I chose to make this blog post in two parts because to understand the central part of my post, I needed to recap my previous 13 months. That, and it was getting long even for one of my posts.
My attitudes toward my wife have not been very good for the last 8 years of our marriage. I had been able to suppress my frustration, resentment, anger, and bitterness better at times than at others. After HeartChange things got better for a quite a while, the weed having been cut and even burned to the ground, but the root that fed the problems had not been exposed and purged. It regenerated and came back.
An action on my part that resulted in my hurting someone else came to light this past week. I had forgotten all about the incident (as had the person I was very rude to), but I wrote her and asked for forgiveness, which she granted. She took the opportunity to point out some things in my life that she thought were not entirely kosher, and I accepted her words and admonishment. I think best in writing, so in my reply to her I was trying to explore why I had all of these negative feelings towards my wife (which is something my friend brought up), and then it hit me:
I was a misogynist. But oddly enough the scope of my misogyny was limited to and focused on my wife. I have stood up for and helped console and even championed the right of women to be equal with men (in my own limited scope of impact) to the point where I thought I may be a feminist. I did not believe anything was the matter with my treatment of my wife because I never tried to control her, or prevent her from going somewhere if she wanted to go, or buy what she needed, or even get a job if she so chose. That she didn't always avail herself of the opportunities presented wasn't my problem. Or so I thought. The problems all stemmed from the hurt and pain I went through early in our marriage. Or so I thought.
In an instant I had a book's worth of information run through my mind. The attitudes and actions I displayed - they all led back to what I learned in the IFB, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church.
First, let me apologize in advance to some people who will likely not understand or realize the enormity of the problems at hand. I have no desire to hurt you. You know who you are, and I love you regardless of how things turn out after you read this.
I am going to list a number of common thoughts among different groups within in the IFB system. Many I myself never believed. Some I believed until about 3 years ago. Some I held against my wife. But here they are:
- Women are inherently evil.
- Women are devious and cannot be trusted.
- Women's minds are weak. It was woman who was deceived in the Garden of Eden, and they cannot be trusted to make right decisions.
- Women are agents of the devil. A woman can corrupt a godly man even if the man is on his guard.
- A woman must not be allowed to have her own personal identity. Her identity is to be found in her husband and in Christ.
- A woman must be under the protection of a man. If she has no husband, she should live at home until such time as she marries.
- A woman must never teach men.
- A woman may never be in a position of authority over a man.
- A woman may never hold any ecclesiastical office in a church.
- Should a woman find herself in a place where she must speak to men in a church, she should announce that she is there under her husband's authority so as not to overstep her place.
- Because women are inherently evil with weak minds prone to sin, they can only redeem themselves before God through bearing children.
- A woman may never refuse the sexual advances of her husband. She belongs to him, and her body belongs to him.
- A woman must always obey a man regardless of whether that man is her husband, father, pastor, or someone else in the church. God placed man in charge, and the woman's place is to obey without question. If a hierarchy is specified, the husband or pastor may be listed first, then elders in the church, her father, and so on.
- A woman must defer to her husband's opinion on any given matter.
- A woman must not question her husband's decisions.
- A woman is not to challenge any interpretation of Scripture. She is to believe what her husband and her pastor teaches, with all meekness.
- If a man has an affair, it is his wife's fault because she did not do everything she could to keep him sexually satisfied and happy.
- If a man goes after another woman, it is the wife's fault because she did not keep her body looking appealing enough for him to desire.
- If a woman is raped, it is her fault. She was somewhere that she shouldn't have been, or she was wearing clothing that was "provocative" in nature, and as such invited the rape, even daring men to rape her, and the man is excused because he was enticed.
- If a woman feels any pleasure during a rape, it is no longer rape but consensual sex, and the man is excused.
- If a woman is raped, she must have somehow subconsciously signaled to the man that she wanted sex, and therefore she is indirectly responsible for her own violation, and the man is excused.
- If a woman has a "reputation," whether said reputation is true or not, she is responsible for her own rape and the man is excused.
- If a child is sexually assaulted, such children were impure to begin with, and as such attracted the assault. Children who are pure are immune from sexual assault.
- If the sexually assaulted child is an adolescent or even young adolescent woman, she invited the sexual encounter because it is well known that step-daughters, whether they know they are doing it or not, flirt with their step-fathers, and therefore the step-father is excused from raping the child.
The IFB claim to elevate women and honor them, placing them on a pedestal of high honor, almost angelic in their reverence for the "pure" woman. But let one feather be perceived to be slightly out of place or her halo not quite bright enough for the most scrupulous observer, and she will be the torn down off that pedestal and forever be tarnished with a "reputation." There is such rampant depression among the women in these churches that it is epidemic. And no wonder! They live everyday of their lives being told they are worthless just for being a woman, let alone the guilt and shame heaped on them by the bully-God these churches preach. But you will never get them to admit to being depressed because to the IFB, any form of depression is a sin, a sign of not fully trusting in and relying on God, a sign that something is wrong with them spiritually.
And it doesn't matter how liberated a man feels in his view towards women. If he is in these churches and institutions and hearing these things, even in much milder form, daily, weekly, regardless of how he believes himself to be a lover of women's rights and equality, he is going to absorb some of this into his psyche. Which is exactly what happened to me. (And you might ask why I didn't leave the system sooner. Well, when you're taught that all other Christian denominations are either corrupt or compromising the Truth, there aren't too many places a guy believes he can go and remain a "good" Christian.)
I had not realized that the mistrust I bore my wife had it's roots in the IFB system. I did not know the extent to which their poison had permeated me. Having had my eyes opened, I am now mortified at what I have done to my wife for the past 8 years. I saw her as controlling, manipulating, deceiving, selfish, devious, untrustworthy, corrupting, and a tether preventing my soul from flying. And can there be any wonder I thought this given the poison seeping into my soul for all those years?
In the end, I will own my wrongful attitudes and hurtful actions towards my wife. They are mine, and mine alone. I cannot say that this one epiphany has cured me completely. Years of attitude will take a long time to heal and undo. But I have a start, a place of enlightenment where I was able to understand something about myself that I would never have known otherwise.
This storm I went through was brutal. But it led me to this epiphany. And perhaps God will show Himself again, let me see that He had always been there, that he guided The Storm so that I would come to the understanding that I did, that He protected me from the worst of it. That is why this storm was
The Perfect Storm