how Josh Duggar is getting away with it

josh duggar
[content note for discussions of child sexual assault]

Before we get started with today’s post, I’d like y’all to read these two pieces, especially if you’re not aware of what came out yesterday:

What you Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report” by Libby Anne “Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?” by Kathryn Elizabeth Brightbil

Libby Anne and Kathryn address many of the things I would have said, which I’m thankful for because now I can focus on making a broader point that I think applies to conservative evangelicalism as a culture and not just the Duggars as a family.

~~~~~~~~~

A close friend of mine has spent most of her adulthood in Spanish-speaking countries. During a recent visit, she told me a story about what it’s like to make the adjustments between languages. She was working with a bus ministry at her church and had to deal with a rambunctious boy who was invading the personal space of other children, including touching them without their consent. In order to try to reign him in, she wanted to tell him to “stop bothering her,” but what came out was “stop molesting her.”

In Spanish, the word for bother is molestar.

It was an amusing anecdote, but then she made the point that English tends to soften concepts that Spanish doesn’t. As a culture, we call what Josh Duggar did to his victims child molestation; even though we understand the connotation of the phrase, it doesn’t have the clarity that child sexual assault does.

Our culture is set up in almost every conceivable way to harbor abusers.

For example: racism, sexism, and any other form of systemic bigotry is, essentially the abuse of one people group by another. Individual white people benefit from a system that abuses people of color. Certain men receive benefits from rape culture, which allows the worst among us to take advantage of everything we collectively believe about women and sex.

Another way that our culture allows abuse to flourish is that we refuse to really deal with what is actually happening. Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

But, in our culture, abusers can “apologize,” and that becomes the headline. And, as Kathryn pointed out, it makes the victims look bad in Christian culture if they don’t immediately “forgive.” We saw this with Sovereign Grace, and we’re seeing it now.

This is why I never use softening, minimizing language. I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.

The words we use matter.

~~~~~~~~~~

The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity” kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame. The Duggars belong to an even more nightmarish subculture than I was exposed to, since they follow Bill Gothard. If you’re not familiar with ATI/IBLP, this is what Gothard teaches about sexual abuse.

Counseling_Sexual_Abuse

That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

In ATI/IBLP, if they received any “counseling” at all (which seems unlikely, considering Michelle Duggar said that Josh’s “counseling” involved helping a family friend remodel his house), it would have been laser-focused on figuring out what the victims did “wrong” so they could be shamed for it.

This is what purity culture does. More than anything else, it silences victims.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not” by Sarah Moon
Josh Duggar and the Purity Lie” by Sarah Posner
Josh Duggar and the Problem of Easy Forgiving” by Mary DeMuth

Christian Republicans and forced altruism

capital building cross
[artwork by Rob Green]

When I was younger, election years thrilled me. The entire process of campaigning and rallies and speeches and debates was one of my favorite things ever, and I reveled in it all. I remember the 2008 election clearly– on campus, the only two people anyone seemed to care about were Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, and when McCain won the nomination we were all bummed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already starting to see election news burst into my newsfeeds, with everyone shouting about Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson and Hilary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and I’m exhausted. None of the options really appeal to me at the moment, and I can see myself voting Green or Communist or something. I’m 27 and already cynical about politics.

One of the biggest reasons why I’ve changed from a conservative to a liberal over the last few years is that I came to see the role of government differently. As a conservative my deep distrust of the government (which hasn’t gone away, just changed focus; now it’s things like police brutality and corruption that bother me) meant that I wanted a small government. Tiny. Miniscule. Invisible, preferably. Leave me alone to run my own business and I’ll be happy.

That point of view affected how I saw welfare, especially. Before, I saw programs like SNAP and WIC and TANF and unemployment and disability insurance as infringing on what rightfully belonged to the Church. It should be primarily the Church’s responsibility to care for the widow, the orphan, the poor; the federal government shouldn’t be interfering in that.

I also believed that it was beyond ridiculous for the government to turn altruism and charity into taxes– doesn’t that defeat the entire point? I should be able the one to control my money and where it goes and I’m the one who gets to decide who is deserving. Bureaucracies and red tape and forms and waiting lines can’t eliminate welfare queens and people who just want to be “one the dole.” But me– an individual person, perhaps part of a local church– I can. I’m a part of my community. I know best how it needs to be helped.

