Sunday, March 31, 2013

Supreme Court Reviews DOMA and Proposition 8; Religious Right Rallies Against Same-Sex Marriage



Last week was a powerful week in the history of the LGBTQ movement. The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed two pieces of legislation -- California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- that ban same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is scheduled to deliver its decisions on both cases in June.

On March 26th, the Supreme Court held a hearing on Proposition 8, which amended California's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A federal judge in San Francisco branded Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, according to NBC News. If the Supreme Court strikes down Proposition 8, same-sex marriage could resume in California and possibly set a precedent for other rulings.

Additionally, on March 27th, the Supreme Court held a hearing on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages in any state. According to NPR, the test case for DOMA involved Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a New York couple who had been together for 42 years before marrying in 2007. When Spyer passed away, DOMA regulations required Windsor to pay $363,000 in estate taxes, which she would not have owed if an opposite-sex spouse had died.

Amidst the court cases, high profile political leaders have voiced their support for marriage equality. During an interview with Telemundo, President Barack Obama defended LGBTQ equality before the law, stating that "consistent with our Constitution to recognize same-sex couples," and that "it is time for the justices to examine this issue." North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan insisted that "we shouldn't tell people who they can love or who they can marry", while California attorney general Kamala Harris called the Proposition 8 case "a case that is about fundamental notions of justice and equality and liberty." Several political leaders have posted the Human Rights Campaign equality symbol on their social media pages, according to ABC News.

Even corporations are showing support for marriage equality. ABC News reports that companies such as Budweiser, Absolut, Smirnoff, Target, and JC Penny released pro-LGBTQ advertisements as the Supreme Court reviewed cases. Additionally, NPR reports that 278 companies filed a brief against DOMA, arguing that the law "impairs employer/employee relations and other business interests." Specifically, the brief argues that DOMA imposes compliance burdens upon employers, forces employers to incur unnecessary administrative expenses, and burdens employees in the areas of retirement, health care coverage, and insurance benefits.

Washington D.C. was the site of large-scale demonstrations for and against same-sex marriage. On March 26th, a pro-LGBTQ rally near the Supreme Court featured speakers such as retired Bishop Gene Robinson, National Organization for Women president Terry O'Neill, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, and OutServe executive director Allyson Robinson.

While supporters of same-sex marriage rallied, opponents of same-sex marriage marched on First Street NE, reports the Washington Blade. Speakers at the anti-LGBTQ March for Marriage rally included Family Leader CEP Bob Vander Plaats, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brow,; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance, and American Values president Gary Bauer, among others.

The Washington Blade put attendance at the March for Marriage at approximately 2,000 participants, while the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) claimed that over 10,000 people were present. "The Supreme Court has no right to redefine marriage and roll back the efforts of Americans to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the only social arrangement that gives children the mother and father they deserve," NOM president Brian Brown said in a March 26th statement. (See www[dot]nationformarriage[dot]org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=omL2KeN0LzH&b=5075187&ct=13053133&notoc=1)
"Forget the media hype and confusion, our numbers today show that the American people are strongly pro-marriage and pro-marriage Americans aren't going anywhere. This is the beginning of the fight to protect marriage. Our opponents know this, which is why they are hoping the Supreme Court will cut short a debate they know they will ultimately lose if the political process and democracy are allowed to run their course. Those who believe that marriage is the unique and special union of one man and one woman are on the right side of history."
Such a monumental week in the history of LGBTQ rights was met with Religious Right derision. As the Supreme Court reflected on Proposition 8 and DOMA, prominent Religious Right organizations and speakers trotted out the usual arguments against same-sex marriage.

First, in a March 29th press release read at the March for Marriage, Family Research Council's senior fellow for legal studies Cathy Ruse railed against same-sex marriage. She argued that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, it will constitute an "injustice" against children. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/newsroom/frcs-cathy-ruse-redefining-marriage-is-an-injustice-to-children)
"Let me ask you:  Can you imagine what your life would have been like without your mom? It's almost impossible to imagine. What if someone could turn back the clock, and without asking your permission, take away your mother. How unjust that would be.  How cruel. What a violation of your rights.

And yet, if marriage is redefined by the Court it will mean that mothers don't really matter to children, and neither do fathers. The same-sex marriage debate is always framed in terms of the 'rights' of the adults, and never of the children. The children have no voice in this debate. They don't even seem to count."
In a March 28th commentary at the Concerned Women for American website, Penny Young Nance lamented how some Republican lawmakers have publicly supported marriage equality. She stressed that Concerned Women for America would continue to resist same-sex marriage. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=22098)
"We should rebuild and restore marriage, not redefine it. If we redefine marriage, then where will it end? We have already seen Hollywood embrace the idea of polygamy, a la Sister Wives. And abroad in Brazil, trio same-sex unions are legally recognized ... To be frank, it's difficult to write on this issue because of the ugliness that typically ensues from same-sex marriage advocates. They attempt to shut down the debate by saying that this is a civil rights issue, like race. However, the truth is marriage must be colorblind, but it cannot be gender blind. Men and women - regardless of their race - can unite in marriage; and children need moms and dads - regardless of their race. The genders are not interchangeable. Each of them brings something different and irreplaceable to the family.

The bottom line is that marriage is special union created as a holy covenant between man, woman, and God. It is the best institution by which our children are conceived. Marriage identifies the recognizable authority of a mother and a father who are ordained with the responsibility of rearing the future generation. We could never grant these same responsibilities to two heterosexuals who simply live together, because marriage is more than a living arrangement. All the love in the world can't make a mother into a father and a father into a mother. In a free country, everyone is free to live and love as they choose, but no one is entitled to redefine marriage for all of us."
In a March 29th column at the Washington Times, Jeffrey Kuhner argues that a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality will prove "calamitous", heralding a new era of "cultural decadence and judicial tyranny". He warned that by defending same-sex marriage as a civil right, "pro-homosexual activists" seek to eventually adopt hate speech laws that would result in "social intolerance", "secular McCarthyism", and a branding of the Bible as "hate literature". (See www[dot]washingtontimes[dot]com/news/2013/mar/29/the-push-for-moral-chaos/)

During the March 26th edition of the Janet Mefferd Radio Show, Jim Garlow claimed that same-sex marriage activists want to force others to affirm "immoral behavior". Outrageously, he claimed that if same-sex marriage is sanctioned by law, Christians will lose their rights and be forced underground. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. See janetmefferdpremium[dot]com/2013/03/26/janet-mefferd-radio-show-20130326-hr-1/)
"I think it’s important for people to realize what’s really at stake here. And I know this sounds sound strange, most of us assume naively that what homosexuals are actually for is marriage. And that is not true, at least not universally true. What they want is to destroy marriage.

