“Captivating” Review: 170-187, “Mothers, Daughters, Sisters”

victorian mother

Out of all the chapters we’ve been through, I think this is the one that has the most I’ve agreed with. She focuses on relationships here, and on the whole I don’t think that what she describes and teaches is all that far off base. She encourages love, forgiveness, patience, and adaptability; all are good things.

However, while many of the ideas are fine, it’s how she chooses to describe and frame them that bothers me the most.

All women are not mothers, but all women are called to mother. To mother is to nurture, to train, to educate, to rear. As daughters of Eve, all women are uniquely gifted to help others in their lives become more of who they truly are– to encourage, nurture, and mother them toward their true selves. In doing this, women partner with Christ in the vital mission of bringing life. (179)

All women are called to give birth. Women give birth to all kinds of things– too books, to churches, to movements. Women give birth to ideas, to creative expressions, to ministries. We birth life in others by inviting them into deeper realms of healing, to deeper walks with God, to deeper intimacy with Jesus. A woman is not less of a woman because she is not a wife or has not physically borne a child … When we enter into our world and into the lives of those we love and offer our tender and strong feminine hearts, we cannot help but mother them. (181)

I appreciate elements of her definition of what it means “to mother.” I’ve had two “mothers” in this fashion, and I still deeply care for them both. They’ve had a huge impact on who I am today, and they’ve been great encouragers. But that’s just it– I have my own mother, who is beyond wonderful and I love her dearly, and I have two other women who have done what Stasi describes. Two. I’ve met a lot more than three women in my entire life, and not every single woman has “mothered” me this way. In fact, I would be annoyed if every woman I went to church with tried to do this– it’s a special relationship, and I do not want to have this relationship with this many people, and that has nothing to do with whether or not I like them.

Much of what Stasi describes is actually fairly superficial– in many ways, she’s simply describing what it means to be a decent human being. Describing “this is what it looks like to be a nice person” isn’t a bad idea, but framing it terms of “being a nice person equals mothering everyone” I disagree with.

She moves on from relationships that have a power dynamic (mothers/teachers) to relationships where you’re on more equal footing, which she describes as “sisters.” She makes it clear that not every last (female) peer you have should be your bosom friend, that there are levels of intimacy, but then we get to this:

To have a woman friend is to relax into another soul and be welcomed in all that you are and all that you are not. To know that, as a woman, you are not alone. Friendships between women provide a safe place to share in the experiences of life as a woman. Who but another woman can understand PAP smears and mammograms, PMS, the longing to bear a child, and living in a world that feels run by men?

I think this is the first and only time Stasi will ever even hint and the existence of patriarchy, and it amused me a little.

And, to an extent, Stasi has a point with this. There’s a reason why diversity in representation is so important, and it’s because every group has their own perspective based on their experiences; people of color have a fundamentally difference experience than white people, and women have a different set of experiences than men, which gives them a different perspective. So yes, sometimes, it’s nice to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to feel a grody amorphous blob that exudes congealed, dead blood and wants nothing more than to eat her weight in chocolate once a month.

However, some of the closest friends I’ve ever had have been men. My partner, for one. He definitely “welcomes all that I am and all that I’m not,” and I believe that I do the same for him. The first time I developed a friendship with someone that I felt complete and total acceptance? Also a man. My closest friends all through graduate school were men. They supported me through emotionally difficult times, met me at Starbucks at 5 am to work on our papers together, took me to the airport in the middle of the night so I could catch my flight to my grandfather’s funeral … we bonded over diets and drama and broken hearts and falling in love. It was a man who helped put me back together after my rapist broke our engagement– most of my friends who were women had abandoned me.

I think Stasi and John would condemn all of those relationships as inappropriate, or at the very least as ill-advised and dangerous. I’m a woman. I should only have deep, meaningful, intimate relationships with my husband and women friends. That I’m bi and just as likely to develop romantic attachments with women as I am with men probably wouldn’t even phase them.

This is one of those times when I find gender essentialism disturbing, because I believe it robs all of us of our ability to have amazing relationships with other people, or to even see ourselves clearly. Not every woman is a “mother,” and telling women that the only way they’re capable of having relationships is by either being a “mother” or a “sister,” and then setting limits on what those relationships can look like and who you’re allowed to have them with is harmful.

addressing accusations that I’m a liar

I don’t know how to describe how I’m feeling right now. I’m shaken, and angry. Deeply disappointed, shocked … and horrified.

