Friday, May 27, 2016

Game, Set, Match

From the March 2013 E-Block.**This item is done by reader request to examine a few samples of what is colloquially called "Game." Despite the innocuous designation, the premise of Game stems from a somewhat anti-feminist movement among Christians, and those of similar profession, in which adherents boldly declare what might be called a radical complementarian view of male-female relationships.
Giving the reader an idea what I mean, here are some samples from "Game" oriented online essays: One website compares relationship advice from a modern website to that from a 1890s book, which includes such directives as this one:
Does your husband love to see things in order, then be careful and keep the house in good shape. Does he love a good dinner, then study your cook book and study his tastes. Does he like to be caressed, do your prettiest in that line.
Does he admire beauty in women, then dress neatly and tidily and try to keep clean and in good health, and meet him with a smile. Is he a man of literary tastes, cultivate your literary taste, and be appreciative of his ability. If he loves beautiful things, study house decorations and defer to his tastes….

Expressing a pointed preference for the 1890s view, the site declares, "Women: Most of the relationship advice you will find nowadays is worse than useless. Ignore it. Bad advice is worse than no advice at all."
  • The same site also encourages "men to stop listening to inanity from women about wanting them to open up and share their feelings all the time" and expresses a preference for "men to experience all-male spaces again where they can support one another."
  • The same site (which, by the way, is by a woman) expresses a desire to "be remembered as the generation during which the Nineteenth Amendment was repealed" (that is, the amendment which gave women the right to vote).
  • An article on one site comments on the reputed proclivity of women to criticize men for engaging in "manly" activities like gaming, sports, or going off to bars with their friends. Although the article doesn't say specifically what we are supposed to do about this, it indicates that women who engage in such criticism are simply unjustly complaining -- though the exact word they use begins with a "b," if the reader catches my drift. Commenters suggest that women do this because they have a desire to be controlling. The posting also includes jokes indicating that women who, for example, favored temperance in the early 20th century did so because they were ugly.
  • Another site remarks upon the recent NFL trial of Lauren Silberman, to the effect that it is an example of an attitude that "causes women to reach for things that are far out of their grasp." A comment on another site also offers insight into the view in question:
  • When Charles Lindbergh was being celebrated for his incredible feat of creativity, skill, and risk taking, feminists were beside themselves. Here was a man who was being celebrated for masculine virtues; they needed a woman to pretend to do something similar so they could tamp down this troubling national celebration of masculinity. So, feminists found a woman with a pilot’s license who wrote newspaper columns about flying and they had her ride as a passenger on a transatlantic flight; then they threw her a hero’s welcome as Lady Lindy, complete with a ticker tape parade and an invitation to the White House.

    The whole point of putting women in combat is to make sure we can never again say: Thanks to the men who sacrificed so much for us without feminists chiming in “and women too!” This is why no unit can be left untouched, even elite ones.

    A fundamental change in Christian thinking is the acceptance of the ever present threat of divorce, should the wife become unhappy. This isn’t a grudging acknowledgement of unfortunate legal reality, but a full-fledged internalization of the secular world-view on divorce. It is now unquestioningly accepted that a Christian husband’s first priority must be to prevent his wife from becoming unhappy and divorcing him.

