Tuesday, September 30, 2014

News Tidbits

Masslive: Scott Lively, controversial independent candidate for governor, blames erosion of Christian values for problems in Massachusetts

NECN: Candidates for Massachusetts Governor Meet in Springfield for First TV Debate

The Tennessean: Duggar family campaigns for Tennessee's abortion amendment

NPR: Right And Left Joined Forces In Fight To Legalize Home Schooling 

Huffington Post: Love, Marriage and the Vatican: Americans' Attitudes about Marriage and the Catholic Church

Huffington Post: Texas Foundation Stands by Giving Community Grant to Anti-Gay Ministry

Reuters: Brazil's evangelicals gain clout, close to electing first president

Jamaica Observer: Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad denies anti-gay campaign

Commentary Tidbits

Slacktivist: The white evangelical tribe is, itself, post-evangelical

Religion Dispatches: Christians and Cage Fighting, from "Fight Church" to Mark Driscoll

Human Rights Campaign: World Congress of Families Launches Petition Against HRC

Good As You: Values Voters Summit Marriage Panel Was Particularly Boring, Bad, Ineffective This Year

Talking Points Memo: Anti-Gay Baker Sobs Openly On 'Traditional' Marriage Panel

Daily Beast: The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide

Salon: Duggar daughter blames the Holocaust on evolution, then compares it to abortion

National Catholic Reporter: LGBT Catholics hope that synod on family will lead to welcome for all

Monday, September 29, 2014

More Quotes from the 2014 Values Voters Summit

The Values Voters Summit has a long history of inflammatory speakers, and the 2014 gathering was no exception. Family Research Council has posted videos of the 2014 Values Voters Summit online, giving us a peak into its speeches and panel discussions. For your reading pleasure, I've gathered up more quotes from last weekend's Values Voters Summit.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, opened the summit with unkind words about so-called "statism" and "political correctness".
"We will continue building a conservative coalition, a winning team, that despite occasional setbacks, like the last six years, we will never, never never surrender to the forces of statism and political correctness. [Applause] Now we hear almost every day that conservatives are on the wrong side of history, that we want to turn back the clock. I see it differently. We stand for what the clock cannot measure, for that which is timeless and eternal."
Perkins accused the left of suppressing dissent and disregarding the First Amendment, oblivious to the irony of his words.
"Today's left has developed a genius for division masquerading as unity. They have heralded an age of diversity while championing a stark uniformity of opinion and politics. And so bold are they in this strategy that in order to stifle their opponents in the political arena, they are even ready to rewrite and limit the First Amendment of our Constitution."
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) claimed that America was suffering from a "spiritual crisis". His comments about the "acknowledgement of our supreme being in our classrooms" revealed a disturbing disregard for church-state separation.
"The first amendment is not about keeping religious people out of government, it's about keeping government out of religion. [Applause] Some seek to separate the issues of our day, separate our debt from the issue of life, separate our charity from our education, separate our values from our government. This doesn't work. Obamacare tries to force us to separate our faith from our business. Fortunately, the Supreme Court thought otherwise ... We seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of school children by utopian planners, and permit the acknowledgement of our supreme being in our classrooms."
Former Arkansas governor and Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee spoke at length about the ISIS threat, lacing his speech with jabs at the Obama administration's response to the crisis. After waxing poetic about Israel, Huckabee turned to reproductive matters, claiming that the Affordable Care Act was a threat to unborn life. If emergency contraception access was at the root of Huckabee's ire toward the ACA, he should remember that emergency contraception and abortion are two different things.
"Every human life in this country has worth and value. There is no such thing as a disposable person. There is no such thing as a person who is expendable. Every life has value, and if Obamacare is intent on trying to protect the idea of ending a human life for no rational reason, then they need to know that there will be millions of Americans who will say no and take it all the way to the mat to fight for life, and again, we will not apologize to anyone for standing for human life."
Huckabee raged against the IRS, indignant that the IRS imposes political restrictions on tax-exempt churches. These guys don't like church-state separation very much, I mused.
"I say if we'd ever pass the Fair Tax, we would repeal the 16th Amendment, we would get rid of the IRS, and never again would this rogue criminal enterprise called the Internal Revenue Service threaten pastors and pulpits by telling them what they can and cannot say. It is not the business of the government to tell a pastor what he can say from his pulpit, ever."
Finally, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, spent the first few minutes of his speech describing the 1st century eruption Mount Vesuvius and the devastation it left in its wake. Staver compared modern Americans to ancient people living near Mount Vesuvius, oblivious to the horror about to overtake them.
"I think that we're living like they are, in a sense, in the shade of Vesuvius. We're living at unprecedented times in American history ... Never before in the history of world humanity have citizens of any government been forced to participate in human genocide. We know that governments have participated in genocide ... but the people were not forced to participate in it. But now, now, in America of all places, you and I are being forced to participate in human genocide by the HHS mandate. It's not just Hobby Lobby that dodged the bullet by a 5-4 decision."
First of all, no "genocide" is taking place in America. Reproductive freedom is not morally equivalent to the extermination of entire races. Staver's comment was deeply insulting to all those who experienced true genocide. Second, I have no idea where Staver got the idea that Americans are being forced to fund or participate in reproductive procedures against their will. Under the Affordable Care Act, no health care plan is compelled to cover abortion. Conscience protections related to abortion are in place for recipients of HHS funding. The Hyde Amendment forbids the use of federal funds to cover many abortions. Isn't Staver aware of these policies? If Staver was referring not to abortion but to emergency contraception access under the ACA, someone should remind him that emergency contraception does not induce abortion.

