Monday, January 11, 2010

"The Woman's Role in the Home"

I do love me some counter-apologetics. What can I say, it gets my blood going early in the morning and revs me up. I can almost understand atheists who were raised in secular homes being completely uninterested by religion, but I'm always surprised when former-believing atheists don't seem to give a hoot. Isn't it sort of oddly fascinating to look at your old self through new eyes? I started writing this post a few months ago when I was reading "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy" but never finished it. I have a feeling this will be a multi-part post so I hope you're as eager as I am to rant on the misogyny of the Bible.

As a small Christian girl, I thought having children was the purpose and honor of women. I was molested as a child, and in the doctor's visit which eventually followed, I overheard the male gynecologist discussing with one of his nurse's the extent of damage done to me, and the likelihood that I might never successfully carry a child to term. It changed how I saw myself fundamentally. Between that sort of "failure" to be an actual woman, to bear children, my non-pure, non-virgin status, and the fact that I had somehow gotten the message that only men abuse and only women are victimized, I decided I couldn't be a good woman, and so I set about becoming a tomboy.

I changed my name to a boy's-style nickname for the next two years, cut my hair short, and joined the softball team. I didn't wear a dress once for four years. I thought if I could just be a boy, that I would be okay. If someone had told me boys were abused, too, I might not have gone this route. It seemed like the best way to keep myself safe at the time.

And oddly enough, it was. I don't know that it played any role in preventing future molestation or rape, but it separated me mentally and emotionally from the "woman's role in the home." I'd never been interested in cooking or cleaning; having kids was the part of womanhood I'd expected to like. Now that I believed that was gone, there was simply no reason to have that kind of Biblical marriage. By the time my grandmother told me she'd found a boy for me to marry (we were both 13; he lived in Montana and was the son of some of her followers - and we had never met), I had already given up on that lifestyle (and begun to experience the fun of secular hedonism).

I'm reading "Quiverfull: Inside the Chritian Patriarchy Movement" and it's disturbing how many of their beliefs match up with the cult teachings of my childhood. I could have been those women. So, let's see what kind of lifetime bullet I dodged, and what that childhood abuse may have actually saved me from. Looking at "The Woman's Role in the Home" by Christian homeschooling mother Rachel Harkins makes me want to wash out my eyes with bleach. Or acid.
I enjoy coming up with acrostics when I'm able, and as I was thinking on this topic the Lord gave me this acrositc for the word "HOME". H – Honour the Lord. In the old Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the definition for honour is – “To reverence; to manifest the highest veneration for, in WORDS and ACTIONS; to entertain the most exalted thoughts of ; to worship; to adore.” Before we, as Christian wives and mothers, can fulfill our role in the home, we must let Christ have first place in our lives. Sometimes this requires God getting our attention by bringing us to our knees until we finally acknowledge that He is “All we have and All we need”. In order to explain this further, I’d like to share a brief testimony. The older I get, the more I enjoy sharing it because I realize the mercy and longsuffering that God has shown me.
Notice that she specifically uses the 1828 Webster's dictionary, and think about how much language has changed since then. Among the "Quiverfull" Christian homeschooling (home cult-ing) movement this edition has been deemed the "Christian dictionary", because as one nut put it, "The English language has changed again and again and in many instances has become corrupt. The American Dictionary of the English Language is based upon God's written word, for Noah Webster used the Bible as the foundation for his definitions." Tee-hee, "corrupt" language that includes new words like internet, drive-thru, electricity, and life support. Yes, I'm sure you couldn't possibly need any of the "corrupted" English from today's version of Merriam-Webster's dictionary. Oh, and who came up with that acrostic - her or the Lord? Seems a shame she can't give herself credit for figuring out 4 words or phrases beginning with common letters!

