Thursday, April 29, 2010

at last, the religious right gets honest

From Exposing the Christian Right's New Racial Playbook News & Politics AlterNet:

At the Freedom Federation meeting, Rodriguez's rhetoric epitomized how the religious right is reframing its core issues to build a new army for "spiritual warfare" on sexual impurity and its consequences. Appearing on a panel moderated by Richard Land, who for decades has been the public and political face of the Southern Baptist Convention in Washington, Rodriguez said, "Let me be very blunt here. I don't believe white evangelicals or white conservatives alone can repudiate the spirit of Herod, the spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah, the spirit of Jezebel."

During the summit's closing rally, Rev. Arnold Culbreath, an African-American minister from Cincinnati, Ohio, admonished young women for their lack of purity. Culbreath is billed as the urban outreach director of Life Issues Institute, Inc., an anti-abortion organization, and the leader of the group's Black Life Initiative. "I want to say a word to the young ladies: Stop making it so easy for the young men," Culbreath said. His words were met with applause. "God has designed us to be the pursuers," he continued, "and you to be the pursuees." [emphasis mine]

Before, the religious right had always tip-toed around their obsession with gender roles and appropriate feminine behavior. Oh, sure - they want to save babies and segregate gays, but they'd never cop to the charge that they focused on these issues because a reproductively autonomous woman or gay man/woman challenged notions of hyper-patriarchy and 'natural order.'

They'd just chalk it up to God or the Bible and hide their intentions behind mealy-mouthed Jesus-talk.

But at last, their agenda is overt: in order to break the hold the Dems have over African American and Latino votes, the christian right is overtly positioning themselves to be the voice of pre-modernity by going after those issues that cross all racial/ethnic lines: killing teh babehs, gays, and sluts.

What's the spirit of Herod? Abortion.
The spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexuality.
The spirit of Jezebel? Those goddamned women who like sex, have sex and use birth control, aren't married, flout (male) authority, work outside the home, feminists, loud-mouthed bitches and so on. In other words, women like me. Or you. Just .... women.

The social ick factor posed by abortion, homosexuality and feminism for religious conservatives has never been in doubt. But it's interesting to see how they've pitched race out the window in order to unify disparate factions under a banner everyone can get behind: hetero-coersive patriarchy.

Can I get an amen? (I'll write later about thoughts of how this movement appeals to the not so latent patriarchal tendencies among some black clergy and how it soothes their fear of the 'Sapphire' and tries to build a cage around black women's agency in order to support and protect the black male ego.)

And they're willing to build a socio-political movement behind it:

That vision of social justice is -- like the traditional religious right -- anti-government and theocratic. For the "multiracial" Freedom Federation, it is focused on saving black and brown babies from the spirit of Herod. In a panel discussion on social justice, Engle said, "prostitution in America is fueled majorly [sic] out of the foster care system. Government is going to produce that kind of thing. Here is where the church becomes the outrageous lover, the outrageous answer." [emphasis mine]

(It's interesting to note how Engle's thinking turns the government into a pimp - and, of course, there won't be any thinking about how such a hyper-patriarchal model of gender creates the man who buys the trafficked woman... )

The way Engle connects domestic trafficking to the foster care system makes me take a closer look at the ways that evangelical groups have begun to advocate around international and domestic sex trafficking and wonder how their advocacy on those issues(the presence of which anti-violence against women groups have warily welcomed) is going to merge with this new fight to rescue America from the Herods, Sodomites and Jezebels among us.

And how are their wary feminist/pro-woman partners going to navigate that?

(I'm thinking specifically of particular 'rescue and restore' ministries that have worked with established feminist anti-trafficking groups; these groups have very heavy 'American patriot' overtones/imagery and a definite vibe of 'manly Christian men rescuing endangered frail, corrupted woman in order to restore her to home and hearth, where she rightfully belongs.' It is a discourse ripped directly from the 19th century Victorian playbook.)

The religious right has always fascinated me. One, because I come from it and understand it; and two, because their narratives and goals are so very, very narrow and familiar. Throughout history there have been those who have fought to hold back time and progress. Despite the lessons to be learned in literature, history, art and psychology about the unhappiness and damage such a narrowly defined culture can produce, they fight on.

And keep losing. For every women who is educated, employed, empowered and autonomous, beholden to no one, they lose.

I hope we women are strong enough for this fight again.
Bible story time!
Who is Jezebel?

It's one of the most vivid and violent stories in the Old Testament. I read it constantly when I was a little girl.  Jezebel is married to Ahab, who covets a man's land. Ahab dithers so his wife strategizes to steal the land, kill the owner and make the land a gift to Ahab. The prophet Elijah forsees doom because of their sin and when the kingdom is attacked, Ahab dies in battle and Elijah orders Jehu to find Jezebel and throw her from the highest tower. The dogs lick her blood and eat her body, leaving only her hands, feet and head - the tools that schemed, wrote the order and delivered the gift to Ahab. 

And....that's who sexually impure women are supposed to be: scheming, murderous, manipulative sluts who deserve to be thrown off a tower and eaten by dogs.

(Think I'm exaggerating? Church folk interpret this story exactly like this.)

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