I think Masha Gessen out of Australia was the most open one I’ve seen on it. She’s a homosexual activist and she just said bluntly, ‘Let’s face it, we don’t want marriage, we want the end of marriage.’ And that’s exactly what happened, of course, in European countries, where they changed the laws regarding what the definition of marriage is and people just stopped getting marriage. And you’d think marriage rates would go up. Instead, they dropped because nobody respects the institution anymore.

And that’s what the heart of this is, not only to end marriage, they’re not demanding marriage for themselves, they want us, to force us to affirm an immoral behavior ... If same-sex so-called marriage is established as the law of the land, many of the people who are listening to my voice right now, not maybe immediately but at some point in the future, if they are followers of Christ, will be forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them."
Right-wing voices can spout all the hair-raising rhetoric they want. They can march and rally all they want. But they cannot stop the evolution of American society, which is slowly but surely recognizing the rights of its LGBTQ citizens. Whatever the outcome of DOMA and Proposition 8, the very fact that the Supreme Court is examining them suggests that the tides are turning for LGBTQ equality.


For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Infidel753: Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court

Politico: For LGBT troops, DOMA ruling a pocketbook issue

Mother Jones: Big Government or Marriage Equality? DOMA Puts Conservative Justices in a Bind

Salon: In Supreme Court, anti-gay movement is humiliated

Commentary Tidbits

Political Research Associates: Spiritual Warriors with an Antigay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation

Raw Story: Lesbian pundit smacks down ‘pro-family activist’: Procreation is ‘not the point of marriage!’

Politico: Gay marriage not a civil rights issue, Alliance Defending Freedom argues

Religion Dispatches: Loving Uganda to Death: The Global Reach of Far-Right Christian Hatred

Huffington Post: Christianity and the Parental Rejection of LGBT Youth

RH Reality Check: Dear Conservative Christian Leaders: Why Are You Silent About Rape?

RH Reality Check: Why I Refuse to Be Taken to a Catholic Hospital—And Why Other Women Should Too

News Tidbits

Bloomberg Businessweek: The Secret Gingrich-Santorum 'Unity Ticket' That Nearly Toppled Romney

Pennlive: On gay marriage issue, Pennsylvania pastors group urges Supreme Court to uphold God's law

MSN: Creationist offers $10K to prove Bible wrong

Pink News: Kentucky overrules veto on bill protecting actions motivated by religious belief

Gay Star News: Peter LaBarbera: Gay people are ‘at war with God’

Raw Story: Pat Robertson complains LGBT people just want to flaunt ‘their way of doing sex’

Raw Story: Fox News radio host: LGBT rights make Christians ‘second-class citizens’

On Top Magazine: Tony Perkins: Gay Marriage Debate Is About 'Fundamentally Altering Society'

The Advocate: Dirty Money

MSNBC: Although discredited, gay conversion therapy remains an option for minors

Philly Magazine: Philadelphia State Senator to Introduce Legislation that Would Ban Conversion Therapy for PA Minors

Think Spain: Spanish university professor: Pregnancy through rape is compensation from God, and homosexuality is curable



Reported Hate Crime Perpetrator in Argentina Cites Pope Francis

A Spanish-language newspaper claims that a homophobic attacker in San Isidro, Argentina invoked Pope Francis, a former Argentine cardinal. According to a March 25th article in Diario Registrado, Pedro Robledo  was attacked at a party after kissing another man. According to the article, Robledo was approached by a group of people who lobbed homophobic insults at him before striking him in the face. "La homosexualidad es un pecado, y ahora que el Papa es de todos los argentinos, ustedes son una vergüenza para la Argentina" ("Homosexuality is a sin, and now that the Pope is all Argentines, you are a disgrace to Argentina"), they reportedly said. Another person reportedly ordered Robledo to leave because they now had an Argentine pope. Robledo sought medical attention, then reported the attack with his partner at a San Isidro police station.

Diario Registrado reports that Esteban Paulón, president of La Federación Argentina de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y Trans, reminded the public that LGBTQ persons are protected by Argentina's laws. He insisted that the attack has "nothing to do with the spirit of the vast majority of Catholic people."

The reported incident should be investigated thoroughly, as there is no room for hate crimes in a civilized world. Nevertheless, the incident illustrates how religion can be used to justify hatred, if not fuel it. While the Catholic Magisterium did not perpetrate or incite the reported attack, the homophobic attitudes of its leaders contribute to homophobia among its followers. Pope Francis and the Catholic Church must recognize the impact that their homophobic attitudes can have on the world, as well as the dire need to repudiate that homophobia.

(Hat tip to Pink News)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Uganda's President Makes Controversial Comments as Human Rights Delegation Visits

New Vision reports that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni recently made controversial comments about gays and lesbians. His comments come as Uganda receives a visit from an American human rights delegation headed by Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Kerry Kennedy has advocated for the rights of LGBTQ Ugandans, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights awarded its 2011 human rights award to Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha.

In a March 19th press release from Uganda's Department of Press and Public Relations, President Museveni had harsh words regarding gays and lesbians. In the statement, Museveni seems to link gays and lesbians with public sexuality and displays of affection.
"In our society, there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential. If am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda. Western people exhibit sexual acts in public which we don’t do here."
According to the press release, Museveni criticized the alleged way that westerners approach sexuality, including "luring young people into acts of homosexuality for money." He insisted that Uganda has no discrimination or violence toward LGBTQ persons,  but paradoxically agreed to investigate cases of alleged homophobic violence. However, for a "viable solution" to crystallize, he insisted that activists "respect" Uganda's traditional "confidentiality toward sex".

Museveni's rhetoric contains myths about LGBTQ persons, such as their alleged public flaunting of sexuality and alleged corruption of minors. Open discussion of sexual orientation is rejected as a foreign practice rather than a just, human approach to LGBTQ persons. Most egregiously, Museveni's words do not acknowledge the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQ Ugandans. Such rhetoric does no kindnesses for Uganda's LGBTQ community, which has endured homophobia and the looming threat of a draconian anti-gay bill.

For several years, the Ugandan government has considered (but not yet passed) a draconian anti-gay bill that would mandate imprisonment and capital punishment for same-sex intimate acts. The bill emerged amidst anti-gay activism in Uganda by American Religious Right figures such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle. Sexual Minorities Uganda, an LGBTQ advocacy group, has since filed suit against Lively in federal court, accusing him of inciting persecution of LGBTQ people in Uganda. Documentaries such as God Loves Uganda and Vanguard's Missionaries of Hate, as well as reports such as Box Turtle Bulletin's Slouching Toward Kampala, explore the role of western evangelical leaders in fomenting homophobia in Uganda. Museveni's comments come at a time when Uganda is embroiled in a heated public debate over the anti-gay bill and the rights of LGBTQ persons.