Someone who is claiming to have been “close” with me when I was at Pensacola Christian College is accusing me of being a liar and of ripping all of my stories off of her from the brief time when we were roommates in college.

Because this person is a part of the post-fundamentalist survivor community, and because she’s claiming to have known me well, I’m going to address her accusations and claims one by one.

True, we’ve “known” each other for years. We met, officially, when we were roommates for a little while when we were both taking extra courses after the semester had ended. Because there were so few people left on campus and my normal circle of friends were all at home, she took me under her wing and I got to hang out with her friend group, which I very much appreciated. The next semester however, things went back to normal and we went back to our own friend groups. So yes, we “knew” each other, but our relationship was fairly … superficial. She was not what I would call a “close friend,” and never was.

However, she claims that she “knows everything about me,” which is just … laughably ridiculous. We were roommates for two weeks, and did not move in the same social circles– although those circles occasionally peripherally touched through one of my best friends (who, for the record, doesn’t think I’m lying and actually knows everything about me).

She claims that my parents “catered to my every whim,” that they paid my way through college, that I never had to work a day in my life, “not in undergrad, at least,” all of which is completely false.

I worked for housekeeping, cleaning the MacKenzie building bathrooms and lobby while I was a student. Later, I got a job working at Kohl’s as a cashier, intending for it to be a summer job, but I got permission from the administration to start working in March, because I was in “training” (this was a highly unusual decision. I’m still surprised they let me do any of this). I would leave after my copy writing class, usually, driving 1 1/2 to get there,work until 11 or midnight, then drive 20 minutes to get home, sleep, then wake up in time to make the hour-long drive back to campus in time for my 8 am class.

Before I attended PCC, when I decided I wanted to go to college my senior year, my piano teacher started placing me in a lot of competitions where you could win money or scholarships. Through my dedication and extreme amount of work, I put together enough scholarship money to cover 1/4 of my college tuition and room and board. My parents paid the rest, which I have never once claimed that they didn’t. In the article that I wrote for RHE, I even explicitly stated that my parents had been supportive of my undergrad degree. I supported myself through graduate school, paying my own bills and rent and buying my own groceries. I had to go into debt in order to buy groceries.

My family– as I have stated repeatedly– did not enter the heavy Christian fundamentalism until I was 10 years old. As I have stated before, we didn’t start following the strict “modesty” standards until that point. So yes, in a way I “grew up wearing jeans” if you count up until I was 10. After that point, I was never allowed to wear anything that wasn’t extremely, extremely “modest.” Everyone in my church wore the Hyles-Anderson culotte pattern with the gigantic yolk and massive pleats (which I have posted photographic evidence of on my blog) until my sophomore year in college. At that point, my parents had left the crazy church-cult and one of my best friends dragged me to the mall to buy me a pair of jeans– an experience I have written about. It was my first pair of jeans in 11 years. I have been forthcoming and straightforward about all of this.

I’m not exactly sure how watching “How I Met Your Mother” is relevant to all of her accusations that I’m a liar, except that I had never seen an episode until graduate school. My parents didn’t even have cable for a long time– our next door neighbor would record Star Trek: Voyager for us every week. I remember dashing over to their house if we got home from church early enough so that we could watch it that night. I introduced my mother to HIMYM, who was initially a little disturbed that every joke was about sex until she decided it was hysterically funny. I still haven’t seen the last season, so please no spoilers!

As for “Really, the worst thing that ever happened to her was some of the more peripheral horribleness occasionally had a vague effect on her,” …. that … all I can say is wow do you not know anything about my life at all. Our church experience was so bad that my mother was suicidal. I have had entire messages preached against me– just me– from the pulpit. It has taken me so many years trying to process and overcome my experience because of that horrible church, and I’m still trying to do so. I am utterly blown away that a woman who barely knows anything about me thinks she can assert something like this.

I’ve never shared enough detail about my rape on my blog, or on facebook, or with any of my friends that she could possibly make a claim that my details are “constantly shifting.” We went to a funeral, then we went out to look at the chapel we were getting married in, then we drove to his home, then he raped me. She claims that my assertion that “I didn’t know I was raped until two years later” is false because I apparently screamed “rape!” while he was raping me– which, I have no idea where she got that from. I have said– repeatedly– that I begged him to stop, that I told him “no” over and over again, and I did not know that meant that he was raping me. I was utterly convinced because of all the messages I got from purity culture that I must have done something to lead him on, that I must be to blame somehow, even though I said no, and that has been my consistent message the entire time I’ve been blogging.

