Monday, February 1, 2010

Future, future, burning bright.

I was feeling pretty optimistic about the future of society last week. I fixed that by reading Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler.

I'm just going to type out some overall impressions.

One of the things she described was Mark Driscoll's church, and part of the doctrine where the woman marries, stays at home, and raises the children. Preferably lots of children, so that the culture can shift to a conservative Christian one in the next twenty years or so. It's like a subdued version of the Quiverfull movement.

Women can choose whatever path they want. They can work and have children. They can stay at home and have children. They can have no children whatsoever. The path they take depends on their dreams, their desires, what they want in life. Their individuality. In Mark Driscoll's doctrine, that individuality is stripped from them. Biology is destiny. If you're born a woman, than you have one path and one path alone in life. The woman herself doesn't matter. Her individuality doesn't matter. In that movement, all women are alike because all women -- if they want to be "Biblical" -- must have lots of children and stay home with them. The only value they have is their biology, whereas the men are allowed to have more dreams than simply procreation.

And yet, he says he constantly preaches that people can "come as they are."

Uh-huh. I am more than my uterus, and yet this doctrine can't see past that one organ in my body.

The book also went into how many evangelicals are changing to the culture. Not in terms of the pre-marital sex or anything, but in terms of what kids like. They'll discuss tattoos, they'll discuss skateboarding, they'll discuss video games or wrestling. Evangelicals plug into the culture that the youth follow, and then from there, are able to sway young people into becoming evangelicals themselves. This even extends to concerts, where they'd send out fliers, and then when non-Christians attended, they'd be so emotionally overwhelmed that they'd convert to Christianity.

All of these are excellent marketing techniques. They're also incredibly manipulative, as all marketing techniques are. It uses the kids interests or emotional vulnerabilities against them, in order to have them change to what the Christians want.

The last section of the book was dedicated to the "End Times" craze, and how since so many Christians are convinced that Jesus will return any second now, it's pointless to try and help those who are homeless, suffering, end wars, work on the environment -- basically, there's no point in trying to make sure anyone has a future as that future will be gone when Jesus comes back in the next second or so. Rather, all the time should be spent saving souls (and ignoring any state of suffering said soul might be in).

I could spend blog post after blog post about how angry that viewpoint makes me. Perhaps even try and reverse Pascal Wager it: since there have been a lot of discredited "End Time" claims, why not at least work on stabilizing the future in case Jesus doesn't come back?

One of the reviews of this book at amazon said that it was "alarmist." I'm very much hoping the reviewer is wrong.

12 comments:

Bruce said...

Welcome to the wasteland called Evangelicalism.

I read the book awhile back. Just a reminder that the core message and ideology has not changed much. The methodology changes but not the message.

Driscoll is problematic on many levels. He is an **shole. He is a Calvinist. He has a huge following and seems to really appeal to young pastors. He is a fundamentalist that cusses and doesn't have some of the social strictures of other fundamentalists.

Bruce

Xander said...

Surprised you read the book. I can't stand the guy personally.

Lorena said...

Interestingly, other than the part about not using birth control, everything else is mainstream evangelical Christianity. Which doesn't change the picture much: the woman is to use her uterus to procreate and the rest of her body to please her husband. The brain, apparently, was put there by God as pure decoration.

As for the "marketing" stuff, which I call rhetoric techniques, is not only used but shamelessly promoted. Looking back, I see how dishonest it is to lure people in with seemingly harmless activities, and then hit them with guilt and a Jesus-loves-you emotional appeal. When I was a Christian, though. I thought it was great. That's how blind I was. I guess they justify the means with "noble" ends.

OneSmallStep said...

Bruce,

**He has a huge following and seems to really appeal to young pastors. He is a fundamentalist that cusses and doesn't have some of the social strictures of other fundamentalists.**

Yes. So much of the movement seems focused on his personality, and not what he terms "the Gospel." I bet, though, if Christianity had a looser structure before now, he wouldn't be so popular. It's like the curse words make them feel they get away with something.

But I remember his comment about how pastors wouldn't cheat if their wives wouldn't "let themselves go." You know, the wives feel secure now that they have a husband, so they don't bother doing any physical maintenance. Oh, where to start with that one. It didn't cast either sex in a good light, but now I want to say, "Wait a minute. Not only are women supposed to run a household, have a bunch of children (which does come with a weight gain), but also make sure they have enough physical exercise to remain in peak physical condition? *And* have a ton of children?"

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

The book was written by a secular author who did investigative journalism into this evangelical mindset. Driscoll only covered a chapter or so, which is how I could get through the book. ;)

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**The brain, apparently, was put there by God as pure decoration.**

Weird. I thought it was put there to make sure the skull didn't collapse on itself.

**Looking back, I see how dishonest it is to lure people in with seemingly harmless activities, and then hit them with guilt and a Jesus-loves-yo emotional appeal.**

Yes. If your message needs to be hidden that much, then perhaps you should reevaluate your message.

the chaplain said...

...the core message and ideology has not changed much. The methodology changes but not the message.

This is exactly right, in my experience.

If your message needs to be hidden that much, then perhaps you should reevaluate your message.

That's obvious to me now. When I was an evangelical, I believed that Christians had to "meet the lost where they were and build bridges to bring them to where God wanted them to be." At the time, I didn't see it as masking the message or sneaking it into something else.

OneSmallStep said...

Chaplain,

**At the time, I didn't see it as masking the message or sneaking it into something else.**

I'm not sure this can be seen while in the mindset, because I would say that evangelicals don't define is as masking the message or manipulation. Rather, they're doing the most loving thing possible, which is to save people from hell -- and thus reaching people on the level they're at.

Bruce said...

By all means save "some". The end really justifies the means.

We routinely used evangelistic techniques that were manipulative and deceptive. As long as someone got saved that's all that mattered.

Of course people who realize they were tricked into getting saved don't make for good Church members. That's why the turnover was so high.

Our method was simple: Win them, wet them , work them, waste them.

Bruce

Jon said...

I'm with you on the whole role of women thing. Must be frustrating to be a woman and hear that sort of stuff. With the boot on the other foot, I've met quite a few strong women who are fierce advocates of the "keeper at home" as the biblical model for womanhood. They don't notice the paradox of their exercising leadership by advocating a role based on the idea that women shouldn't be leaders. I also wonder if its a form of retreat, hiding behind a man and a home because the wide world is a scary place. It also puts the husbane in a box because he has to be the bold hunter-gatherer when perhaps he'd be better suited as a nurturer and carer but his wife monopolises that role because she has nothing else.

OneSmallStep said...

Jon,

It is frustrating.

**I've met quite a few strong women who are fierce advocates of the "keeper at home" as the biblical model for womanhood.**

I wonder if it's because they have nothing else -- they don't have the skills to hold a well-paying job, and thus are completely dependent upon their husband's income. It's in their best interest that everyone follow that "biblical" model of womanhood.

Jon said...

There's probably something in that. But not for all - I'm talking about intelligent, well-educated women. I think part of it is that's the role models they see growing up, so they find it hard to see other possibilities. Then partly its anxiety - home seems a safe place. What really makes me worried about it is that another thing that goes with it is home schooling, so their daughters get driven into the same mould.