Sunday, October 30, 2011

Barton, Copeland, and the Womenfolk

Let's talk manners! On the October 28th edition of Believers' Voice of Victory, David Barton and Kenneth Copeland had much to say about manners and the fair sex. (To watch the full video, visit www[dot]kcm[dot]org/media/webcast/kenneth-copeland-and-david-barto/111028-the-word-of-god-is-your-final-authority)

Barton and Copeland lamented that manners have supposedly disappeared from American culture, and with them respect for women. Barton began by quoting 1 Timothy 5:1-3, which he called the basis of a system of manners. At the 11:56 mark, Barton complained that men no longer open doors or pull out chairs for women, and Copeland fumed that women have changed too much.

BARTON: As we've become more secular, we have less manners. We no longer respect women, open doors for them, or pull out chairs. We no longer say 'yes sir' or 'no ma'am.'

COPELAND: And the women changed!

BARTON: The women have changed too.

COPELAND: And when that happened, the fundamental morality of this country went in the ditch, man.

BARTON: And it goes to something as simple as manners ... If you've got kids, if you've got grandkids, you teach them to say 'thank you,' and 'please', and 'no thank you.' And you teach them to respect older folks, and you teach them to respect women. That's a  big deal in the Bible, and we don't do that in our culture anymore. We'll now have lawsuits if you do that. We have actually women saying, hey, I don't want to be treated differently from anybody else. No. We want to respect you, we want to honor you, we want to elevate you.
First, Barton conflates good manners and respect, even though they are not synonymous. He associates respecting women with opening doors and pulling out chairs, but this is not how all people define respect for women. What about treating women as adults and equals? Letting their voices be heard? Respecting their right to make decisions? Involving them in important decision-making? Encouraging them to use their talents? Standing up against discriminatory treatment of women, not to mention violence against women? Those things are what come to mind when I envision respect for women, but Barton and Copeland did not discuss them.

Revealingly, Barton seems to looks askance at women who demand equality, frowning upon women who "don't want to be treated differently from anybody else." Barton seems to see this demand for equality as incompatible with his idea of respect for women, because immediately afterwards, he insists, "No. We want to respect you, we want to honor you, we want to elevate you." Furthermore, Copeland's lament that women have changed suggests that he pines for a previous time, when the roles of men and women were different.

At the 13:38 mark, Barton claims that how a culture treats women reflects how Biblical its worldview is. (See here.)

BARTON: The way you treat women is the best indication of how Biblical a view you have. Now you look at other nations. You look at Islam. See how they treat women? I don't think that's a Biblical view. I mean, you look at secularists, look at France, how they treat women. Look at the Norwegian countries, how they treat women. The way you treat women is a reflection of how Biblical your culture is, and now we're saying in America, we don't want any manners shown like that, we don't want to treat women differently ... If our culture says, hey, we're not going to treat women different, you better conform to the scriptures, 'cause it does say to treat women different.

COPELAND: The Word says for a man to treat his wife as if -- I didn't say she was --  as if she was a weaker vessel. Treat her like she's fragile. Man, I mean you're sweet to her, good to her, you see to it she has everything she needs, everything she wants, and it'll produce heaven on earth in your marriage, man, because it puts thing in its order in the sight of God.

Uh, guys? Women have high status in France and Noway. For example, Norway boasts very high participation of women in the workforce, and passed a law in 2003 stipulating balanced gender representation on company boards. In a 2010 United Nations report, Norway also boasts a highly educated female population, and a respectable percentage (>40%) of female representation on scientific boards. In the same report, France was among countries with low lifetime prevalence rates of physical violence and sexual assault among women. The report also listed France as the country with the third highest life expectancy for women. UNICEF statistics show that France has an extremely high rate of antenatal care coverage and skilled attendant presence at delivery, suggesting that policymakers there place importance on women's health. While no country is perfectly egalitarian, indicators suggest that women are doing very well in Norway and France. The assumption that secular cultures do not treat women well is incorrect.

To boot, Barton correlates a Biblical worldview with respect for women, thereby ignoring misogynist passages in scripture. The New Testament contains verse after verse forbidding women from speaking or teaching in church, admonishing wives to submit to their husbands, demanding that women cover their heads, and mocking women as gullible. The rape imagery in Revelations isn't very respectful of women either. And that doesn't even include the deeply misogynist content of the Old Testament! Barton conveniently ignores these cruel and disdainful passages. I fail to see how an inerrant interpretation of the Bible is compatible with respect for women, either as Barton defines it or otherwise.

The key to understanding this video is realizing that "respect for women" means something different here than it might in common parlance. Barton and Copeland seems to define the term as polite and gentle treatment of women, but not as equal empowerment or equal agency. Furthermore, they see "respect" for women as synonymous with good manners, rather than framing it as an ethical issue of equality. When voices from the Religious Right speak of respecting women, it is vital to remember that they might not mean what we think they mean by "respect."

As for good manners, I can't resist ending with this breathtaking video. We've got your good manners all right!

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. For additional commentary, visit the following link.

Def Shepherd: David Barton & The Religious Right Want Women To Be Respected Like They Are In The Bible


  1. Why is it that every time I read a story about fundamentalist christians, I walk awy feeling filthy?

  2. Anonymous -- I hear ya'. You're not the only one who feels grimy after reading about these things.

  3. What Anonymous said. I found the second video much easier to listen to than the first one. That's saying a lot.

    And I have to add that if my dear Mike treated me with Barton's brand of "respect," we wouldn't be together. Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster for men who prefer treating women as equals and wouldn't have it any other way.

    My dear Ahab. No wonder you had a headache this weekend.

  4. Cognitive Dissenter -- Thanks be to His noodlee appendage that times are changing, thanks to enlightened people of both sexes.

  5. Barton's comments make my head hurt. Treating women like they need to be elevated, put upon a pedestal, just makes them sound like property or things. Nice trophies for us men to fawn over. That is most certainly not respect.

  6. Reverend -- It certainly isn't. The idea of true respect for women is alien to people like this.


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