A Religious Rape Culture

Introduction: I am honored to have a friend and life teacher, Greg Stevens, as a guest author today.  I greatly admire this man and the passion with which he pursues God, equality, and justice.  The following is a male-perspective response piece to my article, The Commoditization of Women and North American Rape Culture.  I hope it challenges and motivates you in the same way it has me.

CLICK ON THE ABOVE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO GREG STEVENS, SLUTWALK ORGANIZER AND COLLEGE PASTOR, SHARE HIS SISTER’S STORY

As a Christian pastor and religiously hopeful person, I sadly say that the Evangelical and Fundamentalist church is as much cause for the American rape culture as the mass media.

The influence religion has on society is possibly even more powerful than that of the media – when god is used as justification for ideology, there is a dangerous power that follows.

Religion is literally defined as a way in which people are “tied” or “bound” together through sacramental rituals and belief systems. That which ties and binds isn’t always healthy, beautiful or beneficial for the greater whole. This is visible in the hate speech and hateful acts of many religiously devout. From the blowing up of buildings (most notably, Timothy McVeigh and September 11th) to the current “War on Women” as titled by progressive groups fighting the Religious Right for the re-productive rights of women in North America. Much of this religious bigotry is often the reason people end up quoting Ghandi as he once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

In the Christian community many popular brands of Christianity deny women the right to leadership, they deny women their right as humans to have equal and loving relationships with their male partners, and they deny women the right to have relationships with those of the same gender. It’s common, from my experience in the conservative Christian community for women to be bad mouthed in various ways as well – jokes about making sandwiches, working in the kitchen and not having leadership roles outside the children programs is prevalent. Personally, the reason I began studying gender was because of the disrespect my boss, at a large Methodist church, had for my female coworkers.

When god is a considered a man both linguistically and figuratively, the patriarchy- problem thrives – ironically the language with which men worship this deity has many homosexual tendencies “Oh, How He loves us,” “He reigns in me,” “He is all I want” etc. This hyper-masculine culture in North American churches is strange because statistically most churches are made up of women. Even still, the church leaders, marriage leaders and general relational leaders are male. In this belief system the male person (a highly socially constructed entity) is the leader of relationships of every kind.

This convoluted relational “headship” is most recently visible in Mark Driscoll’s (a conservative mega-church pastor) new book Real Marriage where he argues that wives should submit to their husbands sexually, at the mans every need. In a sermon from 2007 he said (and further unravels in his book),

“Men, I am glad to report to you that oral sex is biblical…The wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical…Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical.”

With the doctrine and lifestyles of mega-church pastors, conservative laypersons, and religious political leaders, I argue that the male-oriented culture in Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches is cause for acts of sexual assault and the lack of change in the larger sociological situation we find ourselves.

Christian radio stations, T.V. stations, bloggers, newspapers, magazines, websites and the various other media outlets of the Religious Right have hijacked the notion of female inferiority and capitalized on it to “save” people, to raise financial support and to promote homophobic legislation.

As AnaYelsi Sanchez said, “Media and advertising is one of the strongest forces behind how we perceive females.”  The reason why media and advertising is so impressionable is because over 3,000 times a day people are targeted with ads that tell them they are ugly, poor and in desperate need of new clothes, a new couch and a new car. If we were to add to this statistic, an hour on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights, general church functions, and a supporting faith community to the 3,000 daily adds, a quirky man-dominant-culture emerges quickly.

With the statistics and issues Ms. Sanchez raises, I’d like to add the Christian church (and other male-dominating religious institutions) to the list. These are not simply doctrinal ideas; these are ways of being in the world that are drastically affecting the culture. In her book, She Who Is, Elizabeth Johnson writes,

“Speech about God shapes the life orientation not only of the corporate faith community but in this matrix guides its individual members as well…The holy mystery of God undergirds and implicitly gives direction to all of a believing persons’ enterprises, principles, choices, systems of values, and relationships Speaking about God sums up, unifies, and expresses a faith community’s sense of ultimate mystery, the world view and expectation of order devolving from this, and the concomitant orientation of human life and devotion.”

Speech to and about the mystery that surrounds human lives, the mystery we’ve called “God,” is a window into the activity of a community of faith. When we peak into the window of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity’s we see a vengeful God of hyper-masculinity, domineering power and coercive sovereignty. We too see a community created in this God’s image.

It’s this image that creates the androcentric system we must stand up against, for it’s this system that is created by a religious people living into sexism, racism, classism, militarism, and human-centrism.

As a Christian pastor and religiously hopeful person, I sadly say that the Evangelical and Fundamentalist church is at much cause for the American rape culture as the media.

Data from Albert L Wineseman. 2004. “U.S. Churches Looking for a Few White Men.” Princeton, NJ: The Gallup Organization. Here’s a blog post about this quote. There’s a link to the sermon transcript on the post. http://tinyurl.com/6n6t2hh

Note that I said we are each targeted with more than 3,000 ads each day, rather than estimating the number we each actually
 see. The number of ads each person sees daily in the U.S. varies widely and is impossible to know definitively. Some sources cite 3,000 ads per day (e.g. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Communications Policy Statement on Children, Adolescents, and Advertising, in PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 
No. 6 December 2006, pp. 2563-2569 retrieved on 11/9/07 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/6/2563) and some cite even more.

