I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

14 October 2012

The Girl Effect, part 4

Cat hiding in plant - Photo by A. Stahl

Today I want to share some ups and downs of Christian Women's lives. I'll start with some Disney Commercialism, as it was brought to my attention this month and I cried. I still cry when I hear it's message.

  I wish that lots of someones had really modeled this to me as a little girl. That I did NOT have to be forced in that "happy/clappy all the time" ├╝ber feminine, women's only, Patriarchy Central Christian Circle. That very spiritually abusive place that had me questioning for many years whether or not G-d was truly happy with how I was turning out, or if it was simply that I was ticking off the wrong people. That I was not sinning by wearing the only clothes I had, or by believing that bifurcated garments (pants/trousers) were not solely for men in my culture.  That I was not sinning, or in the wrong for having an intense crazy love for animals.

For those with slow connections - entire quote below:
I am a princess. 
I am brave sometimes, I am scared sometimes. 
Sometimes, I am brave even when I am scared.  
I believe in loyalty and trust. I believe loyalty is built on trust. 
I try to be kind. I try to be generous. I am kind when others are not so generous. 

I am a princess. 
I think standing up for myself is important. I think standing up for others, is more important. But standing with others, is most important.
I am a princess.
I believe compassion makes me strong. Kindness is power. And family is the tightest bond of all. 
I have heard I am beautiful. I know I am strong.
"I promise, and when I promise something I never, ever break that promise." (clip from Tangled)

I am a princess.

Today I want to talk a little more about the dark side of Christianity. (Why yes, I did just make a Star Wars reference. If you caught that, you get a gold X-Wing or gold Death Star. Whichever you prefer.)  By the "dark side of Christianity", I mean how far and how unchallenged we have allowed men in leadership to go on certain perilous doctrinal issues. I also mean the fact they have unquestioned authority and can do horrible things and never be brought to earthly justice. So few of them actually get caught (oh like Jack Schaap. It's taken this long for him to finally get caught)

I also mean  to discuss doctrinal issues that if misapplied, or even applied (depending entirely on the brand one has) leads directly towards various forms of Spiritual, Emotional, Mental and Physical abuse of women and children.

What I want to talk about is called Patriarchy and Complementarian doctrinal belief. Complementarian beliefs are referred to as "Patriarchy lite" in many circles.

Just because it's easy and the references are in one place, I'll quote wiki:

Biblical patriarchy is similar to Complementarianism, and many of the differences are only ones of degree and emphasis.
While Complementarianism holds to exclusively male leadership in the church and in the home, biblical patriarchy extends that exclusion to the civic sphere as well... Thus, William Einwechter refers to the traditional Complementarian view as "two point complementarianism" ... and regards the biblical patriarchy view as "three-point" or "full" complementarianism...
In contrast with adherents of Biblical patriarchy, some complementarians are open to the possibility of women assuming leadership roles in civic and commercial life.
Patriarchy is usually characterized by:
  • A generally patriarchal view of the family (the father is responsible to lead, provide for, teach his children to know and love God) as found in Scripture.
  • Belief that a Christian husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church
  • Belief that a Christian wife should submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ
  • Belief that God designed marriage to reflect the relationship of Jesus Christ and the Church
  • Belief that only men should be appointed into authoritative positions of leadership in the church...
I've seen Complementarianism go about 3 different ways.

One way is just a couple notches from full on Patriarchy.  They allow freedom, but women are severely limited in participation within their faith community and making decisions at home.

Some forms of patriarchy allowed women under duress to work. But, they restricted what kinds of jobs those women could have, and in what circumstances they could work. (if their husband divorced them, if their husband died and they'd not found a new spouse yet, if their husband was incapacitated and unable to work. Very few allowed for work out of the home until / if no children are in the home)  In all other cases work outside the home was as if you told someone they committed the worst sin ever and were in need of drastic, and immediate salvation.

The last version I encountered, was something that is close to egalitarianism but restricts every single office within the faith community to men only, and that women should strongly reconsider having leadership roles at work, because that is something men really need to do, unless no men stand up to be counted. You'll often be given guilt trips by well meaning individuals who think you are sinning.

