Tag Archive: Patriarchy

Why Evangelical Beliefs and Practices are Psychologically Harmful — Part Two

submission

Evangelicalism is dominated by Bible literalism. God said it, and that settles it. There can be no debate or argument on the matter. An infallible God has spoken and his infallible words are recorded in an infallible book — the Protestant Christian Bible. Whatever the Bible teaches, Evangelicals are duty bound to believe and obey. While Evangelicals may argue about the finer points of this or that doctrine, calling oneself an Evangelical requires fidelity to certain, established doctrinal truths. Christianity is, after all, the faith once delivered to the saintsJesus is, after all, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Psychological manipulation is a common tool used by Evangelical preachers to force congregants to do their bidding. I hear the outrage of offended Evangelicals now, screaming for all to hear, that THEIR church is not like that; that their pastor is different. Maybe, perhaps, but I doubt it.

If their church or pastor really is different, it is likely because they are not really Evangelical. There are a lot of churches and pastors who are really liberals or progressives who fear making their true theological and social identities known. Fearing the mob, these thoughtful Evangelicals hide their true allegiances. I don’t fault them for doing so, but such churches and pastors are not representative of Evangelical belief and practice.

In particular, women face the brunt of Evangelical preaching against sin and disobedience. What do Evangelicals believe the Bible teaches about women?

  • Women are weaker than men.
  • Women are intellectually inferior, requiring men to teach and guide them.
  • Women are to submit to her husbands in the home and to male leadership in the church.
  • Women must never be permitted to have authority over men.
  • Women must dress modestly so that they don’t cause weak, pathetic men to lust after them.
  • The highest calling of women is to marry, bear children, and keep the home.
  • Feminism is a Satanic attack on God’s order for the church and home.

Think about this list for a moment. Are Evangelical women equal to men? No! Women are, at best, second class citizens. They must never be put in positions where they have control or power. Such places are reserved for men. We dare not question this. After all, it is God’s way

Is it any wonder that many Evangelical women lack self-esteem and think poorly of themselves? How could it be otherwise? Everywhere they look women are progressing, free to live their lives on their own terms. Yet, here they sit, chained to a ancient religious text and a religion that demeans women and views them as little more than slaves or chattel.

I am sure there are many Evangelical women who will vehemently object to my characterization of how they are treated by their churches, pastors, and husbands. In THEIR churches women are quite happy! They LOVE being submissive to their husbands as unto the Lord. They LOVE being relegated to cooking duty, janitorial work, and nursery work. They LOVE having no higher goals than having children, cooking meals, cleaning house, and never having a headache.

The bigger question is, WHY is it that many Evangelical women think living this way is normal and psychologically affirming — exactly what God ordered for their lives? Evangelical women don’t want to disobey God or displease their husbands or churches. Whatever God, pastors, male church leaders, and husbands want, Evangelical women give. This is their fate, and until the light of reason and freedom creeps in, Evangelical women will continue to bow at the feet of their Lords and do their bidding.

Once women break free from Evangelicalism, a thousand horses and one hundred arrogant, know it all preachers, couldn’t drag them back into the fold. Once free, they realize a whole new world awaits them. With freedom comes responsibility. No more defaulting to their husbands or pastors to make decisions for them. These women are free to make their own decisions. They quickly learns that life in the non-Evangelical world has its own problems and that women are not, in many cases, treated equally there either.

Over the years, I have watched numerous women break free from domineering, controlling Evangelical husbands. I have also watched women flee domineering churches and pastors. Some of these women went back to college to get an education. No longer content to be baby breeders, maids, cooks, and sex-on-demand machines, they turn to education to improve their place in life. Often, secular education provides a fuller view of the world and opens up all kinds of new opportunities for the women.

Sadly, this new life often leads to family problems. Husbands who have worn the pants for decades don’t like having their God-ordained authority challenged. This is especially true if the husbands remain active Evangelical church members. Many times, unable to weather dramatic changes, these mixed marriages end in divorce. Evangelicalism was the glue that held their marriages together, and once it was removed their marriage fell apart.

Some husbands and wives find ways to keep their marriages intact, although this is hard to do. Imagine living in a home where mothers and wives are considered rebellious, sinful, and wicked by their Evangelical husbands, pastors, friends. Imagine being considered a Jezebel.  Evangelicals are not kind to those who rebel against  their God and their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible says rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Biblical literalism demands that these rebellious women be labelled as practitioners of witchcraft. Once considered devotees to God, the church, and their families, these women are now considered to be pariahs — servants of Satan who walk in darkness.

I want to end this post with a bit of personal commentary.

For a good part of my marriage to Polly, our marriage was pretty much as I described above. I was the head of the home. I made all the decisions. I was in charge, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Polly bore six children, cooked, and kept the home. On and off, when finances demanded it, she worked outside the home. and in her spare time, she homeschooled all six of our children, including one child with Down Syndrome.

Polly is a pastor’s daughter. Her goal in life was to be a pastor’s wife. She went to college to get an MRS degree. Polly is quiet and reserved, and thanks to forty plus years of Evangelical indoctrination, she is also quite passive. During the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, Polly heartily embraced her preacher’s-wife responsibilities. She was a dutiful wife who always exemplified what it meant to being in be submission to God and her husband. Never saying a cross word or demanding her own way, Polly submitted to those who had the authority over her.

A decade ago, things began to change in our marriage. I finally realized how abusive and controlling I had been. Granted, I was just being the kind of Evangelical husband and pastor I thought I should be. I tried my best to follow the teachings of the Bible and the example of pastors I respected. Regardless of the whys of the matter, I must own my culpability in behaviors I now consider psychologically harmful

In November 2008. Polly and Bruce Gerencser — hand in hand — walked away from Christianity. For the first time in our lives we were free from the constraints of God, the Bible, and the ministry. We were free to choose how we wanted to live our lives; free to decide what kind of marriage we wanted to have.

In many ways, very little has changed. Polly still cooks, but now she whips up gourmet meals because she LOVES to do so. I still manage household finances, not because I am the head of the home, but because I am better with numbers than Polly is. Both of us take care of household chores. I still do most of the shopping, but I no longer make the list. I am the numbers guy, someone who can figure out price per ounce in my head. By the time Polly finds her calculator in that bottomless purse of hers, I already have the equation figured out. Each of us tries to do the things we are good at.

The biggest difference in our marriage is this: I now ask Polly, What do you think? What do you think we should do? Where do you want to go? On top or bottom?  We have learned that it is okay to have lives outside of each other; to have desires, wants and hobbies that the other person may not have. The Vulcan mind meld has been broken.