Now let's look at what she's saying. "Before you can be a good mom or wife, you have to put someone else first in your life, before your kids or husband." Ouchilogical: so illogical it hurts! And notice, too, the controlling relationship this woman imagines she has with God. He resorts to "getting our attention by bringing us to our knees" until we praise Him and give Him an ego blow job. Nice God, huh? Obviously the sort of chap you want to venerate, reverence, and worship.
I was raised in a Christian home where both parents loved the Lord. Since Dad took his family to church “every time the doors were open”, I heard the gospel at a very early age. My Mom told me I came to her when I was very young, wanting to be saved, but I have no remembrance of that time. My earliest memories of the Holy Spirit dealing with my young heart are when I was around the age of 5 or 6. I would lay in bed at night, afraid that Jesus had come back and taken my parents and I was left behind. Many times, I would quietly get out of bed and walk to my parents’ bedroom door where I would stand and call out to my mother. When she finally awakened and answered me, I was fine. Mom was still there. I could go to sleep now.
So, before her earliest religious memory at age 5 or 6 she had already been concerned for the state of her soul. And this is why I hate religion. I "got saved" the first time when I was 3. And remember, this is in a pro-Jesus testimony, this childhood fear of hell and of being left behind at the rapture. This woman didn't just hear the gospel; she was brainwashed into it. Also, at 5 or 6 the Holy Spirit would not have been "dealing with [her] young heart" if she'd been raised in a secular or Wicaan or Buddhist home, now would it? No "Holy Spirit" was leading her; that girl was terrified because her parents filled her head with nonsense about the end of the world, and about a supposedly-merciful God who will leave some people behind. Of course she had fears like this. Really, no supernatural explanation is required to understand the nighttime fears of a terrorized little girl.
It wasn’t until I was 8 years old that the Holy Spirit convicted me of my lost condition. It was on a Saturday night, Dad was at the Saturday night men’s prayer meeting and I was already in bed asleep. That night I dreamed that the rapture had taken place and I was not ready to go. I awakened in fear and went straight to my mother. After telling her about my dream and my fears of not being saved, Mom took her Bible and shared scripture with me. It was on that night that I made sure of my salvation.
The "lost condition" she refers to is her humanity; she was brainwashed and afraid of hell and abandonment. I responded to many alter calls myself, because there was no way to be really, really certain that the warm fuzzy feelings mean you're not going to hell.
In Job 33, starting with verse 12 the Bible says, “Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters. For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.”
So, God doesn't have to answer to anybody; who are ye to judge; and dreams are really messages from on high. Got any evidence Job?
And then starting in verse 24, “Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth: He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness. He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.”
Okay, ew on the fresh flesh. That's just a little too zombie apocalypse for me. Next, let't not forget who created this pit or who made us all born headed there. Gangbangers, junkies, and sex workers, here's the religion just for you. Admit you done wrong & fess up to the error of your ways and you can be a minister! It's just that easy. (Wanna know more? Just send $79.99 US to Angie the Anti-Theist for my introductory DVD "How to fleece idiots for their money in a religious context." Don't wait - Order NOW!)
That is my testimony. After praying with me, Mom showed me the verses in I John 5:11-13 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” I remember her emphasizing the word “KNOW”. I’m so thankful that we can KNOW!
That's your testimony? You know there are few *billion* people currently on the planet who don't have the son yet they have life. "Oh it's metaphoric" - How do you know, is there an asterisk? How can you tell which parts are metaphor and which are threats and which are histories and which are made-up bullshit to keep the peasants in line? Basically this girl has been terrorized into having nightmares about being abandoned and rejected at the rapture, so her mom says "Just believe this and you can KNOW you're okay!" Without, you know, actually doing anything to help the little girl BE okay (like assuring her no loving god would cast the majority of humankind into the fiery pits of hell.)
I’m ashamed to say that there was not much growth after salvation. I Corinthians 3:1,2 says “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” Those verses describe me for the next several years. Oh, I had a “head knowledge” of the Bible. I knew all of the familiar Bible stories by heart and could quote many Bible verses, but I had no application of spiritual principles in my life. This immaturity led to my straying in my Jr. High and Sr. High School years. It wasn’t until after Jim and I were married that the Lord began dealing with me about certain things.
So from the time when she was 8 and her mother told her she could KNOW for certain she was getting into heaven (the ultimate life insurance policy, as we called it) till she was a young adult she did not live a serious, adult "faithwalk" and perhaps made more errors in judgment or more impulsive decisions. This is hardly surprising. The prefrontal cortex of the brain - responsible for impulse control, decision making, and advanced planning - does not finish developing in humans until the early 20s. I know I'm much better at those things than I was ten, or even five years ago. My brain's capacity to perform those thought functions has improved, and so have my choices. This has nothing whatsoever to do with a god, much less the specifically misogynistic Christian god, much less her unique personal and denominational version of Christian god. I too knew all the major Bible stories, and could numerous quote verses (and heal the sick and cast out demons and pray in the name of Jesus and prophesy the future, or at least I thought I could.) Dave asked me the other night when we were watching "Jesus Camp" why, if I believed as strongly as those kids did, didn't that stop me from doing drugs or having sex? Because of course, god wasn't real and he wasn't there to help me make good decisions. My prayers begging god to take my "freewill" from me went entirely unanswered; it wasn't until my brain developed further that I began to have some greater degree of control over my choices and actions.
