Sunday, October 5, 2014

More Religious Right Figures Weigh in on Domestic Violence Scandals

Recent abuse cases involving NFL athletes such as Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have brought family violence into the public spotlight. As discussed in a prior post, the response from some Religious Right figures has been mixed. To her credit, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance condemned the NFL's response to domestic violence and child abuse in a September 23rd column at the Christian Post. Unfortunately, other Religious Right figures have responded in less admirable ways.

First, Charisma Magazine published a September 19th column by Janet Boynes, whose "ex-gay" ministry has drawn heavy criticism from LGBTQ advocates. Boynes' describes her heart wrenching childhood with an abusive stepfather, lamenting that her traumatized mother and brothers also gave into violence. She urges domestic violence victims to seek help and encourages bystanders to offer aid to those suffering abuse. Boynes' column would have been a compassionate, enlightened call to end domestic violence, if not for one passage.
"Then there's me, kicked out of school often, I became an abuser to all the boys who would mess with me in school, did drugs, then lived a life of homosexuality for 14 years."
I was stunned. Boynes suggests that being a lesbian was some kind of traumatic response to childhood abuse, a pathology in the same category as drug abuse. She fails to realize that her nightmarish childhood and sexual orientation were not related, and that being LGBTQ is compatible with living a healthy life.

Next, in a September 9th blog post, Matt Walsh condemned Ray Rice's "shameful deed", using it as a springboard to talk about gender dynamics. Walsh claimed that men's violence against women is condemned more severely than men's violence against other men, a state of affairs with complementarian roots, he argued. He sneered at "egalitarian leftwing feminist principles", ignoring the fact that feminists have been combating domestic violence for decades.
"We might as well just confront this question. It’s a scary thing to do, I realize. We don’t want to look any closer at this because know that the answer will devastate nearly all of our egalitarian leftwing feminist principles.

Why? Well, finally, I’ll propose an answer to the riddle: when we heap extra scorn on the abusers of women, we acknowledge that men and women are separate, distinct, and unique creatures. And we know that to acknowledge our separateness and distinctiveness is to contemplate the possibility that men and women have different roles in society, different duties, different responsibilities, and different purposes.

And, though few will say it anymore, we know that among a man’s duties is that ever-important charge to protect and honor women. Men are meant to use their strength to defend women against harm. When a man betrays this responsibility, we act as though he’s turned the world upside down, because he has. The man is not just a generic ‘aggressor'; he is a traitor. He has deserted his post. He was given his strength for a reason. It is supposed to be a shield for the women and children in his life, but he has used it as a weapon against them."
First, Walsh is wrong when he assumes that male-on-male violence isn't criticized as harshly as male-on-female violence. Many people do condemn violence against men by men. Advocacy organizations reach out to male victims of sexual assault and same-sex domestic violence. Men have been among the victims of mass shootings and terror attacks that have horrified the public. The death of Michael Brown ignited fury across the country. The recent beating of two gay men in Philadelphia triggered so much outrage that lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates redoubled their efforts to expand Pennsylvania's hate crime laws. The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard saddens and inspires activists to this day. Plenty of people understand that brutality is wrong, no matter what the sex of the victim.

Second, his argument amounts to people get outraged over domestic violence, therefore rigid gender roles are innate! I don't follow this "logic", which makes no sense. Walsh fails to understand that people find domestic violence offensive because it is brutal and grossly immoral, not because of supposedly inborn gender roles.

Additionally, Walsh's contempt for feminism ignores the fact that feminists have been the vanguard of the anti-domestic violence movement. It is feminists, not complementarians, who have spoken out against domestic violence for decades and offered concrete aid to abuse victims. Feminists recognize the links between patriarchy and domestic violence, but unfortunately, Walsh fails to understand that we cannot fight patriarchy with more patriarchy.

Finally, Jesse Lee Peterson, best known for his 2012 misogynist diatribe, spewed more sexism in an online column. In a September 21st commentary piece at World Net Daily, Peterson claims that "[t]he movement to weaken men and destroy the order of the family is accelerating." He accuses the National Organization of Women of being man-haters and expresses dismay that female domestic violence advocates have been "given power over an all-male sport". Peterson's column devolves into a rant about abortion, same-sex marriage, and how feminists and left-wingers are "destroying the natural order of the family, which ultimately would result in utter societal chaos." (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

The three commentary pieces described above made me sigh. Boynes, Walsh, and Peterson used domestic violence as an excuse to promote agendas, instead of focusing on the root causes of domestic violence. Once again, the Religious Right's attitudes toward domestic violence disappoint me.


  1. Matt Walsh is a deeply disturbed and toxic individual. I've read his blog a couple of times looking for inspiration for satire, but it's usually more than I can stomach. It's telling and troubling that most of his fans appear to be adoring and seemingly disempowered women.

    1. Agi Tater -- His opinions on gender roles alone are pretty toxic, but that's par for the course with many complementarians. I may need to take a closer look at his blog.

  2. I guess I'd better check out his blog too. Honestly it's amazing the twisted logic these tragic stories have inspired.

    1. Donna -- You'd think it would be easy to condemn domestic violence, full stop, without resorting to an agenda.

  3. I agree feminism has done a lot of good, unfortunately the new wave feminism is hurting the good work that has been done. In my opinion, this is leading to these theists jumping on the wagon to point fingers when they do not understand basic concepts of equality.

    Its the same problem with the so called atheist churches. It give ammunition to theists. When really all we should be doing is just fighting for equality and not get worried about silly words and silly situations i.e. "elevatorgate".

    1. Christian -- I think atheist feminists were right to be upset by Elevatorgate, and amidst the internet firestorm, it at least got people talking. A lot of the issues that feminists discuss -- violence against women, harassment, male entitlement -- are linked together, and the linkages are worth looking at.


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