Writing at O-blog-dee-o-blog-da, Melanie Nathan observes that President Museveni refuses to confront the reality of LGBTQ people in his country.
"... it would seem that the President of Uganda is in deep denial of the situation and facts surrounding LGBT persecution in Uganda. Museveni’s  save face and defensive comments not only exacerbate the myth and lies surrounding the genesis of the human rights infractions against Ugandan gays, but also contradicts the West’s perception delivered through all the factual evidence, that in fact Ugandan gays and lesbians and transgender citizens are the subject of targeted persecution by his own Government,  by pending legislation in the form of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, otherwise known as “the Kill The Gays Bill,” persecution by local tabloids, such as Red Pepper Tabloid  and harsh treatment at the hands of neighbors and community alike."
Nathan adds that Museveni may have inadvertently undermined the anti-gay bill currently under consideration in Uganda.
"The article says that the President noted “no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts”.  One of the basis for asserting the need for the Anti-Homoseuxality Bill is the false assertion (by proponents of the Bill, such as David Bahati, its MP sponsor and author,) that Gays recruit children into homosexuality and that gays pay people to become homosexuals.  Now the President himself is admitting that he does not believe this is in fact occuring  The President also said that there are “few homosexuals.” Museveni is hence making the case for the withdrawal of the anti-homosexual bill."
Museveni's unfortunate comments suggest that Uganda's leaders have a long way to go in terms of recognizing LGBTQ realities. Stereotypes and myths still persist, and LGBTQ activists continue to have an uphill battle for human rights in Uganda.

Commentary Tidbits

Political Research Associates: Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights

Indian Country Today Media Network: Our Originally Free and Unbaptized Existence

Love, Joy, Feminism: Doug Wilson’s Race Problem

Political Packrat: The GOP Clown Car Is Back at CPAC 2013

Truth Wins Out: Pope’s Message: Embrace All People Except The Gays

Right Wing Watch: Beisner Explains Why Environmentalism Represents the 'Greatest Threat to Western Civilization'

Religion Dispatches: Women to Pray for the First Time in April LDS World Meeting

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Pope Francis was often quiet on Argentine sex abuse cases as archbishop

The Advocate: Alfredo's Fire Sheds Light on Sexuality, Scandal, and Suppression in the Vatican

Huffington Post: Westboro Equality House: Aaron Jackson Paints Rainbow Home Across From Anti-Gay Church

CNN: The Bible miniseries producer: Claim of Obama-Satan likeness nonsense

Monday, March 18, 2013

Activists Urge Pope Francis to Confront Clergy Abuse

On March 13th, a Vatican conclave of cardinals elected Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first South American pope. Bergoglio, who now leads the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Francis, is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The new pope must now confront controversies over his old statements and policies, as well as his actions to come.

Pope Francis has drawn controversy because of his stance on LGBTQ issues. First, the New York Times reports that in 2010, before the Argentinian Senate was schedule to vote on a same-sex marriage bill, Bergoglio called same-sex marriage a "destructive attack on God's plan". According to the National Catholic Register, Bergoglio also condemned adoption by same-sex couples, warning that adoption legislation would "seriously damage the family" and constitute "an attempt to destroy God's plan".

Pope Francis has also come under fire for failing to confront Argentina's military junta during the 1976-1983 "Dirty War", in which the junta kidnapped and killed thousands of dissidents. The Vatican has defended the new pope against critics, insisting that the allegations are neither concrete nor credible. According to the Washington Post, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi dismissed the claims, calling them the work of "anti-clerical left-wing elements."

Controversies notwithstanding, Pope Francis now has an opportunity to show himself to be an honorable leader and heal the wounds of clergy sexual abuse. When the conclave elected Pope Francis, I immediately wondered how he would confront clergy abuse in the church. The Catholic Church has been mired in scandal over allegations of clergy sexual abuse of children, as well as cover-ups and inadequate responses to abuse victims. With his new position, Pope Francis has the power to address systemic corruption and usher in transparency and accountability. But will he? Clergy abuse activists and progressive Catholic groups want action.

Even before the conclave elected Pope Francis, activists were already reminding church leaders of their responsibility to clergy abuse victims. In a March 8th statement, DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke listed several areas in which the Catholic Church is in need of reform, including the "need to put accountability measures in place regarding sexual abuse and cover-up." Several socially conscious Catholic organizations endorsed the statement, including Catholics for Choice, Call to Action, CORPUS, Pax Christi-Maine, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, and the Women's Ordination Conference.

Catholic activists are calling on the public to demand church accountability. Sigrid Grabmeier and the Germany-based Wir Sind Kirche ("We Are Church") have launched a Change.org petition calling on Pope Francis to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the global clergy abuse crisis.
"The Roman Catholic Church is in a deep crisis, not only in Rome but world-wide. The abuse scandals and their cover-up have led millions of people to doubt the path of the Catholic Church. Innocent people especially children have been victimised by priests and religious only to see their abusers shielded from justice and protected by the Church hierarchy.

The future of the Catholic Church depends on seeking truth, justice, and reconciliation for the grave crimes committed by Catholic clergy.  - An[d] it needs over all a reforming process that stops injustice, high-handedness and institutional centrism within the Church."
The two most prominent clergy abuse organizations in the U.S., Bishop Accountability and the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), have been advocating for church accountability in Rome. (As discussed in a prior post, SNAP and the Center for Constitutional Rights are involved in a pending International Criminal Court case against Vatican officials.) The two groups held a joint news conference in Rome on March 14th to discuss the new pope and the need for a fresh model for responding to clergy abuse.  In a March 15th press release, SNAP requested a meeting with Pope Francis and announced 20 "action steps" they would like Pope Francis to implement in his first 100 days in office.
"You have chosen as your namesake a man who was the one of the greatest reformers in church history, a figure whose memory is universally beloved because he stood for justice. Across the globe, as you know, tens of thousands of childhood survivors of sexual abuse by clergy – priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and others - are by coming forward and demanding justice, accountability, prevention and transparency. We believe they are, by their courageous example, the “St. Francis” of the modern church.

Your predecessor met only a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch. We write today seeking a different kind of meeting – one in which our respective organizations – yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling – can begin to work together to safeguard children across the globe (not merely make gestures when forced to do so by external pressures).

Despite the differences we may have, we desperately hope we might be able – and you might be willing – to calmly talk with us about ways to better protect children from the devastating, lifelong effects of horrific childhood sexual trauma."
SNAP leaders have publicly urged Pope Francis to take a strong stance against clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. According to ABC News, SNAP national director David Clohessy asserted that the Vatican needs "a tough administrator who'll crack some skulls, shake things up and end -- once and for all -- the reckless, callous and deceitful coverup of heinous crimes against kids." Likewise, SNAP midwest director Peter Isely argued that Pope Francis must be a great reformer in the tradition of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. "Pope Francis must, as his very first act, decree the zero tolerance of sexual abuse of children by priests," Isely said.