    In practice, the modern Christian approach to marital difficulties ends up being the same approach followed in the secular world; the wife shares her feelings at great length and the husband must listen and do something about it. This inverts the biblical relationship of the husband and his wife’s emotions. In biblical marriage, the husband is his wife’s emotional rock, and he lovingly anchors and shelters her when her emotions storm over her. If he didn’t, she would become untethered. In this new bastardized version of Christian marriage the wife’s emotions rule both persons.
  • Here's a representative commentary from one site, responding to a feminist critique of Valentine's Day:
  • The gifts, the flowers, the candy, they’re great and all . . . but they aren’t enough. You see, that sets up the idea that the women in question might feel OBLIGATED to have sex with the men in their lives ("husbands"), the ones who just shelled out a car payment on an expression of their affection that can be adequately bragged about at work. And if men are getting anything out of it, then it has to be BAD for women.
  • The same site also offers this illustration:  
  • Consider this example: Mrs. Apple would really prefer Mr. Apple to get her a little more juiced by presenting more Alpha – more, she’d like to see him really take charge and handle things, now that they’re both fairly secure in their marriage. But Mr. Apple is hesitant. He’s been told all of his life that GOOD husbands don’t assert themselves and their male privilege in a marriage, because that’s WRONG and means he’s a bad person.
    He feels that deferring to Mrs. Apple is the only way to be happy in a marriage, and he accepts this because a) he’s been made to feel guilty for and ashamed about his masculinity and b) because it allows him to escape the accountability of traditional masculinity...
    ...She wants the dependable, loving, empathetic provider, a man adept with comfort-building Beta skills. But she craves the strong, decisive, resolute and protective Alpha male she reads about, sees in the media, and may even know in real life . . . and hubby ain't him. Some days she wonders if they're even in the same species. She desperately wants him to be that man, but at the same time she fears losing control of both him and the relationship. Encouraging his Alpha is dangerous, after all. That's why she wants it. And fears it.
    What to make of all this?
    Overall, not a whole lot. While I've only observed a sample of material, none of the material is produced by anyone I'd regard as a qualified expert in any subject related to human behavior, relationships, or psychology -- though I dare not say none such exists. I also found nothing in the way of systematic analysis and explanation of views. Much of what the above comes from barely passes the level of "sustained rant" for the most part.
    It’s also not clear to me whether "Game" proponents are arguing that their way of pursuing male-female relationships is the only viable course. The last item quoted above does lean in that direction, as even the last quoted portion shows. The impression I am left with (maybe wrong) is that of a "one size fits all" approach to relationships.
    Some Game proponents, as noted, profess to be Christians. Not all of the sites quoted above include such a disclosure, and I am not sure that some, in particular, are Christian. However, it is enough that some Christian or Christian-aligned spokesman have aligned themselves with the movement and its presuppositions. Chief among these, I have been told, is the commentator Vox Day, though I did not read any of his material.
    In terms of Scriptural backup, Game adherents, who do profess some form of Christianity, don't accomplish a great deal, especially when it comes to contextualization. The passages appealed to are of the usual fare, such as Titus 2:3-5 and all the usual "wives, submit to your husbands" references. There is no awareness that these passages reflect the standard "household codes" of the first century, which reflected a necessary order for daily survival in the harsh conditions of the ancient world. Nor is there any perception of how these passages might be interpreted contextually. Indeed, based on many of the writings I found, it would shock these commentators to learn that marriages, in the Biblical world, were arranged, and that husband and wife frequently did not meet until their wedding day. Much of the advice given assumes otherwise, which is a hazardous thing when attempting to apply Biblical text to the modern world.
    I found a few outright errors of the fundamentalist-exegesis variety. One of the sites says: "...many Protestants accept divorce in the case of abuse even though no such escape clause exists in the Bible." Well, yes, actually it does -- as a little serious contextual study clearly shows. (Link below.) Thankfully, the site does at least allow for separation in cases of "extreme physical abuse" (one wonders HOW "extreme" it has to be for satisfaction). On the other hand, it also virtually says Christians who engage in what it considers illicit divorce will end up in hell.
    What, once again, is one to make of this? "Game" seems to be a reactive pendulum swing to radical feminism, and to that extent, it is, at times, its own form of extremism. Reading the text above on "Alpha" vs. "Beta" manhood, I cannot but think that many pastors, spiritual leaders, and apologists (myself included) would be sloughed off as "Beta" dross. I got the impression of persons who lived in their own secluded world, within narrow confines of what may be properly defined as being human. Maybe I am wrong, and can only hope that more investigation would prove otherwise.
    Since there isn't much within my expertise to address otherwise, I'll close with my own observations. As some readers know that I lean towards an egalitarian view. This does not mean I think men and women are "exactly the same" or that "anything a ___ can do, a ___ can do better." (Insert "boy" or "girl" in either order; I have heard it done both ways.) What I do think is illustrated by my creative efforts in my Annals of Hearthstone web-comic. In my own Narnian paradise, the sexes are equal in privilege and rights, just as "there is neither male nor female" in Christ. However, the sexes also recognize their differences, and relish in them as a way to combine their strengths to meet common goals. Thus, for example, among the warrior races of Hearthstone, both male and female may serve in combat situations, but they perform different duties according to their respective gifts. As hand to hand fighters, the males possess greater strength, but the females possess greater agility and intuition. Either one might win a hand to hand contest against the other, but that would be based on the application of skills, and not on any matter related to gender.
    In the end, it is perhaps best to color me "confused" by the exchanges associated with Game theorists. By the reckoning of some of them, my 22+ year marriage to my beloved Mrs. H is heading for trouble, and is likely to end in divorce within the next 10 minutes. Either that, or Mrs. H, they would say, uses me as a whipping post, though that is nothing of the truth, and it is probable that Mrs. H would gladly use anyone as a whipping post who insinuated otherwise. The two of us are vastly different personalities that complement each other, making us an effective, efficient, and more than that, enormously happy team. That's a problem?
    I can only hope not. Our examination of "Game" ideas will, for now, end here, but at some future date, if readers request it, we may pick up the topic again.


