Sunday, April 29, 2012

Doug Phillips Uses Titanic Disaster to Lambaste Feminism, Modern Society

April 15th marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean en rout to New York City. Amidst the countless events commemorating the disaster was a Vision Forum gala, infused with the values of the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Earlier this month, Vision Forum and the Christian Boys' and Men's Titanic Society sponsored an event in Branson, Missouri called "Titanic 100: An International Centennial Event." The event featured music, performances, costume events, stories, and interactive experiences such as an Edwardian Ladies Tea.

For Doug Phillips and the Vision Forum, the event was not only a commemoration of the Titanic, but an opportunity to revise history and promote Christian Patriarchy ideals. In the days leading up to Titanic 100, Phillips promoted the idea that men on the Titanic embodies a "women and children first" ethic, in contrast to modern society that denigrates women.

For example, Doug Phillips appeared on the April 13th edition of Truth That Transforms, the radio show of Truth In Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries). The show began with reflection on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, followed by a discussion of Doug Philip's Christian Boys and Men Titanic Society. At the 9:19 mark, Phillips claimed that the men on board the Titanic were infused with Christian views, whereas cultures that embrace "evolution" and "paganism" supposedly treat women poorly.
"The people that were on board the deck of the Titanic at that time were individuals that grew up in a culture which was distinctively Christian in its perspective of the role of men and women. And there's an interesting contrast because in the year 1898, a French vessel called La Bourgogne sunk, and when it sunk, the sailors and the officers literally threw women and children into the water, beat them over the head, and the men lived and the women died. And it sent shock waves throughout the entire world. People said how could such a thing happen? And in trying to understand why that happened, the commentary was they grew up in a culture that embraced evolution. It was the struggle of survival of the fittest. They grew up in a culture that had been the culture of the French Revolution, which had rejected Biblical Christianity and embraced paganism, and the consequence is that men treat women horrifically. Now, we flash forward to the year 2012, and this year, our president has finally taken us over the abyss, and we have full-fledged commitment to women in the front-lines of combat in overseas battles ... That's the first time in the history of the west that any nation has formally endorsed such a thing, and it represents a radical departure from the values that were embodied on board the ship in 1912."
Phillips ignores the fact that women's status is much higher in modern society than it was one hundred years ago, when women's roles were tightly constrained, women could not vote, domestic violence and marital rape were a husband's prerogative, child abuse was kept secret, and victim services as we know them were nonexistent. And that was just for white American women -- the plight of African-American women and children at the time was much worse.

At the 11:42 mark, Phillips insisted that deference to women is a Biblical concept that initiated in the Genesis creation story.
"We see in the scripture, in the creation order that God created men and women both of equal value before the Lord, but he gave them distinct roles and distinct responsibilities. He called men, for example, to the role of protector and defender. Men would go to warfare. In fact, even the very curse that fell after Adam's sin, after man sinned against God was than man was to sweat by his brow as he toiled in the field. Woman's curse came in the context of having children, but what we see as scripture progresses and throughout really ultimately it would be true of all free societies and throughout Western Christian civilization was that the groom sacrifices for the bride, that men act deferentially for their wives ... There has always been a chasm between paganism and Christianity ... In a Christian society, we protect babies, we protect women and children. In pagan society, babies and women and children are treated like chattel."
Sorry, Doug, but some non-Christian societies actually treated women and children rather well -- the Iroquois and Etruscans come to mind. To boot, in his haste to defend Biblical principles as deferential toward women and children, he seems to have forgotten passages that condone honor killing, rape of female war captives, ownership of female and child slaves, wholesale slaughter of enemy women and children, public humiliation of women (but not men) suspected of adultery, killing bratty children, beating children, and a host of other horrors. Don't even get me started on passages that use violence and sexual humiliation of women as a metaphor for God's wrath! Moreover, pre-modern Christian societies did not necessarily have a stellar track record in terms of how women and children were treated.

At the 14:10 mark, Phillips claimed that evolution and feminism have created a monstrous society.
"Why are we not there anymore? Because of evolutionary thinking. Evolution says the struggle of the survival of the fittest. There are no differences between men and women. There is no charity, there is no deference, and in an evolutionary world feminism reaches its height and we see no distinctions, and the result is babies are killed en mass, women are treated like chattel and men no longer take on their masculine role as defenders."
In short, Phillips' interview promoted the dubious idea that women and children were respected in the old days and treated poorly now, a dubious claim at best.

Phillips also used the Titanic disaster to promote anti-feminist views at his website. In a Vision Forum blog post, Doug Phillips ridiculed feminists for allegedly scorning homemakers. He claimed that men on the Titanic sacrificed themselves for female passengers, thus showing that Christian manhood is supposedly superior to feminism.  
"The Christian manhood demonstrated aboard Titanic was devoid of such a respecter of persons when it came to loading women onto the lifeboats. Feminists have a hard time explaining the fact that some of the wealthiest men of the world were documented to prefer helping third class women into life boats rather than accepting seats themselves ... The Scripture says that God is no respecter of persons and stresses that His people are not to be a respecter of persons in carrying out His prerogatives. As such, Christian manhood — unlike feminism — is no respecter of persons with regard to the qualities or station of the women they seek to protect."
Actually, history suggests otherwise. The Washington Post cites former Titanic Historical Society vice president George Behe as saying that while 94% of women and children from First and Second Class were rescued, only 47% of women and children from Third Class were rescued. Overall, 52% of passengers from First and Second Class survived, while only 26% from Third Class survived the disaster. This Ithaca College Library page on Titanic passengers breaks down survival rates by age, sex, nationality, and class, showing that the survival rates for Third Class passengers were abysmal compared to other classes. The high casualties among Third Class women and children suggests that Phillips romanticized vision of the Titanic is inaccurate.

