Hi and welcome back! Last week, I showed you something Al Mohler said that resulted in considerable pushback. He declared by fiat that motherhood elevates women to full human status. Even the evangelicals in his audience rebelled at that point. And they should have. Al Mohler helped set parenting up as a game his people can’t win anymore. And now he’s trying to terrify his flocks into playing. Today, I’ll show you why he’s not being honest about the game he’s demanding women play for him.
(We’ll be covering the advent of contraception in the next post, and perhaps see how on Earth Al Mohler could possibly have forgotten something as game-changing as that. By the way, let’s remember that Al Mohler’s flat-out wrong about there being some Biblical requirement for ANY Christian to marry or have kids. Even within his religion’s bizarre rules, he’s a poseur. But Mohler isn’t just a member of the Cult of Family. He’s one of its leaders!)
The Game That Nobody Can Win…
In authoritarian groups, leaders often set up games that nobody can actually win.
They do this for one very important reason:
These games work beautifully to create an environment where nobody has any consistent, clear idea of exactly what will get them in trouble with their leaders.
Indeed, nobody in these groups ever feels totally safe. Instead, they always feel they’re walking on eggshells–that at any moment, they could say or do something that was always safe before then. Once that happens, their leaders explode at them for it. These hapless followers face brutal, over-the-top punishment for these offenses.
In an authoritarian group, only the leader knows all the rules. Followers don’t know when the rules can safely be bent or broken. Once the leaders decide punishment is in order, they allow followers no recourse or mercy.
And y’all, that completely wonky power-distribution is absolutely intentional. It’s part of the design of the group. This design allows leaders to punish followers for literally any reason at all, even for no reason at all.
Remember, always: Authoritarian groups’ leaders run groups in a way that benefits themselves, not their followers!
… By Following the Rules.
More than that, though, authoritarian leaders love setting up games that nobody can win by following the group’s own rules. The leaders often reward those who win at something the leader values, rather than faithfully obeying those rules.
The stuff that pleases authoritarian leaders involves flattering them, bringing them into greater and greater levels of personal power, and extending the leader’s reach somehow.
Remember, this happens inconsistently. At any moment and on a dime, a group’s leader might decide to viciously enforce the rules. That capriciousness lands especially hard on powerless group members that the leader can safely make into a warning to the rest.
Ultimately, authoritarian leaders lead their groups to scratch a control-hungry itch. Consequently, authoritarian leaders reward members for pleasing them. And they hand out such rewards more generously and more reliably than they reward rule-following. As a result, followers will figure out how to game their group’s system by pleasing their leader without following the rules (which will invariably be too onerous and fussy to follow for their own sake). At most, they’ll pretend to follow the rules.
Their authoritarian leaders don’t care–until it pleases them to care. I can’t say they don’t care what their followers endure in the quest to please them, because they do. They care enormously about making their followers’ losses as high as they can.
The more and the greater losses their followers endure, the more powerful the group’s leaders feel–and the safer in their positions as well.
The Motherhood Trap.
This whole controversy began when Al Mohler decided that to earn the approval of King Him, women must bear and raise children.
He commits a cruel deception in his essay by implying that that’s all a woman needs to do to maintain her status. Indeed, once a woman begins playing his rigged game, she quickly discovers whole new onerous tasks she must perform to maintain her exalted but extremely tenuous position of Possibly Human Until the Tribe Decides Otherwise. She must:
- Gestate the child in the correct way
- Purchase and wear the correct maternity clothes
- Give birth in the correct way
- Have the correct number of children
- Bounce back to her pre-pregnancy weight quickly and without fuss
- Use the correct diapers
- Potty-train using tribe-approved methods and timing
- Discipline using the correct method
- Purchase the correct number of the correct toys and parenting accessories
- Educate in the correct way
- Provide the correct growing-up Kodak moments and experiences
- Ensure her child develops a strong Christian faith and never gets into trouble
And at all times she must:
- Only speak of her experiences as a mother in the correct way
Make sure her
lord and masterhusband feels sufficiently catered-to
Of course, these points of judgment rarely revolve around objective markers. They’re generally quite subjective–and dependent upon each particular tribe’s culture. What one group considers to be The One True Motherhood Doctrine might be anathema to another, optional to a third, and downright excessive and silly to a fourth. (Does this all sound familiar? It should.)
That subjectivity is no accident.
At every stage, an authoritarian tribe assiduously judges its members. Their approval is not only conditional (just like their imaginary friend’s fake love), but something members must actively work to gain and maintain at every step of the way to a degree determined by their political position in the group.
It’s a trap even to begin to play this reindeer game.
The Terrible Bargain.