    Friday, May 20, 2016

    The Quiverfull Movement, Part 2

    The legal fundraiser is over for the time being; I may report on some more results and related issues later. For now it's time to get back to some old E-Block postings, and here's one from March 2013.


    This is our second and, for now, final look at the Quiverfull movement, with my subject being the book A Full Quiver (FQ) by Rick and Jan Hess. In this, I will be looking in the main for anything new compared to our prior essay that was in the last issue. I did not find much that was new.
    For the record, we should briefly cover the points which are mirrored in our prior essay.
  • Scripturally speaking, the Hesses add little or nothing to the case for having a "full quiver." The usual citation from Psalm 127:3-5 is said to reflect "God's eternal feelings about children." Absolutely no consideration is given to relevant contexts (i.e., the presentation of this thought in a Psalm, a poem nonetheless[!], and in the setting of the ancient world where infant and child mortality was so high). Once again offered, are statements by Jesus praising children, and a claim that Satan is deceiving Christians into not wanting as many children as they really could have. With that, of course, we have the admonition that if Christians would have more babies, we could take over [167] the White House and most of the Senate, House, and governor's mansions by 2088. Really? What if unbelievers get wind of this idea and start having large families to counter Christians? What then is the plan from the Hesses, to have 16 children instead of 8?
  • The theme of "trusting God" is used, as before, as a club -- those that don't simply let themselves have children without discretion are implicitly accused of lacking trust in God. As they put it: "If the couples have a deep desire to be godly and to follow Christ in their marriage, God will make the necessary changes in their lives." [123] Of course, if things don't work quite that way, it's easy to predict the Hesses response -- they will offer a version of what we have called here "parking space theology". Whatever does happen, they will say, God had a plan for you and you should just shut up and accept that it is God's will that you deal with these problems. Not that Scriptural support for this view is any better; we find the Hesses pressing into service Psalm 37:25-26, in which David says that he has never seen the righteous begging bread. This the Hesses take as meaning: "you can predict that believers with large families will be taken care of." [144] We need not comment again on the irresponsibility of using a poetic passage for support of literalist doctrine, but we can no doubt add that if this doesn't bear out from statistics, the Hesses will surely have some ready pious explanation such as, "You're not faithful as believers" or "God has a plan for your suffering."
  • Also as before, potentiality arguments are thrown into consideration, for which the opposing potentiality is ignored. It is noted, for example, that many famous figures, like George Washington, were fourth or later to be born to their parents. Just as before, this sort of argument is worthless to the extent that it can readily be turned around (i.e., if we find a serial killer who was the eighth child in a family, what does that prove about having large families? Nothing!). Potentiality is also extended into the realm of stating that we should avoid vasectomies because "we wouldn't be at all surprised to discover all sorts of unexpected ill effects from this attempt to thwart God's design for the male body." [127] By the same logic, why not say, "we wouldn't be at all surprised to discover all sorts of unexpected health benefits" from the same procedure?
    With that…let us now turn to what is unique in FQ.
  • The authors make much of what they perceive to be unfair treatment of those with children. For example, they compare a loudly coughing elderly man with an occasionally cooing baby, asking which one gets the hard stares in church. Well, from what I have seen, they both do; or sometimes one and not the other. Either way, it's hard to buy what comes across as a persecution complex by the Hesses. That we wish for a church service where it is possible to concentrate without interruptions by noisy children does not express, as they indicate, that people do not "love" children.
  • Perhaps the most radical (and outlandish) point offered by the Hesses comes of their analysis of how several Biblical women experienced miraculous pregnancies. From this infinitesimally small sample, the authors conclude, with the massive non sequitur, that ALL pregnancies are the result of direct action by God. When the Hesses advise readers that, "we would do well to give God control over how many children we have," [57] they do not simply mean we should allow God to be sovereign; rather, they envision God as having direct, micro-managerial command of conception ("lock, stock, and baby" as they put it [94], and elsewhere, "pregnancy is not going to occur except through God's active agency" [106], and yet again, "...the Scriptures prove that God Himself is our birth Controller" [141], and finally, "God Himself is all the birth control we need" [158]…and let us add, as a related point, this quote: "Menopause occurs at exactly the time in a woman's life when God decrees that she is to bear no more children." [189] I have not seen even a Calvinist assign God that much micro-managerial control!). In line with this radical view, the Hesses go as far as indicating that sexual intercourse between married couples is off limits unless there is at least an option for procreation. Thus, in reply to someone who says that they have health problems (which would mean pregnancy could literally kill them), the Hesses legalistically say, "If you're too sick to have babies, you're too sick to have sex." [102] Apparently, the Hesses have no conception (pun not intended) of there being any difference in how particular acts may affect particular conditions. For them, it is "all or nothing" – representing an appalling lack of logic.