In a way, I haven’t changed my mind about those things. Handsome and I still believe in giving as much as we can to help people, and that it is our responsibility as Christians to meet needs whenever possible. As I’ve become more liberal, my opinion on the Church’s role in loving the least of these has become even more firm: now, I believe that the bulk of the Church’s attention should be on benevolence and charity. Soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters– whatever the needs of the community are, the gifts of your congregation should be used to fill them.

But one thing has definitely changed– I believe that the Church has failed spectacularly in doing any of that, and that the needs of our communities are beyond the reach of the even a united, committed effort from all our local churches. The problem is just too big, just too systemic. Anything the Church could do would be a bandaid on a bullet wound.

Now, when I hear a Christian arguing that welfare is “forced altruism,” I ruefully laugh– and not just because I had my eyes opened to things like how “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is a fondly held conservative myth. I laugh because, supposedly, many conservative Christians believe this country should be run according to biblical principles, and “forced altruism” is definitively one of them.

During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. ~ Exodus 23:11

Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. ~ Leviticus 19:10

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. ~ Leviticus 23:22

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied. ~ Deuteronomy 14:28-29

The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near, so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. ~ Deuteronomy 15:9

Those are just the very tip of the iceberg, as I listed only a few of the specific laws. There are dozens of other commandments that tell the ancient Hebrews to be “openhanded” with the poor. And then there’s the whole concept of Jubilee, which is, at its heart, what a modern conservative would label redistribution of wealth. Those principles were clearly and unequivocally endorsed by Jesus, just in case you want to wiggle out of it with “we’re not under the Law anymore!”

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:35-40

Not only is taking care of the poor one of the principle roles of the local church, I believe that a Christian doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on if they want to argue against public government assistance.

teaching virginity is anti-Christian

easy a 2
[picture is Emma Stone from Easy A, a favorite film of mine]

I’ve been mulling this idea over for a while now, ever since I read Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank when I was preparing for my “What is Virginity?” video (and yes: I plan to get back to the YouTube channel soon. Editing video of yourself while depressed is …. heh). When I emerged from under the mountains of research with the realization that virginity is a myth, I startled wrestling with the theological position it’s inhabited in Christianity for centuries.

While Christianity certainly did not invent the concept, we in Western culture think of virginity in very Christian terms. It has religious, moral, and mystic significance for us. The Holy Mother is enshrined in our tradition as a virgin– and not just of the “young girl” variety. Her sexual purity was encoded as catholic doctrine  in the Nicene Creed of 381. We even have fables and legends about unicorns and how only the purest women could capture them.

Today there’s a whole culture in evangelicalism– purity culture— built around the concept. Not only is virginity considered physically real in conservative Christianity, it’s “the most precious gift a woman can give her husband.” We wear rings, we sign contracts and pledge cards, and we dive into the endless wave of books like Lady in Waiting and Why True Love Waits. All the sermons, the books, the podcasts, the blogs, the Sunday school lessons tell us all one very important thing: we must save our virginity for marriage, or unspeakable horrors will descend on us. Divorce. Betrayal. Adultery. Addiction. Disease. Death.

Aside from the fact that virginity doesn’t actually exist and all the different ways that insisting on it harms women, there’s also a theological problem with teaching our young men and women that they need to remain virgins.

As far as I’m aware, most (if not all) Christian traditions, from Protestant to Catholic to Orthodox, have some articulation of sanctification. I’m not sure if we all call it the same thing, so here’s a basic definition that hopefully works across traditions:

Sanctification is God’s work in us.

I’m a universalist, so I think of Martin Luther King Jr. saying “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I believe that God is working through each of us to bring about a more loving planet where “all oppressions shall cease.” If you’re a more traditional Protestant, sanctification begins at the moment you become a Christian and ends when we receive our glorified bodies in heaven.

Virginity doesn’t fit into that anywhere. Teaching about virginity amounts to teaching against sanctification. This is because virginity is a state of existence. One is, or is not, a virgin. End of story. There is no becoming a virgin. There’s no progression from sinfulness to righteousness in virginity. You start out “clean,” and either you make it to marriage or you’re sullied. Lose your virginity, and you’re a ripped-open present, a half-eaten chocolate bar. Virginity is consumable. Disposable. A one-off.

That idea shouldn’t have a place in Christianity. Living as a Christian is a journey toward becoming more Christ-like. We struggle, like Paul, to “die daily.” There will be no moment on earth when we’ve attained moral perfection. We will fail. We will succeed. We will strive. We go to bed and tell ourselves tomorrow by the grace of God I will do better. We do our best to love more, to love generously. We try to be kind, to forgive, to be gracious.

