Sunday, July 29, 2007

Does religion and feminism mix?

That's the question I can't help wonder about, after reading this Media Transparency article.

Are high-profile evangelical leaders endangering victims of domestic violence?

Dr. James Dobson and Dr. John MacArthur, two influential evangelical family counselors, 'blame' battered women for their plight, says Christian evangelical author Jocelyn Andersen.

Before going on, I should say that I am talking about organized religion, not people being religious.

When looking at religions, one can't help notice that they have a strong trend towards patriarchy, with the focus on males as the rulers. The example most commonly mentioned these days is Islam, where women are often treated as second-class people, having to cover up, and some times getting murdered for not doing so. However, there is also similar tendencies in Christianity, where some groups puts a heavy emphasis on men as the head of the families, and the fact that women should not speak out, as dictated by the Bible.

The Media Transparency focuses on Christianity in the US, where the evangelical groups can pose a danger to victims of domestic violence.

While domestic violence -- also known as intimate partner violence -- is in no way limited to any particular race, religion, ethnic group, class or sexual preference, author Jocelyn Andersen maintains that for far too long too many evangelical pastors have tried to sweep the problem under the rug. According to Andersen, the problem of physical, as well as emotional and spiritual abuse, is being exacerbated by the outdated teachings of several high-profile conservative Christian pastors.

In the introduction to her new book "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence" (One Way Cafe Press, 2007), Andersen points out that "The practice of hiding, ignoring, and even perpetuating the emotional and physical abuse of women is ... rampant within evangelical Christian fellowships and as slow as our legal systems have been in dealing with violence against women by their husbands, the church has been even slower."

Andersen maintains that domestic violence in Christian families "often creates a cruel Catch-22 as many Christians and church leaders view recommending separation or divorce as unscriptural, but then silently view the battered woman, who chooses not to leave, with contempt for staying and tolerating the abuse. Victims quickly pick up on this hypocritical attitude and either leave the church altogether -- or begin hiding the abuse. Either way they are giving up the spiritual guidance, and emotional support, they desperately need."

I see several problems here.

The major problem being the domestic violence that takes place. I don't know of any statistics that shows it happens more often in evangelical households than other households, though given the willingness of some religious people to physically punish children, it would seem likely.

The second problem is that the churches creates an environment where the victim either shuts up, and prolongs her abuse, or has to break with her current life, since she won't get any support from her surroundings.

The third problem is of course that some people depend on churches for "spiritual guidance, and emotional support" - while I can understand why you would depend on churches for the first, it seems to me that the second is something that's rarely to be had in fundamentalist groups, such as evangelical churches.

The first problem is something that must addressed by the law, and by society as a whole. Domestic violence is too widespread in the US, and as long as it's somewhat accepted, or that people blame the victims, it will continue to be so.

The second problem is something that needs to be addressed within the churches. Something which Jocelyn Andersen appears to be working on with her book.

The last problem is a little harder to deal with, but if atheism became more widespread, more religious people might realize that it's possible to find support of all kinds outside religious settings.

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Blogger Paul Sunstone said...

Good blog! Glad I found it.

July 30, 2007 5:53 AM  

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