From Bishop Accountability's perspective, Pope Francis' papacy had an inauspicious start. Shortly after his election, Pope Francis reportedly met with disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, the Boston archbishop who resigned in 2002 due to a controversy over how he handled a clergy abuse crisis. Bishop Accountability co-director Anne Barrett Doyle called the meeting "a trult unfortunate first step on the pope's part," according to the Boston Globe. “Intended or not, the pope was sending a dispiriting signal to the victims and Catholics of Boston in particular.” However, Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that Pope Francis condemned Law during the meeting, a claim that Vatican spokesman Rev. Thomas Rosica denies.

As head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has a rare opportunity to address clergy sexual abuse and target systemic problems within the church that allow it to continue. I sincerely hope that Pope Francis use his papal power to bring about real change in the Catholic Church and foster a safe, just community of believers.


For additional news and commentary on the conclave election of Pope Francis, visit the following links.

Washington Post: US clergy abuse victims want new pope to take action against cardinals, release all files

RH Reality Check: Contradictions and Conservatism Muddle Hopes for Change Under Jesuit Pope

The Advocate: Pope Francis, Will You Accept Me?

Religion Dispatches: Note to the New Pope: Half of the World's Poor are Women

Commentary Tidbits

Right Wing Watch: CPAC Reject McDonnell Welcomed at Religious Right Prayer Breakfast

Think Progress: CPAC Participant Defends Slavery At Minority Outreach Panel: It Gave ‘Food And Shelter’ To Blacks

The Daily Beast: Rick Santorum's Strident Traditionalism Captivates CPAC

GLAAD: Duggar Son Considering a Job with the Anti-Gay Family Research Council

Alternet: You Wouldn't Believe How Fast Americans Are Losing Their Religion -- But the Fundamentalists Have a Plan

Daylight Atheism: Submission Theology Is Abuse Theology

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Former homeschoolers rally against abuse

Teach Not Preach: Introducing my students to the “culture war"

News Tidbits

Chicago Sun-Times: Preacher Jack Schaap: Sex with 17 year-old was Lord's work

Pink News: Chick-fil-A Foundation's Tax Filings Show Anti-LGBT Donations Almost Doubled in 2011

Raw Story: Tennessee bill allows Christian counselors to reject suicidal LGBT students

Politico: RNC: Voters see GOP as ‘scary’ and ‘out of touch'

CBS New York: New Jersey Committee Advances Ban on "Conversion Therapy"

Gay Star News: France says ‘non’ to anti-gay marriage march

Creators of "The Bible" Miniseries Advocate for Bible Courses in Schools

The History Channel is currently showing The Bible miniseries on Sundays 8/7C. Created and produced by Mark Burnett, The Bible is a 10-hour journey through stories in the Old and New Testaments. According to the Huffington Post, Burnett envisions The Bible as an uplifting story for Christians and non-Christians alike, saying “The faithful will see the stories of their faith. People who are not faithful will totally enjoy it because it is the greatest story ever told,” he said.

The project has received praise and assistance from prominent evangelical voices. For instance, Franklin Graham called the series "compelling", claiming that it will "likely cause a viewer to want to open the pages of Scripture to see the realities of Almighty God’s plan for the human race." (Hat tip to the Christian Post). Huffington Post reports that creators Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have partnered with major churches leaders of conservative Christian groups to promote The Bible, including Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church also served in an advisory role to the project.

The series has attracted my attention not because its Satan bears an uncanny resemblance to President Obama, nor because of its hamminess. (Although honestly, lines such as "Rahab my little whooooooore" couldn't be hammier if you threw in a moustache twirl and a sinister bwahahahaha.) My concern lies with the political views of the series' creators, who have advocated for teaching the Bible in public schools.

In a March 1st commentary piece at the Wall Street Journal, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett encourage public schools to teach the Bible "as a primary document of Western civilization". Downey and Burnett argue that the Bible has impacted Western government, philosophy, art, literature, and social justice movements, baffled that schools do not educate American students about such an influencial collection of literature. The cite the 1963 Abington School District v. Shempp case, insisting that it is appropriate for schools to teach scripture for its literary merit (Abington School District v. Shempp ruled that a Pennsylvania law compelling public schools to perform Bible readings was unconstitutional.)

Downey and Burnett frame the Bible as a must-read part of any student's education.
"Can you imagine students not reading the Constitution in a U.S. government class? School administrators not sharing the periodic table of the elements with their science classes? A driver's ed course that expected young men and women to pass written and road tests without having access to a booklet enumerating the rules of the road?"
In a recent edition of Fox News' Huckabee, former governor Mike Huckabee interviewed Roma Downey and Mark Burnett on the series. Huckabee referred to their Wall Street Journal piece on teaching the Bible in school, to which Burnett gave this reply.
"The original intent of separation of church and state was to protect the church, not the state, but the real reason we wrote that, governor--we have discovered on this journey for four years, there's quite an enormous Biblical illiteracy. We are contributing to that, I think, in this series. But I think it's a little embarrassing if you imagine being a young American who hasn't learned any of these stories because it's not in school and you go overseas on business and someone mentions David and Goliath, or Samson, or Abraham, and you have absolutely no idea what's being talked about. It's as ridiculous as not knowing the characters of Shakespeare. As literature, I think it's literary malpractice, almost, to not know these stories."
Even though Burnett insists that he does not advocate teaching religion in schools, his comments on Huckabee contain tired rhetoric about the Bible as the supposed foundation of western culture.
"We're not suggesting, governor, that this should be taught in school as religion. We understand completely why that doesn't happen in public schools. But what we do really feel is that it should be taught as literature. These stories are the foundation of western civilization, certainly this country. Our money, governor, says 'In God We Trust', and our president always at his inauguration has his hand on a Bible, this time two Bibles. These stories should be taught."
First, Burnett's claim that the Bible is the supposed foundation of western civilization is common among conservative Christians, but nevertheless problematic. While Judaism and Christianity certainly played large roles in western history, so did Greek and Roman religion, Manichaeism, Mithraism, Mazdakism, Neoplatonism, Enlightenment ideas, and a host of other schools of thought. Let's take it even further. If schools teach the Bible as literature, shouldn't they also include Mesopotamian mythology as literature? After all, the panbabylonist school of thought makes a compelling argument for the influence of Mesopotamian mythology on several key Biblical stories. Islam was and still is a powerful religious force in the Middle East and Africa. It even played a role in European history and culture -- Spain was under the control of Muslim rulers until 1492, while the Ottoman empire at one time stretched to what is now Greece, Hungary, and Slovakia. Why not study the Quran as literature, seeing as Islam has had a significant influence on the world? Also, since the Iroquois Epic of Deganawidah had an impact on the Constitution, and Iroquois culture influenced several first-wave feminists, shouldn't we teach Iroquois stories as literature too?