Telling teenagers to “hold on” to their virginity flies in the face of everything else we try to teach them about honoring ourselves and honoring Christ. Nothing else about being a Christian works this way. There is no room in the fruits of the spirit for this notion that one either is or isn’t. We do. We try. We act.

Because virginity– at least, our cultural notion of it– isn’t an action but a state of existence, it shouldn’t hold a moral value for Christians.

a #meninist sums up my childhood in the Biblical Patriarchy movement

trash can

[content note for descriptions of physical abuse, extreme misogyny]

If you haven’t heard of the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, you should definitely check it out. Most of the time I don’t have the stomach to pick through the misogynistic underbelly of the internet, but they do all of that for me, putting it in one somewhat-more-manageable post, broken up with entertaining commentary.

I read their “Furious about Furiosa” post, which gathered together the collective outrage of MRAs who are upset about Mad Max: Fury Road. I grew up adoring the post-apocolyptic campiness that were films like Waterworld and Mad Max, so I’ve been keeping track of Fury Road, although I’ll probably just rent it when it comes out. Something that intrigued me was that the producers asked Eve Ensler (who created the Vagina Monlogues) to consult, and she worked with them to make sure the themes and characterization were handled appropriately.

I was laughing, shaking my head at all the vitriolic nonsense, until I got to this:

The only way back is to begin punishing ambition in our daughters and in all female children. They need to be physicall­­y and psychologically disciplined to be servile and deferential and they unfortunately need to have it beaten into them that they should NEVER trust their own judgement and always seek guidance and permission of their male headships.

My daughter would be turned out with nothing but a shirt on her back if she so much as looked at a college website or played with her brother’s educational toys.

She would be belted to the point of being unable to sit if she exhibited confidence in decision making.

I don’t want my wife to step foot out of the house unless her every dime and minute spent can be accounted for and executed in conjuncture with my approval. My daughter will exude obedience and timidity for whoever her future husband is and it’s imperative that all Christian Men demand nothing less within their own homes. Playtime for feminazis and the left is over. This is our world and our heritage to protect. Let the cultural war begin!

I do in fact implement this in my own home and practice what I preach vehemently. I have a daughter and sons and they are being raised to know that they are unequivocally different and 100% not equal. My wife is from a highly devout family and she was cowed long ago into obedience by her powerful, alpha father. I kinda won the life lottery.

That was posted by user “TS77RP1″ on the Return of the Kings forum, one of the MRA/red pill hubs, and something you should only google if you are feeling extremely mentally and emotionally prepared.

I couldn’t laugh at that because … that was what I was taught. Oh, TS77RP1 is being for more bluntly and explicitly honest about what the people in the biblical patriarchy/Quiverful/Stay-at-Home-Daughters movements want to accomplish, but that’s all. He’s just being honest. He’s not trying to cloak what people like Michael Farris (of HSLDA and Parental Rights) and Doug Phillips (of now-defunct Vision Forum) teach under a fog of “but the husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the church.” The velvet glove came off at this particular forum, but this is the end game.

You hand this over to John Piper and Wayne Grudem and Douglas Wilson and they’d be appalled, horrified, and repulsed; there would be much arm-waving over how they’re nothing like TS77RP1. Except… they teach the subordination of women and the headship of men based on nothing except sex. They might not resort to “belting” their daughters, but they do tell wives to stay in abusive marriages. They do tell women to submit to husbands who aren’t loving them “biblically.” They do say that men “conquer” their wives.

Currently I’m researching a project that compares the beliefs and justifications of abusers to the beliefs and justifications of complementarians … and the more I dig, the more horrified I become. There’s more than just the occasional overlap– the justifications for complementarianism and the rationalizations of abusers are the same.

TS77RP1 just said it out loud.

on being silenced

shhh

I have a lot of experience with being told to shut up. I’m used to being ignored, dismissed, thrown out. Being an outspoken, opinionated girl and then young woman in Christian fundamentalism leaves one feeling stifled, and it’s a sensation I hate. The one thing that will guarantee that I get so pissed at you that I never speak to you again is to dismiss me when I’m talking about something that I believe matters.

