting on the no longer quivering blog who came out of a similar lifestyle:

    “Keep in mind that this audience is so given to their lifestyle that even the term “abuse” is considered subjective. Some women “can handle” more than others. And they believe the doctrine of submission so much that I have read some accounts where, for example, if the mother knew that her husband was molesting their child she would just pray that God would fix the situation, for going to the authorities means going out from under his head–something not blessed by God.”

    I’m…. hoping…. that’s…. as far down as it can go. I dunno though, I’ve been astonished before at what perversions of “values” people can think up.

  • jemand

    the quote is from the forums, sorry for mispeaking.

  • Heidi

    I do not live in the Bible belt. I live in Massachusetts.

    So do I, Adele, and this is the kind of thing that makes me want to wall us off before any more of them move here. And before the Mormons come here and try to take equal marriage rights away from my gay friends and family members. The very idea that such a thing can even be on a ballot makes me furious. Christianity is disgusting and evil, and the only way it can pretend not to be is if they ignore 3/4 of the book.

  • mikespeir

    Does the context indicate that this verse is even talking about marriage?

    Unquestionably. Here’s some of it:

    1Co 7:10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
    1Co 7:11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
    1Co 7:12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.
    1Co 7:13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.
    1Co 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
    1Co 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    It seems nobody noticed that the name World Series implies that it should be international and therefore having non-American teams is absolutely appropriate. I think that was the point of the original comment.

    Of course, it doesn’t at all make sense as analogy of same-sex marriage. Homosexuals wouldn’t be joining my league (i.e., my heterosexual marriage); they’d be starting their own league.

  • http://www.amunium.dk Slater

    On a perhaps slightly irrelevant note, I don’t think the husband in the story is actually being abusive. He’s had affairs, apparently, but while I hate adultery as much as anyone, it can hardly be considered abuse.
    Apart from that, she says:

    Whatever training the mother does with her daughter, the father tells the daughter not to listen to a word that she says. The little girl is told by the father that the mother is hitting her when she spanks her.

    The guy is trying to prevent her from hitting her children – oh, the horror!
    The part about training sounds like a typical fundie exaggeration of him telling the kids not to believe the Christian crap she tells them.

    Not enough info to make a real conclusion, but I don’t see any evidence of actual abuse from the husband.

  • mikespeir

    It seems nobody noticed that the name World Series implies that it should be international and therefore having non-American teams is absolutely appropriate. I think that was the point of the original comment.

    Oh, it was noticed, too. But I think he wasn’t talking about gays being part of your marriage (or anyone else’s particular marriage). He was talking about gays participating in marriage as an institution. He was saying, I take it, that marriage as an institution wouldn’t be devalued just by broadening the definition to include the union of same-sex couples. It wouldn’t any more than the World Series would be devalued by allowing teams from, say, Japan to compete for the right of participating in it. If there’s a weakness in the analogy, it’s that the very name “World Series” implies an inclusiveness that’s never really been there, and thus is a misnomer. “Marriage,” heretofore anyway, hasn’t been defined to be that inclusive.

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  • Tim Hogan
  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    The thing that strikes me about this? Other than the obvious, “That is so horrible, how could anybody say something like that”?

    It doesn’t just exhort abused wives to stay with their abusive husbands. It lays the blame for the abuse squarely at the victim’s feet. When they say, “If you’re a good enough Christian, eventually your abusive husband will reform,” the obvious implication is, “If your husband hasn’t reformed, you’re not a good enough Christian.”

    And because you can always be a better Christian, that makes the hypothesis unfalsifiable… and gives no ending point at which an abused wife can say, “Okay, I gave it my best shot, now I’m out of here.” She is expected to tolerate the abuse forever. If the abuse is continuing, it’s not because her husband is an abusive asshole. It’s because she’s not a good enough Christian. Yet. She has to try harder, and for longer.

    Which is evil enough in and of itself. But it also plays directly into the psychology of abuse… in which the victim gets the blame for the abuse. By the abuser, and often by the victim themselves.

  • Rob

    And yet the divorce rates in the Bible Belt states are some of the higfhest in the land. What’s up with that?

  • KShep

    Anyone thinking that this horrifying story and the even worse “advice” given is something that is no longer relevant needs to pay closer attention. I have seen an advice column written by that fountainhead of xtian idiocy, James Dobson, counseling an abused woman who wrote that she was thinking of leaving her marriage to stay with her husband and pray for him, because it is “god’s will” or some other line of equal stupidity. He went as far as to chastise her for even thinking of leaving, saying she would be abandoning her children. I stopped buying my local daily paper after that one ran, I was so disgusted. And I hoped that the woman’s family sued that bastard after their daughter was murdered by her asshole of a husband, since “Doctor” Dobson told her to stay in a marriage where her life was clearly in danger. I have absolutely no tolerance for jerks like that.

