Vision Forum, the Titanic, and “Honor and Protection”

Doug Phillips of Vision Forum has just announced details for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to be held this coming April in Branson, Missouri. He’s calling it an “International Centennial Event,” and if you click the link you’ll see the huge poster he’s using to advertise the event.

Now you may be wondering, what is there to celebrate about the Titanic? The ship sunk and over a thousand lives were lost, after all! Never fear, Phillips has an answer:

Next to Noah’s Ark, no other seagoing vessel has captured the imagination of so many. Certainly no event in history has done more to remind Western culture of the Christian doctrine of “women and children first.” Now, on the centennial anniversary of Titanic’s demise, the international obsession over the famed ocean liner is set to reach a feverish pitch as new books on Titanic are published, popular Titanic films are re-released, and a spate of Titanic commemorative events are scheduled to be held around the globe. But only one international event will be dedicated to presenting a distinctively Christian message with a historical interpretation designed to inspire the next generation to embrace and advance the ideal that men should sacrifice for women and children.

Phillips is obsessed with the Titanic because of what he sees it as representing – the last gasp of a chivalrous society in which men were men and women were women and each fulfilled their distinctive gender roles with honor and courage. Now of course, Phillips’ version of the story never really happened, and the society he thinks existed at the time never really existed in the first place.

But something struck me as I read this advertisement. It may be hard for some to understand what attracts women to Christian Patriarchy, a system in which women are expected to obey their male authority (first father, then husband) absolutely and without question, and in which women are allowed only the role of homemaker, wife, and mother, but this ad helps explain this seeming paradox.

Every element of the Titanic 100 is designed to leave your family with stories they will retain for the rest of their lives, inspiring them to remember the heroism of the past and to embrace a fundamental principle of Christian civilization—that women and children are to be honored and protected.

Christian Patriarchy promises women a world in which they are held in high esteem, honored, and protected. If they embrace the teachings of Christian Patriarchy, they are promised, they will be cared for tenderly and given every protection. And more than that, women embrace Christian Patriarchy with the promise that if they do their husbands will be like the chivalrous men of old, who willingly sacrifice for their wives and children and put family first.

I’ve written before about the way Vision Forum tries to fix the problems of our current world by turning back the clock, and this is what you see going on here as well. Are you being pulled apart trying to balance a job and children? Does your husband prefer to watch football with his friends rather than spending time with you and the children? Are your children becoming unruly and disrespectful? Christian Patriarchy offers to turn back the clock to a time a hundred years ago when (supposedly) women weren’t pulled in a million different directions, men put their families before all else, and children were cheerful and respectful.

I’ve also written about the problems with Vision Forum’s views on what it means to “respect” women. Vision Forum offers women respect because of their gender, it puts women on a pedestal and then confines them there like a prison. In contrast, I would prefer to be respected for my qualities, talents, and skills.

In the end, the Titanic is the epic Christian Patriarchy fantasy. It is the emblem of a fictional time to which they aspire to return. Even through tragedy, it symbolizes what was good and right with the world and is no longer.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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