the evangelical demonization of women

"Twins!" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Twins!” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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When Franklin Graham said about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini, “Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives”, I immediately saw what was being suggested.

Saeed is a Christian hero because he was imprisoned and tortured for his faith.
Naghmeh was his good wife who defended and worked tirelessly for his release.
After much prayer and work, Saeed is released.
But Naghmeh exposes years of spousal abuse.
People say it is about their marriage and they need counseling.
She doesn’t accept this and says Saeed has serious problems she’s the victim of.
Others continue to try to focus the attention back on Naghmeh’s failure of faith.
It is implied that if the marriage breaks up, Satan wins.
But the real reason it will break up is because the husband is abusive.
Naghmeh will not take it anymore.

My question is: Why isn’t Satan blamed for the abuse of a woman? Why, rather, is Satan blamed, and implicitly the woman, when she walks away from harm?

This has roots in scripture. For example, here’s just one verse, 2 Corinthians 11:3… “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

Even Naghmeh’s resilience, resoluteness, and intelligence, will be interpreted as dishonoring to the gospel.

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23 Responses

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    Having graduated from one of the shining big Evangelical Colleges, I concur that the Bible is the cause of much oppression on women. Or at least used to reinforce male dominance which uses whatever it can to get what it wants. Religion is just an easy tool for me. It stirs the need for identity, need for security, need for meaning, need to feel acceptable to public and the superstitious side wanting miracles and special favors. Religion grabs the taboo part of the brain and abuses the hell out of it.

    Options: try to change a religion (liberalize scripture interpretation, make new theologies …) or expose religion and hope more people leave. Both are fine for me, accept the former usually passively reinforces the thing they think they are changing, all the while keeping them comfortable.

    Sorry, not following the particulars of Naghmeh case — they are a dime-a-dozen. Same cause: religion! Cure the disease at the root. And don’t make it so easy for men to have such a easy-to-use tool.

  2. I’m not sure I blame religion fully. Although I do feel religion is complicit. I think religions emerge out of, in the past, patriarchal societies, so in many ways the religion is a projection of the patriarchy. Then the religion becomes a thing that feeds into the patriarchy’s values, creating a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped. The answer is not just rejecting the religion, but also rejecting the values that created it and are nourished by it.

  3. Korrine says:

    A message for Naghmeh: I believe you. I have been where you are, although not so publicly. There will be days when you feel you will break – and you might. But you will pick up the pieces, put them back together the best you can, and move forward. You deserve love, and you deserve peace. You will find strength you didn’t know you had, and when that strength runs out, your sisters, the women who have been where you are, will lend you theirs.

    You are believed. You are worthy of the efforts you are making. You can do this.

  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ David,
    AGAIN, I did not say “I blame religion fully” — please read my comment.
    Indeed, I said the opposite.
    Why do you do that? This is just like your “annihilation” comment.

  5. Sabio: Again, I did not mean that you said that. I know you didn’t. I’m just trying to clarify my own thought. As in I said something then you said something then i want to say something to expand on my thought, not correct yours.

  6. Autumn says:

    Where muslims and evangelicals share striking similarities is on this very subject. See there…even enemies can agree on something!

  7. Brigitte says:

    Blaming Satan is not like blaming the woman. Blaming Satan takes the blame out of the relationship, so we can view it more objectively. There is a force of evil at work, in each of us. As we keep hearing, the dividing line between good and evil runs right through the middle of everyone’s heart. So we have to ask, what is actually evil here? Physical abuse is evil. Sexual abuse is evil. Sexual slavery is evil. Detaining people in prison for their faith is evil. Beating and torturing, not to mention kill people, any people, and especially dissidents (or so-called Kufars, or let’s mention it, also, homosexuals), in or out of prison is evil. Adultery by pornography addiction and any other method, is evil. And so on. And yes, I think it is helpful to realize that there is a tempter to all this evil and he works in each one. We need to beware and fight against him/it. Brushing evangelical teaching with the same brush as with what goes ok with Mohammed and Islam, is also evil, I dare say, here. (Gnostics won’t like any of this, because Satan is the good guy, there.)