That reaction comes from a lifetime of experience in a cult, watching the people I cared about being told to shut up and color any time they had a problem with something. One of the lessons that I’ve learned extremely well is that if your leaders seem to be immune to criticism, then you probably need to run away screaming.

All of the above is the primary reason Handsome and I left the church we’d been attending for a few years– anytime we had a concern we felt was significant enough to raise, the response was consistently either a) dismissal or b) redirection. Either they would “listen” and then tell us all the reasons why they weren’t worried about it, or they would ignore the criticism and then tell us that we were the ones with the problem. Because, y’know, jokes about spanking infants and conflating abusers and their victims is definitely just our problem. If I reacted poorly to that joke, it’s because I need counseling. Obviously.

So you can imagine my reaction when I read “What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses the Rest of Us” by Samuel James. The tl;dr of that is “shut up shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP!” I don’t exactly run one of the “watchdog blogs” he references, but if this blog is anything, it’s 400+ posts of criticizing Christian culture and damaging theology. I have many problems with his points, not the least of which is that Jesus spent the bulk of his time on earth criticizing the culturally dominant form of Judaism at the time. Criticizing religion is one of the most Christ-like things one can do.

One the reactions to his post was from Julie Anne, a blogger I respect immensely for the “watchdogging” she does. However, something she said struck me:

And then I discovered that Samuel James had preemptively blocked me on Twitter … Mr. James then went on to block several others who were either bloggers or others who questioned him about his article.

So, what we have here is, “I get to say what I want to say and you don’t get to respond back.”

That’s just rude. It’s also the pattern we see in abusive authority figures:  the no-talk rule. The no-talk rule prevents others from raising the alarm of abuse because any kind of negative talk is shoved under the carpet.

That has me thinking, because my mantra for twitter and other social media platforms is block early, block often. I even installed The Block Bot and I use it at the most restrictive setting. When I first started blogging I was a lot more patient, but as my platform grows so does the harassment. I’m not saying that blocking a misogynistic asshole that reverts to threats and slurs is the same thing as Samuel blocking people who criticized his argument– it’s definitely not, and my door is always open to honest criticism that is given in good faith.

However, I can imagine reaching the point in my blogging when even constructive criticism becomes overwhelming. If I ever get to the point when (heaven help me) big-name bloggers like John Piper or Douglass Wilson or a dozen others spend a serious amount of their time taking me to task and loudly disagreeing with me, I know I’m going to be sorely tempted to shut them out of my social media just so I don’t have to see it.

Is that too terribly different from Samuel deciding to block the people criticizing him on Twitter?

I know there are some differences. He’s a cishet white man who works for the ERLC. People like him have a long and glorious history of stuffing their fingers in their ears when the Stephens of our world speak the truth. The fact that he’s advocating for Christians everywhere to be silent when faced with something “embarrassing” (read: scandalous, corrupt, and abusive) is a huge problem. Him blatantly shutting down any means people have of communicating to him their disagreement is indicative of a disturbing attitude shockingly common in evangelicalism.

So where exactly do I draw the line? I don’t know. I believe that criticism can lead to productive, healthy growth– and that no one should be shielded from it. But I think that possibly we should be able to choose when and where we want to listen to it.

What do you think?

“How to Win Over Depression” review: 88-112

how to win over depression

In the two chapters I’m going over today– “The Place of Anger in Depression” and “Self-Pity and Depression”– Tim makes an argument based on commonly held attitudes among evangelicals and fundamentalists. As I’ve talked about in the past, the common understanding in Tim’s circles is that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions– and the “bad” ones are sinful. In my experience, there are two emotions in particular that seem to be universally reviled in evangelicalism: anger and self-pity. He is building on that assumption, relying on a typical evangelical’s willingness to accept the claim that all anger and all self-pity is sin. That claim becomes the foundation of his argument that all depression comes from sin, because he believes that everyone who becomes depressed were angry and self-pitying first:

A number of individuals with whom I have shared this [claim that all depressed persons are angry] have challenged me, but on further questioning and closer examination, we established the problem [of anger] without exception. (88)

At last we have come to the primary cause of depression … Of one thing I am certain: if the mental thinking patterns of self-pity is not arrested, the person is hopeless. (97-98)

Tim also does something else: he makes his argument unfalsifiable.