In all seriousness, Downey and Burnett are not the first evangelical Christians to call for the Bible to be taught as literature in public schools. Groups such as Bible as Literature and the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools support Bible courses as part of public school curriculum. Several states have either proposed or allowed Bible-as-literature courses in their public school systems.

However, common reasons given for these courses are revealing and pernicious. First, they incorrectly give the Bible credit for achievements that it had little or nothing to do with, such as American democracy and the Constitution. Their call to teach the Bible in public schools may be an attempt to get public schools to embrace the Christian nationalist myth that America is a "Christian nation".

Second, the approach is reductionist, crediting the Bible for much of western civilization's development while ignoring the many other influences on western cultures. Furthermore, it ignores the complex role that global religions are playing in the 21st century world. In a diverse and shrinking world, wouldn't courses on world religions make more sense in theory than Bible-as-literature classes for future citizens?

Third, even if teaching the Bible as literature in public schools was a good idea in theory, problems would (and do) erupt in practice. Which Bible would be taught as literature? The New International Version? The Catholic Bible? The Tewahedo Bible? The King James Bible? The Queen James Bible? Christians disagree on which version of the Bible is authoritative. Moreover, what safeguards would be in place to prevent overzealous Christian teachers from using the class to proselytize? Texas Freedom Network has already documented problems with Bible-as-literature courses in Texas, citing instructor religious bias, anti-Semitism, academically unsound content, and pseudo-scholarship such as young earth creationism and dubious race theories. Problems with Bible-as-literature courses are nothing new, with cases of mishandled courses and controversies going back years.

The issue is not whether or not the Bible has merit as ancient literature, nor the degree of its impact on history. The issue here is misuse of Bible-as-literature courses as proselytization tools in public school environments. When Religious Right voices call for innocuous-sounded Bible-as-literature classes, we need to recognize the real agenda at work.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Huffington Post: Fundamentalist Christians Evangelizing Military Youth on the Taxpayers' Dime

Lady That's My Skull: My White Heaven

Rosa Rubicondior: More on Mormons

Earth and All Stars: What Would a Christian Society Actually Look Like? Parts I and II

Warren Throckmorton: NARTH Loses Tax Exempt Status

AmericaBlog: Voucher school history book: Hippies didn’t bathe, worshipped Satan

Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights: Tea Party Dominates CPAC 2013 Agenda

No Longer Quivering: Does Jack Schaap Deserve to Go to Jail?

The Way Forward: Larry Klayman, A Dangerous Zionist

Friendly Atheist: City Council Member Who Wants Prayer at Meetings: ‘This is a Government Institution, Not a Secular Institution’

The Wartburg Watch: A Revolution Against Rezolution: A Calvinsta Conference in Africa


(Hat tip to Infidel753 for several of these links)

News Tidbits

The Advocate: Debunked Antigay Parenting Study Commissioned to Sway Supreme Court

National Catholic Reporter: Access to clergy sex abuse site limited at Vatican

Raw Story: Family Research Council: Functioning societies ‘punish’ single people for having sex

Washington Blade: Gay Vatican suicide now documentary film

Philadelphia Gay News: Philly only archdiocese in nation to sponsor antigay D.C. event

Edge Boston: Appeal By Photographer in Gay Bias Case is Heard

Time: In China, Christian Fundamentalists Target Tibetans

AllAfrica: Pastor Cautions Ghana Against Homosexuality

Pink News: London: Anti-gay marriage protest to take place in Trafalgar Square by French activists

The Daily Aztec: Preacher brings own brand of fire and brimstone to SDSU

Musical Interlude: "Carpe Noctem" by Asp

My regrets for not posting for the past few days. I've been busy, but I have several good posts coming up soon. In the meantime, enjoy another musical interlude: "Carpe Noctem" by Asp.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Wide Open Ground: Selfishness in Evangelical Christianity

Human Rights Campaign: How to become a NOM ‘March For Marriage’ sponsor in ten easy steps

Mother Jones: The Group Behind CPAC Has a White-Nationalist Problem

RH Reality Check: The 18 For-Profit Companies Fighting to Eliminate the Birth Control Benefit

News Tidbits

CNN: Priest abuse victims' group blacklists 12 cardinals for pope

New York Times: Focus on the Family Transforms Its Message

Nashville Public Radio: College Counseling Programs Under Fire from Fowler Bill

Washington Post: Atheist Puerto Rico cop files lawsuit charging discrimination by island’s police department

Washington Post: Virginia’s Liberty transforms into evangelical mega-university

Pink News: Massachusetts: School faces backlash and accusations of ‘blasphemy’ for staging gay biblical play

National Post: Canada funding opponents of ‘abhorrent’ anti-gay bill in Uganda

Gay Star News: Brazil elects racist, anti-gay pastor to be human rights boss

Even More Religious Right Voices Angry Over VAWA

On March 7th, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law. The new version of VAWA prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ persons seeking domestic violence and sexual assault services, and allows federal funds to be used for LGBTQ-related services for victims. As mentioned in a prior post, right-wing voices are disgusted that the full version of VAWA passed in the House and Senate. Even more Religious Right voices are condemning VAWA, specifically over its LGBTQ provisions.

First, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is unhappy about LGBTQ provisions contained in VAWA. In a March 6th press release, the bishop chairmen of four USCCB committees and one subcommittee issued a joint statement criticizing the LGBTQ-inclusive VAWA. While the bishops admitted that violence in any form is wrong, they condemned VAWA provisions related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
"All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union."
In other words, the statement disapproves of VAWA because it acknowledges the existence of LGBTQ people. Apparently, some voices in the Catholic Church would prefer that LGBTQ remain invisible, even if this means that they encounter barriers to services or a lack of LGBTQ-sensitive aid. This is unacceptable. Furthermore, what does "marriage redefinition" have to do with VAWA? Why is the USCCB trying to link VAWA with same-sex marriage? This seems like a cheap ploy to turn anti-LGBTQ activists against VAWA, which is tasteless in the extreme.

All victims of domestic violence and sexual assault deserve services. Period. VAWA's provisions against anti-LGBTQ discrimination are crucial to ensuring that more victims can get help. Furthermore, its attention to the LGBTQ population reminds service providers that they must be mindful of the needs of LGBTQ victims. If the USCCB is serious about condemning all forms of violence, it should be celebrating VAWA instead of using it to promote an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

The statement also laments the lack of language protecting "conscience rights" of faith-based service providers who serve trafficking victims. The USCCB is likely referring to the Department of Health and Human Services' rejection of its sex trafficking grant request in 2011, on the grounds that it would not provide reproductive health services such as abortion and contraception to trafficking victims.
"Conscience protections are needed in this legislation to ensure that these service providers are not required to violate their bona fide religious beliefs as a condition for serving the needy. Failure to have conscience protection for such service providers undermines a long-held value in our democracy -- religious liberty ... In the end, the victims of human trafficking are harmed because organizations such as the USCCB are unable to render services that reach them and serve their human needs."
No, victims of trafficking are harmed because some faith-based organizations such as the USCCB refuse to provide health services they need. If a sex trafficking victim is experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, or seeks to prevent an unwanted pregnancy through emergency contraception, her medical needs trump the bishops' "bona fide religious beliefs". Instead of reflecting on their services, the USCCB chooses instead to blame the Obama Administration and lash out at sound legislation.

