Lurking in the heart of the Jewish/Christian communities — the people of the book — is a strange take on sex that keeps exploding into public view. The Mourdock “scandal” is just the latest episode proving that certain types of religion make people sick.
Calvinist-style retributive woman-hating religion is the illness that’s infected the Republican Party. Republican Tea Party/Evangelical “Christian” candidate Richard Mourdock explained his belief that women should not have access to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, stating, “I came to realize life is that gift from God.” Romney endorsed God-Wants-Rape-Mourdock and his campaign released an ad on Mourdock’s behalf. Romney’s campaign has said Romney “disagrees” with Mourdock’s comments on rape, but Romney has not withdrawn the endorsement or asked that the ad stop running.
But the media is missing the point: Mourdock just said out loud what millions of evangelicals think is true: women are second class citizens and God ordained and predestined everything, even the bad things that happen to people.
And though most Republicans are running as fast as their press releases denouncing Mourdock will let them, Mourdock is just stating what every Calvinist/Reconstructionist evangelical believes.
Read the Bible lately? There are people who take this violent mean book literally. Want to know what’s “wrong” with “these Tea Party people?” Look no farther than their book.
Worshipping a “god” who sniffs around women’s menstrual cycles, hands virgins to warriors to be raped as a reward, worries about who ejaculates where, wants unmarried women who lose their virginity (pre-marriage) stoned to death, recommends castration so that men can become eunuchs “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” is the sort of god who winds up attracting the worst nuts to his “cause” — for instance Tea Party revenge-seeking Ayn Rand crush the poor rape the women candidates who have hijacked the Republican Party.
And those born into that cause imbibe deeply from a well of sexual dysfunction. They are marked for life. Enter Mourdock and company.
Mourdock is a good Evangelical/Calvinist/Reconstructionist. That’s why he had no trouble speaking at a private “Christian school” that uses public whippings for punishment of its students. The Fairhaven school was in the news last year for its public whipping and humiliation of students. Rev. Roger Voegtlin, who runs the church school, had a run-in with the law in the 1970s, but was cleared of all charges. In a CNN feature last year, he said he still prescribes spanking children in a humiliating fashion.
If the history of Christianity proves one thing, it’s that you can make the Bible “say” anything. When you hear words like “We want to take back America for God!” the twenty-first-century expression of such theocratic ideas can be traced back to some of my old friends: the Reconstructionists. Before I fled the evangelical right these were the people I worked with to strip women of the right to health care and reproductive rights.
Most Americans have never heard of the Reconstructionists. But they have felt their impact through the Reconstructionists’ profound (if indirect) influence over the wider (and vast) evangelical community. In turn, the evangelicals have shaped the politics of a secular culture that barely understood the Religious Right, let alone the forces within that movement that gave it its nasty revengeful edge.
The Americans inhabiting the wider (and more secular) culture just see the results of Reconstructionism without understanding where those results have come from—for instance, how George W. Bush got elected and then reelected or how we wound up with a liar like Romney running for president with the support of evangelicals who say they believe Mormonism is a heresy!
Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Reconstructionists. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled essence of the more mainstream evangelical version of an exclusionary retributive theology that divides America into the “Real America” and the “saved” and the rest of us “sinners” and “the lost.”
And it was those “Real Americans” who were Bush’s base and are the backbone of the women-bashing Romney campaign today.
The Reconstructionist worldview is ultra-Calvinist but, like all Calvinism, has its origins in ancient Israel/Palestine, where vengeful and ignorant tribal lore was written down by frightened men trying to defend their prerogatives to bully women.
Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, the Reformed faith, or Reformed theology) is a theological system. This branch of Christianity is named for French reformer John Calvin. According to Calvin his system is based on Five Points: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.
In its modern American incarnation, which hardened into a twentieth-century movement in the 1960s and became widespread in the 1970s, Calvinism emerged in its most extreme form as “Reconstructionism” and was propagated by people I knew and worked with closely when I, too, was a Jesus predator claiming God’s special favor. (You can read about my exit from this movement in my books Crazy For God and Sex, Mom and God.)
Calvin’s doctrine of predestination teaches that God established the course of all future events from the rape of a woman to the fact he’s created most of humankind for the express purpose of suffering everlasting torment. This doctrine was not only derived from the dumber parts of the Bible but also from the philosophical concept called the “immutability of God” (unchangeable) and the “impassability of God” (unaffectable) character of God found in the musings of the pagan philosopher, Aristotle.
Calvin lived out the doctrine of forced “predestined” choices. He forced the citizens of Geneva to attend church services under a heavy threat of punishment. Since Calvinism teaches that God forces the “elect” to believe, it’s no wonder that Calvin thought he could also force the citizens of Geneva to abide by the rules of the elect. And Calvin killed those who disagreed with him.
Michael Servetus, a Spaniard, physician, scientist and Bible scholar was Calvin’s longtime friend in their earlier resistance against the Roman Catholic Church. Servetus, angered Calvin by returning a copy of Calvin’s writings, (The Institutes), with critical comments in the margins. Calvin had Servetus arrested and charged with heresy.
Servetus pleaded to be beheaded instead of the more brutal method of burning at the stake, but Calvin and the city council refused the quicker death method. Servetus was burned at the stake on October 27, 1553. Calvin insisted that his men use green wood for the fire because it burned slower.
Fast forward to America’s Republican Party Calvinists — or Calvinist influenced believers from non-Reformed denominations — who have been one of the driving forces behind the religious right and the Tea Party. They may disagree with Romney’s Mormon “heresy” (their word) but are united with him in the hatred of free will, say women’s right to choose if they want a child.
And for those tempted to believe that this is some fringe movement I’d point out that one of the biggest and fastest growing churches in America is run by an ultra-Calvinist woman-fearing-hater Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill church.
God “called” Driscoll to preach to men — young impressionable men who are afraid of “uppity” women. The church, Driscoll said made Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ.” He would straighten them out and show that actually Christ was an insensitive fool like him, mean, lusting for revenge on humankind for having disappointed him, and an enemy of uppity women.
And for members of the media who think women-hating remarks by the likes of Mourdock and Driscoll represent a mere “fringe” let me point out that Driscoll runs a mega church with thousands of members and millions of avid followers nationwide. And let me point out that the Republican Platform and agenda might as well have been written by the likes of Driscoll.
Human beings are totally corrupted by original sin Driscoll says and predestined for hell. “God hates some of you,” screams Driscoll in one of his sermons. And some babies who die go straight to hell too with the rest of the damned, to “glorify his name by their own destruction,” as Calvin wrote and Driscoll quotes. (See the movie Hellbound? for what Driscoll looks like in full hate-filled swing.)
And that’s the “context” of “legitimate rape” remarks by idiots and likes of Todd Aken, Mourdock et al. These aren’t isolated incidents. They are just the political tip of the iceberg America will hit if the Tea Party Reconstructionists in Congress have their way in a Romney presidency.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway and Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.