In response to Christian Red Guards, BradA wrote:
I agree with the principles you are posting on Dalrock, but Christianity Today has had a leftward tilt at least since I was in college in the 1980s. I am not sure it is accurate to even call it Christian, in spite of its name.
This is a fair question, but the issue isn’t just about which Christian media outlets are busy lynching Pastor Abedini in response to absurd accusations that he is abusing his wife in the US from an Iranian prison. This isn’t just about what Christianity Today, Christian Today, Religion News Service, Charisma News, Shattered Magazine, and others are writing about the persecuted Pastor. This is also about the silence from other Christian media organizations and Christian leaders while Pastor Abedini is being lynched in Christian media.
Outside of this small corner of the blogosphere, who will call out the injustice? Who will point out the absurdity of defining looking at pornography not just as sexual sin, but as domestic violence, as sexual abuse? Who will point out the absurdity of accusing a husband of abusing his wife from inside an Iranian prison seven thousand miles away? Who will point out the obvious violation of 1 Tim 5:19?
The problem isn’t that the Christian Red Guards are running amok, the problem is that everyone else is too terrified to stand up to them. The most likely Christian leaders to fight against this insanity are the complementarians, but they are terrified of being accused of supporting the abuse of women.
This is their greatest fear.
To understand the mortal terror complementarians have of being accused of supporting the abuse of women, you have to understand their frame of mind. They believe that the existence of feminism is proof of grievous abuses by Christian men. They believe that if men are godly enough, women will happily submit to their husbands and thrive. Under this view Adam’s sin wasn’t just that he followed Eve’s lead in the Garden, but that he allowed her to sin (or created the conditions required for her to sin) in the first place.
You can see this in the founding statement of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The CBMW is by far the most predominant complementarian group, and their 1988 Danvers Statement declares that they are formed (among other things) as a response to:
6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;
From the beginning they haven’t been able to see that feminists were generating hysteria around domestic violence and using this hysteria as a tool to attack headship. They believe, and they have believed from their inception, that the feminist claims of rampant wife abuse was an honest response to a sudden and mysterious surge in domestic violence.
In the Spring of 2003 the CBMW published A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship in their Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In this corrective Steven Tracy writes:
It is often asserted that patriarchy, broadly defined as the legitimation of male authority over females, is the basis for most, if not all social pathologies. For instance, Russ Funk states
Tracy then quotes Funk’s feminist rant on the patriarchy:
Patriarchy is a terrible, violent, vile system that destroys huge pieces of all of us-our individual humanness and humanness in general. Patriarchy creates men who choose to act oppressively and violently, who create huge systems of destruction… . Patriarchy is a death system. It is a system based on destruction, violence, and degradation.3
Tracy quotes this to remind his readers that biblical patriarchy is a frightening thing. Tracy disagrees with Funk’s indictment of the patriarchy, but only slightly. His main concern is that we not dismiss what radical feminists like Funk have to say about patriarchy (emphasis mine):
It might be tempting to casually dismiss such criticisms, especially given the theological and ethical views of many radical feminists who deny for example, the substitutionary atonement (calling it “divine child abuse”),4 reject historic Christian orthodoxy in favor of neo-paganism and goddess worship, and stridently promote lesbianism and abortion.5 At the same time, we must never soften our commitment to the truth, wherever it may lead us. If feminists have identified legitimate concerns, they must be fiercely addressed. Sadly, while biblical complementarians oppose the abuse of male leadership, they have been extremely slow to address specific issues of male abuse in a detailed fashion.6
While patriarchy is not the cause of all the world’s social ills, a corruption of patriarchy very often is a major cause of many ills. Given the nature of human depravity with its tendency to corrupt divine gifts, it should not surprise us to find that male headship is often twisted to generate horrible evil. Donald Bloesch astutely observes: “In opposing militant feminism, however, we must not make the mistake of enthroning patriarchal values that have often held women and children in bondage and oppression.”7 Similarly, in the context of noting the harmful results of egalitarianism, which he says are anarchy or matriarchy, he issues a sober warning: “a very real danger in the patriarchal family is tyranny in which the husband uses his power to hold his wife and children in servile dependence and submission.”8
Widespread abuse of male power is anticipated and condemned in Scripture.
If the term “servile dependence and submission” rings a bell, it is because this is a nod to another point in the CBMW’s founding document. In the Danvers Statement, the CBMW invented a new sin for wives, the feminist sin of servility:
4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women(Genesis 3:1-7, 12, 16).– In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.
Keep in mind that the CBMW is the vanguard of the modern Christian fight against feminism, and they are at best ambivalent towards the idea of biblical gender roles. When feminists started expanding the definition of abuse to include any husband a wife wanted to gain power over, they responded by asserting that feminists were right in their hysteria. Turning this back now will be even harder than it would have been decades ago, and on top of that this case involves allegations of a man viewing pornography.
If we do see a complementarian speaking out against the Christian media lynching Pastor Abedini, this will no doubt create a fracture in the complementarian movement. Speaking out on this topic involves the risk of being seen as supporting the abuse of wives and supporting the use of pornography; for any lone leader who tries to take a stand, even a wishy washy stand, others will be eager to renounce them in order distance themselves from these terrifying charges as much as possible.