I brought forward several issues in my post last week, Thinking About Attending Bob Jones University? Don’t!, that I find of great concern about that institution. Three of the four broader issues are*:
The focus of this post is what all three of these issues have in common.
I begin by sharing a conversation I and four other guys from Bob Jones University had, many years ago now. One of the guys volunteered that he had “disciplined” his fiancé for not being submissive to him. Not really understanding what he meant, I asked him to clarify. He then stated that, as his father (a religious fundamentalists) did when his mother was not submissive to him, he whipped her. This guy went on to become a teacher at the university.
I found the notion that a man would physically whip his wife incomprehensible. I was equally stunned that of the five guys from Bob Jones University participating in this conversation, I was the only one who was taking issue with what was being promoted: that any man has a right to repeatedly (or even once for that matter) physically strike his wife, or fiancé, when she is not being “submissive” to him.
Another of the guys, the man I believed to be the oldest and the wisest among those of us participating in this conversation, who went on to become a teacher at the university and is now a pastor in an independent fundamentalist church, actually came to the defense of the man who had just admitted to physically assaulting his fiancé. He didn’t address whipping one’s fiancé per se, but he positioned the man being the head of his household as how the Bible defines marriage.
And here you have it:
Religious fundamentalism endorses and promotes inequality. And, in my mind, marriage inequality must be redefined!
One of the core beliefs in their system of thinking is that the man is superior to the woman. They teach that, in the god-ordained order of things, the man is just below God. (God created Adam first.) The man even speaks for God as women are to be silent in matters of “the church.”** (Women sinned first.) Women are to be submissive, to be silent***. Fundamentalists proudly hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible.
This belief in male supremacy is one of the core beliefs at the heart of religious fundamentalism. From time to time we can see how badly this plays out in independent fundamentalist circles. I cited these examples in my previous post: the molestation and rape of minors (and blaming the female victims), looking the other way and giving safe haven to those who perpetrate that criminal activity, and deep ties to white supremacists.
In my previous post on these issues, I touched on the issue of homophobia at the university by quoting Bob Jones, III.
I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”
I personally see homophobia as directly related to sexism and racism as all three promote, endorse, justify, and perpetuate inequality and subjugation.
Religious extremists of all affiliations in this country declare that we shouldn’t “redefine marriage.”**** I’m not sure most people stop to think about what the expression “redefine marriage” really means. But to make it sound bad, the expression is often couched in the language of a “war” and an “assault.”
The core values of religious bigotry that actually are assailed include the many faces of inequality: male supremacy, male dominance, female subjugation, sexism, even racism and all of the behaviors that all too often then extend from this type of thinking.
The thought that two people of the same sex, even two people of different races whether of the same sex or not*****, could live together as loving, true equals is a war on subjugation in the name of love. We can’t have marriage equality because we can’t have human equality. From a religious extremist‘s point of view, having two equals in any relationship messes with the divine order of things.
Human equality is antithetical to religious extremism: You can’t beat on your wife if she is your equal. You can’t enslave, own, buy, or sell people if they are your equal. You can’t deny poor people the right to vote if they are your equal. You can’t deny marriage equality if every law abiding citizen in this country is your equal.
Why do I believe marriage equality has so quickly gained traction with the majority of Americans: because the core value of our democracy is the equality of every citizen. Religious extremists are actually assailing a fundamental American value: fairness. It’s really hard to paint fairness as “an abomination” as Bob Jones, III, in my opinion, tries to do.
This is, quite simply, a fairness issue, and the American people have a very keen sense of fair play.
Sexism, racism, and homophobia have absolutely no place in our democracy. They simply are not fair. They are wrong.
In this video, Lawrence O’Donnell makes some great points about “redefining marriage.”
*The fourth issue was lack of accreditation.
**With little accountability, this type of thinking can very easily actually become, for all practical purposes, the man is God!
***Did you notice from my previous post how deeply rooted the concept of “silence” is in the comment from the woman who admonished me for speaking out against the molestation and rape of a child, the cover up, and providing safe haven for the perpetrator?! Of all people on the planet to stand against these types of criminal behavior, one would think women would lead! But she has been so deeply steeped in the silence of submission, she can not imagine speaking out against this heinous wrong. The 20/20 special even documents victims (children) who, even as adults, found it almost impossible to report their abuse to the police because they truly believed God would disapprove of their doing so, and that somehow they themselves were to blame.
****Maggie Gallager and Tony Perkins seem to be the ones most often in the media speaking against marriage equality, as if they speak for all people of faith. Certainly, they do not. I suspect that Bob Jones, III, isn’t used because he is just too vituperate for mainstream America–what with his saying stoning gays today isn’t a bad idea and would solve “the problem of homosexuality” post-haste.
*****Bob Jones, Sr., Bob Jones, Jr., and Bob Jones, III, all denied black people admission to Bob Jones University for many years. They said this policy wasn’t racist, but rather Biblical–that inter-racial dating and marriage was against what the Bible taught, and having single blacks and whites at college would promote inter-racial marriage. The word “abomination” was frequently used, and the story of the Tower of Babel was often told to explain what God wanted.