In all three cases, Fathers rule the roost, what he says goes - what mama says, not as much. Girls could go to college IF the schooling they were headed towards was something that they could use as a wife/mother or until they became a wife/mother. Usually OK as a supplemental income, but not always as a stand alone. In your more hardcore groups, even household and yard work/farm tasks are divvied up by what is "Masculine" and "Feminine".

The hardcore guys said we have no place in the workplace at all, for any reason, ever. Our men in our lives should be doing that for us. If not our husband for whatever reason, our daddy. And if due to death of a spouse, we need be spouse hunting asap, especially if we have small kids who need support.

All are forms of patriarchy, though each are successively softer as you go along.

Before I go any further, I want to say this:   I do not ever advocate going against what the Bible teaches, contrary to how anyone interprets my view of marriage.

What is below is not the words of other women here and should not be taken as such. Below is the collective experience of me, myself and I as a child growing up in patriarchal and patriarchy-lite circles.

The Bible says that husbands and wives are to submit to each other, just as all of us in our respective faith communities are to submit to each other. The term "Servant-Leadership" comes to mind... but doesn't quite accurately touch all the aspects of what that entails.

Unity doesn't mean I am lesser than my husband. Unity doesn't mean I defer to him on every little matter, and have to ask his permission for everything that I do in my day to day life (Do I dress the children today? Do I go shopping? May I put gasoline in the car? Should I fix xyz for dinner?). The views that I presented are what were very clearly taught while I was growing up as "The Biblical model®" and that one was not to deviate off that path whatsoever. Not just at church, but in the home, workplace, civic life, et cetera ad nauseum.

There was no freedom of thinking. Women who ended up divorced or widowed, could not function. Not only because their brand of patriarchy did not allow it, but because for x amount of years (however old they were), they were not allowed to think on their own. Everything was filtered through Father, Pastor, Husband. If Father was gone, she had Husband. If Husband was gone - she was calling the pastor for every. single. decision.

There was no real teaching of women leaders of the Bible. You either never heard of her, or she was some wicked witch of the east who usurped authority or she was a woman who stood up and led (how wicked this is!!) because men were too lilly-livered to do it.

The female deacons, elders and mothers of the churches? - never heard of them or Junia is actually Junias, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a feminist.  Phoebe and Deborah were nice ladies who did jobs because they had no husbands and were waiting on them, and helped Paul out. Those "mothers of the church" - that was an allegory for the people who donated to the congregation heavily and made sure all the needs of the "baby" church were met. Very likely, these were very wealthy men. Archaeology be darned, that's what it means even if the records prove it was women.

Women were either Eves waiting to lure their husbands to destruction (more like Lillith actually), or must be like Sarah, calling her husband lord and master in everything.

The bible doesn't say any of that. 

1 Peter 3:6 does mention Sarah calling Abraham "lord" - which is what every husband was called. "Mr.", "Husband", "Sir". I call my husband that in public settings where it may apply. Otherwise, he is "my husband" or "(first name)"

I don't debate that or any articles that say there is to be some sort of structure in marriage with husband and wife being a team with the family in the wagon behind. What I debate is poor interpretation of clearly Hebraic structure behind those Greek sentiments.

We are free in Messiah to:
Be Educated
Preach the gospel
Dream prophetic dreams
Interpret languages
Speak diverse languages
Serve the church
Help the widow and fatherless
Teach younger women and children of all ages
Support faith community however G-d leads within the established culture of that congregation
Be Deacons, Elders and Overseers
Be Wives
Be Single
Have or do NOT have children.
Say no to sex within our marriage, for a time.
Take vows (or be loosed from them)
Sing & dance
Work inside and/or outside the home
Be industrious in our work in the home
Be shrewd with money/handle money/invest money

That's certainly not what I was taught as a complementarian. Those freedoms were not available for me as a full fledged female member of my faith community. In fact, many of those places said I wasn't allowed to have certain types of animals, do certain types of yard or housework, choose how many children I have (guess they never heard of infertility), or whether or not I can tell my husband when I'm not up for marital unity. (if you catch my drift)

I read the Bible for myself and saw that and asked for 20 years why that was. Then I quit asking and walked away from it for a while. I went back, but within the fold of Messianic Judaism where I have found a wonderful home that has allowed me to bloom where and how G-d has planted me.