Polly recently celebrated 18 years of employment for a local manufacturing concern. Out from the shadow of her pastor husband she has excelled at work. Her yearly reviews are always excellent and she is considered an exemplary worker by everyone who works with her. Over the past two years Polly has received two promotions. She now supervises auxiliary department employees on second and third shift. Polly even has an office with her name on the door. None of these things would have been possible had we remained within the smothering confines of Evangelical beliefs and practices.

In 2013, Polly bought a new car in her own name. Yes, I helped picked out the car and took care of the financing details, but it is her car. A first for her, and believe me, this was a BIG deal. In 2012, Polly graduated from Northwest State Community College with an associates of arts. This was a huge undertaking on her part. Why did Polly go back to school, you ask? Because she could. And that’s the beauty of our current life. Freedom allows us to live openly and authentically.  We no longer have to parse our lives according to the Bible. Both of us are free to do whatever we want to do. Having this freedom of spirit has allowed us to experience things that never would have been possible had we remained Pastor and Mrs. Bruce Gerencser.

Polly continues to break out of her shell and I continue to learn what it means to be a good man and husband. We still have our moments. There are those times when both Polly and I find it quite easy to fall back into our former Evangelical ways, As those who have walked similar paths know, it is not easy to change attitudes and lifestyles which were decades in the making. I suspect, until death do us part, we will remain a work in progress.

Nancy Campbell’s “Vision” for Her Children and Grandchildren

all about jesus

According to the Above Rubies website, Nancy Campbell is an “internationally known author, speaker, and authority on Biblical Motherhood and Family.” Campbell preaches the old-time Fundamentalist  gospel of patriarchy — a world in which women marry, obey their husbands, bear lots of children, and keep the home. Recently, in a post titled A Higher Vision, Campbell detailed her vision for her children and grandchildren. Here’s what Campbell had to say:

I want children who love God above all else.
I want children who are growing into the likeness of Christ.
I want children who love righteousness and abhor evil.
I want children who have a biblical mindset and stand for God’s truth.
I want children who will not compromise godly standards.
I want children who will not be tainted by the spirit of this world.
I want children who will not give in to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, but who will pursue the will of God.
I want children who love God’s Word and love to pray.
I want children who will blaze across this world with the gospel and message of truth.

Amen.

As you can see, Campbell’s vision for her progeny focuses on the Evangelical God and the Bible. Like many Evangelicals, her vision is singular and blinkered, making Campbell blind to the wonders of the world outside the narrow confines of the Christian box. All that matters to Campbell is that her children and grandchildren turn out to be good little Christians who follow the approved way of life.

I too have children and grandchildren, and like Campbell I have a vision for them. However, my vision is far different from that of Campbell’s:

I want children who think for themselves.
I want children who enjoy life.
I want children who treat others with respect.
I want children who love their families.
I want children who value hard work and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
I want children who aren’t afraid to stand against bigotry and racism.
I want children who will live every moment to its fullest, realizing that life is short.
I want children who value fun, pleasure, and relaxation.
I want children who will travel far and wide, enjoying the wonders of earth.
And most of all, I want children who are happy.

Amen.

Campbell’s vision is one of exclusion, whereas my vision is one of inclusion. Campbell’s vision focuses on right beliefs and obedience, whereas my vision focuses on embracing and enjoying life. Campbell’s vision sees the goal as a room in God’s celestial kingdom, where my vision sees the goal as a life well lived. Campbell envisions life as that of Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s ProgressTrudge on dear Pilgrim, remembering that Heaven awaits you IF you make it to the end. What a sad way to live life, squandering the too-short time we have on earth.

I have more of a Dixie Chicks way of looking at life. In 1998, the Chicks released the single Wide Open Places. I think the song aptly describes how those of us who are rooted in there here and now view life:

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

[Chorus]
She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won’t be coming back with the rest
If these are life’s lessons, she’ll take this test

[Repeat Chorus]
She knows the high stakes

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, “Check the oil!”
Mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl”
She said, “It didn’t seem like that long ago”
When she stood there and let her own folks know

[Repeat Chorus]
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes

Video Link

Wide open spaces, that’s what I hope my children and grandchildren find as the meander their ways through this life. Who knows what might lie ahead. Campbell wants to keep her children and grandchildren safe within the confines of the Evangelical box. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box) While there is great comfort and security that comes from knowing everyone is safely in the box, this is no way to live and enjoy life. That’s what Evangelicalism does. It confines people for life in Bible Prison, safe from the evil, sinful world. Humanism, however, opens wide the gate and says, You are FREE! Enjoy life. Embrace all that it has to offer, knowing that we don’t know what tomorrow might bring. Life is like the steam rising from a radiator on a cold winter’s day. It quickly dissipates into the air and then it is gone (James 4:14).  Solomon was surely right when he said:

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour
….
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
….
Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
….
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Let me conclude this post with the advice I give on the ABOUT page of this blog:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

 

“Taking Her Myself” A New Trend in Quiverfull Courtship & Betrothal

guest-post

Guest post by Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering.

Does God Hate Women? author Ophelia Benson shared a note written by a young patriarch describing his “biblical marriage.”:

As Bible-believing Baptists who hold to reformed theology, X and I believe that God is sovereign in choosing who will or will not believe in him, having chosen his people before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1), and that his selection is unbreakable and irresistible. If marriage is to mirror this principle, we believe that a woman has no right to select a husband for herself, but that she is to be chosen by a man and marriage is to be an unbreakable arrangement between the man and her father. Based on this reasoning, we have shunned a standard proposal and wedding ceremony, because if I had asked her to marry me (which I did not) then I would have given her the decision to marry me rather than selecting her and taking her myself. Furthermore, if we had exchanged conventional marriage vows, our union would have been based on X’s will and consent, which are not Biblical factors for marriage or salvation. Instead, I asked X’s father for his blessing in taking her hand in marriage. When he gave his blessing, X and I considered ourselves to be unbreakably betrothed in the sight of God. While we had initially intended to consummate our marriage after today’s symbolic ceremony, we instead did so secretly after private scripture reading, prayer, and mutual foot-washing.

As Quiverfull Believers dig ever-deeper into their Bibles in search of the truly “biblical model” for godly marriage, ideas about courtship and “betrothal” are becoming increasingly savage and brutish.  It would seem unlikely that Courtship standards could get even more oppressive considering that Christian notions of “biblical match-making” have already been taken to outrageous extremes.