  8. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ David: I’d suggest taking care on that front. Most would agree that such replies imply what I am saying. When you say, “I’m not sure I blame religion fully.” It certainly implies someone accused you of it. Mean it or not, it is how it reads.
    You could have written,
    “I know you don’t blame religion fully and neither do I.” But later in your reply you say “The answer is not just rejecting the religion, but also rejecting the values that created it and are nourished by it.” And I suppose that IS addressed to me. See how you mix your messages but then claim you don’t?”

    I claim that rejecting the religion can indeed be a very good start at curing sexism — it is an easy manipulative too. For those that can’t reject but must keep playing the religion game, then reform and stuff can help, of course.

  9. No that wasn’t directed at you either. Same reasons.

    Do you really think that the rejection of religion can be a very good start at curing sexism? I’m not sure about that. Religion, in my opinion, is a vehicle to express sexism. But, like I said, it also creates it. That vicious cycle. To reject religion might force sexism to find other ways to exist and manifest. Don’t you think? I’m not sure. Just discussing.

  10. Gary says:

    David you know I’m no fan of organized religion. But I agree with your point entirely that sexism was not created by religion. I believe religion grows out of the trappings of the culture in which it exists. This is one of the reasons why I believe what I have heard to be true; that to a people of war their god will be a god of war, and to a people of peace their god will be a god of peace. But I do clearly see religion as an amplifier of sexism among a host of other societal problems.

  11. Amplifier’s a good word. Yes, I agree. Though it’s also the electricity that powers it. And we’re the ones that plug it in. Never mind… getting carried away.

  12. Sabio Lantz says:

    So wait, “religion is the electricity that powers sexism and the amplified of sexism”, so where is the harm in just giving up on religion? Sounds like a curative move to me. — not total, of course, but a great beginning.

    [well, accept that some people just can’t, of course]

    David, then you asked, “To reject religion might force sexism to find other ways to exist and manifest. Don’t you think? I’m not sure. Just discussing.”

    Really? So you think we should keep religion so sexism has a place to park itself? You see, religion, as you have rightly criticized, is generally about stopping questions — you see, “sacred” means “hands off dude”. So if you want to give sexism a great place to hide, keep religions, holy books, holy men — shut down discussion — that is religion’s strength. But if you close religion, we can talk more easily about it — for surely it will still be that (always has been), but it will be in secular circles where we can talk about whatever we want. Well, unless your government becomes totalitarian.

    Answer: “No, we should not keep religion for sexists to hide behind, the sacred — bring them out in the open. Bring everything out in the open, stop God-Talk.”

    Sure, some people need it. I get it. Sure it has its benign side but the dangerous sides are huge.

  13. Caryn LeMur says:

    I rewrote what I believe should have been Franklin’s proper (and Biblical) statement.

    To be fair to his religious orientation, I kept his intro and conclusion. My changes are in caps (not for shouting, but for ease of reading):

    “I was one of millions of people around the world praying for the release of Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. It was an honor to finally be able to meet him last week. This young man has spent 3 ½ years of his life in jail for his faith, where he was beaten and tortured.

    NAGHMEH, HIS WIFE, HAS STATED THAT A CYCLE OF ABUSE WAS PRESENT WITHIN THEIR RELATIONSHIP.

    WE TAKE SUCH STATEMENTS SERIOUSLY.

    A CYCLE OF ABUSE IS VICIOUS, DESTROYING THE WIFE AND THE CHILDREN.

    A CYCLE OF ABUSE MEANS THAT THE HUSBAND MUST LEARN TO BE ACCOUNTABLE AND TO COMMIT TO SEVERAL YEARS OF THERAPY TO CHANGE.

    THEREFORE, WE RECOMMEND THEY STAY SEPARATED, AND REBUILD THEIR LIVES SEPARATELY.

    MY ORGANIZATION WILL PAY FOR THEIR ON-GOING SEPARATE COUNSELING AND SPONSOR FINDING HOUSING FOR THE WIFE AND HUSBAND.

    While we rejoice at his new freedom, we now lift him and his wife Naghmeh to the Lord for healing in their INDIVIDUAL LIVES AND IF POSSIBLE, THEIR marriage.