She Who Is, Elizabeth Johnson, page 4

Enjoyed this? Continue on to Greg’s insightful conclusion to this discussion: Beer Goggles and a Feminist Hermeneutic

GREG STEVENS IS THE COLLEGE PASTOR AT THE MISSIO DEI COMMUNITY – A HOLISITC, MISSIONAL, INCLUSIVE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. WITH A DEGREE IN GENDER STUDIES FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA, HE SEEKS TO CONTINUALLY DISCOVER NEW WAYS TO UNITE FEMINIST ACADEMIA WITH LOCAL FAITH AND JUSTICE INITIATIVES IN THE TAMPA BAY AREA. HIS WEBSITE IS HTTP://GREGSTEVENS.TUMBLR.COM, AND YOU CAN FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @HELLOGREGORY.

The opinions expressed above are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of Brown-Eyed Amazon. Publication on this website should not be considered an endorsement.

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5 thoughts on “A Religious Rape Culture

  1. The following review was posted by a reader on facebook…

    “This is one of the most interesting and thoughtful pieces on the church / male dominance / rape culture I have read in a long time — check it out — you might want to read back, and first read the piece that the blog owner, AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, wrote, which this man was responding to… both very good reads and worth your time…”

  2. So what now? What’s the rest of the story? If you leave it here then I don’t understand how you can go on calling yourself a Christian. How can you keep reading a Bible that refers to Christ as a male and not read about the “vengeful God of hyper-masculinity, domineering power and coercive sovereignty”?

    After reading this I’m embarrassed… that there are people out there (like Mark Driscoll) who can bring such a bad name to Christianity and that someone (you) can write an article lumping him and me in the same nasty circle because we both fall under the same “evangelical” label. I want to run and hide under a rock. I would NEVER want someone I know to read this and think “oh, that’s what Christians think/do” and then turn to me and know I call myself a Christian. How disgusting.

    So, now that Christians are all responsible for such terrible things… how do you propose we fix it? What do we call ourselves… those of us who also think that this is not acceptable behavior but we trust that Christ sent his son to reconcile a broken relationship and want to accept him as our Lord and Savior? But wait, doesn’t that make us who believe this ALL… ahem… slaves… to someone/something?

    Please give us the rest of the story. I hope that it is not your intent to turn people away from Christianity but to shed light on issues… but from what I read here, with no more information, I feel that the only answer is to turn away from Christianity and from the Lord and tell those I love to do the same or we’re going to become slaves to someone who is going to ruin our lives. If this is the state of our culture, religion, etc. please give us some hope… some direction on how to live in a way that does not perpetuate this stereotype but brings healing and hope to people who are victims. How does someone find the truth if the Bible is responsible for portraying a male God? What is the next step? What is the truth, how do we find it, and how do we live it?

  3. A huge thank you to Katie for her bold and honest response to this post. Katie is a really close friend of mine and after a discussion with her and a few others, about the topics addressed in My and Greg’s post, I agree that these are heavy issues worthy of further dissection.

    I will be working on a follow-up piece to my article on Society’s role in rape culture and intend to invite Greg Stevens to do the same concerning the Church’s role.

    Thank you to all my readers for not only reading but actively participating in the matters addressed on this website. You always provide wonderful challenges!

  4. Katie, thanks for your response! I think there needs to be a follow up post to help flesh out what that could look like – it does exist don’t worry ;)

    Emergent and SOME Evangelical Christianity’s (there are some Evangelicals who are reclaiming the name “evangelical”, which really means “good message” – ex: Rob Bell) are working on some fresh ways of addressing the issues I’ve brought up here.

    Liberal and Progressive Christianity’s have pioneered the cause of equality among women in men both socially and theologically. This is the tradition I find myself rooted in.

    So with that said, there are healthy ways of interpreting the text, the tradition and the life/death/resurrection of Jesus. For now I will leave you with some helpful links and a response to one of your last questions – which I think is a good place to start.

    “How does someone find the truth if the Bible is responsible for portraying a male God?” The Bible is a beautiful library of texts that has many quirky things too it. We must remember to read our sacred text with a healthy sociological, historical and textually critical lens – as we would with any book. Feminist theologians see in the traditions of the Scriptures a reflection of a dudes experience of the world. In both the OT & NT times women were regarded as an inferior species to be owned like cattle, as unclean creatures incapable of truely participating in the religious life. Hence, God became male—”King,” “Father,” “Lord,” “Master.”

    We can love the Bible, even with it’s messy male-dominant language because true love recognizes mistakes and helps work through them :)

    A good list of reading material too: http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/02/05/women-youll-want-to-read/

    Here’s a website that promotes Christian equality from a fairly “moderate” perspective: http://www.cbeinternational.org/

    This is a great list of scholarly articles on feminism: http://www.religion-online.org/listbycategory.asp?Cat=21

  5. Pingback: Beer Goggles and A Feminist Hermeneutic: Part I | AnaYelsi Sanchez

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