As for this notion that I’ve ripped stories off of her? Well… ok, we both had our fair share of experiences in extremely conservative fundamentalism, and I honestly don’t remember that much of her story, except that it was utterly heartbreaking. We talked some about her experiences with ATI– which I had never heard of until she started talking about it, although now that I’m more familiar with Gothard it’s obvious my ‘pastor’ was– while we were roommates. It seems entirely possible that we’d have extremely similar experiences at some points.

So… yeah. I’m really sick that someone would claim to know me so well when so many of her accusations are demonstrably, provably false. It’s insane to me that she’s claiming to know much more than she actually does in order to accuse me of being a liar.

You can make what you will of her accusations if you’ve heard them. I can’t control who believes me, and I’ve been accused of being a liar before. But what hurts me the most is that she’s accusing me of exploiting rape victims in order to be famous. That cuts so deeply, because I have never wanted to be “famous.” If you actually knew me, you’d know that I’ve stayed up at night, panicking, because I’d gotten 500 hits on my blog that day, crying while my partner held me because I was so freaked out that people were reading my blog. I’ve had a lot of opportunities since I’ve started blogging, and every single last one of them has been terrifying. I want to help victims of sexual violence because I am one, and I know what it’s like to have no one believe you.

Waking up to this this morning has been … beyond words. But I had to address this because this person is claiming to be “close to me,” to have access to details and information she’s never had. If any of you saw her post making any of these accusations, I hope you’ll take what I have to say here into account. I apologize if this sounds a little scattered, but this was a difficult thing to wake up to and I’m having a hard time dealing with it.

The Stay-at-Home-Daughter Movement

miranda the tempest
[The Tempest by Waterhouse]

My freshman year in highschool, I mentioned my dream to become a marine botanist to my best friend, our pastor’s daughter, and she laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You can’t be a scientist. You have to be a keeper at home.”

Keeper at home.

It’s a phrase from the King James translation of Titus 2, and we interpreted it to mean that it was against God’s laws for women to be employed. Our church, however, took it one step further: if all a woman was allowed to be was a “keeper at home,” then it was utterly pointless for her to try to be anything else. Pursuing an education, or longing for a career, could do nothing but harm her with shattered dreams. For that reason, young women in our church were asked to be “stay-at-home daughters.”

I gave up my dreams. I sacrificed them on the altar of biblical womanhood, fervently believing that the only way I could be blessed by God was to follow the clear guidelines laid out in Scripture. I was committed to remaining at home until I was married, when my father would transfer his ownership of me to my husband, giving me away at the altar with his blessing after a brief, paternally-guided courtship.

Occasionally, a snatch of a dream would intrude. No, Samantha. My inner voice would be harsh, echoing my Sunday school teachers and pastor’s wife. Do not be tempted. That’s just the Devil trying to trick you away from God’s plan.

A few weeks ago, Rachel Held Evans asked if I’d be interested in writing about my experiences with the Stay-at-Home Daughter movement and how I eventually decided to go to college against everything I’d ever been taught. I agreed, and put together a post for her blog. You can read the rest here.

being a feminist makes me a better Christian

athena
[art by Rebecca Guay]

I had just started my job as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, and I could not have been more excited– it was the perfect job for me at the time. I got to be surrounded by books, helping people find books they’d love, and it was a part-time retail job that wasn’t a huge commitment, since I thought I’d probably be moving in a while.

I was being trained by the lead cashier on how to work the registers, and he was a delightful person, cheerful and outgoing in a way that didn’t annoy me at 7 o’clock in the morning, which is a rarity for me, the night owl. As we made conversation, he asked about my plans for the weekend and I responded with how I was going to attend an event at my parent’s church.

Instantaneously, he became somber. Sad, almost. He looked me in the eyes and said “I’m — gay.”

A little confused by sudden change in conversation, the only thing I could think of was “… ok?”

He shook his head a little, then went on. “I just mean, will working with me be a problem for you? Would it be better if I asked one of the other cashiers to train you?”

I was dumbfounded– I couldn’t figure out what in the world had happened and why he would ask me this. “Wait– why would working with you be a problem for me? You’ve been awesome.”

He smiled a little, and it was sardonic. “I’ve just worked with Christians in the past, and I’ve found it’s usually better if we don’t work closely together.”