Second, Charisma Magazine, which has diligently warned readers about the dangers of demon nookie, gender-bending ghosts, and gays, is criticizing VAWA as well. In a March 8th column, Jennifer Leclaire claims that President Obama "snuck the gay agenda" into VAWA. She accuses President Obama of "perverting the law" and doing everything possible "to force the minority view on the majority who stand for traditional values". Leclaire insists that the president "is proving that in his second term he will stop at nothing to push the gay agenda down our throats despite a family-friendly stance during his first presidential campaign." She urges readers to pray for the president, adding that "only God can help us push back the wickedness that's pushing against His kingdom on earth." (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

It disappoints me that efforts to assist LGBTQ victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are demonized as part of some ominous "gay agenda". Leclaire's commentary only serves to belittle the LGBTQ community, framing any attempt to acknowledge or help LGBTQ victims as "wickedness". The lack of empathy here is astounding.

The Religious Right response to VAWA reauthorization has been very revealing. For all the Religious Right's talk about "loving" LGBTQ persons, they are quick to condemn policies meant to help LGBTQ victims of violence.

Monday, March 4, 2013

VAWA Passes in House and Senate; Right-Wingers Sulk

On February 28th, the House of Representatives voted 286 to 138 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with all 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans voting in favor. The House passed the full version of VAWA that was approved by the Senate, rejecting a watered-down version supported by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor. The VAWA reauthorization now awaits President Obama's signature.

VAWA, first passed in 1994, has strengthen victim services and provided funding for investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA provides grants for law enforcement, victim services, and violence prevention initiatives, among many other programs, making it an invaluable anti-violence boon.

The 2013 reauthorization of VAWA is remarkable because it includes several new provisions related to underserved communities. First, it allows tribal courts to prosecute non-Natives who perpetrate domestic violence or sexual assault on Indian lands. By doing so, VAWA helps overcome previous jurisdictional barriers that left Native American victims vulnerable. The new VAWA is also LGBTQ-inclusive, prohibiting denial of victim services based on sexual orientation. Finally, the new VAWA authorization will assist undocumented immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. All three provisions proved controversial with some Republican lawmakers, who tried and failed to have them removed from VAWA.

Right-wing figures have long expressed their contempt for VAWA (see here, here, and here), and they show no signs of simmering down now. First, in a March 4th statement at the Concerned Women for America website, Penny Young Nance alleged that the full version of VAWA supposedly "sold sex trafficking victims, and the groups that want to help them, down the river." Nance alleged that Senator Patrick Leahy's amendment to VAWA would supposedly decriminalize prostitution of minors and eviscerate "conscience protections" of religious groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Nance not only fails to provide evidence for these claims, but ignores VAWA's many provisions for serving sex trafficking victims, combating trafficking, and punishing traffickers. Did she not read VAWA's Title XII, the whole freaking section devoted to trafficking victim protections? (See www[dot]cwalac[dot]org/article_1262.shtml)

Even before the House vote, right-wing organizations were voicing their displeasure with the full version of VAWA. For example, the Family Research Council encouraged supporters to pray over the Senate vote on VAWA, demonizing the bill as "a liberal public relations campaign, loaded with measures that conservatives could never vote for, so that liberals can carry on their charge that conservatives are conducting a "war against women." The FRC lobbed the usual attacks at VAWA, claiming that it does little to combat violence against women, ignoring evidence of VAWA's efficacy and its many provisions for tackling gender-based violence. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/prayerteam/prayer-targets-general-booth-children-boy-scouts-hhs-mandate-vawa-hagel)

Moreover, in a February 25th commentary at the Independent Women's Forum website, Charlotte Hays claimed that some of VAWA's provisions "are so far removed from protecting women as to belong in some other piece of legislations." She criticized "ideology-driven" training programs funded by VAWA, as well as the alleged "power-grab for tribal courts" in the full version of VAWA. She defended the McMorris Rogers bill as "a failure to pander" to the LGBTQ community, rather than a failure to protect LGBTQ persons from victimization. Hays complained that Republicans who criticized VAWA provisions would allegedly be branded as misogynists. (See www[dot]iwf[dot]org/blog/2790640/Whither-VAWA-)
"But Republicans know that, if they put forward a serious critique the legislation, they will be hailed as sexists who don't care about the welfare of women, a ridiculous but nevertheless potent charge in the wake of the Obama campaign’s successful “War on Women” strategy."
Other right-wing voices were condemning VAWA even before the Senate vote. In a February 9th commentary at Freedom Works, Julie Borowski mocked VAWA as "unconstitutional" and claimed that it has failed to reduce violence against women despite allegedly wasting money. (She ignores evidence that VAWA grants have not only reduced rape and assault rates, but have also saved money in net averted social costs.) Borowski outrageously claims that the true purpose of VAWA is to "shell out taxpayer dollars to liberal organizations that help elect Democrats". (see www[dot]freedomworks[dot]org/blog/jborowski/reasons-to-oppose-the-so-called-violence-against-w)

Borowski's commentary suggests that she has done little, if any research on what VAWA actually does. For example, she insists that VAWA allegedly reinforces stereotypes of men as "natural predators" who aren't victimized. She ignores the actual language of VAWA, which says no such thing. At several points, VAWA specifically legislates funding for programs that serve men, women, and minors.

Also, Borowski claims that VAWA is unnecessary because domestic violence is already prosecuted on the state level. If she had researched VAWA more in depth, she would have learned that it funds numerous domestic violence and sexual assault victim services programs, rape prevention and education (RPE) programs, law enforcement initiatives to encourage arrest policies and protection order enforcement, sex offender management programs, anti-trafficking initiatives, and housing protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA funds countless important services and initiatives, not just prosecution.

Every time VAWA advances, right-wing voices lob the same false, anemic criticisms at it. To all the right-wingers out there who are demonizing this important legislation, I ask that you ACTUALLY BOTHER TO READ WHAT VAWA SAYS BEFORE ATTACKING IT.

And to everyone who advocated for the full version of VAWA, and the service providers who use its funds to create a safer and more just world, I send out my warmest thanks. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are counting on the assistance that VAWA will continue to provide.


