• Cracks in the Biblical patriarchy movement
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    Daily Beast

    The scandal around Phillips is just the latest in a long line of ugly shocks to the far Christian right that threaten to destabilize and possibly capsize the community. As The Wire reported in early March, Bill Gothard, the leader of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, resigned his position in the wake of a series of accusations of alleged sexual abuse from dozens of women in the organization. IBLP, like Vision Forum Ministries, is a major clearinghouse for adherents to Biblical patriarchy, teaching members to shun contraception, embrace extreme forms of female submission, and, of course, use homeschooling to shelter young people from the outside world. Unsurprisingly, IBLP is also associated with the Duggar family, who participated in the organization’s many training seminars on embracing Biblical patriarchy and who called Gothard their “number one recommended resource? for family advice. He has exerted political influence in other ways, as well, befriending Sarah Palin and bringing her in for his International Association of Character Cities conference.

    Similarly, both Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College—schools that were established in no small part to give these homeschooled and sheltered kids from far Christian right backgrounds a place to go to college—have been at the center of accusations of indifference and even of allegedly covering up reported sexual abuse on campus. BJU received a lot of heat when they fired an outside firm that had been brought on to investigate accusations of sexual abuse, only to rehire them when it looked like they were punishing the firm for being too thorough in exposing the problem. Patrick Henry College was the recent target of an exposé in The New Republic that explored how young women who brought sexual abuse complaints to the school were frequently drummed out of the college or made to felt that they had somehow brought the abuse on themselves.

    The “pitch? of Biblical patriarchy, as epitomized by Michelle Duggar, is that women will be coddled and worshipped in exchange for giving up their ambitions and the autonomy to practice an extreme form of female submission. The unpleasant truth is that a culture that teaches that women are put on earth for no other purpose but to serve men is not going to breed respect for women. Instead, these incidents show a world where men believe they can do whatever they want to women without repercussions. Is it any surprise that a subculture that promises absolute control over women will attract men who want to dominate and hurt women?

    19 kids and counting appears to ultimately have been a calculated gamble. A gamble that a fresh and appealing face could be put on a brand of fundamentalism so absurdist and destructive it makes the totalitarianism of Islam actually look sorta normal. A gamble that warm fuzzies and the illusion of a wonderful family could be used to sell a system of control — at least to the rest of Christendom — before reality caught up with that system.

    And, it almost worked. But, what they didn’t factor in was that PR campaigns do generate interest — from people with research skills capable of connecting one silenced victim with another and getting them all un-silenced. What they didn’t factor in is that there are so many cracks in the facade that only hiddenness has protected it from collapse for decades.

    At this point, pretty much everything but the PR campaign has been exposed as being shot full of those cracks — and it likely will not last much longer either…

    But, sadly, the damage is already done. So much of general society now thinks this fringe set of insanity defines Christianity…

    Leonard Cohen’s comment on cracks pretty much stands as prophetic here…


    The birds they sang

    at the break of day

    Start again

    I heard them say

    Don’t dwell on what

    has passed away

    or what is yet to be.

    Ah the wars they will

    be fought again

    The holy dove

    She will be caught again

    bought and sold

    and bought again

    the dove is never free.

    Ring the bells that still can ring

    Forget your perfect offering

    There is a crack in everything

    That’s how the light gets in.

    We asked for signs

    the signs were sent:

    the birth betrayed

    the marriage spent

    Yeah the widowhood

    of every government —

    signs for all to see.

    I can’t run no more

    with that lawless crowd

    while the killers in high places

    say their prayers out loud.

    But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up

    a thundercloud

    and they’re going to hear from me.

    Ring the bells that still can ring …

    You can add up the parts

    but you won’t have the sum

    You can strike up the march,

    there is no drum

    Every heart, every heart

    to love will come

    but like a refugee.

    Ring the bells that still can ring

    Forget your perfect offering

    There is a crack, a crack in everything

    That’s how the light gets in.

    Ring the bells that still can ring

    Forget your perfect offering

    There is a crack, a crack in everything

    That’s how the light gets in.

    That’s how the light gets in.

    That’s how the light gets in.

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