I stared at him, humbled and sorrowful. I had to fight back tears. “No, it absolutely will not be a problem for me. I’m so sorry you needed to ask.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Growing up in Christian fundamentalism meant that I’d been trained since I was fairly young to think of the world in strictly black-and-white terms. I believed in an extreme form of objectivism, and thought that everything in the world was either clearly right or clearly wrong. There were no moral gray areas, and any question I could possibly have about morality would have an answer in Scripture. Since I’m also an ISTJ, the black-and-white nature of fundamentalism appealed to me.

Since I left fundamentalism behind, I’ve had to fight to reject the theological and philosophical framework that had been ingrained in me for twelve years. And, even as I’ve left Christian fundamentalism, I’ve had to fight with myself to not simply adopt a fundamentalist way of thinking about the ideas I’m developing now. It’s an extremely pernicious trap for me. I want things to be black-and-white, us vs. them. It’s the way the world makes the most sense to me, and it’s difficult for me to get outside of that box.

The one thing that keeps me from slipping back inside my black-and-white mentality is feminism.

~~~~~~~~~~

I officially became a feminist my second year in graduate school, although I’d been gradually moving in that direction ever since my sophomore year in undergrad. It took a while to become comfortable with the term, to reclaim it from centuries of active and hateful misogyny and all the perpetuated stereotypes and lies that my conservative Christian leaders desperately wanted me to believe.

The one thing I knew when I decided to become a feminist was I know nothing about it. The only things I’d “known” about feminism were obviously lies once I actually started reading feminist literature and actually listening to feminists, and I knew I had a lot of catching up to do. I buried myself in research, and thankfully I had access to databases for a year and I could read all the feminist scholarship I’d ever want. I ordered books through the library, and started talking to my professors about feminist ideas in and out of class.

For the last year and a half  I’ve been steadily blogging about my journey, and if you’ve been here all that time you’ll know how I’ve already changed and grown and developed as a feminist. The best thing about talking to feminists, and developing relationships and friendships with feminists, and learning more about feminism, is how it’s forced me to become a better person.

Feminism taught me to look for the person first. I don’t see facts and figures and statistics and abstract problems anymore, but people. Mentally I know that, in America, 1 in 7 married women experience sexual violence at the hands of their husbands– but that’s not what I’m seeing when I hear that. I think of all the married women I’ve ever known and forced myself to realize that some of them have been sexually abused by their husbands, and there is no way any one can tell. They need love and help and support– and they need that from me regardless of whether or not they’ll ever tell me what’s happened to them.

I listen to our stories, now. I don’t dismiss the individual because their experience isn’t my experience. I’ve learned to value that vast diversity of experiences and perspectives in a way that I’ve never been able to before.

Because of feminism, I’ve learned to respect myself. The Christian cultures I’ve been a part of, from fundamentalism to non-denominational evangelicalism, have tried to teach me to be ashamed of my sexuality, to see myself as dirty, to think of myself primarily as a subordinate to another person. Feminism has given me the ability to recognize myself as a person whose voice deserves to be listened to. I am a child of God, created with the imago dei, and I have gifts and abilities and talents that should not be ignored.

But, most importantly, feminism has shown me how to follow Jesus better. Feminism has shown me how to love my neighbor, how to show grace and compassion and empathy, how to defend those who cannot defend themselves. For the first time in my life, when I see the poor and the orphan and the widow, the least of these, I see Jesus.

~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote this post as part of a synchroblog on the intersection of feminism and faith. If you’d like,  you can watch the conversation happening at the Twitter hashtag #faithfeminisms, and you can see the contributed posts here.

“Captivating” Review: 150-169, “Arousing Adam”

adam and eve

I’m skipping a chapter because it’s titled “Beauty to Unveil,” and I’m not critiquing what they have to say about beauty again. I’ve already spent Three. Bloody. Posts. on it. I’m done talking about it, and how I wish they were done talking about it, too. When I was talking to Handsome about Wild at Heart, he mentioned that John’s book is also completely obsessed with beauty, as one of the things that is apparently essential to John’s version of Manning Manliness Manhood is “pursuing beauty.”

The reason why this is going up today instead of yesterday when I normally post my Captivating reviews is that I threw the book across the room three times and I couldn’t make it all the way through the chapter. I really just wanted to burn it. So, today’s post might be just a touch … fractured, as I’m really just trying to get through it in one, non-furious piece.