Later in his speech, Staver dismissed same-sex marriage but insisted that he was not a "hater".
"I believe in God's natural created order of male and female and marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and for that, for believing in something that predates religion -- and it predates every civil government; it is as much as part of our natural, observable, created order as the law of gravity is -- for me, believing in something that obvious, I am considered by some groups to be a hater. But I hate no one. I hate no one. But I believe in God's truth, and I will not be silent in the face of intimidation."
In the same breath, Staver hatefully condemned same-sex marriage. He raged that any family arrangement other than a mother and father would harm children, despite evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, his assertion that LGBTQ families are a modern anomaly ignores LGBTQ history.
"Same-sex marriage as a policy matter, from a governmental policy matter, says this: that boys, you don't need fathers, and girls, you don't need moms. Boys and girls, moms and dads are absolutely irrelevant to your well-being. It makes absolutely no difference in your well-being. And that is an absolute lie from the very pit of hell. [Applause] Beyond how it will ultimately harm our very first government, the family, and disintegrate family, and ultimately hurt children by permanently, permanently removing father or mother from the life of that young boy or young girl, how dare we ultimately create a policy that says we'll put children in these homes, and you'll never have a father or mother, and it doesn't matter because it's okay. How dare we as a society do that? We've never in world history crossed that precipice."
In conclusion, the Values Voters Summit brimmed with its usual homophobic, anti-choice, anti-establishment clause rhetoric. Increasingly, however, progressive and moderate observers are watching, listening, and remembering.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Entertainment Voices at the 2014 Values Voters Summit

The annual Values Voters Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council and other Religious Right organizations, is a treasure trove of right-wing quotes. The 2014 summit featured not only politicians and Religious Right activists, but entertainers as well. For your reading pleasure, I've put together a sampling of quotes from Jim Bob Duggar, Alan Robertson, and the Benham brothers, who spoke on the evening of September 26th.

First, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting appeared on stage with most of their large family, including Josh Duggar of the FRC. After the family sang "It's Through the Blood", Jim Bob and Michelle talked at length about their faith. Jim Bob told the audience that he and his wife sought to "raise up warriors" for God.
"Our goal as a family is really to raise up warriors for the Lord. We don't want our kids just to be Christians that go to church on Sunday, but we want Christ to be in every aspect of their life, and we want to see each one of them impact this world for Christ."
Jim Bob encouraged listeners to expose children to Christian political campaigns, adding that he and his family have supported anti-abortion causes.
"We encourage you to get behind Christian candidates. It will teach your children all about the aspects of running for office, and then make trips to your state capital. We've been up several times, helping with legislation for the Heartbeat Bill and for several other pro-life measures. Matter of fact, we're going to Tennessee on Monday to do a press conference about Amendment 1 to allow the representatives and senators in Tennessee to be able to vote on pro-life legislation."
Later, Alan Robertson of A&E's Duck Dynasty spoke at length about his family's reality show, dogs, and beards. More than once, he referred to his "sensitive" brother Jeb as "the sister we never had", and I wondered how that comment went over with female listeners. Amidst folksy stories about Duck Dynasty, Robertson inserted commentary about Christianity, the merits of "small government", and his disdain for "hand-outs".

Robertson claimed that God was behind the success of Duck Dynasty, despite attempts by Satan to sabotage the family's efforts.
"Are you going to say this guy is really going to not only be successful and become wealthy and become very well-known, but can also be a leader in a nation to restore a culture? Would that happen? You'd say, 'Well there's no way that would happen', unless the Almighty God might be behind it. And that's exactly what's happened with our family. Now Dad has a book that just came out, and it's called unPHILtered, and it is unfiltered for sure. In that book, he talks a lot about what God has done to not only shape him but also to help him be able to shape a message for a people at a time when we need it more than any other time .. The Evil One tried at the beginning to derail that message, but he's not more powerful than the one that we serve, and therefore he's not going to derail us from what we know is right."
Robertson called for "a return to godliness, a return to how our country was founded", lamenting that modern Americans have allegedly lost touch with godliness. He argued that the Founding Fathers recognized the importance of God and the Bible, apparently unaware that several of America's founders were deists and that many championed separation of church and state.
"We've got generations of people in our nation that really don't understand godliness at any level. They don't know. And so they're only reacting the way that's natural and the way that's been shown [to] them after generations of being away from what our country was founded on ... When our founders began this nation, they knew the importance of the Bible and they knew the importance of God in people's lives. They realized that as this country grew, without having self-restraint, there would be no way that this country could be governed."
Perhaps the most outrageous part of Robertson's speech was when he compared his father, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, to the Biblical prophets.
"A lot of people ask me about my Dad, and they say, "Well, who is he like?" and I always compare him to those old time prophets. There's no doubt about it. Those men that were raised up every millennium. Elijah was one of those; John the Baptist was one of those."
I don't see too many similarities. John the Baptist was an ascetic who was imprisoned and executed by a tyrant, according to legend, while Phil Robertson is a reality TV star who makes neanderthal comments and puts his face on beard-shaped lollipops. Furthermore, when I look back on spiritual thinkers who have shaped the modern era, people such as the Dalai Lama, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Simone Weil come to mind, not the Duck Dynasty patriarch.

Finally, perhaps the most arrogant voices of the evening were Jason and David Benham, sons of anti-abortion activist Flip Benham. David Benham's anti-gay comments costs the brothers a reality show on HGTV and made them darlings of the Religious Right.

David Benham began their speech with a sound bite to demonstrate their right-wing credentials.
"We are dangerous men. We shop at Hobby Lobby. We eat at Chick-fil-A. We watch Duck Dynasty, and we graduated from Liberty University."
Jason Benham spoke of the Flip It Forward debacle in bombastic terms, comparing himself and his brother to Jesus suffering on the cross.
"It is a fun thing to follow Jesus until you find out where he's going, because he's going to a cross and he's asking you to come follow him. And we got that experience in real life when we got fired in front of a watching world. Jesus Christ gave us a picture of what that looked like."

Sure, Jason. Because losing a lucrative television show due to homophobic remarks is just like being tortured and crucified. The arrogance behind his comment stunned me.

David described the days leading up to their show's demise, showing disdain for the LGBTQ movement and insisting that he and his brother would not submit to the gay "agenda".
"Our executive shot me a text on my cell phone. He said, 'Can you guys hop on a quick phone call?' So we jumped on a call, and he said that there is someone who has contacted us [who] is not really happy about you and your brother being on our network named GLAAD. Gay and Lesbians Anti--whatever, defamation, something. I don't know. It was irrelevant to us, still irrelevant to us today ... We ended the conversation that day with saying, 'We will not bow to an agenda. We won't do it'."
David continued, warning his audience that a "radical agenda" allegedly wants to silence America.
"There is a radical agenda that has come in our nation ... The weapon of choice for the agenda in the Middle East is a sword, but the weapon of choice for the agenda in America is silence. They demand silence. It's one thing to believe in Jesus, it's another to be vocal about Jesus and his standards and his word."
Sadly, it seems that the Benham brothers have learned nothing from their recent controversy, and will not be reexamining their attitudes any time soon.