    “As a minister of the Gospel, I have tried to be a friend to both and to assist them in getting Saeed home and in getting access to any help that they may need. Clearly, there is a great need for prayer for their relationship and their family. God has answered prayer by bringing about Saeed’s release from prison, and now, Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives. It is my prayer that this will not happen.”

  14. Sabio Lantz says:

    “God has answered prayer by bringing about Saeed’s release from prison”

    Argghhhh
    there is no such super power that does such things
    think of all the innocents beheaded, stoned and lost in prison
    if that god is all-powerful and answers prayer
    then he is a malicious bastard
    Argggghhhh

    I can’t stand hearing (reading) that tripe!

  15. Brigitte says:

    Sabio, Nazism was sexist, too and racist, to boot. All good Aryans were called upon to breed like rabbits so they could fight for the Fatherland. The fact is, that women have babies and are therefore more vulnerable, in need of protection, having different expectations. Procreation and safety is an interest of the society as a whole and so all societies develop some norms regarding the behaviour of the sexes, be they theistic or atheistic. Under these norms some will feel restricted in one way or another, in any case imaginable. When women have to work all day in factories or on collective farms, they will not feel much more fulfilled. Nowadays, many labor in uncertain jobs with shifts that keep changing. In my generation, everyone had a divorce. These were no picnics, either…

  16. Sabio Lantz says:

    Yes, Brigitte, of course Sexism is everywhere else. Never implied otherwise.

    But religion is a very dangerous manipulation tool because it reaches for the taboo and tribal parts of the brain and seals it with fear of death and bad luck.

    All dangerous manipulation tools must be fought: religion, tribal politics and even sports, celebrities and consumerism.

    But religion tells us that their propaganda is sacred and should not be questioned. This is evil amplified.

  17. Brigitte says:

    I think the propaganda of the secular has been pretty punishing. But sometimes we really should dig deeper than the “tribalism” and such talk and get at what it is we are really talking about.

    For example, someone I read the other day pointed out that uncommitted sex is allowed or promoted these days, and even women are going along with it who traditionally had too much to loose with that, including emotionally. At the same time, we insist that so be consensual, and cry date rape, and so on. How does that work? We’re does emotion come in? How do you decide to have consensual, uncommitted sex? I think that is an interesting question.

  18. Adam Julians says:

    “I’m not sure I blame religion fully” is a perfectly acceptable way of expressing a view without anything being implied otherwise.

    I agree with you Bidgette about getting away from the tribalism and the secular propaganda being punishing.

    I agree with you Gary about religion not being the originator of sexism. I’d differ slightly in your view about religion being an amplifier of it. Instead the clear truth being that when that happens it is people using religion as an excuse for evil. The purest form of religion being one that cares for the vulnerable and resists being polluted by evil.

    Disgustingly some have misused scripture as quoted to blame “Eve” and present men as not having taken part in abuse where they have been responsible for the abuse.

    Therefore it must take secular / religious, men / women working together in unity to eradicate this evil. And as Bidgette rightly says, sacrificing any form of tribalism in order to come together and unite in caring for vulnerable women and resisting those dark forces that perpetuate evil.

  19. Brigitte says:

    Nicely summarized, Adam. Thanks.

  20. Adam Julians says:

    Thank you for your affirmation Brigitte.

  21. Korrine says:

    Bridgette asked, “How do you decide to have consensual, uncommitted sex?”

    It’s really easy. You communicate.

  22. Sabio Lantz says:

    Well said, Korrine!

    oh, and no need to thank me for your affirmation 😉

  23. Adam Julians says:

    Yeah Korrine,

    No need for you to treat people with dignity here, apparently ;).

    By the way Sabio, I meant to ask.. Why did you comment that you are done with me here but OK with having a conversation on your blog? You will remember this dialogue there, right?

    Adam Julians
    01/14/2016 at 7:41 am
    I would invite further discussion at nakedpastor.com where I would be happy to clarify what was meant with what Sabio is talking of… and the conversation can be viewed in context.

    Sabio Lantz
    01/14/2016 at 7:46 am
    You can have the conversation here… I’m done with you over at NP.

    Couldn’t be anything to do with the point I made about God either existing or not existing being not inconsistent with what David said about God existing/not existing being two sides of the same coin and challenging your “Californian if it works for you it exists” approach is it?

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