The chapter starts off in a decent place: you can’t get your fulfillment from other people, even your romantic partners. I agree with that. I don’t necessarily agree that personal fulfillment can only come from God, but I still think it’s an important point to make that you can’t rely on your partners for your sense of identity and well-being. We’re supposed to love and support each other, but we can’t be the end-all-be-all of our partner’s happiness.

However, the chapter slides into a disaster immediately after they make that clear, because they spend the entire time telling women that the core parts of what being a woman is– softness, tenderness, vulnerability, beauty– are all there in for the express (and only!) purpose to “arouse Adam,” to inspire men, to be their Muse.

The question before us is, how does a woman best love a man? The answer is simple: Entice him. Inspire him. Allure him.

Through the rest of the chapter, Stasi and John demonize any women they think aren’t alluring enough to men, or who don’t try to be alluring, or who don’t think that being alluring to men is important. We’re a bunch of emasculators who “make their husbands pee sitting down” (161).

But what made me want to burn this book (sigh … again) was the section when she’s using Enchanted April as an illustration to talk about a “desolate” character named Lottie:

She is not harsh– just shut down from years of living with a selfish, domineering pig of a man. She looks like a whipped puppy, rushing to please him in any way, not out of love but out of fear and some weird idea of submission. She is depressed . . .

Desolate women don’t seem at first pass to be all that emasculating. They don’t attack or dominate. But neither do they allure … The lights are off; they have dimmed their radiance. A man in her presence feels uninvited. Unwanted. It’s a form of rejection, emasculation to be sure.

Burn everything. Burn all the things.

I’ve never seen Enchanted April, but what’s described here sounds like an abusive relationship . . . that’s caused by Lottie being a desolate woman who is emasculating her husband, thereby making him feel unwanted– according to Stasi.

That section is followed by this:

There are men out there who are not safe and good men. Some of you are married to men like this … How do you love them? With great wisdom and cunning.

Uhm … no No NO NO NO. You divorce him.

The next two pages are Stasi sounding exactly like Helen Andelin (“It was a brilliant trap, well set,” because women should “cunningly” ensnare their husbands with manipulative traps), and then she relates a story about “Betsy” who was married to a “verbally abusive man” who was an elder, “mean,” who “villainized her to their children, their church.” But what did Betsy do– and what all women in her situation should do? She “didn’t seek divorce”; instead she:

invited him to feel the weight of his consequences … She fasted and prayed … She gave him many tastes of what life could be like together …

ARGH GABLARG.

50 Ways to be a Person

red heels

So Caitlin Leggett wrote a piece titled “50 Ways to be a Woman.” Here’s my reaction. Warning: there is a lot of swearing.

1. Practice whatever grooming habits that feels right to you and keeps you feeling good and healthy. Sensitive skin? Don’t fucking care about shaving? Whatevs! Being a person isn’t about conforming to what American culture says about the state of our pits, crotch, and legs.

2. Dress however you want. Horizontal stripes? Rock ‘em. Booty shorts and cropped tops? Leather mini skirts and fishnets? If you feel good, wear it! Being a person means that you get to choose what clothes you wear. You can pay attention to social context, jeans at the opera and a bikini to a job interview might not be the most appropriate thing to wear for that, but you do what you want.

3. There’s no such thing as “timeless fashion staples.” Buy the clothes you like, and if they’re not “in style,” well, “fashion” is nothing more than a cultural construct, and you can change that.

4. If someone did something nice for you, say thank you. Being a person means being polite when the occasion calls for it. If you’re the kind of person that likes saying “thank you” through the mail, do that. Text and e-mail work, too.

5. Being a decent person means trying to do something good for your world. Have a mental illness or physical condition that means you can’t leave your house? No worries! Every little bit counts, including simply loving the people in your life.

6. Sadly, being a person means that we’re going to have to spend money. Learning how to keep track of it …. might not be a bad idea.

7. Give a giant fuck-you to the people who want to shut you up.

8. Have a stance on something but you encounter someone that says that your stance is hurting them? Take the time to re-examine it. Be flexible, but honest.

9. Want an education? Awesome! Want to go to college? Just as awesome! Think that college is a complete waste of time or you don’t like the idea of a $100,000 debt or simply couldn’t afford it? That is awesome, too.