Stay tuned! More quotes from the 2014 Values Voters Summit are on their way!

News Tidbits: 2014 Values Voters Summit Edition

Washington Post: Ted Cruz tops Values Voter Summit presidential straw poll for second year running

NBC News: Paul, Cruz Jockey for Backing from Christian Voters 

The Hill: Santorum to Values Voter Summit: 'Quit being scared' 

Christian Science Monitor: 'Values Voters' unite in opposition to Hillary Clinton

MSNBC: At Values Voter Summit, 2016 hopefuls pitch social conservatives

Yahoo News: Conservative meeting will give GOP presidential hopefuls a chance to assert foreign policy chops

Commentary Tidbits: 2014 Values Voters Summit Edition

Wall of Separation: Values Voter Summit Screens Dubious Historical ‘Romance’ Film

Right Wing Watch: 15 Values Voter Summit Speakers Who Think The US Is Becoming Nazi Germany

Wonkette: It’s A Good Friday For Values Voters To Feel Persecuted Again 

Crooks and Liars: Rand Paul Rants About 'Uppity' Obama At Values Voters Summit

Towleroad: The Values Voters Summit & the Dubious 'Rebranding' of the GOP  

Politicus USA: Sarah Palin Gets White House Address Wrong At Values Voters Summit 

The Values Voters Summit: An Introduction

The 2014 Values Voters Summit has come and gone, but its parade of controversial speakers will provide news and blog fodder for days to come. Right Wing Watch has posted exhaustive coverage of the summit, and Political Research Associates live-blogged the event as well.

Media Matters released a short video on some of the speakers at this year's Values Voters Summit. As you can see, many of them have histories of homophobic, sexist, and racist comments. (Hat tip to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters.)

None of this is new, unfortunately. Republic of Gilead has posted commentary on the 2012 Values Voters Summit, which was a source of amusement and alarm.

Reproductive Issues at the 2011 Values Voters Summit 

Mormons and Evangelicals Clash at 2011 Values Voters Summit

Homophobia at the 2011 Values Voters Summit 

Science and Nature at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Glenn Beck at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Right-Wingers Weren't the Only Voices at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

"Don't Be The Weird One"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jindal and RNC Urged to Reject the Values Voters Summit

The 2014 Values Voters Summit, an annual gathering of right-wing political figures and commentators, will kick off tomorrow in Washington D.C. (More here.) Sponsored by the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and other right-wing groups, the event has given anti-gay speakers a high-profile platform. Several religious leaders and progressive organizations have taken note, and are calling for political leaders to distance themselves from the summit.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a group of religious leaders urged Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to cancel his appearance at the Values Voters Summit. In an open letter posted at Faithful America, 13 Christian leaders from Louisiana reminded Jindal that the summit sponsors have a long history of anti-LGBTQ activism.
"Your deep personal commitment to Christian faith, and especially to the teachings of the Catholic Church, should preclude your involvement with FRC, which has been formally designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, because of FRC's repeated "use of known falsehoods to attack and demonize members of the LGBT community." ... the Family Research Council's leaders have a decades-long track record of making false and inflammatory comments about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
Other voices are calling for leaders to reject the Values Voters Summit. On September 24th, representatives from 7 organizations, including People for the American Way, the Southern Poverty Law Center, GLAAD, and Human Rights Campaign, published an open letter to the Republican National Committee. The letter urged committee chairman Reince Priebus to sever ties with the organizations sponsoring the Values Voters Summit. "These groups engage in repeated, groundless demonization of LGBT people — portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation," the letter asserted.
"The Family Research Council, the summit’s host, is vigorously opposed to extending equal rights to the LGBT community. Its president, Tony Perkins, has repeatedly claimed that pedophilia is a "homosexual problem." He has called the "It Gets Better" campaign — designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow — “disgusting” and a "concerted effort" to "recruit" children into the gay "lifestyle." He has condemned the National Republican Congressional Committee for supporting three openly gay candidates.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a summit sponsor, has said the U.S. needs to "be more like Russia," which enacted a law criminalizing the distribution of LGBT "propaganda." He also has said, "Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews."

Similarly, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, another summit sponsor, has compared those who do not denounce same-sex marriage to those who remained silent during the Holocaust. Marriage equality, he has said, is the "beginning of the end of Western civilization.""
The letter argued that extremism should not be endorsed by elected officials, and that the GOP is obliged to condemn anti-LGBTQ bigotry as it has condemned racism.

As the public grows more supportive of LGBTQ equality, homophobic rhetoric at the Values Voters Summit will increasingly come under fire. When the event launches tomorrow, LGBTQ equality supporters will be watching.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rick Santorum to Speak at Summit on Family and "Sustainable Development"

Between the September 21st People's Climate March in New York City and today's United Nations Climate Summit, climate and sustainability are receiving much-needed attention. An upcoming conference in New York will also talk about sustainable development, but in a very different way.

The Political Network for Values will host the 2014 Transatlantic Summit on December 5th in New York City. The theme of the summit is "Strengthening the Family for Sustainable Development: How Far Could We Get?". According to the summit program, policy-makers from three continents will gather at UN headquarters "to recognize and strengthen the role of the family as a driver for sustainable development." The Political Network for Values website lists several right-wing organizations among its sponsors, including C-FAM, the National Organization for Marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the World Congress of Families.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, whose reputation precedes him, is scheduled to speak at the gathering. Much to my amusement, the program describes him as a "candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States", which might be a tad hasty. Conservative Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will be a special guest at the summit's reception dinner.

Also scheduled to speak is Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, author of Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, and co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. George is the chairman emeritus for the National Organization for Marriage.

Scheduled speakers also include Oscar Iván Zuluaga, the opposition candidate in Colombia's 2014 presidential election whose campaign was plagued by hacking accusations, according to Al Jazeera. Also on the program is Zoltán Balog, the Hungarian Minister for Human Resources whose recent comments about Roma deportations during Holocaust ignited controversy, according to the Budapest Beacon. Jaime Mayor Oreja, a Spanish politician who has vocally championed "Christian values" and who called abortion rights an "aberration", will receive the Family and Truth award from the World Congress of Families.