For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Alternet: The Nine Republican Men Who Refuse to Even Consider VAWA

Slate: Congress Finally Passes the Violence Against Women Act

Los Angeles Times: Voting for women, and against violence

Commentary Tidbits

No Longer Quivering: Ken Ham Warns Atheists Out to Steal Children and Eat Them Too

Geoff's Shorts: Under the (American) Influence

The Atlantic: Why American Pro-Life Dollars Are Pouring Into Ireland

Right Wing Watch: Tim Tebow Scheduled to Address another Anti-Gay Venue: Liberty University

Right Wing Watch: Perkins: LGBT-Inclusive Schools Will Have 'Teenage Boys Invading Girls' Locker Rooms'

News Tidbits

The Advocate-Messenger: Boyle County Fiscal Court reinstates prayer to begin meetings

Salon: Anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller turned away from CPAC

Associated Press: Virginia Pastor: God's Law Reigns in Same-Sex Dispute

The Guardian Nigeria: Anglican Primate Nicholas Okoh Condemns Same-Sex Marriage

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mark Driscoll on Infantilizing Male "Headship" (UPDATED)



Mark Driscoll is founder and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, an emergent church with a controversial reputation for how it has reportedly treated congregants (as former members will attest at the Mars Hill Refuge blog). Driscoll advocates for traditional gender roles and male "headship" over wives and children, a position labeled complimentarianism by some and outright misogyny by others. A 2013 marriage book he co-authored with his wife Grace, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, has received scathing reviews from commentators across the political spectrum due to its statements about gender and sexuality. Knowing Driscoll's controversial reputation, when I learned about his Real Marriage sermon series, I had to give it a listen.

In a January 29th lecture entitled "Real Marriage: Men and Marriage", Driscoll elaborates on male "headship", defending it as a Biblical command and sugar-coating it as beneficial for the family. Driscoll began his talk by talking about the responsibilities of people in charge as allegories for the responsibilities of husbands and fathers. At the 0:27 mark, he had this to say.
"When a company struggles or fails, who ultimately has to take responsibility? The CEO. When a nation struggles or fails, who ultimately has to take responsibility? The president, the king, whoever's in charge ... Let's say there's a military unit, heads out to war and struggles and or fails. Who ultimately takes responsibility? Well, it's going to be the highest ranking officer. Why is that? Because they're the head. Others under their authority may bear some responsibility, but because they're in the highest authority, they bear the most responsibility."
I find this analogy troubling. The role of a father and husband is not analogous to that of a king, president, or CEO, because the function of a family is not analogous to that of a kingdom, country, or corporation. It establishes wives as subjects or employees to be ruled over rather than partners with whom husbands should collaborate. My making this analogy, Driscoll has already established marriage and family as patriarchal and rigidly hierarchical, rather than egalitarian.

Driscoll insists that men are responsible for their families, using Adam in the Garden of Eden as an early example at the 1:28 mark.
"When our first father and his wife, our first mother, were in the Garden of Eden, who sinned first, Eve or Adam? Eve did. Eve partook [of the forbidden fruit], and he observed, and then God comes in Genesis 3, and who does he call out for? Adam. He calls out to Adam, "Where are you?". Why does he do that? Is it that he did not hold her responsible for her sin? No ... But God held the man primarily responsible because he's the head of his family ... Wives are responsible for their sin, but their husbands in addition also bear responsibility."
"The well-being for our wife is our responsibility," Driscoll asserts, warning that men will give an account for their wives, children, and all others under their authority when they meet God. In my opinion, the idea that men must take responsibility for their wives is unhealthy for both sexes. It infantilizes women by refusing to acknowledge them as autonomous, accountable adults, and it makes men responsible for the actions of other people who they cannot and should not control. For men, this sounds like a recipe for burnout or control freak tendencies.

At the 4:09 mark, Driscoll claims that a man shares the blame as head of the family if wives or children fail to grow in their faith. The idea that a particular man might not be the best person to direct others' spiritual growth, that a wife's spiritual journey is her business, or that household members' spiritual paths might look completely different is not considered.
"If your wife struggles or fails to grow in godliness, if your children struggle or fail to grow in godliness, it is your responsibility in the sight of God, in addition to their responsibility, but it is your responsibility as well, and that's what the Bible means when it uses the word 'head'."
Citing Ephesians 5:22-27, Driscoll provided a sugar-coated defense of male headship that I've heard many times before: that scripture commands wives to submit to husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. He urged men to adopt a "covenental" rather than a "contractual" approach to marriage, in which "servant" husbands give up of themselves for the well-being of their wives. Still, no matter how much conservative Christians like Driscoll sugar-coat it, the "headship" model of marriage is still incredibly sexist. They can talk about love and "servant leadership" all they want, but the fact remains that this model of marriage still disempowers wives by silencing their voices and giving husbands arbitrary power over them. Driscoll tried to paint male dominance over the family as somehow beneficial for the parties involved.
"You are the covenant head ... Your understanding of marriage has to be covenental, not contractual ... Covenant is about me giving myself to you for your well-being. It's servanthood. Covenant is about your benefit. Contract is about my benefit."
At the 12:43 mark, Driscoll insisted that a man isn't a boss over their wives like a supervisor in the workplace, having just compared the role of a husband to that of a CEO just a few minutes before.
"We're not the boss. We're the head. We're not to be a boss like a boss at work, just sort of deligating duties to our wife and to our children. Instead, we are to be the head like Jesus, and that in every way, the relationship between Jesus and the church is to be for us a pattern of covenant relationship."
Later, however, Driscoll does tell men to boss around their families, using church selection as an example. At the 38:19 mark, Driscoll urges listeners to find good churches for their families, but insists that men choose the churches based on whether they respect the church leaders, not on the wife's input. So much for servanthood!
"Men should pick the church. Husbands, fathers should pick the church. Too often, the wife picks the church. She says,'Great women's ministry, great children's ministry!' Guy walks in and says [sucks in breath] 'Doesn't really work for me', because the number one reason a man chooses a church is he looks at the senior leader or leaders and says 'I'll follow him'."
Hilariously, Driscoll insisted that male headship over the family doesn't mean that "men are over women", only that one husband has authority over one wife to "lead her". The fact that this arrangement is still sexist escapes him. At the 16:12 mark, he had this to say.
"What this doesn't mean, Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 and 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 11 ... What it doesn't mean when it says that the husband is the head of the wife, it doesn't mean that men are over women. God forbid that would happen. I have two daughters. The scariest thing I can think of is that men in general were in authority over them. This does not mean that men are over women. This means one man, one woman, husband and wife in the covenant of marriage, that the man is the head. He takes responsibility and burden before God to lovingly, humbly lead her."
Naturally, Driscoll rejects the idea of even debating the merits of egalitarian versus patriarchal relationships. Predictably, he looks askance at feminism, higher education, and any other forces that might lead others to question sexism at the 18:15 mark.
"Now, what it also doesn't say is that maybe perhaps if you think it's culturally appropriate after you've gone to college and read a few books and been raised on feminism and women's magazines and sitcoms that make fun of men, if after all of that, you think it's a good idea because you and your friends voted, then perhaps maybe perchance the man could theoretically be the head of the household. That's not what it says. It says that the man IS, the husband IS the head of the wife ... Men, you ARE the head of your home. The husband IS the head of the wife. We get into a lot of trouble when God says we ARE something, and then we debate as to whether or not we should be."
Of course, when observers criticize male headship, Driscoll interprets it as a personal attack by people who don't understand the Bible. Driscoll refuses to consider that his sexism might be the problem. At the 32:21 mark, he had this to say.
"When it comes to men, as I teach this, it always gets misunderstood. Every, I think, media interview I've ever done, I get whacked like a pinata on this issue. Marc's a chauvinist, he's a misogynist -- I don't even know how to give a massage -- and all these horrible things get said about me ... What happens is it gets completely misinterpreted because outside of Biblical thinking, the culture has no categories for what the Bible teaches."
In the most baffling part of the sermon, Driscoll claimed that a husband's headship over his wife and children actually protects them from predatory men in the outside world. At the 17:02 mark, he had this to say.
"This is to protect women from other relationships. Let's say for example there's a daughter, and she's got a close relationship with her covenant-head, Christian dad. That headship protects her from other boys who want to come along and be here head, tell her what to do, set an identity for her, abuse her, endanger her. It protects her from other young men who would come to take that place of headship in her life. Similarly with a wife, if the husband loves her like Christ loves the church, and he takes responsibility for her, that protects her from bad men, bosses, men who have ill intent or those who are perverted. It protects her. It puts her in the context where she is lovingly cared for and protected. And in our day when one in three women is sexually abused, and women are mistreated and maligned and taken advantage of, it's good to know that God's intent is that men would be the head."
Driscoll never elaborates on exactly how a man's dominance over his family supposedly protects wives and daughters from sexual harassment or unscrupulous boyfriends. Still, this toxic passage say volumes. First, Driscoll sets up an adversarial relationship between households and men outside the households, demonizing male friends, lovers, and bosses as sexual predators. Such an attitude may serve to isolate wives and daughters from the outside world, instilling them with fear of outsiders and a false sense of security if they submit to a husband or father's dominance. I can see such illusions strengthening a controlling husband or father's grip on his family, making for very unhealthy family life.