I have repeatedly noted that non-depressed people seem to accept this diagnosis [of self-pity] easily. Even individuals usually prone to depression, when not depressed, seldom argue. It is the depressed themselves who seem to rebel against it. (97)

And with that one sentence Tim does what Christians have been doing for millennia: he sets up his argument with the claim that anyone arguing against him proves him right. If I were to approach Tim with mountains of research and personal stories of how depression and self-pity aren’t automatically connected, he would dismiss me outright with “of course you would say that: you’re depressed.”

It amuses (and infuriates) me how people like Tim claim to take the Bible so seriously and yet are completely willing to ignore anything that doesn’t support the argument of the moment. For one thing, Tim says that anger is always sinful (93), and he quotes Ephesians 4:30-32 to support that, arguing that those verses teach that anger always “grieves the Holy Spirit” (92). Except it’s bitterly ironic that he passed over verse 26 to get to there. In case you need a reminder, Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry and sin not.” That does seem to imply that it’s at least possible to be angry without sinning.

The fact that the rest of the passage includes things like “wrath” when God themself is often described as “wrathful” punches gigantic holes in Tim’s argument, but he desperately needs Christians to skip over the parts of the Bible that don’t agree with him; without that, he can’t rhetorically link anger and sin with depression.

But all of the above isn’t even my biggest problem with this chapter. My biggest problem is that he is incredibly formulaic in his approach to this problem (93-96), and in order to be this reductionist he has to but on blinders as big as barns. People are not formulaic. Problems like depression and mental health aren’t formulaic and simple (an argument he anticipates on 98, calling it an “excuse of the intellectual”).

There are many things that I am angry about. Some of the anger is appropriate, some of it misdirected, and it’s my job as a human being to wrestle with that. Anger isn’t always the correct response, but sometimes it is. Sometimes there are money-changers in the temple. One of the things that I am angry about is the fact that there is so much abuse and violence in the world, and I am utterly confident in the assertion that abuse and oppression make God angry, too.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hopefully I’ve already established why linking depression with self-pity is wrong– and hopefully that’s obvious as the noses on our collective faces. However, Tim doesn’t even have a consistent definition of what he considers to be self-pity. To most of us, when we hear “self-pity,” we think of someone who sees themselves strictly as the victim of other people or of circumstance and absolutely refuses to take any steps whatsoever that could help improve their life or emotional well-being.

That is Reason #1 that “self-pity” doesn’t fit as a description for people who are depressed: we rarely see ourselves that way. If anything, it’s the exact opposite; the bone-deep conviction that we are worthless tells us on the daily that we are the ones responsible for everything being so miserable– not other people, and not circumstance.

However, Tim only works with that definition half the time. The rest of the time he confuses it with things like entitlement:

One brilliant but depressed scholar I know holds a Ph.D. and has developed a world-renowned reputation. He had as a young man offered great promise and was expected by those in his field to excel. Having a problem marriage, he drifted into serious patterns of hostility toward his wife. These, in turn, caused him to indulge in the habit of self-pity, which demotivated him. After years of such thinking, he came in for counseling. Having written few articles and never finishing a book, this brilliant man had wasted the creativity potential of a lifetime. Naturally he blamed his wife instead of himself. “If it hadn’t been for that woman, I could have realized my potential.” (102)

On the surface, this seems to fit “self-pity”– the man in this story blames his wife for his failures. However, that’s because Tim doesn’t acknowledge the realities of abuse or abusers, and he skips right over the red flags. I believe that this man had a huge entitlement complex– he believed he deserved to have everything he wanted, and like every other abuser on the planet felt entitled in his relationship with his wife. When his wife turned out to be a human being, he resented her for not living up to his expectations. She was supposed to help him be this accomplished scholar– she didn’t, so it’s all her fault.

The fact that Tim never once acknowledges that abuse can play a part in causing depression crops up over and over again. He tells a story of a young woman who wanted to be a virgin when she got married, but had sex with her husband before their wedding. Tim had this to say:

Self-justification is a natural defense mechanism against self-condemnation, of course, so it was easier to blame him than share the responsibility. Before long her hostility produced self-pity, and finally she became depressed. (103)

If you’ve been around here for long, you should recognize what’s happening there. A woman came to him angry and upset that she and her husband had sex– “blaming” him for taking her virginity. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for a woman to willingly consent to sex and then be upset about it later, but those women don’t usually refuse to acknowledge their part in it. Considering that this was the 60s, I’d bet the moon that this young woman experienced some form of sexual coercion– and it’s possible she was raped.