The theme of the December summit -- family and sustainable development -- could make for surreal listening. Given the vision of family promoted by many of the conference sponsors -- married, heterosexual, and childbearing -- I expect the Transatlantic Summit to define family very narrowly. Furthermore, given how some of the sponsors view overpopulation and contraception, I doubt that the conference will promote family planning and other fertility reduction measures as a means of addressing population growth. This troubles me, given that rapid population growth is associated with adverse economic and environmental consequences, making family planning and reproductive rights vital for sustainable development. When December arrives, we'll have the opportunity to learn more about the summit's goals.

(Hat tip to Human Rights Campaign.)

News Tidbits

The Guardian: Google to cut ties with rightwing lobby group over climate change 'lies'

Huffington Post: These Inspiring Faith Leaders Have A Message For The UN's Climate Summit

Associated Press: Parishioners Meet With Bishop Over Gay Couple

Edge on the Net: Head of Serb Church Denounces Gay Pride March

Commentary Tidbits

Rachel Held Evans: On Changing the Culture that Enabled Mark Driscoll: 6 Ways Forward 

The Daily Beast: Meet the Young, Evangelical, Pro-Gay Movement

Love, Joy, Feminism: Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?

Friendly Atheist: Ex-Gay Evangelical Suggests We Treat Our Gay Friends Like They Have Cancer

Slate: Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"

Media Matters: Pundits Recycle Doomsday DADT Rhetoric To Defend Military's Transgender Service Ban 

GLAAD: Questions we'd like reporters to ask at the Values Voter Summit

Right Wing Watch: The GOP's Hate Summit: A Who's Who Of The 2014 Values Voter Summit

Right Wing Watch: Pat Robertson: Violence In Bible Different From Quran Because God Commanded It

Monday, September 22, 2014

When People You Respect Break Bread with the Far Right

For the most part, it's easy to condemn the Religious Right when it engages in disturbing activism, such as attacks on LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights. What do you do, however, when the Religious Right collaborates with people you respect on important issues?

The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation is one such collaboration that leaves me with mixed feelings. According to its website, the coalition was created to address pornography, help victims of sexual exploitation, and allow activists to network and share resources.

I believe that we as a society need to have public conversations about unethical practices in adult entertainment, the harms of depicting violence against women in porn, and the consequences of commodifying sexuality. We need to have public conversations about what healthy, egalitarian sexuality looks like, and how we can promote an enlightened sexual ethic for all people. In that sense, I respect efforts to foster that public conversation and aid those who have been ill-treated by the adult entertainment industry. However, when organizations with dubious reputations join that effort, I find myself wondering what their motives are.

The website for the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation has a list of member organizations, which includes both feminist groups and right-wing groups. The feminist organization Stop Porn Culture was among its members. Unfortunately, so were countless Religious Right Organizations, including  C-FAM, American Family Association, Family Research Council, Family Watch International, Illinois Family Institute, and Concerned Women for America. I was alarmed to see a feminist organization listed among so many right-wing groups. What's an organization like you doing with a crowd like this? I thought.

In May 2014, the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation took part in an anti-pornography conference in Tysons Corner, VA. Hosted by Morality in Media and PornHarms, the conference featured well-known anti-violence and anti-pornography activists. Gail Dines, president of Stop Porn Culture and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, delivered workshops entitled "Sex, Identity, and Intimacy in a Porn Culture" and "Winning the Argument: Messaging to Young Adults". Cordelia Anderson and Sharon Cooper, board members of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, participated in a panel discussion on "Pornography and the Colonization of Childhood".

I was pleased that Dines, Anderson, and Cooper were among the speakers, since they have worked hard to confront violence against women and children. Unfortunately, alongside these advocates were activists with less savory backgrounds. Among them was Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International and one of several anti-gay activists profiled in the Human Rights Campaign report Export of Hate. Slater was scheduled to deliver a workshop entitled "Exposing and Halting the International Sexual Rights Agenda: There is Something Everyone Can Do". Laila Mickelwait, manager of policy and public affairs at Exodus Cry (an anti-trafficking ministry), took part in a panel discussion entitled "Inside Porn: What Is the Real Truth?" Exodus Cry is a department of the International House of Prayer, a New Apostolic Reformation ministry with a history of anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and patriarchal rhetoric.

Moreover, the conference was co-sponsored by right-wing groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, and Family Watch International. The Family Research Council was one of several organizations that provided scholarships for attendees.

When I saw advocates I respect on the conference program alongside Religious Right voices, my heart sank. I oppose trafficking, exploitation and adult entertainment that dehumanizes its participants, but I do not trust the Religious Right to tackle those problems without ulterior motives. Can organizations with long histories of anti-LGBTQ and patriarchal messaging be trusted to promote an inclusive vision of healthy, egalitarian sexuality? I don't think they can.

I struggle to understand why otherwise enlightened activists are breaking bread with Religious Right groups. Is it because these issues are so important that they can't afford to be picky about allies? Is it because they seek to promote anti-trafficking, anti-violence discourses wherever they can, even in right-wing quarters? Is it because left-leaning organizations are reluctant to engage in anti-pornography efforts, compelling anti-porn activists to seek allies elsewhere? I don't know.

I worry that alliances with right-wing organizations could come back to haunt these well-meaning activists. The world is becoming increasingly aware of the Religious Right's activities at home and abroad, and well-meaning organizations that collaborate with the Religious Right may be criticized for those collaborations later. Furthermore, if the Religious Right dominates the public conversation on adult entertainment and sexuality, they could shape the conversation in unpleasant ways. I could imagine that conversation veering away from how to create a healthy, egalitarian vision of sexuality, and veering toward a heteronormative, patriarchal vision. In our efforts to tackle social problems, we must be discerning about who we embrace as allies.

News Tidbits

Pew Research, Religion & Public Life Project: Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning

Seattle Pi: More Trouble at Mars Hill; Top-3 Official Resigns

Religion News Service: Pope Francis names Spokane bishop to Chicago, dashing conservative hopes

Reuters: Dutch bishops give pope bleak picture of Church in decline

Commentary Tidbits

On Faith: My Father Repented of “Christian Spanking” Too Late    (Trigger Warning)

Elizabeth Esther: I love you, therefore I hit you--er, SPANK you: How Christians conflate love with violence

The Daily Beast: Rick Warren’s Troubling Africa Mission

Alternet: How Playing Good Christian Housewife Almost Killed Me

Equality Matters: Listen To A Fox News Hero Lash Out At Gay People On A Conference Call 

Talk to Action: Meet the Frackers: Right-Wing Billionaire Brothers' Biblical Ambitions 

Buzzfeed: Therapy Attempting To Turn Gay Youth Straight Is Still Legal In 48 States

Political Research Associates: Resisting Culture Warriors Down Under: How Australian Activists Fought Back Against the World Congress of Families

MSNBC: Religious right leader ties U.S. ‘secularism’ to Islamic State

Efrem Smith: The Problem with City Transformation and Church Planting Movements

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Michael Brown Delivers Homophobic Talk at IHOP

Boze Herrington, who blogs at Sketches by Boze devoted a recent evening to live-tweeting a homophobic talk by Michael L. Brown at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. Curious, I pulled up the talk in the IHOP archives, and found a talk brimming with homophobia.