10. Like drinking and getting wasted with your friends and don’t give a shit about the judgy people who think you shouldn’t drink? More power to you. Being a person means you get to decide what you do in your own damn time.

11. Wear whatever fucking shoes you want. Walk in them however you fucking want.

12. Know how you want to be treated, and don’t tolerate people who’d treat you like shit. If you want doors held open for you? That’s great. Tell the person you’d like to do that for you, and see what they think. Don’t like the idea of having your chair held out for you? Who cares? Oh, right. Judgy people.

13. Do what you have to in order to take care of yourself. Trust is a worthy risk, but if you trust someone and they hurt you? Not your fault. They’re the dick. You’re the decent person who trusted someone not to be a dick.

14. Handle confrontation however you need to in order to remain healthy. Need to rant and rage because there are some seriously fucked up things in your life? Go right ahead.

15. Use social media however you fucking want. Your bosses (or future bosses) might be super-judgy people, so there’s that.

16. People need help sometimes.

17. Talk on the phone however you and the person you’re talking to would like.

18. People should be nice.

19. Your faith journey is your own. It can be shaken, and doubt is ok.

20. Blatantly defy gender norms for sport. Because that shit is fucking awesome.

21. People should be good losers when the defeat is justified. If you’re being beaten down by an oppressor, don’t put up with that shit.

22. Be whoever you want to be. If you’re being honest with yourself about who you are, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it. Unless you’re an ass. Don’t be an ass.

23. Know what you’d like in a partner, or if you even want one.

24. You’re awesome.

25. Sit however you fucking want.

26. Have whatever standards you want. If they need to be adjusted, adjust them.

27. Do what you want with your time. What you like to do will probably change over time.

28. Follow the laws of your country. Break other rules if you feel like it.

29. Don’t lie about people, and try to be nice. People should be nice.

30. Being a person is enough for you and anyone else.

31. If you think college might be a good place to find your partner and you’d like a partner, do it. Also think about getting an education while you’re spending all that money.

32. Outwardly reject society’s conventions of your gender if they differ from your personal convictions and identity. 

33. People are going to say things about you. If it’s shit, ignore it. 

34. Laugh if you want to. Don’t feel like it? Don’t do it.

35. Find beauty if you can. If it’s not something you have the strength to force yourself to do today, then don’t.

36. Try to be happy if can, and fuck anyone who thinks being ‘attractive’ matters.

37. Take care of yourself.

38. You get to decide what you want to do with your life based on your opportunities and abilities, because reality is a bitch sometimes.

39. Ditto.

40. Respect your fellow people. 

41. Do not feel ashamed of your gender identity. Present your gender however you fucking want.

42. Do things for yourself when you can. Don’t be ashamed to not know how to do something.

43. Money, is sadly, hugely important in America. Pay attention to it.

44. Do not be afraid to say no. Or yes.

45. Do not blame yourself if you are manipulated by someone. They’re the asshole who manipulated you. Now you know they’ll do that to you.

46. Become an advocate for other people, including women, trans people, LGB people, disabled, and people of color.

47. If someone makes you feel inferior, they’re an ass. Don’t be ashamed for feeling put-down. You are entitled to your feelings.

48. Be a decent human being.

49. Things change.

50. Respect yourself, whatever that looks like. If it means ignoring this list, then that’s what you need to do.

pro-life fictions: Frank Peretti’s “Prophet”

prophet

Today’s book review is from a guest writer, who has asked for his name to be withheld because his family is still staunchly pro-life.

In 1992, Peretti published Prophet, a novel about a mostly-agnostic news anchor who receives prophetic powers passed on from his fundamentalist religious father. The novel attempts to address a dizzying host of the usual conservative evangelical issues, such as environmentalism, gay rights, liberal media bias, consumerism, public education, medical malpractice, academic dishonesty, and even rock music. It’s also subtly racist. But the primary focus of the book is an assault on women’s rights in general, particularly abortion.

The protagonist, John Barrett, is a successful lead news anchor whose father embarrassingly insists on holding public protests against abortion. The story centers around the re-election campaign of pro-choice, pro-environmentalism, pro-education, pro-gay governor Hiram Slater, whose secret corruption and ties to unsavory characters make it clear that he is The Bad Guy. Following his father’s murder by the governor’s hencemen, Barrett receives his father’s prophetic gift and begins seeing visions and hearing voices.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that multiple teenage girls have died from botched abortions at an “assembly-line” abortion clinic, and that numerous individuals are complicit in a wide cover-up. Barrett’s liberal supervisor tries to keep the story from breaking, but the truth comes out: Governor Slater’s own daughter Hillary was killed by the abortion clinic.