Joshua Harris started a back-to-bible-living revolution among Christian young people when he advocated the courtship model in his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. What – no dating for teens? Now that’s a radical concept! As “bible believers” jumped on the bandwagon of father-led pairing of qualified young men and women in serious pursuit of marriage, popular Quiverfull patriarchs took biblical courtship to a new level of paternal domination as they pointed to Old Testament examples of “betrothal” as the very best way to ensure the future success of Christian marriage.

Jonathan Lindvall, teaching “God’s Design for Youthful Romance,” cited the betrothal of Matthew and Maranatha Chapman (link no longer active) as an ideal example of a “true romantic betrothal.”  Lindvall describes the crazy-making process by which Maranatha’s father, Stan Owen, orchestrated a year-long betrothal which was to be a “demonstration of Christ’s coming for His bride” based on the parable of the Ten Virgins.

Mr. Owen still faithfully directed both Matthew and Maranatha to avoid physical affection until their wedding. He particularly cautioned them to guard against impatience. Especially since Maranatha was rather young, their wedding might be quite a long way off yet. Though they hoped that the time would be soon, they nevertheless resigned themselves to the real possibility that the wedding could be a matter of years down the road, much like Jacob’s seven year betrothal to Rachel (Gen. 29:18-20). Yet they were both naturally quite motivated and energetically prepared in every way they could, as quickly as they could, just in case the wedding should suddenly be announced.

Not to be outdone in the “biblical examples of courtship and marriage” department, Michael Pearl counseled his daughter, Shoshanna, to forego a state-issued marriage license:

None of my daughters or their husbands asked the state of Tennessee for permission to marry. They did not yoke themselves to government. It was a personal, private covenant, binding them together forever—until death. So when the sodomites have come to share in the state marriage licenses, which will eventually be the law, James and Shoshanna will not be in league with those perverts. And, while I am on the subject, there will come a time when faithful Christians will either revoke their state marriage licenses and establish an exclusively one man-one woman covenant of marriage, or, they will forfeit the sanctity of their covenant by being unequally yoked together with perverts. The sooner there is such a movement, the sooner we will have a voice in government. Some of you attorneys and statesmen reading this should get together and come up with an approach that will have credibility and help to impact the political process.

Yeah … that’s “bible-believing” extremism for you – and it’s not enough to practice these ideals for themselves and their children, “biblical family values” must become the law of the land.

As a former Quiverfull believer, I used to get excited at the prospect of searching the Word and discovering greater “truths” and biblical principles – the implementation of which would bring my family increasingly closer to a truly God-honoring model of marriage and Christian home life.  At the same time, I secretly dreaded what the Lord might reveal to me next through Lindvall’s Bold Christian Living, Pearl’s No Greater Joy, and other “biblical family living” ministries.  Already I was obediently and faithfully having baby after baby to the obvious detriment of my health, submitting to my abusive husband, homeschooling, home birthing, home churching, foregoing all government assistance including potentially life-saving health insurance and food stamps, cutting off all outside relationships with family and friends who were not like-minded Quiverfull Believers …. honestly, the regimentation and isolation made for a harsh and demanding life.

“What’s next?” I frequently wondered to myself … ‘cuz my practice of Quiverfull was not “peculiar” enough already, I guess.

I am so grateful that I got out before I had a chance to discover the biblical principle of a man selecting and taking a wife for himself.  I am afraid, since the idea comes straight from scripture, I very well may have gone along with my daughters’ father coming to an “unbreakable arrangement” for a “godly” young man to “take them” in marriage.

Ugh.  It is a trap – a life-sucking quagmire – to attempt to order one’s family life according to a worldview which teaches that whatever is in the bible is necessarily “biblical” and normative for all times and all cultures.  I dread the thought that today’s Quiverfull daughters are now being taught that a young Christian woman “has no right to select a husband for herself, but that she is to be chosen by a man” and given no decision in the covenant agreement between her father and the man who will be taking her.

Note

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull movement, please read Kathryn Joyce’s book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarch Movement

Women, Don’t You Feel Special?

woman on a pedestal

In the early 1980′s, I heard Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist Baptist pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia say, We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women.  Falwell went on to say that the Bible actually elevates women on a pedestal and that equal rights for women would actually be a step down for them.  Evidently, Falwell’s Bible didn’t have the verses that gave approval to men treating women as property or the verses that countless Evangelical preachers have used to justify their “women should be ignorant, barefoot, pregnant, keepers of the home” preaching.

Yesterday, in a post titled Why Would Any Woman Want to Be and Evangelical Christian, I wrote:

Why would any woman want to be an Evangelical Christian? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety. The right to vote. Equal pay for equal work. The right to use birth control. The right to have an abortion. The right to divorce.  While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made to that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only. The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is that Christian patriarchal thinking still permeates our society.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women a weaker vessel. The Bible teaches that women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband. (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Simply put, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children and as women age  they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be a good wife.

You can read the entire post here.

Derick Dickens, in an article for the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, takes the same approach Falwell did thirty years ago. (Dickens is a graduate of Liberty University)  Dickens thinks that women, the weaker vessel, should receive high honor rather than equal rights. He goes on to blame many of the woes women have on feminism and their demand for equality. Dickens writes:

…It demands us to ask some serious questions.  Has the last century of women’s rights not touched the home?  Has women’s equality not turned the tide of divorce?  Has it not lifted women out of poverty instead of sinking them further into poverty?  Women’s equality has failed precisely because it is misplaced from the Biblical understanding of women.  It has failed precisely because it misunderstands the honor God has given to women.

In short, if you think women are equal to men, then you have too low of a view of women.  Women are not merely equal, they are to be honored and esteemed unlike that of a man.

Honoring women is not merely my opinion, but this is the Christian ethic.  It is why men traditionally bent on one knee to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, men would open the door for her, and men willingly sacrificed their life to save a woman.

Granted, abuses have often taken place in our culture and previous cultures.  However, this should not be looked at with the ever critical eye that fails to realize all the facts of the situation.  There were abuses of the past because of mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality.

Rather than see these abuses subside, they have escalated in modern times.  For instance, women account for 75% of all people trapped in the slave trade.  For every three childhood victims of human trafficking, two are girls (Source: UNODC).  The heinous injustice brought upon girls and women should make our blood boil in anger and every decent human being cry out for the eradication of this evil.