Here’s the worst part: while a woman fights to maintain her validity as a human being in Al Mohler’s eyes, he will grant her no help whatsoever.
Yep! She’ll be fighting for her life to raise her adorable, tiny little new human to maturity, and she’ll be doing it 100% on her own. The men in her life will not help her. In fact, they will actively make her life harder at every single turn by adding to the amount of labor she must perform.
When I was Christian, I constantly heard the women in my church “joke” about having an extra toddler in the house in the form of their husbands. (They still do!)
When men weren’t around, a mother with two children might declare, “I really have three children though!” And she’d immediately look around for the exasperated sighs and wincing half-smiling Duggar-style grimaces of agreement from the other women present. To maintain safety, women presented these declarations as “jokes.” “Jokes” about husbands’ willful abdication of responsibility at home were almost always perfectly safe to make–in ways that demands for justice would never have been.
Women understand the reality of complementarianism: it’s a permission slip used by men to take advantage of them and coast through life on Easy Mode. While these men relax, their wives and mothers and sisters and daughters and girlfriends and, for that matter, female platonic friends take care of all the housework, errands, and childcare for their lords and masters.
So in Al Mohler’s “briefing” essay, he rants and rails against women not taking one for Team Humanity by bearing children. But he never once wonders if maybe the men in his tribe make that decision easy for women to make, much less if maybe his own political stances and voting habits at the polls reinforce it.
In reality, the real recipients of women’s labor are Team Sexist-Pig Boner-Owners. But his deception runs deeper even than that.
The Great Accuser.
Women need to have more kids so I feel in-control of them again and have women around to do the stuff I don’t wanna do!
It’s not exactly a winning sales slogan.
So instead, Al Mohler links rejection of motherhood to all of the evangelical tribe’s biggest enemies. Women who reject motherhood aren’t as patriotic and are less “rooted” (I don’t know–he possibly means community involvement). These motherhood-rejectin’ harlots tend toward evil liberalism, are less mature, and outright hate children, the monsters! Oh yes! Willful non-mothers deliberately avoid responsibility and the markers of adulthood!
Worst of all, y’all, THEY VOTE DEMOCRATIC, since (as he writes himself) “being married and being a parent are deeply conserving experiences.”
I read his essay and had to laugh at such naked fearmongering.
How amazingly hamfisted!
And the Accuser’s Fear.
Al Mohler must feel terrified about his religion’s decline, to clutch his pearls so hard. He’s simply upping the stakes as only an authoritarian leader can. He can’t persuade through reason because his cause is irrational and narcissistic in the extreme, so he utilizes deception and fearmongering to sell his ideas. (See endnote, because Al Mohler’s creepiness goes a lot further than mere fearmongering.)
If he felt even half an ounce of confidence about his future, he wouldn’t have gone so far. But looking over his “briefing” podcast topics, I can see that his activity for the past few years has almost all revolved around fearmongering and impossible stakes.
Evangelicals rely on coercion more than any other group of Christians out there. That’s it, that’s the only tool they’ve got in the toolbox. If following Christian rules really brought people happiness, then Christians would be doing way more of it. But it doesn’t. So instead, Al Mohler has to goose his followers with cattle prods to get them to do what he wants. And even there, he can’t bring enough voltage to that cattle prod to win the game.
So okay, King Al Mohler thinks that I’m a subhuman because I’ve chosen not to bear children? To me, that’s a compliment.
See, I know what he and his pals in leadership do to the women they consider Possibly Human Until the Tribe Decides Otherwise. And unless he finally gets his fantasized Republic of Gilead to rule, he’ll find that women care less and less about his pickup artist-style negging.
NEXT UP: LSP! Then, the demographic shift that will ensure Al Mohler loses his game. Next, we’ll explore the big-gun accusation he’s pulled out that will still fail for him. And then, we’ll explore a really scary question that Christians can’t answer. See you soon!
About just how creepy and gross and weird Al Mohler really is: He doesn’t even hide his giddy glee at the idea of forcing women to marry and have children. This essay sickens and alarms me on so many levels, not the least of which is the impression he gives that after women settle into their new lives of unwanted motherhood and compulsory Christianity then we’ll all become totally fine with it and turn into fervent believers.
After all, as he writes: “It turns out that doing what God had intended in human society in itself, in effect, makes us more likely to believe in God, more likely to trust in God, and more likely to have children and to experience what it means to take that responsibility.” At no point does choice or free will enter into his equation. If he can just force people to follow his
imaginary friend’s rules, then they’ll fall into line. Christ on a stick! He really DOES want to rule the Republic of Gilead in reality! Dude thinks that forcing devotions upon people is what sparks Christian faith!
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