The wonderful, well researched words of Pam Hogewide and Jim Henderson helped bring me back to a place of health that I hadn't had in a long time, due to my contacts online that are into very heavy ends of patriarchy.

What made this worse was my knowledge that many researchers have found that domestic abuse is more prevalent in society where women and children do not have a clear voice in society, or that they must rely on men/fathers to be their voice in social circles.

I'm sure I have people wagging tongues and shaking their head again with this post (especially after yesterday's) - but I want to make it clear that I do agree that the Bible teaches submission. But it does not teach it in the way that many believe it does in the United States' version of Evangelical Christianity...

The reason I bring up these forms of patriarchy, is because these doctrines do very much shape your world view. They shape how you view your family, and how you view your children and the world around you. They shape how you  view punishment and redemption, and discipline. 

If you have a worldview where everyone is inherently sinful from the beginning, you will have an adversarial outlook of your children. If you have a worldview where women are lesser than, or suitable for a task "unless...", you will view women as lesser and have an adversarial outlook towards women.

If you won't take my word for it, please at least evaluate what Jim Henderson has to say:

What I discovered in doing research for Resignation of Eve is that the problem of repressing women is not unique to religion or bible readers.  ...the church has followed not in the footsteps of Jesus but instead is marching lockstep with their dreaded enemy – the world. The use of scripture to cover this issue over is a smokescreen to divert people away from the sin commonly known as controlling women.
Jim Henderson, Why Jesus Favored Women (and we should too)
"If the church were a democracy, this would be called taxation without representation. If it were an ethnic issue, it would be called discrimination. If it were a power issue, it would be called sexism"
"The core problem, I'm convinced, is power--how we get it, manage it, and give it away. Power is not political; it is primal. Our desire for power is visceral and cannot be reasoned with. It leaves us only two options: power has to be either taken or given away."
Jim Henderson, The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone?, pages 239 and  262

This is where I need to break and explain a little about me:
What my husband and I practice is frequently referred to as Mutual Submission (see this also), or Christian Egalitarianism. My parenting is very much "Attachment Parenting"  So, in a way, my children and I also have a submissive <---> submissive or "give and take" relationship. There is give and  there is take, but it is understood that my husband and I know what is best for them, and we are simply here to help them navigate the waters of life until they can make reasoned decisions on their own.. We know when they will reach their limit and what things are good or bad for them. It's my job to lead them to G-d and for him to transform  them into little light bearers.

I transitioned to attachment parenting before my paradigm shifted entirely and I realised that I had moved towards a more egalitarian view. Not just in marriage, but in parenting. My goal was simply to find discipline that worked for our children and was not illegal in Germany, and did mirror what is practiced within the Bible and Judaism. I wanted to be very close with my children, and ensure that they had healthy boundaries so that the varied cycle of abuse that has persisted for generations within my family in various forms would END with us. I realized that I was looking at my  children as adversaries. I was not looking at them as coworkers in my gospel mission, and I certainly was looking at them as out to get me. (from time to time at the very least) I was looking at them from a paradigm where children were inherently evil from birth, and needed to be trained to be godly children.

After giving birth, I saw that this was not so. But I did not find out how to fix it, until after my oldest was three years old. Because, I was told over and over and over again for 20+ years that this is how children operate, and how sinful they are, and out to subvert the rule of their parents, and disobey G-d. They do not know better, and they certainly cannot do better until they are older and understand the rules better.

I found Gentle Christian Mothers and Why Not Train A Child? The things I had read in secular books like "Born Dancing: How Intuitive Parents Understand Their Baby's Unspoken Language and Natural Rhythms", "The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)" and "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" These are all things that women instinctively know when they've carried life within them for nine months and then begin their mothering journey - but often have talked out of them by various people in authority. Spiritual authority, parental authority, doctors, and well meaning relatives and community members.
I realized that spanking is indeed, a type of physical abuse. There is just no way possible to do it without impacting the child concerned both psychologically, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  This is where I will readily simply say to people that I "Agree to disagree" and go no further in conversation.