The abuses that are easier to “live with” are those couched in the language of modernity.  Women, for profit and sale, are treated as sex objects on magazines and television.  Being remade to look nothing like they appear, women are donned in scant bikinis to sell products like beer, cars, football, and even tools.  Parts of our society have made women utilitarian.  This may be better than the sex slave trade but only by degree (Matthew 5:28)

What may be an attempt by some overreacting to abuses towards women has been an effort to make women completely the same as men.  In some cases, this has forced women to be a clone of their male counterparts, or in other cases forced men to be exactly like women.  In both cases, this is a travesty to women.

Women do not find their greatest worth in being like men but in being a woman.  It is her uniqueness that should be cherished, but not to the extremes either side tends to push her.  One celebrates the woman as having a utilitarian purpose in satisfying the sinful lusts of man, the other celebrates her distinct from her sexuality.

Both are wrong.  Both seek to diminish women from being what they were created to be–a woman.

In turning to the Scripture, we extinguish the often cited critique that women are not as smart or capable as men.  Proverbs 31, for instance, shows the virtuous woman as possessing gifts that would make most men jealous.  She is intelligent, resourceful, hard working, and respectful–a tremendous force of dignity and wisdom.

These qualities, though, should not make us treat women like men.  Women are to be treated distinctly like a woman.  Husbands are called to reflect towards these women a demonstration of the greatest love ever shown, a love that willingly died in her place (Ephesians 5:25).  For a man, he should represent her as a person worthy enough for us to die for, to present as pure, to uplift as glorious, and acknowledged as magnificent…

…In the Biblical Worldview, women have a dignity all their own that allows us, men, to selflessly serve until our dying days.  They are bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, but they are much more.  They are women and for that reason we should give them a greater honor.

You can read entire article here.

Dickens speaks in glowing terms about how women are treated when the Biblical pattern for the sexes is followed. According to Professor Dickens, our culture’s unwillingness to follow this pattern has resulted in women being far worse off today than they were before equal rights for women and modern feminism convinced women that they had equal status in our culture. (As with equality for people of color, equality for women is still an unrealized goal. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go before we can say, women are equal.)

Dickens seems deliberately ignorant of history, both ancient history and American history. Rather than seeing the Bible and Christianity as the source of many of abuses and ill-treatment women have received, Dickens thinks “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the problem. Evidently, he can not see that perhaps Christianity and Bible wedded to “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the real explanation for the deplorable treatment of women throughout much of the history of the United States.

Dickens article is a poignant reminder that little has changed for Evangelical women. Their overlords continue to use the Bible to subjugate and control them. Sadly, for many Evangelical women, including my wife for many years, they know of no other world but one where the Derick Dickens of the world are their lords. These lords convince them, through words supposedly mouthed by God, that their highest calling in life is to be a weaker vessel; a wife, a mother, and a keeper of the home. Wanting any other kind of life is a step away from God’s wonderful, super-duper plan for their life.

So what do you think readers? I am especially interested in hearing from female readers. Do you desire to return to days before equality and feminism? Now that you are free from the strictures of the Bible, how has your life changed? For the better, for the worse? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

It’s in the Bible: Anonymous Evangelical Blogger Says Marital Rape is not a Sin

submit to your husband

“Trapped” Sophia drawing by nakedpastor David Hayward

The Evangelical church is built around one inviolable belief; that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. This belief is irrational and intellectually bankrupt, but it is the one belief that binds every corner of Evangelicalism into a cohesive whole. Throw in a healthy dose of literalism and what you have is a recipe for emotional, mental and, at times, physical abuse.

Evangelicalism, for the most part, is patriarchal. God is a man (father), Jesus is a man (son), and the church is led by a man or men. In the home, the man is the head and his wife and children are to submit to him as unto the Lord.  While egalitarianism has made some inroads in the Evangelical church, complementarianism is still the dominant family structure said to be approved by God. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Evangelicals are outraged over this decision. Why? Because it legalizes “sin” and goes against God’s divine order for the sexes. Evangelicals, thanks to their commitment to inerrancy and literalism, see same-sex marriage the same say they see egalitarianism; a rejection of God’s divine order for the sexes.

I think it is important to keep encouraging Evangelicals to talk out loud so the public can hear them. I hope they write lots of blog posts and opinion pieces and preach lots of sermons about same-sex marriage and the destruction of Christian America. The more they talk and write, the easier it is to show that Evangelicalism is, for the most part, a dangerous religious ideology. Let me give you an example of how dangerous Evangelicalism can be.

The man behind  the blog Biblical Gender Roles, an anonymous writer who refuses to identify himself and who will now be called Coward Behind the Screen, recently wrote a post titled Is My Husband Raping Me?  In a previous post titled Is a Husband Selfish for Having Sex with His Wife When She is not in the Mood, a married woman left the following comment:

“My husband and I have been married for 9 years. When I was pregnant with our first child we sat down and had a discussion about sex. I told him while I was pregnant there would be times when I probably would not want to have sex and if he did I understood and I would be willing to fulfill my duty and his desires………well it all went downhill from there.

I understand what the Bible states. I am a Christian however he is not. That being said when sex began to be painful because of pregnancy he did not care. I would receive the comment “It will only take a few minutes, and I’ll be quick.” Whatever, I took it. Did not hold a grudge. Got past it. The problem is, it has never stopped.

My husband has sex with me whether I want it or not, all of the time. It has tainted our marriage and our sex life to the point of disgust. Even when I would cry, he would still have sex with me. I can read a book and he will still have sex with me. I have tried to tell him how this makes me feel, I have begged and pleaded with him, not to do this to our marriage, that I feel like his whore, or his piece of trash, he does not care.

I have told him this is not love, this is not biblical love, I do not feel loved and he does not care. I hate when he touches me. It literally makes me sick to my stomach. I became so deep in depression because of it. I will be so sad and heartbroken after we have sex sometimes and he actually will ask, “What is your problem?”

I even went as far as to get drunk so I could have sex with him. Guess what….he thought that was the best idea ever, so he would make sure I would have enough alcohol in me to have sex. Even when I said I wanted to stop drinking, he would always make sure the fridge is full.

When I would beg to see a counselor, I would get a guilt trip of 100 reasons why I shouldn’t or cannot. Now I am so numb to it all, I put a pillow over my face, and say just get it over with. And still I am trying to be a Godly wife.

So please tell me how this is not sin. How this is not rape, or abuse of some sort. Because in my mind I feel like I am living with my molester every day. Yes he says he is sorry, he does try to get me in the mood. You can definitely tell when he want wants it, it is the only time he comes up behind me and holds me, and the nonstop sexual comments like “Why don’t you come sit on my lap?” Gross. And If I don’t have sex with him the sighing and whining is sooo overwhelming. It becomes a punishment.