Michael Brown is the founder of the FIRE School of Ministry, host of the Line of Fire radio show, and a commentator at Charisma Magazine. Brown has a long history of making anti-LGBTQ statements, such as framing LGBTQ issues as unhealthy for children, insisting that God can "transform and liberate" gays and lesbians, and expressing outrage over the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8.

For his anti-LGBTQ outreach in Peru this spring, Brown was given a dishonorable mention in Human Rights Campaign's new report, Export of Hate. Brown responded by penning a commentary piece for Charisma Magazine, in which he accused LGBTQ rights advocates of trying to "censor opposing viewpoints", "malign conservative Christians", and "incite fear and loathing" toward his brethren.

In his September 12th talk entitled "Can You Be Gay and a Christian?", Brown spoke of love while sharing a message of intolerance and judgment. Even though he implored listeners to cultivate compassion, his stance on LGBTQ persons was decidedly unloving.

"We need hearts of compassion but backbones of steel" with regard to homosexuality, Brown began, insisting that his anti-gay stance was actually a loving, compassionate one at the 2:10 mark.
"Can you be gay and Christian? It's the most recent book that I wrote, and I wrote it with much pain. I wrote it at times with a heavy heart because as much as we can be misunderstood and as much as we can be accused of being hateful, I'm moved and motivated by love ... for God and love for my neighbor."
At the 3:48 mark, Brown told a story in which a friend allegedly saw a vision of a serpent around a gay man's neck, thereby depicting homosexuality as a dangerous spiritual pathology.
"One of my friends who is not prone to visions went to a fundraising event for a large gay activist organization. He and his brother paid to be there, to sit at the table, to watch and observe, to see how this organization operated ... As he was sitting at the dinner table with a gay couple and some others, he suddenly saw a vision of this man ... And he saw a snake wrapped around the man's neck. And he said, 'That snake is going to kill him! I've got to cut the snake off.' But he realized that  if he wasn't careful, he would kill him in trying to get the snake off. We must address these areas with the same sensitivity and precision."
Brown insisted that Christians such as himself care about those who are "struggling" with homosexuality and do not seek to push them away. However, at the 5:08 mark, he also warned listeners that the "gay activist agenda" was threatening American freedoms and had to be resisted.
"There is a gay activist agenda knocking on our door. It has become the principle threat to freedom of religion, speech, and conscience in America, and it must be resisted."
He contended that he felt "love and concern" for gays while condemning LGBTQ rights at the 5:50 mark. He saw no contradiction in these two statements, baffled that others would label him a homophobe.
"I will still be hated by people because of resisting the agenda, because of standing against the redefinition of marriage, because of standing against the normalizing of homosexuality. I will still be called bigoted and homophobic, but God knows, and those who will get close to me understand that there is a heart of genuine love and concern."
Brown was troubled by the existence of gay Christians. He found it easy to disparage gay pride parade antics as "perverse" and "horrific", but found devout gay Christians and their allies to be a much pricklier subject. He discussed his radio interview with Rev. Frank Schaefer, the Methodist pastor who was defrocked but later reinstated after presiding over the wedding of his gay son. According to Brown, Schaefer explained how his love for his gay son shaped his attitudes toward LGBTQ rights. An appalled Brown argued that critical thinking is absent among such people. Brown cited Matthew 10:37, telling listeners that Jesus preached that whoever loved their father, mother, or children more than him was unworthy. "Even those who claim to be followers of Jesus often are not able to really receive what scripture says, and instead they'll just say 'love is love'," he said at the 9:21 mark.

What are you saying here? I thought. That people should ostracize their loved ones for being gay? That obedience to dogma trumps basic decency? If that's the foundation of your faith, I want no part of it.

Brown openly disapproved of pro-LGBTQ Christians. Despite the rise of liberal churches and pro-LGBTQ Christian responses, "no new data to change what we've always understood what the Bible to say," he insisted. "The only thing that has changed is the culture." At the 22:32 mark, he criticized open and affirming churches as part of a "soft, spineless" Christianity spreading across the faith community.
 "The fundamental error of "gay" Christians is that they interpret the Bible through the lens of their sexuality. We must interpret our sexuality through the lens of the Bible ... This is part of a much bigger problem in the contemporary church of America. It's part of a soft, spineless, compromising gospel that has been preached from our pulpits and on their air around America and around the world, exported from America around the world for a whole generation now, and are bearing the fruit of this compromised gospel."
"The Bible is a heterosexual book," Brown asserted, arguing that God's plan for heterosexual marriage and family was emblazoned throughout scripture. At the 12:10 mark, he had this to say.
"The Bible is a heterosexual book. I do not mean that if you struggle with same-sex attraction, you won't find help and hope and life here. What I mean is that what God ordained for the human race and the only thing he ordained for the human race is heterosexual marriage and heterosexual family."
According to the Bible, a "unique complementarity" exists between men and women, in which wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives, Brown argued. At the 15:17 mark, he mocked same-sex relationships because they do not fit neatly into his patriarchal paradigm.
"Let's say you're two men reading the Bible, and you say you're a committed couple and you're "married". Well, I don't mean this to be sarcastic, I don't mean this to be mocking, but which one is the husband, and which one is the wife?"
Brown insisted that all forms of marriage in the Bible, even polygamy, considered the male-female pair to be normative. The irony of citing polygamy escaped him, as he refused to consider how notions of marriage changed in the Bible and across eras and cultures. At the 16:07 mark, he had this to say.
"Even polygamy, which was an accommodation and never God's ideal for the human race, even that was male plus female. So in that sense, the Bible's a heterosexual book, and it's interesting that there is not a single positive statement, even a hint of a positive statement in any way, shape, size or form regarding homosexual relationships in the Bible."
The use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality is correct, but the misuse of the Bible to justify oppression of African Americans and women was wrong, he claimed. The hypocrisy of condemning misogyny shortly after defending wifely submission was lost on him, it seemed.