Second, Driscoll ignores women's capacity for autonomy and self-awareness. Wives and daughters are depicted as passive objects who must be led by one man, lest they be manipulated by other men. The idea that girls and women are capable of making their own decisions or forging their own identities is never considered. I'm not saying that husbands shouldn't stand by their wives, or that fathers shouldn't guide their children; I'm saying that they should do so in a way that doesn't infantilize the parties involved.

Third, Driscoll incorrectly associates male dominance in the family with female safety. Those one in three women who are physically assaulted or sexually abused? Many of them are victimized by husbands, fathers, and step-fathers. Driscoll incorrectly assumes that male violence against women is committed by perpetrators outside the home, ignoring the fact that intrafamilial violence is all too common. Men who victimize their girlfriends, wives, and children often do so with an attitude of male entitlement and misogyny. The answer to male violence against women, one would think, would be to teach men and boys to abandon sexism and embrace egalitarian forms of masculinity, but Driscoll does not do this. How does Driscoll expect to combat male dominance with more male dominance?

Driscoll conflates hierarchy with security, but they are NOT synonymous. Whether Driscoll wants to admit it or not, male dominance over families doesn't protect anyone from victimization. Responsible communities do. Good police officers and service providers do. Sound workplace polices do. Evidence-informed laws do. Know what else does too? Teaching men to respect women as equals instead of dominate and infantilize them. By encouraging men to see women and girls as passive and vulnerable, he unwittingly feeds the very attitudes that contribute to a culture of violence.

To be fair, Driscoll disparages men who physically abuse women, telling his audience, "Masculinity is about taking responsibility ... There are guys right now who drive trucks, shoot guns, and beat women. That's not a man." Nevertheless, he fails to make the connection between patriarchy and male violence, celebrating the former but oblivious as to how it feeds the latter.

In short, Driscoll's family advice is fraught with sexism, placing excessive burdens on men and disempowering wives and daughters. Neither husbands nor wives are given room to be human, having been shoehorned into rigid master and servant roles. Wives' input and needs are devalued, while husbands' cannot call on collaboration or help from their wives. Daughters are reduced to passive objects. Feel-good rhetoric about love, servanthood, and protection doesn't change the fact that such rigidly hierarchical relationships are unhealthy.


3/9/13 UPDATE: Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has penned a hard-hitting critique of Driscoll's vision of patriarchy. She points out the flaws of Driscoll's male headship model, observing that it not only shoehorns men into unrealistic boxes, but creates situations where abuse of women and girls can erupt.
"The picture Driscoll paints here of men in general—from teenage boyfriends to male bosses—is incredibly negative, and yet he somehow exempts himself and whatever future husbands he may find for his daughters from this category and argues that women should protect themselves by placing themselves under male authority and headship. Men are violent and dangerous, he says, so trust your future to them. I’m sorry, what? Driscoll manages this by creating a dichotomy of “nice, protective Christian men” and “dangerous, violent non-Christian men.” Except that in the real world, it doesn’t work like this ... In the end, Driscoll’s Christian man good/non-Christian man bad dichotomy, when combined with his call for women to be under the authority of their male heads, creates a situation ripe for abuse."
She criticizes Driscoll for failing to understand that an egalitarian world would protect women from harm far better than the patriarchy he endorses.
"And do you know the problem here? The problem is that when a woman trusts to a given man to protect her from other man, she is only as safe as that man can make her—or as safe as he chooses to make her ... Driscoll thinks he can make this situation sound appealing by comparing it to an imaginary straw-patriarchy that never existed where all women must submit to all men, but the very real alternative is the world we live in now, a world in which women not only don’t have to submit to all men but rather a world where women don’t have to submit to any men.

Driscoll wants to see girls protected from boyfriends who might tell them what to do or abuse them, and wants to see women protected from bosses and men with ill intentions towards them. But what he seems utterly incapable of grasping is that by arguing that the solution is that girls should be protected by their fathers and women should be protected by their husbands he is arguing that women should be protected from men by men ... If Driscoll is relieved that, in a world where one in three women faces sexual abuse, God intended for men to be “the head,” who in the in the world does he think is out there sexually abusing and mistreating women? Other women? Driscoll’s inability to grasp that sometimes it is fathers and husbands who are the abusers blows my mind. I can only wonder what he would tell women in these situations."
For more information on Mark Driscoll, visit marshill[dot]com/pastors/mark-driscoll

For additional commentary on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, visit the following links.

Bitch Magazine: Life on Mars (Hill)

Slate: A Shunning in Seattle

Dianna E. Anderson: Marc Driscoll, Violence Against Women, and Missing the Point