Jim was saved the year before we were married and although I had been saved for several years now, we both were very young in the Lord. After our marriage, God led us to a little independent Baptist church and for the first time that I can remember in my Christian life, I began to hear preaching on the Christian walk. God began dealing with my heart about things that I needed to confess. Many nights, Jim would stay up and talk with me and then we would pray. This repentance brought forgiveness and some growth, through preaching as well as trials where we learned to lean on the Lord. Up until this time, however, I had no consistent personal time with the Lord. I knew I should be reading my Bible daily as well as praying, but my quiet time was more “hit and miss” as I allowed other things to take its place.
Two Christians decided to find a church in their area; they happened across one that put a lot of focus on legalism and following the rules of the Bible (as opposed to just the hippie Jesus message of KNOWING your saved.) They go through some good times and some bad, and put their faith in god to get them through. In reality, they get themselves and each other through. And someone actually had the gall to ask me yesterday if I would still "demean" religion if they didn't rape children, commit genocide, or advocate slavery! It still lies to children, oppresses women, and justifies the worst atrocities with bullshit platitudes about "god is love" and the "prince of peace". Fuck that. (Yes, my original admirable goal of keeping the blog largely profanity-free has taken a nose dive since the video posts, so I'm just gonna go with it. Let me know if it bugs you, Anteaters.
The turning point in my Christian life came in early ‘96. I had just given birth to our 5th child, Bethany, in December ’95 and I guess I experienced what some people would call a major case of “postpartum depression”. Unlike other times, I just couldn’t “bounce back” this time. I felt so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a wife, mother, teacher, etc. I now had 3 children in grade school (we homeschooled), one toddler and an infant and I just didn’t know if I could do it all! Of course, in my eyes “nobody understood”, not even Jim. (Even though I remember him telling me not to worry about the schooling right then…….."just take your time, rest, start back when your ready".) I really didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody. There were many nights when I would get up, not wanting to disturb Jim, and just sit in a room by myself and cry. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, God was bringing me exactly to the place He wanted me to be.
Post-partum depression *sucks* and I wish this poor woman had been given access to secular therapy, psychotropic medications (if she wanted them), and practical assistance with some of the overwhelming tasks of motherhood. I can't even imagine caring for five children every single day, including an infant. An infant alone is enough to turn the cheeriest parents into wild-eyed narcoleptic zombies covered in spit up and poo. And as for the sadness and loneliness, well I've had more than a few days where I just fell on the floor sobbing - even once this week. Depression is a medical condition, not the action of a loving god. What kind of loving god curses this woman with a (totally naturally explainable and physical) mental illness in order to make her - who already praises him and accepts him and is clearly letting him dictate her womb's opening and closing - be more in line with his demands?
Finally, one night I got out of bed and as I sat there crying, I began calling out to God. In total desperation I cried, “Lord, You’re all I have, and You’re all I need.” THAT WAS IT! That was exactly where God wanted me…TOTAL surrender to Him!!!! Oh, what a sweet peace I felt that night……..a peace that passeth all understanding! I could never begin to try to express the burden that was lifted that night. It was after I gave the Lord first place in my life that I began to have a hunger for His Word like never before. I had such a strong desire to grow and this led to a consistent personal time with the Lord. As I said earlier, before we can fulfill our role in the home, we MUST let Christ have first place in our lives and sometimes this requires God getting our attention by bringing us to our knees.
I've experienced that desire to grow in the Lord; I remember it well. And I remember the release that comes from not being the one making decisions, or bearing responsibility. The "peace of the Lord" is nothing more than completely letting go. I think that's why turning my life and affairs over to god felt so much like taking off for a roadtrip without money or a destination (or a car.) In fact, when I was on such roadtrips - totally reliant on luck, the weather, and the kindness of strangers - I felt the closest I ever did to god, outside of a worship service or revival. To me it sounds like Rachel started carving out a little quiet alone time each day, to sit and read and maybe drink her coffee in silence and solitude. The book is less important than you might think, and there are far better secular books available for getting through depression, loneliness, and the stress of parenting. (Some of the books are even comedies, which have the benefit of making you laugh.)
When we begin to honour the Lord in our lives, it will be evident not only in our words, but in our actions. Our love and adoration for Him will become so strong that just the THOUGHT of bringing a reproach to His name will grieve us. Truly honouring the Lord will change how we walk, how we talk, how we live. And, it will change the kind of wife and mother that we are. Our husbands will begin to notice a change in us. That perhaps “nagging wife” will turn into a “praying wife”. Our children will notice Momma reading her Bible more and more.
The "praying wife" is of course the woman who never expresses her concerns, displeasures, or contradictory opinions to her husband, and instead petitions god to let him know through some other (penis-centered) way. That certainly is a consequence of honoring the god of the Bible. I remember being scared to think blasphemous thoughts, and of not allowing myself to listen to any music with the word "goddamn" in it, because it made me too uncomfortable. (I'm looking at you, Panic at the disco.)
I read a quote the other day by Sis. Linda Townsend, a pastor’s wife, and I’d like to share it with you. “A house isn’t a home without the heart of the homemaker being right with God.” How true this is. We must have our hearts right with God before we can minister in our home as God would have us.
That's actually not true, at all. I live in a home entirely occupied by atheists/nontheists. Not a one of us is "right with God" and, even though I'm home all day and I perform the cooking, cleaning, and laundry functions for the household, I am not a fucking homemaker. I am an underpaid blogger, writer, activist, YouTuber, mother, lover, friend, and funny ass human being. I don't give two flying monkey's poop logs how a god would want me to minister. I'll take care of my family the way I see fit, because I am responsible for my own life.

This post has been brought to you by the letter H. Part 2 coming soon-ish (no promises these days lol.)