How convenient. Using the Bible to oppress others is wrong, except when you agree with the oppression, I thought.

With regard to the use of the Bible to justify American slavery, Brown insisted that the Bible does not exalt slavery, and that Hebrew laws about slavery were "humanitarian" for their time (despite multiple Biblical passages in which slavery was neither frowned upon nor humane). No passage in the Bible dehumanizes people due to their skin color or sanctions segregation, he said (despite multiple Biblical passages favoring one ethnic group over another and condoning ethnic cleansing).

Brown frowned upon the Bible being misused to oppress women, pointing to Biblical content that speak well of women, such as Proverbs 31, Jesus' travels with women, and the women who witnessed Jesus' resurrection. However, Brown added that there is a "certain role for male headship" in the home, government, and ministry and "a clear authority in structure in scripture". Unfortunately, Brown refused to recognize male domination and exclusion of women from leadership roles as inherently oppressive to women.

Revealingly, he ignored passages in the Bible that condone honor killing, rape during armed conflict, and sexual abuse of female slaves, not to mention passages that denounce women as inferior, scorn womankind as wicked, and use sexual humiliation of women as a metaphor for divine righteousness. In arguing against the use of scripture to defend oppression, Brown ignored passages that approve of oppression.

Cherry-picking much, Michael? I thought.

Of course, for his argument to sound compelling, Brown needed to ignore the ugly passage of the Bible. He needed to convince his audience that racism and (overt) misogyny are unbiblical, because if modern people were to acknowledge and reject racist and sexist passages, what would stop them from rejecting homophobic passages?

Every scriptural passage on homosexuality is "categorically negative", Brown told listeners. For example, Leviticus 18:22 forbids male-male sex, calling it an abomination. Brown insisted that he was not advocating for the death penalty for gays, but then added that homosexuality was a moral violation that was severely punished in Israel's theocracy. The Bible's ban on homosexuality, like the command against murder, is a universal moral principle, in contrast to other Old Testament laws meant to keep Israel separate from other nations at the time, he argued.

"There is a tremendous temptation to rationalize," Brown said with regard to queer theology, accusing pro-LGBTQ theologians of trying to rationalize sin. At the 44:47 mark, Brown claimed that Jesus' radical inclusion was not the same thing as endorsement of sin, rejecting what he called the "affirmational inclusion" of pro-LGBTQ advocates.

"There are some who say, 'You don't understand. Jesus was inclusive. You are being exclusionary. You are putting some people out. You are saying there's some second-class citizens. Jesus practiced inclusion. Jesus hung out with the tax-collectors who were notorious for corruption. He hunt out with the tax collectors and prostitutes.' True. But did he teach the tax collectors how to steal more money? Did he say 'Hey, here's some helpful tips to extort more money'? Did he tell the prostitutes, 'If you're nicer to the guys, you'll make more money'? No no. Jesus practiced what I call transformational inclusion. He reached out to everybody where they were ... and he changes us. He did not practice affirmational inclusion."
Brown told the audience that God was calling gays "not to heterosexuality but to holiness", a line also used by "ex-gay" activists. At the 1:02:40 mark, Brown claimed that gay people could become heterosexual through God's power or counseling, despite considerable evidence that sexual orientation change efforts are ineffective and dubious.
"Many have experienced change in their sexual desires, and many have gone from homosexual to heterosexual, some through supernatural encounters with God, some through counseling, some over a period of time, graduate change or inner healing comes, and others have not been changed."
In conclusion, Brown's IHOP talk repeated the same anti-gay arguments that fundamentalists have been making for years: homosexuality is sinful, homosexuality is condemned by scripture, the LGBTQ movement is a dangerous boogeyman, homophobia is different from racism or sexism, gays can become straight, ad nauseum. Most shockingly, Brown maintains that these hateful messages are loving, ignoring the many unloving ways that homophobia harms LGBTQ people. This fundamental dishonesty places a loving mask over hateful words.

Sadly, Michael Brown is only the latest speaker at IHOP to promote homophobia. Observers are paying attention, however, and they will continue to criticize IHOP for its messages.

To listen to Michael Brown's September 12th talk at IHOP, click here or here. To listen to the question and answer session that followed, click here or here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 2014 Values Voters Summit is Approaching!

It's that time of year again! The 2014 Values Voters Summit will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on September 26-28. Sponsored by Family Research Council Action and allied groups, the Values Voters Summit is an annual conference in Washington D.C. that draws prominent right-wing political figures. According to its website, the event was created in 2006 as a forum for citizens "to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong."

This year's Values Voters Summit will feature current and former political leaders such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal. Also on the list of scheduled speakers are influential figures from the Religious Right, including Gary Bauer of American Values, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, right-wing commentator Glenn Beck, and radio host Sandy Rios.

Always a crowd favorite, the Duggar family of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting will deliver an evening plenary session alongside their son Josh Duggar, who will be representing FRC Action. Jason and David Benham, whose anti-gay and anti-choice activism cost them a series on HGTV, will also attend. Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, have confirmed their presence. Hobby Lobby's Green Family has also been invited to participate, but their presence has not yet been confirmed.

This year's scheduled workshops feature titles such as:

  • Empowering Students to Reclaim Schools for Religious Freedom

  • The Pelletier Story and the Assault on Parental Rights

  • Common Core: The Government's Classroom

  • The Assault on Constitutional Rights Under a Nanny State

  • The Future of Marriage: To the Supreme Court and Beyond

  • Pro-Life Battleground 2014: A Look Toward Election Day

  • Sexuality in the "Hook-Up" Culture

Between workshops, visitors can always explore the exhibitor room, which will feature tables from Religious Right groups such as World Congress of Families, Concerned Women for America, Family Watch International, American Family Association, Charisma Media, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), among dozens of other groups.

