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.
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
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.