Later on we get this:

One depressed woman spent most of her time in the counseling room dissecting her husband … Knowing the counselee’s husband as I did, fully aware that he was surly, inconsiderate and unkind … I proceeded to explain that the greater her problem, the greater her grace … Instantly the woman snapped, “I’d rather have a kind husband than the grace!” (106)

Her husband wasn’t even kind. That is basic introductory-level human decency, but Tim doesn’t even address the reality that her husband is an jerk, but instead insists that God will use his behavior to “instruct” her.

The reason why Tim can’t address or acknowledge abuse as a cause for depression is that he knows that it would make his theory monstrous. Saying that we need to “count it all joy” and that “trials” are the way we “grow up spiritually and emotionally” (106) turns into something horrific when you say it to a child that’s had bones broken by their father or a woman raped by her husband. “You need to count your rape for all joy because that’s how you’ll mature” is a horrific nightmare of an argument, and he knows it.

The Prophecy of Amos, Revised

Prophet number 2
[artwork by John Jude Palancar]

Note: what appears in this post isn’t intended to be a translation– it’s a reaction to the words of Amos as I read them in English in the NIV, ESV, King James, and the Message. It’s an interpretation based on trying to find modern meaning and truth in an ancient text. Also, I am aware of the problems of taking passages that apply to ancient Israel and forcing them onto modern-day America.

~~~~~~~~~

Amos 2 : 6-8

This is what God says:

For your sins I will not turn back my wrath.
You sell the innocent for middle-class comfort and
ignore the needs of our immigrants for tomatoes you don’t want to pick.
You climb your corporate ladders on the backs of minorities
And claim that Ferguson and Baltimore “isn’t about race.”

Father and son sexualize and objectify every woman they see
Taught by a culture that says “no means yes and yes means anal
And so you profane my holy name.
You go to church wearing clothes made by sweat shop workers
And drink coffee grown and picked by enslaved children.

Amos 3 : 9-10

Assemble yourselves in the mountains of Afganistan
See the great unrest and the oppression that your interventions have caused.
You gave them weapons to help you,
but then you turned on them and destroyed their government.
You do not know how to do right.
You store up in your bases and forts and air stations all the military might that
Going to war and “preserving our foreign interests” have given you.

Amos 5 : 21-27

I hate, I despise your Passion Conferences
I cannot stand your church services.
Even though you gather the offering every Sunday
I will not accept it.
Though you have “fellowship hour” before Sunday school,
I will have no regard for it.
Away with the noise of Casting Crowns and Third Day!
I will not listen to the music of your electric guitars.

But let justice roll on like the river,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!

Did you bring me your offerings
Ever since the Great Awakening?
You have lifted up the Shrine of your Constitution
The Pedestal of the American Flag
You say the pledge to the Christian Flag–
All of which you have made for yourselves.

Therefore I will make the Almighty Dollar less than the Euro
And destroy the industrial-military-congressional complex
says the Lord, whose name is God.

Amos 6 : 3-7

Go to Canada and look at it;
go from there and to Great Britain
Compare: how many women die in childbirth there?
How many rapists are punished?
You ignore the evils justified by “national security”
And terrorize Pakistan with UAVs and bombs.

You assemble your Ikea furniture
and lounge on Ethan Allen
You dine on lambs shipped from New Zealand
And feast on veal and filet mignon.

Your hipsters strum away on their guitars
And you Christian-ize “Take me to Church” and “Hallelujah.”
And wear T-shirts that parody Facebook and Coca-Cola for your pride.
Your youth groups chug gallons of milk for a contest
And you teach girls to obsess over “modest is hottest.”

But you do not grieve over the black and brown children gunned down by police
And their sisters, handcuffed, who have to watch them die.
Therefore you will go into exile: your lock-ins and potlucks will end.

Amos 9 : 11-15

When I end all of this,
I will restore the communities destroyed by urban programs and gentrification
I will repair the decayed walls of those who live in assisted housing.
I will build it as it should have always been
So that the poor, marginalized, and oppressed can be given what was stolen
Stolen by slave owners and plantations and white privilege.

The days are coming
When corrupt farming conglomerates are overtaken by the migrant workers
And CEOs by the burger-flippers.

New wine will drip from the mountains
And flow from the hills
And I will bring my black and brown and LGBTQ children the justice I require.
They will be given the opportunities cishet white men have always had
They will earn a living wage.

I will plant them in their own land,
Never again to be uprooted.

Says the Lord your God.