Furthermore, Phillip's attacks on feminism reveal profound ignorance about the subject. Modern feminists has long acknowledged the common dignity and humanity of women, and has done more to protect women and children that Phillips has ever admitted. Domestic violence centers, rape crisis centers, reproductive health clinics, child abuse initiatives, women's studies programs, and pro-equality legislation are among the many modern developments either spearheaded by feminists or informed by feminist principles. Where is Phillips getting the idea that feminism somehow fails to respect all women?

However, the internal rhetoric of the Vision Forum suggests that women should be"worthy" of men's sacrifice. At the Edwardian women's tea party, hostess Biall Phillips asked the women in the audience if they were worth a man's sacrifice. 
"How can we as women inspire the men in our lives to sacrifice for us? Are we worthy of such sacrifice?

In the ultimate sense, of course, no, we are not worthy. We are ultimately worthy only of death and damnation. And the charge for men to give up their lives for their brides as Christ gave His for the church is not based on the merit or deserving character of the bride. It is their duty and obligation regardless. But set that aside for this question.

But how can we live, day to day, in a manner which would make worthwhile a man’s sacrifice? How can we inspire our husband, our sons, to consider it an honor, not an obligation, to lay down their lives for us?"
Later, Biall Phillips revealed the flipside of all this so-called chivalry and deference to women: male dominance over women. She urged women to "root out feminism" and accept men's protection and leadership.
"Allow yourself to be protected. It is risky and not guaranteed, but God is in control, and His way is the only proven way.

Believe in the men in your life. Pray for them, encourage them, and see God’s work in them. Refuse the temptation to dwell on his shortcomings. You have your own. . .do you want those to be in the limelight? Of course not!

Let him lead. Watch the Lord work through His purposefully designed jurisdictions for His goals."
This flipside was also apparent to other observers. In an April 11th commentary at Religion Dispatches, Julie Ingersoll observes that female subordination ultimately lies behind the Vision Forum's sugary rhetoric of women-and-children-first. In real life, women suffer greatly under such a worldview.

"In biblical patriarchy, the refrain of "women and children first" hides an agenda whereby the women are "first" only insofar as they keep their place which is subordinate to men ... tragically, a biblical woman is also "first" to take the blame for marital problems, "first" to be excommunicated as part of church discipline, "first" to serve her father and then her husband in his vision for dominion."
In short, the Vision Forum's romanticization of the Titanic disaster revises history to fit a Christian Patriarchy Movement narrative, ignoring the uglier realities of history. To boot, the Vision Forum also uses this dubious vision of history to lambaste feminism and evolution, demonizing them as somehow detrimental to women's dignity and social order. In short, Titanic 100 and the rhetoric surrounding it revealed a carefully crafted Christian Patriarchy agenda.

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. To learn more about the Titanic 100 event, click here

To listen to the Truth That Transforms show mentioned above, click here


  1. ""In biblical patriarchy, the refrain of "women and children first" hides an agenda whereby the women are "first" only insofar as they keep their place which is subordinate to men..."

    Exactly. And the Titanic situation had nothing to do with Christianity, but of course the RRRW can spin anything to fit their agenda.

    1. Buffy -- Yet another example of Religious Right revisionist history. Whether evidence supports their vision or not doesn't seem to be important.

  2. Great analysis! If people read their Bibles according to its historical context, they wouldn't very much like what they found. Their pastors have read the Bible with modern eyes and rounded off its rough corners at least somewhat. But the facts of history can't be changed. I find Phillips' rant nothing short of silly.

    1. Doug -- His rant is silly and glaringly selective. He conveniently ignores evidence that contradicts his view. But then again, so does the Religious Right in general.

  3. It is interesting - and incredibly demeaning - how patriarchal societies purport to "elevate" women who fulfill their rigidly defined roles and are obedient and submissive to men, while demonizing women who don't comply - usually with brutal sexual slurs. Sluts, whores, etc.

    That pedestal the Christian patriarchy and others of their ilk want to place women on is in such a pretty little cage. But the air is poisonous and suffocating. It will kill eventually you.

    1. Cognitive Dissenter -- Ain't that the truth. I doubt these men would like being constrained by the same sexist standards their foist onto women. Here's to equality and real dignity.

  4. Not sure I get the Titanic vs. Bourgogne analogy, or as he implies, men can either protect "their" women or conk them on the head and toss them overboard. In my experience, men exercise other options. (Ones Phillips isn't familiar with, maybe...)

    1. Donna -- Yeah, his world is pretty black-and-white. Hey, here's a shocking idea: why can't men and women help EACH OTHER during a crisis? Why can't they work toward EVERYONE'S survival? Did he ever think of that?

    2. "Hey, here's a shocking idea: why can't men and women help EACH OTHER during a crisis? Why can't they work toward EVERYONE'S survival? Did he ever think of that?"

      That would be like Socialism or Communism! Those are evil and Godless.

  5. Course, not. To accept help from a woman would demean him, or in John Piper's words "compromise his humanity". To accept her unworthy servitude, that is fine, but none of this peer-based help thing.


    1. Prairie Nymph -- Ugh. To think that there are macho gasbags who still think that way.

  6. Amazing how these morons stretch and try to blame everything bad on evolution. Personally, I'm just waiting for Creation-tards to publish a books all about how that evil, racist, Muslim, Satanist, Communist baby-killer known as Charles Darwin built a time machine with the help of Beelzebub and went back in time and was responsible for the Crusades and the Papal Inquisitions, and the witch hunts, and every other embarrassing and harmful act committed by christians.

    1. BR -- HAHAHAHAHAHA! At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if some fundamentalist wrote a book like that.


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