    Adding to the self-centered character of their response, the Hesses add that "God has a way of miraculously healing people, too -- sometimes through the very pregnancies that were supposed to kill them." [102] In support of this view, they offer a single, undocumented anecdote of such a thing happening -- certainly an excellent data pool on which to base such a critical decision!
    Even more outlandishly, the Hesses put God directly in charge of genetics, asking, "does God decide eye color or does Mendel's Law?" [183] and, quoting a source as saying: "God individually chose and gave each child his or her blue eyes. We have to keep in mind that God can modify or abolish genetic or reproductive trends as He wills." [184]
  • One chapter features 20 questions the authors have apparently been asked. Most are rather odd, but a few are valid. One, for example, relates to questions of overpopulation and stewardship of our environment. As before, the answers are too simplistic to be taken seriously. For the Hesses, it amounts to thinking that if it were not for overpopulation, "some suffering baboon in Upper Bongo-Bongo would have had enough living space, food, lumber, and minerals." [71] While I am by no means a radical environmentalist, this sort of issue is hardly little more than the leftist political football they make it out to be, and the sarcasm, lacking as it does in hard facts, does more to indicate irresponsible childishness than it does responsible stewardship. The Hesses only reply source is a booklet from a group called "Basic Life Principles", which contains no documentation for its claims, and some points that are outlandish on their face. One is a point we have seen prior, about how the world's population (back then, 4.5 billion) could fit into an area the same as Jacksonville, Florida, with each person being given 2.6 square feet. I would very much like to see the Hesses and other Quiverfull advocates live within such a space for as little as a few months just to actually see how they like it and just how that works out (i.e., the typical prison cell, in contrast, holds two inmates within a space of about 50-100 square feet)! A little later they allow for some expansion, of up to the area of Nebraska, Kansas, and a bit of South Dakota, allowing 1000 square feet per person. It is very considerate of the Hesses to declare that each of us can have a space equal to ten prison cells so that they can have as many children as "God" leads them to have.
    Another section relates how the Hesses respond to someone who asks why they have so many children. A response they say "never fails to stop them in their tracks" is, "to pay for your Social Security." My retort would be: "Good, because I will need it to pay for groceries when everyone has as many children as you do, causing the food supply to be short, which in turn will raise food prices to astronomical levels." While that's rather simplistic, so is the Hesses retort. The Quiverfull movement doesn't seem too keen on basic economic principles of supply and demand.
  • The Hesses rather naively assume that admonitions for household management in the New Testament reflect some sort of universal blueprint, such that wives always and forever are to stay at home and be mothers. They are apparently unaware that the NT here substantially mirrors the household codes of that day. Their logic is no better than the "Dr. Laura" fundamentalist who could not explain to President Bartlett why some OT laws were still to be obeyed and others would not be obeyed.
  • The Hesses claim to have Scriptural support for their views would be aided considerably if they did not commit abuses like this one: They note 1 Cor. 7:5, which says, "Stop depriving each other, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you." The Hesses say that this verse shows that "the rhythm method [of birth control] is unacceptable." [116] As with all their exegesis so far, this is a vast non sequitur -- their assumption is that because Paul gave a specific reason to withhold sexual relations, no other reason to do so is permitted! In this the Hesses mirror the horrendous legalism of fundamentalists like the Church of Christ, who forbid musical instruments in church on the same flimsy grounds.
    This closes our look at Quiverfull literature, at least for now. The nicest thing I can say is that FQ is no better in terms of having anything to commend it as a reasoned and Scripturally valid expression of the movement. We'll close with a reminder that in our last issue, we affirmed that none of this is intended to condemn those who choose to have large families; however, if one wishes to do so, FQ will not provide any formal sanction for it from Scripture over and above those who select to do otherwise.