If nothing else, Spanking and other forms of physical discipline are illegal in Germany, and they simply do not fit within my worldview, as it is shaped by the Bible. If I cannot be kind enough to the "least of these", if I cannot keep from causing one of the little ones to stumble... I cannot truly be walking the way that G-d has called me to walk.

There is a quote from Little Women (my favorite book ever) that sticks in the back of my mind, when it comes to child discipline methods. Marmee said "What right have you to hit a child? If you hit and humiliate a child the only lesson that child will learn is to hit and humiliate."

I hate to say she is right, but in my experience - it is true.

I am transitioning, and I am at peace with that transition. We have prayed about it and are studying it, and we are comfortable with where we are.

 We have scripts now when things do not go right, and the children understand that sometimes we slip up, and we ask them for our forgiveness. We are learning just as much as they are learning. I wish I knew more, so I am educating myself as I go along. Parenting was never meant to be done on the 1950s model of a mother going it alone, like June Cleaver or some such.  Parenting was always meant to be a familial and community effort. But, this has changed drastically in the first world, and we are to deal with it as best as possible.

Switching gears slightly, DV and Child Abuse is not something that I take very lightly.  It is a very insidious, horrible, aching sin and pain that eats away at the lives of its victims and perpetrators. It is an ugly, horrible dark sin that is hidden within plain sight. It cannot be easily explained away, and the people you least expect may be the one who is suffering from domestic violence.

 In the last few years, I have come to know many women online, and in person, who have come to find their home life situation is a horrible black hole that is sucking the life out of them. It is not their fault. They had investigated the ins and outs of their spouses before marriage. Many of them had marriage counseling. Many of them had several years of happily married life under their belt before the abuse cycle started. Many tried to escape, but it took years before they had the courage to take themselves and their children out of the situation and start out on their own.

Below, I will quote some of these women. First, I want to share this video. I might share it again on another post in this series, but I want you to slow down and really look, really hear, and really think about what goes on in this video before going further.

"Submissive wives, in their misplaced desire to be in the will of God, never questioned the scriptural basis for the path their husbands chose. After all, his voice was the voice of God. Conservative Christian leaders failed to call out the inaccuracies, opting instead to be grateful for the counterbalance to the feminist movement it provided. Like the widow who gave her last two mites to a God who didn’t demand it via a religious system that scorned her, women everywhere suffered in silence, giving rise to unprecedented patrio-centricity and an “umbrella of protection” perched atop an iron rod. My mother believed with all her heart that this type of submission was the only way to please God."
Recovering Grace, Behind Every Good Man...
"I remember getting some emails right after I left.  I got one while I was at my parents house that included a 5 page document that he’d written about what he’d done to us and his plans to change. It was a 4,000 word document.  He used the term “my wife” 49 times.  He used my name zero times.  Not even once.  He might as well have come over and peed on my leg to mark his territory."
Hope Wears Heels, "My Wife"
"For many years I’ve wished for normalcy for my children. When we were with our abuser, and living in isolation, that hope was pretty much gone. He controlled everything in our lives — and things like teasing and joking around were verboten. Laughter was not something we heard in that household. We subsisted in an environment that was so oppressive, it was like a physical weight upon us. It took a physical toll on each of us, in different ways."
Hanging Out and In, "Finding Normal"
 "Whenever my father wanted something, his most trivial desire was more important that anything me or my siblings needed."
Anonymous, Biblical Personhood post “Less important than a pair of socks
“That place created – and my dad created – an environment that says “God’s man” could get away with absolutely anything.  And anyone that followed “God’s man” was expected and pressured to lie for him. “Linda (Hyles) Murphrey, Spiritual Abuse: Fundamental Seduction with Voyle Glover on blog talk radio, via Emotional Abuse and your Faith
Of Spiritual abuse, it was said:
" I finally opened the Bible and spent three days reading scripture...  I finally felt connected to [G-d].
... He continued, “...I made you the way you are, even all your faults and shortcomings. I made those in you for My purposes! I will use you to reach people that others cannot. You must walk and live by faith, for your likes, your dislikes, your personality, and even your faults are to be lived by faith.”"
Recovering Grace, Designed to Be a … Finger?, brackets mine