Past Values Voters Summits were brimming with homophobia, misogyny, anti-abortion messages, uncomfortable race narratives, and persecution rhetoric. (More here, courtesy of Right Wing Watch.) I expect this year's conference to be no different, and I await coverage of the 2014 summit's troubling messages.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Joe.My.God: FRC Announces 2014 Values Voters Summit Lineup: A Cavalcade Of Crackpots

Good As You: FRC Invites Oregon's Discriminatory Bakers to Speak at Values Voters Summit

Stand for the Family Conference Taking Place in Utah

Anti-LGBTQ activists are hosting yet another conference on allegedly "protecting the family" against LGBTQ equality. Family Watch International is hosting the Stand for the Family Conference this week, which will promote the idea that "the international sexual rights agenda is threatening families and targeting children worldwide."
Among the most critical issues discussed will be:

  • How a sexual rights agenda is being used around the world to threaten families and especially to target innocent children.

  • How the issue of same-sex attraction is being misconstrued and how to address it with understanding and compassion.

  • How parental rights are being undermined and what can be done to protect those rights.
The Stand for the Family Conference will take place in the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah on September 18-19. The event will begin with a "kick-off rally" at the Utah State Capitol Building on the evening of September 18th, followed by a day of workshops on September 19th.

The Stand for the Family Conference is a who's who of the anti-LGBTQ movement, featuring several high-profile activists condemned in the new Human Rights Campaign report, Export of Hate. Scheduled speakers include Brian Brown (president of the National Organization for Marriage), Sharon Slater (president of Family Watch International), and Robert Oscar Lopez (founder of the English Manif blogging collective).

The conference schedule will include screenings of the anti-LGBTQ documentary Cultural Imperialism: The Sexual Rights Agenda and the so-called ex-gay documentary Understanding Same-Sex Attraction, produced by Family Watch International and NARTH. Scheduled workshops include:
  • The Sexual Rights Agenda: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family

  • The National Strategy for Protecting Marriage

  • The Status of Marriage in the Courts & How the Supreme Court Ruling Will Affect the Battle

  • How Marriage & Sexuality Impact Individuals and Generations

  • Changing the Population Paradigm: Why the World Needs Families

  • Reclaiming Ground & Standing for the Family

The Religious Right's homophobic rhetoric is getting tiresome. More and more people realize that by obstructing LGBTQ equality, Religious Right activists are protecting their prejudices, not families. Bigotry will not produce stable marriages, happy families, or healthy children; rather, it will foster an environment in which people are dehumanized for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Enough with the "pro-family" propaganda. Call a spade a shovel and admit that this is about intolerance, not family.

(Hat tip to Good As You)

News Tidbits

Christian Post: America's Christian Heritage Under Threat, Say Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins at 'Star Spangled Sunday'

Raw Story: Hobby Lobby president Steve Green urges Christians to stand up to the government

The Atlantic: More Americans Speak in Tongues

On Top Magazine: James Dobson Explains How Marriage Equality Will Destroy The 'Superstructure Of Society'

Fox 17: Tennessee: Anti-Gay Billboard Causes Controversy

The Globe and Mail: Nova Scotia law society rejects accreditation as long as Trinity Western maintains same-sex covenant

BBC News: T.B. Joshua: Nigeria's best known televangelist

Commentary Tidbits

The Daily Beast: The Adrian Peterson Beating and the Christian Right's Love of Corporal Punishment

Mother Jones: Texas' New Public School Textbooks Promote Climate Change Denial and Downplay Segregation

Religion Dispatches: Are Religious Leaders Prepared to Engage “Religious Liberty” Questions Post-Hobby Lobby?

The Atlantic: The Genesis Code

Edge Boston: The Homophobia-Christianity Complex

GLAAD: Mainstream media is catching on to NOM's broader agenda

RH Reality Check: The Aftermath of ‘Hobby Lobby': Multiple Attacks on Contraception Access

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

HRC Releases Report on the Religious Right's "Export of Hate"

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has been a vocal opponent of the anti-gay Religious Right, calling out activists who promote homophobia at home and abroad. HRC has just released Export of Hate, a collection of profiles on American anti-LGBTQ activists who promote homophobia worldwide. Export of Hate comes shortly after the release of Exposed: The World Congress of Families, a report on the role of the World Congress of Families in international anti-gay activism.

Export of Hate warns readers that the hateful rhetoric of American anti-LGBTQ figures is having devastating consequences for LGBTQ communities throughout world.
While LGBT people around the world face systematic stigmatization, persecution and violence, there exists a network of American extremists who are working tirelessly to undercut them at every turn. These individuals are spreading venomous rhetoric, outrageous theories and discredited science. Some claim that LGBT people are responsible for the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Others argue that LGBT people are luring away children, and that acceptance of LGBT people will lead to the destruction of families around the world. Some even suggest that the death penalty may be an appropriate punishment for homosexuality.

While this vicious brand of bigotry is currently finding little traction in the United States, public opinion in many other nations makes their words and work much more dangerous. In fact, their actions pose a fundamental threat to the safety of LGBT people around the world, and that threat is growing.
Export of Hate contains background information on 14 Religious Right figures, including countries in which they are active and particularly noxious quotes. Activists profiled in the report include:
  • Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries whose name has become synonymous with a draconian anti-gay law.

  • Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, an organization best known for its recurring international conferences at which anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and anti-feminist figures network.

  • Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia and France has drawn attention from news media and condemnation from LGBTQ groups.

  • Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International and a vocal supporter for anti-LGBTQ attitudes and policies in Africa.

  • Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal advocacy organization with multiple international affiliates.

As a side note, Scott Lively was not amused at being included in the report. In a September 17th blog post, he called Export of Hate "nothing less than an enemies list designed to help people like “gay” activist Floyd Lee Corkins identify their assassination targets." In his usual bombastic fashion, he accused LGBTQ equality activists of "malicious hatred" and claimed that "if [gay activists] thought they could get away will killing every person on the HRC and SPLC hit lists, they would do it."

Export of Hate reminds us that anti-LGBTQ activism isn't just about toxic rhetoric. Many of the figures profiled in the report have actively lobbied international lawmakers, applauded anti-LGBTQ measures, and promoted destructive stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Their efforts have had harsh consequences for LGBTQ communities, and they will continue to undermine equality unless their efforts are brought to light. At home or abroad, homophobia must be condemned by people of conscience.