    Closer to home, my daughter, now 26, used to share a room with a nice xtian girl of her age when she was at college. The roommate finished her degree and promptly married her longtime boyfriend, settling down to a life of housework, kids and soccer practice. This outcome was never in doubt; it was her plan all along, per her parents’ wishes, who didn’t want her to attend college anyway, since “she’ll never need it.”

    My daughter and I had quite a discussion about her–I felt truly depressed about her situation. I saw it as a potential abusive situation right away, since this young woman was essentially giving over control of her entire life to her husband, and who knows how well he’s equipped to handle it? What if he’s abusive? Or a drunk? What if he’s one of those morons who simply refuses to work for a living?

    My daughter assured me the husband was a good guy, not abusive, etc. But I pointed out to her that, within their marriage, he’s in a position of power where no one can challenge him, which therefore puts him in a position to abuse that power, intentionally or not. Say, for example, they get into a dispute about how to properly discipline one of their children, as all married couples usually do at some point. Who wins this argument? The husband does, always, because this young woman is being taught that she is to give in at all times, because her husband knows what he’s doing better than she does. It doesn’t matter that he’s smacking an 8-year-old kid in the head and calling him stupid for forgetting to clean his room—he’s her husband, and he doesn’t think it’s abuse, so it isn’t. Period.

    This is the legacy of female marital submission—abused, dysfunctional kids and wives, husbands with an overinflated sense of their own worth.

    What a racket. And it is still being practiced everywhere.

  • dites-moi

    “Christianity is disgusting and evil, and the only way it can pretend not to be is if they ignore 3/4 of the book.”

    You are soooo right. As much as christians talk about being holy and wonderful, they ignore the parts of the book they claim to follow. They’ll quote about teh evilz gayz from Leviticus but ignore the parts in Leviticus which bans wearing cloth made from two or more materials, shaving, allowing women on their period to be around non-bleeding society members, etc., etc., etc.

  • rennis

    “…The next time you hear a right-wing fundamentalist start talking about “protecting traditional marriage”, think of this article. This is what they want. They’d like to see every marriage and every family turned into a miniature dictatorship, where the man is the king and the woman (and children, one assumes) are slaves, expected to obey him without question and absorb whatever abuse and degradation he delivers without complaint…”

    This is one of the broadest brushes I’ve noticed you painting with recently. While it is the general rule that you will condemn those who hold a Biblical worldview, you are usually more focused on the specifics of the person or organization you are disagreeing with. In no way does this portrait represent the view of all “right wing fundamentalists.” I could attempt to explain but I’m not going to convince you anymore than you will convince me.

    In contrast, your last paragraph “…Fortunately, we have a better vision of marriage: a harmonious joining of equals, a partnership embarked upon for the sake of mutual happiness. And if one partner is unloving or abusive, that marriage deserves to end, so that the innocent partner can seek the happiness they deserve elsewhere. The fundamentalists’ vision is a nightmare, but we can still prevent it from coming to pass…” is more typical of how you succinctly state your differing worldview without falling into an unfair depiction of a group of people with whom you disagree.

    I’m sure there are some atheists and groups that you would not want others to consider as representing your views either.

  • Sarah Braasch

    While much of the attention is being focused on the abuses suffered by women at the hands of their husbands, their families, and their communities, and rightly so, I would just like to draw some more attention to the plight of girl children within these families and communities.

    Consider for a moment, taking a girl child and raising her from birth to believe that her only chance of salvation, her only path to redemption, her only purpose, her only means of pleasing and loving God and being loved by him in return is to subject and submit herself to the whims of the men in her life, be they fathers, brothers, or husbands, and to bear them sons.

    Try to tell me that this isn’t child abuse. Even if there is no explicit physical or sexual abuse (which often also occurs in these situations of extreme power differentials between the sexes).

    That this type of rearing of girl children occurs ubiquitously, in the US, in the Christian community, and with impunity, makes me ill.

    I am disgusted that we allow this to take place under cover of religious liberty or cultural relativism.

    And, it is not only the Quiverfull idiots. And, it’s not just the Mormon loons. And, it’s not just the JW lunatics.