When I’m upset after we have had sex, I get “You told me to do it, I don’t know why you are so upset”. I can go on and on. So as a Christian women do I just keep taking it and keep the smile on my face pretending everything is ok when it is killing me inside? And just a side note, I am not a feminist, I am very biblical when it comes to God’s way, and not being in this world but of this world. So I do get what you are saying about not denying your husband of sex.

But what do you do when it has turned into what yes I would call rape?

Coward Behind the Screen responded:

…Aside from his physically harming her by forcing himself upon her no he is NOT abusing his wife from a Biblical perspective. Even if he did physically force himself upon her – it is IMPOSSIBLE Biblically speaking for a man to rape his wife. Abuse? Yes. Rape? No.  For a larger discussion of the Biblical impossibility of marital rape I refer you again to my post “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood”.

If he convinces her to yield her body to him, then no sin has been committed on his part. But it is very possible that even if she yields to him – there is still sin on her part. If she acts disgusted by him and acts like he has no right to have sex with her – then the sin lies squarely in her court. She needs to eliminate the terms “rape” and “molester” from her vocabulary regarding her husband’s sexual advances toward her…

…Perhaps if Christian wives in the situation described in this story would go to God and ask him to remove all bitterness in their hearts, submit themselves spiritually, mentally and sexually to their husband’s with a right heart they may have a chance of bringing their husband’s to Christ and as a result of that God can do wonderful things with their marriage…

…I have shown here that Biblically speaking this woman’s husband was not raping her. Did he sin in other ways? Yes. Is it possible for a husband to abuse his wife? Yes. Is it possible for him to rape and molest his wife? From a Biblical perspective the answer is NO. Christian wives must eliminate the terms “rape” and “molester” from their vocabulary were it references their relationship with their husband.

Anyone with a modicum of reason, decency, and respect for women should be outraged ove this man’s defense of marital rape. How can anyone defend such a belief? Simple, it’s in the Bible. Our 21st century view of sexuality, marriage, women, and family is very different from what is taught in the inspired, inerrant Evangelical Bible. Evangelicals like Coward Behind the Screen think the Bible is a timeless, perfect book, words from the very mouth of God. If the Bible says a wife is to submit to her husband, then she must have sex whenever he wants it. To not do so is a sin, a violation of the teachings of the Bible.

obeying the bible

I wish I could say Coward Behind the Screen is an outlier and  his beliefs are his alone. Unfortunately, they are not. Within the patriarchal movement, such beliefs are common. After all, it is in the B-i-b-l-e:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)

According to the Evangelical interpretation of this passage:

  • A single man should not touch a woman. There is debate within Evangelicalism over what “not touch” actually means. Some, like those in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist  (IFB) church movement take it to mean that a single man should have NO physical contact with a woman before marriage. Others, allow some physical contact like hand holding or a brief good night kiss. Both think any physical contact that arouse sexual passion is a sin.
  • If a man and a woman find themselves tempted to commit fornication, then they should get married. In verse nine of the same chapter, Paul writes “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Again, there is some debate over the word “burn.” Does it mean burn with unrequited lust or does it mean burn in hell?
  • Once married, the woman is to have sex with her husband when he asks for it. The only time when it is OK for her to say NO is when, with the consent of her husband, she withholds sex so she can devote herself to fasting and prayer. Once the woman is done fasting and praying, she must return to putting out when her husbands demands it.

wives submit

Remember, this passage must be read with a patriarchal filter. The man is the head of the home. He is commanded by God to lead his family and wife in the way of the Lord, and that includes reminding his wife that she is to submit to him as unto the Lord. Never mind that, supposedly, Jesus was single, never married, and never even had a wet dream. Even Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 argues that it is better for people not to marry, that marriage is not the preferred way of living. Why? Because when a couple marries:

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.  There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.(1 Corinthians 7:32-38)

Paul seems to say that marriage is a concession to the sexual weakness of Christian men. Since the horn dogs can’t contain themselves, they need to marry so they can have sex whenever they want to. And since the Old Testament law is no longer in force, the prohibition of sex during menstruation no longer applies. The wife is expected to have sex whenever her husband wants it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As long as the Bible is considered the inerrant, inspired Word of God, there are going to men like Coward Behind the Screen. Some of them will be pastors and evangelists who will use the power of the pulpit to shame women into conformity and submission. No matter how some within Evangelicalism try to dress up their abhorrent patriarchal beliefs, the fact is they believe woman are the weaker vessel, inferior to men and in need of their care and protection. What’s a little inconvenient, painful sex compared to the awesome spiritual guidance and protection given to you by your spirit-filled, Bible believing horn dog of a husband.

Note

I am sure an offended Evangelical will whine and complain that I am lumping all Evangelicals together. I am. Don’t like it? Change churches. I have no time or use for people who continue to belong to churches and organizations that promote demeaning and subjugating women, all in the name of God and his inspired, inerrant B-i-b-l-e.

Family Driven Faith Part Two

bruce and polly gerencser 2008

Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2008

This article was first published in 2011 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I taught parishioners that the the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. (a hierarchy) The Bible is clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them was marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home.

I taught men that God’s highest calling is for them to be a leader. Men are called by God to lead the church, the home,and the government. The strength or weakness of any nation, culture, church, or home depends on whether men are fulfilling their divine calling to lead.

Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. Children have one divine calling in life, obey!

This kind of hierarchical family structure has been a part of American society since the day the Pilgrims stepped ashore on the eastern coast of America. Over time, due to social, political, and economic pressure, the hierarchical family structure has weakened. As women gained the right to vote, began working outside of the home, and began using birth control, they realized they could live without being under the control and authority of a man. Modern American women are free to pursue their own life path, free to live lives independent of men. When women marry, they are no longer considered the help meet. They are equal partners in the marriage. Their values, beliefs, and opinions matter.

However, in the IFB church movement women still live in the 18th century. Bound by commands and teachings from an antiquated book, they live lives strangely and sadly out of touch with the modern world. Every aspect of family life is controlled by what the Bible teaches. Better put, their life is controlled  by what an authoritarian pastor and authoritarian husband/father say the Bible teaches.

I have no objection to a woman willingly choosing to live and participate in a hierarchical family structure. If an Amish woman wants to live as the Amish do, then I have no reason or right to object. It  is, however, difficult to determine if they willingly choose. Is it a free choice when there are no other options?

