Monday, November 13, 2017

An Evangelical Culture of abuse?

The US is currently being rent with claims of sexual harassment and assault.  The powerful #metoo meme has gone around social media, and men as well as women have been brave enough to come out as survivors of abuse.  The fall of media mogul Harvey Weinstein led to widespread denunciation, and return of his donations from politicians and universities.  Academe is jolted by revelations and is grappling with how to deal with claims old and new.

Spectacularly at odds with this, in the state of Alabama, archconservative Christian judge Roy Moore (who was removed from office twice for contempt of court) has been accused of inappropriate activity with teenage girls years ago, including sexually fondling a 14 year old.  In a relentlessly sourced report, the Washington Post has found evidence for his predilection for girls in their early teens, and this has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal.  A former colleague remembers him hanging out with teens at malls, when he was in his 30s.

Astonishingly, the right wing has circled the wagons, and a number of evangelicals say they are MORE likely to vote for Moore given these accusations (that sound is my mind, boggling).

What's going on here?

In an op-ed in the LA Times, Kathryn Brightbill (a survivor of hard-core home school Evangelicalism) reports on a culture that blames the girls for the fall of men.
WWe need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage. That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.
I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms.
She goes on,
As a teenager, I attended a lecture on courtship by a home-school speaker who was popular at the time. He praised the idea of “early courtship” so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband. The girl’s father was expected to direct her education after the courtship began so she could help her future husband in his work. 
In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is “predation.”
David Atkins explains,
In their world, young women are a burden to their families, a constant temptation to sin, their bodies a Devil’s playground. For them, the goal of an upstanding parent is to raise sons who will defend their honor and their heritage by any means necessary, and to raise daughters who will keep their own honor pure via chastity until they can be transferred to the “care” of an approved man in an arrangement sanctioned by both sides and by their God. From this perspective, age of consent laws are an inconvenience merely allowing more time for young women to develop rebellious habits and engage in unbecoming conduct.
The man is not at fault here, because she wickedly tempted him.  Nancy LeTourneau:

What actually shocks me is that many of Roy Moore’s defenders aren’t even bothering to defend him by denying the charges that he preyed on a 14 year-old girl. Instead, they’re saying that “there’s nothing illegal or immoral here,” or that somehow it was consensual. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as “consensual” when it comes to a sexual encounter between a 32-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.
And this is the take-home:
Has the tribalism of our politics gone so far that people are now willing to excuse the behavior of sexual predators because they’re on “our team?” Or is there more to it than that? Frankly, this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve heard people dismiss the sexual assault of a teenager because they are old enough to consent. This story is a reminder that there is still a lot of denial in this country about what it means to be a sexual predator.

1 comment:

Marshall Scott said...

And this from David Von Drehle. (From the Kansas City Star. Von Drehle writes for the Washington Post, but actually lives in the Kansas City area.)