Gay rights advocates deface and vandalize a Catholic church, then hold a protest of the Church’s position on condom use the next day. The liberal media refuses to cover the vandalism, but happily covers the protest. The protesters are presumably “shown up” when Barrett receives a prophetic revelation that the leader of the gay rights group has hundreds of sexual partners and doesn’t use a condom… which apparently means that all criticisms of the Catholic position are baseless. It’s an appalling strawman of gay rights that fits very well with the extreme fundamentalism view: gay men are sex-obsessed, hypocritical, and willing to engage in violence in order to punish those who disapprove of their life choices.

The book constantly also goes to great lengths in trying to paint the media as corrupt, biased, and misleading. Inexplicably, Peretti devotes several large sections to arguing that basic broadcasting techniques like scripted questions, green screens, planned establishing shots, and talking into a teleprompter are somehow “liberal” and dishonest. Nearly every chapter contains a detailed description of one of Governor Slater’s re-election ads, painting liberal campaign advertising as manipulative and controlling. The television station receives revenue from the campaign ads and therefore skews its reporting in favor of Slater. It’s heavily implied that journalistic neutrality is impossible: that journalists are either “on the side of the truth” or otherwise liberal and biased and complicit in fraud.

But most egregious of all is the book’s portrayal of women’s health services. Pro-choice advocates are consistently shown taking every sort of immoral, unethical, and illegal steps in defense of their ideology. They pay off, intimidate, and threaten witnesses, provide tip offs to give other advocates the chance to destroy medical records, badger parents, obtain interviews under false pretenses, falsify records, start fights in order to smear pro-life protesters, and even hire hit men. They manipulate the facts and stonewall investigations. People searching for the truth are arrested, maligned, fired, and attacked. It is implied that women who have had abortions either find “forgiveness” and become fiercely pro-life, or they are consumed with guilt and shame and will go to any lengths to defend abortion from criticism.

The abortion clinics themselves are painted as dark, foreboding, unsavory places focused only on fast profit. Early in the story, a clinic worker lies to a patient and tells her that her pregnancy test came back positive in order to pressure her into having an abortion. Girls are badgered into signing consent forms they haven’t read and pushed through the process against their protests. Everyone who talks about the clinics mentions the screaming of terrified girls and the shouting of impatient doctors. It is stated repeatedly that the clinics try to do as many off-books abortions as possible to evade taxation and reporting requirements. Anyone who has had an abortion talks about how pressured they felt, how angry and bitter the staff seemed, and how much pain the procedure left them in. Clinic staff members are portrayed as uninformed, uncompassionate zealots who are only concerned with completing as many procedures as possible.

The following quotation, given by the “expert” Doctor Matthews who performed the autopsy on the governor’s daughter Hillary, very clearly demonstrates the book’s overall portrayal of abortion clinics.

You have to realize, abortion clinics aren’t like your typical family practice. They’re under tremendous pressure from two sources: money and fear.

On the one hand, abortions are lucrative; you can bring in a lot of money in a short time with minimum effort. The more abortions you do, the more money you make, so the natural inclination is to do them as quickly as possible and cut corners if you can. You get the procedure down to just a few minutes, you get an assembly line going, and you don’t hire RNs to help in the back rooms because they get too pick about procedure, sterilizing the equipment, sanitation. All that stuff takes time, and you can have some thirty girls waiting in line …

On the other hand, you’ve got the intense political pressure over this whole issue, which makes you circle the wagons all the tighter to protect yourself from intrusion, discovery, regulation, standardization. If you slip up, the last thing you want is for anyone to know about it, least of all your peers. There’s also an unwritten code out there: you don’t snitch—you don’t make trouble.

That’s the pro-life view of abortion clinics, of abortion doctors, of women’s health workers, and of women who get abortions.

I first read Prophet several years ago, and I believed all of this.

It’s easy to understand why rank-and-file members of the pro-life movement are so opposed to abortions when these fictions are taught and accepted as fact. Re-reading now, and recognizing what I’ve learned about women’s health in the past few years, I was incredibly appalled. More than that, I was saddened. All these lies provide the foundation for “conservative values” in the evangelical community. The amount of misinformation is staggering. It’s just a shame.

Like this novel.