For my family and I, moving away from a hierarchical family structure was difficult. We had to relearn how to live. We had to examine sincerely held beliefs and determine if they still were applicable to the new way we wanted to live our lives. I realized that I had lorded over my family. I had dominated and controlled their lives, all in the name of Jesus. By doing so, I had robbed them of the ability to live their lives independently of my control. Every decision had to have my stamp of approval. Nothing escaped my purview. After all, God had commanded me to be the head of the home. Someday, I would give an account to God for how I managed the affairs of my family. I took the threat of judgment seriously.

The biggest problem we faced was that since I was the one who always made the final decision my children and wife lacked the skills necessary to make good decisions. My children quickly adapted to their new-found freedom, shouting a Martin Luther King Jr-like FREE, FREE AT LAST. However, my wife did not fare so well.

Raised in a fundamentalist home, her father an IFB pastor, Polly had spent her entire life under the thumb of someone else. She rarely had to make a decision because there was always someone else making decisions for her. To say our new-found freedom was difficult for Polly would be a gross underestimation. Suddenly, she was forced to make decisions on her own. For a time, she panicked when faced with making a decision on her own. Simple decisions, like what to order at the fast food drive-thru or whether or not to put gas in the car, were monumental decisions for her.(1)

Over time, Polly’s decision making skills improved. Several years ago, she was promoted to a supervisory position at local manufacturing concern. (2) One night, she came home from work all upset. She told me that she had made a decision about something and several people were now upset at her. I laughed and  told her, rule number one about making decisions. You will likely piss someone off. (3)

polly gerencser graduation 2012

Polly Gerencser, Graduating from Northwest State Community College, Archbold, Ohio

In 2010, Polly returned to college. She struggled at first, and it took quite a bit of willpower for me not to bail her out. Over time, she adapted to using the computer (she was computer illiterate) and doing the various things necessary to be a good college student. In 2012, Polly  graduated with an Associates of Arts degree from Northwest State Community College. I wept as I saw her walk down the aisle on graduation day. Her graduation was a reminder of how far both of us have come. (Polly actually has 5 years of college credit. Unfortunately, 3 of those years were spent at an unaccredited Bible college)

Polly was over 40 years old before she wore her first pair of pants. Same goes for going to the movie theater, drinking alcohol, cutting her hair short, reading a non-Christian romance novel, etc, etc, etc. As many people know, the IFB movement is all about what a Christian CAN’T do. Some of these choices were fearful choices, God lurking in the shadows of the mind, ready to punish her for making“sinful” choices.”

With change comes new life. In many ways, we have been “born again.” In 2005, I left the pastorate and we began a slow, painful process of examining our Christian beliefs. For many years, my family believed what I believed, went to church when I went to church, and obeyed any and every command I gave, complete with proof texts from the Bible . Now it is different.

I told my wife and six children that I was setting them free. I am no longer the spiritual head of the home or the patriarch of the family.  They are free to be whatever they want to be. I sincerely mean this. If they want to be Wiccan,Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, or atheist, I am fine with it. The bottom line is this: I want them to be happy. If they are happy, I am happy.

This last decision has caused quite a bit of controversy and conflict. Freed from my control, my entire family quickly abandoned the Evangelical church. I am now an atheist, Polly is an agnostic, and our children, for the most part do not attend church. (4) Religion is still a big topic of discussion in our family and I still like a rousing debate or discussion about religion, politics, or sports. The difference now is that there is no test of fidelity. No, “did you guys go to church today?” No, “what was the sermon about?” 

Our family remains a work in progress. As my wife continues to learn to make decisions, I have to learn not to make decisions. I am learning to shut up and allow them to make choices for themselves, even when I think their choices are ill-advised. I have a new rule I live by: If I think someone is making a bad decision on an important issue, I will voice my opinion, but that is the end of it. I stay out of my children’s business. They are responsible adults and I support whatever decision they make, even if I disagree with it.

We are far from a finished product. Polly still freezes at the drive-thru and I still know what I want before we pull into the restaurant. We still have the same peculiar character traits we’ve always had. You know,those things that annoy and bug the hell out of you. The difference now is that we have learned to embrace each other’s peculiarities, knowing that these are what make us unique individuals. (5)

It is good to be free.

(1) Even today she freezes at the drive-thru. We joke about it now, but her freezing hails from a day when I ordered everything.

(2) One of the first steps of freedom for Polly was getting a job, a job that she has held since 1997.

(3) I was well suited for the hierarchical family system and the pastorate. I am not afraid to make decisions. Snap decisions come easy for me. It felt very natural to me to make all the decisions. However, in the home, like at work, one person making all the decisions stunts the growth of others and when they are put into a position where they must make a decision they are often unable to.

(4) I am hesitant to label my children’s current beliefs. Two of my children attend the Catholic church with their wives. The rest of them, for the most part, do not attend church. I would not classify them as atheists or even agnostics. They are indifferent and still figuring out what they believe. It is exciting to watch, even if the IFB part of our extended family thinks we are committing spiritual suicide.

(5) I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Polly is happy with clutter. Ours is a match made in hell. For many years, my OCPD dominated everything. I have had to learn that while I have every right to want things perfectly ordered, everything in its place, Polly also has the right not to want things perfectly ordered, everything in it place. We each have personal spaces where we are free to practice our peculiar habits and traits. We know to stay out of each others “stuff”. In the common spaces, we try to find a happy medium, though I must admit I have a hard time doing this.  The clutter has decreased significantly since our last two children moved out 15 months ago.

Family Drive Faith Part One

bruce and polly gerencser 1985

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

This article was first published in 2011 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

For seven months in 2004, our family attended a vibrant, growing, family oriented church in Central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly (my wife) was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.” 

In a split second everything changed.  You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990’s, I co-pastored a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.

This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question they had to whisper their question to a man and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.

I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible there is no Christianity. (in any meaningful sense of the word) As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant words of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under shepherds of the church, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching the church what the Bible says. (or better put, what his interpretations are) The pastor, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the mouthpiece of God.

Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority. (1)

In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible came first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.

As an IFB pastor, I taught church members that God and the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children.  In my mind, the Bible was clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home,and the government.  The strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. (And according to my younger sons, their oldest brother) Children have one divine calling in life, obey!

Polly and I have been married almost 37 years. We have six children. Our older children went to a Christian school for a few years and for 17 years we home schooled our children. For the first 20 years of  marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked 60-80 hours a week,and in doing so neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer for every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fear fear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.

For many years, my wife (2) and I followed the general tenets of the quiverfull movement.  Our children are ages 35, 33, 30, 25, 23, and 21. Between our 30-year-old and 21-year-old we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?

