If you think the fact that she attends an Evangelical church will do anything to stop a woman from divorcing her husband, think again. Most churches wouldn’t say a word. I recently heard from someone whose pastor justified a woman divorcing her husband and destroying her family because her husband had an “emotional affair,” an Evangelical invention that deserves a post of its own.
In the end, the supposed moral guardians at many churches have caved and will continue to cave into the pressure to conform to a culture that sees refusal to approve a woman’s desire to divorce for any reason as a vestige of patriarchal oppression.
None of this should surprise anyone familiar with the Evangelical subculture. Go to pretty much any Evangelical church service in this country, and you’ll notice that, in spite of all the media blather to the contrary, the people there are actually pretty “normal.” The mega-church on the corner is not full of reactionary firebrands bent on destroying the mechanisms of modernity.
In fact, most people there will be much more steeped in modernist modes of thinking than they are in traditional Christian belief. Most of them aren’t going to believe anything all that different from their secular neighbors. This is certainly going to be the case when it comes to feminism.
Feminism is just the name we give to the modern desire to overthrow the traditional structure of relationships between the sexes. Most people in church have fully assented to that project.
I’ve written about this before, especially after this post by Rollo Tomassi sparked my thinking on this topic and caused me to pull together strands of observations I’ve made over the years. This is the third post in a series on the topics of men, tradition, and the church.
In the last post, I laid out four beliefs that have filtered more traditional men out of the church, especially out of church leadership. In this post, I want to expand on the first one: the belief that feminist depictions of women’s nature and situations are true.
The degree to which basic feminist assumptions have been taken for granted in most of the church can barely be overstated. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that every church, let alone every member of every church, is a committed feminist, but that almost everyone in most Evangelical churches accepts two or three ideas foundational to the feminist worldview. Here are the most common ones:
1.Traditional structures of male-female relationships were oppressive and unfair to women.
2. Men are, by their nature, more inclined to sin than women, and trouble between them is more likely to stem from men’s brutishness than any other source.
3. Good Christians must oppose the oppression previously enacted against women by helping to restructure relationships between the sexes.
The easy justification of divorce is an example of all three of these in action.
The belief that traditional structures of male-female relationships are inherently oppressive makes it easy to give divorce the go-ahead. Given that the belief in female moral superiority is an unspoken matter of faith in most evangelical churches, it follows that any woman who wants to divorce must be doing so from the pure motives of the perennial victim.
Since evangelicals also generally believe men are more inclined to sin than women, escaping from evil, oafish men is the only reason evangelical leaders can imagine a women desiring to divorce. No woman would ever, it’s typically assumed, divorce frivolously or for selfish motives. The idea that traditional marriage is oppressive to women and the idea that women are morally superior combine to allow Evangelical church leader to shirk their duties while still earning feminist approval points.
All this is possible because most evangelical leaders now would rather be perceived as being quick to approve divorce, something historic Christianity strongly prohibited, than to be perceived as participating in the “oppression” of women.
Being a champion of women’s liberation from traditional institutions and practices is an important part of many evangelical leaders self-image. To tell a woman she must not divorce even for the flimsiest of reasons would be to damage many pastors’ view of themselves. In the end, protecting their self-image is more important to them than protecting the sanctity of marriage and the children it produces.
The problem of churches that have accepted the fundamental assertions of feminism isn’t limited to divorce. These assumptions show up in many places in the evangelical subculture, from its emphasis on emotion-laden services to its constant clamoring about “social justice.”
Of course, the end result of embracing feminist principles is that the Evangelical church has become hostile to traditional men. It rejects our mindset, our viewpoint and our value. As a result, traditional men have walked away, and left the church in the hands of the kind of men frightened to step in and prevent the destruction of families and, by extension, the kind of men frightened to step in and prevent the destruction of civilization.
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