The HRC report provides a global snapshot of the American Religious Right's machinations across the globe, and is a must-read for supporters of LGBTQ equality. Download the report here.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The New Civil Rights Movement: Big Hate: American Religious Extremists Exporting Anti-Gay Hate Around The World

LGBT Weekly: Anti-gay groups, facing mounting losses at home, take their message abroad

Towleroad: Human Rights Campaign Exposes Extreme Anti-Gay American Activists

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Complementarianism, Male Headship, and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence has figured prominently in the media this week. Ray Rice, the Oscar Pistorius verdict, and the 20th anniversary of VAWA remind us yet again that many women still endure abuse from their partners.

Two conservative Christians weighed in on domestic abuse this week, condemning violence against women. Unfortunately, they also defended complementarian gender roles and male "headship" over wives, oblivious to how these paradigms imperil women.

First, Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, penned a commentary piece on domestic violence at his website. In "The Church and Violence Against Women", he advocated for supporting abused women and holding abusers accountable in both the church and the public sphere.

Moore encouraged believers to tell women in their churches, “A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.” He called for social and economic justice to help vulnerable women while encouraging collaboration with secular feminists to combat rape culture.
"Church discipline against wife-beaters must be clear and consistent. We must stand with women against predatory men in all areas of abandonment, divorce, and neglect. We must train up men, through godly mentoring as well as through biblical instruction, who will know that the model of a husband is a man who crucifies his selfish materialism, his libidinal fantasies, and his wrathful temper tantrums in order to care lovingly for a wife. We must also remind these young men that every idle word, and every hateful act, will be laid out in judgment before the eyes of the One to whom we must give an answer.

In the public arena, Christians as citizens should be the most insistent on legal protections for women. We should oppose a therapeutic redefinition of wife abuse as merely a psychological condition. And we should call on the powers-that-be to prosecute abusers of women and children in ways that will deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse."
At first, I was pleased to see a conservative Christian condemning domestic abuse so firmly. As I kept reading, however, I became uncomfortable with Moore's defense of complementarianism. He claimed that abuse does not spring from "over-enthusiastic" complementarianism, reluctant to believe that male "headship" and rigid gender roles could play a role in abuse. He also warns readers against embracing a caricatured "gender-neutral feminism".
"An abusive man is not an over-enthusiastic complementarian. He is not a complementarian at all. He is rejecting male headship because he rejecting his role as provider and protector. As the culture grows more violent, more consumerist, more sexualized and more misogynistic, the answer is not a church more attenuated to the ambient culture, whether through a hyper-masculine paganism or through a gender-neutral feminism."
What Moore fails to realize is that domestic abuse will end only when society achieves true gender equality. A paradigm that gives men arbitrary power over women renders women vulnerable to mistreatment, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. While Moore's heart is in the right place, he is so invested in the male headship paradigm that he refuses to jettison it for the greater good.

Similarly, John Piper discusses domestic abuse and complementarianism in a September 11th transcript of his "Ask Pastor John" podcast. He devotes much of his monologue to vaguely defining and sugar-coating complementarianism, as well as the male "headship" paradigm.
"Complementarians say men and women are different in deep and important ways, not just physical and surface ways, and that these differences God has designed, for our good, have profound influence on the way we relate to each other and what roles God wants us to take up ... This means that complementarians don’t think all the roles defined for us are based merely on competencies. So in a relationship you don’t just ask: Who is smarter? Or more articulate? Or physically stronger? Or faster? Or a better reader? Or neater? And so on. You ask, more significantly and more fundamentally: Is the man as man, created by God with a built-in deep sense — an inclination, a disposition, something deeper than cultural, deeper than societal, deeper than upbringing — a sense of responsibility deep in his soul to nurture and provide for and protect and take life-giving initiatives with the women in his life?

Complementarians answer that question yes. Man — as God created him, not as sin has distorted us, but man as man — senses deep in his masculine soul, “It is my special responsibility to show special care for and provide for and protect and be hope-giving and life-enhancing and woman-ennobling in the initiatives that I take in relation to the women in my life” (knowing this will look different from one relationship to the other, say, to the woman who brings the mail to the house or the bank teller or the woman police officer or his wife or his daughter or his mother)."
Piper insists that through these arbitrary gender roles, men offer "protection and care and vision" to women. He criticized Ray Rice for failing to do so.
"The complementarian says to Ray Rice, and every other man: Your manhood, as God designed you, and as Jesus Christ the Son of God can remake you through a faith relationship with him, means conquering your selfish impulses with the realization that real men don’t hit women. Real men protect women. Real men don’t use women to provide for their appetites. Real men use their strength to provide for a woman’s good. Real men are not led by the leash of their temper. Real men master their temper and lead women out of harm, not into it."
Piper ignores the fact giving men arbitrary authority over their wives is unfair, unethical, and potentially harmful. This arrangement takes agency away from wives, mutes their voices, and allows husbands to make decisions for them, all while arguing that these hierarchical roles are hard-wired in men and women. As much as Piper sugar-coats it, this paradigm is toxic.

While complementarianism and the male headship paradigm do not cause domestic violence per se, they do create an environment that renders women vulnerable to abuse. Women are commanded to submit to their husbands, so when a relationship becomes unhealthy, it can be difficult for the woman to undo the conditioning and escape. By dissolving healthy boundaries between husbands and wives, male headship sets the stage for the boundary violations that characterize domestic abuse. In real life, any belief system that gives men unchecked power over women and values men's voices over women's will put women at a disadvantage. Domestic abuse springs from the belief that a man is entitled to control his wife/girlfriend, so we need to look hard at these parallels.

Also, remember that domestic abuse is about power and control. Physical violence is but one of the forms that domination can take. As the power and control wheel reminds us, abuse can take the form of exploiting male privilege, economic domination, and isolation. Even if a husband never strikes his wife, if he makes all the major decisions, controls the household finances, prevents his wife from seeking employment, and tells her what she can and can't do -- all of which could be justified under male headship -- how is this not abusive?

Instead of clinging to a misogynist paradigm for marriage, people like Moore and Piper should embrace an egalitarian vision of relationships. Equality and mutual respect, not dominance and submission, are the basis of healthy relationships. If we truly want to end domestic violence, we must resist patriarchy and promote an egalitarian world.

Many thanks to Joan for bringing the Moore and Piper commentary pieces to my attention.

For additional commentary on domestic violence, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence

Love, Joy, Feminism: Just Obey: Christian Patriarchy as Spiritual Abuse

Love, Joy, Feminism: That’s Some Accountability You’ve Got There

Rhymes with Religion: #WhyIStayed: How some churches support spousal abuse