Our first child born under the “let God have his way” form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down Syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day,  we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. 20 months later our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful?) was born.

Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had 20 children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.

Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Sadly, my motivation was selfish. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and the rabbit died.

In a future article, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.

(1) Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives

(2) I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances they cannot be avoided.

Hustling for Jesus: Christian Home-Based Businesses

christian business

Comic by the wildly entertaining Jeffrey Weston, at Ape, Not Monkey.

Suzanne, who blogs at Every Breaking Wavehad this to say about her experiences with home-based Evangelical Christian businesses:

One of the things that the ladies kept trying to pound in my head during those early days, besides telling me that I should use “To Train Up A Child” to discipline my very ill child, was that if I was going to be a good Christian submissive wife I was going to have to not work outside of the home. Which was foreign to me, I’d always had some sort of job outside of the home, even if it was part time, and mostly tried to work at a time when Jim could take care of the kids so that they didn’t have to go to daycare.

This was the first time I’d heard of the family economy. I did this for a year or two, did the quilting, to make some money while I was incapacitated by the fibro. But eventually I did go back to working outside of the home, to the disappointment and derision of the ladies of the church. I just kept telling myself that they didn’t know any better, none of them had college educations and it seemed like a waste of my own education to not work.

But like any good cult, eventually the messages being replayed over and over again went into my head and I started seeking a way to do the home-based economy thing, find something I could do. When I started making flags it seemed like the perfect answer, most of what I made was either an air-brushed design, or something like a 9 foot long half round lame flag with an inset of glittery chiffon or a special shaped, painted, stoned, flag that was one of the kind. One of the most popular ones I sold was a half round flag with a flaming sword appliqued into place and bejeweled and stoned with a hand-worked sword hilt on the flag handle.

What I’m trying to say is that the flags were one of a kind, hand made, designs I’d come up with, more like art work than anything mass produced. I charged accordingly, because, none of those things I’m talking about are quick and easy. Sometimes I’d have close to sixty dollars in materials alone in the flags.

At first I sold quite a few, and I’d get contacted frequently to make something special, or perhaps an entire set of flags just for a church. Did so well and had enough orders that I quit my job as a systems admin at an insurance company. Home-based economy, honoring God, etc…

…With the flags and large banners I ran into a snag after a few months, a snag I’ve seen played out again and again and again in the Christian home economies in many different divisions.

It would go something like this. I’d be at a teaching conference, or someone would see my now-defunct website and start asking questions about one of the items. Most of the time this was about the half round 9 foot long flags with a half round center of glitter bedecked chiffon, not an easy item to make, but one that I’d managed to come up with a nearly fool proof method to make. I had my own pattern I’d made, and my own special technique for appliqueing in the center, while cutting away the solid lame in the center. It wasn’t easy, but it was my way to do it that worked every time.

The problem with this particular highly-coveted flag is that you needed a minimum of 5 yards of very expensive materials. It was usually about sixty dollars for fabric in that particular one. The ones that contacted me proclaiming what Good Christians™  they were also were the very ones that demanded either a) a big discount or b) to know exactly how I made that flag so they could make their own. Why? Because the $90 I was charging was thought to be too much for this item that took lots of expensive fabric and the expertise to make.

Many times I’d give in with a sigh, sketch out how to make one if I was at a conference, or explain via email. Usually what happened is that the person would get so far into the project, screw it up and then demand I fix their mess. For free. Most of the time when I looked at what they’d done I’d have to point out that they’d mangled the delicate fabric so badly that they’d have to start from scratch again. Would have been way cheaper just to buy from me in the first place

Eventually I’d sell the pattern, but people would still balk at spending ten bucks for a pattern and demand I explain for free.

And the people who were whining and demanding were also screaming out what Good Christians™ they were so I owed it to them because I was a Christian.

I got to see that Good Christian™ dynamic at work in just about every place, public secular business or Christian business, people saying that since they were doing the work of the God they deserved a discount or freebie, who would not let up until they got their way. Vyckie Garrison and I have had discussions about the Good Christian discount whine.

To add insult to grievous injury every single freakin’ time I’d come up with a new design, something I’d sketched out, made the pattern for and then made the sample and posted it on my website within a week I’d see a badly executed copy made from discount fabric of my original design up on Ebay for a cheaper price. To me that is what separates true artists from the artisans. Artists do it because it’s inside of them, artisans are just looking to make a buck.

Even as sales were decent after awhile I got most burned out by the attitudes of entitlement, the begging, whining, demanding a discount and the general intellectual thievery. I stopped making flags for anyone but myself, or when someone who’s seen one of mine and is willing to pay without whining. Just readied a big box of flags going on a missions trip to Cuba next month.

One thing I started to notice during my years at good old Creek Church, the tendency of the Creekers and other Good Christians™ to take advantage of people, press every advantage and try to drum up business by means fair and foul. Example, just about everyone that sucked up to the Pastor’s wife bought Pampered Chef merchandise and many ladies at the church signed up to sell beneath her every single time she started putting the pressure to people over being Good Christians™ helping out each other.

It was as if none of them thought hard work and conviction was enough, they had to press every advantage and try to game the system each and every time. Some of them still are, hence Mrs. 5 by 5 fleecing two different sets of the elderly she did the books for out of over 20K. Today I saw her with another new senior citizen that has a small business and I’m going to see if I can talk to her newest employer’s relatives before she steals from this women…

… Here’s what I learned in the last twenty years plus years dealing with Fundigelicals and their businesses/home based economies:

(1) If they can take some small advantage of you, then they will. If you call them on it they will claim it’s their right as Christians to be entitled to more or they outright deny they’ve done it.

(2) They believe if they can whine, beat you down, demand, threaten or haggle long enough you will give in to their sense of entitlement and give out something for free or deep discount. Why? Because Christian! Because Bible!

(3) If you happen to not totally agree with their flavor of True Believer then they might refuse to serve you and/or jack up the charges.

(4) They act like they have some sort of moral superiority over you all the while behaving badly.

You can read the entire article here.

Suzanne’s wonderful rant and roll got me to thinking about my own experiences with Evangelical Christian home-based businesses/Christian businesses and a church that considered establishing such businesses as a command from God. Let me share several stories with you.

First, let me say I don’t have a problem with a person starting a home-based business. It is a great way to make money. But, when such businesses are wedded to a religious ideology, that’s where I have a problem. While Polly and I were ardent homeschoolers and came into contact with a number of families who had home-based businesses, we never had the desire to have a home-based business (the money was a lot better in the “world”).