    But even if it were only limited to those groups, it would still be millions of girl children being brainwashed and inculcated to believe that they are sub human baby incubators and ciphers with wombs and vaginas.

    The fact that millions of American citizens are being subjected to egregious human rights violations and the government turns a blind eye in the name of religious liberty is an outrageous violation of the separation of Church and State and the Establishment Clause.

    This is one of the reasons why I steadfastly support public education, and I am vehemently opposed to any public funding for religious schools. It is often our only way of reaching these children.

    The women, sadly, are often beyond all help.

    I just don’t buy that garbage about how some women really choose of their own volition to live these kinds of lives as an honest expression of their religious faith.

    First of all, if you’ve been brainwashed from birth — how exactly is it a choice?

    Ok. Maybe you can find a handful of crazies who actually want to be sex slaves. Fine. (My own mother was one.) Why does that mean that their daughters should also be subjected to this abuse?

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Religion is little more than a tool of social control meant to impose sexual slavery upon women. And we’re supposed to treat it with some kind of respect because . . . ?

    I actually think there should be no government sanctioned marriages for anyone. Civil unions for everyone.

  • Leum

    I actually think there should be no government sanctioned marriages for anyone. Civil unions for everyone.

    I disagree, on several grounds.

    First, a practical and political reason: doing so would take away marriage from people who already have it. Plenty of people are opposed to civil unions already. The numbers would only increase if they thought they’d be forced into them as well.

    Second, emotional: many people, including regular DA commenter Greta Christina want, on a fundamental level, recognition of their relationship as a marriage by the government. Why shouldn’t we recognize it as marriage on that level?

    Marriage is an unbelievably old human institution and human ritual. My parents did it. …Getting married means being a link in a chain, taking part in a ritual that’s central to human history and society.

    [...]

    Civil unions and domestic partnerships just don’t have that.

    Let’s look at the recent Supreme Court ruling in California. Let’s look at what it won’t change for my partner and me… and what it will.

    On a day- to- day level, it probably won’t change much. We’re domestic partners, and California domestic partnership does afford most of the legal rights and responsibilities that marriage offers.

    [...]

    But it will almost certainly change how we feel about society, and our place in it. And it will change — officially — how society feels about us.

    When we get married today, the State of California will officially recognize that our relationship has the same weight as our parents’ did, and their parents’, and theirs. It will officially drop this “separate but equal” bullshit. It will officially stop seeing us as kids at the little table, poor relatives who should be content with leavings and scraps, second-class citizens. It will officially see us as actual, complete, honest- to- gosh citizens. From Greta’s essay I Do–And Why.

    Third, philosophical: A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. If there’s no difference between legal marriage and civil unions, why use a new term? What’s the point? Now, if civil unions expand to include other domestic partnerships (say, siblings or a parent and child living together) I might see the point, but otherwise it seems like changing the word is pointless. Just to separate the relationship from its religious roots? Well, a man and a woman can go to a judge right now and be married. The separation’s already there. And if a Catholic couple goes to church and the priest’s licensed as a civil union officiant, I don’t see how it’s been any different from him being licensed to perform a marriage.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Leum, I completely agree with you. As a practical matter, the only logical next step at this juncture is gay marriage. And, I fully support this as the pragmatic next step in the fight. Abolishing government sanctioned marriage all together is much further down the road.

    My two best friends in the whole world got married in California during the period in which it was possible, and they remain married, despite Prop 8. I know how much it meant to them and how important it is to them to be married — actually married, not just partners in a civil union.

    I fully and one hundred percent support gay marriage. I wouldn’t want anyone to think otherwise.

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  • Jesse

    There are fundies who believe in some form of equality between husband and wife (often with the husband having the “final say” if they cannot agree).

    In other words, husbands always get what they want and wives don’t.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If you’re trying to critique the whole religious right, you really need to do it on the basis of more than one article.

    This is a fair point, Lynet. I’m working on a follow-up post that will address just how widely these opinions are shared in the religious right.

    Nitpick:

    In the New Testament, Jesus is emphatic that the only possible justification for a Christian to seek divorce is infidelity. . . . If your husband doesn’t cheat on you, it’s your God-given duty to stay with him, no matter how badly he mistreats you in other ways.

    Actually, those verses only apply to men divorcing their wives, which says something about the society of the time.

    True enough! One could certainly make the argument that, according to the Bible, it’s only men who have the right to initiate divorce. But I was doing my best to give the fundies the benefit of the doubt and show that even making that concession doesn’t help their case.

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