I want you to know, if you are that girl; if you are that woman; or if you know a woman who knows a woman who knows a woman.. there IS help. There is ALWAYS help. If you do not feel safe reading on further from this point at your home computer, please clear your internet history and cache and come back later when you can access at a friend's house or the local public library.

National Domestic Violence Hotline (US/Canada)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (US/Canada)
Hidden Hurt - Domestic Abuse Information (UK)
Domestic Violence Agencies in Europe

Help Guide: Domestic Violence and Abuse
Domestic Abuse - Why Do They Do It?

If Someone You know Is Being Affected By Domestic Violence
Facts about Domestic Violence
Power and Control Wheel (PDF)
Safe Relationships Magazine
Four Negative Patterns That Predict Divorce
12 Traits of an Abusive Relationship
Red Flags: How to Identify a Psychopathic Bond
Recommended Reading For Emotional Abuse

See this site on Emotional Abuse
15 signs you are in an emotionally abusive situation
Emotional Abuse Checklist
Violence Against Women Online Resource
 Adults Abused as Children
Many people do not believe that there is such a thing as emotional, economic, psychological, or verbal abuse. Many do not believe it is possible for there to be such a thing as marital rape or domestic discipline.  Not only is it true, it is the reality of many women and girls.

Below is a long list of helpful books:

Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame
Ten Lies The Church Tells Women - Rev: How the Bible has been misused to keep women in spiritual bondage
25 Tough Question About Women and the Church: Answers from God's Word that will set women free
Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties
Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse
Battered Into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home

These last few books are a recommendation given to me, but I have not yet read it. I know the lady well enough to know that it is a good recommendation.
Helping Her Get Free: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women
9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Learns from His Patients What Really Works and What Doesn't
In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
"Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men"
* If you need these in Germany, I will have the links at the bottom of this post

Below is an account from an acquaintance of mine. Please consider her words, and read her entire post if you get a chance.

"In His eyes, I am not fatherless, alone, abused, neglected, a rape victim, or scarred. He has made me new. He kissed my life and turned those scars into beauty marks. I am not my past. I am a glorious creation. He is restoring all that was taken from me, and healing all that was broken in me. He wants to know all about me. He wants me to babble about my day and come to him when I’m alone and sad. He wants to dry my tears.He wants to laugh with me. He is my best friend, my lover, my salvation."
Melody, Hanging Out and In

I am thankful for her words. I am thankful that she is finding health and healing. I am thankful that she is reaching out to other girls and women through her life. And I am thankful that she is there for her wonderful mother. I am thankful I met her in the time frame I did, and that  we got to know each other. I am thankful that she has opened up so that other girls and women will read and hear her words, and hopefully find help, or find ways to help those that they suspect need it.

I Want you to know, if you know someone, or if you are currently experiencing domestic violence - This is not what G-d calls you to. Find HOPE.  G-d wants you to have health and healing. He wants you to thrive. YOU ARE NOT CALLED TO BE "submissive" to abuse. This is not at all what G-d designed when the mandate after the Fall was given.  This is not what was given to us at Sinai. This is not the freedom that Y'shua brings, and that Paul heralds. It simply is not.

*Books available in Germany:
Families Where Grace Is in Place 
10 Lies the Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage 
25 Tough Questions about Women and the Church: Answers from God's Word That Will Set Women Free 
Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church 
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties
Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse 
Battered into Submission: Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home 
Helping Her Get Free: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women 
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Learns from His Patients What Really Works and What Doesn'tIn Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
Born Dancing: How Intuitive Parents Understand Their Baby's Unspoken Language and Natural Rhythms 
 The Continuum Concept
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book)
Child Behavior 
Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way 

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