In 2005, while we were living in Newark, Ohio, we attended Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio. Polly and I really loved this church, and we thought maybe, just maybe, we had found a church to call home.

Faith Bible was a growing patriarchal Calvinistic, Reformed church filled with young families with lots of children. Everyone home-schooled, the women kept the home while the men worked, and home-based businesses were quite common. I suspect Faith Bible had a lot in common with the church Suzanne mentions in her post.

One day after church, our family was fellowshipping with several families and the discussion turned towards our family. It was assumed that we were like they were, that Polly was a keeper of the home and that I was in the world making money to support my family. When Polly let it be known that she cleaned offices for State Farm and that I was unable to work, the air was sucked out of the room and the friendly discussion stopped. It was quite clear that the manner in which we were trying to keep our heads above water was disapproved of, perhaps even regarded as sinful. From that moment forward, everything changed for us. We felt a sense of distance from other church attenders, and it was not long before we decided to attend church elsewhere (we attended Faith for many months).

It was not uncommon for families at Faith Bible to have a lot of children. Polly and I have six children, and in most churches that would be an exceptionally large family. At Faith Bible? We were just one large family among many. With families being so large and women not being permitted to work outside of the home, home-based businesses became an easy way to supplement family income.

Churches such as Faith Bible have a distrust of the government. They are quite conservative, vote Republican, and think the government should stay out of their lives. The Terry Schiavo case was in the news while we were at Faith Bible, and I vividly remember a discussion that went on one night at a men’s meeting. Everyone, well everyone except me, was against allowing Schiavo’s husband to terminate life support. I found it ironic that the men felt the government should step in and stop Schiavo’s husband, yet, to the man, they thought the government should stay out of our lives. (I did appreciate the respect the men afforded me even though I voiced an opinion they considered immoral. I suspect I was quite the topic of discussion later.)

What better way to stick it to the man, to get the government out of your life, than to operate a home-based business? There are few government rules or regulations that apply to home-based businesses. Often, such businesses fly under the radar. They often don’t have the proper licenses or permits, pay taxes, or file tax returns. This illegal behavior is justified as “not giving the immoral, godless government any more money than they have to.”

Suzanne mentioned what is commonly called “getting the Christian discount.” Years ago, my Fundamentalist grandfather operated an airplane engine repair shop, T&W Engine Service, at the Pontiac Airport (now Oakland County International Airport).  Tom Malone, chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College — the college Polly and I attended in the 1970s — owned an airplane that was housed at the Airport. One day, Malone’s plane was having engine problems and he asked my grandfather to take a look at it. (He knew Grandpa was a Fundamentalist Christian) Grandpa did, told Malone what was wrong, and how much it would cost to fix it. Malone asked for the “Christian discount.” After all he was doing the Lord’s work. Shouldn’t a Christian businessman want to help out a pastor? Grandpa told Malone that there would be no discount. Malone was quite upset that Grandpa wouldn’t give him preferential treatment.

I pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. I can’t tell you the times I had a business owner ask me if I wanted the “pastor’s/church discount.” In every instance I said NO! Just because people are Christian or pastors doesn’t mean they deserve a discount. Yet, some Christians and pastors have no problem begging for Jesus. Like Tom Malone, they say they are doing the Lord’s work, and shouldn’t EVERY business owner want to give God’s special people a discount?

While businesses often grant Christian discount requests, it doesn’t mean they like it. They are pragmatists, fearful that if word gets out that they aren’t giving the discount that they will lose customers who are Christian. Maybe they will, but better to lose customers than to do business with those who try to extort you in the name of God. (A political example of this was John McCain being stuck with Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. McCain hates Evangelicals, but fearing the loss of the Evangelical vote, he gave Republicans the ‘Christian discount” and made the IQ-challenged Palin his running mate.)

I, for one, do not frequent businesses that use the fish symbol to advertise their business. By using the fish symbol they are saying to me that Christian business and Christian money has more value than mine. From time to time, I will run into Christians in store parking lots selling their wares. Often they try to convince me to buy by giving me a guilt-laden speech about the money going to support their Christian family, their church, their youth group, orphans, or overseas missionaries. I NEVER buy from people who use Jesus to make a buck. In fact, I go out of my way NOT to buy from them (and mock and insult them if they try to pressure me into buying).

I pastored one church where I had to ban home-based sales marketing during church. From Mary Kay and Avon to Pampered Chef and Tupperware to Girl Scout Cookies and Amway, church members tried to get other members to buy their wares or attend their parties. I began to think that the church was turning into the story in the Bible about the money changers in the Temple. I saw myself as Jesus cleansing the Temple. As I look back on this, I now realize that my preaching helped to promote such an environment. I was a complementarian, traditional-family, women-not-working believer, so church women, for the most part, didn’t work. This created a huge problem because most of the families were quite poor and they NEEDED two incomes to make ends meet. Wanting to honor the commands of Bruce Almighty®, they turned to home-based businesses to supplement their incomes. Rarely did their home-based businesses generate as much income as they would have made in the evil, sin-filled, secular world.

Several churches I pastored had Christian business owners that also home-schooled their children. In every case, the children became a free or poorly paid work force. One such business was totally staffed and operated by children. What upset me the most was that the children would be running the business during the times they should have been home doing their school work. Their parents told me that their children did their school work in the evening. They used ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) materials so very little parental involvement was needed. This family never properly registered with the state or local school officials, so they were pretty much free to do what they wanted. Still, I am surprised no one ever reported them. I suspect one reason they weren’t is that the children were quite engaging, a pleasure to be around. It was hard not to see them as a rural Ohio version of a sweat shop.

Let me reiterate, I am not against home-based businesses. I am all for people making money and providing for their families. What I am against is the religiosity that is connected with many of these endeavors. Putting out a booklet that lists all the home-based or traditional Christian businesses in the area is a sure way to make sure they never get one dime from me. I expect the people I do business with to compete in the marketplace. I expect them to play by the rules, have the proper licenses and permits, and pay taxes.

Notes

Just in case someone is getting ready to whine and complain, I am not saying that all home-based Christian businesses are like those mentioned in this post.

Over the years, numerous Christians have called me up to schedule an appointment to share with me a wonderful, God-honoring way to make shit-loads of money. (OK they didn’t say shit-load.)  A.L. Williams, Amway, Excel, and more vitamin, weight loss, better health MLM  programs than I can count. In every case, they are no longer in business. Evidently, God failed to bless their hustling for Jesus.

072816

%d bloggers like this: