Saturday, April 5, 2008

God's Name in Vane

When I signed on to my AOL account today, the big news was the removal of 52 young girls from a fundamentalist Christian camp in Texas. According to the story girls from the ages of 6 months to 17 years were taken into temporary custody while the state investigated allegations of physical abuse made by one of the girls. In the end 18 girls were put into State custody.

There are several elements of this story I found disturbing. First of all, the allegations include that at least two sixteen year-olds were married to older relatives and that this was facilitated by the head of their church. In fact, the article I read indicated that one of the 16 year-olds had been married off to a 50 year old man. There were indications of polygamy. Now I’m a big supporter of the First Amendment. I believe in the separation of church and state. I don’t think the government has a right to tell me how to pray or what to believe. I’m not all that upset by polygamy as long as the people are consenting adults and are not being coerced. That’s their business. I also don’t think the government has any business in someone’s bedroom or telling people how to raise their children. Unless people are getting hurt and if the allegations in this case are true, it seems that that is the case.

I know I’m gonna take flack for this. I know I’m going to make someone angry. I know that in times past it wasn’t uncommon for there to be arranged marriages. I know it wasn’t uncommon for a 16 year-old to be married and even married to an older man. I know someone will tell me about their grandmother who was married at 14 to a man 4 times her age and how it was a loving and happy marriage.

But if the allegations are true this is just wrong. There is a big difference between a 16 year-old girl marrying her 18 year old boyfriend because they were too stupid, arrogant or afraid to use birth control. In my eyes, if that’s why they’re getting married it’s not exactly a good idea either.

Another question that this raised was “What about the boys?” Girls were removed, but what about the boys involved in this group? Was it that they had no evidence or suspicion of physical abuse to the boys? If so, and they truly believe the girls were in danger, then the State people are stupid. Systemic abuse, which is what seems to be being alleged here, is not discriminatory. If the girls are being physically harmed, so are the boys.

This brings up a subject no one in our society wants to talk about, one we are so loath to consider that we rationalize it away. Males can be victims of sexual abuse. While we all intellectually know this to be true, it is a strong message in our society that there is a distinct difference between sexual abuse perpetrated against a girl and that which targets a boy. We as a society have been fighting back against the stigma that a woman or girl “asked for” the abuse or rape. We see them as victims.

We don’t often afford men and boys the same consideration. If a man reports a rape, the associated stigma is much stronger. So strong that the majority of male victims never report sexual assaults for fear of being ridiculed, thought to be weak or even worse in some people’s eyes, being labeled homosexual. If a girl of 15 or 16 is seduced by an older man, we see that as a crime. If a boy of 15 or 16 is seduced by an older woman, people don’t react the same way. The reaction is often one of “lucky boy.” Maybe this is why stories of female teachers engaging in inappropriate relations with their students get national news coverage, while male teachers are often limited to the local paper. Society finds it titillating and shocking to see a woman as an abuser.

The final issue this story raised for me was one of sympathy. Sympathy for the fundamentalist Christians who so often are painted with the same brush as those who engage in behavior that is scandalous, immoral or illegal. Stories like this can perpetuate the image of Christian groups as “crazy” or hypocritical. And it is often made worse by the comments of people who respond to blogs and stories online. When people see a story like this one, one in which no one has been convicted of a crime. One in which we are talking about a small fringe element, it reinforces the negative stereotype of Christians as intolerant and clandestinely sick or depraved. When someone posts a comment on a blog blasting one or another minority group or individual and using God as a justification, it can harden the hearts of the world against Christians as a whole.

None of us can control the extremists or crazies of groups to which we belong. As a Christian I’m appalled and horrified that anyone would use God and the loving message of Jesus to justify harming anyone. So as a Christian I have a message for those extremists. Stop using Jesus as an excuse to be a narrow-minded, bigoted, depraved asshole. And yes, I just cussed. Somehow, I think God will understand.

Reminder, the contest is still going and I’m getting some very creative answers. Don’t be shy, it only takes a moment to enter. You can enter up 'til April 11th to win the 17" double strand of freshwater pearls and amethyst beads. The contest is to celebrate the wonderful response of readers and reviewers to Mating Stone. In Mating Stone, Mark falls in love with Sarah. Sarah, a young human woman who has no idea that Were’s even exist beyond novels and movies. Strictly fictional. As a human woman, how do you react when your Mr. Yummy tells you he’s the one with claws and may just leave fur on the sheets? So tell me: What type of Were is Mr. Wonderful and how does he break it to you? Email your answer to

1 comment:

Janet H said...

Well said.

I agree with you down to the last sentence.